The Ghost of Meridell: Part Six
Krystal marched down the hallway. Her eyes fixed on the black doors at the end. Water dripped off her drenched clothes and off the tips of her ears, but she didn’t care. She was angry, and she had a bone to pick with a certain red Eyrie.
Audrey had already tried to stop her. “He’s in conference right now; he’ll kill you if you set foot in there without consent!” the Gelert had warned.
But the Lupess had brushed past her friend, not even acknowledging her presence.
The thick black doors swung open with a loud thud. Raylac looked up to see who it was that dared to enter. To his surprise, it was a half drowned Krystal that stood in the doorway. His eyes narrowed as a scowl appeared on his face. “The punishment for such an interruption is death,” he said flatly.
Krystal ignored his comment completely. Eyes blazing, the Lupess stormed inside the room like she owned the place, her gaze constantly shifting from Raylac to the red Kyrii on the left and back again.
“You,” she accused, pointing a finger at Raylac, “never told me you wanted the squire dead! You told me you wanted to test him!”
The red Eyrie sat back in his throne as if deep in thought. He glanced at the Kyrii that stood silently to the side. “You do realize,” he said to the Lupess, “that one word from me will seal your fate. At my word he will cut you down faster than you can blink.”
“I am well aware of what happened to Sir Gavin! His death was his own fault. He should not have interfered with my business with that Lupe squire.”
“You do realize,” the Lupess said calmly, “with the death of the King’s Champion, Meridell will be turned upside down. Everyone will be looking for the one who did this. It was a foolish thing your assassin did. You should have told me the whole plan!”
“That particular part of the plan had nothing to do with you, therefore it was not necessary for you to be completely informed. However, I guarantee that you will be told the entire plan next time, if that is what you wish.”
Krystal huffed and started for the door. “Krystal,” Raylac said before she left. “Tell me, have you heard of the Day of Sorrow that took place in Meridell ten years ago?”
The Lupess turned back around to face her leader. “I have. What of it?”
A savage smile overtook the Eyrie’s face as the Kyrii handed him a small, gold object. “This was taken off of Sir Gavin’s person. I think you might know it.” Krystal’s eye grew wide as Raylac held up the small locket. “So... you didn’t know. Allow me to explain it to you.”
‘The world is full of danger, but there is always hope. Remember that...’
Again those words echoed through Jeran’s mind. They had been the very last words Sir Gavin had spoken to him. They were indeed wise words, but as of now the only thing they succeeded in doing was tormenting the Lupe. They haunted him every waking hour of the day. They never stopped; they never paused. Over and over that one little sentence ran through his mind as he recalled his knight master, lying on the ground, dying in his arms.
What had only been two days felt like two years to the squire. He couldn’t think straight. The memories of that night loomed over him and threatened to consume him like a hungry predator would its prey. He couldn’t eat; he couldn’t sleep. The loss of his friend and teacher was proving too much for Jeran to bear.
As the Lupe squire sat in his room he could hear the sounds of the crowd just outside. They had been gathered outside the castle to hear what “grave news” the king had to tell.
“People of Meridell!” Jeran heard Skarl bellow, even though his window was closed tight. “I bring the most grave news. Sir Gavin, Champion of Meridell, is dead.”
Jeran winced at the sound of those last words. The gasping and whispering of the crowd drowned out whatever it was the king said next.
The squire couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get out of here. He didn’t know where to go, nor did he care... just as long as it was away from here. Walking out of his room and practically slamming the door shut, he walked quickly down the halls. Keeping his head down and ignoring everyone who passed by, the Lupe did his best to keep from speaking to anyone.
Making it out of the castle and into the stables had been easier than he thought it would be. No one had bothered him--probably because Sir Erick had ordered everyone to leave him alone. But the Lupe couldn’t see why he needed to bother giving an order; after all it was his fault Sir Gavin was killed. Why would anyone even want to talk to him?
A soft and gentle voice snapped Jeran out of his thoughts. The Lupe looked up to see a white Uni standing just a few feet in front of him. “Oh, hi, Carla...”
Carla’s delicate brown eyes were filled his sympathy and worry. “I’m... surprised to see you,” she said gently. “I haven’t seen you since the day before it happened... I’m so sorry, Jeran.”
The Lupe didn’t answer. Keeping his gaze toward the ground, he shrugged and kicked at the stable floor.
The Uni took two steps closer. “Hop on,” she said, her voice just above a whisper. “Let’s get you away from here for a while.”
“Ouch!” Jeran yelped as he suddenly let go of the reins and cradled his left arm.
“Your arm still hurts?” Carla asked with concern.
“I’m fine,” the Lupe replied bitterly.
“Are you sure?”
“I said I’m fine!” Jeran snapped. As soon as the words left his mouth he realized how terrible he’d just acted. “I’m... sorry, Carla... I didn’t mean to yell.”
The white Uni smiled. “It’s alright. I know you’re hurting. But Jeran, you’re mixing your grief with anger and... well... just be careful not to let it get out of control.”
Jeran nodded absentmindedly. “Why don’t we stop for a while?” he said gesturing toward the lazily flowing stream just ahead.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Carla agreed.
As Jeran dismounted Carla shook out her mane and looked around. “This spot certainly is lovely,” she observed.
“I thought so too. Particularly since it’s late spring when these parts are at the peak of their beauty.”
Lupe and Uni looked to their right to see from whom the voice had come. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise to either when they saw Illusen the Earth Faerie tending to a small flowering shrub.
“Illusen,” Carla said. “I’m sorry, we didn’t realize we were in your garden.”
The Faerie smiled and shook her head. “You’re not.” Briefly gesturing to the east she continued, “My garden is farther upstream, close to my house. I was just tending to these flowers and shrubs. I was down here the other day and they looked a little sickly, so I thought I’d see what I could do for them.”
The white Uni looked at the shrub Illusen was currently tending to. “It looks beautiful.”
Illusen smiled again, this time not looking up from her work. “Why thank you, Carla. They do indeed look much better than they did yesterday. I find talking to them helps a great deal. It sort of perks them up.”
Jeran rolled his eyes. That was ludicrous. Talking to plants? Please!
Unfortunately for the squire, Carla had caught him in the act of his eye roll and gave him her “don’t be rude” look. The Lupe pinned his ears and glared back at her.
“Oh come now, squire, was that really necessary?” Illusen asked without taking her eyes off her project.
Jeran started. “What?”
“That look you gave me,” the Faerie glanced up at the Lupe squire. “And the one you just gave Carla. Was it necessary?”
Jeran sighed and sat down on a rock. “I’m sorry,” he said, sincerity filling his voice. “I’ve been horrible company. I don’t know what’s come over me.”
“No need to feel bad, Jeran,” Illusen replied. “And no need for an apology. I understand. I know everything that happened the other day.”
“How do you know?”
The Faerie looked up at the trees that towered over them. “Why, the same way I knew you rolled your eyes at me. It was the trees, of course. They tell me everything that happens in the forest. They are terrible gossipers, though. But they do keep me informed. Honestly, how else do you think I know so much about things that are happening when I rarely even leave the glade?”
Jeran hung his head. “So you heard about Sir Gavin...”
“Yes, Jeran, I did. And I am so very sorry. But Carla is right; you’ve been mixing your anger and grief in the same bowl. It’s a dangerous combination that can lead to more pain if not kept under control.”
The young Lupe mulled her words over in his mind. He knew she and Carla were right. But how could he keep the two separate?
Illusen glanced up into the treetops for a moment before turning back to the grieving Jeran. “I hate to ask, but could you do me a favor? I made a special kind of water for this particular plant, and I forgot to bring it with me. Would you mind running up to my house and getting it for me? It’s in the cabinet by the door.”
The Lupe looked over at Carla, who nodded approvingly. Without a word, Jeran stood and walked off toward Illusen’s house. Illusen waited until Jeran was well out of sight before speaking, “I hate saying it, but he’s so distracted his senses are dull.”
“Indeed,” Carla said in agreement. “I’m not connected to the trees as you are, but I still know we have a visitor.”
Carla and Illusen began scanning the trees, even as Krystal started to speak. “I am sorry,” came her tired voice. “I really didn’t know it was going to happen.”
“I know,” Illusen said as she finally spotted the ghost Lupess. She was sitting on a tree branch, arms folded in front of her and legs crossed, not even looking in the Faerie’s direction. “When I said the trees told me everything, I meant everything. They conveyed to me the look on your face and what you said when it happened.”
“But I was there. I should have done something to stop it.”
“Like what? If Sir Gavin fell before that Kyrii, you wouldn’t have lasted two seconds.”
“Illusen’s right, dear. You would have been killed just as quickly. There was nothing you could’ve done,” Carla said, trying to comfort the Lupess.
Illusen gave a nod and went back to pruning the shrub. “But there is something you can do now.”
Krystal looked down at the Faerie. “Like what?”
“I think you know the answer to that...”
To be continued...