The Squire and the Scholar: Part Seven
Jeran held Lisha so tightly she could hardly breathe as he scolded, “Lisha! What possessed you to do such an insane...”
She looked up at her big brother – it was hard to tell from this position, but she didn’t think that he was hurt. “I’m okay, Jeran, I’m okay. I just didn’t think the princesses should land this close to the battlefield, that’s all.”
He looked down at her. “Still, I would have thought that you... wait, the princesses?”
Lisha looked up at him and nodded, pleased by his dawning smile. “Esbel and Halli are supposed to land at the back lines, so they stay out of bowshot.”
Ro ran up. “You did it, Lisha! You rescued the princesses!”
She pulled away from Jeran so she could hug the Kougra. “You’re okay! I was worried about you...”
He folded his arms – Lisha noticed a bandage on his right arm, and another on his left hand. “Takes a lot more than those ruffians to kill a Mistborne, kiddo.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Call me ‘kiddo’ again and I’ll blast you.”
Sir Tor was there as well – he asked, “So, Sir Jeran, should we go back and take our lumps from the king, or should we make sure these unsavory types won’t be a threat to us anymore?”
Jeran sighed. “If I’m going to go back to Skarl having directly disobeyed his orders, I want to have something to show for it.”
Lisha asked, “What happened?”
Her older brother shrugged. “Hagan knew we were coming – my force and Tor’s force met at the bridge. We decided that this was a waste of time and committed insubordination several times over by turning our army around and heading north. We got there in time to help Mistborne, and they’re with us now.”
Ro beamed. “All my brothers were really impressed when they found out how I’d taken on all those bandits by myself.”
Jeran ruffled his squire’s hair. “And I’m quite proud of you as well.”
Then the tall raider spokesman shouted, “Metal-makers! We would like to treat with you!”
Jeran looked around. “Okay. I want myself, Tor, Lord Mistborne, Ezekiel, Lisha, and Ro.”
One of Ro’s brothers asked, “Why the runts?”
“Because they’re both heroes today, I think they deserve it, and I’m in charge here.”
And Lisha followed her brother to the neutral ground in front of the fortress gate.
The Ixi stood there waiting for them flanked by two bandits and three Werelupes. Two were old and grizzled, bearing the talismans of shamans. But the one who stood next to the spokesman was tall and strong, black-furred, and wore a bone crown. The Werelupe King!
Jeran folded his arms – he clearly didn’t mean for this to be friendly. “What do you wish from us? We outnumber you. We have you surrounded. We have rescued the hostages you took. You have nothing that you can hold over us.”
And that was when the Werelupe King lunged straight at Jeran, fangs bared to bite.
Lisha reacted in an instant, whipping out her wand and blasting the Werelupe backwards. A shaman dived at her with his staff raised for a blow, but Jeran blocked it. Tor raised his sword. “Treachery! Treachery! To arms, Meridell! To arms, Brightvale! Attack!”
Ro cried, along with all of the Mistborne fighters, “Hey-le-hah!”
And battle was joined!
Lisha had been in battles before, and she knew what she had to do. Blast everything that was an enemy, and whenever her wand failed her, keep her head low – not especially difficult for someone of her size – until it decided to work again. She tried to keep track of Ro and Ezekiel... she knew that Jeran and Tor were more than capable of taking care of themselves, and probably all the people around them as well.
She also tried to listen to the people relaying news. Princess Esbel and Princess Halli were under guard – no one wanted to risk a repeat kidnapping. But most of the news was about the battle... and all of it seemed to consist of the Meridell and Brightvale forces winning through some one area or scaling some other wall or breaking into some door...
And that was when, head and shoulders over even the biggest around him, the monster Werelupe charged into the fray.
She was close to Tor and Jeran then – she heard Tor cry, “Gnarfas! Jeran, I’m going to need your help with this one!”
And the two knights charged as Lisha tried her best to keep up with them. They’re both Lupes... if that thing bites them, they’ll be infected! I need to keep them safe...
Jeran’s sword clashed with one mighty claw as Tor fended off a tusk. Gnarfas thrashed and snapped – he seemed like he didn’t care what side everyone around him was on. As long as he was killing something, the Werelupe was happy.
That was when rough hands grabbed her from behind and lifted her into the air. “Hey, look at the midget, guys!”
Lisha stabbed down with her wand – she was gratified by a cry of, “Oh, my nose! You rotten little...”
A flick of her wand, and the raider fell unconscious – she pulled away and turned to face his companions, who were staring at her in astonishment. She brandished her wand, which was already glowing. It’ll help me this time... “Okay, who else wants to call me a midget?”
And then with a howl and an earth-shaking thud, the titanic figure of Gnarfas fell to the ground.
It didn’t last long after that – even the ferocity of the Werelupes and the cunning of the raiders couldn’t match the well-trained soldiers and knights. A squadron of Mistborne soldiers chased the remnant all the way into the mountain paths as Lisha watched and stuck her wand in a water bucket to extinguish the sparks that were still shooting from it. Then she used it to repair a crack in her glasses... if Kayla hadn’t also reinforced them in addition to all the other spells she’d used on them, they would have shattered completely during the battle.
Jeran ran over to her and picked her up again, holding her tightly. “Lisha, I just want you to know that, when everyone’s praising me for defeating Gnarfas, I know very well that it was only because you saved me from the Werelupe King. You saved my life, Lisha.”
Even as she’d dreamed of being a hero in her own right, she hadn’t realized what it would feel like when her older brother was praising her, thanking her... it was strange. But then other people came up to her and Jeran set her down so that they could tell her – in words that seemed to run together – that she’d saved the princesses, she’d been wonderful, and for a child of her age...
Then the use of magic all day took its toll. All of a sudden, she was very, very weary. She was pretty sure that someone helped her to a tent that had been set up, but her vision was already starting to swim, and she didn’t even manage to take her mud-splattered boots or her torn cape off before she fell fast asleep.
Lisha watched from a sheltered alcove in the Meridell throne room as King Hagan and King Skarl sat together – united for once in a very long time as they stared in mingled irritation and gratitude at the two knights kneeling before them. Kind of hard to punish Jeran and Tor... everyone knows that they aren’t sorry, and that they’ll do it again in a heartbeat. And the fact that they fought off the raiders and Werelupes makes it all the more complicated.
But she should have known that King Skarl could always find something to yell about – the old king wasn’t happy unless he could be grumpy about something. “Sir Jeran, please tell me what your orders were.”
She could see that Jeran was trying hard not to smile – he knew that he was safe. “To take the army to Brightvale, sir. Which I did do.”
“But I believe I also told you not to go north!”
“I don’t believe you said that in those specific terms, sir. I had no orders beyond taking the forces to the Meribright Bridge.”
“My meaning was clear! And you sent your squire, the chief librarian, and your sister to Mistborne as soon as you left the throne room! Do you see where my problem is, Sir Jeran?”
Tor was clearly one comment away from laughing, and Jeran was having almost as hard of a time controlling himself as the other knight. Boys. They’re like a bunch of pages getting away with a prank.
Then the princesses ran in. Esbel said, “Please don’t punish them, uncles! They fought all the Werelupes and raiders so we could escape!” Halli merely stood there looking adorable.
Both of the kings were clearly pacified by the two pairs of big eyes looking at them. Skarl huffed, “Very well, Sir Jeran. But next time...”
Jeran nodded. “Very well, sir. Next time I will either obey your orders or make sure that I rescue more princesses who will save my tail from being roasted.”
Skarl and Tor both burst out laughing at the same moment... Hagan chuckled, and Lisha let herself laugh, too. If he can still be a clown, then everything’s okay.
And as the princesses left again – presumably to do princess-y things, which Lisha wouldn’t know anything about – she decided that her next project was to ask them how they managed to wrap two kings around their little fingers. Maybe it took being related to the kings in question, but if there was anything else to it, it was certainly worth learning.
There were a lot of things worth learning. Like the fact that she was capable on her own, but she did her best work when she had her brother backing her up. And that he valued her as much as he protected her.
And then Jeran picked her up and set her on his shoulders. “Ready to get some rest, Lish?”