A Peace that Would Last One Thousand Years?: Part Five
After the secret release of the Meridellian prisoners, Jeran
walked through the Citadel, surveying it. He looked at the houses and buildings,
many destroyed in the fighting. So, he thought, even with the methods
we use, this is the result. Why is peace so impossible? What he saw next,
however, made Jeran rethink this.
A young Darigan Techo sat playing in the square
in the middle of the Citadel, playing with her friends. "Hello, Sir Knight,"
she said. "You have become sort of a hero to Darigan, ensuring our victory despite
your tactics. The adults all call your tactics strange, but I think they are
noble. Why should you hurt the Meridellians?"
Jeran smiled. Finally, he found a Darigan who
understood his ideals, and even thought he was noble for following them. Jeran
was close to giving up on them, giving in to the enormous pressure from the
Darigans. But this little girl believed he was right. This little girl was not
corrupted, despite having the appearance of a Darigan. Perhaps not all Darigans
are evil, Jeran thought.
Jeran walked on in silence for a few more minutes.
The little Darigan had made him rethink his expectations of a Darigan, and he
was attempting to come to a new conclusion about them, from all that he had
learned. The knights did not seem fond of my new methods, Jeran thought,
but neither would Meridell's knights if I told them the same thing. Even
Meridell would not listen to a knight of no stature who told them to fight as
I did. Perhaps Darigans are more complex than I imagined... Just then, Jeran
was interrupted by an Eyrie Guard, who told him that Darigan wanted to see him.
As expected, Jeran was called down to Darigan's
throne room. "So, report on the battle, knight," Darigan ordered grumpily, wondering
what Jeran had messed up. "How did my forces fare?"
"As a whole, the battle went well," Jeran reported.
"The attack force was repelled, with little to no loss on either side." At this,
Darigan made a sound of annoyance. "We captured many knights with our nets,
but I freed them under the oath that they would not fight again." Jeran figured
that on a whole, it would be unwise to try to hide this from Darigan.
"You freed them?!" Darigan nearly screamed. "Why?!
I knew you were a sentimental fool, but surely even you realize that few would
honor such an oath! Why would you trust their word?!"
"One of the worst violations of the knight's
code of chivalry is going back on a word. Meridell's knights are honorable.
I trained them myself- I should know," Jeran explained.
"And yet you, the hero and champion of Meridell,
betrayed Skarl. How am I supposed to expect any better of them?" Darigan asked
"I act in the interests of Meridell," Jeran said
blandly. "I have not betrayed my country. My fight is with The Three, who are
against Meridell, though they happen to be using Meridell at this time. My wish
to protect both Meridell's and Darigan's forces stems from this."
"Just make sure that you protect Darigan as much
as you do Meridell, if you must protect Meridell at all. If Darigan loses even
one soldier because of your ridiculous ideals, you shall face my wrath!" Darigan
"I will do my best," Jeran promised. "Just remember
that it is The Three we are fighting, and they wish to destroy Meridell as well
as yourself. Before calling my plans wishy-washy nonsense, you may do well to
remember what we are truly fighting for."
"Why you insubordinate...!" Darigan started,
but Jeran had already stormed out the door.
Over the next several weeks, the fighting went
well for Darigan. Darigan himself called a counteroffensive to keep the Citadel
from destruction, despite Jeran's objections. Jeran himself led this attack,
however, fearing that the growing impatience of the Darigans might lead them
away from his ideals if he allowed anyone else to lead. Darigan allowed Jeran
to do this, almost hoping that the Lupe would loose in battle so that he wouldn't
have to heal with him anymore. Danner's confusion over Jeran's tactics seemed
most of the battles seem like mock-ups- Jeran refused to let his knights seriously
wound any Meridell knight, and Meridell seemed to be too preoccupied with what
Darigan might be thinking to fight well. Jeran therefore captured and released
much of Meridell's forces, and Meridell became more and more normal.
One major battle came near the farm where Sally
the Usul was keeping Kass. Danner, hoping to prove himself in spite of his previous
failure, led an ambush on Jeran's forces, who had just set up camp. That particular
battle went poorly for Jeran, who found it hard to command the tired Darigan
forces. Jeran was in the middle of a fight with a dozen of Meridell's strongest
knights, thinking himself lost, when help came at last.
A restored Kass came flying out of the barn,
hearing the sounds of battle and hoping to help. He landed next to Jeran, taking
down all of Jeran's shocked opponents, then turning on Jeran himself.
"So, fighting again, I see," the Eyrie growled.
"I thought Darigan wanted peace!"
"He did," Jeran answered. "Skarl attacked first."
"Not my problem anymore, is it?" Kass asked.
"I think I'll just amuse myself with those weak Meridell knights...although
from the way you're fighting, someone might think otherwise."
Jeran pointed his Sunblade at Kass menacingly.
"Just give me a reason, Kass, and I'll do it. You don't have your little Usul
friend here to protect you this time."
"What kind of Darigan are you?! You actually
care about the Meridell scum?!" the Eyrie screeched.
"One does not go about fighting The Three by
destroying Meridell...although with your experience with The Three, you should
know that," Jeran growled.
"The Three?!" Kass gasped. "Well, then, I suppose
I'm duty-bound to help you...so why don't you put your apparent grudge behind
you, and accept my assistance? I won't hurt any Meridellians, if that's what
Jeran shook the Eyrie's hand, against his better
judgement. But Kass did seem to be an asset- he helped Jeran in that battle
The Three watched these battles with interest.
As they had expected, Meridell was slowly but surely loosing. But, inexplicably,
the more Meridell lost, the more normal it became. Jeran's trust in Meridell's
knights, it seemed, was well-founded- almost all captured knights returned to
their regular lives rather than fight again. Meridell was, in effect, winning
as it lost, while the Three were loosing as they won.
The Three decided, as Meridell's forces were
driven back to the castle, that theirs was a lost cause if they remained with
Skarl. Therefore, they confronted Skarl late one knight.
"Do you remember what the price of failure was,
Skarl?" Revenge asked.
"But...no...I...Meridell hasn't lost yet!" the
once proud king gibbered.
"Oh, but surely you don't think there is any
way for you to win now, do you?" Ambition asked.
"Besides, this fight wearies you...you wish to
go back to your daily feasts rather than protect Meridell," Greed said.
"I won't fail!" Skarl declared.
"But you already have," Ambition answered.
"No, Meridell has not fallen yet- and with the
Castle Defender around, it never will!" Skarl declared, calling up the giant
"Not good enough, Skarl. You already are lost,"
Greed declared. "You have been from the beginning."
"Now, Castle Defender, attack Skarl!" ordered
Revenge. And, to Skarl's horror, the defender obeyed...
Up in his Citadel, Darigan was dismayed. Why
had the Castle Defender been called? He had heard tidings of the battle, of
how well it was going for his own forces, but King Skarl surely would not be
desperate enough to call the Castle Defender for a second time. Unless The Three...
Darigan left his throne room, heading down to
the armoury again. If The Three had decided to take matters into their own hands,
Jeran would need his help. Something seemed wrong, but he continued on his way.
Perhaps he would realize what it was if he wasn't so worried about what was
happening on the ground.
The Three were pleased with their new Castle
Defender. Surely, nothing from Darigan could stand up to that enormous spectre...nothing
short of that fool Darigan himself. Therefore, they called 'Plan B' into effect.
Darigan would fall...
Jeran and Kass stood with Darigan's forces in
front of Meridell Castle. It was far too quiet- surely they should meet some
resistance. It seemed, in fact, that Meridell's army had fled, but why? Darigan's
forces were strong, but definitely not enough to strike fear into the hearts
of trained knights, to make nearly equal opponents run. Jeran's confusion was
short-lived, however, as a giant, dark shape pulled itself out of the castle,
destroying several towers in the process. The Castle Defender had been summoned.
Jeran looked up at the Castle Defender, now horribly
transformed. The giant spectral Kougra's previously blue form was an inky black,
seeming like a visible form of darkness itself. The spectre wasted no time,
launching itself upon Darigan's stunned forces, taking down nearly half in a
moment's time. Many of Darigan's knights turned tail and fled, hoping to escape
the spectre's wrath, but the Defender let none escape. He sounded his Faerie-horn,
hoping to regroup. This, however, had a secondary effect-not only were the Darigan
forces newly willing to fight, but knights from Meridell also arrived. Confused,
the Meridellians attacked the Darigans, but on instinct, Jeran blew his horn
again, and this stopped as well. Finally, Jeran understood. Together, Meridell
and Darigan would take down The Three.
To be continued...