Thought he had only won a single round in the tournament,
many that evening were treating Jeran as if he had won the entire thing. He
sat in the middle of his inn, the festival music floating in through the windows
as the crowd gathered around him to enjoy his company. All around him the villagers
offered to treat him to meals and drinks in exchange to hear the story once
again. His name and skill had spread like wildfire through the kingdom that
day, no longer known as Jeran, but "the peasant knight", one who could befall
any knight within the kingdom. Jeran thought it was a bit premature for all
the celebration, but as he looked at the villains before him, he could understand
their pride. Here was a peasant, a nobody, and yet he was able to defeat some
of the richest and most skilled in the land…
As Jeran smiled at the idea, the girls at his
heel giggled and pulled on his vest, begging him to tell his story of triumph
over again. Jeran's face blushed a bit as he tried to refuse sheepishly.
"Ohhh...please Jeran?" an Aisha cooed, but before
Jeran could open his muzzle again a strong hoof clapped him on the back and
snatched the drink from his paw.
"THERE CHEERS FOR JERAN!" Firiden howled, raising
Jeran's glass high into the air. These simple words erupted violent cheers from
all, the entire inn seeming to shake with jubilation. Firiden cast a glance
about, noticing that the inn was too engaged in within their revelry, he grabbed
Jeran's vest, hurriedly dragging him away from the busy parlor and into the
staircase. In the mass confusion and happiness no one even seemed to notice
"Fir! You're here!" Jeran exclaimed, dusting
off his jacket as Firiden plopped him down on the stairwell.
"I heard all about it today! So Skarl gave you
his own sword! What was it like?" Firiden inquired casually. Jeran grinned,
finally glad that he was able to speak with the one person that he wanted to
speak with all day.
"Well, I was up against this huge knight! And
I thought that maybe I might now be able to do it because his armor seemed-,"
"No no! Not your battle Jeran, I wanted to know
how Skarl's sword was!" Firiden burst in, impatiently waving a hoof. Jeran let
out a bark-like laugh and delved into an explanation of how perfect Skarl's
sword seemed to handle. After he finished Firiden let out a low, awe inspired
whistle and began to think.
"Wow, that's amazing...think how much that musta
cost! Ahh…to be able to have a weapon like that..." Firiden mused. He made to
raise the glass to his mouth again, but Jeran caught his arm before he could
"That's not all! Firiden...look at this..." Jeran's
voice became hushed as he looked around the stairwell to see that no on else
was there before drawing out the sword from his belt. Firiden's eyes grew wide
like saucers at the weapon before him, the glittering of the hilt reflecting
onto his orange fur.
"…wow...did you...where'd you get that?!" he
exclaimed, eagerly snatching at the sword and twirling it about in his hooves.
Jeran launched into a recap of the fight, how his sword was snapped and Skarl
threw his own down, leading up to where Skarl had actually given him the sword
for a reward. Once he finished Firiden let out another low whistle.
"Wow Jeran...if you get items like these for
just beating up some wanders in a forest, I think we should make a career out
of this!" He laughed, however his face turned to one of concern as he looked
over at Jeran. "But...I have something important to ask you Jeran..."
The Lupe looked over at his friend, his smile
fading as he noticed the seriousness of Firiden's words. Rarely, if ever, was
Firiden so serious about something, and seeing a stolid glance on his friends
face was mildly upsetting.
"Jeran these guys...they're serious competitors
and...well…you don' have to do this you know!" he quickly said, trying to mask
was seemed like urgent concern on his face. Jeran let out a sign of relief a
grin spreading over his face as he stood up on the stair and looked at Firiden.
"Fir...I get that you're concerned but...you
really don't have to be! I'll be fine, I really will! Anyways, I have to go
through with it! Skarl said that if I didn't win he would probably loose a bet,
and I would hate for Skarl to be upset with me!" he laughed before placing his
hand on Firiden's shoulder. "Don't worry Fir, I'll be fine! Anyway, it's a good
thing that you dragged me away form those guys out there...I should get to sleep,
I want to get up early and try the sword out!" he said in an excitement manner,
as if Christmas would be the next day. He hopped up the stairs two by two, with
his busy tail floating behind him. Firiden watched after his friend for a while
and gave a sigh before going to the bar to see if he could get a few free meals
from the bartender once he explained who his friend was...
With the first round over, all the spectators could now see what skill each
of the competitors possessed, and how far their skill would take them. The battles
raged between the competitors, though with each victory, the crowds did not
cheer as loud as they did when Jeran would fight. Every move of Jeran's seemed
as if it was perfectly planned out, while every step dared to defy logic and
The roar of the crowd was unstoppable as Jeran
won match after match with what seemed like graceful ease. To the crowd, the
rest of the competitors existed solely to provide Jeran a venue to display his
Battle after battle Jeran proved himself worthy
of the love which he had gained from the crowd, and with the final match growing
ever closer, they wondered and mused how Jeran would defeat his foe.
But who would be the foe for Jeran's final match?
Many wondered and whispered, believing that it would be Jernka.
Jernka, the strongest and most prestigious of
the knights in Meridell, and one of Skarl's very own personal guards. Frequently
he claimed second place in the food eating contests of the kingdom (second to
Meridell's very own king of course), but his weight was not a hamper, but an
aid. He too had proven himself in the tournament with adaptability such as Jeran
had, but behind Jernka was both experience and some of the best armor that money
But Jeran was not worried. Win or loose he had
proven himself against some of Meridell's finest. He remembered his long days
after training, when he would watch the sun sink beneath the trees and he would
dream of that day when we could raise his sword and fight with the elite of
Meridell. That in itself was the highest honor, Jeran believed.
However, that didn't' mean that Jeran was not
adamant about winning...
And so, with the rising of each early morning
sun, everyone in Meridell could find Jeran in the competitor's tent as he practiced
his steps with great fervor. Firiden too would join him each morning, but instead
of having a hands on approach, would watch the Lupe from a distance.
But the days dwindled down, much to Jeran's
fear. On the day of the final battle the excitement was in the air, perhaps
it was even the air itself as the villagers scampered off to wish Jeran well.
Yet when they arrived at his inn that morning,
he was no where to be found, instead hiding in the shadows as he watched Jernka
prepare for his battle. His heart gave a bit of a jolt as the armor his competitor
wore gleamed in the light, showing no sign of the weakness that perhaps was
the black knight's downfall...
"Fir, I don't think I can do this..." Jeran confided
in his friend, once he had explained what he had seen. "I mean, this...this
had always been my dream and all...but on the risk of making myself look like
a fool..." But Firiden hushed Jeran at that instant, looking at him with a stern
"Jeran, look these guys can afford perhaps some
of the best armor out there, I know that. But...but what you got...you just
fight because you know it...you know what you have to do and how to do it. They-they
don't have that and so, come crunch time. While they're still trying to put
their heart into the fight...you're already dedicated in more of a way than
I've seen anyone..." Firiden gave a sigh and brought out a parcel from his tattered
bag, thrusting the folded mass into Jerans paw. He took the bundle and opened
it slowly, seeing within its folds a gleaming shield. It was perhaps one of
the best shields that Jeran had seen in his entire life! It was perfectly balance
and shining brilliantly. But where did Firiden get the money for it?
"Fir! Ho-where...this must have cost a fortune!"
he managed to sputter out, slowly drawing his hand across the smooth metal surface
of the shield. "Fir! We can't afford this!" Jeran said, trying to push back
the shield towards Firiden, but the Ixi shook his head, avoiding the shield
as if it was a horrible vermin. He cast his eye on the shield again and gave
a somewhat forced smile.
"Jeran, just...go out there, eh?" he said, clapping
Jeran on the back with his hoof. Jeran tried to make a noise of protest, however
a roar outside the tent erupted, signaling the end of the match. A crowd of
onlookers stormed into the tent and surrounded Jeran, pulling him in all directions.
"Jeran! You're up!"
"Good luck Jeran!"
"Come on Jeran! Times a'waistin!"
Jeran tried to push against the crowd to give
a final talk with his friend, but Firiden made no motion to hinder the hoard
and soon sank into the back of the tent as they all filed out. Jeran could feel
his nerves twanging about while the crowd jostled him. Though he ultimately
felt a form of regret at not bidding his friend a proper farewell, the excitement
of the idea soon overtook his mind and being. He disentangled himself from the
crowd, casting them a final look before slowly stamping into the area, the sunlight
blazing above. He had to temporarily shield his ears from the deafening roar
of the crowd. He was rather amazed at how the stands seemed even more packed
than before. Indeed, more stands had been added in the back to allow for the
increased interest the tournament now had.
Jeran couldn't help but feel a small spurt of
pride at this...
Through the din, Jeran's eyes focused on the
opposite side of the arena, a glimmering object catching his eye. Slowly the
object came closer and closer, until the guard could be seen within its full
glory. Jeran couldn't help but feel a deep sense of reverence before the Skeith,
completely protected within his war armor. The gold of the armor was thick,
thicker than any armor Jeran had seen, while the sword at his belt was easily
double the length and width of Jeran's own arm.
But while every indication between the two seemed
to favor the guard, Jeran did not fear, he didn't fret. His mind was clearer
than it had ever been as he carefully stalked out into the dirty arena, strapping
his shield onto his arm. His eye locked with Jernka's eye; to the two competitors
there was no one left in the world but the other. The roar of the crowd and
the blaring sun overhead were not noticed by either. A lone bell struck through
din; the only sound the two heard.
And so the fight began...
A thrust here, a stab there. These were simply
passing blows that the two inflicted on each other. The sounds of their sword
and armor clashed with every move and blow, the crowd oo-ing and ahh-ing in
all the appropriate places.
And though their blows were strong and forceful,
they seemed not to mind any damage which they were dealt. Indeed Jeran's shield
was looking far worse for the wear, yet this thought did not once cross his
mind as his shield endured it all.
And thought the Skeith may have had more brute
strength in his corner, Jeran's strength of mind allowed him to predict the
more brutal of the moves which Jernka would employ.
The rocks dug into the soles of Jeran's unprotected
feet, with the dust burned at the eyes of the Skeith. They did not flinch at
the pain, it was simply another element of the fight; and they pressed on, neither
of them willing to give an inch in the battle.
But then it occurred, one began to gain ahead
slowly pushing the other back to the wall. He tried to dodge and look for an
opening, but the strength of his opponent was too much, too forceful, to fight
back. He drove the foe into the wall; raising his arm for the final blow...
But the opponent was too quick in this instance.
He jumped with a height that was dazzling, almost mesmerizing.
However, what goes up must always come down,
and in his case, the down was not as dazzling as the jump itself. He crashed
into the sooty, muddy earth with a disheartening crash, accompanied by the 'awws'
of the crowd. He tried to scramble up and finish the fight, but it was too late.
He could feel, the sword pressing into his back, and at that point he knew that
his long days of training and fighting for the valor and honor of the tournament
were lost. Slowly, the victor raised his paw and in a loud voce shouted to all
who could hear.
The victor's face split into a grin as he raised
his head up to the sky and let out a laugh of pure and unadulterated joy.
It was the happiest moment of Jeran's life.
To be continued...