The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part Ten
The True Plan Revealed
Raatri’s fur stood up in pure anger and hate, though also in fear. The sounds of the battle raged around him, but for some odd reason it seemed distant and unimportant. His crimson eyes glared at a sole figure as he growled lowly, dimly realizing that six years before, he had stood in this same spot to face Blake. Yet now he faced Blake’s follower, who might just be much more powerful than the former. Might.
Would Raatri be able to destroy his former student if the need arose?
Even if he had told Avari it were so, he was still not sure he’d be able to destroy Cornelius.
“Cornelius,” Raatri growled, injecting anger and venom into his voice. He remembered Cornelius as being a hesitant student, always frightened that he was taking the wrong step, always looking for approval. If Raatri were to pry Cornelius from the book he clutched so closely, would that be enough to help him turn from Blake?
“Cornelius. Set that book down now. Forget Blake and his Nightmares and assassins. Didn’t you see when you flew away from the Dark Side of the World? The Nightmares are gone – you can’t rest all your hopes for power on something that is already dead.”
The darigan Eyrie’s eyes flickered. “They can’t be,” he said, and Raatri could catch a fearful whine in his voice. “The Nightmares could never be stopped! They could never be destroyed!”
“That isn’t true, and you know it. Anything can be destroyed. Anything at all. I can be destroyed, even if ballads of knights make them out to be invincible. And you, Cornelius, will be destroyed if you do not set that book down now!”
Cornelius flinched, stepping backwards. “Blake said...”
“Blake is dead.”
Cornelius’ feathers ruffled uncomfortably. “But he came to me...” he said, voice trailing off. Raatri had never seen him look so sad and lost.
“Cornelius – don’t do this. Don’t listen to Blake or his books. Return to me, my friend. You were one of my students before Darigan returned. I taught you loyalty to Darigan. Not to Blake. Why don’t you set that book down? Don’t you see how much strain it’s putting on you? I don’t want to see you so unhappy.”
For an instant, it seemed that Cornelius had been persuaded. The book so tightly clamped next to his heart loosened from its grip, and the Eyrie almost dropped it. Then suddenly, the sad and forlorn eyes hardened, and the book was pressed tightly against his chest once more.
Even as Raatri looked on, Cornelius’ faced seemed to change ever so slightly. The young features of his face sharpened and hardened, and some of his feathers took a darker shade of violet. Raatri’s fur rose. What was happening?
“Drop the book, Cornelius!” Raatri cried to his former student. “Drop it!”
“No! You taught me loyalty to Darigan, but where did that put me?” Cornelius’ voice was somehow deeper. “I was always the one in the background, unimportant to everyone! Blake promised me power! I want that power! I want to be great! I want everything to belong to me! Blake will find a new army, perhaps greater than the Nightmares. And with that army, I shall rule all the lands!”
“You are crazy!” Raatri snarled. “You think that no one will stand up to stop you? Blake, who promises all these things to you, was destroyed by my power! Who says that I will not now destroy you!?”
The rest of the young Eyrie’s feathers turned a darker shade of purple, and suddenly all his features took a crueler appearance. The eyes became harder than stone, and the beak wickedly sharp. His limbs grew more powerful, and he grew larger and stronger. His talons became longer and sharper. The Eyrie’s beak opened slowly and he spoke two words in a voice that Raatri immediately recognized.
Raatri’s world suddenly seemed to turn upside down.
The Eyrie that stood before him now wasn’t his student, or if he was, he was deep inside the body and hidden away entirely. The Eyrie that stood before him now was...
“Yes, Raatri,” the Eyrie said venomously. “My plan has worked, then. Not even you saw it coming until it was too late. How does it feel, to be the one with less power at the hands of the greater force?”
“You have no greater power than me, Blake,” Raatri snarled. “I destroyed you.”
“Ah, but you forget. Cornelius always had the potential for great power. You assumed that he would wield his power at my guidance? You assumed wrongly. It was my true plan all along to become him. Cornelius is here, don’t you worry. But he is now my prisoner. Even he was blind to my true plan. Only Hyja knew.”
“Cornelius,” Raatri whispered, and it sounded like a plea.
“Cornelius won’t answer,” the Eyrie drawled. “I won’t allow him to. He is my prisoner, now and forever. The greatest part about all of this is not that I now live again. I would have done so eventually. The greatest part is not even the fact that I have more power that the Seer or even you. I would have found that in someone as well. No, there’s something greater than even those things, and you don’t even realize it yet, do you?”
Raatri stared at the Eyrie for a long moment, and then shook his head slowly.
“Oh, but I will tell you about that in a moment,” Blake hissed cunningly. “For now, let me show you how great my plan was. Then I’ll tell you the greatest part of my becoming Cornelius. And then I will destroy you.”
“Go on,” Raatri said.
“My plan started before you destroyed me. Long before then, in fact. I knew without question that eventually, someone would try to usurp the power that I usurped from you. Someone would try to destroy the magic I wielded as my own birthright and legacy. Of course, that someone was you, wasn’t it? Of course. The prophecy that Cassandra made demanded it. So I knew that my days would be numbered when a black creature came forth. The Cybunny Seer stayed my hand when I would have destroyed you as a pup. There you were, the living fulfillment of the prophecy, and I knew that eventually you would destroy me.”
“Yet you let me live.”
“Ha! Were you living as you sat day and night by that window of yours, staring out across the plains you could never fly over? Tell me! Were you alive!?”
Raatri grinned recklessly. “I was breathing. My heart was beating. My mind was restless and my life uneventful, but yes – I lived.”
“The Cybunny Seer was, at that time, the only one I feared. She stayed my hand over and over, but at last I had a chance to destroy you. I would have challenged you to a duel that would destroy you, Raatri, the same day you fled the Citadel with my plans clamped in your jaws.”
Raatri laughed. “I was always foiling your plans, wasn’t I?”
“Mostly,” the Eyrie admitted. Then he added sinisterly. “But I always had a backup plan ready. You eventually destroyed me, Raatri. It was in this very same place, wasn’t it? Yet you nor anyone ever considered the possibility that I had created another plan to rule again one day. Admit it!”
“I thought you were dead forever,” Raatri said quietly.
“Yet when Darigan made his Search and discovered the twice-secret room, he never thought that there was a thrice-secret room! And in that room were my two greatest books – one that detailed everything about my life, save for the secret plan I would never write down, and the other telling how to control the creatures called Nightmare!”
“Yet the Nightmares are all dead.”
“Yes, that is an unfortunate error in my plan. But don’t you see? It worked all along! Inside the book that detailed my life was a spell, once that would call my spirit if I were to be destroyed. I waited inside that book until my successor would come. My legacy lives on!”
“So you waited until someone would find those books and try to use them. Someone like Cornelius. You promised him power and greatness. Yet you took it all.”
The Eyrie nodded. “He followed my every command, even when I told him to use the spell that would make you look like a normal darigan Lupe. Even though you had once been his teacher, he betrayed you. That’s the beauty of it. He never realized that each time he did something I told him to do, he became more of mine. He never realized that each time he clamped the book to his heart, he was letting some of me enter his body. Until now! I have returned to take my revenge and rule all the lands! I will be greater than all! I will be stronger than all! I will have more power than all! You failed to claim Cornelius’ power for your own side, so now all the power will belong to me. I will rule everything! Not even you, Raatri, can stop the power of Cornelius and Blake combined!”
To be continued...