Beautiful Chaos: Part Ten
I've never been so close. I can feel it, it's almost time. My time.
I thought perhaps it would be foiled, before I even had a chance. His mind was stronger than I expected, and he was alone. But I'm starting to think of that as my good fortune, from what I have seen of one alone, together I think perhaps they would have prevailed. His mind is so strong, he fights me every second, but he is failing. My magic has weakened him and his will is almost mine.
Having not seen the other, I am exercising every necessary caution in case of a confrontation. I find it hard to believe as their magic is nothing compared to mine, and should he be coming here he will be walking right to me, where I will be prepared for him.
I'm waiting, as I have done for so many years. In the dark, and the cold, by myself. Waiting for my time.
And it's here.
"Okay, what's down there?" Leo asked Griffin as they paused at the edge of a dark ravine in the far East side of the Citadel.
"I don't know, rocks? The sky? Meridell? Jump down there and who knows where you'll end up," the Grarrl replied with a shrug, peering over the edge. "I've always wondered how the Citadel hovers in the sky."
"Me too," Leo replied absently, waving his wand in the air and looking thoughtful.
"Does that actually do anything? You've been waving that thing around all day and I haven't seen anything happen. Is your magic still blocked?"
"It's not blocked per se; I just don't feel my usual amazing self. 'Course, that's probably because Ced's not here. I've always sort of... I don't know, fed off his energy. Our magic works best when we're together, it always has. So I can still do magic, but it's not as strong. And yes, waving it around does do something; I'm tracking him."
"You sound like you do it regularly. He okay with that? You two don't seem to have many boundaries."
"Ha. We used to do it all the time when we were little, when we'd be playing hide and seek. They were usually short games. I'd be drawn by his magic and follow the trail and find him, and then vice versa. We thought it was jolly good fun."
"And you can still do that?"
"Sort of. It's more controlled now, and we generally don't have time to play hide and seek. Still, I'm using his energy to make the connection to my wand and follow the trail, but it's dodgy. The trail's all wrong."
"Given what he was like the last time we saw him, I'm not surprised."
"Exactly. It's his energy, but it's different, it's changed. I'm picking up something distorted and warped about it. It's not all him, that's for sure."
"Remind me again how all this started?"
"With a Mortog that kept changing colour."
"Come on, the trail leads down there."
"I really hope that we don't fall through the sky and end up in Brightvale or something."
"You should really work on your motivational speeches."
Griffin laughed, a deep sound that seemed out of place in the dire situation, yet so appropriate. Leo smiled ruefully at him before gesturing back at the ravine.
"Age before beauty."
"Lupes before Grarrls."
"How does that even...? Oh, fine. Come on, at least now you can say you've lived a little."
You won't win, you know. He'll stop you.
I hardly think so. His tiny brain cannot even comprehend the extent of my power.
I trust him with my life.
A pity. He doesn't have your life- I do.
You just wait. He's coming for me, he always does.
Let him come. I'll be waiting, as I have been for so very long. What is that?
A memory. My memory. You might be in my head, you might have my body and my mind and my thoughts but that means you have my memories too. Look through them, what can you see? He's never let me down, he never has.
Bonds can be broken.
Do you think? Look through my memories, and tell me again. You may have me but you'll never get him.
I admire the strength of your friendship. It will prove most useful.
"Fascinating! After living at the Citadel my whole life, I've never thought to look down here," Griffin said enthusiastically, looking around the rocky cave they had ended up in. "Look at this place! How big is it? It looks like it goes on forever, all the way under the Citadel. Fascinating," he repeated.
"I've lived in Meridell my whole life, I'm sure there are places I've never been to," Leo replied distractedly, peering down one of the tunnels that the cave branched off into. They were pitch black and the only source of light was from the tip of his wand, which he pointed. "This way."
They made their way through the dark and dripping caverns, Leo in front and Griffin behind him, keeping up a running commentary of the rocky walls.
"Shh..." Leo whispered at him after an hour of walking. "Can you hear that?"
"No," the Grarrl replied truthfully, listening attentively.
"Can you FEEL it?"
His body tingling with excitement, fear and another emotion he couldn't describe, the Lupe took off running down one of the tunnels.
They ran through the cave at what Griffin thought was an irresponsible pace, and they ran until their lungs were on fire and their legs felt like lead.
After what felt like hours of exhaustion, the young magician abruptly came to a stop, and the Guard smacked into him, sending them both sprawling on the dirty floor.
Lacking the strength to get back up, Griffin stretched out more comfortably on the ground, yawning deeply.
"Where are we?" he asked, looking up at the ceiling.
Strange markings covered the rocky walls and roof, glowing a soft blue in the darkness. Some had been carved and some looked painted on.
"We must be right under the heart of the Citadel. What do you think would be directly above us, up on the surface?"
"I'm not sure. If I had to guess I'd say Lord Darigan's Chambers. Well, the dungeons, anyway."
"The dungeons?" Leo repeated, looking a little sick.
"Yeah, under his Castle there are the dungeons, where the prisoners live. Are you alright? You're looking a little... green." Griffin looked at him with concern.
"I'm fine. Must've been something I ate."
"You haven't eaten anything."
"Well, that'd be why, then. Do you feel it now? We've come so far, it feels like the journey's almost over. You feel like that?"
"Yeah. I feel weird, actually, in my stomach. And I've eaten. So it must be these markings or something. You have any idea what they mean?"
"Nah. Cedrik was always good at this sort of thing, ancient history and languages and all that. Wish he was here..." Leo trailed off, looking crestfallen.
"If he was here, we wouldn't need to be," Griffin reminded him. "It's that way, isn't it? I can feel it now. I might not be a magician, but I even I can feel that. Like it's simultaneously pulling me in while making me want to run away. What kind of magic is this?"
"I don't know, but I don't like it. I've never seen anything like it before. You should probably... you should go. You should really... go. I'd never have gotten this far without you, and I truly appreciate it, but what's happening down here, it's not good. I don't want anything to happen to you. You're the best Darigan I've ever met." Leo smiled at him, a lopsided half smile that held a trace of his characteristic arrogance that the Grarrl had come to like, as well as a touch of sadness.
"'Fraid you aren't going to get rid of me that easily, Magic Boy. I've come this far, I might as well see it though. You can buy me a new sword or something when all this is over." Griffin beamed at him.
The Lupe chuckled and nodded once.
"Alright, deal. It's just down there, whatever it is. Cedrik's down there." He shifted his feet nervously, biting his lip. "She said I would have to make a choice, is this is? Choosing to go in there to save him, or to walk away?"
Griffin snorted. "When is it ever that simple? I've learn that of Meridellians in the last few days, you're nothing but complicated." He rolled his eyes and clambered to his feet, looking unsteady.
Leo scoffed at him before waving his wand and muttering a spell.
"What's that for?"
The room was large, but cramped. The walls were the same rock as the cave, the room was a cave. The glowing blue symbols were carved on every surface, and the room was lit in a subtle way.
The first thing Leo noticed was the furniture, the couch and the chairs and the table, and how old it looked. Hundreds of years old at least, they were beyond antique. The whole room looked like a museum, with ornate bookshelves full of big tomes and yellowed scrolls and cabinets filled with intricate ornaments and beautiful statues.
Feeling Griffin nudging him with his elbow, he shook his head to clear it.
They moved silently around the room, Leo with his wand raised and Griffin gripping the handle of his sword tightly.
"What took you so long?" A voice came from behind them, and they spun around to see the familiar red Draik.
"Cedrik!" Leo felt a rush of joy spread through him as he made to move closer to his friend, but Griffin stopped him.
"That's not Cedrik," he hissed under his breath, as Leo tried to pull out of his grip.
"Clever little Grarrl," the Draik drawled. "I must admit, I didn't factor you into the equation at all. Still, no matter. You aren't of magic blood, are you?"
"Who are you?" Leo growled, feeling the fury of seeing his best friend under the influence of someone else. "What did you do to him?"
"He was... necessary. And so you will be, little Leo. Oh I have been planning this for a VERY long time. While you were safely tucked away at Meridell, playing with spells and fire, I was down here, planning. Today will mark the dawn of a new age, with me as it's leader!"
"You're nuts," Leo stated flatly. "You've been down here for so long with no one else and you've completely lost it. I don't know who you are and I don't care, but WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO CEDRIK?" Feeling the fire burning in his veins, the Lupe trembled slightly as he pointed his wand at the entity inside his best friend. He felt the power pulsing through his body and through his wand.
Cedrik's face was contorted with exhaustion and he swayed slightly where he stood.
"He's so very strong, he fights me. And he's heard your voice. Oh, how strong your bond is; it's getting harder to hold him," he grunted, a bead of sweat appearing on his brow.
Griffin reached out and put a hand on Leo's shoulder.
"Be calm, friend. Now is not the time for rash actions. You- uh, Cedrik person, who are you and what do you want? There's no way you'll get away with this, the whole Citadel is up there and then there's Meridell."
"Bah!" He hissed, a look of cold fury on his face. "They banished me in the first place! They feared me, my magic, and once they knew I was the Source, they imprisoned me in the dungeons for all eternity. I escaped here, but at the price of losing my body and my powers. But I've made do."
"What IS the Source?" Griffin demanded, not noticing Leo's unusual silence.
"I am; they are. Magic blood." Cedrik smiled. "We are all connected by our blood. We can recognise the presence of another, can find them where they live. Except for me, I could not afford to be found. You noticed the markings, yes? This place has been shielded for so many years now. But I knew of these young magicians, such strong powers they radiate."
"Okay, so you needed Cedrik and Leo to what, restore your power? Why them? There are other magicians out there, stronger ones. Leo's mentioned his tutor; she's got to be powerful. Why not use them?" Griffin asked, frowning as he tried to wrap his head around what was going on.
"Clever little Grarrl, there's not a drop of magic blood in your body, yet you've made it past all of my shields."
"I need both of these young magicians, and I wasn't going to let anyone come between us. You should have gotten lost along the way, you shouldn't have wanted to follow him."
"Never did quite follow the rules." Griffin shrugged. "Why them though? Why specifically THEM?"
"Magic blood is rare but powerful, so I need either two apprentices or one fully established magician in order to restore my powers. Yet an established master would be too strong, I could never have gotten one here and I was far too weak to travel anywhere. The apprentices though, I could get them here. I shifted their perceptions and a few other Meridellians around them to send them on their way here. They did the rest of the work, although a few things got in the way. But never mind, it's too late for them now."
"Leo, we need to – Leo?" Griffin turned and stared at him, horror struck.
The Lupe was standing completely still and he looked like he was fighting an internal struggle.
"Oh, Leo, I'm so sorry."
Cedrik stared at them with an unreadable expression.
"It's started," he said, as the ground beneath their feet began to quake.
To be continued...