Day Fourteen

Using techniques that Magnus had never taught him, Gerald pressed the attack and forced the knight backward. Each blow caused another step back until the knight tripped over an exposed root and landed hard on his back. Gerald stood over him, sword point at his throat as the dragon screamed for blood.

The jester tried to take a proper look at his opponent’s face but his features were blurry and indistinct, as though a layer of fog hung between them. He told the knight to cast away his weapon and he did so with a grunt. Gerald hesitated, unwilling or unable to kill the man. A noise in the woods caused him to look over his shoulder.

The knight’s squire stood a few feet away, his face shrouded in swirls of grey just like his master. He held a bloody dagger in his hand but did not approach. There was a trail of red drops leading to where he stood, but not a single footprint. Gerald was about to tell him to back away, or drop his weapon, or something, when his chest exploded with pain.

Looking down, he saw the handle of a dagger protruding from his upper chest. He could see that the knight was standing now, his feet were just as the edge of his vision. He wanted to look up, to try to make out his features one more time, but he teetered sideways and began to fall. As blackness overwhelmed his vision, he woke up in a cold sweat in his bed back at the castle.

Breathing hard, Gerald tried to corral his thoughts into some semblance of order. This was not the death he would have expected to be dreaming about and was therefore all the more unsettling. What could it possibly mean? Who was this knight that was so intent on killing him?

And what possible reason could the dragon have for wanting him to defeat this knight?

Gerald was normally not one to put much stock in dreams, but then he had never experienced anything like that before. It had felt so vivid and real and… important. As though it was a message or a… warning.

Suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable in his dark room, Gerald relit his candle and sat up in his bed, hugging his knees to his chest. He knew that he was being silly, that he was no better than a child jumping at monsters under his bed, but he did not want to go back to sleep. He was scared that the dream would be waiting for him and he would have to go through his death again.

“I need to be at my best tomorrow morning or my entire plan and all my preparations will be for nothing,” he muttered. “Not to mention I will be on the road for the rest of the day. I cannot do this on a mere half an hour of sleep!”

But still he forced his eyes to remain open, fighting off the pixies that would draw his eyelids together. As he tried to decide whether sleep filled with nightmares would be any better than no sleep at all, sleep slipped into the room and took him by surprise.

Once more he found himself in the snowy forest, sword in hand. The dragon continued to circle, the knight executed his failed charge and dismounted, his features blurred as before. The swordfight played out exactly as before, though the knight may have fallen to the ground a little sooner this time. And again the squire appeared behind him, his face as unrecognizable as his fallen master‘s was.

Gerald hesitated, just as before. He knew that if he turned his back, the knight would kill him. But if he kept his gaze on his foe, the squire would do the job for him. He looked rapidly back and forth between the two men and while the knight remained in his prone position, the squire was a step closer at every glance.

Finally, when the squire was within striking distance, Gerald whirled to face him. By the time he took a step forward, the knight had already buried his dagger in his back. The blackness returned as he was falling forward, the snow rapidly drawing closer.

This time Gerald woke to a dimly lit room, which was a definite step up from a black one. But the candle had almost burned itself out and the sky was beginning to lighten outside his window.

“Strange, it felt like I was asleep for just a handful of minutes,” Gerald told the flickering flame. It gave no reply, just regarded him in silence before winking from existence in a trail of grey smoke.

With a heavy sigh, Gerald climbed from his bed and began to prepare for his final day as Royal Jester. But his thoughts never strayed from the evolving dream and it was just as he was reaching for his door knob that the message from it finally struck home.

The dream was telling him that the only way for him to survive was to kill the knight.

The End

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