Darigan's Truce: Part One
"My lord?" the deep voice questioned behind him. "Are
you well?" The skeletal form of the lord shifted in his throne, his back facing
the questioner, and a weary groan escaped his lips.
"No," his voice rasped, "Leave me, Kass.
Leave me here alone."
"But my lord-"
"Leave me, I said!" The tall figure of the
Citadel's lord straightened upon his throne and then fell back weakly, his arms
wrapped about himself in sudden pain. "It is too late."
"My lord, I will not leave you now," Kass
said, his paws padding softly on the stones as he stepped forward. "I have heard
your cries of pain before from behind the closed doors of your chambers, but
until now I did not dare come to you." The Eyrie now stood beside his lord to
see that he wore a black shroud over his entire body, a robe of mourning that
concealed his sunken face in darkness. The lord of the realm raised his head
slightly beneath the shroud.
"The Blight has weakened me further, my friend,"
Darigan said. "I fear I do not have much longer…" He shuddered and stared blankly
at the opposite wall, from which hung the dusty shreds of faded golden banners
that he had torn with his own twisted claws in previous fits of pain and rage.
He could feel that rage building again deep within him as he stared at the reminders
of his nation's old glory and thought of what it had become. The promise of
the Orb had been broken. Long they had fought to obtain it again and now the
thing seemed useless, a shining toy that no longer gave hope of victory. Even
the guiding voices within the Orb had abandoned him. Now there was nothing,
nothing…He held out his hand and the Orb, now fixed on a cord about his neck,
hovered obediently above his palm as he watched it rotate, hypnotized.
"It is a beautiful thing, is it not, General
Kass?" said Darigan, his half-hidden face illuminated by its cold aura. "Within
it is a power that I can never hope to gain. Yet I desire it, oh, how I desire
it, even more than life, Kass…" He broke off and continued to stare with blank
yellow eyes at the failed promise of power in his hand.
"Darigan, we must face facts. We have lost.
Our people are dying; the Orb can't solve anything now. We must…" Kass stopped
and frowned, something was wrong. A strange change had come over the form of
his lord, did not he appear more shadowed than before, and somehow-larger? Alarmed,
Kass leaned forward to better ascertain the change.
"My lord?" In answer Darigan suddenly rose
from his throne, his wings outspread with an energy he had not been able to
summon in months.
"Kass, look, it is happening! I-I have done
it!!" Kass stared now in horror as the orb between Lord Darigan's claws shone
with an evil red glow, throwing his lord's thin face into a horrible and frightening
light. Before Kass could even think, Darigan instantly transformed; with a deafening
roar his figure grew and expanded with the infusion of the Orb's power, his
claws and fangs lengthened, flames burst from his body in a cataclysmic inferno.
Darigan now towered above his general as an enormous spectre of flame and shadow,
reveling in his newfound power. Darigan turned his skull-like face towards Kass,
his blood-red eyes burning greedily, and his triumphant, perverse laughter filled
the chamber, echoing in the recesses of the tower.
"Yessss! YESSS!! I have unleashed it! At last
I control its ultimate power!!" The spectre held the Orb aloft and a pale, sinister
light beamed from it, but no illumination did it give to the darkened hall,
rather it seemed to suck all life from it. A cold wind began to swirl violently
about them, and seemed to wail with a thousand tortured voices. The Eyrie covered
his ears in utter pain at the sound.
"Darigan, I beg you, stop! You don't know
what you are doing!" the Eyrie shouted over the din. The release of the storm
nearly threw him to the floor but he remained upright, shielding his face from
the onslaught with his arm. A hiss from the spectre chilled his heart but he
remained standing as it stared him down amidst the swirling wind.
"Never!" it cried vengefully, "I know exactly
what I do, Kass! You say that we are lost, but nothing could be further from
the truth! Victory is in sight, for I alone control it!" The spectre flapped
its great wings and the maelstrom swirled with even greater strength to the
very summit of the tower. Kass was thrown back against the wall with such violence
that he felt his head crack on the stone, but again he forced himself upright
and drew his sword against the evil that had corrupted his leader, his master.
"You cannot control it!" he cried. "It has
taken your mind, my lord! You must free yourself!"
"Free myself?!" the spectre howled, and its
eyes flamed in terrifying anger as it brought its monstrous face close to Kass'
drawn sword. With one swipe of its blazing claw the spectre swept the sword
out of the Eyrie's grip. The heavy brand whirled in the maelstrom until it rang
against the opposite wall, cloven in two. The spectre's face twisted in a knowing
"I see how it is, old friend," it said derisively.
"You desire this power for yourself! You wish to take it away from me! I will
not allow you!!"
"I have all that I need!" Kass shrieked, nearly
doubled in size through sheer rage and fear. "Give up the power or it will destroy
"NO!!" The very walls shook with the blast
of the spectre's terrible voice. It drew back its fist, preparing to crush Kass
with one blow.
Suddenly loud war-cries could be heard from
outside the chamber as from a hundred throats crying for vengeance; the iron
doors of the tower were thrown asunder and a dense spray of arrows flew into
the chamber. A few pierced the spectre's flank, it yelled and for a moment seemed
to forget about killing Kass, though the barbs were mere annoyances to such
a beast. Bereft of his sword, Kass pulled a dagger from his belt.
"The citadel has been breached!" he cried,
and he braced himself against the oncoming horde. But even as he prepared for
battle, he noticed a change come over the faces of the attacking Meridellians.
Their eyes grew round and fearful as they beheld the towering spectre, and they
slowed their approach. Kass took the moment to gaze up at the spectre also,
and for the first time he noticed that it too appeared shocked, as though in
pain. It looked down at the Orb and tried to tear it from around its neck, but
the cord held fast.
"What- what is happening?"
it thundered, staggering to the center of the chamber. Impossible- his control
over the Orb was weakening! Slowly, he felt his body expand and grow impossibly
tall, the vessel for such evil increasing beyond his limits and was now on the
point of breaking. Without warning, he suddenly felt a great, ripping pain in
his entrails and a sensation of his heart rending in two. He yelled in anguish
as he felt the Orb's power spilling out of him, streaming rays of light into
"You have failed us, my friend," hissed an
insinuating voice within his head. The voices, the voices had returned! "You
know the price that we exact for such failure..."
"But worry not," said a second voice. "We
may not have use for you any longer, but there shall be another one... yes,
another greater even than you..."
"No! You cannot do this!" the spectre shrieked,
holding his head in pain from voices only he could hear. They had returned only
to mock him, to kill him…
"Farewell, Darigan." Greater and greater grew
the bursting force until at last a final surge of dark energy tore his very
"NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" The spectre's scream
echoed within the Citadel as the tower was blown apart by force of the explosion.
The Meridellians dropped to the floor and covered their heads from the swirling
debris tossed about in the still-spinning maelstrom. Through the cloud of dust
and smoke Kass dimly saw Master Vex, who had run in behind the Meridellian knights,
rise to his feet stiffly.
"Where is he? General Kass, is he- is Darigan
dead?" Vex questioned, shaken and dazed. Kass shook his head, his red eyes blank
"No... he can't be dead... it's impossible..."
"It's General Kass! Capture him, knights!"
a throaty voice bellowed, and Kass suddenly realized that King Skarl himself
had made it to the tower.
"You'll never get him or the Orb!" Vex growled,
facing Skarl's knights with a drawn sword. "Go, General Kass!" Kass fought off
a sword-blow from the Yellow Knight before spreading his wings to soar above
the scene of battle. Something told him that his lord and friend was not dead...
* * *
The howling wind tore at his weakened body
as he clung to the edge of the Citadel's steep cliff, seeming to him like the
edge of the world, and he stared down to the ground below. More dead than alive
he was; the tremendous explosion that should have killed him had instead thrown
him from the tower, stripped of all energy given by the now-destroyed Orb. Yet
he lived still. Breathing hard with the effort he dug his claws into the face
of the rock for a firmer hold, but the rock crumbled under his grip and sent
a spray of pebbles plummeting to earth. He gasped as he felt himself rapidly
slipping downward, and in desperation he scrabbled at the cliff with his feet
to climb back up, back to his beloved Citadel...
"Kass!" he cried, his voice nearly lost in
the wind. "Kass! Anyone, help me!" No one answered. He closed his eyes and waited
for death when suddenly-
"My lord!!" Bursting out of the ruined tower
Kass soared down to the edge of the castle wall from which his master dangled
"Fly back up, my lord!" Kass yelled as he
rapidly flew to his aid. But Darigan shook his head desperately, watching his
friend with eyes full of pain.
"I- I can't," he gasped. "My wings are broken-
please help me, Kass!"
Kass alighted on the edge of the wall and
caught hold of his master's hand just as he slid a few more inches down the
towering wall. With all his strength Kass pulled upwards; his master now hung
suspended in his grip by one arm over the sheer drop.
"Almost there... almost- arrggh!" Kass grunted;
a metal chain had suddenly whipped about his legs and held them fast. Caught
off balance, Kass fell and was nearly dragged over the wall by his master's
weight, but he did not loose his grip. Darigan's eyes widened fearfully.
"Look out, Kass, behind you!" Twisting his
head around Kass caught a glimpse of two Meridellian knights in the act of casting
a second chain.
"No!" Kass threw up his free arm to protect
his face, the chain intended for his neck wrapped instead about his wrist. The
first knight grinned maliciously.
"Now now, let's not try anything stupid,"
he chuckled. "Don't even try to save your leader."
"You can't stop me," Kass spat hatefully,
struggling against his bonds as he tried to pull his master over the wall. He
felt the chains bite into his flesh, cutting off the flow of blood. "He will
"Not if we can help it. We need you for the
surrender, but the Evil One must die. He is beyond saving." At his signal both
knights pulled hard on the chains. Kass was dragged to the ground and his numb
fingers suddenly loosed their grip...
He heard the raging scream and could only
watch helplessly as his master fell to Meridell, his broken wings useless to
bear him back.
To be continued...