The Ghost of Meridell: Prelude to War - Part Four
Sir Erick couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “Danner, you can’t do this.”
Hadassah laughed evilly. “I’m afraid it won’t do any good to try and talk him out of it, Sir Erick. He is loyal to me now, and his mind is made.” Turning her attention to Dex, she asked, “Where is the Lupe squire? Wasn’t he with the knight?”
The blue Draik looked straight back into her eyes. “No, he was not.”
“Then where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re lying, now where is he?”
“I swear I don’t know!”
“Hey!” someone shouted from further down the hall. Everyone turned to see a blue Lupe squire standing at the end of the hallway looking almost smug. “You guys looking for me?”
“Run, Jeran!” Sir Erick yelled.
“After him!” Hadassah screamed at the same time.
As three of the guards broke away to carry out the order Sir Erick managed to tackle one of them. Hadassah raised her scepter at the Ixi knight, but Dex jumped in the way. Glaring at him, she brought the staff down on his head.
As he fell to the floor he was just barely conscious enough to her say, “You lied to me, so now you will suffer the fate.” Looking up she saw that the other guards had managed to get Sir Erick back under control. “Take these two to the dungeon and lock them up; then go after that Lupe.”
As the guards did as they were told, Danner turned to the queen. “He got away,” he said in annoyance.
“Not to worry, my dear boy. The guards will catch him.”
“No, they won’t; that’s my point. He’s too smart.”
“Then what is it you suggest?”
“Stop trying to catch him. Jeran will run, but he won’t be able to resist coming back and playing hero. He’ll come back, just watch for him.”
“Very well, call off the search then.” The royal Krawk began to walk away, but stopped. “You did well, Danner,” she said sweetly. Then as she continued to walk she whispered to herself, “We did very well...”
Jeran ran for his life. He knew for some reason the guards that had been chasing him had given up, but he still couldn’t make his feet stop. Not until he had escaped out a back entrance and into the nearby woods. It was only then did he slow down and finally stop.
The Lupe leaned against a tree and tried to catch his breath. How could Danner do something like this? What could he possibly gain from betraying Meridell?
“An odd place to go for a stroll, isn’t it?”
Jeran let out and involuntary yell of surprise and jumped back. Looking up into the tree he saw Krystal staring down at him, her pale blue eyes gleaming with amusement. “Don’t do that!” he snapped. “You almost gave me a heart attack! What are you doing here anyway?”
“Déjà Vu, I think I’ve had this conversation before. Come on, Jeran, use your head. I live here, remember?”
The blue Lupe wrinkled his nose at her. “Knock it off, Krystal. I’m not in the mood for your sarcasm.”
“Why not? Trouble at the castle?”
“As a matter of fact, there is. King Skarl’s been overthrown by that royal Krawk you were going to steal from. She’s somehow gained control of almost all the guards, some of the knights and squires, and those she hasn’t been able to hypnotize she’s thrown in the dungeon! And she did it with my friend’s help.”
“Sounds like you could use some help.”
Jeran looked at the ghost Lupess. “Are you offering?”
“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do. So why not storm a castle filled with guards that have probably been ordered to kill anyone that doesn’t accept the authority of the new queen? Besides, I guess I owe you one for saving my skin.”
The squire gave a weak smile and shook his head. “This isn’t a game, you know; it’s serious.” Jeran glanced at the castle in the distance. “I can understand how she was able to take control of the castle... but what is she going to do about the town and all the villages? They’re all loyal to Skarl; she can’t hypnotize everyone in Meridell. It would weaken her too much, and I heard her say that the affects of the hypnosis was temporary.”
“Hate to break it to you, Angelpuss, but that won’t be a problem. People have been talking about ‘how good Queen Hadassah’ is and ‘how kind she is’. I figured something was up; I just didn’t picture this.”
Jeran’s eyes went wide as he remembered the night before when he saw Hadassah standing on the balcony overlooking the town. “She must have cast a spell that made everyone think she’s been queen of Meridell this whole time.” The Lupe looked at Krystal. “She’s been planning this for years; she didn’t just jump in and figure she could take Meridell by her sheer power.”
“Wait here,” Krystal said, suddenly walking off.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“Just wait here,” she repeated.
Jeran paced back and forth nervously. He had been waiting for Krystal for what felt like an eternity. From time to time the Lupe began to wonder if it was even a good idea to trust her.
Of course you can trust her, he scolded himself. She may be a thief, but she’s proven she can do the right thing...
“Didn’t get worried, did you?” The Lupess’ alto voice came from behind him.
“Not at all,” he said, “I was just hoping you didn’t stop to pick pockets.” It was then he noticed the black cloak she was holding. He recognized it as Raylac’s, a red Eyrie he had fought against a while back. “What’s that for?”
“You,” she replied, practically shoving it into his hands. “Put it on.”
Krystal put her hands on her hips. “Do I need to spell it out? Look, Hadassah knows you escaped and because of that you pose a threat to her. Now, I gather since no one followed you out of the castle and no one in town seems to be searching for anyone, she’s probably either waiting for you to go back to the castle to try and free everyone, or for you to let your guard down and get caught. I guarantee you that every guard from the castle will know she’s looking for you and they’re going to have orders to arrest you if they see you. And that, little knight, is why you need to put it on.”
She had a point, Jeran had to admit. After living in the castle for as long as he could remember and knowing how everything worked, he probably would never have thought about all that. And yet here was Krystal, a common run-of-the-mill thief guessing every possible plan of catching him that Hadassah had probably thought of.
Reluctantly, Jeran put it on. “Okay, now what?”
“Now, you go to the Mason’s Song Tavern on the northeast road just outside of town at eight o’clock and enjoy yourself.”
“Just do it, and keep that hood up and a low profile.” Krystal took a gold coin out of her coin bag and gave it to the Lupe. “Here, buy yourself a spiced cider.”
Jeran didn’t like this one bit. The tavern was far too crowded and noisy for his taste, plus he was sure he looked more conspicuous with the hood of his cloak up instead of down. And it probably didn’t help that he was sitting at the table in the back of the room either. But Krystal must have known what she was talking about; all he had to do was trust her... but where in Meridell was she?
The only possible reason she could have for sending him here would be so she could meet up with him without having to track him down. But fortunes above, where was she? It was half past eight already!
The Lupe grumbled. It was getting way too hot in this black cloak. Surely it would be alright to put the hood down. Jeran reached up, ready to take it off when a spotted colored hand appeared and grabbed him firmly by the wrist.
Though her head and face was covered by the hood of her red cloak, her long, small ears gave her species away. “I would keep that on if I were you,” the spotted Gelert whispered harshly. Letting go of Jeran, she quickly sat herself down into the chair right behind him and took off her hood. “Krys sent me,” she said not looking at him.
The Lupe turned to look at her, causing her to bark at him quietly. “Don’t turn around, you fool! Don’t even look in my direction. This is to be a private conversation.” Eyeing two palace guards warily, she continued. “No one is to know we’re speaking with each other. Just act as casual as possible.”
“Where’s Krystal?” Jeran asked as the Gelert grabbed a glass of cider from a passing bar maid.
“Do you want to argue about whom you’d rather hear the message from, or do you want to know the plan?”
“Alright, Lupe, listen carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Tomorrow evening at sundown there will be a diversion near the main entrance to the castle. That will be your chance to sneak in and do what you need to do. You’ll only get one shot at it, so you better be on top of it. Krys says for you to wait in the tree by the training grounds until the sun is completely gone, then make your move.”
The Gelert took a sip of her cider and continued, “She must feel she owes you quite a bit for her to be doing this.”
“What do you mean by that?”
She didn’t answer; instead she took one more drink and put a gold coin on the table. Then, the Gelert stood up, put the hood of her cloak up and walked toward the door. “Go to Illusen’s hut. She’ll give you a safe place to stay for the night,” she said over her shoulder, and then she was gone.
Jeran decided it was time for him to go as well; those castle guards in the corner were making him nervous anyway...
“Excellent...” Hadassah whispered to herself as she admired her creation. “It is finally finished.”
“And now what do you plan to do? It doesn’t seem like this thing would do much,” the blue Zafara said.
“Don’t fret, child. This golden orb my not look like much, but it is the one thing that will lead to Meridell’s undoing, believe me. In the event something should happen to me, you are to take it to Lord Darigan and present it as a gift to him. Am I understood?”
“Yes, M’ Lady. But what good will that do? It’s still just an orb.”
“That’s where you are wrong. This orb will bring prosperity to whatever land has possession of it.”
“But Meridell already is prosperous.”
“Now, but from the moment this orb came into existence it began to draw in power from Meridell’s land. If this orb leaves the kingdom now, it will take that power with it and release it to the land that it is taken to. Which means it will leave Meridell to famine. This of course will take some time as the orb has only started using its powers, but once it has been around and becomes stronger, its power will be become more potent and the effects will be felt faster. I can see it; two kingdoms will be fighting each other for this one little object.” Hadassah laughed evilly. “If I’m lucky, it may destroy two kingdoms instead of only one.”
To be continued...