Meridell at War: Part Three
Lord Darigan was alone in his chambers, the only sound that of his quill as he busily scrawled on some official documentation. Though absorbed in the task at hand, Darigan could not help but notice when the candle lighting his desk flickered momentarily, casting fresh shadows into the room. The familiar drop in temperature that followed left Darigan in no doubt that he was no longer alone.
“What do you want?” he demanded without looking up from the page.
Three shadows detached themselves from the wall and moved forward, becoming slightly more corporeal as they did so.
A ghostly trio of a Faerie, Gelert and Skeith now stood before him.
“War is coming, Bat-Thing,” the Faerie sneered.
“It is unavoidable now, no matter how you try and fight it,” the Skeith added.
“All that remains is to embrace the flow, and fight back against your enemies,” the Gelert concluded.
Darigan looked up from his work. “I am to take it that Skarl has become your latest target then? I can think of no other reason for sending his spy on such a ludicrous mission.”
The three figures remained motionless.
“He failed, in case you are wondering,” Darigan added. “I have come to recognise your handiwork all too well. I will not take your bait.”
“You do not have to,” the Faerie told him. “War will come, if you wish for it or not.”
“The Fat King plays his role better than you or Kass ever did.” The Gelert smiled. “We should have thought of this sooner.”
“His greed will consume your pitiful home,” the Skeith mocked. “There can be no stopping it. You are a failure, Darigan.”
Darigan stared at the haunting visages of the Three for a moment before he returned to his writing. “There are those in Meridell who still press for peace, I am sure. As I said, I will not be baited. You are not welcome here.”
He glanced back up at them, touching his temple. “Or here.”
In the distance, Darigan heard urgent footsteps climbing the stairs to his chambers. The Three grinned at him.
“Such obstacles have been removed,” the Gelert told him. “War is coming.”
The Faerie added, “War is here.”
The doors to Darigan’s chambers burst open, dispelling the ghosts of the Three as if they had been nothing more than mist. General Galgarroth now stood in their place, gasping for breath.
“What is it, General?” Darigan asked, rising from his seat.
“It’s Meridell, sire,” Galgarroth panted. “The army is marching, and has already met some of our advanced guard on the farmlands below. A full retreat was issued, but it was too late...”
“Meridell gave no quarter,” Galgarroth replied.
“Then Skarl has declared his war...” Darigan considered. “We must either respond in kind, or be crushed.”
He glanced down at the papers on his desk. “War is here...”
“Sire?” Galgarroth asked. “Your orders?”
Darigan sighed before he straightened himself up. “Deploy the troops, fortify our lines, engage the enemy on sight.”
The General nodded, before rushing back down the stairs he had arrived by. Darigan turned to his window and stared out into the night sky.
“There must be a different way...”
Sally stared at the horizon through the kitchen window. Smoke was rising into the air, smoke that looked very familiar to her.
“It’s happening again...” she fretted.
“Don’t worry, dear,” the Scorchio sitting across from her at the table reassured her.
Sally jumped at the sound of her husband’s voice. She had been so lost in her thoughts that she had forgotten he was there.
“But what if the Darigan troops make it this far?” she asked.
“They won’t break past our lads,” her husband said confidently. “Besides, even if they did, they wouldn’t come here. We’re on the Brightvale border, as far from Meridell Castle as you can get. We’re safe.”
He took hold of her hand. “It won’t be like last time, I promise.”
Sally smiled, but couldn’t help returning her eyes to the window.
“You’re not finishing your food?” the Scorchio asked.
“No...”Sally answered, pushing her plate to one side. “I’m not feeling hungry.”
Catching her husband’s eyes, she added, “I’ll be alright, Bert, I will. It’s just, memories, you know? They take a lot of getting over sometimes.”
She closed her eyes, but wished she hadn’t. The sight of the Darigan Skeith looming over her greeted her from the darkness of her mind.
Bert meanwhile had stood up and was clearing the plates. He moved to throw Sally’s leftover food in the bin, but she stopped him.
“Wait!” she said, darting to stop his hand, before quickly adding, “What kind of a farmer are you, throwing away food? This will do good in a casserole tomorrow. Leave it on the side and I’ll see to it; you just go and put your feet up.”
She busied herself with meaningless tasks until she was sure Bert was asleep, before taking the plate and sneaking out the back door to feed Mr. Scary once again.
Sally was not the only one looking to the smoke on the horizon. Not far away, Jeran’s unit was on patrol at the border. It was no surprise to the Lupe knight that he had found much of his unit comprised those who were less than favourable toward a war with Darigan. It was as if King Skarl had deliberately taken them out of the way while the battle began.
Jeran was approached by a blue Wocky, an old friend of his.
“How do you think it will be going, Danner?” Jeran asked.
“Our boys had the element of surprise, I imagine we’ll have gained a lot of ground before the order to fight back even reached the Darigan troops,” his friend answered.
Jeran glanced back toward the road block they had been appointed to oversee.
“I don’t suppose there’s been anything remotely interesting coming from Brightvale today?” he asked.
“A potato merchant tried to bribe one of the knights for passage through the border,” Danner told him. “Unfortunately all he had on him were potatoes.”
Jeran smiled weakly. “For a moment, I wanted to believe Skarl was right, that reinforcements might storm through the border.”
“You know how we all feel about that,” Danner replied.
Jeran glanced back to the smoke on the horizon, thinking over the hidden meaning behind Danner’s words.
“Disobeying orders like that is treason,” he considered.
“Treason for you maybe,” Danner added with a grin. “The rest of us could just say we were following the orders of our commander.”
“You know what I mean,” Jeran maintained. “We all swore to serve King and Country.”
“The country is better off not being in a war, you know that,” Danner told him. “As for the King, there’s no finer service than to cure him when he’s ill.”
“That’s just it, though; we’re not healers, we’re knights,” Jeran replied. “The only service we perform is at the end of a sword.”
His gaze drifted away from the pillar of smoke, toward a bright patch of forest.
“Lady Illusen...” Jeran considered. “She may be imprisoned, but her glade is still standing. There may be potions we could use to help the King there?”
“Beats standing around waiting for the next potato salesman,” Danner agreed. “Shall I tell the men?”
Jeran nodded. “For King and Country, then.”
Darigan opened the door to his chambers, allowing the final of his guests inside. The old Moehog was slightly surprised to see that the room was full of most of Darigan’s personal guard, but she masked it well.
“Thank you for coming, Morguss,” Darigan greeted her.
“My pleasure,” the old witch replied as she set up her things on his desk. “What is it you need? Nova storm? Curse? I would recommend, after what happened with Kass, that you have some sort of magical counter measure against Unis.”
Darigan smiled, closing the door. “Nothing so complex. I need a teleportation spell for everyone in this room, aside from yourself.”
“You’re leaving?” Morguss asked. “The battle hasn’t been going that badly.”
“Our destination will be Meridell,” Darigan explained. “We intend to finish this quickly.”
Morguss chuckled. “It’s novel, I guess. I won’t be able to get you inside the Castle; it’s magically fortified... farmlands are probably a bad idea, no cover.”
“I was thinking, perhaps, Lightwater Forest?” Darigan suggested.
“Illusen’s Glade!?” Morguss scoffed. “I don’t associate with Faeries, by teleportation or any other means.”
“You will then be glad to learn that Lady Illusen has been arrested and is currently sitting in a cell in the Meridell dungeons,” Darigan explained. “There are no Faeries in her glade. In fact, think of this as a spot of breaking and entering if that helps you guide your moral compass.”
“My what?” Morguss frowned. “Just stand in the middle of the room if you want to get going.”
Darigan and his guards obliged, and Morguss began to weave her magic. Darigan thought he glimpsed the shadows in the corner of the room moving, and opened his mouth to say something, but it was too late. The magic took hold of them and whisked them down to Meridell.
“Sir Ballenor,” King Skarl rasped. “You are late.”
“I am sorry, My Lord,” the red Shoyru said as he stood to attention. “However, I bring news from the front. The Battle goes in our favour.”
“Good.” Skarl nodded, but then seemed to listen for a sound over his shoulder, as if someone was whispering to him, before adding, “However, I have further instructions.”
“Sir Grouse is to be instructed to break away from the Battle,” Skarl ordered. “He is to make for the Brightvale border with haste.”
“Sire? I thought Sir Jeran was guarding the border?” the Shoyru questioned.
“He is!” Skarl snapped. “This is exactly the problem. I have received intelligence that Lord Darigan himself has arrived in Meridell. He will seek out Jeran, I know he will. If they meet, together they may be able to... they must be stopped!”
“If I may, sire, Sir Grouse is not exactly known for his diplomacy,” the Shoyru commented.
“I am well aware of Sir Grouse’s talents,” Skarl said with a grim smile. “Now send the order.”
The Shoyru bowed. “Yes, My Lord.”
To be continued...