Let Darkness Fall: Part Four
“I trust things have not fallen apart in my absence?” Lord Darigan asked jokingly, when he returned from his vacation.
Galgarrath said nothing.
“They haven’t, have they?”
“It is perhaps and exaggeration to say ‘fallen apart,’ my lord, although ‘fallen’ may be a good word to use,” said a voice.
Darigan turned and saw Master Vex. “Things must be bad, for the Warden to come out of his dungeons.” When neither of them smiled, he realized that something was indeed going on. “Fallen” was the word Vex had attached significance to. “Someone fell off the Citadel?” he asked tightly.
“Not that kind of fall, sir,” sighed Galgarrath.
Something in his tone made Darigan feel a little afraid, and if it was that sort of topic, it should not be discussed where everyone could hear. “Come on,” he said, starting into the Citadel, “you can tell me what’s happening inside.”
When they reached his chambers, Lord Darigan had barely entered the room when a distraught Lenny threw himself at his feet, and cried, “Oh, help us, my lord!”
“I’ll do my best,” he replied, a little unsettled. He looked to see what his companions would make of it, and found them sitting down as though nothing unusual had occurred.
He looked at them, and then back at the sobbing Lenny.
“You can relax, Artemidorus,” said Galgarrath. “Lord Darigan is going to help, as soon as we all explain things.”
The Lenny slowly calmed down, and moved into a seat. More worried still, Darigan also sat.
Galgarrath began. “It was a little over a week ago when Jeran showed up looking for you, saying it was urgent. No wait,” he said, before Darigan could speak. “We said you were gone away, and he became agitated. I offered to send a message if it was so important, but all he wanted to tell you was that they’d found a Darigan Eyrie with amnesia. So I said I wouldn’t disturb you for that.”
“We’re going to lose both of them,” groaned the Lenny inexplicably.
Darigan thought about that—Jeran getting so upset over such a thing. Was it possible... could the Eyrie be... Kass?
“Shortly afterward,” continued the Grarrl, “this fellow took to warning us about coming darkness and impending doom. He said he was a soothsayer, but I thought it more likely he was a nut.”
The Lenny was silent, looking at him resentfully.
Darigan winced. The warnings of a soothsayer were not to be taken lightly, but he sympathized with Galgarrath’s concerns.
“Then Jeran came to visit me. He seemed a little preoccupied, but lonely, and I was lonely too, so I welcomed the company. We were going to see Vex when he was stopped by the soothsayer.”
“I thought he was listening to me!” gasped the Lenny. “But it wasn’t my voice that moved him!”
“It was a strange exchange,” said Galgarrath. “He said Jeran had to save someone, help someone, stop someone. Jeran argued at first, but then he got all strange and began muttering about stopping ‘him.’ Then he just left!”
“Then Illusen came to see me,” Master Vex said.
“Illusen?” asked Darigan in disbelief.
“It was a shock. She said Lisha had sent her, while she looked for Jeran. Illusen was hurt.”
“Hurt?” asked Darigan in alarm. Someone physically attacking a Faerie was all but unheard of.
The Mynci nodded. “Her arm had been slashed open and was bleeding.” He took a deep breath. “Jeran had done it.”
The Korbat rose to his feet, shocked by what he was hearing. “Jeran attacked Illusen?” Meridell’s Champion was the most noble of knights; even when the Earth Faerie had acted closed-minded and meddlesome, he’d never have lifted a hand against her.
“She’s still on the Citadel, recovering. You can ask her yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“I believe you, but... Why?”
“Because,” declared the Lenny dramatically, leaping out of his seat, “he has fallen under their power.”
A chill ran through Darigan, and he sat down hard. He had no doubt who they were.
“The Three,” he whispered.
Galgarrath nodded to the Lenny. “Artemidorus, you may speak.”
The soothsayer paced back and forth. “Darkness is everywhere... Disaster is coming... Kass has risen from the dead and is ensnared in a trap of Ambition. The Three, they spoke to him, and he grew weaker and weaker. I think he fain would have been free of them, but they left him not and whispered deceptions. A bold hand hid their subtle machinations. While speaking defiance, the Eyrie fell. Glory he sees, strength he feels, but so it was when he became their pawn before. Though he thinks they have no power o’er him, their grip on him tightens.
“Jeran saved his enemy and was afraid. ‘Twas fear and pity that kept his secret, but fear would have the upper hand. He was blinded to the fact that fear would lead to Revenge. I saw his plunge, and yet I tried in spite of it, appealing to him to save Kass. Those demons spoke from their evil depths, twisting my words in his mind, and off he flew to fight his foe.
“As yet they have not met, but when they do...” He closed his eyes. “Disaster will come, and the land will flow with blood. Brother will fight brother, and war will shatter the land.” He opened his eyes. “And they will wait, you know, The Three will. They will lurk in the shadows ere the time they can collect the souls they have claimed.”
Lord Darigan shuddered at the picture of destruction he had painted.
“We can change the future,” he reminded them. “Just like Lisha and her friends did! Meridell was destroyed in their time, and Darigan also gone, but they changed that! We can beat this prophecy!”
“Then you’d better hurry, my lord,” said Artemidorus gravely. “For darkness has fallen.”
* * *
Jeran burst into the library, barely able to see through the red haze that obscured his vision, but the room was empty. His eyes flickered along the scattered books. So Kass knew who he was.
“I will find you!” he growled at the air, overturning a table on his way out.
He no longer told himself this was for the good of Meridell. He was long past conscious thought. It was just an imperative: he must kill Kass!
The crazed knight continued on his quest.
* * *
I am... Lord Kass!
The lord strode through the halls of the castle as though it were his. He had discarded his clothes—ridiculous that a great lord would wear the colors of another land—in favor of a black cloak provided by his oblivious benefactors.
He smiled grimly. They truly thought he was doing their bidding, didn’t they? Once he had ascended to power, he would cast them aside as easily as he had the Meridellian cloth.
The ruby clasp at his throat glowed slightly, but he paid it only a passing thought. Some magical artifact, but it assuredly would be a benefit. The Three were too easily deceived to think to work against him.
* * *
King Skarl sat on his throne and stared quizzically at Lisha as the young Aisha began explaining again.
“The Eyrie is really Kass, sire. He was harmless, but I think The Three have him again. And my brother...” She looked ready to burst into tears. “I’m afraid they have Jeran too!”
“Ridiculous!” he snorted. “Not one of my knights! Go tell someone else your stories.”
“But what about Kass?”
“You expect me to believe that, when it’s in the same story as my Champion betraying us? Begone!”
Lisha bowed stiffly and swept out of the room with her head high. He shook his head at children in general, making up such stories. And not even a proper curtsy!
A Kougra herald stepped in quickly and cried, “Announcing His Majesty Lord Darigan, the Lady Illusen, and their escorts!”
Skarl made a mental note to teach his heralds to check with him when visitors arrived. They could make good use of the phrase “not here right now.”
However, perhaps it was worth it to see Lord Darigan entering the throne room with Illusen beside him. Behind them were Galgarrath, Master Vex, a haggard-looking Lenny, and—no surprise—Lisha.
All bowed. Then Darigan said, “Your Majesty, our kingdoms are in grave danger! Kass is—”
“Are you going to tell me that same rubbish as Lisha?” Skarl demanded, irritated and annoyed. “Kass alive and Jeran serving The Three?”
“It’s not rubbish,” said the tall Korbat. “We have a soothsayer here, who—”
Skarl laughed. First children and now soothsayers? As if such a thing existed. He continued laughing until Illusen stepped forward and shoved her arm in his face. It was heavily bandaged, and the bandage was stained red.
“This was done to me by Jeran,” she hissed. “He is not in his right mind. If Lord Darigan says The Three have him in their power, listen to him!”
Lord Darigan began again, but Skarl cut him off, looking at him suspiciously.
“What do you want?”
“To conduct a search for both Kass and Jeran.”
That was simple enough, but... thoughts crept into his mind, little reminders of the state of Darigan’s own realm.
“You’ll rob me,” he hissed. “That’s what you want, my wealth!”
Illusen started to speak, but Darigan help up a hand, staring into Skarl’s eyes.
“At this point, we can’t fight Greed, Illusen. Another has fallen. Come, we must do what we can before it is too late!”
They all left then, and Skarl was left staring after them in disgust. He never expected Illusen to be accomplice to such a plot.
“They will never have my gold!” he cried. That was, of course, the top priority.
* * *
In their dark dimension, The Three laughed.
To be continued...