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Darigan's Truce: Part Six


by darkwater_nereid

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The scream echoed in Darigan's ears even as he jolted awake, drenched in sweat. Breathing hard he sat upright in bed and waited until he felt the fearful pounding of his heart return to normal. He passed a hand over his eyes and sighed deeply; his body trembled as the images of his dream played before his closed eyelids. Unable to sleep, he sat in sad meditation of his past for half and hour, unmoving and silent as a stone.

     A warm draft wafted through the open window of the chamber and fluttered the curtains, bringing with it the moist scents of nighttime. Drawn to the soft, encompassing darkness he knew and loved Darigan stirred from bed and leaned out of the tower window. The warm air breezed against his face and bare chest as he inhaled the smell of damp earth and the heavy perfume of nocturnal flowers. The peaceful silence was broken by the repetitive chirping of insects in the exquisite gardens below. He watched as the imposing skyline of the distant Citadel appeared, a black silhouette drifting slowly across the face of the full yellow moon. Skarl had allowed Darigan, and, at Darigan's urging, Sally's family, to stay at Meridell Castle until the morning and the signing of the treaty. The treaty…

     Feeling wide-awake now, Darigan wished to leave his chambers and take a walk through the castle's corridors, for he was restless and wished to lay to rest the memories that troubled him. He did this often, and it was not unusual for the Citadel's night-watchman to see his lord glide past phantom-like to stand motionless upon the summit of his tower, his spreading ears and lithe batlike form giving him a powerfully dignified air as he surveyed his realm. Pulling his robe about him he opened the chamber door to observe a Draik guard leaning on his spear, snoring quietly. Darigan smiled to himself and passed by as soundlessly as a shadow, seeing as clearly in the dark as any other creature could in the day. He moved smoothly on silent feet, his robe whispering softly about his legs with each stride.

     After a time he came to a long eastward-facing corridor with a series of high windows on his left. The moonlight filtered through the glass and fell upon the carpeted floor in long rectangles of pale blue light, illuminating a set of oil portraits on the opposite wall. This must be the famous Hall of Portraits, he thought. Darigan occupied himself for several minutes looking at these portraits, which turned out to be likenesses of the Meridellian royal family and ancestors of Skarl from generations long past. He followed the progression of time down the length of the corridor, from the earliest rulers to a large gilt-framed portrait of King Skarl himself. He stood looking at the smirking portrait of his former enemy for several minutes before facing the long, translucent blue windows that opened to the eastern turret. In the center of this corridor an arched doorway opened to a walled-in stone terrace above one of the royal chambers. He wondered if his host would mind very much if he were to wander the castle's ramparts as he did back home whenever he could not sleep, but decided against it and simply walked onto the terrace and stood still, turning his gaze instead to the twinkling stars and Kreludor the yellow moon. For a long time he stood motionless, still pondering his nightmare and the disquieting memories that had remained buried inside him for years. His unquiet thoughts wandered into the deepest of inescapable realms, like the hero of their ancient lore who traveled for years in the Forest of Night in search of his beloved, never to return. His eyes suddenly filled with bitter tears, tears that had since remained unshed now ran down his thin cheeks in glistening streams as he remembered everything...

     A slow chuckling from behind him in the corridor instantly brought him from his grief and he whirled about, staring into the shadows. He saw nothing, but the chuckling grew louder, slow and grating as from the depths of an ancient beast's throat.

     "Who goes there?" Darigan breathed, his eyes narrowed. He came away from the balcony and stared down both ends of the corridor suspiciously. The chuckling had ceased.

     "Show yourself!" he demanded of the silence. In answer, a dark, squat shape loomed from the shadows directly before him and hobbled into the moonlight. Two yellowed tusks shone palely as the creature grinned and said in a measured, contemptuous drawl:

     "All hail Darigan, master of the realm." Darigan recoiled; he knew that voice all too well.

     "Morguss!" he hissed. The throaty chuckling began again.

     "Correct, Draconis," said the voice, and Darigan frowned at the use of his given name. "It is Morguss. Come closer so that we may greet each other after all these years."

     "How did you get here?" Darigan demanded, not moving from where he stood. The ancient Moehog, stooped with age, stepped closer into the circle of light and removed the hood that covered her face. She peered up at her former master with clouded yellow eyes, long obscured by cataracts, and a mocking smile deformed her hideous features.

          "I have my ways," she chuckled. "But why does my lord weep? It could not be that he knew I was coming to see him, no, for there are many things he knows not. Is he mourning his old friend? Perhaps that is it. Wherefore these tears, Draconis Darigan?"

     "Call me not by my old name, Morguss," Darigan said in thinly-veiled contempt. "I am not Draconis any longer." Morguss laughed softly.

     "But my lord, I knew you before you ever took the name of Darigan, founder and first ruler of our realm," the sorceress replied. "And like all the other lords that followed him and took his name out of respect, you had a given name, and Draconis you shall remain to me."

     "Why have you come here?" The ugly smile faded from Morguss' face at these words and she narrowed her eyes keenly, as though trying to clear away the film that covered them.

     "I have something you want, my lord," she whispered. "Something that you have desired for some time..."

     "I want no part of your deals, Morguss," Darigan interrupted, drawing himself higher. "You may have advised me in my rule once, but that was long ago and I was young. Now I know you cannot be trusted." His words had their effect; Morguss scowled angrily and reached into the folds of her dirty brown robe. Reflexively Darigan reached for his belt only to remember he had left his sword in the bed-chamber. The gesture did not go unnoticed; Morguss eyed him calculatingly and slowly drew something from her robe, but it was not her wand.

     "So I cannot be trusted?" she said. "Believe me when I say that now both of us are unarmed. I did not risk my life coming here to threaten my lord, however inexperienced he may be." Darigan ignored the comment; Morguss had always considered him to be unfit to rule while she had been his adviser.

     "Then why did you come to Meridell Castle, on the truce-day no less?" he said. "Why couldn't you have waited until I returned to the Citadel? You might have held conference with me there." Morguss smirked.

     "You were always so naive, Draconis," she sneered. "You think I would have come here for that reason alone? I came also to free my daughter."

     "Your daughter-" Darigan stiffened. "The one they call the Court Dancer? She is here?"

     "Her name is Tafindra!" Morguss snorted. "She shall not be referred to by that vulgar name-"

     "Know your place, Morguss, if you know to whom you speak." Morguss glowered poisonously but only continued in a calmer tone, glancing into the shadows once or twice.

     "Tafindra has been a prisoner ever since she was revealed to Skarl's court. The swine showed her no mercy." She shook her head scornfully. "She had been tied hand and foot in the dungeons to keep her from dancing, as though they feared she would attempt it again, pah! She would have soon been executed if not for me." Morguss sneered and made as if to spit on the floor, but then glanced into the shadows again. This time Darigan heard a slight rustling, perhaps the sound of breathing. His nostrils flared.

     "Who is there?" The old sorceress sighed heavily and motioned with her hoof into the dark.

     "Tafindra my child. Come forward and greet your lord."

     Out of the darkness came a short intake of breath and the sound of reluctant feet on the carpet. Hesitantly, a shape appeared from behind Morguss and resolved itself into the cloaked figure of Tafindra. The young Aisha gazed in fear at the imposing silhouette of Lord Darigan before coming forward to bow tremblingly at his feet.

     "I- I am in your service, my lord," she whispered, her forehead nearly touching the floor in her reverence.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Darigan's Truce: Part One
» Darigan's Truce: Part Two
» Darigan's Truce: Part Three
» Darigan's Truce: Part Four
» Darigan's Truce: Part Five



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