Greatclaw: Part Six
Part Six: The Servant
Dredian dreamed of dark beings swirling about him again that night, attacking him without mercy. He once again saw the strange Kougra, and heard the words being whispered through his head.
This time, however, there was something new in the dream.
A bright light drove the beings that attacked him relentlessly away. “You will not succeed in this war,” cried a new voice.
“Creal. I should have known you’d try to interfere.” The figure of the Kougra had anger in his voice, but also something else... something Dredian couldn’t place, but made him feel all the more nervous. Suddenly, light and dark were battling before him.
When Dredian awoke, he was panting. Sweat trickled in rivulets down his scaly cheeks. He shivered, even though the blankets kept him warm. “That was a weird dream,” he muttered, shaking his head in an attempt to dislodge it.
When he looked out the window, he noticed that darkness still shrouded the land. Undaunted by the fact, he decided to take a walk outside to clear his mind.
He didn’t bother to put on his regal garb, instead choosing his normal outfit and a brown cloak. Pulling the hood up over his head, he spread his wings and flew out of the wide window to the ground below. He knew that this was probably a good time to try to get into the treasury, but was unwilling to try to get past the guards. Besides, he wanted to enjoy his time at the castle.
He realized that his window overlooked the training grounds, which brought him immense pleasure. As he strode down the path, feeling excited about what morning would bring, he saw something darting about in one of the practice arenas ahead of him. Curious, he padded forward and hid in the shadows near the arena. He peered through the fence posts to get a better view of what was going on.
He clamped his mouth shut on a gasp of surprise at what he saw. Before him was the servant he had met in the market place. She stood in the arena, whipping a stick around at the various practice dummies. She quickly jabbed at one before spinning around to catch another on its straw head. She spun in a circle, stick out, and then jumped suddenly into the air. She landed lithely on her feet and drew her sword upward across the body of the straw figure.
Dredian watched her dance around with the weapon for almost an hour before she finally ceased. “That was amazing,” he said, before remembering that he was trying to remain hidden.
The Wocky whipped around to look at his hiding place. “Who’s there?” she barked nervously.
Dredian groaned inwardly before stepping out of the shadows. “It’s Ok,” he said, holding his hands up to calm her.
“Who are you?” she repeated, narrowing her eyes.
“I’m Dredian,” he replied, forgetting about what he had told King Skarl. He removed his hood. “We, uh, met at the market place.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “Dredian Greatclaw?”
He felt his blood turn to ice. “No... no, not Dredian Greatclaw. Just... uh... well...” he searched for a response.
“You are him, aren’t you?” she asked. A smirk tugged at her lips. “So, I guess that means you aren’t really a noble, huh?”
Stupid, stupid, stupid me! he barked silently. “Yes,” he growled, figuring that it would do no good to lie now.
“So, why did you dress up like a noble, then? Just wanted the luxuries of palace life?”
“No!” cried Dredian, outraged and fearful. If he didn’t convince this Wocky that he had a good reason to be there, despite the fact that he wasn’t a noble, she would probably tell King Skarl. He didn’t think she’d keep his secret because he was trying to get to the treasury, either. “I’m, um, here for research.”
The Wocky cocked an eyebrow. “Research?”
“Yeah,” he said quickly. “Research on...” Here he paused, trying to think of a suitable response. His mind winged back to his dream, and he gave a mental shrug. It was worth a shot. “Creal.”
“The Faerie who guarded here before Illusen?” The green Wocky’s eyes were stretched wide now.
Dredian didn’t know if it was true or not, but he stuck with it. “Yeah, her.”
“Why did you need to come here, then?”
“Um, because the library here probably has more listed about Creal than other libraries.” The Wocky servant narrowed her eyes before shrugging.
There was an awkward pause, which Dredian broke by saying. “You’re really good at sword fighting, even if you were using a stick.”
“Mm,” she grunted in reply.
“I didn’t think servants were allowed to learn sword fighting.”
“We aren’t,” she replied. She turned pleading eyes to him. “Please don’t tell anyone! I don’t want to give it up!”
Dredian was surprised by the urgency of her plea, but also saw a way to make sure his own secret was kept, along with a possible way to getting to the treasury easier. “Ok, I won’t tell about you practicing here, as long as you don’t tell the truth about me.”
The Wocky narrowed her eyes, but nodded slowly. “Fine. Deal.”
As they both turned to go their separate ways, Dredian suddenly looked over his shoulder and asked, “By the way, what’s your name?”
She smiled slightly at the question. “Nieror.”
Dredian didn’t sleep well the rest of the night. His dreams were haunted not only by the dark specters that had flitted through his dreams on previous occasions, but also by the fear of being discovered. As a result, Dredian was exhausted when he reported for lessons the next morning.
“Right, now, Lord Dredian,” said the Grarrl knight who stood before him, “what do you know of sword fighting?” Stifling a yawn, Dredian explained what he knew from his pretend secessions at the orphanage. The Grarrl grunted. “Well, it's something, I s’pose.” The knight led him over to the arena in which Nieror had been practicing the previous night. “Now, I want you to pretend that all these practice dummies around you are your enemies.” Dredian nodded, clenching his fists. “Attack any way you wish, and don’t worry about destroying them; we can fix ‘um up quickly.”
Dredian drew his sword and, without hesitation, lunged at the first practice dummy. Though the royal garb tripped him up a bit, he felt more alive than he ever had before. He easily flowed from stance to stance. He swung his sword around and sliced clean through a dummy’s head before whipped around and flicking his wrist as if to parry a blow.
He continued for a few more minutes before he heard the Grarrl knight call, “Alright, that’s enough!” Dredian lowered his sword and stood there, grinning like a young boy. The Grarrl bared his teeth in a slight smile. “Well, you may not have had much training, but it seems you have a natural talent for it.”
“I guess so,” replied Dredian with a shrug.
“Right, then, let’s see how you fair with an actual opponent.” The Grarrl drew his own sword and got into a fighting stance. “The aim of this bout is not to harm, though, only to test. The sparring will stop immediately if any blood is drawn.”
“Aye,” agreed Dredian with a nod as he, too, got into a fighting stance.
“Well, then, en guard!” Without warning, the knight dashed forward and brought his sword up. Dredian was just in time to block the blow before it nicked his shoulder. Dredian sidestepped and lashed his sword slantwise towards the knight. The Grarrl blocked the attack quickly, his eyes blazing.
Dredian felt as if something was rekindling within him, something that had lain dormant and forgotten for a long time. Feeling as if he were more alive than ever before, he lunged, swiped, parried, and jumped, feeling already accustomed to this bout. Several other knights gathered to watch the confrontation. One’s mouth dropped open slightly before he quickly clamped it shut again.
On and on the two went. Beads of sweat rolled down the Grarrl’s face, as well as Dredian’s. The knight was stronger, older, and larger than he, but he had the advantage of speed. The Grarrl lashed his sword forward, but Dredian sidestepped away easily and whipped his sword out to leave a gash on the Grarrl’s arm. The knight paused and held up a clawed hand. Dredian lowered his sword while his opponent examined his wound. The knight blinked rapidly a few times before laughing and shaking his head. “Guess this bout’s over, eh?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Dredian said as he sheathed his sword.
“Don’t be sorry, lad! That was some of the best sword fighting I’ve been up against, especially from someone who’s inexperienced! Why, if the circumstances had been reversed, you could have very well become the King’s Champion!”
“Thank you,” Dredian said in earnest, pride rushing through his limbs. However, though he was thrilled he had made such an impression, a bitter tang resided in his mouth as he thought the situation over. I’m a thief now. I’ll never have the chance to even become a knight, he thought bitterly. Still, he asked, “Are we to continue?”
The Grarrl knight gave him a blank stare. “Well, with sword fighting like yours, I don’t see a need to! Maybe your father got this one wrong. Who knows, maybe you could even go home today!”
Dredian felt his heart plummet. “Nay, I think I should get a bit more practice in, first. I probably won’t be leaving the palace for a while yet.”
The knight shrugged. “Very well.” Then he and the other knights left, some looking back warily at the Faerie Draik.
“And you said I was good!” whispered an awed voice from behind him. Startled, he whipped around and saw Nieror looking at him with wide eyes. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”
Dredian shrugged, unable to reply. At first, he had been amazed by his newfound ability, but now he made him feel slightly afraid. How HAD he done it? “I guess it just... came naturally.”
To be continued...