Ghost Stories

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Dave Duncan. I'm just borrowing.

It was Durendal Night at Ironhall, the celebration in honor of their founder, and unofficially of their greatest hero, the second Durendal. This year's feast had been no less boring than last year's, despite the speech made by Lord Chancellor Montpurse. He may have been Leader once, and a great Blade to boot, but to the young candidates of Ironhall, his speech was far too long and drawn out.

The night had finally wound down though, and the boys had been sent to their rooms. Now things would truly get interesting, after the lamps had been put out and the Masters had dragged themselves off to their rooms. No one would be any the wiser if eight of the boys snuck out of their dorm.

It had started off as a dare several weeks before by one of the juniors to sneak into the Forge in the middle of the night. It was an unwritten rule that the Forge was off limits unless there was a binding or a need for any other sort of conjury. Even the Brat knew better than to hide in there. But the eight young daredevils crept silently across the courtyard and slipped through the door, regardless of any misdeeds they might be committing. One did not come to Ironhall with a perfect record for following rules, after all.

The Forge itself was completely dark, the fires used to make the infamous cat's eye swords quenched for the night. One of the boys lit a candle and placed it on top of the giant iron anvil in the center of the octogram. Shadows flickered around them, adding to the mood of the event.

"Who wants to go first?" Fury asked, the oldest of the group. He had been at Ironhall for almost two and a half years now, halfway through his Ironhall training. His voice still cracked when he spoke.

"I think Wart should tell the first story," Marlon volunteered his friend.

"Only if you stop calling me Wart," the other boy responded. He looked the youngest by far, but his companions knew size really didn't matter, especially where Stalwart was concerned. He was already the best fencer of the group, and could beat most of the juniors and half the seniors on a good day.

"C'mon Wart, just tell us a story already," Orvil encouraged. The other boys nodded in encouragement as well. Stalwart sighed before casting his eyes around the room for inspiration. He smiled as he caught sight of the perfect thing. He cleared his throat, making good use of the minstrel training he had received before coming to Ironhall.

"Sit back, boys, and listen closely. This is a harrowing tale I'm about to tell you, so if any of you are too chicken to stick around, I suggest you leave now. I don't want to have to explain to Master Armorer why someone wet their pants in here in the middle of the night."

"Oh, go on already!" Dragon urged.

"Alright. This story takes place many years ago, before anyone still alive now was yet born. There was a young Blade, by the name of Despenser. He was bound to the King's daughter, the fair maiden Lyza. Despenser was a brave man, strong and true like any Blade should be. But he had a terrible secret, one that not even his fellow brethren knew about. You see, Despenser was the son of an evil man, Lord Xander. Xander had sent his son to Ironhall as part of a plan to overthrow Chivial. But Despenser wanted nothing to do with his father's scheming, and so at the moment when he was supposed to betray everything he had known for the last five years of his life, Despenser chose not to, allowing himself to be bound to the princess."

"Good on him," Winter whispered. Fury quieted him with a look.

"Despenser was happy serving Princess Lyza, and he enjoyed life in the palace. Fancy balls and tournaments left little room for boredom, but Despenser knew his happiness could not last. There were rumors of war stirring within the kingdom, rumors that involved his lord father. Despenser did his best to ignore what he heard, wishing only to protect his princess and have nothing to do with Xander's treason.

"But this would not come to pass. Lord Xander had sent a message to the palace declaring war on the throne, and a message to Despenser had been intercepted by the Inquisitors. He was accused of treason. When Princess Lyza pledged for Despenser's loyalty, she too was accussed of having a hand in the affair. Before they could be put to the Question, Lyza admitted to loving Despenser. He was so stunned he didn't have enough time to react before she threw herself from her tower window."

All the boys let out a gasp, knowing the reaction any Blade had to the death of his ward.

"Enraged at the death of his beloved princess, Despenser went berserk. He killed members of the Royal Guard in an attempt to get at the King, who he blamed for the tragic event. The Blades slew their brother to protect their ward, and since the truth of his innocence could never come to light, it was assumed that his motive to kill the King was based on traitorous intentions.

"The young man, who had only been trying to serve his King and country, was cast out of the Order, and his sword, Fealty, was dropped down the drain," Stalwart finished with a dramatic flourish, pointing towards the hole in the ground at the far end of the Forge. His friends released the breaths they had been holding, and they all rushed to the drain to peer into its depths with the flickering candlelight.

"They say the Blades who have been cast out of the Order still haunt the last resting place of their swords," Stalwart whispered just loud enough for the others to hear. Panther flinched slightly, but no one drew away from the fathomless pit.

"Everyone knows that's just a story to scare the Brat away from hiding in here," Panther snapped, angry that Stalwart's tale could unsettle him so much.

"Is it? Is it really?" Fury asked in response, catching on to Stalwart's plan to scare the younger boys. "Listen. Can't you hear them calling out the names of their wards?" Winter and Abel leaned closer to the drain.

A whispering seemed to grow within the Forge as the boys strained to hear the imaginary cries of the long dead Blades.

"What's it saying?" Abel squeaked out.

"Shh, I'm trying to hear," Marlon responded. The whispering grew in intensity, and even Fury and Stalwart were starting to look scared.

"Lyza… Lyza, my love. Come back to me!"

It was barely more than a breath on the wind, but the boys started to back away from the hole.

"Lyza… LYZA!"

Winter screamed as the whisper turned into a shout, and all the boys spun around to see if they could spot the ghostly figure of Despenser. The candle went out, but there was plenty of light to see three juniors falling off the anvil in laughter.

"Oh, Lyza, Lyza, come back to me! I love you Lyza!" Intrepid dramatized.

"I love you too, my dearest Despenser!" Fairtrue responded in a falsetto.

"Oooh, I'm so scared, the ghosts are going to get me!" Eagle added through gasps of laughter. The eight younger boys glared at the juniors.

"Just you wait, Eagle. You'll get yours someday," Stalwart snapped before the boys stomped back to their dorm. A sigh of wind passed through the Forge before Fairtrue, Intrepid, and Eagle contained their laughter and headed off to sleep as well.

Author's Note: Well, this was a completely random story idea. Let me know what you all think.