The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part Nine
The Battle for the Citadel
The pair of Meridellian knights went along as fast as they could, though Avari’s broken bones were slowing them down tremendously. It was odd when they reached the place where the barrier between the Dark Side of the World and the Light Side had stood, for there were no sides to separate now. It seemed that the castle had been holding up that side, giving life to the Nightmares. Even the hundred or so Nightmares that had been just outside the Dark Side in the camp were gone, disappeared into the wind forever.
Raatri had no doubt where Cornelius and the rest of the assassins had gone. With the Dark Side of the World gone, and Cornelius’ refuge gone with it, they would have gone to the Citadel to begin the attack they had been planning all along. In the faint distance pointing toward Meridell and the Citadel, Raatri could feel the powerful magic of Cornelius. They were going to attack. With over a dozen poisonous assassins and an Eyrie perhaps more powerful than the Seer herself, Meridell and the Citadel would have a hard time fighting them off.
Unless he flew to their aid. Yet he couldn’t leave Avari behind. It seemed that this was what he had been searching for, the battle that would help Avari gain back her heart of knighthood. He couldn’t leave her behind now.
So together they walked on as fast as Avari’s pain would allow, which wasn’t fast enough. Avari once suggested that he fly on ahead, sensing as he did the need for his magic back at home. He had refused, telling her they would make it there eventually.
On foot, it took about two weeks to get from the Dark Side of the World to Meridell. Flying, it could take less than a day, if the winds were with them. But Avari had no wings, and she was injured severely. He didn’t have the strength to carry her all the way. All he had was his magic, and that was simply battle magic.
“Avari,” Raatri said suddenly, and the pair came to a halt in the dry desert sands. “Avari, I want to try something.”
“What is it?” she panted.
“I... I’m going to try to heal you.”
“Some people have magic that’s only good for battle. Others can help the plants grow. Some can heal wounds. I’ve only used my magic for battling as of yet, but the Seer once told me that I have an extraordinary gift of magic. I...”
She gazed into his crimson eyes. “I know as well as you do that if this goes wrong, you could turn me into dust quicker than the Nightmares disappeared.”
He bit his lip. He had hoped she wouldn’t notice that. “Yes,” he said quietly. “But we both know that Meridell and the Citadel need us now. Even when we arrive, would you be able to fight?”
She chuckled, then stopped quickly, wincing in pain. “I think this is a good idea, Raatri. I know that you will do your best not to destroy me. I understand our need to get there quicker.”
She lay down in the warm sands and waited, her eyes closed and her head on her paws. The dawning sunlight had just barely caused them to begin shedding their night cool.
Raatri slowly gathered his magic. Every time he had used his magic before, there had been a special need to destroy whatever he was destroying. When he had used his magic against Blake, he had been filled with rage, thinking that Avari was dead. Each time he had used his magic against the Nightmares, anger had been involved as well – anger that they were in the way and trying to stop him. When he had destroyed the castle of the Nightmares, anger had been present as well – he was angry that he was being forced to destroy the life of his student, though he would have done it a thousand times over to save Avari.
Now he had to use his magic in a different way. He had to heal. Healing was the opposite of destroying, so it seemed only right to him that instead of anger feeding his magic, he needed to use... his compassion and friendship for Avari.
That part of the puzzle solved, he looked down to his friend, his magic a pale white light gathered in his wings. Anger left him – only the feeling of deep loyalty and friendship filled his heart. He gently placed a paw against her injured side, softly persuading his magic into her wounds, letting his loyalty to her take control.
He knew that he had guessed correctly when she took a deep breath of contentment and opened her eyes, smiling at him.
“So you can heal as well, Meridellian knight and my greatest friend.”
Leland was annoyed. He had been sent by Vladimir to the Citadel to deliver a message, and he disliked the minions very much. He had once called them demons, though Vladimir had ordered him not to.
The yellow Lenny’s mind wandered to thoughts of the female knight. She and her darigan knight friend had been gone for a little over two weeks now. He liked it best when they weren’t at the castle. He had always disliked Avari, all through her squire years and now as a knight. It all went against tradition – there had never been a female knight before!
He flapped his wings and glided up to the entrance of the Citadel. Even as he landed and cast a wistful glance back at the lands below before heading inside, he didn’t notice the fifteen assassins waiting below.
Avari sneezed, her eyes opening wide. “Oh,” she whispered, staring at Raatri.
“What is it?” he asked. After successfully healing her injuries, they had rested for a moment before deciding to continue. Just as Avari had stood, though, she had sneezed.
A small, bewildered smile lit her face slightly. “I think I know why I can move so quickly when I’m battling the assassins,” she said quietly, her small smile spreading slightly.
He blinked – he had been expecting her to say that her wounds were not quite healed yet. “What do you mean?”
“Lately I’ve been noticing that when I attack, I’m slightly faster than I used to be.” Her smile widened. “I think I have magic, Raatri.”
“Don’t forget you didn’t know you had magic until six years ago. I’ve been wondering about the feelings I’ve been having for several days now. The last assassin I attacked before Tamal came seemed to confirm it. I used to not be able to capture or destroy an assassin without some injury, but that last assassin was destroyed as he first realized I had attacked. I’ve become much faster somehow.” Her smile became a grin. “You say Cornelius has a powerful gift. Well, I think when he possessed me, he somehow unlocked the rest of my magic. I can feel it now, rising within me. Go ahead and fly, my friend. I think I’ll be able to keep up.”
Raatri hesitated a moment longer, not believing what his friend was telling him, but he did as she had asked. Taking off, he flew a dozen feet into the sky. After a moment he caught movement below him and looked down. To his complete amazement, Avari was running as fast as he could fly.
Avak, too, had business in the Citadel. He was the apprentice-keeper of the histories at Meridell, having entered training three years before. Darigan was allowing him to copy down the histories that the Citadel held in its libraries, trusting the yellow Korbat to put them to good use. Thus, every other afternoon he was granted permission by his master, Leland, to fly up to the Citadel and continue making copies of the texts. He thought that Leland was secretly happy he had volunteered to do so, since he felt that Leland had wanted those copies but hadn’t wanted to make them.
The yellow Korbat was barely an hour into his session when he heard the screams and cries at the entrance of the Citadel.
Darigan was in his study reading a book, Kaeth tidying papers around his desk. He had tried to tell her to go do something else, something for herself for once, but she had refused, telling him she preferred helping out.
They were quick to rise and leave the room for the entrance of the Citadel when they heard screams and cries emitting from there.
It was a battle for the Citadel, Avak thought ironically as he warded off an assassin, hissing with rage. He remembered five years before when the assassins had escaped, for he had been the first to ‘greet’ them as they exited the Citadel. He had been able to stumble on for a while, until he found Raatri and collapsed, trusting the stranger with his very life.
Now he fought those same assassins – fifteen total when they had first attacked, though now the number had been reduced to nine. Some darigan guards had already taken the first bite of the assassins, paralyzed for a few days to a few weeks until they would wake again. Two had received the second bite – they were gone forever.
Avak cried out as a sharp pang erupted on his shoulder, and he flung the assassin away, where a darigan guard took care of it. He looked down dully at the bite, his vision already beginning to blur. Yet Avak was a special Korbat. For some reason or another, poison did not affect him as it did others. It took longer to work its way into his system, and he recovered much more quickly than others normally would.
He looked up grimly at the misshapen form come into the Citadel from the sky that was showing the first hints of sunset. The shape split apart – there were two there. He realized with grim fire that they were Cornelius and the queen of assassins, Hyja.
The Seer came as soon as she heard the screaming and yelling of the fight, though she was a little late. She had been deeper inside the Citadel than any of the others, searching through some old libraries for a book to lend to Avak. When she had reached the room he was supposed to be in, her keen hearing had first heard the din.
She had left the book on the desk and rushed to aid the Citadel. Arriving out of breath, she had found the place in turmoil – assassins fought the others in frenzy.
The darigan Cybunny shook her head and gathered her magic, and took aim at a group of five assassins standing in a circle and fighting a ring of opponents around them. She was an expert with her magic – she knew how to aim at only that poisonous group and none of the others. The assassins wouldn’t stand a chance.
Avak was a surprise weapon against the assassins. He knew from the look Hyja gave him that she had seen the first bite he had received. She slunk over to him, grinning sinisterly, thinking he would fall over any moment. Avak had once walked a long way to find help, when he had been bitten as the assassins escaped five years before. He wouldn’t fall over any time soon.
A large light erupted in the distance – it seemed the Seer had taken care of some more assassins, but his trouble was with Hyja. He knew from tales that Hyja had been second behind Zev, and had become queen when the former leader had been destroyed by Avari. He knew that he didn’t have the strength to fight her, but he could make it easier for someone else to destroy her.
“Poor little Korbat,” she said in mock sympathy. “Bitten and dying...”
“I’m not dying, you rat,” he hissed quietly. “Don’t you know who I am?”
“No,” she said, cocking her head in fake curiosity. “I don’t know who you are.”
He quickly shot out his taloned wing, cutting a deep wound across her left eye. She cried out in pain and shock, squirming across the ground and clasping her hands over her ruined eye.
“I am Avak!” he cried out, his voice still quiet in his slow paralyzing. “Five years ago you bit me as you escaped from the Citadel – I remember you, little queen. Now I have returned the favor.”
She hissed and glared at him with her good eye. “You’ll pay for this!” she cried, preparing to launch herself at him. Through the entrance soared a second misshapen figure – the winged one set the other on the ground. Avak’s bleary eyes refocused, and his heart leapt. That was Raatri carrying Avari – they were saved!
The assassin turned her head in the direction of his gaze, and he heard her hiss in fury.
Leland was frightened. He had never been in a battle before, and this one included assassins. He mostly stayed to the side, trying to remain out of sight, kicking any assassin that came near.
He glanced over suddenly, seeing a large lopsided shape fly in through the entrance. His heart gave a strange leap of joy – yes, for the first time, he was actually glad to see Avari and her friend Raatri!
Avari was set down on the ground, where she looked around at the din with a fiery gaze. He watched her attack an assassin with lightning-quick fury before turning to another one. Yet then he stopped watching, for another assassin had found him.
He kicked the creature back – normally it was enough to persuade the minion to go attack someone else. Yet this one was persistent – it crouched to attack him again. He wasn’t ready! He stared death in the face for an instant, and the assassin flung himself at him.
But before the dark creature could reach him, a blue form attacked from behind the assassin, flattening it on the ground before crushing its life away. Avari stared at Leland for an instant before turning away, but it was that short glance that told Leland all he ever needed to know.
After saving Leland, Avari turned and looked at the battle for an instant in time. She saw the strangest sight – Meridellians fighting next to darigans against the assassins. It hadn’t been so long ago that the Meridellians and the darigans would have been fighting each other! She charged forward when she saw a limp figure standing in the midst of the battle. Avak!
She ran to him, dodging passed all others, kneeling quickly beside him. “Avak, are you alright? Will you be alright?”
The Korbat smiled at her. “I’ll be just fine, my friend. Only the first bite.”
Avari nodded her understanding as he closed his eyes in temporary sleep. That was the only good thing about darigan Techos – they had two sets of poison. The first bite was always the poison of paralysis, while the second was of death. She knew Avak would wake in a few days, entirely fine. Special creature – he had some strange immunity to poison.
Avari turned after a moment and charged for another assassin that was rushing toward Raatri, flinging it away. She halted and panted, glaring at the creature. A white bolt of light engulfed it suddenly – the Seer had taken care of the assassin for Avari. Avari nodded her appreciation. She turned suddenly as she heard Raatri growl lowly, his powerful form crouching as he watched Cornelius. The Eyrie seemed trapped with fear and anger, yet suddenly that wasn’t Avari’s problem anymore.
For movement had caught the corner of her eye, and she had ducked just in time to miss the attack Hyja had planned for her. The pair glared at each other, and Avari realized that the assassin’s left eye was now blind. Still, she was angry with Avari, and that anger showed in her good eye. Avari was the one that had destroyed Zev.
Avari had found herself in the same position she had been in six years before, protecting Raatri from an assassin while he fought the dark Eyrie. Yet this time Raatri faced a dark Eyrie who had once been his student, while she faced not Zev but his enraged successor.
To be continued...