The Last Days of the Citadel: Part Six
The sun was setting brightly over Darigan Citadel. Narissa almost had to shiver. The beautiful sunrise was in sharp contrast with everything that was going on. Standing next to her was Sir Forian Friedl, who had told her he preferred just to be called Friedl. He was caught by the beauty of the sunrise as well.
“Your country’s beautiful.”
“I know, it is,” Narissa whispered. “It’s your country as well now.”
The Kougra nodded. “I’m happy your lord gave me the favour of living here. I will never be able to return to my home again. My country will consider me as a traitor, even when my former companions will succeed. If they do not succeed, I’ll be the traitor who get’s the blame even more. I’ll never see my family again.”
He looked sad.
“You had any family up there?”
“I had a daughter, a young little Eyrie. I’m sure my family will raise her, but I’ll never know what will become of her.”
They both grew silent now, knowing there was little more to say and while the sun shone on the Citadel, Narissa could imagine it was not the sun she saw, but flames.
Narissa and Friedl had returned to Draconis's rooms. To their surprise, General Galgarroth had returned from his mission. The Grarrl was in a positive mood, when he reported Draconis how the Meridellian knights had fallen into his trap. Now they had been scattered in the forest and the Eyrie Guard was chasing them away. The Citadel was safe.
The Lord of Darigan shook his head. “Don’t call for victory that soon. The Citadel isn’t safe until they are really gone and will not come back.”
“Don’t expect these knights to give up that easily,” Friedl added. “Their king won’t accept a failure from them, so they’ll keep going.”
Kass flew in though the window.
“We’ve chased the knights through the forest, and it seemed they were retreating, but now they are nowhere to be found! My Eyries are still searching for them and so are some of General Galgarroth's troops.”
Narissa almost threw herself into Kass's arms. “I was so worried, my friend. I’m glad to see you’re safe for now.”
Draconis looked grave.
“We’ve been able to shake them off for now, but Friedl’s sure they will come back. I want you all to be on your guard.”
Draconis's strategy had been to ambush the Meridellian knights to prevent them from entering the Citadel. The citizens of the Citadel had been informed about the upcoming danger, but most of them fully trusted their Lord of the Citadel and his guards. They would take care of the problem the same way they would take care of a troop of rampaging Ownows. For the next few hours, nothing much happened and General Galgarroth had already started boosting about how he had been shaking off the strangers who were coming to raid the Citadel.
Then things took a turn for the worse.
Kass was the first one who spotted the brightly coloured knights on their Unis who suddenly rode out of the cover from the forest and started to storm toward the gate.
“They’re coming! Close the gates! Close the gates!”
The astonished guards were too slow, however. Before they could fully close the gates, the knights had fought their way into the Citadel.
“How is this possible?” The words Narissa spoke broke the total silence in Lord Darigan’s rooms.
“The Buzz colony! They betrayed us! Perhaps they were even forced to betray us. They’ve lead the knights to the Citadel!” Galgarroth shouted.
The Buzzes who lived in the forest were actually citizens of the Citadel as well, although they minded their own business most of the time. Their relation with the Citadel was good most of the time, although each year there was some tension about the amount of honey the Buzzes had to sell to the Citadel. Somehow, the knights from Meridell must have gotten hold of the colony and forced them to help them reach the Citadel secretly.
Draconis nodded. “It’s very possible they might have been forced into doing this. Didn’t you take them into account when your men had chased the knights into the forest?”
The Grarrl, who had been telling everyone who wanted to hear it how he had personally made the knight flee away from the Citadel, now remained wisely silent.
Kass flew into the room again. “We’ll have to fight now! Every one of us!”
Draconis drew his own sword. “Yes, we’ll have to fight; that’s all we can do right now. Kass, Galgarroth, get your men to the courtyard, make sure in no way they’ll reach the High Tower!”
Both generals left the room at once, one through the window, the other by the stairs. Draconis stood still for a moment, ready to follow Kass. Then he turned round, like he had changed his mind.
“Friedl, keep Narissa save for me, will you?”
Draconis was used to giving orders, but this was a request.
Whatever Draconis, Kass and Galgarroth tried, they were not able to withstand the force of the knights who were now attacking the Citadel. The knights and their Unis were getting the upper hand. The courtyard was where most of the fighting was taking place, and Draconis realised they were not able to push the knights back to the gates again.
It was Kass who had to bring the bad news.
“Some of those knights have broken through our barrier. They’re heading for the High Tower!”
Draconis went pale.
“Defend the High Tower! There’s not a moment to loose! They are after the Orb!”
He was flying halfway in midair already himself. Kass quickly followed him.
“Noooo!!!” Narissa cried. She and Friedl had been hiding in the relative safety of the entrance of the Citadel.
She felt how Friedl tried to stop her for a moment.
“Narissa, you can’t go up to the High Tower,” he said.
“Oh yes, I can!” Narissa pushed Friedl aside and made her run toward the large chestnut tree standing next to the High Tower. Quickly she started to climb it.
Narissa wasn’t the first one who reached the Orb. The door that would give the Meridellian knights, who did not know about the large window, entrance to the Orb Room was sealed, but judging from the sounds coming from it, it would not take long before it would give way.
It was Clivia who was standing in the Orb Room and was now holding the Orb. Narissa took it she was the one who locked the door.
“I knew you would come here,” the White Draik said. There was no sign of the madness that had been in her eyes earlier on, only sadness.
“Can you forgive me, Narissa? Can you forgive me for everything I’ve done wrong?”
Narissa looked the Draik into her eyes. Never had they been friends, but now she could feel understanding.
“I can forgive you for the hard times you put me through, and I can forgive you for still pretending to be the seer of the Citadel while I was too inexperienced to take my place. I can not, however, forgive you for trying to avoid the fate the Citadel is currently facing by denying it and keeping everything you knew about it, including Friedl, a secret for us.”
The Draik bowed her head. “That’s enough for me.”
Both of them heard a large blast. It seemed the door was about to give way.
Clivia handed Narissa the Orb.
“Take it to safety before they can get it.”
The Ixi took the same cloth she had been using only two days ago, and covered the Orb with it. When she walked back to the window, she and Clivia saw how the door finally gave way. Knights were storming through it.
“I’ll hold them back!” Clivia shouted. With her knife outstretched, she charged toward the enemy, and although Narissa had found out the day before Clivia could be a fierce fighter if she wanted to, she gave the Draik little chance against the large group of knights.
She had to put that thought aside now, however. Quickly, Narissa jumped out of the window, starting the long climb down.
Draconis and Kass had been fighting their way up to the High Tower. Now the fighting had centred itself in the small corridor before the Orb Room. The sight they met there was terrible.
The Lady of the Citadel had joined the fight too. Her power was a welcome source of strength for the little group that was still protecting the High Tower, but the powerful Light Faerie was no fighter and the knights had managed to severely wound her.
With one last blast of strength, she tried to attack the knights, before she fell. She must have magically sealed the door, because it gave way the moment after she fell.
Draconis kneeled next to the fallen Light Faerie, who was him as dear as Kass and Narissa were to him. He knew he needed to join Kass in the battle to gain entrance to the Orb Room, but it seemed the fallen Faerie had taken the last bit of strength from him.
Then the Dark Faerie appeared. Gently, she took the Lady of the Citadel in her arms.
Draconis knew whoever this Faerie was, the Lady would be in good hands with her. He took the boldness to ask one single question.
“Will she be alright?”
The Dark Faerie looked at him, a look that seemed to pierce through him.
“You will see her again when you really need her.”
Then she lashed out. A bolt of Dark Faerie magic flew through the Orb room, knocking out all the Meridellian soldiers in there.
Before Darigan could react on this act, she and the Lady disappeared.
Inside the Orb Room, Kass and Draconis were in for a shock.
The Orb was gone.
For a moment, they looked around in surprise, but when Draconis looked out of the tower, he could just spot the tiny figure of Narissa running. Knights were on her trail as well. When he focused himself on the power of the Orb, he could feel her holding it.
“Quick!” he yelled at Kass before they both flew out of the window. They flew like the wind, hoping to reach Narissa in time.
Narissa knew she had a chance as soon as she reached the forest, for she knew it well and knew where to hide herself. Running as fast as she could, she wasn’t sure however whether she could make it, for the knights, some of them mounted on their Unis, were getting nearer and nearer to her.
Half in shock she noticed how much the White Kougra on his Royalboy Uni looked just like Friedl. She saw how she was gaining in on her.
“Run, Narissa, run!” a voice shouted and with almost a sigh of relief, Narissa saw how she was mistaken.
For Friedl was standing there, proudly holding the banner of the Citadel in one hand, his sword in his other.
“Don’t touch her, my brother, or else!”
The White Kougra on the Uni laughed, a mocking laugh Narissa would never forget.
“Get the traitor!” one of the other knights, a Red Eyrie shouted.
With his sword in his hand, Friedl charged at the group of knights.
“Run, Narissa!” She heard him shout again and when she ran away, she knew it was the last thing she would ever see Freidl do. She didn’t see him fall.
She kept running, but still she wasn’t safe, and more knights kept running up to her. She knew she had the advantage of knowing the place better then they did, but it didn’t stop them from gaining in on her.
Something hit her head and Narissa felt how she tripped. Her leg gave way. Then there was nothing more but darkness.
And darkness would be all that was left for Darigan Citadel.
When Narissa woke up again, the Citadel was in ruins. The orb was gone and never again would her hands hold it. She found out she had broken her leg when she fell and she had a long way to recovery. Draconis and Kass had not been able to reach Narissa in time to prevent the Meridellians from taking the Orb from her, but their arrival had chased them away. Because of that, Narissa was among the lucky ones who had survived the raid, which could not be said of Friedl, Clivia and many, many others.
Narissa could barely live with the fact how she had not been able to protect the Orb, when it had been her sworn duty. Nothing Draconis and Kass told her could take away her guilt and her heart filled with grief.
No one ever saw the Lady again, nor the Dark Faerie who took her away. Clivia could have told them how the two Faeries were sisters, linked to each other and coming to their aid in need. She could have told how they were two sides of one coin, and how, when the light had left the Citadel, darkness would reign there, and so it did. But Clivia would never speak again.
And when another Dark Faerie offered her services to Draconis and Kass, they both mistook her for the one they had seen that day. And so, Clivia’s last prophesy about the three ghostly creatures had been a real one.
On Narissa, this Faerie had no effect, for her grief over the loss of the Orb was too strong. It would take years before Narissa realised this had been the last gift the orb had given her. For the grief that filled her soul, had cleared her of all Ambition. Nor was there any place for Greed, or Revenge for that matter.
Because of this, as the only one of the three friends, Narissa survived the following years without taking too much damage.
The leg she broke during the final assault of the Citadel never fully healed, leaving her with a limp. When illness struck the Citadel, she too changed and got the Darigan colour the inhabitants of the Citadel got associated with later on. Compared to what happened to Draconis and Kass, those were minor things.
From high up on Darigan Citadel, Narissa looked over Meridell. She didn’t know whether she wanted to cry or not. Today, she had lost one of her best friends, although when it came to it, she had lost the Kass who was her friend a long time ago already. Draconis, her other best friend, however, had returned. He was supposed to have changed, but whether he really had or not, Narissa did not know yet. Only time would tell.
When looking over Meridell, Narissa wondered whether they could ever live in peace with their neighbours. One part of her doubted it. It was no wonder Kass was able to start another war with Meridell, for the hate the inhabitants of the Citadel felt was still strong. Only thinking about the knights who chased her and robbed her off the Orb was enough to make the old hatred flare up again in Narissa.
The other part of her was more reasonable. She was thinking about the inhabitants of Meridell. In their wishes and dreams, they would not be very different from the inhabitants of the Citadel. Long ago, she met a Meridellian she could call a friend. Maybe the warm memories both she and Draconis held of Friedl could be a start.
Friedl’s daughter should have been grown up by now. Maybe she could track her down one time and tell her all about her father.
Narissa could have imagined she heard a sound in Draconis's room. She wondered whether he had woken up or not. Silently, she entered the room and her eyes met a sight she would never forget again.
Darigan was still lying there, deep asleep. Next to him, a Light Faerie had kneeled down. A Faerie whose light was shining so brightly she looked almost white. Her slender hand was resting on Darigan’s head, blessing him with the strength he would be needing so much during the following days.
The golden days of the Citadel were gone. The Orb was gone forever, but Narissa was still Guardian of the Orb, even though that position meant little these days. Now Draconis was Lord of the Citadel again and with him, things would take a chance for the better. The moment Narissa realised this, she also realised her powers of foresight had come back again.
Together with the one she had chosen to protect, the Lady had returned to the Citadel.