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Darigan's Truce: Part Seven


by darkwater_nereid

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Darigan reached down and gently lifted her head, looking into her face. Tafindra shrank from his gaze but Darigan nonetheless saw what the evil Blight had done; her eyes glowed red, her skin had withered and was thin and dry as parchment, her complexion had darkened to an ugly purple. Her second pair of ears was spiked and long like two whips, and a ridge of spines ran from the base of her neck down to the tip of her reptilian tail. Yet in her ugliness was still the vestige of a bewitching loveliness and naiveté, qualities that Morguss had exploited well in her enchantments.

     "Rise," he said to her at last, "you need have no fear of me." She nodded, biting her lip, and retreated behind her mother to hide in shadow. Darigan turned to Morguss again.

     "Well? You have your daughter. Why do you seek me? You could have easily escaped without my help." Morguss smirked knowingly.

     "I bring a gift for my lord." So saying she withdrew her hoof from her robe to show what she had concealed. There, glowing ominously, were many smashed fragments of green glass. Broken as this object was, Darigan instantly recognized it.

     "Why, that is Kass' charm!" he exclaimed in disbelief.

      "Hmmph, how perceptive," the sorceress muttered, moving the pieces of glass about in her hoof as though counting them.

      "But-I destroyed it. How did you get the pieces back?"

      "Draconis, please, give credit where credit is due!" Morguss laughed. "I was the one who fashioned this piece, after all. It would be an easy matter to summon the pieces again, even to perhaps - reassemble them?" She glared up at her lord with a jaundiced eye, and Darigan felt a sudden chill of fear.

      "What good would it do you, Morguss? Kass is dead; he is beyond your reach."

      "Oh, is that so?" Morguss chuckled. "Perhaps, in the literal sense, yes, he is dead. But he is not beyond my reach, not by any means. Reassembling these pieces will give me a stronger connection to Kass' spirit, and to the power that enslaved him."

      "What-what power, Morguss?" The sorceress laughed in scorn.

      "Listen to him… 'what power?' he says! Have you already forgotten those three who made you great, my lord?"

      "The-the Three…" Darigan felt another chill. He spoke now in a cold whisper. "But-why do you bring this to me?"

      "As I said before, Draconis, I wish to make a deal with you. I am aware that since your friend's… ah, untimely demise, you desired to see him again, to make contact with him one last time. I can do that, my lord. In fact, with the help of those Three, I might even be able to convince them to bring Kass back permanently… but for a price."

      "And what is that?"

      "I am asking you for sanctuary. In return for Kass' spirit, I demand sanctuary in the realm once again, for me and my daughter, where none can touch us." Morguss smiled disgustingly. So? Do we have a deal?"

      Darigan considered all she had said slowly, deliberately in his mind. The shock of hearing about the Three again had made him more open to Morguss' suggestions, but gradually, his reason prevailed. He shook his head gravely.

      "No, Morguss," he said coldly. "You have acted traitorously in the last war, and I have seen the way you switch loyalty so quickly when things don't go as you planned. No, I will not consider your proposal. The punishment for treason is death."

      Tafindra gasped. Morguss' eyes fairly burned with anger.

      "How can you refuse me, Draconis, I who helped you become great…"

      "And helped Kass overthrow my authority?" Darigan's voice echoed with his anger through the hall. "No, Morguss. The punishment for treason is death - but my sentence is banishment, for I will be merciful even to the unmerciful. Go far from the realm and never set foot in Darigan again. But if you do, I will kill you. Leave."

      Morguss' face twisted in sullen anger.

      "How dare you!" she shouted, "how dare-!" but her angry sneer suddenly changed to terror, for Darigan's eyes now glowed blood-red in fury. Seized with passion he spread his wings violently to full length and thundered with rage: "Go now, or never see the light of day again!!"

      Morguss drew back and took hold of her daughter. "This isn't over, Draconis," she hissed. "No one refuses me. I will find a way to destroy you." There was a sudden, blinding flash of light, and Darigan cried out and covered his eyes in pain. When he looked again, mother and child were nowhere to be seen. Quiet reigned once again. Darigan stood motionless for some time, breathing heavily and shaking with rage and fear, until his calm returned. But he was not expecting-

     "Mr. Scary?" The tiny questioning voice behind him was like a single bell-chime, clear and bright in the shadows of his mind. Darigan's wings lifted reflexively as he looked up in surprise; he had not expected anyone to come wandering his way. At first he saw no one, but he knew that voice well.

     "Sally?" he said quietly. "Where are you?"

     "Here," came her reply. Little feet padded around the corner until he saw Sally step uncertainly onto the terrace. She wore a white cotton nightgown edged in lace and clutched a tattered Lupe plushie in her right paw.

     "What are you doing, Mr. Scary?" Her angelic voice brought fresh tears to his eyes as he remembered his own daughter and her innocent ways, now lost forever.

     "Nothing, child," he said by way of reply, wiping his eyes.

     "You're crying!" Sally's astonished voice was full of childlike sympathy for her friend. "Why?"

     "Everyone cries sometimes, little one," Darigan replied, his voice low and sad. "Even I. And I have had much to weep over." He paused before facing her again. "But what are you doing here? You should be asleep."

     "I'm lost."

     "Lost?" Darigan blinked, his luminous eyes briefly disappearing into shadow before reappearing in a pupiless gaze.

     "I woke up to get a drink of water, but now I can't find my way back," she said, her voice touched with the childish fear of things unseen in the night. Darigan's face softened in a paternal smile.

          "Don't be afraid, little one. I will lead you back." He held out his hand to her. "Follow me." Sally quietly slipped her paw into Lord Darigan's hand, and his heart melted at the gesture of complete trust. Holding her paw Darigan began to lead Sally back the way they had come, but for a moment she held back. She had glimpsed the full circle of the moon; her wide blue eyes held the light and reflected it, and her mouth opened in a soft o of wonderment.

     "Look, Mr. Scary," she said, pointing to the moon. "Isn't it pretty?"

     "Yes, indeed," Darigan replied. "I've been watching it for a long time. Would you like to see it before you go back to bed?" Sally nodded and Darigan gently lifted her in his arms so that she might better view the fantastic night sky, feeling his sorrow diminish as he watched her stare in childish delight at the innumerable stars.

     "How many stars are there?" she asked.

     "That, Sally, no one knows. There is a story that my people tell to their children, of a young Pteri who wanted to count the stars. Hundreds of them he counted each night, thousands, but still he had not counted them all…" Darigan continued the familiar folk-tale until he realized that Sally no longer seemed to be listening.

     "Sally?" But she had already fallen asleep in his arms, lulled by his calm voice that recounted the tale. Slowly, so as not to disturb her slumbers, he turned from the night and carried her back through the corridors to her room, unbeknownst to the dozing guard. Darigan quietly entered the room to find Sally's parents lost in their own dreams, their breathing even and calm as they slept, unaware that their child had ever awakened in the night. Darigan tenderly placed Sally in her bed and tucked the covers about her; she sighed and turned over in her sleep, still hugging the plushie to her chest.

     Sweet dreams, young one, Darigan thought, hoping to reach her mind in dreams if not through words. May the faeries watch over you. He left the room as silently as he had come and melted into the night.

Epilogue

     The next morning Skarl's guards entered the guest chambers to awaken Darigan, but upon reaching the bed discovered that he was no longer there. A mild uproar ensued at his absence until one of the guards noticed a piece of parchment, covered with fine handwriting, pinned to the bed sheets. It read as follows:

     To the illustrious Lord of Meridell, His Majesty King Skarl,

     I regret to inform you that a pressing matter has called my attention back to my own kingdom for the duration of the truce ceremonies. I cannot say when I will return, but I find it is impossible for me to sign the official papers. However, I have left instructions for Master Vex, my dungeon-keeper, to sign the truce papers in my name (for Vex is loyal and I would trust him with my life) and for Captain Rhyf to act as a witness for the kingdom of Darigan. Please do not think that Darigan is attempting to back out of the truce; I would be more than happy to continue the ceremony myself if I were only able to do so. However, I am convinced that my kingdom is threatened, and my presence as a leader is required more than ever. All we desire more than anything else is peace, and you must believe me when I say that I would not leave without evidence of anything but the direst circumstances: I believe that The Three, an evil force plaguing Neopia for centuries, is attempting to gain strength and cause discord among our people once again. We must be ever vigilant against these foes, your Majesty, or they will continue to plant the seeds of distrust and corruption in our hearts, causing another war that would surely destroy us both.

     I remain your respectful fellow sovereign,

     Signed, the Lord of Darigan, Master of his Citadel

     P.S.: I was unable to bring your charming little Gallion with me on such short notice. While I would have been happy to keep the pet, I leave him in the care of Sally, the Usul child staying as a guest in your castle. She would be very happy to take care of him; please let her know of my gift to her.

     As Skarl read this note over his second breakfast that morning, a cold chill swept over him and a frown darkened his brow.

     "Shall I call out a guard to see if Darigan is truly gone back to his Citadel?" asked the Draik who had brought him the note. Staring into middle distance foggily, Skarl waved him away with his hand.

     "No," he said faintly. "Lord Darigan is a ruler of his word. I believe what he has written here. Send for Vex and Rhyf; they shall sign the papers in his name."

     The Draik bowed left his lord. Skarl continued to sit unmoving, a stunned look on his jowly face.

     "The Three," he whispered to himself. "I should have known. They spoke to me too, once…" He stared out of the window that opened upon a section of the royal gardens, and his eye fell upon a particular spot where the gardener had planted the purple vine-rose of Darigan. To his surprise, the ugly thorny vine had blossomed overnight into a cascade of large, intricate violet flowers that swayed peacefully in the breeze. The ancient stock of this rose was indeed uncorrupted by any blight, and now was its time to put forth its rare bloom.

     "I won't let you down, Lord of Darigan," Skarl said, gazing from his window at the beautiful rose tree. "Never again will I allow myself to be corrupted, as we both were, long ago.

     "Here's to our peace."

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Darigan's Truce: Part One
» Darigan's Truce: Part Two
» Darigan's Truce: Part Three
» Darigan's Truce: Part Four
» Darigan's Truce: Part Five
» Darigan's Truce: Part Six



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