The Ghost of Meridell: Part Four
Krystal sputtered and coughed as her head broke the surface of the water. Why on earth did she help that squire? I should’ve just let him drop! she thought.
“Krys! Over here!”
Krystal looked around and spotted Audrey standing on a rock waving her arms. Krystal swam as quickly as possible towards her Gelert friend. She didn’t know how Audrey had found her but she didn’t care. Right now all she wanted to do was get out of this ice cube of an ocean.
As soon as the Lupess was close enough, Audrey reached out her hand and pulled Krystal onto the rock. “He’s going to pay for that,” she said with a growl.
Krystal shivered against the cold wind. “You saw what he did?” the Lupess asked through chattering teeth.
“Part of it; enough to know this wasn’t an accident.” When Krystal gave her an odd look, the Gelert replied, “Miles was acting weird all day. Not long after he left the hideout I went out to follow him. He came here, stole some supplies, and ran off. I lost him shortly after that. And that’s when I heard you running through the woods.”
Audrey’s eyes narrowed. “He’s been stealing supplies from this place; he was trying to get rid of the evidence. And I guess he figured if he played his cards right, he could kill two Albats with one stone.”
Krystal pinned her ears. “Well, this is one Albat he didn’t kill. And he never will.”
Audrey took off her cloak and wrapped it around the shivering Lupess. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
With that, the two friends began jumping across the steppingstone pathway that led from the shallows of the water to the shore.
“Jeran? Can you hear me?”
Jeran moaned and opened his eyes. Standing over him were the concerned figures of Sir Gavin, Sir Erick, and Danner. “You gave us quite a scare kid,” Sir Erick said dryly.
The Lupe squire pushed himself up to a sitting position. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you could tell us that,” Sir Gavin replied.
Suddenly Jeran’s eyes went wide. “The Lupess! Did you find her anywhere?”
All three figures looked at each other, baffled. “What Lupess?” Danner asked. “What are you talking about? There’s no one here except you and us... and that half blown apart building over there.”
“What happened last night, Jeran?” the red Kougra knight asked.
“Well, I was guarding the chest when I heard something and went to investigate. When I came back there was a thief, a ghost Lupess. As soon as she heard me, she threw her dagger at me and ran. I followed her through the woods... I lost her for a while, but I kept going in the direction she’d been running and I finally ended up here. I watched her go inside that building and was about to follow her when I saw someone else, a green Wocky.”
Jeran furrowed his brow and continued. “He set the place on fire while she was in there. I thought she might need help so I rushed inside only to find that she had already escaped through the back window. By then the doorway was blocked and the only way I could get out was through that window. But before I could get out there was an explosion from the front room, and that’s really all I can remember.”
“An explosion? That force would’ve sent you straight back over the cliff. How did you get over here?”
Jeran glanced over at the still smoking debris that had once been the back wall of the storage house, than he shook his head. “I have no idea...”
The red Kougra knight looked at Sir Erick. “Go ahead and search the place. See if you can find this Lupess he’s talking about; have Danner help you.”
“I want to help,” Jeran said, starting to rise.
“No, you don’t,” Gavin said firmly. “You took a blow to the head and I’m not taking any chances. You’re coming back to camp with me. Erick and Danner will do a quick look around and be back within the hour. And then we can get going and get back to Meridell.”
“He’s been stealing from us this whole time. And not two hours ago he tried to kill Krystal!” The spotted Gelert motioned to the still damp Lupess behind her. “And all because she got the castle assignment and he didn’t.”
Raylac let out an irritated huff. “Excellent job, Audrey. I commend you. Krystal, I will deal with this attempt on your life. Miles will be punished severely.”
The red Eyrie snapped his fingers and in walked the red Kyrii. “Yes, my master?”
“Find Miles and bring him here. And be quick about it.” As the Kyrii bowed and left to carry out his master’s command, Raylac turn his gaze back to the Lupess. “You two had best leave. It would not be wise for Miles to see you now.”
The two friends curtsied gratefully and hastily left the room. Neither really wanted to be around anyway. After all, who would want to stick around to hear what kind of punishment the Wocky would get. The very thought of it made both their skins crawl.
True to his word, Raylac had Miles punished for his crime against the organization. Not that Krystal felt bad about it; the only thing she felt bad about was not getting to him first. She grinned evilly as she passed the Wocky in the hall.
“Did you have a bad day?” she asked, acting as though she didn’t know what happened.
Miles glared daggers at her. “One of these days you’ll get yours, and then I’ll be the one laughing about it,” he hissed.
“I’m sure I will,” the Lupess replied dryly. “But I’m afraid, old friend, that you probably won’t live long enough to see it.” With the same evil grin she continued, “Now if you’ll excuse me, Raylac wants to see me about the castle assignment that I’ve been working on. ”
With a smug little hop she walked through the thick, black doors that led to the Eyrie’s throne room. “Yes, great Raylac? What may your orders be?”
The Eyrie noticed her rather chipper disposition right away. “You’re awfully peppy,” he resolved. “You must have seen Miles on your way in.”
Krystal didn’t even bother to try and hide her dark amusement. “Indeed.”
Raylac gave a short chuckle and resumed reading the document he was holding. “I understand you saw what it was the knights were transporting back to Meridell?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Was it by chance, this?” The Eyrie turned the paper around so Krystal could see.
The Lupess looked at it for only a second. There weren’t words on that paper like she had first thought. Instead, there was a crudely drawn picture of a gray sphere. “Yes, it was. But what about it? It’s only some sort of decoration, right?”
“I can see how you would get that impression. That, too, is what I first thought. But then I found out something. This sphere is no mere decoration. It is a key.”
“A key to what?”
“The key to your freedom,” he said motioning to the necklace around the Lupess’ neck. “Now, I have a job for you. I need to test that Lupe squire’s skills. So here’s what I want you to do...”
“Well done, Sir Gavin!” King Skarl said as he closed the lid to the chest that the Kougra knight had brought to him.
Sir Erick, squire Jeran and squire Danner all stood silently behind the King’s Champion. “Thank you, my king,” he said with a bow, “but I really couldn’t have done it without their help.” He finished by motioning to the three figures that stood behind him.
The blue Skeith king looked at Jeran. “A little trouble with your squire, Sir Gavin?” he asked, referring to the bandages that were wrapped around the squire’s head.
Gavin glanced over his shoulder at the Lupe. “Let us say, there was an accident.”
Embarrassed, Jeran turned his gaze to the floor as Skarl nodded. “Very good then. You are dismissed.”
Bowing, the four of them exited the room. Jeran purposely walked slowly, keeping his head down; prompting Danner to ask, “Are you feeling alright, Jeran?”
“Yeah, Danner,” he lied. “I’m fine...”
Jeran let out a sigh as he stood just outside of Sir Gavin’s office. Briefly he looked down at the sword that the knight had given him. Slowly he untied the sheath from his waist and clutched it tightly. With his free hand he knocked on the closed door.
The Lupe slowly opened the door. Peeking inside, he saw the knight sitting at his desk and looking over some papers. “Ah, Jeran,” the Kougra greeted him. “Come on in.”
The Lupe stepped inside and shut the door behind him. Without a word, he walked to Sir Gavin’s desk and placed the sword on top of it.
The Champion looked at his squire in surprise. “What’s this for?”
“I can’t accept, this Sir Gavin. You should give it to someone else.”
“But I gave it to you, Jeran. It’s for you to keep.”
Jeran shook his head. “I don’t deserve it.”
The Kougra slowly rose to his feet. “Jeran, what’s this about?”
“I failed you, Sir Gavin. I let you down. If I can’t even stop a thief, then how can I stand up to the greater enemies I may face later on? I’m not worthy of a magnificent sword such as this one. But I’m sure you can find someone who is. I’m sorry I let you down.”
“Now hold up, son,” Gavin said as the squire turned to leave. “Is that what you think? That you let me down because you didn’t catch one thief that probably knew that forest better than you? Or because you showed honor when you saw she was in danger and tried to help her despite who she was and despite the danger to yourself? Great knights are not born with the knowledge of what to do, Jeran. They don’t just appear out of thin air and know what to do or how to handle things. They learn all of that from the greatest teacher of all: Time.”
Gavin put a hand on Jeran’s shoulder. “I was exactly like you when I was young, and I thought like you do. I know we knights seem invincible, but even we run into things we don’t know how to handle. We make just as many mistakes as any squire, but with those mistakes come lessons. And as long as you take them in stride and learn from them, you have not failed. You haven’t let me down, Jeran. You were only doing the job that you were assigned. And you did it to the best of your abilities, which is all I can ask of you.”
Jeran regarded his mentor with more respect then he ever had before. “Thank you, Sir Gavin.”
The knight smiled and took the sword off his desk and held it out to Jeran. “Now get this thing off my desk before I make you file my paper work.” The Lupe smiled and gratefully took the sword from his hand. As he was walking out Sir Gavin stopped him again. “And Jeran, I want you to remember something. Something that every knight needs to know.”
“The world is full of danger, but there is always hope. Remember that.”
To be continued...