Scarlet Shadow: A Knight's Reckoning - Part Three
Jeran bit into his staff and jumped up. Using Prince as a halter, the Lupe landed himself behind the Krawk. He quickly turned and before Prince could make a move, he had the staff across his neck in a choking position. Loud cries rang throughout the courtyard. Jeran smiled triumphantly and released his opponent. He turned his head up toward the balcony, where he saw a young Acara clapping. He bowed and was then led out of the ring and into the tent where all the other competitors were.
“That was SOO COOL!” a yellow Chia shouted. “Where did you pick up those moves, Jeran?”
Jeran smiled, recalling the night in the alley. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Valrigard walked up to his friend. Jeran was shocked. The Draik’s right leg was in a cast and he was leaning on a crutch. “Hey, nice goin’ out there,” he said, offering his free hand to the champion.
“What happened?” Jeran questioned.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” Valrigard replied, giving Jeran a smile. “It’s your night tonight!”
Crystal stepped into her room and sighed. “Great,” she thought, seeing her fur and dress, which were both laden with dust. This was what she hated about hot days. Thankfully, there was a big tub of cool water sitting in the middle of her room. Before getting in, she picked out a new dress for the evening. After all, no one wanted to look in the least bit dirty for the upcoming celebration...
Jeran was dressed in more fancy clothing than he was used to. His normal green tunic had been replaced with a white inner shirt with long sleeves and a Meridell surcoat. He had been given black boots to match this as well as a new pair of trousers.
Besides his new attire, Jeran was also taking some time to get used to all the attention he was being given. Crowds of nobles surrounded him, all talking at the same time. He had absolutely no idea what to do!
A tall white Kougra was suddenly beside Jeran. “How you doing, Kid?” he asked.
“So, Sir Jeran,” a pretty young Wocky piped, “I heard your parents were lost to you a long time ago. What happened?”
“Yes, indeed, Jeran!” another young noble stated. “How could you possibly bear the pain?”
“Well...” Jeran said slowly. What had happened with his parents was DEFINITELY something he didn’t enjoy talking about. He looked up to Sir Demion, his eyes screaming panic. The Kougra gave him a wink.
“I almost forgot!” the champion exclaimed. “You need to come see the king!” Demion grabbed the young Lupe’s hand and pulled him out of the swelling crowd. Jeran felt like a Seece fleeing from a group of Kadoaties!
The two runaways suddenly stopped, and THAT was when a large fit of laughs engulfed the young Lupe. He looked up to the Kougra, who was trying very hard not to burst out as well. Jeran tried holding in the giggles. Both failed miserably, exploding in a chorus of laughs.
“Honestly, you two! Can’t you keep your sanity for just one night?”
Jeran looked up to come face-to-face with her Majesty, Lady Crystal Turstone. She seemed to be struggling to keep a solemn look on her face, but gave up when Jeran grinned mischievously. “What is it, Young Champion?” she questioned.
“Forgive me, My Lady, but allow me to point out that I am older than you,” Jeran stated. “You therefore cannot call me ‘young.’”
“Only by a year, my good Lupe, only by a year.”
“True, but it’s still a year.”
Lord Demion laughed once more. “Well, it looks like you’ve finally found someone other than your uncle to match wits with, Crystal!”
“It’s too bad you won’t be able to stay for as long as I had hoped,” Jeran said.
Jeran was suddenly called by one of the Draik soldiers. He bowed awkwardly before darting off. Crystal’s smile grew mischievous, more so than the grin Jeran had pulled earlier. “Well?” she questioned.
“What do you mean?” Demion asked.
“You know exactly what I mean!”
“No, I don’t.”
“You haven’t had a squire for over six years.”
Demion gave her a look. “I want it to stay that way, thank you.”
Crystal returned the gesture. “That Lupe is naturally talented,” she stated, keeping level with her old tutor. “Even you have to admit that.”
With that, Crystal walked off toward the back of the ball room, where King Skarl sat atop his throne. A smaller throne was positioned beside the king’s. Crystal made sure to bow respectfully to her father before seating herself.
For the first time in a LONG time, Lord Demion Borodere felt a pang of doubt. He knew, after all, that Crystal was right. The young Lupe was extremely talented. Any of the other knights would jump at the chance of training him as their squire. Demion felt a stab of guilt. The memory of his own young cub still haunted every dream. The accident that had led to his passing still returned to him every hour, every minute.
Demion looked from the young princess sitting on the throne to the ‘older by a year’ Lupe. He recalled the times Crystal had trained under him, how he had been greatly impressed that his goddaughter, of whom he believed nothing but a spoiled brat, was quite the combatant. He had also been surprised that she was actually very down to earth. On the occasion of receiving critique from him, she’d merely nod and attempt to correct her mistake. Not once had she imposed her will on him by using her position as heir to the throne, and never had she taken rebuke with any less grace than an air faerie. The only time he would be freed form his memories was when he would train her. Now, he realized that not once had he thought of the accident while with the young Lupe.
He chuckled to himself as he remembered the many amusing arguments he and the princess had shared, arguments that he would no doubt continue having if he chose to take the Lupe in. The young princess was renowned for her logic. She was always thinking, seldom allowing anyone to win a conversation. This was one of her highest traits, as well as her deepest flaw. Many thought of it as being snooty, showing off her knowledge, but those close to her knew she just enjoyed clashing wits. She had even King Hagan speechless, for there were few things the king enjoyed more than a battle of wits, of which his young niece had unexpectedly given him one fine dinner.
While deep in thought, Meridell’s Champion slowly drifted back to the subject of taking in a new squire. He couldn’t think of a reason not to, besides the fact that he felt guilty for replacing his son. It had been years since the accident. So many years since that fateful night. His name was Ruben. He was young, no older that Jeran. A Kougra, like his father, Ruben had shown much potential in adolescence. He had his father’s quick eye as well as his discipline. Demion sighed. He just couldn’t do it.
Jeran stood laughing with the other soon-to-be squires, chatting and having an all out good time. After a while, all the guests were asked to move to the HUGE dining room. Food was brought to the squires’ table. Jeran dug into the never-ending array of food. Each time he finished a plate, another would be set before him at his request. Finally, he declined a bowl of ice cream. “I’m sorry, but I can’t possibly eat another bite!”
The waiter nodded, and placed the plate before Valrigard, seated beside him. “You’re kidding!” the blue Draik exclaimed, shoving a spoonful of the treat into his mouth. “You just declined a whole bowlful of Meridell Palace’s ice cream!”
“Thanks, but I’ve had three bowls,” Jeran replied, patting his stomach.
Valrigard decided to pursue his cause. “It’s still the palace ice cream!”
“Well, my stomach’s about to burst, and I’m quite sure a bowl of ice cream is going to end up making me pay for a ripped surcoat.”
“PALACE ice cream!”
Jeran couldn’t help but grin. His friend wasn’t going to stop until either Jeran had another bowl or some royal intervention took place within the next five minutes.
Let’s just say Jeran was glad for what happened next. The Eyrie announcer stepped forward and called in a loud voice, “I am sincerely hoping you all enjoyed our little arrangement. Now, let us all go back to the ballroom for the epilogue to the Squire’s Trial!”
Crystal scrambled to get to the ballroom. She, in all sincerity, wanted to get to her seat as soon as possible. She hated having to squirm through large crowds. Seating herself down, she gave a relived huff. Lord Demion soon stood beside her. “Well?”
“What do you mean, My Lady?” he questioned.
“We’ve had this conversation before,” Crystal stated.
“My reply remains the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean.”
“You know exactly why.”
“It isn’t replacing your son.”
“Yes, it is.”
Crystal looked up at the Kougra. “Ruben wouldn’t want you like this. He wouldn’t want you giving up your dream of raising the next Champion of this land. He wouldn’t want you to flaunt every chance you have of starting again. He’d want you to move on, and you know it.” Silence. Crystal diverted her gaze toward the middle of the room, where two Draiks were rolling out a red carpet. “You feel you are replacing him only because you saw him as your squire. You know squires come and go...”
“He was my son.”
“Then why are you afraid of taking in another promising student? He was your squire, yes, but as you said, he was your son. No one could take that place, not even if you wanted them to. If you had another son, and I mean a flesh and blood relative, would you see him as replacing Ruben?”
“No,” Demion admitted, dipping his head, deep in thought. He barely heard the announcer’s voice as he called Jeran out before the King. He barely saw the young Lupe as he stepped before them, barely heard King Skarl’s inquiry. He, Champion of Meridell, was to choose if he wanted to have the young Lupe as his squire. This was the tradition, after all.
Time seemed to stop before his eyes. He was alone. Darkness surrounded him. A short, stubby Skeith stood before him. “You would be betraying your son,” he stated. His voice was hoarse, as though cracked by thirst.
Crystal’s voice rang clearly through his ears. “He wouldn’t want you to flout every chance you have of starting again!”
“Demion, you are a fool if you listen to this pompous brat!” the Skeith exclaimed
“He was your squire, yes, but as you said, he was your son. No one could take that place, not even if you wanted them to!”
“Demion!” the Skeith barked.
The champion heard Crystal’s voice before his eyes shut tight. “Godfather?”
Lord Demion’s eyes snapped open. “Are you alright, My Lord?” Jeran questioned.
“I believe so,” the Kougra replied.
“Well, Demion?” King Skarl questioned. “Would you, or would you not like to have this young Lupe as your squire?”
“I...” Demion smiled. “I believe I would like to have him as something more...”
To be continued...