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Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Two


by ikkin_with_attitude

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Also by schefflera

     Jeran was met at the door of Darigan Castle by General Galgarrath, who appeared rather surprised to see him, considering the fact that he had been told in advance.

     "We didn't expect you to arrive so quickly," the Grarrl explained. "Darigan has some other visitors right now, but I will show you in. I would not suggest interrupting him, however."

     Jeran followed Galgarrath into the castle and stopped in front of Darigan's chambers. From where he stood, he could hear voices, though they were definitely not what he expected.

     "You're Fluffy?!" an older, female voice screeched. "What were you thinking, Sally!"

     "But Mom... he looked hungry, and I couldn't just leave him there..." protested another voice, presumably Sally's.

     "Your daughter's kindness may have been reckless, madam...." And that was Lord Darigan's voice, although it didn't have the roar of flames in it now. "Still, I'm more grateful for it than you can know. I didn't remember who I was, and...." Darigan trailed off, then added in a wryer tone, "I don't make a habit of roaming the countryside impersonating petpets, honestly."

     Jeran heard a giggle from the child and what might have been a choked, involuntary laugh from her mother. A fourth voice, this one male, said uncertainly, "Not to be rude, your highness, but... how did you get there?"

     "I wish I knew."

     Jeran turned to Galgarrath and mouthed, "Fluffy?"

     The Grarrl shrugged. "Lord Darigan seems to have revived somehow," he said in a low voice, "and spent much of the last war amnesiac and hiding in an Usul family's barn."

     "That explains quite a bit," Jeran replied. "Though, it's still hard to imagine him ever being called Fluffy...."

     At this point, Darigan took notice of the two standing outside his study.

     "Come in, Sir Jeran," he called. "We're just finishing up in here, and then we can discuss our own business."

     Galgarrath shut the door behind them; the Lupe knight walked further in uncomfortably, trying his hardest not to show that he had overheard Darigan's earlier conversation. It didn't seem to be enough, however, as the Lord of the Citadel said, "It's not as strange as it sounds, I promise..." The looks on the older Usuls' faces seemed to say otherwise.

     "We wouldn't want to delay your business with Sir Jeran," the girl's mother put in hastily as Darigan turned back toward the family.

     "He's early," Darigan said firmly. "And... mainly, I wanted to thank all three of you, and especially Sally. For... reminding me what kindness was, and giving me the chance to recover myself. If there ever is something I can do for you, call on me."

     At this point, there was a muffled whisper at the door; Darigan frowned and strode across the room, throwing the door open again and sighing deeply over the small, brightly-colored group in the corridor as it scurried off. "Tourists!" he said, turning back. "Someday I want an explanation of why they think they can swan through the Citadel and how they keep getting in here." He shook his head and returned to business. "Sir Jeran, I believe your letter asked for the Yellow Knight. He should be on his way in a moment. What was the other matter you mentioned wishing to discuss on your arrival?"

     "The other matter I wished to discuss is related to our need for the Yellow Knight," Jeran answered. "Hubrid Nox cast a spell on my sister Lisha, giving her a new disease for which we can find no cure. He claimed to have that cure, so I must go after him. When I was discussing the matter with the Green Knight, however, he brought up the point that Nox might be more willing to deal with a Chia than a Lupe, which led us to your Citadel anyway... and since Nox appeared to help your forces during the first war, we thought that he might be more willing to bargain with one of your people."

     "I know no more than you do about the reason behind Hubrid's assistance, though I agree that having one of my people with you could work to your advantage. I would like to go myself, but there is far too much that needs to be done at the Citadel to allow for that. I would be willing to send a representative, though...." Darigan replied. "And I know one who would be glad to come along and help. I shall send for him straight away. Galgarrath, can you bring Kass in to me?"

     "Kass?" Jeran said, taken aback. You can't mean Lord Kass, he thought. I'm sure there's more than one Kass on the Citadel... Maybe a brother, or something... But once the Lupe saw the Eyrie that entered the room escorted by Galgarrath, he knew it was the Lord Kass who had only recently put Meridell through another war. And it was all he could do not to draw his sword.

     "Kass has been freed from... malevolent influences, as I was," Darigan said, nodding to the new arrival and moving to stand in the center of his study. The Usuls had taken a collective step back; even the little girl, who had evidently decided Lord Darigan needed to be fed and looked after, was rather wide-eyed. "He has said he wishes to atone for his previous misdeeds."

     Jeran noted that Kass was armed, but no longer wore a general's coat. The Eyrie bowed, eyed Jeran somewhat warily, then directed his attention to his lord. Mostly. "What would you have me do, your highness?"

     "If you will, accompany Sir Jeran and the Yellow Knight of Meridell, who should be arriving--" There was a minor clatter, and Galgarrath opened the door yet again. "Right now," Darigan continued, "to the Haunted Woods in search of Hubrid Nox."

     The Yellow Knight appeared entirely calm as he walked over to Jeran -- he had obviously known about Kass's situation, though he didn't seem to have told anyone in Meridell. Jeran realized this and shot the Chia a questioning look, wondering why he would keep such knowledge a secret.

     "I felt it best for all involved not to reveal Kass too widely," the Yellow Knight said quietly to Jeran, answering his unasked question. "It would have caused too many problems, and Lord Darigan was being as careful as one might wish. I thought he might handle the situation more easily if kept free of... agitated interruptions from Meridell. Kass has not given any of us reason to worry."

     "I think his sword is reason enough to worry," Jeran hissed, keeping his voice low.

     The use of low tones did not keep Kass from hearing this conversation. "I wield this blade against Meridell no longer, only against Hubrid Nox if you accept my assistance," he declared.

     "I still think that coming here was a bad idea, after all...." Jeran muttered to himself. This time he kept quiet enough that only the Yellow Knight could tell he'd said anything, and the Yellow Knight only frowned.

     Lord Darigan cleared his throat. "It's unclear whether a direct battle with Hubrid Nox himself will be effective, given Sir Jeran's goal, but you may find you must fight along the way. I have reports, in particular, that the Shadow Usul may be active in the Haunted Woods, and seemingly at the height of her power."

     Jeran grimaced. The Shadow Usul was, under normal circumstances, not much more formidable than he was, and with the Yellow Knight -- and Kass, if he really did fight for them -- she shouldn't be too great a danger. If her power was augmented to some unknown level, however....

     At this point, the youngest Usul in the room piped up rather shyly, "The Shadow Usul isn't very hard to keep away."

     Darigan turned back to her, ears spread. "That isn't what I've heard of her before, Sally. If you know a way, I would be pleased to hear it."

     "You have to carry a sprig of Usica Berries," Sally explained, then paused, looking past Lord Darigan and up at Jeran. "...But I think it only works for Usul children."

     "It only works for Usul children?" Jeran asked. He regarded the girl consideringly, then came to a decision -- she was old enough, if only just. "In that case, would you like to join us? If your parents agree, of course...." He glanced up at the two adult Usuls.

     Sally looked delighted at the prospect of helping Meridell's greatest hero. "Can I, Mom?" she asked. Her parents appeared worried, though strangely, it was Lord Darigan himself who seemed the most distraught.

     "I don't know, Sally... it could be dangerous..." her mother said, then drew a long breath. "But I trust Jeran to keep you safe. If your father agrees, you can go."

     "I'm sure it will be dangerous," said the male Usul, his eyes fixed on Jeran's, "but I won't say no if you need her help. You will look after her, won't you?"

     "As best I can," Jeran promised.

     "Then she can go."

     "Thank you for your assistance, young Sally," Jeran said to the youngest Usul, smiling. He then turned his attention back to her parents. "Thank you, too, for allowing her to come with us." After eying Lord Darigan, who appeared considerably more upset about the prospect of Sally's leaving, he said, "It might not be wise to dally for much longer."

     "What are we waiting for, then?" Kass asked.

     Jeran looked at the Eyrie for a moment, still suspicious of his motives. "I suppose we should be going now," he said.

     "Now" was to some degree a relative term. They planned to travel light, but still needed some supplies; Sally had to be taken home to collect a food basket and the Usica Berries, and Jeran stopped by Meridell Castle with the Yellow Knight to alert his king that the trip to the Citadel had been an overall success, which took a great deal longer than he would have liked, and to check on Lisha.

     Kayla scurried in to inform him that Illusen's own healing spells had failed, which did not really surprise him, and that the Earth Faerie had gone to Faerieland to inquire about using the Healing Springs. Jeran knew the Healing Springs to be fickle at times, though, and Kayla didn't seem much more confident in the likelihood of their help than he was -- she hurried off again to work on her own potions.

     Hubrid Nox's words still echoed in Jeran's mind. The faeries were powerful indeed, but sometimes they could be thwarted. The Chia vampire had claimed to hold the only cure -- and that might well be the truth, and the only way Jeran could save his sister. He leaned down and kissed her forehead; one of the long ears on the young Aisha's head flicked, but then drooped again. She didn't wake.

     And then, at last, they were ready to depart.

To be continued...

 
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