Chet Flash wuz here Circulation: 177,117,147 Issue: 319 | 21st day of Storing, Y9
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The Ghost of Meridell: Prelude to War - Part One


by kt_fox

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Author’s Note: Here’s the sequel I’ve been promising. I’m really sorry it took so long. Hope you all enjoy it!

“Good shot Jeran!” Sir Erick exclaimed. “You’re getting better at this every day.”

     Danner chuckled. “I hate to say it, but he’s right. Just don’t get too good at it. I need to better than you in at least one thing,” he said teasingly.

     “Oh come on, Danner, there’s no way I’ll ever be as good as you with these things,” Jeran said, loading another arrow into his crossbow and taking aim.

     The blue Wocky chuckled bitterly to himself as he watched Jeran hit an almost perfect bull’s-eye. He knew he should feel happy about Jeran’s improvement, but somehow he just couldn’t.

     When Sir Gavin, the late King’s Champion and Jeran’s former knight master, had been killed two months earlier, it had been hardest on the Lupe squire. Jeran had been present when it happened, and for a long time the Lupe harbored feelings of guilt.

     In an attempt to make things easier on the squire, Sir Erick, Danner’s knight master, had approached King Skarl and insisted on taking Jeran as a second squire. The king refused the request, saying that having two squires at once would be too difficult for one knight to handle. But the Ixi knight assured Skarl that he could train both squires with no foreseeable problems.

     After a somewhat heated debate the king finally agreed and allowed Sir Erick to take Jeran on as his second squire.

     At the start Danner had no problems with this. In fact he’d agreed with Sir Erick that it might do his friend some good. And he really hadn’t minded all the attention the Lupe had been getting; Danner attributed that to the fact that Sir Erick thought he might need the extra attention until he adjusted.

     But... it had been two months already and Jeran was still receiving more attention instead of them being treated equally as the Ixi knight had promised King Skarl. And to be perfectly honest, it was making Danner jealous.

     How dare you, the Wocky scolded himself. He’s your best friend, and who knows what he’s going through? Everyone else only heard about Sir Gavin’s death; Jeran actually saw it. Once Sir Erick feels that he’s adjusted, things will settle back to the way they were.

      But even with his self scolding Danner couldn’t help but think how hard it’d been to share the attentions of his master...

      *****

     A sudden chill ran through the air as the royal Krawk walked by. Her air, manner of walking, even her very presents sent a chill running up everyone’s spine. No one knew her name or who she was for that matter, but the look in her eyes told everyone that she was not to be approached.

     Striding up to the front entrance of the castle in a most elegant manner, she looked at the red Draik guard that stood in front of the gate. “I am Lady Hadassah,” she said in a voice as silky as the red and white gown she wore. “I am here to speak with King Skarl as a matter of urgency.”

     The guard wasn’t quite sure what to say, or even think. “I’m sorry M’ Lady, the king is quite busy today and asked not to be disturbed.”

     “Are you deaf? I said this is an urgent matter. Now please, I must speak with the king.”

     “I’m sorry, but I can’t—”

     The Draik suddenly stopped short as the royal Krawk lifted her scepter and brought it close to his face, the red orb that sat on top of it glowing brightly. “You will go to your king and tell him that I am here to speak with him. And emphasize how urgent it is.”

     The Draik’s eyes were now glazed over and held within them an unhealthy glow. “At once, my Queen!”

     “And don’t forget to act normal,” Hadassah called as the guard scurried off to carry out his orders.

    *****

     “Pardon me, Your Highness,” the red Draik guard said as he entered the throne room. “There is a Lady Hadassah here to see you.”

     The blue Skeith king mulled the name over in his mind before finally saying, “I know of no one by that name. And didn’t I ask not to be disturbed?”

     “Yes, Your Highness. But she said that it was a matter of urgency, and that she needed to speak with you.”

     Skarl looked perplexed. What kind of emergency could prompt a Noble that he’d never heard of to come and insist on speaking with him? “Very well, you may send her in.”

     With a slight bow the guard went to carry out his orders. A few moments later a royal Krawk, wearing a red and white silk gown entered the room.

     She held a strong sense of power and authority. A red oval shaped orb sat atop a golden scepter that she carried in her left hand. Her steps were small and graceful; she stood tall and proud with her head held high and her gaze steady.

     Stopping in front of the throne she curtseyed. “Your Majesty,” she said in a sweet, winsome voice, “thank you for seeing me.”

     Skarl nodded. “The guard told me this was an urgent matter. I hope he did not speak falsely.”

     “No indeed, this is urgent. Please tell me, have you ever heard of King Rahjan?”

     “Yes. He was the ruler of Meridell before my family came to sit on the throne. He was the one that had been banished and cursed by an Earth Faerie.”

     “Indeed... he was also my great grandfather.”

     Skarl sat in his seat, stunned.

     Seeing the look on his face, the Krawk couldn’t help but smile. “Rest assured, Your Highness, I have not come to challenge you for the kingdom or the right to rule it. I am merely here to visit the castle I’ve heard my family talk about for all these years. With your permission, King Skarl, I’d very much like to stay here for a while and get to know this place better before returning home.”

     “Of course, Lady Hadassah, you may stay as long as you please. I will have a room set up for you immediately.”

     “You are most kind. Might I look around for a little while?”

     “By all means, you may go wherever you wish.” The royal Krawk smiled, curtseyed and went on her way. After she had left, Skarl called a guard to him. “See to it that a room is prepared for Lady Hadassah as quickly as possible; the finest we have. And tell Sir Erick that everyone is to show her the same respect they would show to me. Now go.”

      *****

     Hadassah walked casually down the many hallways and corridors of the castle. Every time she passed a guard, the orb on top of her staff would glow dimly and they would suddenly get an unhealthy look in their eyes. And though she spoke not a word to them, they could still hear the command to “act normal”. What was more disturbing was that they were obeying the unspoken order.

     After she had passed about fifty or so guards she’d found herself at the door that led to the training grounds. Stepping outside she saw that there were many knights and squires out at this time. To her far right, she saw a yellow Ixi knight helping a blue Lupe squire with some tricks on the crossbow.

     Not far from them stood a blue Wocky squire. He was half watching them and half practicing his own crossbow techniques. The fact that he was watching them and there was no knight master teaching him intrigued Hadassah.

     No one had seemed to take much notice of her yet, so she decided to have a little chat with him. Just as she approached, the Wocky fired his arrow and made a perfect bulls-eye. “You are quite the marksman,” she said sweetly.

     At first Danner was startled, after all he hadn’t realized someone had been watching him. Turning to her, he replied, “You would be the first to noticed, M’ Lady.” His response was lighthearted, but there was an undercurrent of bitterness in his tone. “But thank you for the compliment.”

     “You mean to tell me that the reason no one is here helping you isn’t because you don’t need it? Then tell me, squire, why are you over here by yourself? Do you not have a knight master?”

     The Wocky glanced in the direction of the Ixi knight. “I have one...”

     “Ah, I see. The young Lupe lost his knight master, so yours thought he would be kind and take him on as a second squire to try and make it easier on him... am I close?”

     Danner’s eyes bulged. “How...?”

     “It is no secret about what happened to the King’s Champion, squire. I simply put two and two together. I’m not an idiot, you know.”

     “Of course not, Your Ladyship; I never meant to suggest—”

     “I know you didn’t,” Hadassah said with a smile, “so calm yourself. Pray tell me, what is your name?”

     “Danner, M’ Lady.”

     “Well, Danner, I must say I admire you. It cannot be easy to share the attention of one knight.”

     “Especially when someone else is getting all the attention...”

     The Krawk smiled to herself. He’s bitter. I can use that. Before she could say anything in response she noticed a guard coming towards them.

     “Lady Hadassah,” he said with a bow, “your quarters are ready. If it pleases you, I’ll lead you to them now.”

     “Thank you.” Turning back to Danner she said, “It was a pleasure, Danner. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again soon.”

    *****

     Hadassah looked around her room contently. It would be perfect. Heavy drapes hung over a large glass double-door that led to a beautiful balcony with a thick marble railing. The balcony itself looked out over the entire kingdom as well as Illusen’s Glade. This would be perfect for her plans; it was almost as if they were handing Meridell to her on a golden platter.

     “Dose it please you, Miss?” the Ogrin chamber maid asked.

     “It’s perfect. Thank you.”

     “If you need anything, just call for me.” With a slight curtsey she left the room.

     The Krawk made sure she was completely alone before finally speaking. “Soon we will have Meridell back.” As if in response the red jewel on her scepter glowed for a moment. “Even if I do fail in my first plan, the second plan will ensure Meridell’s destruction... either way, the kingdom’s fate is sealed; you can count on it.”

     The jewel flashed twice. Hadassah nodded. “You know what to do if I should be overthrown... and I’m trusting you to do it.”

     As she spoke the words, an essence of power could be felt in the room. Three cloaked figures watched as the Krawk began her work. No words can be offered to describe these beings. It was as if someone took the traits of greed, vengeance, and over ambition, and gave them a form to walk around in...

     Or maybe someone did...

To be continued...

 
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