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The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Eleven

by fierwym


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 her."

     "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 are behind."

     "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 all light.

     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 have happened.

     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 home."

     And with that, they began descent to enter the Citadel and reclaim it.

     "Blake!" cried out a Zafara guard, his voice anxious. "Blake!"

     "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.

     Zev. Zev!

     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 away."

     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 ominously.

     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 too late.

     "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 him.

     "Nnnooo!" cried Blake, trying vainly to protect himself.

     They say they never found a trace of that Darigan Eyrie again.

     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 face.

     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...

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Other Episodes

» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part One
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Two
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Three
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Four
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Five
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Six
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Seven
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Eight
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Nine
» The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Ten

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