Greatclaw: Part One
Part One: Slumber
The full moon floated above the above the trees and shed a faint light on the forest path far below. Stars spattered the indigo sky. The night was quiet, except for the rattle of wooden wheels as a carriage rolled along the forest path. The sound of hooves added their own voices to the chorus.
The carriage rolled along, pulled by two regal white Unis. Seven guards rode along beside the carriage, alert to every sound, their muscles tensed and ready to spring into action at any moment. Two rode behind the carriage, and two rode on either side. At the head of the carriage rode a Faerie Draik, his eyes gleaming with a mixture of nervousness and defiance. Chain mail hung over his chest, and metal plates rested on his shoulders. A golden helm rested upon his head, while his claws were glad in mail gloves. A sword hung in a scabbard at his waist.
The Draik glanced around him. He turned his head towards the guards riding behind him. “We must hurry. We must get to Brightvale before the sun rises.”
An Ixi guard rode up beside him. “Sir, with all do respect, are we doing the right thing?”
The Draik looked ahead once more, trying to ignore the twinge of uncertainty that pierced his heart. “We had to get the king and queen out of harm’s way. If they had stayed in the castle, the bandits would have killed them.”
The Ixi guard turned his head to face the front as well. “Maybe. But you are the King’s Champion. Surely you could have led the knights to defeat this threat?”
The Draik shook his head sadly. “Not when they’ve banded together under one leader, and under one with far stronger power than any Meridell has ever seen.” The Draik’s eyes shone with a deep, lingering sadness. “We cannot face that. The only way we can defeat this enemy is to get the king and queen to safety and seek help from Brightvale.”
The Ixi guard sighed sadly. “If only we did not have to suffer these dark times.”
The Draik didn’t answer, just stared blankly ahead. He didn’t want to leave his kingdom in the time of trouble, but he had to. If he didn’t seek help, Meridell would surely be overwhelmed. However, leaving to find help would mean putting Meridell in even greater danger. He gritted his teeth. That was exactly what he was doing. He felt guilt pulse through his veins, even though he knew this was the only way.
As he stared ahead, he noticed the world around him was growing brighter. He glanced fearfully at the sky. Red dawn light was just beginning to appear. “We must hurry!” he cried.
“We can’t go any faster than this pace without running the risk of breaking the carriage,” his Uni stead told him.
The Draik closed his eyes briefly. “We have to make it to Brightvale,” he growled through gritted teeth.
The Ixi guard looked at him. “We will make it, Greatclaw.”
Greatclaw was about to reply when he heard a new voice. “So, this is the fabled Greatclaw? I expected someone a little more threatening.”
Greatclaw looked around, fear and anger sparking in his eyes. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”
There was coarse laughter before a dark mist began to swirl on the path directly before them. The Unis halted immediately. Greatclaw glared at the mist before them. It collected and swirled upward. As the mist cleared, a cloaked figure was revealed. A hood obscured the figure’s facial features. Greatclaw glared at the figure. “Who are you?”
The figure gave a puff of laughter. “I am the last creature you will ever see in Neopia,” he said.
Greatclaw snorted with contempt. “What would give you the idea that you could do this?”
The figure snorted. “To put it simply, I’m an assassin. And I have a job to stop a group of knights along with their king and queen, and to kill one Greatclaw.”
“You won’t be stopping us!” snarled Greatclaw, aware of the strengthening daylight. He moved his stead to try and get around the figure. However, the figure was swift, and jabbed something dark out. Greatclaw’s stead squealed with pain as she fell to the ground. Greatclaw was thrown off into the bushes.
He pushed himself up to see more dark mist had appeared, swirling up to create creatures of pure darkness. The figure pointed one paw towards the remaining guards and the carriage. “Capture them. Kill the guards, but I want the king and queen left alive.” The dark creatures gave grunts of agreement and attacked.
Greatclaw stared at them in horror. “No!” he cried. He jumped out of the bushes towards the figure. The figure looked at him in surprise. He bowled the figure over, so that they were wrestling together on the earthen ground.
Greatclaw heard the cries of his loyal knights, the screams of their steeds, and the frantic wails of the king and queen. He forced the noises to the back of his mind and focused on the task at hand. He kicked out powerfully with his hind legs, sending the figure flying. He scrambled to his feet and drew his sword from his scabbard. The blade glinted in the sunlight. “Call your dark beings back and I’ll spare your life.”
The figure looked up form where he was sprawled on the ground and gave a harsh cackle. “I don’t believe that I’ll be the one whose life will be threatened.”
Greatclaw growled, but he felt a slight twinge of fear pulse inside him. He shook his head and crushed the spark of fear. It didn’t matter what he felt. Meridell came before his own life. “That was your only chance,” he snarled, lunging at the figure.
“Fool.” The figure sidestepped, and Greatclaw sailed harmlessly by. The figure conjured up more dark beings. “Attack and kill him!” snarled the figure.
Greatclaw looked at the dark beings, fear pulsing through him. He watched as the dark beings flowed towards him. They didn’t touch the ground as they sailed on silent wings towards him. He glanced at them, and got a glimpse at what true darkness was like. Fear stalled him from action, and before he had a chance to move, the beings of darkness were upon him.
Greatclaw cried out in pain as the dark beings attacked him. He slashed at them, but his sword simply passed through them. He tried to dodge, but his legs wouldn’t respond. He tried cry for help, but couldn’t. It felt as if the darkness would completely overwhelm him.
He heard something snap, and suddenly the pain that was pulsing through him ceased to exist. He gasped and fell to his knees. He looked up and saw the figure standing over him. “Why didn’t you just let them finish me?” he gasped.
Greatclaw could just make out the face of a Kougra smirking down at him. “Because I want to see your face as you leave this world.” He raised a paw, ready to attack him. Greatclaw felt hopeless. He felt too weak to raise his sword. Despair filled him. He had failed the king and queen. He had failed his fellow knights. He had failed Meridell.
Suddenly a bright light flashed. He heard the figure cry out with surprise he saw the beings of darkness disappear in the light. Looking over, he saw something coming out of a portal made entirely of light. “You will not succeed in this war,” she growled in a low tone.
Greatclaw gasped in surprise. He knew who this was, though he hadn’t hoped that he’d ever meet her in his lifetime. Apparently, the figure knew her too. “Creal,” he growled. “I should have known you’d try to interfere.”
“Interfere is hardly the word to use when you’re threatening the kingdom I protect, Ac’real,” the light Faerie replied. She held her palm up, and a sphere of light appeared in front of her hand.
Ac’real snorted with contempt, though Greatclaw was sure that he was afraid. He raised his paw. “You cannot stop me!” he growled.
“So you say,” Creal said, glaring at Ac’real. “However, what you fail to understand is that light will always triumph over darkness.”
Ac’real looked warily at the light Faerie’s palm. Then he looked to her face once more. “You haven’t won yet. I will be back.” He turned to glare at Greatclaw. “It helps to be able to think like your enemy.”
Creal narrowed her eyes. “Leave!” she commanded, the light shining from her palm beginning to grow stronger. Ac’real shuddered, turned around, and fled.
Greatclaw stared after him a while before trying to push himself to his feet. He failed, and fell back to his knees. “Thank you for saving me,” he murmured weakly to Creal.
Creal waved her hand. “It wasn’t a problem.”
“That was impeccable timing. How’d you know we needed help?”
Something sparked in Creal’s eyes. “I sensed something dark in this area of the forest. I came to find out what it was, and found him.”
Greatclaw looked at Creal curiously. “How do you know him, anyways?”
“We’ve had run-ins in the past.” Creal’s eyes suddenly became shadowed, but something else shone in her eyes, though Greatclaw could not place what it was. “In the coming times, you will need great courage.”
“I know,” Greatclaw murmured. “The war with those bandits is not going to be easy.”
“Now is not the time for fighting,” Creal said forcefully. Greatclaw stared at her with his mouth gaping open in surprise. “If I know Ac’real, he’ll be up to his tricks again. But it may not be for a very long time.” Creal’s eyes blazed as she looked at Greatclaw. “Now, it is time for you to sleep.”
“Sleep?” exclaimed Greatclaw. “Meridell’s in the middle of a war, and I’m supposed to sleep?”
“I know that this will be hard for you, but it is something you must do. I will put a spell over you so that you will sleep. You will be awakened when Ac’real starts to cause trouble once more.”
Greatclaw shook his head stubbornly. “But the kingdom is under attack!”
Creal put one hand under Greatclaw’s chin and pushed his head upward. She stared at him with kind eyes. “You are strong and brave, Greatclaw, and you should be proud of your accomplishments. But now, you must sleep, so that when a greater evil comes, you can fight it.”
Greatclaw sucked in a deep breath. “Fine,” he said at last. “I’ll yield.”
Creal raised her hand. “I should warn you that this magic might have undesired effects on you. Many different things could happen when I unleash it.” Greatclaw nodded jerkily to show he understood. Creal’s palm began to glow with white light. As the Faerie Draik stared at it, his vision began to cloud over. He felt his eyelids droop, and tiredness pass through his limbs. He felt himself fall to the ground before he left consciousness.
And Greatclaw the knight slept.
To be continued...