The Ghost of Meridell: Part Seven
“Dinner is in an hour,” said the blue Wocky.
“Huh? What did you say?”
Danner looked at his Lupe friend who was lying on his bed and staring up at the ceiling. He had apparently been wrapped up in his thoughts. “I said dinner is in an hour,” he repeated.
“Thanks, but I’m not very hungry...” Jeran replied, obviously still upset.
“Sir Erick told me you’d say that... he also said that it’s not a request. He wants you downstairs with the rest of us.”
The Lupe sighed and rolled over, turning his back to Danner. “I still don’t feel up to eating right now.”
Danner walked the rest of the way into the Lupe’s room, shutting the door as he came in. “Jeran, I know this is hard for you. But he was my friend too, and what about Sir Erick? This is hard on everyone who knew Sir Gavin. So please, just--”
Jeran suddenly sat up and glared at the Wocky. “You don’t get it, do you?” he snapped. “It was me! I was the one who was there! I was the only one who could’ve done something, and I did nothing! It was my fault... all of it. It was... my fault.”
The Lupe buried his face in his hands. “I couldn’t even hold on to the sword he entrusted to me.”
Danner didn’t know what to say. What could he say? There were no words he could offer to comfort his ailing friend, and that made the Wocky sick. “Jeran, I--”
The Lupe squire shook his head. “Leave me alone, Danner. Just leave me alone.”
Cold fury burned in his eyes. All reason and sense of rational thinking had left him. The guilt he had felt the past three days had been eating him up inside. And now he could no longer contain it.
Jeran looked around the dark, empty training room until he spotted just what he was looking for. He walked a few paces to the left and pick up the object he wanted: a sword. Not just a mere training sword, though. This was a knight’s sword.
One of the knights, a Shoyru named Johan, was famous for leaving his sword in the training area.
Jeran unsheathed the sword and slashed it through the air. Sir Gavin had sacrificed his life to save Jeran’s. Now the Lupe squire resolved to make whoever had killed him pay in kind.
What was she doing? Why was she even considering this? “Idiot!” she spat at herself.
This whole thing was a stupid waste of time. What did she care about these knights? What did she care about the squire? Sir Gavin had done his injustice years ago, and now he finally paid for it.
Why did she follow that Lupe and Uni? Why did she listen in on their conversation with Illusen? And more importantly, where did she get the nerve to apologize?!
It was the trees’ fault. It was their fault for telling Illusen she was there. Why did they have to tell her everything?!
The Lupess cursed up at the trees around her. “Stupid trees!” she muttered over and over. “This is your fault! All of it!”
Frustrated, the Lupess turned and started to walk deeper into the woods, but she didn’t go far. This wasn’t about telling that Lupe squire. This wasn’t even about an apology. All her ranting and frustration had been about the friend that she had lost so many years ago.
And wasn’t a confession of guilt what she had wanted from the knights? Krystal sighed; she felt lost and confused. Shaking her head, she again looked up at the trees. “Fine,” she said crossly, “I’ll go find him. But you can tell Illusen that I’m not apologizing.”
Krystal mumbled to herself the whole way. How was she going to do this? She doubted very much the squire would give her a warm welcome. Easy problem to fix. All she had to do was take off her necklace, walk right in, explain things to him... and run back out like a stampeding Kau.
Who was she kidding? That was the worst idea ever!
The Lupess shook her head. She fully expected to be headed right for trouble, but she didn’t expect the trouble to come and find her. Just as she was passing an old tree that marked the halfway point to the castle, a sword suddenly appeared at her throat. Krystal stopped and held her breath. She knew exactly who it was; she could tell by the sword.
“You might as well come out, little knight,” the Lupess said. “I know it’s you.”
The sword lowered away from her throat as the Lupe squire stepped out. “Why are you going to the castle?” he asked, coldness in his eyes. “Going to lure more squires and knights out of the castle so they can by killed by your little band of thieves?”
“Why yes,” Krystal replied, sarcasm filling her voice, “how ever did you know?”
Jeran reacted so fast Krystal couldn’t move in time. In the blink of an eye he had reached out his hand and slapped her. The force behind the blow made Krystal stagger back a step or two. The Lupess now realized that he was out for revenge on whoever had killed Sir Gavin. And whoever had taken part in it.
“I came here,” Krystal said, sincerity replacing sarcasm, “to apologize for what happened. I didn’t know about it.”
“You led me into a trap with a trained assassin and you didn’t think someone would get killed? You’re a smart thief; surely you can come up with something better.”
“I swear, I didn’t know. I wasn’t told the whole plan.”
“Save it!” Jeran barked. “You’re just as responsible as that Kyrii. And I’ll make sure you both get what’s coming to you.”
Krystal’s eyes blazed now. She had tried it the nice way, and that didn’t work. So now she was going to play it her way. “You fool,” she said coldly. “You think you are so much better than us.”
“Oh, I don’t think, I know. The knights are twice what you and anyone like you could ever hope to be!”
“And is that where your need for revenge comes from? Does the fact that you’re better than anyone else give you the right to seek revenge?”
“I don’t seek revenge. I seek justice.”
“Is that what the knights call justice? Revenge is about making yourself feel better. Justice is about doing what’s right. Which is it you’re here for?”
“You don’t know the first thing about justice!”
“Maybe not, but at least I know there’s a difference between the two.”
“And that makes it right?” the blue Lupe snapped.
The ghost Lupess’ eyes became so cold it would’ve sent chills through Terror Mountain. “If you want to kill me, Jeran, then go ahead, strike me down and prove me right!”
“Right about what?”
“You, Jeran, you and your kind. All of you look down on us like we’re nothing at all. But you and your kind are no different from me and mine. The knights of Meridell are just as cold and heartless as the thieves are. You claim to be protectors, but you cover up your mistakes by killing those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“There is only one difference between us,” the Lupess continued. “You are hailed as heroes in the eyes of everyone that sees you, while we are cast out and tread upon like the dirt on the ground.”
“We are nothing like you and yours!” Jeran snarled.
“Then why did you come here looking for me?”
Jeran opened his mouth, but quickly realized he had no answer.
“Exactly,” she said coldly. “You came here to avenge a knight... the thieves would do nothing less for another thief. You claim to do what you do for justice, but you really do it for all the praise and hero worship you’ll receive. Strip off that fancy armor and high and mighty attitude and you are no better than us!”
Krystal paused and looked down at her feet. “I didn’t want Sir Gavin to die... or maybe I did. I’m not sure any more. But maybe he had it coming...”
“How dare you say that? Sir Gavin was the most valiant knight that had ever lived!”
The Lupess’ head shot up. “Oh yes,” she hissed, “he was valiant. So valiant that he couldn’t admit that he might have made a mistake so he made up for it with the lives of others!”
“What in Meridell are you babbling about?” the squire demanded.
Krystal held up a golden, circular locket for Jeran to see, then tossed it at his feet. “Ask Sir Gavin’s closest friend. I’m sure he can tell you.”
The Lupe looked down at the object that had landed at his feet. “What’s this?” he asked, looking up only to realize that she was gone.
The blue Lupe bent down and scooped up the locket and examined it. It wasn’t that old, but it was certainly tarnished. Upon closer inspection Jeran realized that the locket was open. Probably the impact of hitting the ground, he decided.
Carefully the Lupe opened it the rest of the way. Inside were two perfectly preserved pictures. In the left frame was a picture of a young Zafara girl sitting with her family. In the right frame was a picture of... Krystal? No, that couldn’t be Krystal... could it?
Jeran looked closer. It was Krystal! The Lupe snapped the locket shut only to discover an engraving on the back. It read: To my best friend, thanks for being the sister I never had. May we be friends forever. Love Krystal.
Jeran felt his heart sink. Surely this couldn’t mean what he thought it did. The Lupe took off running. He had to get back to the castle and find out what Krystal was talking about.
Jeran sat on a bench in the training grounds, deep in thought; absentmindedly turning the locket over in his hand. The sound of footsteps behind him snapped him back into reality. “Thanks for coming out here, Sir Erick.”
“It sounded serious,” the yellow Ixi replied as he sat down next to the squire. “What’s on your mind?”
It took Jeran several moments before he could finally speak, the words he wanted to say catching in his throat. “What... what is this?” he asked holding up the locket.
The knight’s eyes widened. “Where did you get that?” he whispered.
Jeran shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. What is it?”
The Ixi leaned back and sighed. He suddenly looked as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “It was a long time ago. We, Gavin and I, had just become knights. We were young, Jeran, and reckless.” Erick shook his head. “We never meant for things to get that far out of control... but they did. And we couldn’t stop it.”
“No,” Jeran whispered, “you couldn’t have... why didn’t Sir Gavin tell me?”
“He would have, once you became a knight, in hopes that you would be wiser than us.”
“How could you do something like that?” Jeran demanded.
“It seemed that there was no other way. We made a horrible mistake, Jeran, out of pure ignorance. Gavin never forgave himself for it; neither did I. We suffered with it for so long--”
“You suffered?” Jeran said springing to his feet, a mix of shock and anger in his voice. “You didn’t suffer. All those innocent people and their families who were in the wrong place at the wrong time... they’re the ones who suffered! Not you!” the Lupe turned away. “I can’t believe I looked up to you two.”
“No!” Jeran barked. “Don’t try to justify this.” Jeran turned and stalked off towards the castle.
The Ixi sat and looked at the sky, anguish once again filling his heart as it did that terrible night that would forever live in his memory. “Gavin old friend, what have we done? I only hope that now you are free from all of this...”
Silently Krystal watched the whole thing from the tree just above them. Though there was no wind she pulled her cloak tighter around her and shivered from the cold. Right now she was feeling just as lost and lonely as Jeran must be. And that knight... did he really feel guilty for what he had done? Was he truly sorry?
The Lupess shook her head. What were all these things she was feeling? A sick feeling rose in her stomach as feelings of guilt and remorse washed over her. Why did she feel like this? What was happening to her? She wasn’t growing a heart... was she?
No! That couldn’t happen, Krystal realized as fear suddenly clutched her. If any of the other thieves ever found out, well she really didn’t want to think about that. Who was she kidding? Of course they’d find out! And when that happens, Krystal thought, the sick feeling growing, I’ll surely be exiled from the only ones I’ve come to know as a family... if I’m not killed first.
The stillness of the night was broken only by Krystal’s involuntary, but gentle sobbing. Startled by the sound that had come from her own mouth, she quickly checked herself, but it was too late. Sir Erick had heard her and looked up in the tree.
For a fraction of a second their eyes locked. The Ixi recognized her immediately. Terrified that she had been seen she jumped onto the wall, ready to escape.
“Wait!” the Ixi yelled.
The ghost Lupess glanced over her shoulder and gave the knight a long look.
The Ixi looked back at her with guilt-ridden eyes. “I’m sorry... so very sorry.”
“Are you truly?” the Lupess asked.
Sir Erick nodded. “Gavin would tell you the same, if he were still here.”
Krystal turned away from the knight. “Why did you keep the locket?”
Looking down at the ground, Erick replied, “To remind us of what we had done... and to keep from doing it again.”
No longer able to choke back her tears, the Lupess vaulted over the wall and ran off in to the night.
To be continued...