The Challenge: Part Six
As one, the masked warriors attacked. Again, they were very careful not to cause Corran any fatal harm, but not as merciful with the others. Jeran, of course, they were no match for, but their numbers were great. Corran doubted whether Leglos would be able to fight while holding on to Kate, but the yellow Xweetok was fighting quite valiantly. Corran was very impressed.
The Kougra kicked his attacker hard in the stomach, sending him tumbling into the other attackers and knocking a few of them over. This gave Corran the time to yell, “RUN!”
With a few of the men stumbling to their feet, and Corran and his friends running and knocking them back down, only a few managed to follow. A few they could handle, though it was definitely harder to battle while sprinting.
Corran tripped hard over a gnarled tree root, and a sharp pain went up his left wrist. Instead of getting up, he rolled to the side and tripped two more of the attackers, then propelled himself up on his right wrist. He then sprinted to catch up with the others.
Once caught up, he was ecstatic to see that his friends had taken care of the others.
“How is she?” Corran asked Leglos as he ran.
“If we can get her to Illusen, I think she’ll be fine.”
“Why did that Werelupe bite her? I thought Werelupes were only vicious at night.”
Leglos appeared to be thinking. “I think that was because of that casket she and Cody tried to open. According to legend, that was the one the amulet was supposed to be in. Apparently he was a guardian of it or something.” He took a deep breath, for they were still running hard. “He went for Cody too, and knocked him out, but I was able to wake him up fairly easily.”
“Which way is Illusen’s?” Corran asked Alexa.
“Right fork,” she replied promptly. “I’ve been there a few times.”
Corran felt one of his eyebrows rise. “You know Illusen?”
Alexa gave him a weak smile. “Fairly well. I grew up in the Glade.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“You just did, but I guess you can ask something else.”
He slowed his run down to a jog. “Why did you volunteer to be one of Torak’s helpers for this challenge? And where did you learn to use a sword like that?”
Alexa too slowed to a jog. “Well, I volunteered because, for one thing, Torak needed a healer for each group, in case someone would get hurt badly. I volunteered for your group because I was curios to see how you fought.”
Alexa laughed a little. “As for learning to use a sword, my brother and father were both knights. I learned very little from them, but I was at least efficient enough to be an obstacle.”
Corran nodded. While she had not been brilliant, she had shown potential. “Have I met your brother?”
Alexa shook her head. “He’s a knight of Brightvale. He was always very... bookish. Meridell never really suited him.”
Corran frowned. “But you stayed here?”
Alexa nodded, sending her long red hair bobbing. “Meridell is my home. I had great healing ability, and was an intern to a nurse at the castle when I was fourteen. Two years later, I became a nurse myself.”
“You’re only sixteen?”
She laughed a little again. “So are you, last time I checked.”
“You two back there!” yelled Flame, looking impatient, “Speed it up will ya?”
Alexa’s face broke into a mischievous grin. “Race you.” Then she tripped him.
Corran balanced himself quickly, then rushed to catch up. “Cheater!”
Illusen’s hut was not what Corran had expected. He had thought it would be rather small, since only she resided there, but it was rather large. Jeran led them to Illusen rather quickly, who seemed to be very surprised.
“Why hello Jeran, how are...” She froze when she saw Kate. “By the fortunes, what happened?”
“Werelupe bite,” explained the blue Lupe quickly. “You can help her can’t you?”
Illusen nodded quickly. “I have about six hours till midnight. The potion takes three hours to brew, but I don’t have all of the ingredients I need.” She took the striped Lupess from Leglos and rushed her into a room with a bed. Corran automatically understood the reason for the size of Illusen’s hut. She probably used the extra room for those who had been injured, or who needed a place to stay. He found himself in awe of the Faerie’s kindness.
Illusen returned with a piece of parchment and handed it to Alexa. “These are the ingredients I need,” she told the Acara. “I’m sure you can identify them, yes?”
Alexa nodded quickly. “I’ll go now.”
“I’ll go too,” Corran offered, “if you could use some help.”
Alexa smiled and nodded again. “Sure.”
It took the two of them nearly two hours to gather all of the ingredients, but that still gave them time. They headed back to Illusen’s hut quickly. Since it was up in the trees, they had to climb up a rather high ladder. The first time had been easier, since Corran hadn’t been carrying a bunch of ingredients, but now that his right hand was occupied, he was forced to use the one he had fallen on to pull himself up. As he reached the top, he felt another pain shoot up his wrist, much worse than the last time. He bit back one of Flame’s nastier curses. He couldn’t move it.
As Alexa came up, she noticed him clutching it to his side. She sighed, “What did you do now?”
“Fell on my wrist,” he began to explain, “back in the Woods. Just now did something to it.”
Rolling her eyes, Alexa reached out to feel his wrist with her free hand. “Congratulations. You must have sprained your wrist pretty badly in the Woods, and now you’ve broken it.”
Corran bit back a curse again. “You can fix it, right?”
“Illusen can fix it faster, but we kind of have to get to her first.”
The red Kougra nodded, and they both made their way to the room Illusen had been in before.
“Perfect!” exclaimed the earth Faerie when they entered. “We have just enough time.” Illusen tilted her head, obviously noting the rather crooked position of his wrist. “What did you do?” She seemed amused.
“He broke it,” explained Alexa.
“Wow, picking herbs was that challenging, Scorch?” mocked Torch.
A few of them laughed, and Illusen took his wrist. She closed her eyes in concentration, and a feint green glow emanated from her hand, sending warmth through Corran’s arm, and suddenly he could move his wrist again.
“Thanks,” he muttered, astounded by the magic she had used.
“Don’t mention it,” said the Faerie, then, “How about those ingredients? I have a potion to brew.”
Alexa and Corran both handed Illusen the herbs they had collected. Corran turned around and found himself facing Cody.
“Listen, Cor...” began the blue Gelert shakily, “I’m sorry about this. I got really jealous and carried away, and none of this would have happened if not for me.”
Corran actually smiled, and placed a comforting hand on the Gelert’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Cody. We all make mistakes.”
Cody smiled weakly at Corran, and then shuffled off. Corran then headed for Leglos.
“You were amazing back there,” Corran complimented him. “Fighting like that... it was awesome.”
Leglos grinned. “Hey, just because I’m not a squire like you doesn’t mean I don’t have some skills.”
To their surprise, Jeran walked over to join in their conversation. “I quite agree with Corran here,” said the King’s Champion. “You have great potential. Have you ever considered becoming a knight?”
Leglos’ eyes widened. “Considered it? Of course I have!”
The blue Lupe grinned. “Good. If you decide to go through with it, I’ll put in a good word for you.”
For the next three hours, hardly anyone spoke at all. Illusen had the potion bubbling softly over a small fire, sending an herby smell through the room. After what seemed like an eternity, the Faerie proclaimed that her potion was finally ready. They all rushed into the room where Kate lay on the bed, apparently sleeping peacefully. Illusen opened the Lupess’s mouth and tipped the potion in.
For a long moment, nothing appeared to happen. Then, the bite on her neck slowly began to heal before their eyes. Minutes later, her eyelids fluttered open slowly. She shook her head and began to sit up, but Illusen held out a restraining hand. “Slowly, dear. I don’t want you getting nauseous on me.”
Kate appeared very confused, but that was understandable. “What happened?” she asked.
Leglos laughed a little bit. “It’s a long story.”
Corran sighed. “I doubt we’ll have time to go retrieve Torak’s dagger now.” The fact didn’t really bother him at all, he was much more happy knowing that they had helped Kate, but it was going to be humiliating going up to Torak without it.
To his surprise, Torch said slyly, “Don’t be so sure of that.” From his pocket he pulled a solid gold dagger. Corran gaped.
“It was in that coffin I knocked over,” he explained. “I didn’t tell you guys about it at the time, because we were a little more concerned about finding the source of the scream.”
Corran couldn’t help but laugh. Not only had they saved Kate, but they had successfully passed their squire mission.
“You know,” began Illusen, turning to Torch, “I can get rid of that scar for you.” She pointed to the white line across his left cheek.
Torch shook his head. “Thanks, but no thanks. I wear my scars proudly.” He scratched it thoughtfully. “And, personally, I think it makes me look rather dashing.”
Flame raised an eyebrow, and then, slowly, began to laugh.
Soon they were all laughing happily, and for a long time, they couldn’t stop.