The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part Seven
It was with a strange mix of emotions that Avari stood before the barrier that separated the Dark Side of the World from the Light Side. On one paw, she felt frightened to death at the idea of entering the place that plagued her dreams. On the other, she had only an hour before she pledged a vow of loyalty so intense that even Raatri had taken a step back in shock.
The words she had spoken to him had been true. Raatri was her greatest friend, and she would follow him anywhere he went, even if it was to the Dark Side of the World and almost certain death. The past six years as a knight meant nothing if she wasn’t a friend to the one that had helped fulfill her old dream.
The pledge of loyalty had left her a little stunned as well, for they had been spoken from the exact same place where she had found the loyalty toward her knighthood. Was it possible that she could still be a knight? Or was it that her loyalty had changed – from her knighthood to... Raatri?
She had never considered it before, but it seemed as if it could be true. At one point, she had been entirely committed to her dream of becoming a knight. Perhaps she had been wrong – perhaps a female could never be a knight. Yet that same loyalty and determination had found another object to place itself on, and had taken the form of her best friend.
They could have stood on the slope before the barrier for hours, though deep inside Avari knew it was only a few seconds. They needed to be quick – Cornelius couldn’t be too far ahead, and his return was the main goal of the young knights, other than staying alive.
They glanced once at each other before leaping forward into the Nightmare World.
The change from the Light Side of the World to the Dark Side was the same as before. Blackness and shadow surrounded their vision, as if they had been thrown into sudden and incurable night. The slight, moaning wind was present as well, mirrored by the strange no-sound of silence. The rusty, moldy smell filled their nostrils, and then the cold smell that numbed their senses; and then there was no smell at all.
The instant they stepped through, the despair filled them all over again, yet they were more prepared for it this time. For Raatri, it seemed to hint failure as a teacher and a traitor to his student. For Avari, it told her over and over that there was no hope for a female knight, that she would fail at every turn, that she should turn back now and throw herself into a dark dungeon and fade away forever.
Yet to her credit Avari growled at the silent voice filling her head, telling it to stay silent, that it was wrong. She didn’t even realize at the time that she was telling it that she was indeed a female knight and she would succeed.
Instead of lowering their heads against the non-existent wind, their eyes watched for Nightmares, assassins, or Cornelius. Together, they raced into the dark lands, finding the strength to ignore all the sensations that threatened to overwhelm them.
The first assassin attacked only a few moments after they entered the Dark Side of the World, but Avari was highly ready. She didn’t hesitate before catapulting herself toward it. The dark creature shrieked in surprise and tried to dodge away, but Avari was already on top of it. It did not even have the time to bite her with its paralyzing poison before she destroyed it.
“Good job,” Raatri murmured grimly, and she looked away from the death she had caused before racing back to his side. They continued the way they had been going until the Nightmares appeared.
These Nightmares seemed similar to Kougras, though a little larger and much darker. The pair of knights worked as a team as if the whole routine had been planned. Avari darted forward and confused the Nightmare Kougras by zigzagging over the land before them, while Raatri gathered his magic. A moment later, Avari dodged out of the way as white light collided with the black creatures. When the light was gone, so were the Nightmares.
The strategy remained for the next several attacks, until two assassins attacked at the same time. Avari destroyed one quickly before turning to the other, and the pair watched each other without moving. This seemed to be the assassin’s mistake, for it gave Raatri plenty of time to gather his magic and sent it crashing into the assassin, who gave out a cry of surprise before disappearing forever.
“That’s ten assassins,” Avari cried. “There’s only about twenty left, though I don’t expect them all to be here.”
“There are still the Nightmares to worry about,” Raatri replied as they continued to run along. The fact that assassins had been attacking gave Raatri and Avari enough proof that they were going the right way. Raatri once told Avari that he could feel Cornelius’ magic in the air – they would catch up soon.
In fact, a moment later three assassins attacked. Avari finished the first off quickly, yet facing two after taking on one was almost two much. She did her best to keep her eyes on both of their pair, though they tried to circle around her to come at her from two sides. She finally launched herself at one and felt Raatri’s magic burn some short distance behind her – he had taken care of the third assassin. She destroyed the one she had attacked, though not without a scratch across her forearm. She hissed out in pain before returning to Raatri.
“You’re hurt!” Raatri exclaimed.
“It’s a wonder one of us hasn’t been injured as of yet. Don’t worry – it’s not deep. I can continue.”
“That’s right. Being humiliated and injured has never stopped her before.”
Raatri and Avari spun around at the same time, seeing the dark shape instantly, barring the way they were heading. At first it seemed to be a Nightmare, all dark and shadowing in the black fog, though Avari knew that she had heard that voice before. The shadowed creature stepped forward, and Avari recognized him immediately, for he too had plagued her dreams.
Six years before, Sir Tamal of Meridell had been stripped of his title, and had flown away with a threat to those he left behind, to those he believed had taken his knighthood from him.
You will regret this one day!
Now, it seemed, Tamal the shadow Uni had somehow joined forces with either the Nightmares or Cornelius or both. The look in his eyes clearly told Avari that he planned to make her regret ever trying to become a knight.
“That’s right, Lady Knight Avari,” the former knight spat venomously. “I’ve waited six years to find you, and found you I have. Now you will regret your dream and your knighting. You will regret it all. You will regret making me a fool and stripping me of my title!”
“Raatri, go on and find Cornelius. I will deal with Tamal.”
“Go on ahead, demon. My quarrel is with dear Avari, though I should have crushed you when I had the chance.”
Raatri hesitated before slinking off around the dark former knight, disappearing into the black fog and leaving the pair alone. Tamal didn’t even watch him go – his gaze remained fixed on Avari’s.
“So how did you end up with Cornelius?” Avari asked calmly, keeping her eyes open for any sign of him attacking.
“He asked me to help him three years ago. He promised me, in return, the opportunity to destroy the one that had taken away my knighthood.”
“I didn’t take away your title, Tamal,” Avari said quietly.
“You did!” Tamal cried out in frenzied anger. “You destroyed me and my life that day!”
“You have never been a knight,” she replied. “You didn’t care for others as you should have. You had no loyalty to the crown. You carried so dear the code of combat that you forgot the code of chivalry.”
“You’re wrong!” he yelled, rearing up and kicking out his forelegs. He came back to the ground with an angry snort of rebellion, and then charged with his head down.
Avari was ready for an attack, and quickly dodged aside at the last moment, narrowly missing being skewered by the sharp horn on Tamal’s head. Tamal’s wings flared out and he took to the dark sky, rising a few feet and turning around to attack her from above. She watched his movements carefully, feinting a dodge to the left before bolting to her right. He cried out in anger before landing with a hard thud on the ground.
He turned toward her quickly, charging at her again. Yet this time it was she who was tricked. At the last moment, just when she was about to dodge, he halted with a slight skid and reared up again. Avari, stunned for an instant too long, dodged too late, and as a result his hoofs collided with her chest.
She was forced back, rolling across the ground, her side flaring up in agonizing pain. She rose quickly, trying to ignore the pain that roared through her injured side, known some bones were broken but also knowing she was still in a fight.
He ran toward her again, and she was able to narrowly dodge the sharp skewer he aimed at her. Yet she knew that she couldn’t dodge much longer – already she was beginning to fade with her pain. Tamal was going to win. He was going to destroy her just as he had always wanted.
Yet just as he began charging at her again, rearing up at the last moment to crush her, white light slammed into his dark form. A single cry of rage and fear broke out before Avari turned away from the brightness, knowing without seeing that Raatri had returned and rescued her from certain death.
When the light cleared, Tamal was gone.
To be continued...