The Clash of the Titans: Part Two
“What do you mean, ‘that didn’t last very long’?” Ky asked curiously.
“Well, it is well known that I ‘Returned from the Grave’, so to speak. When I came back, I couldn’t remember anything. Sally cared for me from the day she found me to the night I regained my memories. I only vaguely remember those months where she nursed me back to health. The most poignant memory was the day Kass sent his soldiers to burn the countryside...”
“Mr. Scary! Mr. Scary! We have to run now! Mr. Scary? Are you there?” the singsong voice drifted through the smell of smoke and the hazy dreams. The Korbat was not pleased. The little Usul did not come to bother him except to give him food. He opened his eyes and blinked. The little Usul was squatting outside the barn, but the look on her face was not the normal vision of innocence. He could almost feel the fear emanating from her... Something was wrong.
“What’s this? A little Usul?” a guttural voice declared. A Skeith appeared and grabbed the young girl before she had the chance to move. The Skeith appeared annoyed and bored. “You won’t even fill my cooking pot!”
The young Usul was terrified, and screamed shrilly. “NOOOOO! RUN, MR. SCARY! SAVE YOURSELF!” she shrieked. The Korbat felt something rise within him. Something strong, that coursed through his blood... He began to head at the barn door, gathering speed with the momentum of his run.
The Skeith had neither heard nor seen him. It was still preoccupied with its captive. “Your imaginary friend? I don’t thi-”
The Korbat struck! The Skeith went flying backwards, and the Usul landed safely on the ground. She looked surprised but overjoyed to see that he had come to help. “Yay! Mr. Scary will save us!” she clapped, urging him on. He barely heard her. He was angry, very angry. Someone had taken something from him, and now they were trying to take something else from him. He would not let the little one be harmed. The looks on the faces of the attackers did not faze him one bit.
“Darigan?!” one said in a choked voice. Something stirred in the back of his mind, but Mr. Scary was too filled with wrath to pay any attention to it. He hissed and lashed out. The three attackers rushed at him, and it was obvious he was outnumbered, but he didn’t care. He ducked a blow from a cleaver and snapped it in half with a surprisingly strong counter-blow that stunned the soldier. Another ran at him with a club; he grabbed the attack and threw the attacker several feet. The last one was strong but very clumsy; he slipped behind him and bit him in the neck. The attackers, startled and screaming something about ghosts, ran away. He had done it; his friend was safe...
He felt odd. His breathing was ragged, even though he was not tired out. “Darigan... Darigan...” he muttered, trying to remember where the name had come from. It came to him in a flash of lightning; The Three manipulating him and then controlling him completely, the battle against the leaders of Meridell and his own Council, and finally the explosion... He was Lord Draconis Darigan!
“...Mr. Scary?” came a timid voice from behind him. Draconis was annoyed. Now was not the time for distractions!
“My name is Dari-” he began to growl angrily, turning around. The sight that greeted his eyes, however, stopped him in the middle of his sentence. The little Usul girl- Sally, if his memory from hearing her talk had been sound- was staring at him in complete adoration. Her eyes were filled with love and gratitude, and the smile on her face was like spring returning to his long dead land. I’m her hero, he realized with a sinking heart. He looked around the farm and into the distance. This was the land of Sally’s people. It reminded him of his own home, many years ago... He glanced at the Citadel, and back at the girl who had saved his life.
His choice was painfully clear; in order to save this Usul’s home from destruction, he would have to return and take control over whatever chaos had taken his place in his absence. “Sally...?” he said softly. The Usul’s eyes widened; she had never heard him speak. “I have to go...” he said sadly, taking off into the sky. He heard her cry out, but didn’t look back. He could afford no distractions now; he had a mission to accomplish. Perhaps later, when he was free, he could see her again... As he approached the Citadel, the familiar sounds of war grew louder and louder. Draconis grimaced. It was becoming clear to him that he wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without some sort of weapon. There was another problem to overcome; how was he going to enter the Citadel without being seen? Both answers came to him in a flash, and he circled the lower part of the Citadel for a certain window...
Squeezing through a space so small that only in his malnourished state was he barely able to fit, Draconis entered Master Vex’s quarters. The Mynci was sleeping, but at the thud that followed when Draconis fell to the floor, he jumped up and looked about. At the sight of his former leader, he shook his head. “Please, not now. I did what I had to,” Master Vex said miserably. Draconis gave a mental sigh as he realized that his friend thought they were both dead.
“Darzul, now is not the time. Yes, it is me, yes, I am alive, and yes, I am here to help.” Draconis paused when he saw the chains. “Why are you chained in your own quarters?”
Master Vex shook his head miserably. “’Lord’ Kass has gone insane... he threw Galgarrath off of the Citadel and locked me in here,” he spat bitterly. “The invasion of Meridell is nearly complete...”
Draconis felt his blood boil. Kass? General Kass had not taken the traditional title of Lord Darigan, but had betrayed everything the Citadel once stood for?! Not only that, but he had murdered Galgarrath in cold blood, and by the look on the warden’s face, Darzul Vex was next on his list. To top it all off, Kass had ordered a senseless invasion that nearly destroyed Sally and her farm... “Where is the Staff, Vex?” he demanded crisply.
The Mynci raised a scarred eyebrow, and the dungeons shuddered as a fireball hit the tower above them. “I left it with Prisoner Number Five. The Eyrie Guards thought it was his, so they left it alone when they searched the dungeons.” He gave Draconis a strange look. “You can’t seriously be thinking of taking the Citadel from Kass by force. Not to offend you, but you aren’t in any shape to fight.”
Draconis gave a short laugh. “You would be surprised the strength that potatoes can give you,” he said dryly, knocking on the door. An annoyed Eyrie Guard poked his head in. Draconis struck the Eyrie hard, right between the eyes. He went down like a stone. Striding over the fallen guard, Draconis made a beeline for the cell of Number Five. It wasn’t long before he reached his objective. “I need the Staff,” Draconis said quietly.
“Eh? Speak up, sonny. I can’t hear you with the jelly in my ears.” The old lupe wheezed. He stepped forward, and his eyes widened when he saw Draconis. “What do you want with the jelly?” he accused.
Draconis gave a mental sigh. Time was running out, and he really didn’t have time for this. He decided to try another tactic. “Kass wants to invade that place. If I hit him with the Staff, I might be able to knock some sense into him,” Draconis said, choosing his words carefully.
It appeared that he had said the right thing, because the Lupe became very excited, and he began bobbing his head and removing some bricks from the walls. “Yes! I knew it, I always knew that whackin’ the youngsters on the head would knock some sense into ‘em. Here ye are,” he barked, handing a large staff through the cell bars.
Draconis grabbed it with a sense of relief, and couldn’t help but to spend some time admiring the Staff of the Founders. Other than the Orb of the Founders, which had exploded on him, the Staff of the Founders was the only artifact dating back to the Founding of the Darigan Citadel. It drew its strength not from how powerful the wielder was, but from how just his motives were. Before he had ordered the Citadel’s engines to be started, he had entrusted the Staff into the care of his friend, Darzul Vex. He could feel the power of the Staff as if it were his own pulse, and his mouth turned into a flat line. His next objective would not be pleasant. In addition to the atrocities that Kass had committed, it was impossible for there to be two Citadel Lords. He would have to defeat Kass in hand-to-hand combat to redeem everything he stood for. It wouldn’t be easy... more like a clash of titans. Draconis closed his eyes and took in a sharp breath through his nose. For Sally, he thought, and began to run upward to the field of battle.
As he ran through the halls of the Citadel fortress, Draconis could see the changes that had been made. The flag had been changed, and the entire region was filled with a type of fanatical hatred. Pets hardly noticed him, for he traveled through the ever-present shadows; those that felt his presence only believed they had seen a ghost. After all, Draconis thought grimly, I am still dead. At last, he found the door that opened out to the battlefield. The fighting was concentrated in the eastern part of the city, but he had no idea where he was going to find General Kass. Suddenly, a cold, maniacal laughter pierced the sounds of battle and sent a shiver down his spine. He could barely recognize that laugh, but he knew whose it was nonetheless. With a speed he had not been able to reach since before the wars, he flew through the sky to a cliff above his former subordinate and friend. He was about to throw a Meridell knight off of the Citadel. When one of his soldiers gave a cry of pure terror upon seeing Draconis, Kass whirled around to see what the trouble was. The look on his face was one of fear, but Draconis was more intrigued by the amulet Kass was wearing. It glowed with a familiar sinister aura of pure evil... an aura of The Three! “I may have once treated these people with cruelty, but I see now that I was wrong,” Draconis said firmly. “I will not stand by and let you repeat my mistakes, Kass.”
“You? You’re...” Kass sputtered in disbelief. His eyes darted left and right, but his soldiers had abandoned him at the sight of the Korbat.
“Dead?” Draconis said sharply. “I thought I was dead too.” He felt whispers from the amulet, and made a deliberate decision to ignore them.
Kass no longer appeared dazed. Rather, he looked furious. Snarling, he picked up his blade Naralus and seethed. “A mistake I’ll be happy to FIX, old friend.” With that, he rushed at his former commander.
Draconis blocked the first blow from Naralus with the Staff. Although he was smaller, weaker, and not protected only by a leather toga, the Korbat had several advantages. For one thing, he was not under the influence of The Three. In addition, he was fighting for his friends, which gave him strength. Lastly, he was fighting for his life, making him very dangerous. Even so, Kass was still more deadly than a cornered animal, and wouldn’t hold anything back. Kass swung at his head, and Darigan ducked beneath the blade. Kass feigned to the left and then lunged for his throat, but Draconis smashed the end of the Staff right under Kass’s beak. Kass screamed in fury. “You were supposed to DIE, Darigan!” he said as he scored a hit on Draconis’s shoulder. Draconis shuddered in pain, but returned a hit using his tail as a whip. Kass was not fazed. “I’M the Lord of the Citadel now!” he shrieked as he dug Naralus deep into his foe’s right shoulder.
Draconis cried out in pain, and Kass chose that moment to pin him against the walls of the fortress. As Naralus came down to end the fight, it was stopped short by the Staff. Draconis knew he didn’t have much longer to live; he remembered that Kass also had a dagger coated with deadly poison, and he knew that Kass would be only too pleased to shove Trithduril right in his heart. As Kass drew his hand back to grab his dagger, Draconis slipped through the opening, slid around behind the Eyrie, and brought down the Staff right at his head.
Kass moved his head just in time to avoid the blow, but the Staff continued its downward strike and tore the amulet from his neck. “NO!” he trilled. Draconis saw at once that he had an opportunity to end the battle without killing his old friend on the ground before him. He could strike and destroy the amulet, setting Kass free and dealing a bold message to The Three. ”Or you could strike at Kass...” the whispers came. ”See, he is not on his guard! Now is your chance to take back your throne and eliminate the danger,” they urged him. Draconis clenched his teeth and swung the Staff with all the might he could muster, smashing the amulet into nothing but dust.
Kass was simply staring in horror at what was left of his connection with The Three. Naralus and Trithduril were cast aside, and the bloodlust that had filled his eyes was no more. Draconis extended a hand to his old friend. “It’s over, my friend,” he said calmly. “They can’t control you anymore.”
Lord Draconis Darigan sighed. “After that, he scrambled to his feet in a burst of terror and ran off. I never saw him again, and later I heard he had vaporized.” His eyes were heavy with pain. “Sure enough, I visited the spot, and there was nothing left of Kass but charred footprints. The aura of The Three hung heavily in the air, and I knew they had destroyed him as they had destroyed me.”
He got up from his chair and looked out the window. His arms were crossed and his face has hard. “I went to the Engine Room, and with some help, we managed to prevent a complete engine failure. “They still wouldn’t give up,” he said icily, lashing his tail in frustration. “The Three tried to convince me I was still theirs, that I owed them a great debt...” He shook his head. “I did not need them any longer. Revenge was no longer part of my life. Ambition had no hold over me. After living in a land destroyed by one king’s greed, and being nourished back to life in a land where there was peace in poverty, Greed had no hold over me. I did not need them to survive. I did not need them to govern. And I most certainly did not want them to be anywhere in the same dimension that I was in.” He turned to face his interviewer. “I told them I would not return to them. I told them I did not need them any longer. They vanished in surprise.”
Kyrouge nodded thoughtfully, and began to pack up her notes. She paused, and turned to ask a question. “There is one thing I don’t understand,” she said with a frown. “Somewhere there is a picture of you looking down on Meridell. The caption reads ‘Still Watching You’. What does that mean?”
Lord Draconis Darigan sighed. “I was once thought dead when the Orb of the Founders exploded and I vanished, leaving nothing behind. Kass vanished in a similar manner when the amulet was shattered. If the parallel runs true, then he could return again. If he does, it will most likely be in Meridell. I do not want to be caught unawares.” He looked sad for a moment, and stared off into the distance. “Also, I am still Sally’s protector. I still watch over her, even if I no longer have the ability to be in her company.” He shook his head slightly and gave the Shoyru a questioning look. “Is there anything else?”
The Shoyru shook her head. “No, I believe I have completed the trilogy I set out to write.” she said quietly. “My next project will not require me to interrupt you again...” she muttered, glancing at the last scribble in her brother’s notebook: ‘12- ask Celestial for her adventures.’ She stood up and gave Lord Draconis Darigan a short bow. “No, I believe I will not bother you again.”
NM very welcome, and look for "The Golden Globes of Light"!