Jeran's astounding victory was the only news, which was
worth spreading in the village that night. Any conversation that floated around
during the final night of the festival had only to do with Jeran. Jeran's fighting.
Jeran's grace in the field. Jeran's, Jeran, Jeran. Everything was about Jeran
and all that he was...
However, Jeran was not able to hear any of these
rumors, for he was not outside, dancing and mingling with the villagers, but
instead feasting with a reserved fervor among the social elite that made up
Meridell. He scarcely could believe his immense luck and fortune to be sitting
in such a fine setting with such interesting people as his company!
His yellow eyes traveled with splendor around
the beautifully decorated hall. Bouquets of flowers, golden banners, and exquisite
tapestries hung all over for this fine and fancy free occasion. The main hall
itself was more alive with guests than any other time of the year with beautiful
maidens and handsome princes laughing and joking as they took each other's hand
in a dance. The music wafted over to where Jeran sat, viewing the dance from
his coveted spot at the table next to the king himself. He felt a bit of remorse
that Skarl had not shown up yet, however his guests provided him with an entertainment
that masked this disappointment (as well as the fine foods could then make-up
for any of his company's shortfalls).
"Really Jeran, you simply must come with us to
my kingdom!" a richly dressed Aisha cooed as she tried to latch onto Jeran's
arm. The Lupe blushed violently as he cast his eye around for perhaps some help
at prying off the Aisha. A squirrelly Usul looked angrily at the Aisha, as if
daring her to remove herself from her Jeran.
"No Jeran, really come and stay with me! I'm
sure that MY father would be glade to offer you a position in the court!" The
Usul said, latching herself onto Jeran's other arm in the same fashion as the
Aisha. Jeran tried to inch himself out of the fight that was quickly brewing
between the two woman, yet as the two adversaries exchanged dangerous looks,
a voice broke over the impending quarrel with a loud boom.
"Now, now ladies! I believe that this young hero
should be able to dine in peace!" Skarl announced. The table quickly made hurried
gestures of deep respect to Skarl, but he seemed not to notice any of them as
he plopped himself down to eat. The guests all winced at the horrible spectacle
before them; however Jeran felt almost compelled to watch.
Of course, they all thought that the manner in
which Skarl was able to chomp down the entire meal was grotesque, yet no one
in their right mind would tell such a thing to the king (lest they didn't value
their freedom). Jeran felt as if it was some horrible accident occurred as he
watched with an interested horror as Skarl swallowed the leg of lamb in his
hand, bone and all. If any good had come out of the event, it managed to cause
the two girls to scurry off into the distance, vaguely talking of powdering
their noses. Jeran himself was thinking of excusing himself from the scene,
when the king managed to rest back onto his throne, scratching his overly large
belly as he stared at Jeran.
"I have not yet had the pleasure of thanking
you, Jeran," the king said in a rather low undertone. "If I had to pay that
Snargan 10,000 Neopoints for the bet, I would not have forgiven myself!" he
gave a hearty wink and laughed at the thought. He looked around the table, the
entire table seemingly preoccupied with conversations of their own, giving Skarl
a change to speak with Jeran.
"So where do you come from, Jeran?" Skarl inquired
in a low manner, taking a bite of an apple with each word. "I daresay that I
have not seen your mother or father around...nor do you seem as if you have
lived here your entire life..."
Jeran's mind quickly reeled through the events,
which had brought him to the present situation. Was he going to honestly tell
the king of what he had gone through? Of course not, the kind would think him
mad! Why, it was almost a month after Firiden had met Jeran that he told him
the truth of where he came from. Believing Jeran took Firiden almost four years,
and even now it seemed like he still had his doubts.
"Um...a village...far...away..." he said in a
very hurried and undertone manner. He knew that the king would see through such
a false idea; yet he seemed to think nothing more of it and turned his attention
to the entire marrow pie sitting before him.
"So where are you currently living?" he asked.
"With my friend, sir. Inside the forest," he
explained. Skarl let out a deep 'hmm' of thought and then nodded his head.
"Yes, yes, would make sense. After all I suppose
that you don't walk around the forest, looking for people to save, now do you?"
the two laughed at the absurdity of the thought. The conversation eventually
lead from one thing to another, Jeran becoming more and more relaxed with each
topic they touched upon. It was then that he managed to see the king not as
an untouchable figure, but as a real person. Perhaps even a friend.
"But when he asked I sai-...hmm? Oh here he comes
now!" Skarl's attention quickly swiveled from the topic at hand as his eyesight
was drawn to another point. Jeran's eyes too went in the direction of the king,
only to see a very old Eyrie shuffling forward to them. Never in all of Jeran's
years had he seen someone so old, and yet managed to maintain a sort of vigor
about him. His thin white frame was barely able hold up his majestic wings,
while all around him he was draped in robes of the deepest blood red with golden
threads abound. He approached Skarl with an almost sinister grin on his face,
which gave Jeran small chills up and down his spine.
"Ahh Rohanse! You managed to come to the feast!
I am not surprised!" the king laughed. The Eyrie did not laugh at this, but
instead managed to keep his strange smile.
"I managed to find some time to allot it in my
busy schedule, my liege" he explained, giving a deep bow. Quickly his red eyes
flashed towards Jeran with malice, then grew wide with what seemed like recognition.
"Ahh, and are you the young lad who had won the
tournament?" Rohanse inquired, to which Jeran simply nodded.
"Well done young lad, well done! I must say that
is a most marvelous shield and sword, which you had with you this morning,"
"They were both gifts sir, from two very generous
people. The sword itself was a gift from the majesty, King Skarl," he motioned
to the king, who simply waved his hand a blasé manner. "While the shield was
a gift from my friend, Firiden."
"Hmm, Firiden? Interesting name for such a fellow!
Is he present tonight? I would surely like to meet one who can afford such a
beautiful shield," Rohanse looked among the swirling and dancing crowds to find
the face, but Jeran shook his head in a dejected manner.
"I am sorry sir, but he is not currently here.
He left after the battle and I have not seen him today. But I think he may be
at the inn! If you'd like, I can go and fetch him!" Jeran made a motion to stand
up, but Rohanse shook his head fervently and pushed Jeran back into his chair
with surprising strength for one as frail as he.
"Oh no, no, no! Sit yourself down, young sir!
This is your night! I'm sure that perhaps you friend is preparing another surprise
for you such as the last one! You would not want to ruin it, would you?" he
asked with a sort of concern in his voice. Jeran pondered the moment for a second,
every piece of the puzzle seeming to fit into place. Firiden's odd behavior,
his coming home late; it must have to do with raising money for the shield and...perhaps
even something bigger? Jeran scolded himself for not seeing this sooner, and
for being of suspicious of his friend.
"You are right, good sir. It would be rather
cruel of me to interrupt him..." Jeran smiled. The Eyrie gave a thoughtful nod
and turned once again to King Skarl, handing him a note.
"My liege, here is the information that you requested.
I know that right now would not be the most pertinent time to give you it, however
I feel that it would be best if it found its way into your hands as soon as
possible," the king took the scroll, reading it over, nodding at times and emitting
out a random 'hmmm' as he scanned through it.
"It seems excellent Rohanse, but now that you
have finished your work do come and join our festivities," he invite once again.
Rohanse shook his ancient head and turned about, heading back to the dungeons,
saying nothing else before disappearing into the darkness. Jeran looked after
the Eyrie for a while until Skarl let out a distinctive laugh.
"Weird one, he is," Skarl snickered before gorging
himself with food again. Jeran turned his attention to Skarl.
"Weird? How so, my King?"
"Ahh well, spends his entire life in that dungeon.
Odd one, really he is. However, cast him out of your thought for a while, because
I really must speak with you Jeran," the king lowered his voice and, watching
his guests carefully as to make sure that he was not noticed beckoning Jeran
to follow him down the hall.
"Generous person? Ahahaha! The sheer irony of it all! Really, quite hilarious!
I could barley keep my face straight!" Rohanse howled with a cruel laughter
as he sat in his study, happily drinking from the glass in front of him. The
shadow in the corner narrowed his eyes in response to this, the glass in his
own hands crunching with anger.
"Shut it!" he snarled, only causing the Eyrie's
laugher to become louder.
"Tell me, what will you say to Jeran when he
finds this all out? I wonder how will he react when he finds out that you haven't
been scraping together your measly points to afford that shield! That you simply
used it in a plot that I concocted!" Rohanse inquired. The shadow let out a
snarl, throwing the glass in his hand down and jumping up. Stepping forth into
the candlelight his orange fur was no longer hidden as Firiden's fiery blaze
gaze down at the Eyrie.
"I won't tell 'em! He won't hafta know! I did
what you wanted and now I'm outta her-,"
"Ahh, now that in itself is where you are wrong!
You see you agreed to help me when I wanted and how I wanted. I'm afraid your
help is not done..." He snickered. Firiden clutched the desk, wishing for nothing
more than to smash it to pieces over the Eyrie. He gritted his teeth, not willing
himself to open it for fear of biting the jailer.
"Fine, I'll help, but NOTHING happens to Jeran!
You understand me?" he snarled dangerously. A lesser man than Rohanse would
have been consumed by fear, however Rohanse was anything else but a lesser man.
"Of course not! Jeran is safe! If anything, he
can be the guest of honor at our...feast!" he chuckled dangerously, downing
the drink it in his hands in on gulp.
If any one had told Jeran that he would have been walking down the hallway
where he first appeared, he would have dismissed the idea as lunacy. Yet as
he and Skarl silently strolled down the immaculate hallway, a small smile came
over his face as he thought of his first day in Meridell.
"Have you ever seen anything as splendid, Jeran?"
asked Skarl, gesturing towards the hallway that they were in. Jeran was rather
tempted to tell the king that he had, however he managed to keep his humorous
tongue under control as he shook his head.
"Ahh well, it was built by my great-grandfather,
King Grendan IV. Of course, it has had its renovations, however I still like
to think that we have kept true to his original desires," Skarl mused as they
passed a large portrait of what Jeran thought was perhaps King Grendan. The
windows on either side of them showed the beautiful festival below. The music
flowed into the hallway, causing Skarl to stop for a moment and listen to its
"Ahh, wonderful music! Simply wonderful!" he
said. Jeran himself couldn't help but tap his foot; it really was a catchy tune.
Skarl wandered over to the window and looked out it, surveying his kingdom below
with fatherly pride.
"Jeran, have you ever thought of perhaps defending
your home?" Skarl inquired discreetly. Jeran's heart gave a leap at this question.
Had he, Jeran, thought of defending Meridell? Why, it was his dream! His life!
How could he not think of such a thing!?
"You mean...as a knight?" Jeran sputtered. The
king turned around and gave a simple nod.
"It is understandable if you don't, however I
"No! Hardly that my lord! I-I'd love to be a
knight! It's my dream! I just never...I...thank you!" Jeran managed to sputter
out, his excitement growing. He could barley help himself as his fluffy and
mangled tail happily wagged behind him. Skarl let out a smile as he clapped
a hand around Jeran's shoulder and laughed heartily.
"Of course! You were born to be a knight! It
is entirely in your blood, I can see that! Yes, yes tomorrow I shall talk to
the head of the knights and see if we can have you properly taught! Needless
to say if I have any say in my kingdom, Jeran, you shall be a knight before
the month is out!" Skarl laughed. These words sent Jeran's mind completely abuzz.
Jeran the knight? Sir Jeran? Sir Borodere? He smiled his childhood dreaming
seeming as if it would come true.
However, he thought of his companion through
this. What would Lisha have thought of it? He felt some sadness at her disappearance
but thought that, wherever she was, she too would know what had happen to him.
The festival itself lasted the entire night and even portions of the morning,
as it seemed that the Meridellians were almost regretful for its end. Yet, as
it is sadly known, all good things must eventually come to an end, and so as
the clock in the town began to struck four a.m. , the crowds had begun to file
out and the music began to grow slower and slower until it had stopped as well.
And while many people were silently filing off to their homes and beds, a blue
Lupe was just now getting up, his head swirling with the recent events as if
it was all a dream, a beautiful, wonderful, fantastic dream.
He rolled over in his springy bed, staring silently
at the wood paneling on the side of the wall, his mind swirling with these thoughts.
What kind of knight would he honestly make? It he did begin training, he was
sure that there would be so many more trained individuals there. Would he be
able to measure up to them? Would he make such a horrible fool of himself that
Skarl would simply send him away forever?
Such panicking thoughts were often drifting in
his, or any, mind at the promise of a dream. However, through all of this Jeran
managed to keep some strain of clam, believing that even if he failed miserably,
at least he could have had this moment in the sun.
And honestly, if he had to live with Firiden
forever, it wouldn't be so bad! His friend was quite possibly one of the best
people Jeran had even known, and he would never regret spending another day
just lounging about and listening to Firiden nag about things.
The clock in the room ticked smoothly below,
letting out a random 'cuckoo-cuckoo' as the Pteri hidden inside of it
sprung out. Jeran jumped out of bed, startled by the sudden noise, his chest
heaving. He quickly felt rather foolish at being so started about such a minor
thing, but on the other hand he was rather grateful at the quick wake up given
to him by the clock. He quickly change out of his pajamas and threw on his favorite
pair of pants and tattered vest, securing his belt and sword, while picking
up the gift from Firiden. The silver sheen of the shield caused his heart to
give a small pang as he looked over at the empty bed where Firiden should have
been. He had waited all night, inquired throughout the town, yet no one had
seen Firiden…and he never came home.
True, Jeran was extremely appreciative at what
his friend must have been going through to pay for the shield, but he in the
end he would rather have his friend at his side rather than have some pointless
possession. But the sadness he felt subsided as he continued on his daily routine,
wondering what this day may have in store for him.
Taking two steps at a time, Jeran darted downstairs,
taking a leisurely breakfast for the first time since the tournament began.
The blue Lupe had managed to only get halfway through his eggs and sausage before
a stately looking Kougra entered the room, the armor on him gleaming handsomely.
"Excuse me, where can I find a Lupe by the name
of Jeran?" the Kougra inquired to the bartender. Jeran immediately spun around,
almost choking on his bit of eggs as he waved his paw furiously.
"I am! That is to say...right here!" Jeran stuttered
he clumsily jumped off the bar stool and approached the Kougra. The knight looked
at Jeran with an inquiring eye as if he was inspecting the meager Lupe before
leading him out of the inn.
"Well then, the king has asked me to send for
you. You are wanted in the palace and are to start training this morning as
soon as possible with the other trainees!" The Kougra informed Jeran, coming
to a halt before a pair of Unis gently drinking from the trough before them.
Jeran could feel the pride inside of him as he saddled up the Uni. Quickly they
set off, the rhythmic sounds of the Uni's hooves reverberating off of the cobblestone
street. Jeran had noticed that the Kougra kept shooting him furtive looks as
they rode along in silence. The Lupe turned the idea over in his mind, wondering
why in the world he seemed so interested in him. As the two cleared the town,
it was the Kougra that was the first to speak.
"Hrm, so...are you really..." the Kougra murmured
off in the distance as if trying to think of his words. Jeran's eyes slowly
looked up at the presentable Kougra, who also furtively looked over at Jeran.
"You mean the competition?" Jeran asked. The
Kougra gave a curt nod, focusing his haughty eyes ahead of him. "Well...yeah
"You have talent, a lot of it," the Kougra said
in a deep voice, his eyes still straight ahead on the ever growing castle. "I
can see why Skarl was so adamant about you joining the program. Mark me when
I say that you will advance quickly, boy," The Kougra gruffed. Jeran felt highly
proud to hear such a thing, but also perhaps a bit intimidated at the scene
before him. The two fell into silence as they slowly came closer to the castle.
From the inner walls Jeran could hear the sound of metal banging against mental
while the slow roar of voices grew and receded like an ebbing tide inside.
"Is the training in here?" Jeran asked cautiously.
The Kougra gave no answer, causing Jeran to lapse again into silence as the
castle gates opened to admit the two. All around him Jeran was surprised to
see the level of activity this early in the morning. Some guards seemed to be
shuffling off to sleep, their eyes drooping, while others, full of vigor, rushed
off to claim the posts forgotten by the other guards. Jeran figured that the
two would stop here for training; however the Uni, which he was riding continued
to follow the Kougra's steed out of the main keep and into a closed door off
to the side.
"ATTENTION!" the Kougra roared, causing Jeran's
fur to jump slightly. The figures lying on the grass hurriedly stood up, their
faces masked with panic. Jeran was quite impressed at the surroundings, his
eyes wandering around the walled up courtyard, which they stood in. He could
see the sky lighting-up overhead, while the grass below was littered with shields
and rusted swords.
"Assume your position men!" the Kougra yelled,
casting a yellow eye at Jeran who quietly filed behind a Wocky before him. The
Kougra walked up and down the ranks before stopping.
"Now, today we shall learn the finest points
of sword fighting. Any commander is worthless if he himself is not half as good
as his army!" the Kougra explained as he unsheathed the sword at his belt. His
eyes scanned the ranks before him, ultimately resting on a strong looking Krawk
"You! Let's go!" the Kougra snarled. The Krawk
looked among his companions as if hoping that someone else would take his place,
yet there was no one else and, shaking slightly, he grasped one of the swords
on the ground and faced the Kougra.
"Now! There are a few things to master in swordplay,
your footing as one, and also your handiwork with the sword! Try to keep your
attacks mostly on the offensive, thus making your opponent only defensive! Like
so!" The Kougra launched himself at the Krawk with a force unlike Jeran had
ever seen. The Krawk's sword clashed against the Kougra's sending sparks into
the air. Once again the Kougra lunched, and the Krawk defended, though barley.
However on the third attempt the Krawk wasn't so lucky, getting the right side
of his head bashed by the sword. The Krawk flew backwards and landed with a
dull thump on the ground. The group watched with nervousness as he slowly got
up, gingerly rubbing the side of his dazed head.
"That was pitiful! You barley tried to move forward!
Fall back!" the Kougra snarled as the Krawk whimpered and fell back into the
line. Once again the Kougra scanned the ranks, his eyes resting directly on
"Lupe! You're up!" He snapped, pointing at the
weaponry in the corner. The small group looked at Jeran with curiosity, wonder
how the new one in the group would perform. Though a few were confidant that
he bore a striking resemblance to the Lupe who won the tournament, they themselves
had not had a chance to partake in the festivities due to training and could
not provide a definite answer.
Jeran sorted through the pile of the swords,
ultimately selecting what he thought was the least battered sword.
"Faster Lupe! Let's go!" the Kougra muttered
as Jeran stood in front of the Kougra, ready for action.
"Now, watch again everyone! And Lupe, try to
do better than that miserable Krawk!" The Krawk in line sunk his aching head
in shame at this. The Kougra threw his weight entirely behind his sword and
rushed at Jeran with immense speed, but Jeran was quicker. Throwing himself
to the side he rolled over the soft grass while the Kougra rushed past him.
He halted and turned, but Jeran was ready. The swords clashed together with
a gut-wrenching scraping, the two forces full in their approach. The Kougra
disentangled and tried again, but Jeran blocked that too with ease.
It seemed as if Jeran would easily win the fight
that is if Jeran had taken note of the sword pile behind him...
CRASH! The Lupe tripped over the pile, falling
backwards into the dirt. He knew that he must have cut his foot somehow as he
felt the searing pain that traveled up his leg. Yet what hurt more was his pride
as he saw the sword of the Kougra pointing right at his face. Jeran felt positively
mortified and wondered if he would be asked to leave with such a dismal performance
such as that. He looked into the Kougra's eyes, waiting for the tirade...but...
"Decent effort! Of course if you hadn't been
so blind as to see the pile, you might have had an edge!" the Kougra said, sheathing
his weapon. Jeran slowly hoisted himself up and smiled, noticing the tiny smirk
on the Kougra's face.
Perhaps Jeran would be able to persevere after
To be continued...