The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part Eleven
As Raatri talked to Cornelius and eventually Blake, Avari was locked in a fierce battle of wills with the queen of assassins, the terrible darigan Techo, the cunning Hyja. Someone had blinded her left eye during the battle, perhaps Avak before he went to paralyzed sleep. Yet even with that handicap, Avari knew that the sinister assassin would still be quite a match. Although Zev had been the greatest at one point, this creature had all the hate of his death on her side. Avari could see it in her eyes – the burning ferocity of one who had laid eyes on the person who had destroyed her leader.
Yet Avari had a secret weapon on her side – she had her newfound magic. Oh, it might not have been full of lights and power, but it was magic nonetheless. Avari’s feet were winged with magic, and she was swifter than any that had come before.
But was she swifter than the enraged Hyja?
She had only been able to destroy Zev because he hadn’t expected her to retaliate. His mistake. But Hyja knew better – she had learned from that mistake. Even half-blind, she would be a challenge to beat. She would not go down without a serious fight.
“You are the one,” the assassin hissed, shifting her weight from side to side. “You are the terrible one.”
“To you, yes,” Avari replied calmly, standing her ground and watching Hyja’s every move. “To others, I am a brave one.”
“Oh, yes, you are brave. But terrible as well. Hideous. Murderous.”
“Your king tried to destroy me first.”
“But in the end, you destroyed him.”
“He didn’t expect it.”
“But I do. Poor little knight,” the assassin murmured, beginning to circle around Avari slowly, easing closer. The dance of death had begun. “No one believes in you anymore. No one but your beloved darigan knight over there. But are either of you a true knight? No, I don’t think so.” She came even closer, trying to hypnotize Avari with her words. Even though she had known this would happen, Avari was starting to fall under the sway. “Both of you are not true knights. A true knight can’t be darigan or female.”
Was she right? The words of Avari’s past few years came back to haunt her.
Was she a true knight?
“I can see in your eyes the truth of it. You don’t even believe in yourself anymore. How can others believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?”
A true knight?
The assassin came closer.
Why had Avari ever wanted to become a knight?
“Let me help you, little false knight. Let me send you to the stars, away from this place.”
That was it! The stars! Oh, the stars!
A true knight!
The assassin leaped for her, but Avari’s paws were winged with magic. She dodged the queen easily, growling out in fury. The assassin edged lower to the ground, wary now, knowing that something wasn’t as she had planned. It was Avari’s turn.
“You are wrong, petty queen!” Avari yowled. “I am a true knight! My mother and my father wished it so, taught me everything I needed, and saved me from death so I could carry on their dream! My dream! Never a knight in name if it wasn’t to be, but forever a knight in heart! You are wrong, petty queen! I see my own mistake now. My loyalties were forgotten – but now I remember them! To the crown, to chivalry, to the kingdom, to my parents in the stars! I hold inside my heart the spirit of the knight – the knight within!”
Avari pounced, paws winged with magic, and Hyja had only enough time for one final scream of fury.
Raatri stared at Blake who had been Cornelius, the echoes of the dead Eyrie’s words seeming to fill every space of his mind.
I will rule everything! Not even you, Raatri, can stop the power of Cornelius and Blake combined!
And it was true – it was true! Raatri’s power had been greater than Blake’s and even greater than the Cybunny Seer’s. But Cornelius had been gifted beyond anything he had ever known. Raatri had not taught him as he should have – he hadn’t seen the signs before. He should have trained Cornelius better! He should have taught him fiercer loyalty! He should have tried harder to persuade him to turn from Blake! He should have...
He should have.
Blake’s plan all along. Let himself be destroyed, knowing that he’d live on. Wait until a creature could be persuaded to come to him. Create a sense of loyalty to him. And take over once all the barriers had been destroyed!
“I suppose you are right,” Raatri said quietly. “Not even I can face both you and Cornelius.”
The Eyrie nodded regally. “No, you can’t.
“Let’s talk by the Citadel entrance, Blake. I don’t want others to be injured if we must fight.”
Blake stared suspiciously at him, but finally nodded and flicked his head toward the entrance. His intentions were clear. If they were to move to a different location, Raatri would be going first.
Raatri knew what he had to do. Blake using Cornelius powerful magic would result in exactly what Blake had promised – his rule over everything. It would start small at first – a town here, a kingdom there. But one day there wouldn’t be anyone left to try and stop him. There was only now, and now, Raatri was the only one that would be able to stop Blake. He stepped up to the entrance, looking at the light crimson of the early morning. The conclusion clicked into his mind like a heavy burden.
He would have to do it. He would have to destroy Blake... and Cornelius.
Yet Blake would see the magic coming. Raatri shook his head mentally. Perhaps he could try to hide the light of his magic until it was too late for Blake to counteract it.
He had healed Avari when he hadn’t been sure he could do it. For destruction, he fed his magic anger. For healing, he fed his magic loyalty. Could he feed his magic both anger and the thought to stay hidden? It was worth a chance.
Blake couldn’t be allowed to survive.
He began to gather his magic, willing his fur to stay the familiar purple hue and not turn white, willing his wings to create a transparent magic. Could he do it?
“So what was the greatest part of all of this?” Raatri asked Blake. “You told me that the greatest thing wasn’t that you were alive again, or even that you had great power. So what was it?”
The Eyrie smiled sinisterly, his form highlighted by the dawning light. “The greatest part about all of this is that Cornelius was the one I eventually took. Cornelius, one of your own students. Not even you would destroy one of your own students, Raatri. Even though you would be the only one that could do so.”
“You underestimate me,” Raatri murmured lowly, his voice dead. His wings and fur finally began to start glowing – he had gathered the magic he would need. “My loyalty to the crown outreaches my loyalty to a student who drifted away. It is you that made the mistake this time.”
“You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t dare destroy one of your own!” The darigan Eyrie’s magic began to glow a dull crimson, but it was far too late for retaliation.
“I am a knight!” Raatri cried. “I defend the code of chivalry, and I must accept the cost!” His furled his wings out, white light glistening within them, his own fur white like it had been when he had last destroyed Blake. His eyes filled with tears. “You must be destroyed, Blake. If Cornelius must go with you... Then so be it.”
His wings came together in a thunderclap, sending white light hurtling toward Blake and the book he clutched so closely...
When the light cleared, Raatri stood alone.
After Hyja and Blake were gone, the battle was easily won. There were very few remaining assassins, who were each taken care of quickly, for they had lost heart.
No one saw Mort, who had been third in command after Zev, and second in command after Hyja, crawl furiously out of the entrance to the Citadel and escape into the brightening darkness.
He blinked, raising his head to look around. He was alone for the moment, though he could see others greeting each other. Some littered the ground, though he immediately knew that most were not dead. Why was that? Oh yes – that was what the assassin poison did. It paralyzed without destroying, at least until the second bite.
He shuddered. He wanted nothing more to do with assassins. There was something bittersweet about the memory, but he couldn’t quite place it.
He lay in a shadowed corner, away from the dawning light that spread through the entrance to the Citadel. A single figure stood there, looking across the quiet battlefield to another. He recognized that figure from somewhere... But where?
He blinked again as the memories started pouring through him. He had accepted a shadow’s task and had been tricked all along. He had been betrayed. Betrayed! Yet he had betrayed his friends before, so perhaps he had deserved it. He recognized the figure at the entrance now. He was Raatri.
He couldn’t rise yet – he was too weak from the blast that had sent toward him. Yet soon he would go to Raatri and apologize sincerely for all he had done, and beg for forgiveness. He would never turn down the darker ways again. He would stick the loyalty he had been first introduced to. He would promise to renounce the course he had taken.
Cornelius blinked again, wondering if it would be enough.
Avari backed away from the still form of Hyja, realizing for the first time how quiet it was in the vast room. Looking around, she noticed that the battle had been won for Meridell and Darigan, while the survivors either cheered or smiled at friends in triumph.
She looked around quickly for Raatri, realizing that she didn’t see him in the midst of the survivors. The brightness of the dawn caught her attention, and she turned to it on some instinct. And there he was! There he was – Raatri! He stood framed against the crimson of the dawning sky with its curtain of purpled clouds, and she immediately crossed the room to go to him. Yet something made her stop several feet from the form of her friend. She looked into his crimson eyes with their silver glint of light, eyes that were narrowed in both sorrow and triumph. So he had conquered his fear – he had destroyed the threat his student posed to the entire world.
Bravery – that was the name for it, wasn’t it? Bravery and courage, two of the marks of a true knight. And she saw his other marks of true knighthood – the will to keep the people of Meridell safe no matter the cost to himself, the will to spread justice throughout the land, the knowledge of gentleness and peace, the strength of his valor.
As she looked to his powerful form, seeing the warm smile he gave to her in that moment, Avari saw not the normal darigan Lupe he resembled.
She saw a knight, a true knight, just as he had been called when he had first taken up the title.
Could she ever compare?
A warm feeling fluttered up inside her – it was the same joy she had felt when she had first been knighted. For the first time in years, she felt true to that calling.
Yes, she could compare. It didn’t matter that she was a normal blue Lupe or that she was a female. She was a knight.
Author’s Note – Yes, loyal readers, the tale ends here.
Thank you for being so patient in the long wait for the third and final Chronicle, and for your kind words to me over the course of Avari and Raatri’s journey. I hope I didn’t disappoint you with Avari and Raatri’s change to normal colors (which, with new Times rules, had to be changed anyway), or with the rushed scenes at some points. I tried to solve as many cliffhangers as I could for you, but I probably missed some.
One reason for Avari and Raatri’s change of color was to match the pretty little picture that has become the symbol for the Chronicles of Knight. Reread the last few paragraphs of part eleven. It should nearly match Raatri’s pose.
Check out Taariq_Randi’s page for updates and story info.
Thank you again for being so patient and kind, even with time struggles.
Thank you kind writers of that forum, for guiding me through the darkness of frustration.
Thank you lots, Zeph, Mid, Syc, and Nova, for your support and comments.
I shall not say this is the end of the Chronicles of Knight, for every ending is in fact a beginning...