Laresa's World Ch. 24: JonathonbyDarkniciad©
Off the side of the road, well out of sight of town, Jonathon donned his father's armor. It fit him as if made for him, and the sword felt like a natural extension of his hand. Holding up the bright blade before him, catching the faint sunlight, he said, "Kelanor will pay for what he has done."
Laresa loathed killing, whether being forced to do it herself, or see it happen, but she made an exception for Kelanor. She had resumed her exploration of Kelanor's mind, as Jonathon talked with old Brendon – finding a cesspool of ambition and greed so deep, it boggled her imagination. There was nothing the man would not do to increase his wealth and influence.
Likewise, she knew nothing else would give Jonathon peace, or justice. There was no law in this land at this point in time, except the law of might. The strong conquered, and the weak were destroyed – that was the law. Only Jonathon's sword could bring Kelanor to justice.
"Please, take me back to the castle, Laresa. I must do this."
Laresa could feel the regret in Jonathon, and knew he took no pleasure in what he must do. Her respect for him increased, feeling such nobility in a man who went to face another that had murdered his family. "At once, Jonathon. I will protect you."
Shaking his head, Jonathon said, "No, I must face him alone. I give myself to destiny, for good or ill. If I am meant to give my Mother and Father peace, it will be so. If I am meant to join them beyond this world, it will be so."
Nodding gravely, Laresa said, "Very well, Jonathon."
A moment later, they stood before the gates to the castle. Jonathon swung open the doors, a break in the clouds bathing him in light as the doors opened. A pair of knights within gasped, seeing him clad in his father's armor.
Jonathon demanded, "Where is Kelanor?"
"He is in the courtyard, with Kain," one of the surprised knights replied. "Jon, he'll whip you if he sees you wearing a noble's armor."
Young knights, recently come to Kelanor's service, they had no knowledge of his crimes. Jonathon said, "That is my trial to face. Thank you, Simon." He then started down the hall toward the door that led to the courtyard.
Laresa asked, "Jonathon, will not Kelanor's knights attack you?"
"I will challenge him. He knows my blood, and despite his nature, he will not ignore the challenge – it would shame him to do so. He will face me alone, and none will interfere."
Laresa's brow furrowed. "I am not so sure. May I have permission to prevent others from interfering in your challenge?"
Turning to Laresa, Jonathon felt the sting of those words. "I am sorry, Laresa, I did not mean to command you. If you wish to ensure my challenge will remain between Kelanor and I, you may do so, of course. Just do not interfere in the challenge, please."
"I don't like that either, but I'll do it. I understand how much it means to you, Jonathon."
Taking a deep breath when they reached the door to the courtyard, Jonathon said, "Thank you, Laresa – for everything."
"Be strong, Sir Jonathon," Laresa said to him, "Be victorious. Give your mother and father peace."
Nodding, Jonathon pushed open the door, stepping out into the soggy courtyard. Once again, the clouds parted, bathing him in bright light. The reflection from his armor immediately caught the attention of Kelanor and Kain, who turned to see what caused the flash.
Laresa couldn't help but feel a little heartened when she saw the blood drain from Kelanor's face. He recognized the armor Jonathon wore, and knew what it meant.
Attempting to intimidate the young man, Kelanor shouted to Jonathon, "What do you think you're doing, Boy, wearing armor? I'll have you whipped, and cleaning out the night soil for this!"
Stepping forward, his stride powerful and confident, Jonathon walked toward Kelanor and Kain. "Your part in my parent's death has been revealed to me. I challenge you, Kelanor, as is my right through my blood. Face me in single combat, or be known as honorless and craven, before your family and all in this land."
Anger brought color back into Kelanor's cheeks, and he stomped toward the upstart boy approaching him. "You have no right to challenge me. You speak lies."
"Brendon will confirm the truth. He will no longer hide your crimes. Take up your sword, Kelanor," Jonathon said, placing his hand on the hilt of his own sheathed weapon. "Only my death at your hand can prove my words untrue now, and you know it."
Drawing his sword, Kelanor said, "You are a fool, Boy. Very well, I accept your challenge. I should have cut you down all those years ago, instead of wasting my time with you."
An ominous hiss accompanied Jonathon's sword sliding free of its sheathe. He offered no further words, simply bringing his sword to the ready. The sound of another sword leaving its sheathe sounded, and Jonathon glanced over to see Kain approaching.
Kelanor growled and held up his hand. "Stand back, Kain. That is an order. Watch how a man of noble blood punishes a peasant who attempts to rise above himself."
Chuckling, Kain re-sheathed his sword. "Cut him up good, Father. The little whelp needs a good licking to teach him some humility."
With absolutely no warning, Kelanor leapt forward, his sword swinging in a deadly arc, directly at Jonathon's throat.
Inborn skill – and the training he received in this very yard – served Jonathon well. His sword came up gracefully, easily deflecting the powerful blow high. Circling the weapon around, Jonathon brought his sword into an attack of his own. Kelanor grunted, barely parrying the blow, and stepping backward to regain his balance.
Launching another attack, faking a rush forward to add momentum to the stab, Kelanor grunted when Jonathon moved back a step in preparation. Kelanor immediately danced to the side, snatching up a shield from where it hung nearby. He quickly slipped it onto his arm, smiling devilishly.
Undaunted, Jonathon pressed forward. He knew that he could not win this fight if he battled from a defensive posture. He needed to take the fight to Kelanor. Moving in with perfect balance, he swung an overhand blow at Kelanor's shoulder. The older knight caught it on his shield, and immediately launched a counter-attack.
Jonathon expected a return strike, however, and had his sword perfectly in line to deflect the blow almost as soon as Kelanor began it. Steel rang against steel once again, and Jonathon forced Kelanor to bring his shield up to defend against a second overhand blow.
His arm stinging from the powerful blow, Kelanor knew he was in trouble. Jonathon was young, strong, and obviously had learned much in the process of sparring with Kain. A last minute deflection of a two handed cut with his sword caused Kelanor's other arm to tingle. A look into Jonathon's eyes revealed something even more frightening, fearless determination – and a knowledge that he fought for justice.
Kelanor knew that he stood no chance – if he fought fairly. Having no intention of losing, he maneuvered the fight toward one of the perpetual puddles in the courtyard.
Jonathon pressed on, still holding back somewhat. He could tell that he was the faster, and the stronger. He also knew that Kelanor was cunning, and well trained. Jonathon conserved his strength, fighting wisely, waiting for the right opportunity to slip through Kelanor's guard. Kelanor fought defensively now, as Jonathon had at the beginning of the fight, giving ground.
The battle reached the puddle, and Kelanor backed through it, thrusting suddenly at Jonathon, deflecting a strike from the younger man at the same time. Jonathon danced back, regaining his balance, and putting himself in the perfect position for Kelanor's treachery.
While such tactics were considered without honor, Kelanor cared less at this moment. He was fighting for his life and reputation. Only Jonathon's death could save either of them now. Kicking into the puddle, he sloshed a spray of muddy water into Jonathon's eyes.
Jonathon reacted quickly, attempting to shield his eyes from the water. He succeeded for the most part, but the moment of distraction allowed Kelanor an opportunity. Jonathon barely brought his sword back down in time to deflect the vicious stab, forced to spin to the side as well to avoid being run through.
Kelanor kept up his momentum, spinning and launching a strike at the back of Jonathon's neck. For just a moment, he thought it was over. Jonathon was facing the wrong way, his weapon nowhere near in the proper position to defend. Elation swelled in Kelanor's heart, as his blade drew ever nearer to Jonathon's unprotected flesh.
Jonathon acted on instinct, sensing more than seeing the coming blow. He dropped to his knees, the stroke whistling just over his head. As his knees struck the soggy earth, he saw the opening that he had been waiting for. Grasping the hilt of his father's sword in both hands, he stabbed upward into the seam below Kelanor's breastplate.
Still trying to recover from Jonathon's sudden movement out of the path of a killing blow, Kelanor didn't even realize he had been stabbed until the weapon prevented him from turning. Then the wave of pain hit him, as well as a shortness of breath. Jonathon's blade had pierced Kelanor's chain mail, his belly, and slid upward into a lung.
Kelanor's nerveless fingers couldn't maintain their grip on his sword's hilt, and it fell with a wet thud to the soggy earth below. The treacherous knight's knees soon followed, and he glanced through dimming eyes at the man who had killed him.
Jonathon hung his head, letting out a sigh. "You can rest in peace now, Father – Mother."
Kelanor never heard Kain's enraged scream, because his life fled before the sound ever erupted.
"You'll die, whelp! Michael will inherit everything now without Father around to give me my due! I'll kill you!" Kain's sword slid from its sheathe, and he rushed toward Jonathon.
Jonathon rose quickly, and brought his weapon up, but he need not have done so. Kain slammed into an invisible wall before he could reach his intended target. The air blasted from Kain's lungs, even as his sword fell to the earth near Kelanor's corpse. Collapsing to the ground, Kain gasped for breath, grasping for his sword.
"Thank you, Laresa. It was hard enough to face Kelanor, without being forced to kill Kain as well," Jonathon said with a relieved sigh.
Laresa asked, "What will you do about him, though? He'll just try to kill you again."
"I'll just have to hope Michael can control him – and that he won't challenge me as well. I really don't like the thought of crossing blades with Michael, and I honestly don't believe I'd survive the test of arms."
"What shall we do...?" Words failed Laresa, and she gestured toward Kelanor's body.
"Though my heart screams to toss him in the woods for scavengers to feast upon, I will not inflict such indignity on any man." Jonathon gestured toward some relatively clean flagstones, "Can you lie him upon those stones, out of the muck, until someone can prepare him for burial?"
Behind the invisible wall, Kain continued to rage, screaming about how Jonathon was mad – talking to himself. Laresa gestured, and Kain collapsed to the earth. Before Jonathon could ask, Laresa said, "I put him to sleep." She then gestured again, and Kelanor's body appeared on the stones, hands folded over his sword.
"Thank you, Laresa. Now, I must face Esmarelda."
Even as he spoke, Esmarelda stepped out from the door, her hand over her mouth. She approached Kelanor's body hesitantly, a look of disbelief in her eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Esmarelda," Jonathon said, "I had no choice. He was responsible for my parents' death."
Glancing over at Jonathon, Esmarelda nodded. "I suspected things, but I was afraid to ever discover the truth. He was a good man – once. I'm so sorry such grief has been brought upon you, Jonathon. You were always a good boy, and you don't deserve what life has given you. Is Kain...?"
"He's only sleeping, Esmarelda. He sought to attack me as well," Jonathon explained.
"What am I to do," Esmarelda said, approaching her husband's body.
"Call Michael back, he will take care of you. He is respected, and strong. He can maintain your holdings," Jonathon suggested.
"I wish he were here now," Esmarelda sobbed.
Laresa moved in behind Jonathon, placing her hand on his shoulder. "She is nearly overwhelmed. I could bring Michael here. I believe she needs him, and you have to face him. You will have to reveal me, and my part in all of this, however."
"Let them see you, then," Jonathon said.
Esmarelda gasped, stumbling backward in frightened surprise when Laresa appeared.
Jonathon quickly said, "Please, do not be alarmed. Laresa is a genie, and it is through her I discovered my parents' fate. She put Kain to sleep, so I wouldn't have to fight him. She can bring Michael here, immediately."
Esmarelda's mouth worked soundlessly – her eyes wide with fear. Jonathon turned to Laresa and said, "Just bring Michael here. She needs him."
Laresa nodded, and Michael appeared between them and his mother a moment later. Startled, Michael gasped out an oath and looked around, trying to discover what had happened to him.
"Oh, Michael," Esmarelda sobbed, running to her son.
Michael took in the scene – his crying mother, his father's corpse, and his awakening brother. He turned to Jonathon, stunned surprise in his eyes. His mouth opened, but Jonathon cut him off.
"Please, just care for your mother, and send someone to take care of Kain, and Kelanor's body. I will tell you what has happened later."
Frowning, his brow furrowing, Michael stared hard at Jonathon, but then nodded and led his mother inside.
"Can you take me to my room? I really need to sit down and think," Jonathon requested.
Laresa nodded, and transported them both to his room, sealing the door magically.
The hour was late when Michael knocked on Jonathon's door. Having put his mother to bed, arranged for his father to be laid in repose, and put his brother under guard, he wanted answers.
Jonathon and Laresa explained, and much to Michael's credit, he listened without judgment. When Jon completed the tale, he awaited the stoic-faced Michael's reaction.
For a few seconds, Michael was simply numb. Then, at last, his expression softened, and he sighed. "I will have to speak to Brendon, of course, but in truth, I believe you, Jonathon. Mother and I have long held suspicions about Father's ambition, and this is the reason I was sent away to oversee the knights in your father's castle."
Jonathon had no response, still feeling guilty about talking to Michael, after killing the man's father. Laresa stepped forward, saying, "I can see into men's hearts, and I know Jonathon took no pleasure in facing your father. He had little choice, for your Father's reach was long indeed. If he had fled, Kelanor would have had him murdered – rather than risk having anyone recognize him for who he truly was."
Michael nodded, "I can see why. I remember your father, Jonathon, and your resemblance to him is truly uncanny. Any who knew the man could not doubt your relation to him. I'm sorry I didn't see it before now."
"So, it is all true," a voice sounded from outside the door.
As Jonathon and Laresa glanced toward the door, and Michael turned, Caroline stepped into the doorway. In a small voice, Caroline said, "My Uncle's crimes do not cease there, and I fear they surely would have grown, in time."
Michael asked, "What do you mean, Caroline?"
Laresa reached out into Caroline's mind, and saw the truth. She gasped, her eyes widening. Upon seeing that Caroline was unable to answer, she approached the young woman, taking her hand and whispering, "I understand, Caroline. I can tell them, if you wish."
Her brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, but she had overheard the entire conversation, and thus understood that Laresa possessed some sort of magic. Caroline nodded, unable to force the words past her lips.
Laresa turned back to the two men, saying, "Kelanor snuck into Caroline's room in the night, and peeked upon her while she bathed. Quite recently, he crossed yet another line, and touched her as she slept. I know such men, and it was only a matter of time before he despoiled her."
"This is true?" Michael asked – his voice tightly controlled.
Caroline nodded almost imperceptibly.
Disgust spread across Michael's face, even as Jonathon's face flushed with anger. Michael said, "Knowing this, I would be tempted to bury my father in a midden, were it not for Mother's feelings. Were she to discover this..."
Laresa spoke for Caroline, "She need never know. Caroline does not wish to see her Aunt hurt any more, either."
"I promise you, I will do all in my power to make this right, Caroline." Michael then turned to Jonathon. "This only adds to my belief of your words, Jonathon. I will still speak with Brendon, but such is a mere formality now. I will ensure you are protected from my brother. If he will not stand down, I will have him confined until such time as he will. I will set guards on your door..."
"There is no need, I can protect him better than a dozen knights," Laresa interrupted.
Michael smiled weakly, "I suppose you can. Very well. Rest, Jonathon. We will go speak with Brendon on the morrow."
Michael turned, and took his cousin's hand. They both nodded by way of farewell, and then closed the door behind them.
Laresa went to sit next to Jonathon on the bed. "I can help you rest, if you wish."
"Please, I fear I shall be haunted by all of this in the night," Jonathon said quietly.
"You shall know only peaceful dreams." Laresa called upon her power, magically removing Jonathon's armor. "Rest now, for tomorrow, your life shall see a new dawn."
Present Day –
Headquarters of the Society of Djinn
Daron at last agreed, "Benjamin, I believe you. Very well, I will open the box if you can shield this room from detection. You are my friend, and I know as well as you that neither the council, nor our secret conclave can come to any consensus."
"I know these relics I have found are important. Come tomorrow, and I will be prepared. I will have to retrieve a shielding stone from storage, and I'll have to wait until Christopher watches over the room tomorrow."
Daron nodded, picking up his box, containing the Djinn artifact. "I will see you tomorrow, Benjamin. I'm just as eager as you to see what your research has revealed."
Benjamin smiled, and let his friend out. When he closed the door, he thought, I doubt anyone could be as eager as I am. I feel like I'm about to come out of my skin! Glancing at the clock, he knew he would be doing so often, until Christopher took over watch of the storage room tomorrow morning.
Back in the Dark Ages...
Laresa, Michael, and Jonathon appeared within Michael's chambers, in the castle that rightfully belonged to Jonathon. Michael shook his head, saying, "I do not believe I will ever grow accustomed to this movement, but I must admit it is convenient. We have spoken with Brendon, and come all the way here in less time than it should have required to simply reach town."
"I am not used to it either, Michael. I only found Laresa a short time ago," Jonathon admitted.
"Your stomach stops lurching after the first dozen times," Laresa said with a note of mirth.
"I will order the garrison to remain here, until you can recruit your own knights. Once your father's old retainers hear his son resides within these walls again, they and their heirs will be quick to swear fealty to you, I'm sure," Michael explained. "All the taxes and duties paid from these lands will revert immediately to you, as well. Trade and the harvest both look promising, and you have a fair amount of coin in your strongboxes already. You will have the coin to pay your men, and tend to your people's needs."