Jeran's Wish: Part Two
Jeran was having the time of his life.
Of course, he was breathing hard, his hands ached
from the effort of holding his sword through several hard blows, and the *rest*
of him ached from where no few of those stinging blows had missed the blade.
But that didn't matter a bit to the young cub. His heart was pounding and a
mile-wide grin stretched his mouth. Then suddenly Kells stepped back and looked
over Jeran's shoulder.
"Ah, Togran! I hope you don't mind. We found
your new squire on our way to practice."
Jeran blinked up at the knight, then swiveled
his head back around to look at the aged Kougra he'd met earlier. Squire? Him?
He hadn't said that, hadn't thought... And Togran looked just as surprised as
But then the Kougra chuckled softly and stepped
into the courtyard. "Putting him through his paces, were you?" He turned his
gaze to Jeran. "Did they bruise you a bit?"
Jeran nodded shyly in answer to the question,
but Kells laughed aloud and added, "Bruised *us* a bit too. I can see why you
brought the pup back. He's a natural."
Jeran suddenly decided he MUST be dreaming, although
he didn't think he would've dreamed a stitch in his side quite so vividly. A
knight -- a KNIGHT! -- thought *he* was actually *good*? It was just...playing.
He tried not to grin TOO widely, and didn't look at Sir Corris. He thought Sir
Togran still looked surprised, but a warm paw was rested on his shoulder. "Well,
I knew he was something different the first time I saw him." Togran was smiling
when Jeran looked up at him. "You think he'll do?"
The Gelert whose name Jeran still hadn't learned
laughed aloud at this question and nudged the Techo next to him. "Aye, what
do *you* think of the pup, Corris?"
"I suppose he’ll do." The words came reluctantly,
and just a little bitterly. Jeran gnawed on his lower lip anxiously.
"The pup disarmed him in thirty seconds," the
Gelert reported gleefully to Togran, who blinked and looked at Jeran with newly
appraising eyes. "Kells has been putting him through his paces since. Figures
you’d find someone like that to finally take as a squire!"
"Well, we’re still working on the details." Jeran
felt the warm paw on his shoulder squeeze slightly as the Kougra spoke. "And
we’d best get back to them. Come on, cub."
Jeran blinked and hurried after Togran as the
knight walked away, his short legs moving quickly to keep up with the Kougra’s
easy lope. "S-sir? I didn’t...I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to make them think
I was your squire or anything. I just said you found me and..." He shrugged
and looked down as Togran looked at him with a toothy grin.
"Ah, so *that’s* how it happened. I wondered.
Don’t worry. It’s not too strange an assumption for them to make. I’ve never
had a squire, but the king’s been on me to get one for a while now."
The king. A real king, living in a castle with
his own knights. Jeran was still processing this tantalizing new tidbit when
Togran looked down at him again and said, "I suppose I can’t just keep calling
you ‘cub’. What’s your name?"
"Well, Jeran..." Another grin. "Did you really
disarm Corris in thirty seconds?"
"It didn’t *feel* like that long, sir," Jeran
answered honestly. He wasn’t sure why Togran found that so funny. So he added
over the laughter, "It took a lot longer to disarm Sir Kells the first time."
"The first time?" Togran chuckled again. "Well.
You’re certainly full of surprises, pup." One large white paw ruffled the fur
on Jeran’s head.
"Um...thank you." There didn’t really seem to
be an appropriate response to that.
"So tell me what happened. All of it."
Jeran gulped, hoping he wouldn’t sound like *too*
much of an idiot, and started describing his meeting with the other knights.
He grew animated when it came to the practice bouts with Kells, jumping all
over the hallway to demonstrate the different moves and defenses. Togran was
prompted to laughter at least twice more, but the rest of the time he seemed
very intent on what Jeran was saying. When the story was finally finished with,
"And then you came, sir, so I guess you know the rest," Togran was silent for
a long moment.
Finally he said quietly, "Is what you said to
Corris true? Do you want to be a knight? It’s not all glory and fine armor,
"It’s what I’ve always wanted! Ever since I knew
what it *was*. To protect people." Jeran swallowed hard, thinking of the little
sister he was supposed to protect always. "But...I--I can’t be a knight. I have
to go *home*!"
"I’m still working on that, Jeran." The knight
sounded sad, though Jeran didn’t know why. "But...well, if you *do* decide to
stay here and become a squire, there are several knights I know would be glad
to have you."
It was all he’d ever wanted. Knights and a castle,
magic and kings...But when Jeran closed his eyes, he could see Lisha waving
at him. "Thank you, sir. But...I have to go home."
Sir Jeran, Champion of Meridell, was locked in another fierce battle with evil
foes who’d managed to invade the very heart of the castle. They were after the
king, who was counting on his most trusted knight to save the day. Jeran knew
he couldn't let his liege-lord down! So he fought with redoubled ferocity, battling
the fiends to the very door of the throne room. Nothing would stop him from
protecting his king!
--Nothing except the voice of the king echoing
down the hallways, making the Lupe cub playing with wooden sword and shield
suddenly scramble to hide behind a suit of armor in the corner as the voices
approached. Skarl, the charismatic young king Jeran had seen only once, from
a distance, in the three days he'd been at Meridell Castle, approached his throne
room with Sir Togran by his side. The two passed Jeran’s hiding place without
comment, deep in conversation.
As they entered the throne room, Jeran let out
a slow and very quiet sigh of relief. Word had spread quickly about the odd
cub Sir Togran had brought back to be his squire, so none of the castle guards
batted an eye at Jeran playing in the corridors as he waited for Togran to find
him a way home as he'd promised. But Jeran wasn’t sure if the king would be
so tolerant, and – visions of dungeons dancing in his head -- didn't really
want to find out! He was starting to squirm quietly out of his hiding place
when a snippet of conversation from inside the throne room caught his ear and
froze him in place.
"--Any luck finding a home for that foundling
of yours yet?" the king asked in his rumbling voice.
A sigh Jeran recognized as from Sir Togran. "He
doesn't remember any more than he did at first. Nothing is familiar, and no
families have reported a missing child. His family must've been passing through
and he either got separated or something happened to them."
That *wasn't* true, Jeran thought fiercely. Nothing
had happened to Lisha, he just couldn't *find* her!
"I think he might've been caught in one of Illusen's
spells," Togran continued. "He mentioned playing in the glade. So that explains
how he came here and the...confusion."
Jeran scowled briefly from his hiding place.
He wasn't confused. He'd just fallen through a portal from another world! It
was perfectly normal, really...
"Confused or not," Skarl spoke up again, "*something*
has to be done about him. He can't just run wild through the castle. Surely
you can find some peasant family to take in an extra cub."
Jeran straightened in alarm, winced, and rubbed
the top of his head where he’d jabbed into the edge of the armor.
Togran’s voice had a slight edge to it. "I don't
want to just toss him off to dig potatoes for the rest of his life! Pup's a
natural fighter. I've been talking to my knights, and they all agree there’s
something different about him."
"Then find one of them to squire him." Skarl
sounded dismissive, but then his voice rose slightly in interest as he added,
"Or *you* squire him. You're too valuable not to pass on your skills."
"I work with every knight in the kingdom. Believe
me, they're being passed on! But...I can’t say I haven't considered it."
Jeran rubbed his head again and wondered if he’d
hit his ears too. Would Togran really--
Skarl snorted. "Either squire the cub or send
him off to dig potatoes. I don't care which, but he can't just haunt the castle
"...I’ll speak with him, Majesty."
Jeran swallowed hard and scrambled out of his
hiding place, darting down the hall as fast as his legs would carry him. He
wasn't supposed to be a squire, he wasn’t supposed to dig potatoes, he was just
supposed to go HOME! Togran had SAID he'd find a way for Jeran to go home. He'd
He ran right past a pair of very startled guards
and through the open gates he'd never ventured through before, his legs burning
from exertion and his eyes burning with...the passing wind, that was all. Just
the wind stinging. He wasn’t some baby, he was the *oldest*. Jeran stumbled
and fell, curling up on a little hill overlooking the castle. He was the oldest.
He was a big brother, and he was supposed to take care of his little sister.
Only how could he do that HERE?!
The wind continued to sting at his eyes until
they started to water. Stupid wind.
Jeran wasn't sure how long he sat there, just
staring at the castle, but stars had begun to come out by the time that traitorous
wind died down, twinkling with irritating cheerfulness when he just wanted to
be miserable. The castle looked even more magical at night, lit only by the
moon overhead and the flickering torchlight. It was straight out of a dream.
The cub sighed heavily. It wasn't *fair*! If
anyone had told him a week ago he would be magically transported to a real castle,
with knights and wizards and kings, he'd have been jumping for joy. But now
he was *here*, with the castle right in front of him and the greatest of all
knights wanting to train him, and...
...He just wanted to go HOME!
But he couldn't. Togran had as said it. No one
had the least idea where he'd come from, and no one had any better idea than
HE did about how to get him back home.
He couldn’t go home.
He had to stay here in Meridell. It was almost
a relief to think that. He could worry and worry, but none of that was going
to get him home. It was just making him miserable. And if he *couldn’t* go home…if
he didn’t have a *choice*...
"I'm staying in Meridell." The words were even
more of a relief spoken aloud, even if no one heard but the stars. That was
it! No more worrying over what he couldn’t change anyway. He'd stay and -- and
he'd be the BEST squire Sir Togran could possibly have. He'd learn to be a knight.
He'd learn to be the best knight EVER, so King Skarl would be glad he hadn't
been sent to dig potatoes instead.
Jeran closed his eyes for a moment, picturing
morning coming. He would go to Sir Togran and ask to be a squire. He'd train
with all the knights and learn how to disarm them even faster than Sir Corris,
even when they were using *real* swords and weren't trying to be nice to a cub.
He'd be the one they all looked up to, just like Sir Togran. The one they all
thought of whenever anyone thought about the best knight *ever*. All he had
to do was go back inside and tell Sir Togran he’d decided. All he had to do
was commit to staying in Meridell.
...All he had to do was abandon his sister.
Jeran's eyes opened again, staring at the castle
for an agonizing moment. He wasn't *abandoning* her. He *couldn't* get back
to her. There wasn't any way for him to. He would if he could, but he *couldn't*!
That wasn't the same thing. She would understand. If she knew.
"I have to, Lisha," he whispered softly, resting
his head on his knees and looking up at the stars. "I’m in Meridell now."
The stars twinkled at him, but didn’t give him
an answer. He wasn’t abandoning her. He *wasn't*. She would just...have to learn
to take care of herself now, since he couldn't.
They’d used to watch the stars at night. Lisha
had loved laying on her back and looking for the patterns he pointed out. Maybe
she was looking up at the same stars right now. Jeran swallowed hard and remembered
an old rhyme they would chant when the stars came out each night.
“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.”
He couldn't be there anymore. This was home now.
Or...this *would* be home, in the morning. But for now, he stared up at the
stars and hoped Lisha could hear his wish.
"Protect my sister, since I can't be there, and
I'll love her from afar."
Note: If the title and last line sound familiar, they're from my poem of
the same name, available on page 438. The idea just wouldn't leave after the
poem, so I had to expand it!