The Clash of the Titans: Part One
The Citadel Council had only just finished a session when there was a sharp knock on the door. “That would be Kyrouge,” Celestial said with a hint of surprise. “What could she possibly want now?”
“I would suspect she is looking for another story.” General Galgarrath smiled. “Isn’t that what she always wants?”
Master Vex strode to the door and welcomed the little Shoyru inside the Darigan Chambers. “Are you seeking to interview every person on the Council, Lady Kyrouge?” he muttered.
Kyrouge grinned shamelessly. “That would be the idea, yes. At least, I want to interview everyone on the Council who was on the Citadel during the two wars,” she hastily clarified.
Lord Draconis Darigan gave a great sigh. “I had hoped that you would find my story too unoriginal for your purposes. I see that doesn’t deter you in the slightest,” the Korbat said wryly.
Kyrouge shook her head gravely. “One story can be told and interpreted multiple ways,” she said solemnly. Celestial gave a slight snort, and Ky blushed. “I also have already hinted in some places that I would write this story,” she admitted sheepishly.
“Written ourselves into a corner, have we?” Celestial teased. “I wouldn’t be surprised, given your past interviews.”
Kyrouge glared at her friend and brought out her yellow notepad and a pen. Celestial, Galgarrath, and Vex got the hint and slowly filed out of the room. When the Chamber doors closed, she began her interview. “I understand if you don’t want me to cover the Invasion of Meridell,” she began slowly.
Lord Darigan stood up and walked over to the window. “No,” he said with a slight moan, “I will not disturb the pattern you have set with the other stories. In addition, much of what I am now has to do with what I went through in the Invasion of Meridell. In order to understand my policies today, you would have to look into my past...”
There had been no warning before the attack started. One moment, the courtyard had been the scene of a peaceful celebration of the Founding of the Citadel; the next moment, it was the landscape of a battlefield. The smoke, which had previously been thought to be caused by an accidental fire, was pouring into the area as nearby buildings were set aflame.
“What is happening?!” Lord Draconis Darigan whispered as he clutched his left shoulder in pain. The world around him was becoming blurred and surreal; the arrow he had taken to his left shoulder was coated with powerful poison from earth faerie magic, and the effect on his reflexes was devastating. There was no telling what curses had been laid on the arrows, but there was no time to ponder such horrors. Draconis was separated from Kass and Galgarrath, and the foreigners were advancing.
He didn’t think as he grabbed the Staff of the Founders and blocked the oncoming blows; he just reacted as his instinct demanded. Time seemed to slow down, and he could not remember how long he had been fighting. Draconis felt his strength wane as the poison coursed through his system, and he could no longer block the oncoming blows from the aggressive Lupe he was facing. He staggered and fell, his unprotected back exposed. He heard the sword whistle through the air and rolled aside just in time. The Korbat felt numb; the poison had paralyzed him completely. The last thing he saw before darkness overcame him was his friend Kass blocking an oncoming sword with a sword of his own.
“A tragedy,” a voice whispered. “Such a tragedy that your people were attacked for no reason, Draconis.”
“Indeed,” a second voice chimed in. “And they took a treasure that has been with your people for years.”
“We know you can hear us, Draconis,” a third voice added. “Why do you not respond?”
Draconis blinked and was surprised to see three cloaked figures before him. “Who are you?”
“We are here to help you regain what has been taken from you.” The Gelert scowled.
“What happened? I can’t remember,” Draconis protested as he slowly stood up. “Where am I?”
“So many questions... Should we show him the answers?” the Faerie murmured. The grin on her face was highly unpleasant, and Draconis was instantly suspicious.
“Why do you mock me?” he snarled. “I don’t have time for this useless small talk! I need to get back to the Citadel Council!”
“Most of the Council is not conscious at the moment, Lord Draconis Darigan,” the Skeith laughed harshly. “Yourself included.”
“What happened?! Why won’t you tell me, if you do in fact know?” Draconis shrieked.
The high pitched sounds of his yell had an odd result on the three strangers. They clapped their hands to their ears and summed to groan in pain. The Faerie looked furious. “See for yourself!” she spat.
Suddenly, before his eyes, a devastating scene unfolded. Draconis watched in horror as steely eyed pets clad in metal armor rode into the Citadel and began to raze it to the ground. He gasped in astonishment at the scene in the courtyard where the Council fell in battle. When the aggressors rode off after seizing the Orb of the Founders, he was smoldering with rage. “Why?!” he yelled. “Why did they want the Orb of the Founders?! The Orb is not made of gold, nor does it hold any powers within it! If they had wanted it, they could have asked for it! Why did they have to commit such horrendous acts in order to take a simple glowing sphere?!” Draconis did not like the smug look the three ghostlike beings were wearing as he asked these questions. Something about them seemed... evil.
“That is a question for another day, Draconis. Farewell,” the Faerie laughed as the three figures vanished into nothingness.
“Draconis! You’re alive!” Morguss snorted gleefully.
Draconis groaned as the Moehog’s features swam into focus. “Where am I? I just had the most terrible nightmare,” he rasped. He began coughing heavily.
“Now, now,” Morguss said soothingly. “Don’t move. You were poisoned pretty nastily, and it was tough work removing the earth faerie magic from your system. Whoever cast those spells was a master of earth magic. You are lucky to be alive,” she added gravely as she handed him a bowl of soup. “Drink this. It will ease your throat.”
He took the bowl gratefully and drank deeply. The result was almost instantaneous, and he relaxed slightly. “That is so much better,” he muttered as he set the bowl aside. “Where is the rest of the Council?”
“Not now, Draconis. You are still recovering,” Morguss said hastily. She tried to clean up the area, but Draconis grabbed her hoof. “Well... Galgarrath and Kass are still recovering too.” She sighed. “They are in the next room. We moved them from this room when you began having hallucinations.”
“Where are Celestial and Darzul Vex?” Draconis protested. Then he did a double take. “Wait a second... hallucinations? What are you talking about?”
Morguss seemed deflated. “Many of the Draiks were taken captive in the raid. Celestial was among them, but some think she escaped,” she said weakly. “As for Vex... He’s doing very poorly. The cut on his left eye was heavily infected with an even more powerful earth faerie magic than the poison on your arrow wound. I’m not sure...” she faltered, and then gave him a teary look. “I’m not sure he will survive!” she moaned, running out of the room.
Draconis sat speechless in his bed. A new nurse came into the room, shaking her head. The Pteri tried to give him some more soup, and when he asked about Morguss, she sighed. “Don’t you worry, your Lordship. Morguss will be alright.”
“But what about Vex? And what did she mean by hallucinations?” Draconis argued.
“Lord Darigan, you need your rest,” the Pteri said firmly. “I am not in the position to answer such questions.”
“Then I’ll answer them,” a familiar voice rumbled. Draconis was surprised to see Galgarrath hobbling into the room using a stick to support himself as he dragged his bandaged left leg along behind him.
“Galgarrath! I thought I told you to stay in bed!” The Pteri scowled. “Your leg is not stable. You shouldn’t be walking around right now!”
“I was starting to get insanely bored and restless. I also heard that Draconis had recovered.” The Grarrl laughed. Despite the nurse’s protests, he turned and answered Draconis’s question. “You were talking while you were unconscious. It seemed as if you were talking to three strangers, because you turned and faced in three directions as you spoke.”
“And what of Darzul Vex?” Draconis said softly. So that wasn’t a nightmare, but a hallucination... he thought to himself.
The Grarrl’s face turned grim. “He’s still alive for now. And before you ask... I don’t know what happened to Celestial. The last I saw of that Draik, she was chained up and being carried off.”
“I need to meet with the heads of law enforcement at once,” Draconis demanded as he tried to sit up.
“Lord Darigan! I really must protest!” the Pteri twittered angrily. She seemed very flustered, and Draconis could understand her position. She was trying to do her job, but she wasn’t very experienced at it yet.
“Well, all right.” Draconis sighed. “But please get me their statuses so that I can hold a meeting later,” he asked as he drank the soup and was slowly overcome by sleep.
In his sleep, he was once again visited by the three strange ghostly figures. “You again!” he scowled. “What do you want?”
“We want to help you.” The Faerie grinned slyly.
Draconis snorted with contempt. “Somehow I doubt that,” he growled. “You are just a hallucination.”
“We are no more a hallucination than you are,” the Gelert snarled. He was quickly silenced by a glare from the faerie.
“What would you need to believe us?” the Skeith asked silkily.
“If you really know so much, what happened to the heads of the Citadel law enforcement?” Draconis laughed harshly.
The Gelert shook his head gravely. “They fell honorably in battle,” he replied grimly. “Not a single one survived.”
Draconis was stunned. “But... But I need leaders! I can’t do this by myself!”
“Then appoint your friends,” the Faerie suggested as the dream slowly faded. “They are the only ones with the needed training required for such positions...”
“Well, we’re all here,” Kass muttered. “At least, most of us are here. Celestial is still missing, Morguss is mourning the loss of her husband, and Vex is still recovering from his face wound,” the Eyrie bitterly clarified.
“Have you had the meeting with the heads of law enforcement yet?” Galgarrath asked quietly.
Draconis frowned deeply. “According to the reports, none of them survived. The two of you are the only ones left with the required leadership to lead the recovery effort. I’m promoting the two of you to the rank of General,” he said firmly over Kass’s protests. In the back of his mind, he wondered what else the three figures of his dreams knew about the situation, and brooded...
“...But as that meeting has been covered by General Galgarrath already, I don’t think you need to hear what we discussed during it,” Lord Draconis Darigan said softly.
The sudden change in tone startled his interviewer. Ky frowned. “Well, he didn’t go into very much detail,” she muttered.
“Not much happened at that particular meeting. After promoting them, we reviewed what had happened and some plans for a response. General Galgarrath insisted on waiting until Master Darzul Vex was better before moving on, which was probably the wisest idea any of us had at the time,” the Korbat clarified. “The next meeting was covered in one of those stories of yours already, so I will skip that particular instance.”
“What happened between the two meetings?” Ky inquired.
Lord Draconis Darigan closed his eyes and his face flashed with pain. “That was when the illness fell...”
The Citadel was dying. The attackers had not only damaged the buildings, they also brought with them a terrible plague that descended in a fury upon the Darigan people. The food became scarcer and scarcer as a disease began wiping out the crops, and the nurses were run so ragged caring for all the sick that they, too, became ill. As the weeks wore on, the illness began to take even more of a toll. The initial stages wiped out an enormous portion of the Citadel’s population, and the survivors were mostly too ill to even feed themselves, let alone to work. Even the Council was rendered immobile due to the illness.
Fire... He felt like he was on fire... Draconis tossed and turned in his bed, unable to cry out in pain because of his thirst. Pain pulsed through his body, reminding him that he was still alive, but that he may not last much longer. Morguss came to give him some medicine every day, and Draconis could see her wasting away before his eyes. He dreaded to think what sort of state his other friends were in, let alone what he looked like. Every night, he was haunted by the same three ghosts that had bothered him since the razing of the Citadel.
“We can help you, Draconis, if you would only let us...” they would whisper. Draconis resisted them as long as he could, but there came a point where he was so weak from the plague that he was barely hanging onto his life.
It was then that he told them, “I must help my people. If you think you can help me get better, by all means, try helping.”
When he woke up the next morning, he felt greatly improved, but something about his had changed. Was it from those three ghosts? No, Draconis thought grimly, this has to do with the plague the invaders brought upon us...
“After that, The Three visited me every night, and then they started visiting me during the daytime as well,” the Korbat said with a sigh. He stood up and wandered over to the window that overlooked Meridell. “They seemed to make an increasing amount of sense, and I followed their suggestions. I should never have agreed to let them ‘help’ me in the first place.” He scowled. “There was one time where I broke free from their power... When Vex told me he would not become a General, The Three told me to strike out at him, or at least to punish him for insubordination. I balked at the demand because Vex was my friend. This stunned them, and for a moment or so, I was free from them. However, they returned.” He grimaced.
“Due to the severity of the disease in the crops, I decided to engage the engines that had been built into the Citadel,” he said as he gave Ky a curious glance. Shaking his head, he continued the narrative. “Once the Citadel was completely separate from the ground, the strangest thing happened; the space where the Citadel had once been rapidly closed up and was covered with trees.”
“What?!” Ky squealed. “How is that even possible?”
“I suspect that The Three were not too pleased with my decision,” the Korbat said wryly. “Particularly due to their reaction when they next talked with me.”
“The next few years were mainly focused on survival,” Vex interrupted. “Not much happened until one of the scouting groups returned from Meridell.”
Lord Draconis Darigan sighed. “Their reports seemed to confirm everything that The Three had told me,” he remarked quietly. “They urged me to order an invasion, but I protested. I wanted to try to learn exactly what happened first before anyone ran in waving swords about.”
“But that isn’t what happened. Why?” Ky prodded gently.
“Because I no longer had the will left to resist them. When they ‘healed’ me, they also began to influence my ability to think and reason. By then, I was too far gone to resist them,” he said flatly. “I don’t remember too much after that.”
“You don’t remember the destruction of the false Orb?” Ky gasped.
“No,” Lord Draconis Darigan said firmly. “I don’t remember a single moment following the ‘recovery’ of the false Orb. The Three had encased the true Orb in a structure of their own making. They used that sphere to sap away the last of my free will. The result is known as the Spectre of Darigan.”
“But after that, you were free, right?” Ky pointed out. “I mean, you were thought... well, everyone was under the assumption you were...” The Shoyru stopped, flustered.
To her surprise, Lord Draconis Darigan laughed. “Everyone thought I was dead. Myself included.” He glimpsed fondly down at Meridell. “That, however, didn’t last for very long...”
To be continued...