The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part One
Note – this is the third of the Chronicles of Knight Trilogy. The first part, The Knight Within, was published in issues 178-189, and its sequel Rebuilding the Forsaken may be found in issues 193-196. Reading these will aptly prepare you for this third and final installment of the Chronicles.
A soft breeze ran its fingers through fields of wheat and berries, brushing past a potato farm and its farmer before returning to the sky that had created it. On a knoll not far away stood a solitary figure that had once struck fear into the hearts of the farmer-citizens of Meri Acres Farm, yet that was a legacy of the past. The time when Darigan minions had been considered demons and monsters was over, ever since Darigan himself had returned from the dead some six years before.
The Darigan Lupe closed his crimson eyes and remembered that time. He had been a prince, yet the throne had been stolen from him by the enemy who had destroyed his father and mother and siblings. For years he had lived under shadow, a forgotten ruler that was nevertheless carefully watched by the usurper. The Lupe wondered briefly why Blake had never destroyed him in the first place. It would have been easier to destroy a scared little pup than wait for the time when that pup would grow and fight back.
He sighed. The Seer had stayed Blake’s murderous hand, and that was the reason he had grown up in a shadowed world, knowing of his legacy yet unable to obtain it. He wondered why Blake had never sent one of his assassins after him. That would have been an easy solution. Techo assassins were quick and efficient, and Blake’s pets were trained by a murderer’s hand. No one would have known. Not even the Seer.
He opened his eyes and looked to the sunset, not noticing the whisper of a breeze touch his fur. He was so tired. Ever since he had stolen a pile of papers and betrayed Blake, he had been on guard and on the run. He had saved both Meridell and the Citadel, and had been knighted as a result – a Darigan minion as a knight of Meridell, connecting both in an unforgettable legacy. Even long after he had died it would be remembered that Meridell and the Citadel had been connected in some way, even if in the future they were enemies again.
He supposed it was the reason for his knighthood.
He had been excited when he had been knighted. It had shown to him his path, the path that he was meant to take. Yet never before had there been a Darigan knight of Meridell – never before. He was a first, and he was having a hard time being accepted.
He blinked and looked away, the soft breeze bringing to him the sounds of someone approaching. The fading light of the setting sun revealed a familiar shape – the strong form of his best friend, a knight like him.
“Thinking again, Raatri?” she asked quietly, sitting next to him and watching the sunset. He turned his eyes back to the colorful ending of day.
“I suppose so,” his deep voice rumbled quietly.
He heard her sigh. “Leland told me I was worthless today, since I couldn’t save that child who was caught by that mad Tonu.”
“That wasn’t your fault, you know,” he said, looking to her intensely. “The Tonu was insane, and the child was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t think many would be able to do as much as you did.”
She looked at him sadly for a moment. “Raatri, should I really be a knight?”
He blinked, startled. “Of course you should, Avari! You are one of Meridell’s greatest knights, even if Leland says you’re worthless. Don’t let him bother you. What did Vladimir say about the Tonu incident?”
She shook her head. “He said I was brave. He always says that. No one else does, except you and maybe one or two others. Am I really qualified to be a knight?”
“Avari,” he said, rising and standing before her, his red eyes gazing intently into her blue ones. There he saw all her anguish – all the hurt of the past six years revealed to him alone. He realized in that instant that he didn’t have it as bad as she did. Although he was a first, the first Darigan knight of Meridell, he seemed to be accepted because of the peace between Meridell and the Citadel – at least accepted enough that he didn’t receive many complaints or attacks.
Yet Avari was different. She was the first female knight, and there was nothing except her skills and bravery to qualify her for that, at least at first glance. Anyone who knew her true story would have no doubt of her right to be a knight. Her parents had filled her with the desire – her knighted father had told her over and over that she would be his squire. When her parents had died to protect her from a demon attack, she had fled to Meridell, where her desire to become a knight was scoffed at until she eventually became the squire of Aleron and Tamal. She had stayed a squire for years past the required amount, for neither of her knight-masters wanted to create a female knight. Then she had met him, a minion of the Citadel, and saved him from death, nearly risking everything she had ever wanted. She had come with him to fulfill his destiny because she believed in him, and had faced Nightmares and assassins as a result. In the end, she had nearly given her life to save him, fighting Zev the king of assassins while he fought Blake. Darigan had commended her bravery and chivalry to Vladimir the new king, and she and Raatri both had been knighted.
Yet just as soon as she was knighted, the attacks had come. Few believed in her right to be a knight, and Leland was at the head of the group of those that constantly wore her down with complaints and taunts. Now, six years after her knighthood, she seemed to feel as if nothing mattered anymore – her parent’s sacrifice or her journey with him, her bravery and her chivalry, her old passion to become a knight all would remember...
He supposed, thinking about it, that the true wearing down hadn’t begun until a year after they had been knighted. She had withstood all the attacks until that point, and had remained strong and true and mostly sure of herself. Yet when that time had come...
He sighed as he remembered it, looking into the sapphire eyes so filled with despair that his heart began to ache. She needed something – something great – that would prove to Meridell and to herself that she deserved to be a knight.
Five years before was when the major attack had occurred. Raatri and Avari had been talking in one of the fields of Meridell, a quiet place away from the busy city. Both had suddenly fallen into a deep slumber, transported to a dark and cold place that neither could escape from. Both had been alone – though they had called to each other. In the end, the calling to each other had brought them out of the nightmare, for they had followed the sound of the other’s voice until they came to a light that returned them to their own world.
Yet the nightmare had continued even after they had awaken, for they quickly discovered that the impossible had happened – the black Darigan Lupe had become like a normal Darigan Lupe, and the royal blue Lupe with black markings had become a normal blue Lupe.
They had stared at each other for a while, and talked for a moment before returning to the castle. None had recognized them at first – and then none had believed them.
Vladimir was the first to believe that they were what they said, for he noticed the scar on the Darigan Lupe’s muzzle and the mysterious glint of silver light in his crimson eyes. As for Avari, he recognized the conviction in her heart, even past her shock at her new appearance. After he declared who they were, publicly, the taunting had begun.
To this day Raatri wasn’t sure why they had taunted them so much, for the two newest knights were one step closer to being ‘normal’ than they had been. They had called the pair cowardly – and who would want a cowardly knight? They had called the pair inconsistent – for who would stand so proudly and then shed the mark of difference away?
Perhaps the deepest blow had come to Avari, however. Raatri, once past his immediate shock, didn’t truly mind that he was changed, for the black coat had only been part of an ancient prophecy he had already fulfilled. But Avari...
Avari, he believed, had been told constantly by her parents how unique she was, how she would be the girl who became a knight. He believed that her royal-blue coat had been included in that picture, and losing the pelt had been like losing her parents and their dream all over again.
He had tried to tell her that appearances didn’t matter – after all, he was Darigan and she a female, yet both were knights. He recalled for her that the spirit of the knight wasn’t judged by what they looked like, but by the fact that they had the heart of a knight within. She believed him somewhat, and had risen from her grief for the most part, yet the wound had always remained. Whoever had performed that curse had crippled her somewhat, even to this day.
Avari now didn’t believe she should be a knight.
To be continued...