The Last Days of the Citadel: Part One
To my guild friends: enjoy!
He had returned.
He had returned to find his Citadel in ruins and in the middle of a war.
He had returned to find out how the one he once considered his best friend had taken over his place as a ruler.
He had returned to find out that friend had been more than happy to kill him, only to have see him disappear into thin air only shortly later, taken by the ghostly entities known as the Three.
And with his return, everyone expected things would soon become all right again.
However, Lord Darigan was exhausted.
He staggered when he walked up the stairs that lead to his chambers. Another day, he would have simply used his wings, but he was too tired for flying now. Everything that happened in the past few hours, from the moment he had found himself at a Meridell potato farm, finally realizing who he was, until now, would have been more that enough for days already. To make things even worse, he knew for the upcoming days, or weeks for that matter, he would not be able to get any rest either, for there was so much rebuilding to be done. Not to mention making some kind of peace treaty with Meridell.
When he entered his chambers, he realised he was not alone. A Darigan Ixi was sitting there.
“Narissa.” He spoke slowly, as if more to himself.
The Ixi nodded.
“I’ve brought you some soup, Draconis. It’s not much, though; we’ve always been much depending on Meridell for our food supply and well, not much has come in these days.” She sounded apologizing.
“Thank you.” Draconis Darigan was surprised how warm his voice could sound. It seemed to him like that didn’t happen for many, many years.
She didn’t speak a word when he was eating, but Darigan didn’t mind. Just her presence here was enough for now.
Then, finally, when he had finished, she asked the one question that had been on her lips for all that time.
“What happened to Kass?”
Lord Darigan bowed his head. “He’s gone. The Three got him. All I know is he disappeared into thin air.”
He saw how she tried to prevent him from seeing the tears leaking from her eyes.
He put his arm around her in a comforting way. “I’m sorry, Narissa. I already miss him too.”
She felt him stagger again. “You need to rest.”
He nodded and allowed himself to be lead to his bed. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired before in my whole life.”
He realised how the sheets and blankets were fresh and clean. Only Narissa could have been responsible for that. She must have come over here the moment she heard he had returned. Darigan was touched by the loyalty of his old friend. He knew how much he had changed himself, but Narissa couldn’t know this. Yet their friendship was enough to come up here, to him, at the moment he needed it most of all.
“Go to sleep, my friend,” the Darigan Ixi said. “Tomorrow, the world might look a little bit brighter. I’ll wait here by your side.”
How long ago was it, she wondered secretly, when every day was a bright day?
It was one of those golden sunlit days so familiar to the citizens of Darigan Citadel. The magnificent white castle with its red towers seemed to reflect the sunlight and the large flowery meadows outside of it were tempting its inhabitants to leave the Citadel and enjoy yet another beautiful day. They were too tempting for some of them.
Outside the gates an Ixi was waiting. Her patience was rewarded when an Eyrie sneaked up to her and covered her face with his wings. She laughed, while trying to free herself from his grip.
“Kass! I’m so glad you could come! Did your uncle give you the day off?”
Kass’s uncle was the head of the highly respected Eyrie Guard. Although he doubted his nephew’s qualities, he still kept his dreams of him following him up as head of the guard one day.
There was a shadow on the face of the Eyrie.
“Are you kidding? He doesn’t even know what that means. On the bright side, he won’t miss me today either.”
He looked over the green fields, then up to the tower of the citadel. His sharp Eyrie eyes spotted the flying figure of a Korbat long before the Ixi did.
“Looks like Draconis is coming too.”
The Ixi beamed when she saw her friend flying up to them.
For the young Lord of the Citadel, spare time was even more rare than it was for an Eyrie guard recruit as Kass or a healer in training like Narissa, and all three of them realised today might be one of the last days they would be able to sneak out of the Citadel and enjoy being outside in the sun with nothing else on their mind. They knew they had to catch the moment while was still there; so as soon as they could, they left the Citadel and set for the meadows surrounding it.
“Those pastries are lovely, pass me another one, will you Kass?”
It was a good thing his council didn’t see Draconis lying lazily in the grass. Many of the older members had a problem obeying the young lord already and would say his behaviour was unworthy of his Lord of the Citadel title. For now, the Korbat decided not to care.
“Yes, they’re lovely,” Narissa agreed. “Where did you get them?”
The Eyrie gave a grin. “Let’s say I’m on good terms with the folks in the Citadel’s kitchen.”
“Oh dear,” Draconis said with a mock voice, “I just wanted to imply some stricter rules for them so they will not give away their food to all kind of riffraff.”
“Do so, and you’ll feel my sword.” Kass pointed out a fallen tree branch, pretending it was a real sword.
Narissa giggled. The thought the two friends would ever hurt each other seriously seemed unbelievable.
Draconis wasn’t giving up their play yet.
“Try all you want, Kass, but don’t forget I have the power of the Orb on my side!”
He raised his hand, pretending he was sending Kass some kind of blast.
Narissa gasped for breath. “You shouldn’t say that, Draconis!”
The Korbat nodded, suddenly serious. “You’re right, Narissa. The Orb isn’t something that shouldn’t be talked lightly about.
“I know,” the Ixi replied.
Draconis laughed. “You’ve never even been near it, Narissa.”
Then Narissa bowed closer to her friends. “Can the two of you keep a secret?”
They both nodded.
“I’ve been there. I’ve been in the Orb Room.”
“Wow!” It was all Kass could say.
Darigan, however, was more concerned about what Narissa was saying.
“Normal citizens normally never get access to the Orb Room. How did you manage to get in there?”
“Well, I climbed my way up from outside.”
“You climbed your way up it? The Orb Room is at the top of the High Tower!”
Like its name was suggesting, the High Tower was the highest tower of the Citadel.
Narissa giggled. “I never said it was easy, Draconis.”
The young Lord of Darigan laughed back at her.
“You’ve never been known for taking the easy way, Narissa. Maybe I should introduce you to Clivia sometime.”
Clivia was the Guardian of the Orb, the highest sorcerers and seer of the Citadel.
Narissa took that chance to change their talk from the Orb to less important matters.
“So how are things going for you at the Citadel?” she asked.
“Boring,” the young lord replied. “I guess one gets used to it, but I’m getting a little tired of the council every day. I’m also getting a bit annoyed by the head of the Eyrie guard asking me to consider his nephew for a high position every day.”
He poked Kass teasingly, but this time the Eyrie wasn’t responding to it, but looking away darkly, and sad.
“Hey, Kass, cheer up,” Narissa said to her friend. “Your uncle will be proud of you one day for sure.”
“Right, only when I take over the Citadel or something like that.”
Draconis laughed. “Rather not, will you? I’d like to keep it for a while. Let’s make a promise; you can have it when I grow tired of it.”
Forgotten were their gloomy moods when the three friends started to laugh.
They were best friends; they were young and did not know how their lives were about to change.
They had been enjoying the beautiful day in the meadows for some more time when suddenly, Kass spotted something.
“Look! Over there, a Light Faerie!”
Earth Faeries were a common sight in the forests nearby the Citadel, but all other kinds of Faeries were rare. Light Faeries were exceptionally rare, except for one...
“It’s the Lady of the Citadel!” Narissa cried out.
The Lady of the Citadel had been considered to be the founder and protector of Darigan Citadel. She was an all-powerful Light Faerie who still held an ancient kind of magic inside of her, a power most Faeries had lost these days. The orb of Darigan Citadel had been a gift from her to the inhabitants of the Citadel and contained part of her power.
She was a Light Faerie whose light was so bright, she was shining almost white. Her long, pale yellow hair was flowing around her. Her wings were delicate and looked more like feathers than most Faerie wings do.
“It is really her, Draconis?”
Of the three companions, Kass was the least familiar with this legendary Faerie and this made him less likely to believe he was facing the protector of Darigan Citadel.
Draconis nodded. “She is. I can feel it. She’s bound to the Citadel in the same way I am.”
They watched how the Light Faerie turned and came closer. She had seen them, or perhaps she had been waiting for them all along.
“Draconis Darigan, Lord of Darigan Citadel! I call for you!”
The voice of the Faerie was soft, which was a strong contrast with her binding words. Even if he wanted, the young lord could not have resisted the call.
“Come with me, Draconis, for I have chosen to protect you, whenever dark times might approach the Citadel. Come with me, for there is much you still have to learn!”
Lord Darigan rose. He had just said he was bound to the Citadel, but never before in the few months he had been its lord had he felt that bound so strong.
“Go back to the Citadel,” he told his friends. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll return later on.”
Narissa nodded and ran toward him, hugging him tightly. Kass patted his arm on Darigan's shoulder.
“Take care, my friend. We’ll be there for you when you return.”
The Korbat and the Light Faerie walked away into the forest, while the Ixi and Eyrie returned to the Citadel.
All three of them knew something had changed in their lives forever. From this day on they would be more bound to each other than they had already been.
It was late that evening when Lord Darigan returned to the Citadel. So late Kass’s uncle, the head of the Eyrie guard had already sent out his guardsman to search for him.
Draconis only told his counsel the Lady of the Citadel had appeared to him. Although this had not happened for a long time, it wasn’t the first time a Lord of the Citadel met their founding Faerie in person and no one asked any questions. The lord was allowed to keep his secrets about these matters.
Indeed Draconis never spoke a word about what the Lady of the Citadel had taught to him. The good manners of the Citadel knew never to ask for it either.
The night, Narissa had her dream for the first time, a dream filled with fear and fighting knights.
And a red and blue shield, with a golden crown.
To be continued...