The Squire and the Scholar: Part Two
Lisha waited against the back wall of the throne room as Jeran knelt before the king. “Your majesty, I am at your service.”
Skarl said, “I have determined that Brightvale is behind this disgraceful attack upon the princesses and their guards.”
Lisha had to bite her tongue not to say anything – she saw her brother’s ears go straight up, and knew he felt the same shock. “But, milord, Hagan is quite as fond of Princess Halli and Princess Esbel as he is of Princess Roberta.”
Skarl banged his fist on the armrest of his throne. “Hagan hopes to cause more trouble between us and the Citadel – so he can take my throne! He has always wanted to rule both Meridell and Brightvale in one kingdom...”
Lisha thought, Yes – just as you do. Jeran replied, still kneeling, “But, your majesty, the raiders returned north – and none of them bore any shields or markers of Brightvale. It doesn’t seem to be your brother’s way to...”
“Hah! There is nothing that Hagan wouldn’t stoop to in order to rob me of my kingdom... and of my nieces! Sir Jeran, I have already sent a message to Brightvale. I wish you to lead all of our knights and men-at-arms that can be spared to the Meribright Bridge in order to... reinforce this message. If he will not return the princesses under persuasion, then it will be your duty to rescue them through force. You leave tomorrow at dawn!”
Lisha realized that she was clenching her fists. He’s off his head – Brightvale wouldn’t do this! This isn’t the way King Hagan would fight! And he’s going to send Jeran on a wild goose chase that could get him hurt when he’s so tired already... In the dead silence of the throne room, she could hear Jeran groan as he got to his feet.
That did it. Most of the time she hated being so small – hated looking like a child – but looking cute and defenseless was the last way she could think of to try and save her brother. She ran forward and fell to her knees between Jeran and Skarl. “Please, your majesty, please, don’t send him!”
She looked up as much as she could without ruining the effect... her heart sank as she saw that Skarl’s scowl was even deeper. “Lisha, what is the meaning of this?”
“Please, your majesty... he’s half-dead already from the mission to the Citadel! I know that time is of the essence, but is there no other knight that you can send? None at all? I beg you, your majesty...”
Skarl thumped his staff on the ground. “A scholar cannot understand matters of knights and their duties. Under Sir Jeran’s command, the princesses were lost – it is his duty to rescue them.”
Jeran grabbed her arm – he was enough bigger than her that he could pull her to her feet whether she wanted him to or not. “Come, Lisha. I apologize for my sister, your majesty. I will be ready to lead the force at dawn.”
When they were out of the throne room, Lisha hugged her brother tightly, trying as hard as she could not to cry. With her head against his chest, his voice was so deep that she could barely hear it as he said, “I know, Lisha. I know it’s not good. But think – if he sends me, I can work with whoever is in charge of Brightvale’s forces to try and avoid bloodshed.”
Ro, leaning against the wall next to Ezekiel, groaned. “We’re going to get ourselves killed fighting Brightvale, when all of us know that the raiders were mountain folk!”
Lisha looked up at her brother as his eyes lit up. “No – I’ll go toward Brightvale. You won’t. I’m under oath to the king, Ro, but your only allegiance is to me...”
Lisha caught on to what he was saying. “Ro can go north – maybe stop in Mistborne for reinforcements – and rescue the princesses!”
Ro winced. “By myself?”
Lisha raised her wand. “I’ll go with him!”
Jeran looked around. “No – I can’t ask you to do something so blatantly against the king’s will.” He pulled them off into an alcove, and hissed, “Lisha, the mountains are a dangerous place, and you’re so little...”
Lisha insisted, “I’ve got my wand and I’ve got my glasses – you know they both help me! And I might be small, but I’m smart.”
Ezekiel said, “I’ll go with her, if she goes. You won’t be able to send the number you should, Jeran. In such a small group, brains will avail us more than brawn.”
Jeran sighed heavily. “Oh, Fyora blast it!” Then he leaned close and said, “Of course, I can’t ask you to disobey the king. So I can’t ask Lisha and Ezekiel to go down to the armory, tell Andaman I sent you, and have him outfit you with light armor and weapons. I also can’t ask Ro to go down to the kitchen for travel provisions. And I could never request that you pack and be ready by midnight once you’ve done this – because I wouldn’t want you to sneak out of the castle before the army starts assembling.”
Ro was snickering. Lisha raised an eyebrow and grinned at her brother, who grinned back. She asked, “So, what are we not to do once we don’t sneak out of the castle?”
He said, “Don’t go north toward Mistborne and ask for reinforcements there, and don’t look for any trails of bandits or Werelupes, or any rumors of activity.”
Ezekiel and Ro headed off – Lisha took her brother’s hand. “Thanks for letting me go, Jeran.”
He set his other hand on top of hers – her tiny hand was completely engulfed in his big, scarred ones. “Keep yourself safe, Lisha. It’s a big, scary, dangerous world out there. I should know – I’ve had to fight a lot of the big, scary, dangerous things that make it that way.”
She looked up at him. “And you’re still here, Jeran. We’ll make it.”
He said, “I’m barely still here. It takes a lot of luck to survive as a warrior. Lisha, I’m just headed toward some bureaucratic pandering – if fortune smiles, Sir Tor will be in charge of their forces, and we’ll be able to work something out. You won’t rescue the princesses without a fight, Lish. I’m certain of that.”
She said, looking away, “I need to go not get some armor. I’ll see you back in our rooms when I’m not packing.”
He laughed, and Lisha made her escape before he could change his mind.
Her old armor was a little too small for her – with Andaman’s help, she found a new chest-plate that wasn’t too heavy, and one of Jeran’s long knives was big enough that it suited her as a short sword. As Andaman put it into its sheath, he said, “There are a few other weapons whose length you could also handle – but I think that the well-wishes of the knight that this belongs to are worth more than that. Take care of it.”
Lisha thought of her brother’s skill with all of his weapons, and hoped fervently that using one of his knives would give her a little extra luck. I don’t like relying too much on luck. I’ve got my brain – I’ll be fine. With my brain, Ro’s brawn, and Ezekiel’s experience, we’ll all be fine.
She smoothed out her skirt and her blouse sleeves as she put a cloak on over her armor, and brushed a bit of dirt from her boots. They might as well start clean – though if Jeran’s any indicator, there’s no way they’ll end up like that.
She had to try and not let herself get too excited. It’ll be dangerous – these guys managed to get past Jeran!
But we aren’t a bunch of knights – we’re a squire and two scholars. That’s not what they’re going to be expecting – it’ll give us a chance! We’ll get to do something brave and heroic... Ro won’t have to be “just another Mistborne boy” and I won’t just be “Jeran’s little sister.” We’ll have done something in our own right.
Then she ran upstairs to finish packing – Jeran was right, they had to leave before all of the nights started assembling.
By midnight, she was standing with Ezekiel and Ro in the shadow of the castle walls. Jeran said, “You needn’t fear any consequences... I’ll make sure you’re covered. Ro, say hello to your parents and all of those brothers for me.”
Ro asked, “All nine of ‘em? It’ll take all day!”
“Still, give them my greetings.”
Lisha threw her arms around her brother. “Be careful, Jeran!”
He patted each of her ears. “I’ll be fine, Lisha. I don’t intend to let this come to a fight – I know, and I’m sure Brightvale’s commander knows, that we are not each other’s enemies. It’s you three who need to be careful – try and find as many people to help you as you can, because I’m certain that you’re going to need it.”
Ro saluted. “We won’t fail you, sir. I swear it. I’m sorry to be leaving Morris and Boris in charge of your welfare, but...”
Lisha elbowed him, and Jeran laughed. “They’re good young ones, Ro – even if they don’t clean armor as well as you.”
Ezekiel said, bringing a little more gravity back to the moment, “I’ll bring the young ones back safely, Sir Jeran – the princesses, too.”
Jeran smiled. “There are a lot of knights around here who would have my head for this, but I do think that sending you three is hardly a long shot. You’ll be fine – I just know it.”
Lisha gave her brother one last hug. “I’ll be back soon.”
He asked, a little sadly, “Is this how you feel when you watch me go off on campaigns? Because, if it is, I don’t like it a whole lot.”
Lisha didn’t want to tell him about how much she normally worried about him – she was actually tearing up a little, and she didn’t want anyone to think that she was a little crying child. She had put her wand and sword in her belt so she could carry a walking stick, which she stuck into the cool earth. “Let’s get started before the sentries see us.”
And as they headed off across the fields, she looked back and saw Jeran, standing and watching.
But the night was before them, with dawn to follow, and she didn’t want to be sad.
She was doing something big – on her own – at last!
To be continued...