The Ghost of Meridell: Part Ten
Jeran reacted just as Raylac hoped he would. The Lupe squire had gotten angry and attacked without thinking. This gave the Eyrie thief the advantage.
As Jeran charged forward, Raylac sidestepped and thrust his foot into Jeran’s path. The Lupe fell right over and enjoyed a mouth full of dirt. “Honestly, squire, didn’t Gavin teach you anything about attacking in anger?”
The Lupe spat out the grass in his mouth and sprang to his feet. Charging again he swung his blade at the Eyrie. Again, Raylac sidestepped as the Lupe went flying by. But this time, instead of tripping him, he struck Jeran on the back of the head with the hilt of his sword, sending the Lupe sprawling.
“I guess he didn’t,” Raylac jeered.
Jeran could feel rage rising inside of him. A jolt of pain went through his head from the place he’d been struck; along with pain came realization. He’s right, Jeran thought to himself. I’m forgetting everything I’ve ever been taught, all because I can’t keep my temper down.
The squire shook his head to try and stop the ringing in his ears. Slowly getting to his feet he turned and glared at Raylac. “Sir Gavin did teach me; he taught me everything I know. I’ve just been too angry to pay those lessons any heed.” Jeran stood tall and returned the Eyrie’s icy stare. “But not this time around. This time, I’m going to finish what you started, and I’ll make sure you regret it.”
“By all means,” Raylac said with mock respect, “give it a try. You’re the squire of a dead hero, what could I possibly have to fear?”
Jeran lunged at the Eyrie, and this time it was tactical precision instead of anger driven. The Lupe’s sword scraped against Raylac’s upper arm, causing the Eyrie to screech in pain.
“Still think there’s nothing to fear?” Jeran barked.
Raylac looked at his injury and growled. “Big mistake.”
The Eyrie began to swing his sword wildly at Jeran, forcing the Lupe to stay on the defensive. He took a swing at the Lupe’s head but Jeran was able to get his sword up in time to block. Now thief and squire were caught in a deadlock; neither of them ready to give up and surrender. Defeat meant death, both knew, so at this point it was down to a battle of strength and will.
If it had come down to pure will, Jeran had no doubt he could win. But this was also about physical strength, and the squire knew his opponent could win with that easily. He would have to use his wits.
Despite himself Jeran grinned as an idea came to mind. The Lupe suddenly gave up his resistance and allowed the Eyrie to move forward. With nothing pushing back, Raylac’s own force propelled him forward. Jeran flipped over onto his back, catching the Eyrie with his legs, then kicked him forward and sent him flying.
Raylac landed hard on the ground while his sword went flying in another direction. As Jeran charged at him, he held up his left hand, making the Lupe stop abruptly. “Go ahead and try it, squire,” he panted. “You’ll never reach me before I destroy you.”
“But I can destroy you before you reach him.”
Raylac looked passed Jeran to see that Krystal was back on her feet. “Oh really?” he sneered at her. “And how will you do that? Have you forgotten you have no weapons?”
“And have you forgotten that I’m the best pickpocket you have?” Krystal sneered back as she held up the gray orb.
The Eyrie’s eyes grew wide as he searched his cloak franticly. Finding that this was no trick, he turned his attention back to the weakened Lupess. “Give it back to me,” he demanded.
Krystal’s eyes narrowed in open defiance. “No.”
Raylac’s eyes blazed as energy began to crackle around the gauntlet that was pointed at Jeran. “I said, give it to me.”
The squire whirled on his heels and looked at Krystal. “Smash it. Smash it now!” he barked.
The ghost Lupess didn’t hesitate. Even as Raylac cried out she spun around and smashed the orb on the tree trunk as hard as she possibly could.
There was a blinding flash as a hairline fracture appeared on the surface of the orb. All three of the witnesses were tossed in thee different directions by an explosive force. Jeran and Raylac were thrown back towards the trees as Krystal was thrown back toward the ravine.
All of them landed with a hard thud, but none of them had time to recover from the force of the impact. Thick, dark gray smoke was pouring out of the sphere, and all they could do was stare in shock as the smoke began to take on a ghostly form above their heads.
Before their eyes the smoke took on the form of a royal Krawk. No one there needed an explanation of who this royal Krawk was. Anyone who had heard the legends about the wicked king who used to rule over Meridell hundreds of years ago knew that the king had been cursed and banished by an Earth Faerie. The only thing that had been missing from said legends was where the king had been banished. The answer was all too clear for the two thieves and squire who stood looking up at him.
Blood red eyes darted back and forth from Raylac, to Jeran, to Krystal, and then back again. “Who is the one that awakened me?” the voice rumbled from the transparent Krawk’s mouth like a thunderclap.
Thinking that he would be rewarded for it, Raylac immediately stepped forward. “I did, Your Highness.”
The ghostly king’s eyes narrowed. “You speak falsely; how dare you approach me?” Suddenly he recognized the gauntlet on the Eyrie’s left hand. “That,” he said hotly, “belongs to me. Be gone from my sight!”
With a casual wave of his hand there was a flash of light; when it died down, Raylac was nothing more than a wisp of smoke. Only the gauntlet remained.
Krystal had always known that her instincts would get her into trouble one day. Today was that day. Out of pure thief instinct, the Lupess tried to sneak away. The movement caught some unwanted attention from the Krawk.
The moment he looked at her, the tiny orb in her necklace began to glow red. As if she was being hypnotized, Krystal stopped dead in her tracks. Somewhere deep in her mind she could hear Jeran yelling at her to run. She wanted to obey; she tried to move, but her legs weren’t listening to her. All she could do was stare up at the ghostly form as if she were in a trance.
Jeran watched in horror as the Krawk again turned into a mass of dark smoke and charged at Krystal. As he drew close there was a red flash from Krystal’s necklace and the orb seemed to absorb the Krawk’s substance into itself.
At that moment the Lupess stiffened and her pale blue eyes took on a sickly red glow. Jeran held his breath as Krystal stood there as if stunned. Suddenly a menacing look streaked across her face as she smiled darkly
It was Krystal that was standing before him. The same species and color she had always been. But when she spoke, it was not her voice that came out of her mouth. “So, this is the lucky one who possesses the necklace,” the Krawk king’s voice rumbled. “I must say this guise will prove useful when I go to take Meridell back. After all, who would suspect a pickpocket to be the one to overthrow the king?”
“Let her go!” Jeran growled.
Krystal’s head moved toward the sound of his voice. “You dare challenge me? I—”
Suddenly Krystal’s body jerked back and reeled as if fighting against itself. Her eyes turned back to their normal color, and her own voice once again came from her mouth. She looked at Jeran, pain filling her eyes. “I can see his thoughts,” she moaned. “He wants Meridell. He can only posses those who wear this necklace. He must have this necklace or the sphere to house his form or else he won’t last long. Don’t worry about me, Jeran. Kill me now; save Meridell.”
The Lupess let out a yelp and her eyes turned back to the sickly red they had been when the Krawk first took over her body. His voice once again coming from her mouth and he again spoke. “This one has a strong will,” he huffed. “That might cause problems.”
Jeran clutched the sword tightly. There was no way he was going to let Krystal die. He’d already let that happen once, and he wasn’t going to let it happen again. “I said it once,” he said darkly, “and I’ll say it again. Let her go!”
“Make me.” Twin swords suddenly appeared, one in each of Krystal’s hands. “Fight me and win, and I will set the Lupess free.”
He never gave Jeran a chance to respond. He charged at the Lupe and swung the sword in his left hand. Jeran moved just in time to dodge that attack, but the Krawk followed up with an attack from the sword in his right hand. The squire yelped as the sword clipped the still sore wound on his left arm.
Instinctively, Jeran executed a move that Sir Gavin had taught him a few months earlier. The Lupe jumped backward to put some space between him and the possessed Krystal. Taking advantage of the room, he then jabbed the blade of his sword into the ground and pole-vaulted over the Lupess’ head. Landing right on his feet behind her he hit her left elbow with the handle of his sword, causing her to drop the sword by reflex.
Taken completely by surprise, the possessed Krystal spun around and prepared to strike out at Jeran. But he was much quicker. Later, Jeran would realize he didn’t know how it happened. Whether he had unwittingly calculated the distance in his mind or if he merely got lucky while lashing out blindly was anyone’s guess. But whatever it was, it had worked nonetheless.
As Jeran swung his sword, the tip just barely caught the chin of Krystal’s necklace. As he brought his sword out to complete the swing, the clasp broke and sent the necklace falling to the ground. Striking a stone, the orb broke into hundreds of tiny pieces, forcing the Krawk’s ghostly form out.
Krystal immediately fell to the ground, unconscious. Jeran made sure she was still alive before readying himself for another battle. He held his blade and prepared for the Krawk to strike, but to the Lupe’s surprise, no such attack came. Instead the Krawk’s gaze was fixated on something in the direction of the ravine.
Jeran followed his gaze and discovered that he was staring at the sphere from which he had been released. The gray orb was teetering on the edge of the ravine, and suddenly Krystal’s words echoed through his mind. ‘He needs the sphere to house his form or he won’t last long.’
Without wasting another second, Jeran lunged toward the sphere, but so did the Krawk.
The ghostly king was fast, but Jeran was faster. The Lupe batted the sphere with his sword as hard as he could, sending it flying into the ravine. The Krawk king screamed in anger as the sphere hit the other side of the wall and was utterly destroyed.
To be continued...