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Let Darkness Fall: Part Seven


by feriku

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The rider galloped hard towards the camp. Even at such a distance, the Meridell colors were visible.

      “Go out and greet them!” commanded Galgarrath, pointing to two of his soldiers.

      He desperately hoped it was news that the Meridell Army was going to join them. Several of their ranks had also joined either Kass or Jeran, but the Darigan Army would be grateful for any help.

      It was only the second day of the war, and already they could see how dire a position they were in, in between two armies that grew all the more fanatical as time went on.

      The Meridell Knight, a Kougra, hopped off his tired Uni companion when they and their Darigan escorts reached Galgarrath.

      “Sir!” he cried, as all four snapped to attention. “Lord Darigan asked me to send word that he won’t be joining you. He says he is going to fight this war in another way.”

      “Thank you,” he said gravely. So he was truly in charge of the army. He had faith Darigan knew what he was doing, and he could only hope it would work. For his part, he’d carry on fighting the enemy he could see. “Has the Meridell Army been deployed?”

      “Only to guard the castle. I’m sorry, sir, but King Skarl only wishes to protect his treasure.”

      “Blast The Three!” Galgarrath growled. “Thank you. You may go, or stay if you wish.”

      The Kougra hesitated. “I will stay here and help, sir!” the Uni agreed.

      “Thank you. Every blade is appreciated.”

      He didn’t add his private thoughts—that they would need far more than another warrior and a Uni mount if they were to survive.

     * * *

      The Army of the Emperor, as they had named themselves, was in a tense, nervous state. They wanted to hurt the vicious creatures that thought to overthrow their leader, but something had come up.

      Emperor Kass had gone missing in the night, with guards posted at his tent.

      But the mysterious vanishing act went largely ignored, because a silent order, impossible to disobey, rang through their minds.

      Attack!

     * * *

      The Army of the Righteous Cause, as they had named themselves, was in a tense, nervous state. They wanted to hurt the vicious creatures that thought to raise up a dictator, but something had come up.

      Sir Jeran had gone missing in the night, with guards posted at his tent.

      But the mysterious vanishing act went largely ignored, because a silent order, impossible to disobey, rang through their minds.

      Attack!

     * * *

      Galgarrath saw the two armies begin to move at the same time, and began shouting orders.

      As their troops assembled, one group at one side of the camp, facing Kass’s army, and one at the other, facing Jeran’s, Galgarrath sighed. “Whatever you’re doing, my lord, please hurry.”

     * * *

      The trio that hurried along, already past the armies, was a strange sight. At the fore was Lord Darigan, marching with a look of grim determination. Beside him strode Illusen, wearing a sword she had taken from the Meridell armory and looking ready for anything. Slightly behind them was the Lenny soothsayer Artemidorus, carrying a magical staff Illusen had given him, and muttering to himself from time to time.

      Their goal was an evil-looking tower that rose from the ground in the distance. No one sane would want to approach it, but the battlefield behind them gave them no choice.

      They had to journey to the dark tower and fight The Three, to fulfill the prophesied words of Artemidorus.

      At last, they reached the tower.

      Darigan felt inexplicably strong fear as he neared it. The dark light enveloped them, and his memories of The Three nearly drove him back. Only the presence of his companions, now one on either side of him, kept him from fleeing.

      An eerie shriek filled the air, and looking around, Darigan traced it to the things he had seen earlier flying around the tower. Strange creatures from The Three’s own dimension, he suspected. He shuddered. Everything about this nightmarish place had the hallmarks of their evil at its peak. He suspected that within the tower, they would encounter The Three as their full demonic selves, not as the whispering ghouls that they were in the mortal world.

      Black wrought iron rose in front of them in the form of a gate. The black gate through which three were prophesied to enter.

      Through unspoken agreement, they stepped forward at the same time. The gate creaked open for them. With a foreboding feeling, Darigan stepped through with the other two, into darkness.

      A pale green light appeared, and he gripped his sword, expecting The Three, but it was Illusen’s magic creating the glow. He relaxed, and felt a strange sense of tranquility drop over him.

      They continued walking, using the light to identify corners, doorways, and stairs. They didn’t know where they were going, but a trance-like condition had come upon them, leaving them devoid of most conscious thought.

      Ascending stairs that spiraled up the tower, they at last came to a room lit by the ghostly aura of The Three.

      The demons sat in thrones at the front, Ambition, Revenge, and Greed.

      They watched the approaching trio with calm visages beneath their hoods.

      Lord Darigan drew his sword, Illusen hefted hers with one hand and prepared magic with the other, and Artemidorus raised his staff.

      Darigan broke the silence with a shout. “Begone!”

      The stillness that followed was shattered by The Three’s raucous laughter, as the floor beneath the challengers vanished, and they fell downward into blackness.

     * * *

      Lord Darigan fell for a couple of minutes before his head cleared, and he flapped his wings to arrest his fall. Then he continued downwards, remembering that both Illusen and Artemidorus had wings, and so would be all right.

      At last, he landed. The corridor he was in was lit by a torch in the wall, and his companions soon landed beside him.

      “That went well,” said Illusen dryly.

      “They had almost complete control of us. They were toying with us.” Darigan shuddered. So they had already begun the psychological warfare. “Where are we now? Some sort of dungeon?”

      Illusen opened her mouth to reply, but a low chanting filled the air. The words were indecipherable, but the odd melodic repetition filled the Korbat with a sense of dread.

      Artemidorus let out a moan and covered his head with his wings.

      A procession appeared at one end of the hall, and from it came the chant. Marching in two lines were Neopets, Faeries, and some twisted creatures Darigan had no name for. All wore cloaks like black shadows made into cloth, and from their mouths came the strange words they uttered as they walked.

      Illusen recoiled. “What... what is this?”

      “Creatures who serve The Three,” explained Artemidorus in a whisper.

      “Some serve voluntarily?” Darigan asked in disgust, knowing that until The Three had all but complete control over him, he had still believed that they served him.

      “Of course,” replied the Lenny. “You haven’t forgotten Morguss, have you? She was their willing servant.”

      Darigan nodded. “I believe it of her.” He knew the old sorceress had stepped into prominence after his demise, starting by giving the new lord his infamous charm, but even during his own rule she had been a figure lurking in the shadows, always whispering insidious suggestions and ideas of darkness. He could imagine all too well Morguss chanting with these others and doing homage before the thrones of The Three.

      As the procession drew nearer, Illusen shivered convulsively. “Some of that chant is similar to an ancient language of the Faeries,” she whispered. “The words I can make out are ‘blood’ and ‘sacrifice’ and other such things.”

      “Is there anywhere we can hide?” asked Darigan, not liking the sound of that at all.

      But the corridor only went two ways: where the creatures were coming from, and where they were headed.

      “The prophecy indicated we’d be present for a sacrifice,” Illusen reminded them.

      “Let’s try not to be the sacrifice,” suggested Darigan, reaching for his sword only to realize he had lost it in his fall.

      Illusen handed him hers. “I prefer magic anyway.”

      “Thank you.”

      The marching creatures were approaching them now, and the rhythm of the chant created a steady pounding in Darigan’s head. It was creepy, he realized, for it made his skin crawl, and at the same time it made him want to drop his weapon and join them.

      The procession hesitated as they reached them, and Darigan gripped his sword tightly, preparing to defend himself.

      The two lines swerved, one in either direction, and went around them instead. They appeared to have no interest, and Darigan began to breathe more easily. Something that struck him as odd occurred to him, and he turned to ask Artemidorus how he knew about these creatures.

      However, just as a group of four Faeries, two in each line, were about to pass them, they reached out and grabbed Illusen instead, dragging her along and apparently blocking her power.

      “Help!” she shrieked. “Darigan! Artemidorus! Help!”

      Lord Darigan leaped forward and was pushed back by the lines closing together again. The creatures fought in a strange, mechanical fashion, and they shoved him and blocked or dodged his sword almost as though only because he was in the way. Even when his attacks did get through, they were disregarded.

      Artemidorus was flung against a wall, and his staff cracked in two.

      Darigan remained in the fight for as long as he could, but the expressionless creatures continued past him tirelessly, and at last he was left standing alone with the mysterious Lenny soothsayer.

      Illusen’s continuing screams rang out in an eerie harmony to the ever-present dread chant.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Let Darkness Fall: Part One
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Two
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Three
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Four
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Five
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Six
» Let Darkness Fall: Part Eight



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