The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Eleven
Last Hope Left
Even as Raatri, Avari, and Darigan took off from their
sandy mountain perch, and Tamal gleaned the glory of having slain a demon, Aleron
and Vladimir were still deep in discussion about Avari.
"She had a great dream," said Vladimir for the
thousandth time. "To become a knight when that was the greatest thing denied
"To endure for years the torture Tamal and I
put her through," added Aleron sadly. "We would tease her and make her heart
break, and yet she would still continue on. I overheard her speaking to herself
one time, just after Tamal and I took her as a squire. She said something like:
'See, Father? I'll be a knight, just like you wanted me to be.' She never told
Tamal or I about this; we never asked. Something is guiding her, filling her
with the desire to be knighted. And then there is Raatri, hero inside a demon.
He risked his life to warn us, and yet I wouldn't listen. Avari alone, true
knight in heart if not in name, was the only one able to see past the minion's
crimson eyes. Both are now off on a quest they may never return from… but must."
There were a few moments of silence. Vladimir
smiled sadly. "Then there is one conclusion I must draw from all of this," he
said softly, breaking the silence, looking out the small barred window. "Raatri
and Avari both, with his destiny and her fervor… They are the last hope left."
Flight made travel much
quicker than originally thought, and so the many miles past beneath them at
speeds earthbound feet could only dream. Without really meaning to, the exhausted
and weak Avari drifted off to sleep in Darigans hands.
"She's asleep," Darigan said softly, looking
at the Lupe he held.
"Really?" Raatri sighed. "She's badly hurt, but
she just won't openly admit it. A few days ago when we were passing the Army,
a Nightmare commander spotted us. He came upon us and tried to destroy us, and
then Zev the Wolf came. We were surrounded, and then Avari trapped Zev under
her paws so I could escape. Zev clawed her viciously, yet she wouldn't back
down until I was safely away. She's a true knight, Darigan. She just hasn't
been knighted yet."
"How old is she?" Darigan asked.
"About my age, I suppose. I know what you're
thinking. She's rather old now to become a knight. She said that she should've
been knighted two winters ago, and yet her knight-masters held her back. She
believes that they will hold her back again this year."
"Tell me a bit about her, and yourself. I could
see from the fire in her eyes that she was determined to help you in any way
that she could."
"First, I must tell you how I learned of Blake's-the
king of the Citadel now-plans. We are trapped now in our home, unable to protest,
locked away at dark. One night I decided that I didn't want to waste away in
my room. I went for a stroll…"
"…And though she refuses to admit it, Avari
is very ill. I can see it in her eyes, in the way she carefully guards herself.
And yet, she refuses to back away. She wants to come with me. She told me once
that she wanted to become a knight. In the way that she said it she didn't mean
that she wanted to be knighted. She told me that a person can swear themselves
to valor and chivalry without ever having a sword brought to their shoulders.
She doesn't care if her name isn't recorded. She only wants to be what her father
wanted her to be. She will stop at nothing."
"I admire your friend and her dream. When Blake
is gone and I am tied to the Citadel trying to heal it, Meridell will need its
own true knights to build it back up as well. I will speak with Aleron and Tamal
about Avari, and perhaps persuade them to let her become what Meridell needs."
When the Nightmare commander had freed him, Zev
the Viper had followed the path of the pair for a way, but then doubled back
and headed for the Citadel. If the pair survived the wasteland, they would be
met by him. They wouldn't escape this time. He traveled so fast in the direction
of the Citadel that one might think he used magic.
A black line appeared on the horizon some hours
later, growing steadily larger as the trio flew on. It was not like the uneven
borderline that separated the two sides of the world: it was straight, even,
and disciplined. As it grew the two winged ones discerned the steady throb of
a controlled march.
"It's the Army," remarked Raatri quietly. "They
"What do you mean?" asked Darigan, equally quiet.
"They should have been much farther than this,
or at least I think so. We should fly around them, next to the mountainside."
The two headed for the mountains at an angle,
hopefully high enough in the sky that the Army wouldn't spot them. They continued
a steady flight, watching as blackness steadily covered the land to their right.
Soon all they could see was the monstrous black mass that seemed to swallow
For many hours they traveled like that, until
at last there was a light on the horizon. It was strange that they should pass
the Army so quickly this time, but Raatri wanted to be as far away from them
as possible. In his long absence from the Citadel any number of things could
Instead of several weeks of foot travel, the
journey from the edge of the Lost Desert to the Citadel took them only a few
hours, though by the time Meridell castle and the Darigan Citadel loomed into
view, it was several hours past nightfall. They had traveled all day and into
the night, though it seemed worth it.
"Wake, Avari," Darigan said softly to the limp
form of the still-sleeping Lupe. She opened her eyes.
"How long was I asleep?" she asked.
"All journey. Don't worry, though. You're almost
And with that, they began descent to enter the
Citadel and reclaim it.
"Blake!" cried out a Zafara guard, his voice
"What?" said the Darigan Eyrie sourly.
"Raatri! The prince has returned!"
Blake's eyes narrowed. "With who else?"
"A Meridellian Lupe and… him."
The trio peered up the steps, hesitant to go
up them, not knowing who or what waited. They had dispatched the guards patrolling
the entrance, and their unconscious forms littered the moonlit gates like boulders
on the sand. Footsteps echoed from above, and from the darkness of the wide,
short stairway came the form of the Citadel's self-proclaimed king.
"Ahh, Darigan, what a surprise. I'm afraid that
you are too late. The Army is past the Lost Desert now, and will stop at nothing."
His eyes turned to Raatri, whose teeth were bared in hatred. "And there you
are, my little Raatri. The Seer saved you when you were a pup. Your own eavesdropping
saved you the second. But this time… This time you are mine."
Avari's vision blurred, and she narrowed her
eyes to try and see. She was dreadfully weak, and so very ill that she had a
hard time trying to stand. Even Zev's claws must have had something in them,
she thought ironically. She had never been ill from wounds before.
It was probably her inattention to Blake and
Raatri that allowed her to hear what the others had missed. A small, scratching
sound, so faint that she was surprised that she heard it, ill or no. Swiveling
her ears around, she continued to listen, focusing on just hearing another scratch.
There it was again.
Raatri growled at something Blake had said, taking
a few steps forward. The scurrying followed his movements. Where had Avari heard
that noise before? It sounded like something out of her worst nightmare.
Nightmare. Yes! Just after the Nightmare commander
had come, she had heard scurrying, and then Zev had appeared.
She turned around quickly, catching the glint
of black eyes in the darkness. Her companions didn't see it, nor hear it. They
were so focused on Blake that they didn't even see her turn and head in the
opposite direction, toward a danger they didn't know was there.
"Zev, I see you," she said quietly.
"You will die first," he hissed back. "Just like
I promised. Did that Nightmare scare you?" he asked, edging closer. "Did it
frighten you to know that you were surrounded by darkness?" He came a few steps
closer, his black eyes locked on her blue ones. "Did the slight venom in my
claws hurt you, little Lupe? Are you ill, squire?" A few more steps. She was
hypnotized. "Death comes to us all, little blue one. You will die first." By
now he was only five feet from her. "Just like I promised." Four feet. "You
are a weak one, weaker since I hurt you." Three. "Now I must finish what I started."
He edge a few steps closer, so slowly she almost
missed it. She realized then how close she had let him get. She shook her head
once, so violently that all trace of his control over her vanished. Then she
glared at him.
"Come and get me, Zev. Light chases the dark
He sprang at her, and suddenly each found their
match. He dug his fangs into her unprotected shoulder, and she immediately felt
drowsy and dying. Shocked and numbed, she kicked him away, then leapt at him
herself. Slightly stunned that she had fought back, Zev did not try to defend
himself as Avari came flying at him, and crushed his head.
That done, Avari was content. She had save Darigan
and his prince. In doing so peace would be restored. She fell to the ground,
not at all alarmed that her life was coming to an end. She felt the poison course
through her blood, paralyzing her so she couldn't move. As she lay in what she
felt was dying she thought of her father and mother.
You see? I became the knight that you wanted
me to be. Even though I was never knighted, and never will be, I was at least
a knight in heart.
Then she closed her eyes.
"It looks like your friend has fallen," said Blake
Raatri didn't understand at first, and then realized
that though Darigan was still at his right side, beyond him, Avari was gone.
He spun around and saw the impossible. Avari lay motionless in the moonlight,
Zev not too far away. He ran up to her, tears coming to his eyes. Darigan took
the opportunity while Blake wasn't looking to slink away through a hidden passageway.
"No," cried out Raatri quietly, nudging the still
form of the Meridellian with his nose. She didn't do anything in response. A
few tears fell from Raatri's eyes as he mourned for her. Blake came nearer.
Then Raatri's jaw clamped shut in a determined
line. Fire entered his eyes, coursing through his heart. He turned to Blake,
rage filling him.
"You will be the next to fall," he growled hatefully
at the Eyrie, who looked slightly stunned at the harshness of Raatri's voice.
Light filled him, just as it had when the Nightmare
Lupes had come. It rushed through his heart, burning without heat, turning his
eyes white as a pale winter moon. His wings flared up, starlight grazing them,
and they too became white as the sand upon the beach. Rage filled him further.
Blake was the one that had stolen away his parents and family. Blake was the
one that had tried to kill him so many times. Blake was the one that had summoned
the Army. Blake was the one that had sent Zev to kill him, and in doing so,
killed his one and only friend. Rage burned at him, and suddenly his own black
pelt began to turn white as well.
He was powerful. He was strong. He was angry.
Blake's eyes were wide and round as a full moon,
staring at the magic-filled Lupe as it he were a Nightmare. Definitely, Raatri
was Blake's worst nightmare, for Raatri was the one that would finally defeat
him just as Blake had defeated Raatri's parents.
"No… She never said anything…" Blake cried. "And
They said I would be safe!"
Blake tried to back away, but already it was
"Cassandra prophesied a hero," Raatri hissed
hatefully. "He would bring back peace. And They can't protect you from their
weakness: light! Where's your Nightmare Army now, Blake!? They can't protect
you now, even if you could protect yourself from them!? Die with the knowledge
that your Army was too slow. You've lost."
Raatri brought his wings together in a deafening
thunderclap toward Blake, sending white-hot magic in a blinding stream toward
"Nnnooo!" cried Blake, trying vainly to protect
They say they never found a trace of that Darigan
Darigan was met by surprising support from quite
a few minions, thanks to the work that Raatri had done before. Taking back the
Citadel had been surprisingly easy, again thanks to Raatri and his work. Once
he had reclaimed his kingdom, quickly from the support of its subjects, Darigan
had returned to the entrance of the Citadel.
He found the sobbing form of Raatri over Avari,
and immediately felt pity for him. Raatri obviously did not know. As Darigan
walked up his eyes were sad for Raatri, though there was a smile across his
Raatri was back to his normal black self, no
trace present of the magic that had turned him white just moments before. Upon
hearing Darigan's footsteps Raatri looked up at him, his crimson eyes shining
with his tears. Darigan thought he saw a small white glimmer in the minion's
eyes, though it kept disappearing.
"Why do you smile?" the Lupe asked, his mournful
voice angry. "She is gone because of me."
"It is strange the way that the Darigan Techos
have changed in the past hundred or so years. Strangest of all is the poison
that most carry in their mouths. They make ideal assassins because of their
sleekness and their venom. But not all that strangeness is due to the fact that
they have poison, but to the poison itself. You see, they carry two sets
of poison. There is one of death, so deadly that there is no chance of recovery.
And there is one of temporary paralyzing."
Raatri gasped, looking to Avari. Bending lower
to her, he could pick up the faint movements of her slight breathing-somehow
he had missed that before, or perhaps it had just not been there.
"And they never give the deadly poison first."
To be continued...