Greatclaw: Part Ten
Part Ten: Epilogue
“Watch it, Lady Nieror. We’d best be careful in these woods.”
Nieror looked back at the two knights following her and cocked an eyebrow. “And why’s that?”
One of the knights shivered. “It’s said that Greatclaw’s ghost haunts them.”
Nieror gave a skeptical snort. “I highly doubt that.” The other two knights still seemed nervous, however, as they walked into the woods on the path that would lead them to Brightvale.
It had been a year since Dredian had defeated Creal, and yet she hadn’t seen her friend at all during that time. She remembered the events that had transpired after Creal’s defeat with crystal clarity:
Dredian turned to look at his two awestruck friends, the light dying from around his sword. None spoke for a long time. It was Nieror who finally came forward and said, “So, you really are Greatclaw?”
Dredian smiled slightly. “Yes... and no," he replied, his voice going back to normal.
Tom was shaking his head. “Amazing! Simply amazing! Wait until I tell everyone that we’ve been working with the legendary Greatclaw!”
Suddenly, Dredian’s eyes became shadowed. “Don’t,” he said quickly. He didn't correct Tom, to tell him that he wasn't the original Greatclaw, though.
Both Tom and Nieror were startled at his words. “Why not?” asked Tom in surprise.
“No one needs to know I’m still alive.” Dredian’s eyes were filled with a certain amount of sadness. “I had my time in the spotlight before, but even then, it felt a little weird. Now its someone else’s time.” He smiled slightly. “It’s best if the Legend of Greatclaw remains a legend.”
Nieror paused. “So, why did you say you weren’t Greatclaw before?”
“Because I'm not the original one... but still Greatclaw, all the same."
Tom turned to go. “Well, come on, then, it’s best we get going back.”
“I’m not going back.” Dredian’s voice, though sad, was firm.
“What?” both Tom and Nieror screeched in surprise.
“You heard me.”
“But, you’re a hero!” Tom cried. “You should at least get credit for defeating Creal!”
“But I’m also dangerous now.” Dredian’s voice was quiet. “The power in my sword left it to become a part of me. I could all too easily hurt someone by accident. I need to get better control of my powers.” Then a small smile began to creep onto his lips. “Besides, I need to start a new life. As Greatclaw, I’m a knight; as Dredian, I’m a thief. But I can’t be both, even though I am.”
Nieror and Tom both stood there and digested what he had said. “Where will you go?” asked Nieror quietly.
“Who knows?” Dredian replied with a shrug.
“And what will we say if someone asks about you?” added Tom.
“Tell them I’m dead.” Tom and Nieror flinched, but neither objected. As they turned to leave, Dredian suddenly cried, “Wait!” He raced forward and handed his bejeweled sword to his two friends. “Consider it a token of friendship.”
Back then, Nieror had been reluctant to accept the gift, knowing the sword was rightfully Dredian’s. Still, she knew that it was his to give.
When they returned to the castle, they presented the sword to King Skarl, who was elated to have it back. They’d made up a story about how they’d gotten it. What had happened with Creal, Ac’real, and Dredian would remain a secret that only they knew.
When King Skarl wanted to punish the thieves – for in their story, they said the leader of the thieves had planned to do evil things with the sword – Tom had quickly stepped forward to say that most of the thieves weren’t bad neopets, only ones who couldn’t afford to survive. Tom quickly explained which ones were just greedy, and Nieror was the one who caught them. King Skarl felt gratified by them in two ways, and rewarded them both. Tom and his family were given a new house and food, along with some neopoints. Tom had also found a suitable job in one of the stores within Meridell.
Nieror had been offered neopoints, but she’d declined it, saying that it didn’t mean much to her. One of the members of the King’s Guard was the one who gave her what she really wanted. He said he’d noticed how well she fought with a sword, and asked that she become a squire. King Skarl had been reluctant at first, but had finally agreed, as he was indebted to her. Even the thieves that only stole because they had to were benefiting from this, being given some food and neopoints.
But the real hero never got any reward; no one even knew he was still alive.
As the trio of knights, Nieror being newly knighted, walked along the path, the bushes gave a violent rustle. Suddenly, a worn looking Meerca sprang from within their depths. He rushed towards the trio of knights desperately. “No, you don’t!” came a voice. A cloaked figure suddenly dived out of the sky and pushed the Meerca aside.
The Meerca looked fearfully at the figure. “Please, sir, don’t hurt me. I’m only doing it to feed my family.”
“I trust you,” the figure replied. He reached into his cloak and withdrew a loaf of bread and a roll of cheese and handed them to the Meerca. “Here, take this.”
The Meerca looked up at the figure with awe glowing in his eyes. “Thank you, sir. Thank you!”
“Next time, try gathering berries and fruit from the forest instead of taking things from others!” called the figure after him. If the Meerca heard him, he didn’t respond.
Nieror’s eyes were wide as she looked at the figure. All of his features looked familiar and, though his voice was slightly deeper than before, it could be none other than him. Slowly, she stepped forward. “Dredian?”
The figure whipped around and stiffened. “Nieror,” he whispered. “So, you’re a knight now?”
The other two knights were looking at their companion in confusion. She turned to them and said, “Go on; I’ll catch up.” They seemed quick to agree. Then, Nieror turned back to Dredian. “You’ve been here, all this time?”
“Aye,” replied Dredian as he lowered his hood.
“I thought that... you’d go somewhere else.”
“I tried,” Dredian replied with a small smile, “but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave everyone I had ever known behind.”
“But, what are you doing?”
“I thought it was obvious.” Sadness slowly crept into Dredian’s voice. “I’m neither Greatclaw nor Dredian, light nor dark, knight or thief, but both. I figured that this was the best way to combine both sides of me, by guarding the land I call my home.”
An awkward silence stretched between them. As Nieror stared at the short sword in Dredian’s hands, she asked, “Do you really have the powers of the sword in you now?”
“Of course,” replied Dredian, his goofy smile making him seem more like the Dredian from the old days.
“Prove it,” she challenged.
Dredian lifted his sword, and along the blade ran a white-and-black flame. His grin broadened as he saw her astounded look. “Satisfied?”
“With that. Now, riddle-me-this: Why does your sword have both white and black flame run along it?”
“Ah,” said Dredian with a smile and a wink, “that’s because of who I am.”
Nieror cocked an eyebrow. “Explain.”
“Well, as a Greatclaw the knight, I represent light, but as Dredian the thief, I represent darkness. Being both, a flame representing both runs along the blade.” He lifted his head to the sky, the sun’s light reflected in his blue-and-amber eyes. “It’s how Creal was defeated.”
Another pause ensued between the two friends, which Nieror finally broke by saying, “You feel bad for killing her?”
“But, why? She was evil. She deserved to die!”
Dredian’s gaze was forlorn. “No one deserves to die.” He shook his head sadly. “I know I had to do it, but it just felt... wrong. I still can’t believe I did it.”
Nieror wanted to comfort him, but sensed he would feel awkward by her attempt. Instead, she reminded him of something she had said long ago. “Dredian, remember, only you can make your choices; no one else can make them for you.”
Dredian smiled slightly. “I’ll learn that some day,” he whispered. Then, he added so quietly that she almost couldn’t hear, “Thank you, Nieror.”
Nieror opened her mouth to say something, touched, but the knight’s up ahead called back to her, “Nieror, we’re supposed to get to Brightvale!”
Dredian’s gaze softened. “Your fellow knights are calling you.”
“Will I see you again?” Nieror whispered quietly.
“Probably not,” replied Dredian quietly as he pulled the hood back up over his head. “After all, I prefer staying in the shadows.”
“Ok.” As Nieror turned to leave, she suddenly looked back over her shoulder and said, “Then this is goodbye, Lord Dredian Greatclaw.”
“Goodbye, my friend,” replied Dredian. Then the Wocky knight walked away and out of Dredian’s life forever.
Dredian remained standing there, rooted to the spot, until dark. Then he sprang into the air and flew back to his camp on gossamer wings. He landed and promptly removed his sword and cape. He settled down on a bed of leaves, listening to the night sounds of the forest and the peaceful tranquility that surrounded him. His last thoughts were of Nieror and Tom before he left consciousness.
And Dredian Greatclaw, Guardian of Meridell, slept.