The Sorceress and the Prisoner: Part Four
King Skarl stared at the letter in his hands. He couldn't quite believe what he was reading. It was completely unexpected. They hadn't conversed in years, but now he wanted to write to him? This was odd. Something didn't quite add up. Those were his original thoughts. Now, as he read the letter, he realised why he was suddenly writing to King Skarl. And it certainly wasn't for a catchup on things.
“Get me Jeran!” He yelled at a nearby guard, who nodded and left.
Only two minutes later the blue Lupe strode in, looking concerned. “What is it?” He asked. “What's going on? Your Majesty, I hate to sound unprofessional, but I have yet to find my sister Lisha, and it's been over twenty four hours. This will have to be quick as I cannot fulfil any duties for the moment.”
The grumpy old king handed the letter to Jeran, who took it in surprise. “I know where Lisha is,” he told the worried Lupe quietly. As Jeran's mouth opened to question the king, Skarl put a hand up to silence him. “Just read the letter, and you will know too.”
Jeran did as he was told. When he had finished reading, he dropped the letter in shock, the paper floating lazily in the air before landing at his feet.
Consider this your warning. It has been too long since our truce, and it was not a promising truce to begin with. I feel as though we have been judged from day one, so why not do exactly what it is you have assumed we would for many years? You can make the first move...or we will. It all depends on who acts the quickest, doesn't it?
I should hope Sir Borodere is wondering where his younger sister is. He should feel afraid, I'm sorry to report. She isn't going to see him ever again if he doesn't co-operate.
She'll be fine if you surrender. Just remember that.
There was a long silence. The atmosphere was so tense it could have been cut with a knife. Jeran clenched his fists, grinding his fangs. There was only one way to get at the Lupe – his sister. And everyone knew this. Lord Darigan used it to his advantage. He knew now that he had trapped Jeran in a predicament of what to do. He couldn't let Lord Darigan hurt his sister, but if he acted, would he hurt her anyway? What was happening to her right now? Where was she? In the dungeons? His mind taunted him with terrible thoughts. Brotherly love kicked in and he knew he had to save her, no matter what. She would do the same for him at any time. Meridell and Darigan's third war would just have to wait for him. Bending over, he picked up the letter again and read over it one more time. Then he handed it to King Skarl, who seemed to already know what the knight was thinking.
“You can't, Jeran,” King Skarl murmured, quietly. “We have to focus on winning this war before there are hundreds, even thousands of casualties. You're the best knight we have. You and the castle defender have to win this for us, otherwise you really won't see Lisha ever again. If we win there is a higher chance we will.”
The blue Lupe shook his head. “Meridell's victory does not hang in the balance because of me. Skarl, surely you would go out of your way to save Hagan?” He was met a with a stony expression. “You would,” he insisted, “it just hasn't happened to you yet. I need to go and save my sister. You don't understand. She's the only family I have left in the world.” Even at his unstable state Jeran knew it was foolish to actually surrender the battle and allow Lord Darigan to take over. He was surprised, despite his feelings all these years. Was it his disagreement with him the other night that caused this? He didn't want to think so, but the more he thought about it, the more that made sense. They'd never actually argued before, they were always courteous and charming to one another.
King Skarl stroked his stubble thoughtfully. “Surely fighting for Meridell's victory would save her, Jeran? You take your orders from me, and it is an order to fight for us. Round everyone up and tell them to meet in the Courtyard. I will deliver the news from Lord Darigan. Lisha can handle herself, she isn't a sweet little girl anymore. She's a sorceress, and a strong one at that. Now, go and find everyone else. We need to recruit some more warriors if we want to win this. I will inform Illusen of the matter to see if she will assist us this time.” He said Illusen's name with a hint of reproach, as if he held a grudge against her for not helping before.
As Jeran left the throne room, he ran into Tormund and told him everything. The yellow Lupe couldn't believe it. “Tormund,” Jeran lowered his voice, and Tormund saw this was important once more. “I need your help.”
“Of course.” Tormund would do anything for Jeran. He was his hero, his idol, the person whom he admired the most and aspired to be like. To be trusted with something that was obviously valuable; he felt honoured. When he listened to what Jeran was whispering, he felt surprised, but promised he would do as he said.
Jeran hugged the young Lupe tightly. “Thank you, Tormund.” He smiled, as he broke the embrace. “I don't know how I'll ever repay you, but I will one day. You're the only one I could ask to do this. King Skarl is...” He sighed, looking away. “I don't know whether he is a good ruler after all, these days.” Seeing the Lupe's shocked expression, he grinned again. “Don't tell anyone I said that.” The King's Champion seemed far away all of a sudden, deep in thought. “Goodbye, Tormund. And...good luck.”
The two parted ways, one leaving the castle and the other going around informing everyone of what had happened; getting them to the courtyard.* * *
Master Vex paced up and down the dank corridor, deep in thought. On one end were two people who he knew could help bring an end to what was about to begin. He was the only one who knew the truth of one of them, and he had never told anyone. Not even Lord Darigan, though Lord Darigan always had that one shred of memory left in him that prevented him from destroying the prisoner on the spot. The prisoner had removed everyone's memories...everyone's apart from the Mynci guarding the place. Master Vex. Including his own memory. Master Vex never knew why he had decided to let Master Vex remember...perhaps one day he thought he would need to remember himself. Master Vex remembered the last words he heard the prisoner say, before he became a bumbling, mad old Lupe. He had never forgot them. But he had never yet said them aloud as there had been no need. Now, maybe, with Lisha in the other cell, there was a need.
What could he do? Master Vex was a good Mynci. He never wanted war – he was practically a pacifist. He knew that this time there was a far stronger chance Darigan Citadel would win against Meridell, unless Meridell joined forces with another army. All these years the soldiers had gotten almost thrice as strong as last time, and the number of them had doubled. If Meridell believed the truce, would they have trained as hard as Darigan had? Master Vex didn't believe so, but he could hope. And what would happen if Meridell did win again? What would become of Darigan Citadel? And if Lord Darigan won, what would become of Meridell? It was almost a lose-lose situation, not that others would see it that way.
As he became more concerned from his thoughts, he heard footsteps marching down the spiral staircase. Galgarroth appeared before him, looking pleased with himself. He seemed different than how he used to be. He was more patriotic for a start, and seemed to idolise Lord Darigan far too much. A decade ago he was a firm believer in speaking for yourself and standing up for your rights. Now, he seemed like a puppet. But Master Vex was hoping he would be able to change that.
“I have come to officially announce our first attack will be tomorrow at dawn.” Galgarroth told Master Vex. The two of them were good friends, bonding over their similar opinions on matters. “Our first wave of troops will hopefully have the element of surprise.”
Master Vex didn't meet Galgarroth's eye. “Mmm. Yes.” He ushered the Grarrl into a corner and spoke quietly. “Are you sure this is the right idea? Starting another war? Lord Darigan seemed to be recovering, but now...” He hesitated. “Are The Three influencing his decisions again?”
The question hung in the air for a long moment, before Galgarroth exhaled. “No.” He answered, simply. “Vex, this is all Lord Darigan's doing. I have been advising him for years to do this. We need to stop the poverty in our kingdom. Don't you agree? Or do you want to remain in this state? Forever? We've lived like this long enough, and we are the lucky ones here in the castle. Others, down in the village, aren't so lucky. We are in this state, this way of looking...” He growled angrily. “I am fully supporting everything we are doing right now. If you disagree, maybe you'll want to take it up with Lord Darigan.” Then he paused, and relaxed. “I didn't mean that. I'm sorry. But we have to do this if we want to make things right.” He placed a hand on Vex's shoulder, then left.
Master Vex grimaced as soon as the footsteps were no longer in earshot as Galgarroth climbed the stairs once more and all was silent from the entrance to the dungeons. Which is, to say the least, why, a few minutes later, he fell backwards in shock as he turned to find himself face-to-face with a yellow Lupe, young and looking troubled, wearing armour and a serious expression.
“Master Vex!” It was Tormund, here because of Jeran. Sneaking in here had not been easy – he was almost caught five minutes ago, but he luckily overheard someone walking up the stairs before he started to go down them, and then he quickly and quietly (after coming out from his hiding place) went down them. Getting into the castle itself was the hardest part, but after sneaking up on the guard and knocking him out, Tormund had slipped through a back entrance which was fortunately right next to the dungeons. He knew from what Jeran had told him they were as far down as the castle went, and he knew that was where Lisha would be if she was anywhere in Darigan Citadel. Following Jeran's plea to find out if she was safe and work out a way to get her out of there (and to report back immediately so he could so so) Tormund was now in the dungeons, shivering slightly from the cold despite being in full armour, and staring straight into the eyes of Master Vex.
The Mynci peered closely at the Lupe. “Do I know you?” He asked.
Tormund shook his head impatiently. “There is no time for reunions or introductions. I myself have forgotten whether we have met before today, but no matter. This is of the greatest importance to Sir Jeran...I mean, Sir Borodere. He needs to know whether Lisha has been harmed. We need to set her free!”
“And what makes you think I'm not just going to alert the guards of your presence and throw you in the cells with her?” Master Vex frowned, folding his arms across his chest.
The Lupe grinned. “You would have done so already.” He pointed out, before beginning to march down the corridor. “Lisha!” He called. “Lisha! It's me, Tormund!”
“Why couldn't Jeran come himself?” Master Vex wondered aloud, but Tormund took it as a question to him.
“King Skarl has him rounding everyone up for the war. It's the most important job so of course Jeran had to do it. His reputation would be shot if he didn't. Everything he worked for...” Tormund sighed. “He sounded so distressed when he asked for my help. I promised him and myself I would do everything in my power to save Lisha. King Skarl is getting angry at the way Jeran is behaving. But he is too valuable for King Skarl to just let him go, especially in a time like this.” He seemed wise for his age, Master Vex noted. “Lisha!” Tormund yelled again, sounding desperate. “Where are you?”
A small, puzzled voice could be heard at the other end of the long room. “Tormund?” It was Lisha, sounding as those she had just woken up from a nightmare. Her voice was shaky, and full of disbelief. “Tormund, is that you?”* * *
Lord Darigan held one of the halves of the orb and stroked one finger down it. His nails were long and sharp and surprisingly clean. Then he put the orb back in its hiding place – under the floor of his chambers. Perhaps it was an obvious place to hide something so important, but no one would dare to steal this orb now. It was the only thing keeping Lord Darigan the tiniest bit hopeful that one day his country could be what it used to. No thanks to Meridell. Which was why he needed his revenge first.
To be continued…