The Ghost of Meridell: Part Eight
Sir Erick felt ill. Actually the word “ill” was probably an understatement. His conversation with squire Jeran the night before hadn’t ended well... and that just made understatement of the year.
Though he didn’t know why, the Ixi knight felt sure that Jeran would tell everyone he could about his discovery of what he and Sir Gavin had done. Thus making Sir Erick quite nervous. After all, if Jeran did tell, the Ixi would no longer be welcome in the castle and would probably be thrown out.
It didn’t make him feel any better to find that no one in the castle was treating him any differently. The only result of that would be that the squire hadn’t told anyone, yet. So I better find him before he does, Erick resolved grimly.
Not that the knight thought he shouldn’t pay for the crime he committed. By all means, he should. But it was the reputation of his fallen friend he was worried about. If Jeran told, it would be the late Sir Gavin’s name that would be ruined. And Sir Erick swore he would die before he let that happen.
Rounding a corner and opening the door to an indoor training room, Sir Erick was greeted by the sight of Danner putting away his crossbow. “Danner?”
The blue Wocky turned at the sound of his name. “Sir Erick? What are you doing here? I thought there was no training today.”
“There isn’t. I was looking for Jeran.”
“Oh, he’s outside, getting in some target practice.”
“Don’t expect a warm greeting though.”
The squire shrugged. “He seems kind of short today. And he hardly said one word to me.”
Just as squire Danner had said, Jeran was outside, practicing with his crossbow. And though it was no time to bring it up, the squire seemed to be improving. Jeran hadn’t noticed the knight yet, so he took that chance to try and break the ice. “Well if making you mad at me is all it takes for you to do better at the crossbow, I should do it more often,” he said lightheartedly.
Jeran didn’t twitch an ear. He didn’t turn around or do anything whatsoever to acknowledge the knight’s presence. He only reloaded his crossbow, took aim, and fired.
Sir Erick folded his arms in front of him and allowed Jeran to repeat the action two more times before finally coming up to stand beside him. “Alright, Jeran, that’s enough. I want to know, did you tell anyone?”
The Lupe finally lowered his crossbow and looked at the knight. “No. Should I have?” he asked in a short tone.
“Of course not. But—”
“But what? Why should I say anything about it?” Jeran looked the Ixi directly in the eye. “It’s not my secret to tell...”
“Where in the world have you been?”
Krystal looked up at the sound of Audrey’s voice. “How did you find me?”
“Never mind that,” the Gelert said sharply. “You’ve been gone since last night. I thought maybe you got eaten by a Werelupe or something.” The Lupess rolled her eyes and turned away from her friend. “What bit you on the tail?”
“Nothing,” Krystal lied.
“Now Krys, you’re not still mad at Raylac for not telling you he was going to kill that squire, are you? It’s no big deal; he’s been killing off Sir Gavin’s squires for years.”
Krystal glowered at her. “What?”
“Oh sure,” Audrey replied in a nonchalant manner. “It all started when Gavin refused to give Raylac that gray sphere that you’ve been trying to get.” At Krystal’s perplexed look, the Gelert continued, “You really want the story, don’t you? Okay, but this is for your ears only. If you breathe a word of it to anyone, well, let’s just say Raylac won’t have to kill you, because I will.”
Krystal listened intently as the spotted Gelert began to speak in a hushed tone. She told the Lupess that Sir Gavin and Raylac had, at one time, been friends. Granted, it was a rocky one, but it was a friendship. Raylac would bring information to the Kougra knight, and Sir Gavin would pay the Eyrie thief whatever he thought the information was worth.
One day, the Eyrie wanted the gray sphere as payment, instead of the gold and silver coins he usually got. But Gavin had refused, claiming that he couldn’t hand over such a valuable object. At the Kougra’s refusal, Raylac offered to steal it so that he couldn’t be held responsible. But again the knight refused.
Feeling that he had every right to claim the sphere, Raylac broke into the castle treasury that night, only to find that the sphere was not there. Under the advice of Sir Gavin, the king had moved the sphere to Brightvale where it would be safer.
Outraged, the Eyrie stormed out of the treasure room and resolved to speak to Gavin about this the next morning. That was never going to happen though. As Raylac was sneaking out of the castle a squire, who just happened to be Sir Gavin’s, caught him. There was a struggle as the squire tried to keep Raylac from leaving. The Eyrie panicked and struck the Zafara harder than he had meant to, killing him.
Gavin swore he would make Raylac pay for what he had done, and in turn Raylac told the knight that that had been his punishment for taking what was rightfully his. And so, year after year, the Eyrie resolved to keep punishing Gavin by eliminating every squire that came under his authority.
“Wait,” the Lupess asked when Audrey was done, “why does Raylac want this thing so badly? Why does he care so much about his ‘friend’ that he would suddenly go on a killing streak just to get it.”
“Oh please, Krys, don’t tell me you fell for that! Raylac needs the sphere for himself. That gauntlet on his left arm was part of the same cursed treasure as your necklace. He was so sick of being like that he was willing to try anything to get back to normal. And now he doesn’t have to do anything because he has you as a patsy to do it for him.”
Krystal did her best to keep all expression off her face. “And how is it, Audrey, that you know all this?”
The Gelert chuckled bitterly. “Our leader keeps records of everything that goes on in our organization... and even things that don’t. He thought he had them locked safely away from prying eyes, but he didn’t count on my ability to pick a lock.”
The Lupess smirked. “It’s amazing that no one has had to recite your eulogy yet. Tell me, what exactly do you plan to do with this information? Blackmail our leader?”
“Of course not, little thief. He’s done nothing to me worth blackmailing him for.” Audrey’s expression grew dark. “But I must say, it will certainly come in handy if ever an active rebellion against him was in order.”
“And are you planning such a rebellion?”
This time, it was the Gelert who smirked. “Perhaps...”
The moon shown down on Meridell; casting its beautiful, white glow upon the land. Moonbeams danced in the meadows like faeries at play and the evening mist shrouded the castle in a ghostly manner.
The young Lupe squire named Jeran was once again sneaking out of the castle. Climbing the tree that would get him over the training ground wall, he knew he was supposed to be helping with guard duty tonight. After all, it was part of his last training before taking his test of knighthood in the following week. But he had to set things right—more for himself than anyone else.
Jumping from the tree to the wall and then from the wall to the ground, he absentmindedly thought about the note he had written to Sir Erick that would, hopefully, explain everything. He wasn’t sure if he would still have the same chance of becoming a knight after this “little stunt” he was pulling, but even if he didn’t he would at least have a clear conscience.
Walking towards the woods, he was greeted by only the sound of a lone Weewoo, singing its song to anyone who might hear and answer its lonely cry.
The Lupe didn’t know where to go or where to begin looking, but he had a feeling that if he wandered around aimlessly for a while, the one he was seeking would probably find him.
Jeran followed his instincts and walked around for several minutes. But to his surprise, Krystal didn’t show up. Feeling slightly discouraged, he decided to walk just a little farther before heading back. As it happened, luck was with him this time around.
After going just a little deeper into the forest he spotted the ghost Lupess, high on a tree branch. Her eyes were closed tight, though whether she was actually sleeping or not was anyone’s guess. Not wanting her to run away, Jeran made every effort to stay quiet as he carefully approached the tree.
Suddenly her left ear twitched and Jeran froze. “And just what are you doing here?” asked the Lupess, her eyes still closed.
The squire was in shock. He hadn’t made a sound; at least he didn’t think he had.
As if reading his mind Krystal again spoke. “No. No, you didn’t make a sound. But a thief must be able to sense someone’s presence, not just hear the sounds they make...” The Lupess opened her eyes and looked at Jeran. “Or the sounds they don’t. If a thief cannot sense the presence of another, they do not live long.”
“That’s... quite interesting,” Jeran replied, trying to sound sincere.
Krystal narrowed her eyes and wrinkled her nose at him as she sat up. “What do you want, little knight?”
The squire looked at the ground. “I... discovered that the knights weren’t who I thought they were. And, I believe, now, that you had nothing to do with what happened that night. So, I came to apologize to you.”
To be continued...