A Fiery Friendship: Part Four
Once they were safely back in Meridell, conversation began as soon as they had untied Torch.
“So, what exactly were they talking about, Torch?” asked Flame.
Torch was suddenly serious. “It was very stupid of them,” he said. “They sat there taunting me, spilling out their entire plan boisterously. I guess they never imagined my wings could be so powerful.”
“Lovely,” said Corran, somewhat impatiently, “but you’ve yet to say what their plan is.”
Torch looked very nervous. “W-Well, I suppose it could have been a clever ruse, but I don’t think so. They claim that they know a way to get under the castle where the royal treasure is. They’re going to try to sneak in and get it, and then they mentioned something about taking out Skarl...”
“WHAT? Why would they want to do that?” asked Corran in a perplexed way.
“Well, they’re criminals; do they need a reason? Honestly, though, I think that masked maniac wants to take control of the kingdom. Or at least cause enough mayhem to put someone else in power. They kept talking about their “powerful friend” in an awed sort of way.”
Corran sighed and hid his face in his hands. He hadn’t expected something like this to happen to him when he was still a squire. If he were a knight, fully trained, he would probably be excited. Right then, however, he felt a little scared.
“We have to tell someone, then!” said Flame in an obvious sort of way. Corran nodded and the three of them headed for the castle.
As they walked through the doors, many of the other squires and a few knights asked where they had been for so long. A few made jokes and asked if they’d been attacked by doglefoxes or something when they were scouting the farms for missing meowclopses.
They all just ignored them, however, and looked around frantically for Master Torak. During their search, they ran into Jeran.
“Whoa there, boys, where are you off to?”
Well, it wasn’t Master Torak, but he was the King’s Champion.
“Sir Borodere, we have something very important to tell you,” said the three of them at once.
Seeing the serious looks on their faces, he asked, “Does this have anything to do with why the three of you have been gone so long?”
They all nodded. “Sir,” Corran began, “We have reason to believe that a large number of bandits is planning to enter the castle from some secret passage.”
“In the woods!” added Torch.
Jeran’s eyes widened. “But that’s impossible! How do they - how do you - know about the passage?”
“So it does exist?” Corran asked.
“Of course it does, but the squires aren’t supposed to know about it!”
Flame muttered, “Neither are bandits.”
“The point is,” said Corran, trying to be patient, “that they know it’s there, and we have to think about King Skarl’s safety. Torch said they mentioned something about taking out Skarl for their ‘powerful friend’ as they put it.”
“Yeah,” Flame said; he had a focused look, like he did when he was tracking someone. “It would make perfect sense. Scorch, Corran that is, and I discovered something while we were looking for Torch. Remember,” he said, turning to Corran, “We could only see the entryway when we were touching the meowclops. The entrance to the passage is probably invisible, so they probably wanted to catch as many of those petpets as possible. That way, they could bring a lot of men, and carry the petpets in, oh, bags on their backs or something. And, the reason they would have for going after Skarl, which I know someone is about to ask, is like Corran said, for this friend. I bet that they made some sort of bargain. This friend probably knew the location of the passage and told them about it, and in return they have to get rid of Skarl. They make a lot of money, and the throne is open for the taking of the friend.”
Jeran shook his head in disbelief. “Oh, this is becoming a very bad day.” He sighed. “As soon as we receive any hints that they’re coming, we’d better head to the woods. I have to tell Skarl.” With that, he left.
Corran agreed with Jeran; this was not a good day.
* * *
It didn’t take long for the hint to arise. Later that day, the town armory was robbed. There were no broken windows, the door was still locked, and no one had seen anyone enter the building.
Flame’s guess: invisible passage.
So, as soon as they had heard this, Jeran and Torak gathered up some knights and squires and headed for the woods where the passage was hidden.
They waited in the bushes. The full moon shone bright above them, their only light except for the twinkling stars. Corran was a bit startled to find that Torch was afraid of the dark.
His amusement vanished as a mob of bandits made their way deeper into the woods. Jeran made a motion with his hand, telling them to wait one moment.
So they waited.
Once the bandits were surrounded by the full bushes, Jeran yelled, “Now!”
Everyone quickly jumped out of the bushes with their swords drawn. Some of the bandits were very startled, and were too late to defend themselves. Others were quicker.
The battle raged on for a long time, and still no one had gained the upper hand. Corran had been doing fairly well; he was still alive at least. He was getting tired, though.
As he cut down another bandit, he heard the masked one laugh from behind him.
“You’ll go far, boy.”
He lunged at the masked menace, and realized soon after that it was a mistake. The bandit was much more than a match for him. Soon his attacks were coming in too slow, too lazy. His sword was knocked out of his shaking hand as something very hard hit him in the head. The world around him turned black.
* * *
They were finally outmatching the bandits! Flame knew that the battle would be over soon, so the bandits must also have known.
Sure enough, moments later, the masked bandit ordered a retreat. The knights jumped and whooped for joy, and many screamed, “We have victory!”
Flame noticed none of this, however, he was too busy searching for Scorch and Torch. He found the orange Shoyru without too much difficulty, the red Kougra was a harder case. Soon they found him, lying unconscious in the middle of the clearing, with the King’s Champion leaning over him.
“Is he alright, Sir Borodere?” asked Torch worriedly.
The blue Lupe sighed. “Cracked skull, but I’m pretty sure it can be mended; help me get him to a mount.” Flame and Torch helped lift the red Kougra onto a yellow Uni by the name of Durlock. Soon, they were riding back to Meridell Castle, cheering all the way.
* * *
Removing her mask, Trestina the faerie snarled. Being one of the Three, her sole passion was to overthrow that blue oaf, Skarl. So far, however, Fate seemed to be working against her. First Darigan, then Kass had failed her. Then, when she finally decided to try for herself a plot, it too backfired.
She remembered the red Kougra squire. He had been a strong fighter, stronger even than he knew, as he had lasted so long against her in battle. Maybe he did not possess such brute strength or iron will as the King’s Champion, Jeran, but still, he was strong.
Besides, she would have no chance of controlling Jeran, so perhaps this new squire would be a better option. She decided to keep her eyes on him.
* * *
Corran woke suddenly and wished he had not. His head was pounding something foul, but at least the pillow was soft.
The pillow? Where was he?
He opened his eyes slowly and looked around. He appeared to be in the Castle’s hospital, as there were nurses zipping by everywhere.
A young yellow Acara nurse with deep red hair walked over to him. “You’re up!” she said with joy. “You’ve been out for five days now!”
Corran groaned. “Way to make me feel better,” he said to the pretty nurse. She giggled and began adjusting his bandages.
“I had two friends with me in the battle...” he began, but she cut him off.
“Yes, Torch and Flame - they should be here any moment; they’ve been here every day.”
Corran smiled. He had the feeling that this had rather annoyed the nurse. Perhaps she didn’t like people disturbing her patients.
“So what is your name?” he asked her, once his bandages had been adjusted.
“You’re Corran Halcom. Former resident of Tarus, a small village located on the crossroads.”
He smiled. “I see you read my file.”
She nodded. “I like to learn about my patients.”
At that moment, A fire Kyrii and an orange Shoyru walked into the hospital. With a smile, Alexa left and let him be with his friends.
“Hey, welcome back Scorch,” said Flame.
“You have a thing for napping through all the excitement or something?” scorned Torch. Translation: they were happy to see him alive and well.
They chatted for hours before Alexa was forced to drive out the two squires so Corran could get some sleep. Corran argued that since he had slept for five days, surely he didn’t need too much rest. She would, of course, not listen and soon he was alone again, trying to drift off.
He smiled as sleep finally began to take over him. Flame and Torch were great friends, and he cared for them as brothers. He would gladly give his life for them. Of course, he would never tell them that. He was far too prideful.