Scarlet Shadow: A Knight's Reckoning - Part Four
Jeran ran from kitchen, to room, to outer courtyard, to training courtyard. Finally, he spotted Valrigard. He ran toward his dear friend and nearly rammed into the Draik. Valrigard looked at the Lupe as if he was crazy. “Jeran Borodere, WHAT are you trying to accomplish by driving everyone crazy with your running, ramming... HABIT?!”
Jeran plopped onto the floor. “Sorry, Val, but I just HAD to get to you and tell you the good news!”
Valrigard offered his hand to the squire. “Honestly, Jeran, even after four years of knowing you, I will NEVER understand why you insist upon rushing so much.”
“Does that mean you don’t want me to tell you?”
Valrigard gave his friend a look. “You know, when Princess Crystal left, everyone was expecting the palace to be stripped of debates such as this.” Jeran merely shrugged. Valrigard gave up. “Ok, ok, what’s going on?”
“You and I,” Jeran stated, “have been selected to accompany a certain heir to the throne...”
Jeran grinned. “Yup, her Majesty’s finally returning home!”
Valrigard was going to explode. “There must be some sort of celebration being planned!”
“You said it, and it’s all happening this afternoon!”
Valrigard’s smile disappeared. “Wait, wait, wait!” he exclaimed. “So, if that’s the case, don’t we have to go...” Valrigard looked at the sundial. Although the rest of the palace had either pendulums or grandfather clocks, the training courtyard was far too perilous to put anything easily broken anywhere near it. It was a little before noon. He looked back at Jeran. “Shouldn’t we have left three days ago?”
Jeran was practically rolling on the floor laughing. “Val, we pick her up at the border, not in Shenkuu!”
Valrigard sighed in relief. “I really have to calm down a bit, don’t I?” Jeran nodded vigorously.
Crystal was having a bitter-sweet moment. She was happy that she would finally be back in Meridell, but sadness weighed in her heart. So much had changed in the last four years. Her master, Sensei Welrin, had taught her so much. He was even accompanying her to Meridell’s border on Uniback! She turned to the aged Lenny. “Sensei?”
“What is it you require, Crystal?” Welrin asked. After four years of having to listen to his young student in English, then ending up asking her what she had said, the old Sensei had finally asked her to teach him her language. The only problem was that he seemed to enjoy her tutor’s vocabulary more.
“Why must I leave?”
“Because, My Lady, you have already learned as much from me as is possible,” the Lenny replied. The disappointment in the Princess’ eyes irked the old sensei’s curiosity. “I thought you would be pleased to return to your homeland.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Master,” Crystal stated, “I AM happy, but I feel there is much more to be learned.”
“One for knowledge, are you?”
Crystal smiled. The border to Meridell was marked by a large welcome sign. Surprise took over when two figures appeared on Uniback. One was a well-built blue Lupe and the other a swift-looking blue Draik. Crystal’s eyes widened. She tapped her Uni’s stomach with her foot, signaling her into a gallop.
Jeran looked up as Crystal sped toward them. Puzzled, he looked around in time to see Valrigard. He was unconscious, lying face-down on his Uni’s mane. Jeran jumped off just as the hilt of a dagger flew down where his head had once been.
He turned, coming face-to-face with a hooded blue Gelert. A scar embellished his right cheek. He put two of his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Without warning, nine more thieves jumped out of the forest and surrounded them. Crystal stopped her Uni and grit her teeth in frustration. “Ten to three odds?”
The Gelert gave her a toothy grin. “Considering the fact that we were ordered to take you out with these odds, you should be flattered.”
Jeran reached for his sword. “Well, we’re flattered,” he stated. “Now, leave.”
“But we just got here,” the Gelert stated in a whiny tone. He charged at the squire. Dagger met with sword as the two began their scuffle. Wordless insults were thrown with as little movement as the darting of an eye. The clashing of metal was the only thing either heard. Both knew what was at stake, Jeran more than his opponent, for a knight’s sworn duty was to refrain from killing their adversaries if possible. Strategies were formed and shattered in each of their heads.
Jeran’s disadvantage was that he had only started true training four years back. His opponent had started nine, when he had first joined his guild. Another crippling fact was that knights fought with honor. Thieves often used tricks, and the Gelert was no exception. Before he knew what was happening, Jeran was pinned on the ground, about to pass out in pain, his own sword pointed at his throat. The thief grinned. “Remember the name Kanrik, Lupe,” he taunted. “It is the last name you’ll hear.”
Kanrik suddenly felt a sharp point at the back of his neck. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“Whoever you are,” the Gelert stated, “you’re outnumbered.”
“Check again, Thief.” Kanrik turned swiftly, Jeran’s sword barely missed the agile Acara as she ducked. Springing up, her two butterfly swords found themselves crossed against the Gelert’s throat, causing him to drop his weapon. Kanrik looked behind her. All of his men were unconscious and face-down on the ground. “As I was saying,” she hissed, “you are coming with us, and you’re going to spend the rest of your days in the palace dungeons.”
“I don’t think so.” Before Crystal could react, Kanrik had already bent down and tripped her. She landed with a thud on her back. Gasping for breath, she attempted to stand up, only to feel a sharp pain in her right rib. She sat herself down, rubbing her aching rib. The thief was gone.
The blue Draik ran toward Jeran. “What happened?!” he exclaimed, looking up at the princess.
“Not sure,” she replied, picking herself up. She winced in pain, but straightened herself when she saw her sensei walking toward them.
“She was busying herself with taking out the other nine,” the old Lenny stated, examining the large gash across Jeran’s shoulder. He sighed. “It’s a good thing he’s knocked out. With a wound this deep, anyone would be in unbearable pain.”
The Draik shook his head. “I shouldn’t have passed out. I should have been watching my back!”
“You couldn’t have known,” Crystal stated. She glanced at the unconscious thieves. “We have to get to the palace as soon as possible. Jeran can get the best treatment there and we can get someone to pick these thugs up...”
Jeran was unconscious, not because of the wound, but because of the sedatives Master Welrin had administered to him. Slowly, his eyes opened. He looked up to see Valrigard sitting in a chair beside his bed. Lord Demion sat beside him. Seeing Jeran awaken, the adoptive father rose quickly. “He’s awake!”
Valrigard woke with a start. He nearly hit the roof... literally. Jeran gave out a chuckle. “You’re awake!” the Draik yelled.
“Apparently so,” Jeran replied.
“Welrin said you’d be awake in an hour,” Demion stated. Seeing Jeran’s confused look, he chuckled. “He’s Crystal’s teacher.”
“So it’s only been an hour?” Jeran asked. He looked at his shoulder, surprised to see it fully bandaged. “I’m glad to see Mr. ‘Kanrik’ didn’t do too much damage.”
Valrigard laughed. “I don’t suppose the ‘damage’ you’re referring to is the three inch long, two inch deep cut?”
“We were all relieved when we found out that dagger didn’t hit anything important,” Valrigard continued. “Our main worry was that you’d bleed out. They kept you unconscious so you wouldn’t be in so much pain.”
“A two inch cut doesn’t heal in an hour.”
“I never said you were out for an hour,” Demion replied. “Welrin expected you to wake up an hour after he gave you that herb to WAKE you up.” He paused. “You’ve been in and out of dream land since two weeks ago.”
Jeran had just reached for a glass on the table. He had no idea why, but he felt starved. He expected water to drown out his hunger a bit, but let me tell you that water and the revelation of having been unconscious for a whole two weeks don’t mix. “WHAT?!”
“Yeah, it’s a miracle you didn’t starve to death,” Valrigard stated. “In fact, that was kind of the reason they woke you up in the first place.”
“Val, please tell me you’re joking.”
“Actually, I think you could have survived for another week,” a mezzo-soprano voice stated. He looked up at Crystal, who offered him her hand. Jeran took it and lifted himself up, only to stumble back down. “Then again, we wouldn’t want your body to start eating away at any organs, now do we?”
“I was wondering why I felt I hadn’t eaten in weeks.”
“Well, you haven’t.”
An aged Lenny stepped into the room. “Well, it’s nice to see you’re awake, Sir Jeran,” he stated, tipping his head in a respectful manner. “Allow me to introduce myself: I am Sensei Welrin.”
“Then I have you to thank for healing me,” Jeran stated, trying awkwardly to mimic the Lenny’s gesture.
Welrin smiled. “It was no problem, I assure you. Now, your stomach must be thundering like a storm by now. Would you like to join me in lunch?”
“Yes, thank you,” Jeran replied. He turned to his three companions. “How about you guys? Care for some lunch?”
“I just ate, but I suppose I could come and keep the two of you company,” Crystal stated.
Demion nodded. “Same here.”
“I am SOO sorry,” Valrigard apologized, “but I have to go train with Lord Quinto!”
“Don’t worry about it, Val,” Jeran said, plopping back on the bed. He hadn’t realized just how weak he was.
“Well, the least I can do is help you get to the dining room.”
“No, it’s alright, we can bring food here,” Crystal assured.
“Oh no,” Jeran stated. “I’ve been stuck in this room for two weeks; I want to go out and enjoy myself.”
“In the dining room?” Crystal questioned.
“Yes, in the dining room.”
“Ok, if you say so...”
With that, Valrigard and Demion took each of Jeran’s arms and began their long walk to the dining room. The group had to stop several times, but after about half an hour they finally seated themselves at a six-seat table. “Phew!” Jeran exclaimed. “Never knew the dining room was THAT far from my bedchambers.”
“Well, it would have been much simpler had you allowed us to bring you food,” Crystal replied.
Valrigard chuckled. “I REALLY wish I could stay for this, but I have to run. I’m going to be late in...” The blue Draik glanced at the ancient grandfather clock. Valrigard was already flying into the corridor when his voice echoed back, “I am SOO dead!”
Demion laughed. “Don’t worry, Valrigard!” he yelled. “I’ll be sure to let you in on their arguments.”
Jeran smiled. He looked around. Neither Crystal nor Master Welrin was in sight. “Where’d everyone go?” he questioned. Demion shrugged.
Crystal suddenly emerged from the kitchen. A spoon stuck in her mouth and she was balancing an array of dishes in her right hand. In her left sat a single bowl... a single bowl that was a foot in diameter and filled to the brim with blueberry pudding. She seated herself down and set the one bowl on the table. She proceeded with placing, or throwing, the other dishes about the table. Each landed perfectly, none spilling or landing on top of another. After this little show, the Acara set her attention on eating her pudding. Although yearning to make some witty remark, Jeran decided eating was first on his list and bit a mouthful off a Skarl Kebab.
After eating non-stop for over an hour, the bloated Lupe found that he couldn’t take in another bite. He turned to Crystal, who was content with reading an old book she had picked up from the library a few minutes back. Jeran grew a mischievous smile. Grabbing a spoon, he scooped in some mashed potato and slowly drew it back.
“I wouldn’t,” Crystal stated. Jeran was stunned. She hadn’t even looked up from the scroll!
“How’d you know?”
Master Welrin gave out a chuckle. “Among the many things I’ve taught her – keen hearing and knowing your opponent.”
“Or maybe she grew eyes on her forehead,” Lord Demion stated.
“Ha-ha, very funny.”
Jeran let out a grunt as he rose from the table. He still felt weak, and for the slightest moment his wound burned like fire. He finally sat back down. As he looked from his father to Crystal, he smiled. Never mind, he’d live...
To be continued...