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The Knight’s Club - Part 1


by ferretboy85

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The most famous knights in the lands always struggle to catch a break from their fans to just unwind, so they created a club to do just that. Will they actually get to relax?

      It had been ten years of an almost unfamiliar return to silence for Meridell. After almost three years of on and off war since the arrival of the Darigan Citadel, the sense of peaceful silence was welcomed by all, but many were wary. Some never got used to their new Darigan neighbours, and so the peace across the land was both wary, but needed.

     One of those who most welcomed that peace was hurriedly walking down the corridors of Meridell Castle. The famously formidable Blue Lupe was wearing his civilian clothes, rather than his more famous armour today. Today was about being visible, and available. Sure, people would recognise him in the armour that was in all the pictures, but he wasn't here to fight with swords, but rather words.

     In times of peace, the role of a knight was to use their position in society for the betterment for the land. At least, that’s what his sister had assured him. This was Jeran’s first long stretch of peace since his formative years when he first became a knight. He was coming to terms with the fact that his days of swordplay, the part he was pretty dang good at, were over, and the days of him having to play statesman were beginning. But he wasn't worried. He was confident in his ability to be stately. He just was worried about not being the best, like he was with swords when he became champion.

     He pressed on the thick wooden doors to a chamber deep into a wide hall of the castle. It was time to prepare for his next meeting with Brightvale delegates. As he entered the room with a confident and charming smile, he gazed across the room. It was empty and dim, with the early morning light only just now starting to come through the curtains. He was early, very early.

     “Perfect. I'm just on time.” He said with a sigh of relief. He had time to make sure that everything in the room was just right, and he had time to read up on the day's agenda. Lisha had been kind enough to help prepare it the week before based on the previous meeting notes. Jeran’s sister had grown old enough, and shown herself to be quite capable, and had earned herself a very deserved spot as an Intern with King Skarl’s State Affairs department. At first, Lisha had been offended by the title of Intern, but Jeran had to remind her that It’s like being a squire to the knight. After that recontextualisation, she decided to grow into the position as much as possible. Jeran was very pleased about this, because they made for a great team.

     Jeran rearranged the chairs for each of the scheduled attendees, and even ‘borrowed’ the nice cushions from another room for the VIPs, who Jeran expected to be the royal brothers. Next, he made sure that things like the trophies and awards that decorated the room were placed so that they could be very visible behind the Meridellian side of the table’s shoulders. He opened a window, and chucked out a slice of cheese from the larder to bribe the roosting Crokabeks to be silent. Now he could study.

     About a half hour had passed before a gaggle of important people started flowing into the room. Most of them carrying their own conversations from outside into the meeting room, paying Jeran no mind as he stood at attention to welcome them in. Jeran immediately spotted two things: first, of course, was Skarl and Hagan having a relatively civil argument with each other, but he also saw Brynn among the diplomats. He wasn’t expecting to see her at this meeting. Jeran gave her a polite wave as she also noticed him, and she returned with a gentle nod. Lisha then filed into the room carrying a stack of papers and a couple of rolled-up maps.

     Everyone took their seats, and Jeran helped roll out the maps Lisha gave him so everyone could see. Hagan immediately shoved a pointed finger at a small detail on the map between the two kingdoms depicted.

     “See?! I told you Turtum Creek goes through the Blue Forest! It’s not around you dolt!” Hagan boasted about being right.

     “N-no, I wasn’t talking about THAT river, everyone knows about Turtum Creek, I’m talking about Turdle Stream!” King Skarl stammered a rebuttal and scanned the map before immediately shoving his fat finger onto a detail labelled Turmac Brook.

     Jeran knew the lay of the land quite well, and could tell from where he was sitting that Skarl had no clue what he was talking about. He resisted the urge to put his hand to his face in shame, but knew that it was time to move the conversation to the topic at hand: Mysterious animal attacks reported by travellers and hunters in the areas south of the shadow of Darigan Citadel.

     "Unless that Creek is the site of one of the attacks at hand, we shouldn't focus our energy there. Mr. Milton, I believe you have the first element on the docket?" Jeran butted in and looked around the room to see who would speak up as Mr. Milton.

     Everyone listened as a Green Zafara of the Brightvallian ambassadors read out a list of eyewitness accounts, and other information they had gathered. This list turned out to be quite long, and the stories exhaustive. Jeran struggled to pay full attention after the list grew to more than 15 entries that seemed to all say the same thing: Startled wild animals, things left outside in hidden places going missing, and the strange paths of destruction through forest and field. Not much to go on.

     “Meridell has to take responsibility for this happening!” A Brightvalian legal scholar announced as soon as the list seemed to be finished when Mr. Milton sat back down.

     “Responsibility? For what? You guys can’t even figure out what's going on, so don't think about telling us what to do if you don't even know what it is we should be doing!” A Meridellian representative snapped back.

     Jeran sighed as he knew that he would have to take charge lest the squabbling blow itself out of proportion.

      * * * * * * * * *

     Meanwhile, in the dining hall, Tormund was casually munching down a bowl of fried mystery corn and pouring over a new book he had gotten. Lisha had recommended it to him a while ago, but he had only just now gotten around to reading it, and he was thoroughly engrossed in its swashbuckling tales of seafaring Neopets. Tormund had grown a little restless over the last few years, especially as Roberta settled down in Brightvale. He didn't have as many people to retell his own stories of swashbuckling adventure with.

     Morris and Boris, though, were at least always a reliable audience. They ran up to Tor, covered in dirt, and still wearing their practice clothes from squire training. Their quieted attempts to get Tor’s attention were doing them no favours as they trudged across the hall, their whispers still loud enough to echo alongside their clunky footsteps. The other people in the hall stared at them as Tor finally broke free from his stories, and saw the pair of them waving and getting closer.

     Tor was mortified, but understanding. “Morris! Boris!” Tor attempted to whisper a scream at them for making so much noise, only contributing to the racket. Eventually, they realised how much noise they were making and slowed down. “Why are you so dirty? Don't you know that the steward hates it when people track in dirt from the practice field?” Tor reminded them, having made the mistake many times himself.

     “Aw, shoot, sorry, Tor, we forgot.” Morris turned around to see the trail of mud crumbs he had left behind.

     “We can sweep them up no problem. Steward Samsa will never know we were here!” Boris assured Morris, as he looked around for where brooms might be kept. He shrugged when he didn't immediately see one and returned his attention to Tor, who put his book aside to listen to the two.

     "So today we got to go out on patrol, and we wrestled a Drakonack!" Morris boasted.

     "I did the catching, you did the corralling!" Boris clarified.

     "Well yeah. But it was a team effort!" Morris half complained.

     "I couldn't have done it without you, make no mistake."

     "Oh my. A Drakonack? Those can get pretty big. Why did you need to wrestle it while on patrol?" Tormund asked.

     “It had been running around wild while we were on patrol. It might have bowled us over if Sir Danner hadn't sent us out ahead to intercept it.” Boris explained.

     “I think something must have spooked it.” Morris added.

     “Hmm. Glad you were able to calm it down. Where is it now?” Tor thought about how the poor Drakonack was feeling,

     “I think Sir Danner brought it in to see if the kennel keeper could figure out what to do with it while we look for its owner.” Morris recalled.

     “Let’s give it a check-up.” Tor said, closing his interrupted story. Tormund had used the moment to give an excuse to get the two dirty squires out of the hall before they were spotted associating with him. He knew he didn't need any more bad reputation with the Steward, he had spent years trying to get back on their good side. They all left the hall together, exactly the way Morris and Boris came in.

      * * * * * * * * *

     Under the shade of a tree, a Yellow Blumaroo snacked on slices of apples and a favourite cheese slice. The simple meal was Rohane’s favourite little mid-day snack. Simple and easy to do. Just needed an apple, a cheese, and his trusty sharp pocket knife. Nothing else to fuss with, and very portable. The tree he sat under gave the shade he needed to enjoy the day. He looked across the hills to watch the Beekadoodles fly about.

     It was a usual day for Rohane. After his long and arduous adventure, he found solace in the comfort of the country life. He had a sense of duty, but none of the taste for fame or notoriety. His neighbours welcomed him back warmly, and he could finally maintain peace within himself again. But Rohane’s snacking relaxation turned tense as he spotted Gramelda walking towards him. The Elderly Ixi neighbour of his must have been coming to ask something of him. He tensed up in anticipation, as he also avoided eye contact to not give away the fact that he had noticed her.

      “Yoo hoo, my dear Rohane! It’s me again!” Gramelda waved a little to try and actively capture his attention as she approached close enough to not be ignored.

     Rohane turned his head with a heavy sloth as if to pretend he wasn't overanalysing the situation. “Oh! Gramelda, fancy meeting you on this fine day.” Rohane said, while politely gesturing for her to join him under the tree. She very gently and slowly approached. As she signalled to want to sit next to him, he shot up from his lounging spot to help her old bones gently sit on the soft grass.

     ‘Thank you, laddie.” She said as she got comfortable, enjoying the same landscape that Rohane had been enjoying moments before.

     “What brought you all the way up the hill? I figure this would usually be your favourite time of day to get some floral tea prepared.” Rohane asked as he sat back down. He politely offered a slice of apple and cheese, but Gramelda graciously refused.

     “Oh yes, the tea is at home already brewing. Wee little Wolcott is watching the pot. He’s getting old enough finally. But to answer your question, rumours bring me all the way up here!” She said as her eyes followed a small Beekadoodle streaking across the sky at high speeds.

     “Rumors?” Rohane found her answer to be concerning.

     “Yes, I have been nosing around town on Market Day. I’ve heard a number of people share a sentiment of fear lately. They don't know what’s out there, but they know it's coming. They don't know how to stop it. Naturally, they’ve thought about asking you to help, but they are too polite to even try asking.”

     “How kind of them.” Rohane wished Gramelda was also feeling their kindness to not bother him with quests either, but knew it couldn't be helped.

     “But I knew they wouldn’t talk to you themselves, so I have decided to be the voice of the people. I think the town needs your help Rohane. Could you be a dear and see what you can do? You’ve done so well for us over the years. I know if anyone could do it, it would be you!” She gave him a smile as she gently imposed the task upon him.

     Rohane wasn't sure what to do. He couldn’t say no, but he didn't even know what it was the people really wanted him to do! The only thing he could do right now was say yes. He popped the last slice of apple in his mouth, without any cheese, as he had run out from nervously nibbling on it while listening to Gramelda. “Okay. I will get to the bottom of this.” He said, standing up. Rohane held out a paw to help Gramelda up as well.

     “Oh jolly good. I will spread the word. I'm sure that town will be at ease, now that Sir Rohane is on the job.” Gramelda gave him a warm smile, and then gave him a pinch on the cheek. He certainly felt too old for such doting, but didn't push back.

     As Rohane watched Gramelda shuffle gently down the hill, he thought about where he had stashed his armour, sword, and shield in the Great Hall of the castle. It was time to dust those off again.

      * * * * * * * * *

     Brynn looked across the table to Jeran. She had to crane her neck slightly to see past the vigorous handshakes that Skarl and Hagan were giving each other as they boasted about their new agreement. Brynn was looking to see if Jeran was just as tired as she was, after having to manage the two strong personalities of Skarl and Hagan at the negotiation table.

     She didn't manage to catch his attention, as he was also silently dealing with his own frustration by massaging his well-exercised furrowed brow. Eventually, though, he did send her a glance of thanks. They waited for everyone to file out.

     “Thanks, Brynn. Have anything to file in the archives before I head out?” Lisha asked as everyone started making their way to the door.

     “Oh, thanks. Here, why don't you file these notes.” Brynn handed her a page full of small annotations and silent observations that she had recorded during the meeting.

     “Sure will. See you around!” Lisha said with a hint of a singsongy voice as she shuffled out, and left her alone in the room with Jeran.

     The sunlight that had illuminated the room that morning had advanced well past the windows of the conference room, and so Brynn couldn’t tell exactly what time it was, now that they had finished. If she was pressed to guess, she would say it was well past lunch.

     “Fancy a bite to eat?” Brynn asked Jeran, who was trying to pick up the last few stray papers left behind after the meeting.

     Jeran stopped for a moment to think. “Oh, that's right! I have not eaten anything today. I’m famished. Let's grab something!” He turned to give her a teasing smile. “What are you thinking? Gruel?”

     “Haha, no, let's at least find something better than that.” She gave him the last of the papers so that they were finally finished cleaning up after the meeting.

     The two of them made a beeline towards the mess hall, and looked at the table settings that the chef of the day had laid out. They decided on potato sandwiches to keep their energy up. Once they sat down to continue their conversation on the new treaty, they were interrupted by the gentle grunts of someone trying to pull things off the wall.

     “Is that Sir Rohane over there?” Brynn pointed out to Jeran. “What is he up to?”

     Jeran twirled around in his chair to get a good look. Sure enough, Brynn had correctly identified the simply dressed Blumaroo stretching to reach for a shield mounted on the wall. Rohane’s armour, sword and shield adorned the wall under a small plaque dedicated to him.

     That display had been the most pageantry that Rohane had allowed in his honour. He had agreed to this arrangement mostly out of convenience if provided. It was a place to safely store his equipment out of his way, and where it would get taken care of by someone else, for free.

     As soon as Jeran spotted his old colleague, he immediately stood up to go and help him out. Brynn looked briefly at her meal, but knew it would have to wait. She pushed her chair in to join the other two. Jeran, having a few inches of height on Rohane, was able to get the shield and sword up and off their display pedestal with ease.

     “I coulda gotten it myself, but that does make it faster. Thanks, Sir Borodere.” Rohane thanked him as he also started taking his armour off the display mannequin.

     “No problem... but, you can just call me Jeran, please.” Jeran was embarrassed to be treated so formally.

     “Oh right. And hello, Lady Brynn! It’s nice to see you again. It’s been a while since we last met.” Rohan gave her a small bow, and she returned a nod.

     “Hello, Rohane. Why have you come to collect your armour? Finally feeling sentimental?” She teased.

     Rohane gave a little sigh, which worried Brynn. “Oh, some townsfolk need some help, and so it’s gotta be me who helps them. Nothing too bad, just guard duty, I suspect.”

     “Oh, why do you have to do it?” Brynn was surprised that he would pull his armour out just for being asked to guard some fields. “Surely this would be a good task to get some trainees and squires on.”

     Rohane thought about the idea of having to deal with young Neopets like Boris or Morris. “No thank you. I don't need all that extra mess to deal with.” He waved away the idea.

     “Hmm, well, feel free to ask for help, Rohane, we’d be happy to take some of the burden off.” Jeran offered.

     “No, no, I’m not going to bother people as busy as you two with something this trivial. Besides, I have to make sure this stuff all still fits. Gotta use it every so often.” He said, slinging the sack full of supplies over his shoulder.

     Jeran snapped his fingers in a sudden realisation. “Oh, would you at least like to have a meeting of F.A.N. tonight? It’s been a while since Brynn has been able to attend. We should celebrate.”

     Brynn lit up. “Oh yes! That’d be a lot of fun. Say you will come, Rohane! We will talk over this guard duty of yours!” Brynn pleaded.

     Rohane thought for a moment. “Oh yes, I suppose that is in order. I’ll just stay in the castle for the rest of the afternoon until Sir Ellis returns.”

     * * * * * * *

     Tormund had given the spooked Drakonack a look over, and it sure seemed to at the very least be healthy. Thankfully it was settling in nicely in the castle stables. Looking for its owner would be difficult since it didn't seem to have any markings or tags. He volunteered to go into town tomorrow to ask around to see if anyone had a hole in their fence, with Morris and Boris both agreeing to come with to help show Tormund around where the Dragonack had been caught. That would at least be a clue of where to look.

     The three Neopets walked back into the castle's great hall. As they walked through the hall, the muddy footprints on the floor reminded Tormund that they had yet to clean up their mess.

     “Ah, right boys, don't forget to sweep up after yourselves. The brooms should be around here somewhere on our way back...” Tormund started checking closet doors along the hall until he found the supply closet.

     Morris and Boris both groaned simultaneously, but did as they were told, and grabbed the cleaning supplies. They first made sure that they had managed to knock off all the dirt from themselves, and then started cleaning their tracks.

     “I will meet you in the hall when you are finished! Have fun!” Tormund gave them a wink. He was so giddy inside that it wasn't him who had to do the cleaning for a change, that he could barely contain himself.

     As Tormund entered, he saw his three friends sitting at the table, sharing a snack. Tormund gave a wave, and Jeran looked up to see the excited Yellow Lupe. Jeran beckoned him to join them.

     “Hey everyone, when did you get here? I only just stepped out.” Tor got comfortable in his seat.

     “Oh, we just got out of a long meeting with Skarl and Hagan.” Jeran explained.

     “And I just came to borrow my equipment.” Rohane gestured to his armour that had been taken down from the pedestal and was now lying in a pile by the wall. “I have an errand to run later, but these fine folks have convinced me to stay to have a F.A.N. club meeting”

     “Ooh, fun!” Tormund’s giddiness shot back up.

     “It’s been a while since we were all in the same room, so here's to that.” Brynn raised her cup of water. “Though I suppose we should do some of the ceremony to boot.”

     “Oh yes, we can’t have a proper meeting without a proper ceremony. I will meet you in the club room. I will go grab something to drink for everyone.” Jeran excused himself.

     As Tormund turned to talk with Rohane to pass the time, Morris and Boris had progressed their cleaning, and had entered into the Great Hall sweeping away.

     “So Rohane, you mentioned an errand. That's a mighty big errand if it's got you grabbing your armour. What could have possibly pulled you away?” Tor pried for more information.

     “Oh, just trying to investigate some happenings that have been spooking the villagers.” Rohane didn't put much stock into the gravity of his assignment. He’d definitely had harder, more consequential quests.

     “Hmm...I wonder if whatever has the villagers spooked, also spooked that Drakonack.” Tor thought out loud.

     “Oh, it could also be related to the animal attacks South of Darigan Citadel. It could all be related...” Brynn surmised. “If you check that out, that would be a huge help Sir Rohane.” Brynn was talking business.

     Rohane shrugged. “Yeah, no worries. I'm on top of it. But that’s talk for tomorrow. Looks like Sir Boro-, I mean Jeran is on his way back. Let’s head over.” Rohane got up and started making his way to the designated F. A. N. Club room, which was really just a glorified walk-in closet that they had retrofitted with a table, some wall decorations, and most importantly, a simple lock.

     Jeran placed the dandelion and burdock sodas he had gathered on the table. “We can now call this meeting of the Fraternity of Adventurous Neopets Club to order.” He announced as he turned around to lock the door as everyone took their seats, and a mug.

     * * * * * * *

     As Morris and Boris heard a jovial shout of “Cheers” in unison from the now locked closet, they couldn't help but wonder what it was like in the room with all the older knights.

     Boris leaned against his broom as he stopped sweeping for a moment. He sighed. “I wish we could be invited. Those look like fun sodas. I wonder what they do in there?”

     Morris tried to rush through his sweeping now that nobody was looking. “In that room are four of the most famous knights in all of Neopia. Obviously, they are talking about cool things like how to save the world again. Didn’t you hear? They were going to save the villagers from some evil beast just south of Darigan Citadel!”

     “Man. That could be us in there helping plan how to save the day.” Boris whined. He started helping Morris sweep up the last of the mud.

     “I know, why don’t we prove to them that we can help! We are already top-shelf squires.” Morris said with a haughty, self-confident tone. “We should just ask.” Morris went to knock on the door.

     The voices on the other side immediately went silent. Eventually, the sound of the door's mechanisms could be heard unlocking, and Jeran poked his head out to see Morris standing there with the broom, beaming with confidence.

     “If you are finished sweeping, then put the brooms away and head on back to the barracks. It’s getting late.” Jeran said, before even listening to the Quiggle.

     “Aww...” Morris was crestfallen. “Ah, wait! No, not the sweeping. We wanted to join you guys to help plan how to save the town with Sir Rohane!” He asked.

     “No.” And Jeran immediately closed the door. Before he heard Jeran lock it, Morris could hear some quick discussion on the other side. To Morris, it sounded like Jeran was getting chided by the others for not even giving Morris a chance. By now, Boris had also joined Morris. The door swung slightly open again, but this time it was Tormund.

     “So can we join?” Boris asked expectantly.

     “Uhhhh, No.” Tomund said, trying to put it gently, but failed to do so.

      “Awwww.” They both had their smiles crushed.

      “This isn’t a planning meeting. It’s just a meeting between... friends!” Tormund was careful not to let out the secret nature of the club to the two biggest blabbermouths in Meridell Castle. “Rohane is not even heading out to take care of that mission until tomorrow, maybe the day after. He has to properly prepare. If you are on your best behaviour, maybe then you can ask him to take you with him!” Tor tried giving them a maybe for an answer. “Anyway, Jeran is right. You should finish up here, and head off to the barracks. It’s late for you guys. Good night!” He bid them goodnight in a singsong voice as he slowly closed the door and locked it, hoping for no more further interruptions.

      The two dejected squires slumped their shoulders. Morris went to go put his broom away, but as Boris went to go get his, the tiny Blumaroo saw that there was a set of perfectly good armour, a sword, and a nearly perfect condition shield at the edge of the room.

      “Gosh. Morris! Come look! Something has happened!” Boris pointed out the unlabeled equipment. Morris came dashing over, and noticed the armour as well.

      “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Morris asked Boris.

      “You know it. We use this gift from the faeries to get ahead! No need to wait for Sir Rohane if we’ve already taken care of it!” Boris confirmed.

      “Yeah! And that way, we get all the glory. They might even promote us to knights finally, for this heroic deed!” Moris started scooping up pieces of the armour. “I think this might just fit you.” He said, holding the pieces up to Boris to confirm the size. “Fit for a Blumaroo”

      “I’ll take the armour, and you the sword and shield! They look more like your style anyway,” Boris said, alluding to the fact that Morris was a lot better at swordplay than Boris. He scooped up the remaining parts, and they both scurried off to the barracks. They had to quickly make their plan!

     

     To be continued…

 
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