Scarlet Shadow: A Knight's Reckoning - Part Six
Illusen was both amazed and worried. A day after the attack on the palace, Crystal had showed up at the Glade and had asked if the earth faerie could take a look at her arm. Illusen was surprised. Some sort of poison had come in through the wound. It wasn’t deadly, but upon further examination of the Acara’s blood sample, the faerie had found that the poison was meant to put the victim under excruciating pain. “You don’t seem to be in any pain,” the faerie stated.
“I’ll be fine,” Crystal replied. “Do you have anything for it?”
“This should work,” Illusen said, handing Crystal a potion. Crystal took the brew and drank.
“Thanks,” Crystal said, feeling the pain dissipate.
“It has some nectar from the Turstone blossoms you gave me.”
“I’m glad you found a use for them besides decorating your house.”
“Crystal, this attack... it’s just...” The earth faerie took a deep breath. “There’s been talk of a these creatures forming some sort of alliance. Meridell’s people are talking of a war...” Crystal diverted her gaze to the floor. “You know the precautions, Crystal. Once war breaks out, the heir to the throne can’t stay in the kingdom.”
“Why?!” Crystal snapped, eyes blazing. “Why can’t I stay if war breaks out?! It’s not like I’m useless! I can fight!”
“Crystal, you were poisoned and left severely wounded by those creatures!” Illusen replied, her temper fuming. “You CAN’T stay! You’ll be dead weight on a fast sinking ship! One way or the other, war will break out. I can sense something is coming, something evil. You WILL need to leave! You will do more for your people if you just stay back and let war run its course.”
“You mean you want me to run away?!”
“No, I, as well as everyone else in this kingdom, want you safe! It may feel like running away, but you HAVE to! You’ve got no other choice! You are not needed here. Jeran and your father are both wise. They can handle a war, but they won’t be able to while worrying for your safety! They both care about you, too much for them to think clearly while you are in harm’s way. Now, it’s either you do what’s right and leave, or you do the selfish thing and stay. It’s your choice.”
Crystal’s eyes were glassy. She looked up at the faerie and nodded. Illusen reached into her cupboard and pulled out a red potion. It was unlabeled and had no recognizable traits. “Take this only when completely necessary,” she stated, offering it to the princess.
Crystal took it and stuffed it into her sling-on bag. “What is it?” she asked. Her voice was quivering.
“It’s a morphing potion,” Illusen replied. Crystal had read about morphing potions. She had never seen one before, but she knew exactly what they could do. “When you wish to return to your initial form, look for the potion beneath the old oak tree near my Glade.”
“Thank you,” Crystal replied. She exited the glade and made her way back to the palace.
“Crystal, where have you been?” King Skarl demanded. His daughter had been missing the whole morning and he had been worried sick.
“Father, I need to go to Brightvale,” Crystal stated simply. The king could see his daughter was upset. Her eyes were a very dark shade of indigo.
“What’s wrong, Crystal?” the king questioned.
“I need to go to Brightvale immediately.”
“We need you here.”
“No, you don’t,” Crystal replied. “I need to leave as soon as possible. I already have everything I need.”
The king looked his daughter over. Her fiery-red hair was tied in a braid and she was dressed in a white blouse with fawn capris. Her two swords, the ones she used for regular combat, were strapped to her back and she had a dagger on her belt, just in case. Her bag was slung over her shoulder.
Skarl knew he couldn’t argue with his daughter. The truth was, he had been thinking of ordering her to leave himself, but this was completely unexpected. He wanted her in Meridell. He wanted her where he could keep an eye on her. No, that would be... selfish.
Skarl looked at his daughter’s pleading eyes. “I will have an escort take you there...”
Jeran was sitting quietly in his Uni’s saddle. Valrigard was there with Crystal between the two of them. They had been charged with helping the princess reach Brightvale unharmed and safe. Crystal was shrouded by a faded black cloak. She wore no jewelry, nothing to expose her as anything but a simple peasant.
As they set off, none said a word. The road was muddy and difficult for the Unis to go fast. While they traveled, a million thoughts swirled in Jeran’s mind. A day before, the whole palace was celebrating his dubbing. Everyone had been happy. Now the people were nearing nation-wide panic, and he was fleeing for the border to get the one and only heir to the throne to the safety of Brightvale. He knew, somehow, that she’d be safer there, but a gut-wrenching feeling still hung about the Champion. He felt like something was going to happen – something very, very bad.
They were nearing the path near the woods. They rounded the corner. Nothing. It was quiet. So far, none of the disastrous events that had made a play-by-play in Jeran’s mind had happened. Perhaps they would make it to Brightvale without any incidents. Just once, he wanted something to go smoothly. No adventures, no fighting, no nothing. He just wanted Crystal to make it safely to Brightvale. That was his one wish, a wish that never took place.
An arrow ran through Crystal’s shoulder. She let out a cry of pain. “Run!” Jeran yelled to her Uni.
Her Uni ran as fast as she could in the slopping mud. Crystal’s voice was like a bell as it echoed through the Lupe knight’s ears. “Goodbye!” she yelled.
“See you soon, Princess,” Jeran whispered as he surged his blade forward. The monstrous Skeith fell back in defeat. Two other beasts ran after the princess. “No!” he exclaimed, but the Scorchio beast grabbed his leg, causing him to fall on the forest floor. The creature pinned him down. He hit it with his free hand and picked himself up.
“I’ll go after the other two!” Valrigard yelled, his Uni already galloping as fast as it could.
Jeran had been left with three of the beasts. He held his sword up...
Valrigard’s Uni tried increasing his speed, but to no avail. They arrived too late. Crystal’s steed lay on the muddy trail, her ankle was bleeding slightly. Probably, the Draik guessed, from hitting the rock in the middle of the trail. She looked at Valrigard, hate blazed through her eyes. “She’s gone!” she yelled. “They’ve probably caught up with her, and now she’s gone!”
“Where?!” Valrigard yelled. “Tell me where!”
“Why? So you could make sure she’s dead and report to your evil master?!”
“You’re a traitor, Valrigard!” she continued. “They told me. They were boasting about how one close to Jeran was responsible. That’s how they got the information! You KNEW she was going to escape! You KNEW where we would be the most vulnerable!”
“They lied!” Valrigard exclaimed.
“Well, you’ll have to prove that when we get to the palace, Valrigard the Traitor...”
Crystal ran. She could hear footsteps from behind. They were after her. Her shoulder was killing her. She felt herself slowing down. In a desperate plight, she darted for the woods. She couldn’t run all the way to the border, not with those monsters after her. She continued running. Finally, the footsteps faded. She had lost them.
She looked at her shoulder. It was badly injured. She had already broken the arrow shaft. Painfully, she pulled out the tip. Her whole body screamed in pain, yet not a peep came from the princess. She gritted her teeth. Tearing some cloth from her cloak, she bandaged the wound.
Crystal spun around toward the sound of the voice. A shadow Uni stood there. He seemed well-built. His wings were larger than your average Uni’s and he was a bit taller as well. A thick cord was strung around his neck. His feet were chained and he looked famished. “Not many people can handle pain like that.”
The Uni stumbled about, the chains giving off a rattling noise. “What happened?” Crystal asked, feeling bad for the Uni.
“A dark Faerie caught me and chained me up here.”
“But they can’t come here,” Crystal stated. “Illusen’s magic keeps the dark Faeries away.”
“That’s only a rumor mothers tell their children so they won’t be afraid.”
“Or maybe she’s stronger than most dark faeries,” Crystal concluded.
“If that’s what you want to believe...”
Crystal reached behind her with her left hand and pulled out a butterfly sword. With a few quick movements, the rope dropped to the ground in pieces. As she worked on picking the chains, the Uni looked her in the eye. “What do you want?”
“What do you mean?” she questioned, smiling as the chains fell.
“You set me free,” he hissed. “You must want something!”
“There is something I want, or more precisely, something I need, but I didn’t help you for that.”
“You think that just because you set me free, I’m going to obey your every wish, Princess?” the Uni snapped.
“No, I don’t,” Crystal replied sharply. “Excuse me, but I have to go.”
“What are you running from?” the Uni questioned.
“Monsters, but I don’t see that as any of your business,” she replied as she ran off into the woods.
The Uni shrugged and turned his attention on a raspberry bush...
Crystal had no sense of direction whatsoever. She was horribly lost and her shoulder felt like it was on fire. Hearing footsteps, she ran behind one of the trees.
She heard voices drifting her way. One was gruff and the other raspy. “Where could she have gone?” the raspy voice hissed.
“You think she made it to Brightvale?” the gruff voice questioned.
“Well, if she did, that would make our job much harder.”
“Why do we have to go looking for her, anyhow?”
“Don’t you get it, dimwit? Those Meridellians won’t dare lift a finger, not while their princess is stuck in the dungeons.”
“What is it?”
“I saw movement behind there!” Crystal froze.
“You’re right! Let’s go check it out!” Footsteps grew louder and louder. Crystal was in no shape to fight. She knew she had two choices: grab her sword and fight, or sit tight and hope they didn’t notice her. A hand grabbed her by the arm and pulled her from her hiding place. “Well, well, well, look what we have here,” the monstrous Grarrl hissed. “Looks like we’ve found the little princess.”
“LET ME GO!” Crystal yelled.
“Sorry, Your Majesty, but we have strict orders to bring you back to the Citadel,” the Grarrl’s companion, a Gelert, stated.
A shadow Uni sped in like lightning and reared up, kicking the Gelert square in the chest. The brute went flying. The Uni faced Crystal’s captor. “Maybe THIS order will convince you!” As the Grarrl dropped the princess’ arm, a powerful kick met him.
“Save it and get on!” the Uni yelled. Crystal grabbed a handful of the Uni’s mane and hoisted herself up.
“Sorry, saw no other way!” she yelled, grasping the Uni’s mane for dear life.
“It didn’t hurt,” the Uni admitted, already crashing through the bushes at full speed. The mud didn’t even dent his incredible speed.
When they were a safe distance away, the Uni stopped and Crystal climbed down. “Thank you,” she said, smiling.
“Tear up your cloak,” the Uni ordered.
“What? Why?” Crystal asked.
“Look, I know who you are. They’re going to come looking for you, and you’ll end up bringing those... things to Brightvale. Now, I know you don’t want that.”
“I don’t,” Crystal admitted.
“The way I see it is: you’re going to have to rip that cloak of yours. Tear it up a bit in the middle. They’ll think you’re as good as gone, announce what they want to announce, and voila, a fake death. You don’t have to worry about your people, Princess. If anything, your ‘capture’ will push them harder to get those things out of here.”
“They won’t buy it that easily.”
“We’ll leave this.” The Uni lifted his head. An amulet was revealed. It had been hidden by the Uni’s mane. A single ruby lay in its center. A Cobrall was wrapped around the edges.
“A Purrow’s amulet?!” Crystal exclaimed.
“I’m not all you expect.”
Crystal nodded and removed the pendant. “Are you sure?” she questioned.
As soon as the scene was set, the Uni nodded. “That’s all we can do. My only question is: where do you think you’ll be recognized the least?”
“Why would you want to know that?” Crystal asked half-heartedly. She already knew, for she would have asked the very same thing had she been put in the Uni’s position. She knew the danger that awaited Brightvale if she lodged with her uncle. She knew that there was only one thing left for her to do to keep anyone from danger. She reached into her bag and pulled out the potion Illusen had given her. Her eyes grew darker. She put the bottle’s spout into her mouth and drank. Her form changed.
The Uni was surprised. Where an Acara once stood, a Lupess now kneeled. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. He walked over. Her fur was fiery red... scarlet under the moonlight. He nudged her. Never in his life had he seen any noble go through such changes to keep others safe. “We need to go,” he stated.
“I understand...” the Lupess said slowly. She grabbed a tuff of his mane and lifted herself up. “I never got your name.”
“Shade,” he replied, taking off. It didn’t matter where they went now. He doubted anyone would be able to tell who she was. Everything about her had changed. Her fur was now red; her eyes were almost black; and her species? Well, that was definitely changed as well. He looked back at her and saw one thing that hadn’t changed, but now it was nearly invisible – a small birthmark in the form of a sun with eight rays.
To Be Continued...
Author’s note: Yes, this is the end to A Knight’s Reckoning. I FINALLY got to finishing this! A Knight’s Reckoning is part one of my two-part prequel to Scarlet Shadow. The next one’s called A Thief’s Uprising and is comin’ up soon!