The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Nine
The Dark Side of the World
-I advise you run- said a chilling voice behind Raatri-or was it in
his head? The Darigan Lupe shuddered, crimson eyes as wide as Avari's. He spun
around, then his eyes traveled up, and up, and up…
"Nightmare," Avari whispered behind him, looking
at the eight-foot tall creature standing before them. She continued to back
up along the trail. "Raatri…"
-You are strange- the Nightmare said,
its voice inside their heads rather than in their ears. It had little emotion
to it. -You are both from the Bright Side we have come to destroy-
Raatri began to back away, already knowing it
was too late. Blake's desire to kill him would be fulfilled not through the
assassin that he had sent, but through the Nightmare he had summoned. The Nightmare
took a step forward, his blackness sinking into the earth and turning it just
as black. On instinct Raatri stretched out his wings to make himself appear
larger than he was.
The Nightmare's red eyes watched the wings, and
it halted in its advance. "Raatri!" Avari shrilled, and he risked a glance over
his shoulder. What he saw made his heart stop. For now, not only did the Nightmare
loom over them, but the assassin as well.
Avari watched the Techo
assassin with her vivid blue eyes, never glancing away. She had seen how fast
he could move, and knew that the instant she looked away he would be on her.
She could only hold him at bay with her stare.
His skin was the blackest possible shade of black,
blacker than black, if that were possible. But compared to the Nightmares, his
scales were pure white, and theirs blackest black. How could anything not
reflect light, she wondered. Unless, of course, they are just pure evil.
"You will die first," the assassin hissed to
her. "Then your traitorous friend."
"I'm afraid you're wrong," she whispered back,
trying to keep the fear out of her voice. "You will be the first to die, and
we will live."
"The light will never win."
"Light chases darkness away," she said quietly.
Seeing the great black Nightmare out of the corner of her eye, Avari suddenly
had a plan. But how could she tell it to Raatri? Gulping down her fear, she
prepared to pounce at the assassin.
Raatri was rather surprised
to see the Nightmare's reaction to his pair of wings. The Nightmare seemed to
never have seen such things before. He backed up two more steps, wings arched
above him, and found that he was caught in the Nightmare's stare. Suddenly he
felt drowsy, drifting…
"Raatri!" Avari cried. He snapped back to the
world. Turning away from the Nightmare, he found that Avari had the assassin's
head pinned under her paws and against the ground. Though the Techo tried to
squirm away, and clawed ruthlessly at her legs and belly, she continued to keep
his head secure. "Raatri, run now! I'll catch up!"
Without another thought, he charged down the
path. Avari obviously had a plan. All he wanted right now was to be back at
home in his room, staring down and wishing he knew more of the world. Nothing
more. Not this. Then he realized that if he had stayed at home in the Citadel,
he would be dead now. By Blake's hand, at a duel that never happened.
Once Raatri raced past
Avari, she kicked one of her free legs into the ground, at the same time letting
the assassin go. He cried out when the dust reached his eyes, trying to blink
it out without success. Avari stared at him for an instant, shocked that her
plan had worked, when movement caught the corner of her eye. She turned to face
the eight-foot Nightmare.
Up, and up, and up it went. She stared, mouth
opening as her eyes traveled up the colossal creature. Her blue eyes met its
red ones, and she felt herself suddenly freeze.
-Then you must die- it said quietly. -Brave
thing you did, saving your friend. Though not brave enough to save you-
"Avari!" a voice called sharply to her. She snapped
out of the trance, feeling ashamed she had fallen into it. Without another glance
at the creature or at the squirming assassin, she spun around and charged away,
dust flying in her wake.
didn't really mind that the first two had escaped, for they hadn't been of the
Dark Side. They were light-dwellers headed for the dark side of the world, and
they would not survive.
Though the creature before it did not look like
a Nightmare, it knew that the Light creature was too dark to be truly of Light.
It could feel the creature's outermost thoughts, and they were all evil, dark,
and murderous. Though it respected such a creature, the Nightmare would not
allow the light-dweller to live.
"Brother," the creature hissed. "Dark one."
-How dare you call me kin?- the Nightmare
said, furious and humiliated at the same time. -You are a Light-dweller,
and you must die-
"Though I be born of the light side, I follow
only Blake, who summoned you."
Truth skirted the creature's emotions, and the
Nightmare found itself believing the light-dweller. -Blake is your master-
It was not a question. -Where go ye?-
"I go to assassinate the dark prince you let
escape," the light-dweller replied in his venomous voice. "If he returns, he
will destroy Blake's plans."
The Nightmare decided then. He could destroy
all three light-dwellers without laying a single finger on them. Even if the
assassin were to succeed in destroying the other light-dwellers, the creature
would never make it back alive.
Even though the pair
was exhausted, Raatri and Avari both ran their hardest until nightfall, several
hours away. That left them right at a place they were unable to describe with
words, but knew it exactly for what it was: the border that separated the light
side of the world from the dark.
Never before had either seen such a striking
border, and even in the fading twilight the two could discern the place where
the light side ended and the dark side began. First there was yellow-white sand
from the extents of the Lost Desert… and then, there was only black, black for
as far as the eye could see.
The line that separated the two worlds was not
perfectly straight. It resembled best a wave from the sea, lapping and rising
on pale sands; though this wave was eternally frozen. Light and dark, an uneven
line that swayed back and forth to the horizon to the south, up the mountainside
to the north. Was the entire Nightmare realm black as this? Was this the place
they were condemned to search?
Raatri looked out over the opposing lands one
last time in the last flicker of daylight. Tomorrow, they would enter that realm.
He knew in his heart that while they were in there, they would not see the sun,
for the skies were pure gray and black, and there didn't even seem to be clouds.
That's just the way the sky was… and it made his heart freeze to know that his
destiny would lead him there.
He turned back to his companion, who was curled
up in a corner formed by a large crevice in the mountainside, eyes closed and
head resting on her paws, purposefully not looking to the place they would enter
at daybreak. He knew that she was still awake. As watched her, he thought about
how brave she was. First, defying her knight-masters to save someone she didn't
know, someone she was taught to hate. She had given up her hope to become a
knight, for him. It hadn't stopped there, though. She had thrown herself into
this quest, knowing the dangers that might come and still not backing away.
Through it all, she had constantly kept her eye on him, protecting him, even
to the point that she had almost lost her life again just to save him.
"How did you pin down Zev?" Raatri asked her,
laying down a few feet in front of her. "He was always the fastest in the Citadel."
She opened her blue eyes, and a small smile lit
her face. She lifted her head and began speaking. "The Citadel is not the world,
you know. Zev was an assassin. He was trained to be quick and deadly. He was
trained to use other's mistakes. That does not make him the quickest or the
deadliest. That doesn't mean he himself can't make mistakes. I simply diverted
his attention to the Nightmare for an instant, and took opportunity of it."
"What of your wounds?" he asked. "Zev hurt you
She shifted in response, and winced slightly.
"I'm not quite sure. The dust from the run sealed them, though not in the type
of seal I would prefer."
It had now become so dark that he could only
see two sapphires that were her eyes, and she the two rubies of his. Though
he could not see her, the past few months had taught him how to decipher the
tones of her voice.
"Speak only truth, squire," the minion said quietly.
He could almost feel her stunned silence, and he grinned secretly to himself
in the darkness.
"I will go with you as far as I can," she sighed.
"I'm just not sure how long that will be, now."
He nodded, though he knew she couldn't see it.
"You're hurt badly."
She sighed. "Yes. I'll live, though. I'll just
be weak for the next few days, nothing more. That charge was hard on me."
She chuckled slightly. "You see? You'll be a
hero in no time. I'm not too sure a true demon would be rueful for the conditions
of a Meridellian."
"It truly is a Land
of Nightmare," whispered Avari. Last night, she had been too exhausted from
their long and harrowing flight that the only thing she could think of when
they finally stopped was to find a spot as far from the desert as possible.
Now, looking out over the land, she saw for the first time what Raatri had vaguely
discerned the previous night: a visible separation of pale sands and dark shadows.
"Let's go," Raatri said quietly, inwardly screaming
disagreement with such a proposal. Beyond that border, he could tell, was Nightmare,
darkness, and death. No light-dweller could ever survive.
The two carefully picked their way down the long
and winding slope, slightly surprised at how steep it seemed. An hour or so
later their feet walked through hard, grinding sand that scrapped at them like
a thousand tiny knifes. Breathing deeply, looking to the world they dared trespass,
Avari and Raatri found themselves unable to move forward.
After a while of staring at the great and implacable
black shadow before them, Avari finally brought them out of their trance. "Come
on," she said. "We'll get nothing done by just standing here."
Still, it was several minutes before they walked
There were many differences in feeling when they
finally stepped into the other side of the world. First was the sight: from
light to an incurable darkness. Looking back toward the light side, they were
vaguely able to see the sands they had just passed from. It was like they had
stepped into a fog they would never be free from again.
Sounds were different as well. There seemed to
be a low moaning, as if a slight breeze in the distance were scraping across
the land in a long, mournful sweep. Even with that dull moaning, there seemed
to be a great droning silence; silence so great, they wanted to scream out and
break it. Even the smell was different: rusty, moldy, and yet at the same time
numbing; and then no smell at all.
Then there was the feeling in their very skin.
It felt cool and sticky, like dewdrops of wet glue, and yet there was no moisture
in the air. It felt like grasping hands pulling them down. The land beneath
their feet felt solid one instant, the next like sand giving way, the next like
it would not support anything at all.
The worst change of all was to their minds and
to their hearts. Despair filled them, making them want to turn around and flee.
It pressed down upon them like a giant and invisible hand, making them feel
hopeless and weak, telling them over and over again to turn around. Go home,
it said to them. Go home.
Lowering their heads as if they were facing a
great wind, they slowly made their way into the land of Nightmare. Just then
did it cross their minds that though the Seer had told them where to go, she
had not told them where Darigan was kept. Even a single castle had a thousand
places to hide in. They now faced an entire side of a world.
To be continued...