The Cenoal Chapters: Duties Reclaimed - Part Three
"Well?" the figure rasped. "Are they prepared or not?"
Cenoal was the first to regain his composure. "The master said he needed more time," he replied, thinking quickly.
The figure scoffed. "He has had enough time!" he exclaimed. "I need his answer. Irazen will be dealt with tonight, thanks to that fake prince. Huh, those guards don't even know he isn't in this room. Shenkuu will be vulnerable. I need to know if Jeran will be able to get his men here in time before the people can build their army."
Cenoal's eyes widened under his hood. Jeran, Champion of Meridell, the one who had saved him from serving the Dark Faerie, and the one who had crippled the Aisha's hand once under her curse. "Rest assured, he will bring word to you once he can do as you say," Cenoal responded, not a hint of worry shoeing through his words.
"I hope for his sake, it is soon," the figure replied. He waved his hand in dismissal. Cenoal and Aelgar began to back out when the doors opened once more. A messenger stood before the door, his clothes dusty from running. Cenoal's eyes widened. The doors closed and the figure they had spoken to looked from them to the messenger. He put together the pieces far faster than they could hope. "Spies!" he yelled. "Guards! Guards!"
"Time to go," Cenoal stated. He and Aelgar ran for the far side of the room. The figure stopped them, pulling a dagger from the folds of his robe. He slashed at them and they evaded. Cenoal stood before a column, timing himself so as to jump aside as the dagger came down at him, embedding itself in the wood.
The messenger joined the struggle then as their assailant attempted to pull the dagger from the column. Not another second passed before the guards burst in and ran at them with spears. "How exactly are we going to get out of here?" Aelgar asked as they were cornered by the spears.
Cenoal glanced at the paper window and smiled. Aelgar followed his gaze. "You're insane, you know that?"
That was all he was able to say as Cenoal rammed unexpectedly at one of the guards, taking him by surprise and toppling him over. They ran through the huge chambers and leapt through the window, tearing the paper and beginning their fall through a thousand feet. Confusion hid their escape as well as any mist could.
An hour or so before, the stars had shone brightly over the valleys of Shenkuu as three riders made their way down the mountain. They were cloaked, their breath visible in the chilling air of the Month of Sleeping. The moon hung in the sky and cast its light upon the valley as they arrived. They made their way to a lone tree and stood under it, waiting.
Three more figures came to join them on Uniback as a Naleap called out into the night. "Greetings, Emperor Irazen," the first of the riders from the valley said. He threw down his hood and half-bowed in his saddle. "I am Seradar, Grand Sorcerer of Brightvale."
The Uni in front stepped forward and the Emperor also dropped his hood. "Where is my son?" he questioned.
From behind Seradar a second Uni stepped forward. His rider rose his head slowly, as though afraid to look the elder Gelert in the eye. The two pairs of emerald green eyes met and the moon shined down on the younger Gelert's pale red fur. "Father?" he whispered.
The Emperor's eyes widened, and for a moment seemed moist. Then his mouth was set into a hard line and he looked upon the younger Gelert with distrust. "How dare you," he said softly. His voice rose. "How dare you!"
Seradar took on a look of surprise. "My Lord, what is wrong?"
"You think you can fool me?" the Emperor hissed. "This boy is not my son!"
"But, look at me, Father!" Alceon argued. "I am your son. All you need to do is see that-"
"Silence!" the Emperor all but shouted. He pointed at Alceon. "My son looked almost nothing like me! How can you then say that you are he? You look more like a replica than my son."
Alceon's look of hurt melted away and was replaced by distaste. "I told him this wouldn't work..." He grabbed the horn fastened to his saddle and blew hard. The sound filled the valley and within seconds, eight more riders appeared out of the mist.
Seradar turned on Alceon. "You lied to us?!"
"But of course," the young Gelert replied. "And you were such fools to believe me."
Emperor Irazen drew his jian, holding up the sword as the eight riders circled them. "Did you really think you could fool me?"
"To be honest, no," Alceon replied with a bored tone. "That was why I had them here as backup."
"Shall we attack now, my lord?" one of the riders, Azers, asked, a red gleam in his eyes.
"Of course, you fool," Alceon responded. "Finish them."
The riders drew closer, blades glistening under the moon. Seradar's Uni trotted quickly to where the Emperor and his men were. "My lord, I had no part in this plot. I was deceived."
"As were we all," Irazen replied. "I was a fool to think my son would ever willingly return to me."
Seradar brandished his staff, the orb at its top beginning to glow. "You have my protection. And my apologies, Sire."
The riders backed off slightly at the wizard's staff. "Oh, for Betrayal's sake!" Alceon exclaimed. He rode forward, too quickly for any of them to react in time, and slashed at one of the guards' spears. The blade pulsed red and tore through the wood as though it was nothing. The guard's Uni stumbled back in surprise.
The riders took heart and charged full on. Seradar focused a blast of magic at the Unis' feet, but that did not stop them. They were upon him in seconds. He whacked at them left and right, casting spells and chanting the whole time. In the confusion, Alceon, already close enough to inflict damage, slashed at the other guard's spear, leaving him weaponless. He raised his sword to give a final blow.
The Emperor charged his Uni at Alceon and forced the other Uni to retreat slightly. Alceon recovered quickly. He pulled on the reigns and they faced each other. "What coward strikes the helpless?" the Emperor asked, venom in his voice.
Alceon laughed as he looked around him. The riders were overpowering the Gelert wizard and the guards were all but taken care of. He stared at the older Gelert before him and smiled. "What fool challenges the more powerful?" The sword was thrust forward as he spoke.
Irazen blocked and swooped low. His Uni sidestepped to avoid the blade. The riders had finished tying up Seradar and the guards and now formed a circle. They chuckled mercilessly. Irazen dismounted. Alceon shook his head and climbed down as well. "This makes no difference," he said. His sword flew at the old Emperor, but met only dust. Irazen brought his sword down upon Alceon's, pinning it down.
Alceon stared at him with eyes that portrayed such sadness that the old Gelert lost his focus. Then they hardened to show pride. As quick as lightning, Alceon pulled back his sword and brought it down upon the other blade. It shined red and cut through the metal like a hot knife through butter.
The Emperor stared at him. He straightened himself and held his head high. "Well then, be done with it," he said. He stood tall and proud as the blade of the fake prince came down... and hit another's.
The sharp clang filled the night's silence. A figure leapt down from atop a pitch-black Uni, still holding up the sword that was locked with Alceon's in his left hand. His companion circled the riders and dismounted, grabbing a pair of spears from the scabbard on his back.
But Alceon was not concerned with the others. He stared at the figure before him as he pulled back his sword. A cloak of high quality hid his face and his robes were made of silk. He took a moment and threw the rings on his fingers to the ground. The stranger held up his saber and Alceon laughed cruelly. "Two more makes no difference," he said.
The sword came down, the saber blocked. It seemed to almost drop from its owner's hand almost right after. The stranger hardened his grip. They clashed again. And again. And again. Then the stranger truly began the duel. He tossed the saber to his right hand as though he had grown tired of his left. From then on, the saber was too quick as it attacked. Up, right, left, down. The pattern ever varying, but always graceful. Alceon's opponent had his teeth grit as though in concentration, or pain. Down, right, up, left. Alceon was growing weary. Left, left, right, down. Finally the Gelert had had enough.
The sword glowed red as the saber came at it, but this time it was Alceon's blade that was sliced in two. He stared dumbfounded at the stranger as he dropped the sword half. "Who are you?" he hissed.
The stranger tossed the sword back to his left and shook his right slightly. "Oh please, I thought it would be obvious by now." He dropped his hood and Alceon found himself staring into twin pools of icy blue. A scar ran down his forehead, barely scratching his right eye. Chestnut brown hair waved about in the wind as the white Aisha's hand reached forward to grab him by the collar. "Go. Now," he ordered. The Aisha dropped him and turned his back as the fake prince hopped onto his Uni and sped away.
Cenoal turned his attention on the others under Alceon's command. They were all down for the count, knocked unconscious by either Aelgar or the others he had brought with him. After all, a quick trip to the hideout for reinforcements was needed after their little tumble. One of the Council members up to Cenoal. "We'd like to thank you, Cenoal Swordedge," he said. "Sorry we fell behind, but your Unis were too fast for us to properly follow."
"Well, we did need to get here as soon as possible," Aelgar replied.
"And, seeing how they were all distracted by yourself and Cenoal, it made things all that easier, Aelgar," the council member replied.
"Are my men alright?" The three turned to face the Emperor. He had a few cuts and bruises, but nothing too severe.
"They're going to have humongous headaches when they wake up, sir, but they'll be alright," the council member replied. "Now, I really am sorry, but I have to go check up on other things. We will need to speak with you as soon as we can, though."
"Of course," Irazen replied. Then the Council member walked away, and the Emperor turned to face Cenoal and Aelgar. "I have to thank you both for your parts in my rescue."
"No problem, sire," Aelgar replied. Cenoal said nothing.
"What about us?" Sable asked as he trotted in. Shade followed after.
Irazen chuckled. "You two as well, noble Unis," he said. "Without your speed, I would have been long gone."
"You are most welcome, sire," Shade stated.
"And your swordsmanship saved me, young Aisha," the Emperor continued, facing Cenoal. "You are a brilliant strategist. And an amazing swordsman."
"Thank you, sir," Cenoal replied curtly. "Now, if you don't mind, there are other matters we need to bring to your attention..."
A silver Draik was dragged into the room, protesting loudly and struggling as the guards forced him to bow before the throne. Emperor Irazen sat there, anger burning clearly in his eyes. "How could you betray me like this, Xumel?!" he exclaimed.
Lord Xumel glared hatred at the Emperor. "I don't know what you're talking about!" he exclaimed.
"You did well hiding your identity." Aelgar stepped from behind the throne, causing the Draik to pale. "You hid your face, you made sure the meeting room was badly lit, but you didn't think about hiding your features when you looked out the window searching for Cenoal and me."
"How did you survive that fall?" he asked venomously.
"Cenoal had grappling hooks and he knew how to use them. We were hidden by the rock shelf that saved us and no one cared to look for the hook," Aelgar replied. "Now, why don't you tell us what you've done to all the messengers we sent this way. And while you're at it, who else in the council are part of Betrayal's plan?"
"I will never talk," Xumel replied. He chuckled. "You are facing bigger threats, now more than ever. You are all already doomed." He let out a harsh laugh, echoing and haunting as the guards led him to his cell...
To be continued...