The Ghost of Meridell: Prelude to War - Part Three
Danner grumbled to himself as he took some more history books off the shelf. Sir Erick was supposed to be his knight master, but as the days went by, he was acting more and more like Jeran’s.
The Wocky couldn’t have been more disgusted with Sir Erick and Jeran if he’d tried. And King Skarl too; this was partly his fault for letting Sir Erick take Jeran as his squire in the first place.
“What’s wrong with everyone in this Kingdom anyway?” Danner muttered as picked out one more history book.
“I’ve never seen a squire take such an interest in history before,” a smooth, silky voice said.
Danner turned to see Lady Hadassah sitting at a nearby table, reading a book. “Lady Hadassah,” he stammered. “What are you doing here?”
The royal Krawk looked up from her book and smiled. “It is the royal library, Danner.”
Danner flushed red. “Of course... forgive me, M’ Lady.” He wasn’t sure which he was more startled at: his own stupid comment, or the fact that she had remembered his name.
“Oh, no need for that. Please, come and sit,” Hadassah said, motioning to the seat across from her. The Wocky sat his books on the table and sat down. “Now why all the history books? I doubt it’s because you have a fascination with the subject.”
“Well, M’ Lady, every squire has to pass a history exam before they can take their test of knighthood. I’m taking mine in a few days, but I don’t see what any of this has to do with becoming a knight.”
“It does seem to be a silly rule. If my family was still on the throne I would dispose of it.” The Wocky squire gave her a quizzical look, prompting Hadassah to continue. “Danner, have you heard of King Rahjan?”
“Yes, M’ Lady. I’ve read about him in the books. He was the king of Meridell, but he was overthrown and replaced because of his wickedness.”
“At least that’s what those books would have you believe. King Rahjan ruled with an iron hand for many years, but the people grew tired of it and wanted him gone.” The Krawk sighed. “King Rahjan was my great grandfather.”
Shocked by what he’d just heard, Danner opened his mouth to apologize, but she merely waved him off. “Don’t apologize, Danner,” she said. “You couldn’t have possible known who I was, or that the history books made him out to be a monster instead of what he really was... I have that Earth Faerie to thank for that.”
“You mean the one who banished Rahjan?”
“Yes,” the Krawk seethed. “She was greedy and power hungry. She wanted to rule Meridell for herself but my grandfather wouldn’t allow it. She wanted a king on the throne that she could use as a helpless puppet to change Meridell into what she wanted it to be. And that Earth Faerie is still here... her name is Illusen.”
Danner gaped. “Illusen? You mean our Illusen? But how... she would never—”
“Never?” Hadassah’s eyes blazed. “Never that you’ve seen, Danner. And why would she show her true colors? She has the king she wanted sitting on the throne, so what point would there be in acting like her greedy self?” The Krawk looked straight into Danner’s eyes. “Life isn’t fair, Danner. I suspect you know this... after all, you should be the one spending time with your knight master instead of that Lupe... and I should be the one sitting on the throne instead of that Skeith.”
The Wocky squire thought for a long moment. Everything she was saying made perfect sense. She had every right to be on the throne. It had been her family’s at first, and it still would be if it hadn’t been for Illusen. And though it was rare, it wasn’t exactly unheard of for a good Faerie to turn evil. It had happened before in history... so who’s to say that it didn’t happen to Illusen?
A little voice in the corner of Danner’s mind began to whisper. It was true... it was all true. He looked at the royal Krawk. What had only been a spark of jealousy and anger in his eyes had now erupted into an out of control fire of hatred. “You should be on the throne,” he said slowly, “not Skarl...”
Hadassah looked passed him at the three cloaked figures that stood silently behind him. With a subtle flick of her wrist the Krawk ordered them away. They had done their job; now the rest was up to Danner. “I was hoping you’d see it my way,” she hissed wickedly. “Now, do you really believe it?”
“Yes, Queen Hadassah.”
The Krawk smiled. “Then I’m going to need your help...”
“Well, I think that went quite well. Don’t you think so?” Sir Erick asked, referring to a demonstration of weaponless combat he and Jeran had put on for the younger squires.
“It couldn’t have been any worse,” Jeran replied, as he continued to polish his sword.
The Ixi knight chuckled. “And thank goodness for that. I must be getting rusty though, you almost kicked my tail.”
Jeran flashed a wolfish grin. “Almost?”
“Okay, you did. But don’t go bragging about it. Next time I won’t let my guard down.”
The Lupe was about to quip a smart remark, but he was interrupted by a blue Draik guard walking into the room. “Sir Erick, I need you to come with me.”
“What’s wrong, Dex? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” The Draik did look quite uncomfortable; almost standoffish.
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other he replied in a very serious manner. “An urgent matter requires your immediate attention.”
Any experienced knight would know that a guard acting so formally was kind of code that meant something serious had happened that was probably beyond “urgent”.
Erick stood and grabbed his sword. “Stay here, Jeran.”
“Just wait here for while. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The Ixi followed Dex out of the room and down the hallway where they finally stopped. “Alright, Dex, what’s happening?”
“Erick, you and Jeran need to get out of here. Lady Hadassah has somehow managed to overpower nearly all the knights and squires. They’re all in the dungeon and I’m sure by now King Skarl is too.”
“But how could she do that? She has no army!”
“Oh yes, she does. I don’t know how but she’s managed to sway nearly every guard to her side. Even some of the knights and squires have turned! I was one of the few that haven’t been influenced yet. Please, you need to hurry before—”
“Before it’s too late?” Erick and Dex whirled around to see the royal Krawk standing a stone’s throw away from them, grinning evilly. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said mockingly, “I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please, continue your conversation.”
“How dare you do something like this!” Erick snapped as he reached for his sword.
“Now, now, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Hadassah looked passed them at something in the shadows.
The knight glanced over his shoulder to see several palace guards coming out of their hiding places. He and Dex were surrounded. Knowing he was beaten, Erick dropped his sword in surrender.
“That’s better. Now, I have some business to discus with you, Sir Knight.”
“What do you want?”
“Why, the kingdom of course. It is rightfully mine after all.”
Erick looked around at the guards that surrounded him. “You can’t run a kingdom on only guards. How is it you got all of them to fight for you?”
“It’s quite simple really. You see, I merely take whatever dark feelings they have and amplify them to an incredible length. Once I do this, I have complete control over their minds and they become loyal to me. Greed, anger, jealousy, all of these I can use to control someone. And once I gain control I am also able to enhance their physical strength, meaning all of these guards are now twice as strong as you, Sir Knight.”
Suddenly the Krawk glared at Dex. “The downfall to my power is that I cannot control those who do not already have such strong feelings. That is why not everyone has turned to my side.”
“It sounds to me as if you want real loyalty and not just some mindless zombies you have control over.”
“You are right in that. But that problem is one that is easily remedied. This spell is only temporary; I can’t keep it going forever. That is why eventually everyone will end up in the dungeons until I can weed out the ones who refuse to serve me.”
“And what makes you think that any of us would ever serve you loyally?”
Hadassah’s smile broadened. “You know, your squire said the same thing. You really shouldn’t have left him alone; things can happen you know.”
“Jeran...” the Ixi whispered, his heart stopping for a moment.
Suddenly an arrow whizzed passed Erick’s head, missing him by a fraction of an inch. “She said your squire, not Sir Gavin’s!” Danner’s enraged voice came from the shadows.
Erick stared at the Wocky squire as he stepped into view. “Danner, what have you done?”
The Wocky ignored his question and continued. “So, when someone tells you your squire is in danger you immediately think it's Jeran? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought that I was your squire!”
“Danner, please, just listen to me.”
“No! You had your chance. I now serve under Queen Hadassah’s rule.”
“Danner, you can’t mean that.”
“Yes, I do! It’s her throne; she belongs on it.”
“What possessed you to help her take the throne?”
The squire’s eyes became colder and harder than they had been a moment before. “She’s going to let me eliminate my problem: Jeran.”
To be continued...