Darigan's Truce: Part Two
He stood brooding at the high window of his tower chamber,
arms folded sternly as he regarded the green fields of Meridell miles below. His
enormous Korbat ears, drawn back in contemplation, could hear the faint purring
of machinery deep within the dark bowels of the Citadel. It was a sound familiar
to him, and seemed now to offer welcoming after his long absence. His pet Drackonack
played at his feet, but for the moment he ignored it, for other things were weighing
heavy on his mind. Absently he swished his tail in graceful arcs across the stone
floor as the Drackonack bounded after it playfully.
He shut his eyes and listened to the machinery's
monotonous, calming thrum, and reflected. So. Everything was once again in order...
"Lord Darigan." The voice roused him from his
thoughts. He turned from the window to face General Galgarrath, clad in the
traditional black and gold armor of formal occasions. Galgarrath bowed before
his lord and crossed his arms over his chest in fealty.
"My lord, the ceremonies are about to begin."
Darigan approached the bowing general, his noble black robes gliding about him.
"Rise, Galgarrath," he said, and placed a thin
hand on the Grarrl's bulky shoulder to acknowledge his gesture of loyalty. "One
who has been so faithful to me in the past need not bow before me now."
Galgarrath rose to his feet, limping slightly
on his right leg, and smiled gratefully. "Thank you, my lord. It is good to
have our true leader back again," he said.
"Yes, Galgarrath. The Citadel's leader is in
his rightful place again. And you as well- I understand that you had also suffered
a- certain fall while Kass was in my place."
"Yes my lord." The Grarrl looked down ruefully
at his injured leg. "What he said was true, it is a long way down to Meridell..."
"Indeed." Darigan said nothing more of Kass for
the moment. I do not wish to remember him that way... He sighed and resumed
his staring out the window. "I must confess to you, Galgarrath, that I was never
one for ceremony. I almost wish these formalities were not necessary..."
Galgarrath joined him at the window, his hands
clasped behind his back. "It must be, my lord. The people have waited for this
day a long while. We cannot simply announce a truce without a celebration."
"I know," Darigan replied, and the general fancied
he saw a faint smile play about Darigan's lips. "I too, have looked for cause
for celebration, for a long, long time. My world has been dark for so long,
I have nearly forgotten what it means to be glad."
"Don't be troubled, my lord. The most important
thing is that your people are strongly behind you. Their loyalty and trust should
ease your mind."
"It should." Darigan glanced out the window.
"Yet I am still troubled. I suppose I'm tired, that's all. I'm not usually awake
at this hour. What is the time?"
"The hour grows late, my lord," Galgarrath said.
"It is nearing noontime." Darigan met his gaze and smiled sleepily, and in this
light Galgarrath could see his half-closed eyelids were shaded over with the
dark pall of the sleep-deprived.
"You forget, General, that I am a Korbat after
all." His eyes squeezed shut as his last words were nearly swallowed in a wide
yawn. "I should be asleep now. But no matter. We have been so preoccupied these
past few days that it's a wonder either of us can sleep at all."
Galgarrath nodded. A long pause followed as both
general and lord gazed sternly at the bright gleaming castle of Meridell in
the distance, joyful banners unfurled from the ramparts in anticipation of the
festivities. A crowd was gathering at the castle gates and along the sides of
the procession route below, waiting to catch a glimpse of the meeting of the
two leaders. From the courtyard, Darigan heard a sort of rag-tag celebratory
chant beginning from a large assembled group, singing loudly in hopes that their
praise might reach the ears of their leader. Darigan smiled; he heard.
Who was it that returned from war
Much greater than he was before?
Who was it that defeated Kass
And broke the spell like it was glass?
The Citadel is yours again
We stand together now as friends
On this truce-day!
On this truce-day!
Peace with Meridell shall last
As sure as war has indeed passed
"You see, my lord?" Galgarrath said as the singing
dissolved into laughter and blended with the rest of the general shouting. "Our
people have faith in you. They are glad at your return."
"Your words comfort me, Galgarrath," Lord Darigan
replied. "But I can only hope that all goes well." He continued to stare to
the south where Meridell Castle stood. How often I have looked at Meridell
from here, Darigan thought, yet never before with the intent of peace.
He broke from his reverie and turned to Galgarrath.
"Well, General," he said. "The time has come
at last. You may leave for the Great Hall. I will join you presently."
"As you wish, my lord. Shall I bring your staff
"Ah, thank you, Galgarrath, but I will take it."
The Staff of Darigan, a long wooden stave with a circle of upward-pointing claws
at its head, was the symbolic emblem of leadership, wielded by all previous
lords of the realm since it was founded. General Galgarrath bowed once more
and approached the iron-bound doors of the chamber.
"And Galgarrath?" The general stopped and faced
his lord again.
"Take care of Dornig while I'm gone, would you?"
He picked up the Drackonack still playing at his feet and patted it gently.
"He gets so lonely without me." Galgarrath smiled as he watched Darigan's favorite
pet gnaw on his master's fingers.
"I will, my lord. Good fortune." He left to join
the head of the procession that would see his master off.
Darigan put Dornig on the floor, wiped the pet's
drool from his fingers and took one last look at Meridell before gliding across
the room to his table spread with the treaties of peace and papers of amnesty.
Also lain out upon this table were his ceremonial robes and sword, only used
for formal occasions. He gathered in his hands the long pure white robes, the
very ones he had worn in his realm's golden days before the Blight, and reverently
he fingered the rich fabric and traced the patterned lines of bright green spreading
upon the collar's field of gold. Yet as he prepared to doff his black robes
and put on this stunning garment, his hand was suddenly arrested by the thought
of his own people giving their lives so that they might have peace again, so
that their land might be unspoiled as it once was. In sight of these things,
the act of putting on the regal robes seemed vanity, as though thousands died
for that purpose alone, and in that instant a wave of shame swept over his heart.
Glancing away from the robes he happened to catch his own reflection in the
polished sword-blade on the table. The face that looked back at him was proud,
angular and thin, yet no longer the fiendish skull. His yellow eyes had lost
the mad glint of power and were steady and unwavering in their gaze, in a way
stronger and nobler than ever before. Yet even as he looked at himself, he looked
within and knew that he was deeply flawed.
"No," he whispered, placing the robes on the
table again. "My mistakes cost my people peace to begin with. I do not deserve
these. I can never wear these robes again." Sadly he turned from the white raiment
and reached for the hilt of the sword, a sharp thin brand of silver gilded with
Darigan's insignia upon the unspoiled blade. The hilt-guard was fashioned in
the shape of two dark spreading wings, meant to represent his own, and the grip
was colored in the deepest shades of purple and black. This light sword was
not intended for battle, yet like all the weapons forged in his realm, it gave
forth a strange and beautiful dark aura intended to strike fear into the heart
of an enemy. But this sword would never again be used to intimidate. He took
hold of this graceful sword and lifted it, watching the sunlight play and sparkle
off its edges.
"I shall lead my people once again to peace,"
he said in a low voice, addressing his reflection. "Never again shall they know
war or fear." He sheathed the blade in the decorative scabbard at his side,
took hold of his carven staff and strode silently towards the chamber doors.
Dornig barked and began to follow.
"No, Dornig," Darigan said firmly, and he knelt
to scratch the spines along the petpet's back. "I'm afraid I can't bring you
with me this time." The Drackonack whined mournfully.
"Don't worry, Galgarrath's taking care of you
while I'm gone. I'll come back soon, you'll see." He gave the Drackonack a final
pat and swept through the vaulted doors of his chamber, and listened in pity
as poor Dornig whined and scratched at the door as it shut behind him.
The two Eyrie guards that stood outside the doors
accompanied their lord as he made his descent down the stairs of the tower to
the Great Hall. As they drew closer to the center of the Citadel, the faint
thrum of machinery grew slightly louder, but to Darigan's ears alone. A blast
on a trumpet could be heard from within the Hall, and a herald announced his
lord as he entered: "All hail Darigan, master of the realm!" Robed in staid
purple and black, the officials, guards and generals of the realm that were
to accompany their lord to Meridell stood stiffly at attention before him. Darigan
caught the eye of a scowling Master Vex standing in his place beside the city's
sheriff. At his gaze Vex raised an eyebrow and bowed his head respectfully.
Now the standard-bearers had begun to file in
along both sides of the hall, their spears adorned with the realm's colors:
at the tip of the spear fluttered the newer purple flag adopted during the first
war, but below it was the ancient flag of green and gold, reminders of their
golden age. On they marched to the cadence of drums and the celebratory blare
of trumpets. It was a dignified yet rapturous march, no longer weighted down
by sorrow, and all were filled with gladness at the sound. Darigan watched the
procession make its way to the great entrance of the Citadel itself, his heart
stirred by the ancient music signaling happiness for his people. The heavy doors
were at last opened and the clear light of day streamed into the lofty Hall.
Darigan raised his hand and the march momentarily ceased.
"Let us go forth," he said, his deep, resonant
voice echoing in the Hall, "and begin anew. Let this be a day long remembered
by our people. This shall be a day of joy." He placed his right fist over his
heart in the traditional salute and bowed his head.
"Hail Darigan!" The generals and guards returned
the salute and parted their ranks to allow Darigan to lead them. This he did,
striding to the head of the procession and signaling for the music to begin
again. Flanked by Galgarrath on his right and Master Vex on his left, Lord Darigan
led his procession out of the Citadel, marching to the rousing cadence of the
A grand sight greeted the eyes of Darigan's people
as the procession passed out of the Citadel, and they cheered to see the waving
standards and to hear the stirring music. All had gathered at the castle gate
to see the departure of their beloved leader, returned to them after so many
years of hardship and want. As the procession passed down the steps and through
the gates the crowd pressed forward to greet their lord, uttering joyous cries
of adoration. Darigan greeted them all and waved as he passed through the main
thoroughfare. Though his bearing was somber as his position demanded, some would
later recount that tears stood in his eyes as he saluted his people that day.
When the procession reached the gates of the
floating city, Galgarrath stepped aside to let the captain of the Eyrie guard
take his place at Darigan's right side, for he would not be joining the delegation-
in the lord's absence, the eldest general ruled in his stead. The other Eyrie
guard that followed behind Lord Darigan, one Sergeant Falke, now prepared to
bear Master Vex to Meridell. He stepped forward and knelt for him to mount upon
his shoulders. Vex did not appear at all pleased on having to ride on the back
of an Eyrie, but then again he was rarely pleased to venture anywhere outside
"Er- are ye flying down yerself, m'lord?" questioned
the Eyrie captain.
"Of course, Captain Rhyf," Darigan replied. "When
I someday require assistance to fly, I will request it. But I am still strong."
He stretched out the bones of his leathery wings and flapped them a few times
in preparation for the flight.
"Couldn't we lower the Citadel instead? It might
be easier for some of us," gulped Vex as he peered down at the verdant fields
of Meridell from Falke's back.
"Too late, Vex, ye should've thought of that,"
Rhyf said, grinning. "'Course ye could just jump down..."
"No! No no." Vex shook his head emphatically
and clung tighter to the Eyrie's mane. "This is fine, Captain Rhyf, just fine..."
The city gates were opened and Darigan stepped
to the very edge of his domain, where the paving-stones met the green fields
that ringed the Citadel. A gentle breeze flowed around him and fluttered the
edges of his robes. Looking down from the great height of his city, his heart
leapt in his chest and he took a deep, calming breath. In your memory, my
friend, I now go forth.
"Farewell, Galgarrath," he said, addressing his
faithful general. "I know I'm leaving the Citadel in good hands." Galgarrath
saluted as Lord Darigan sprang into the air; his outspread wings caught the
breeze and lifted him above the ground.
"To Meridell!" he cried, holding his staff aloft.
Rhyf, Falke and four Skeith standard-bearers followed him as the noise of the
cheering crowd swelled to its peak, wishing their leader good fortune for the
journey. With a powerful beat of their wings the delegation veered left and
swooped down to Meridell as one, following Darigan's lead.
To be continued...