Agent of the Sway: Isolation - Part Six
The teleportation device did not carry them far, a few levels down into one of the side chambers of the Citadel. Clayton made short work of the few unsuspecting guards they found there, giving them time to take stock.
"What now?" Elizabeth asked.
"History records that Darigan will fall after gaining the orb. Kass will claim the Citadel afterwards," Clayton explained. "Kass will lay waste to Meridell."
"More than Darigan already has?" Elizabeth asked.
"You sound concerned," Clayton pointed out. "Have you forgotten that all this destruction was your original plan?"
"Back there, in the chamber... I felt their influence, the Three," Elizabeth said. "They offered me things, and... It was hard to resist. I had not counted on them being so strong. If Darigan was allowed to triumph as we had planned originally, it would have been difficult to stop them from stretching their influence further."
"I felt it too," Clayton admitted. "The more time we spend on the Citadel, the more they will be able to tempt us. For now, we should head back to Marko's office. We should be safe there until the next move is made."
Elizabeth agreed, and as best they could they stalked back to the little office near the Citadel kitchens. Marko was not there, but they waited all the same. Silence, just the ticking of a small clock on Marko's desk. Both of them were waiting, hoping that the sound of rushing footsteps wouldn't be heard outside the door - hoping that they wouldn't be found by Lord Darigan's forces.
When as last the footsteps came, they were gentle, but hurried. Elizabeth nodded to Clayton, signalling that it was Marko. The Darigan Meerca opened the door carefully, checking who was inside before hurriedly closing the door behind him.
"I take it you were in Lord Darigan's chambers to see what happened a few hours ago?" he asked.
Elizabeth nodded. "He's got the orb, used it to destroy the Castle Defender in a single blast."
Marko made a slightly confused look.
"You didn't see him transform?" he asked.
"Transform?" she asked.
"We had to make an... emergency exit soon after the Castle Defender fell," Clayton added. "What happened?"
"He has drained the orb of most of its power," Marko explained. "The power coursing through his veins... It has altered him. They are calling him a Spectre now, a magical beast. He has gone completely mad with power - even turning against his own people. Word has been sent to General Galgarroth down in the remains of Meridell Castle. A temporary truce has been called - he is aiding the remaining Meridell forces in their effort to reach the Citadel, while Master Vex and General Kass are rounding up troops here on the Citadel. It is a coup - Darigan and Meridell are united against the Spectre. Together, they may just have enough power to defeat him."
"Just as you said," Elizabeth said to Clayton.
"The attack, they will challenge him soon?" Clayton asked.
"As soon as Skarl and his forces reach the Citadel," Marko replied. "Within the hour."
"We must be there, watching," Clayton said. "Darigan's power is only partially coming from the orb. The Three have taken control of him. We must see his demise to understand what we must do in order to defeat Kass in the coming months."
"As long as we are observing, and not taking part," Marko agreed. "I don't know about you, but Elizabeth and myself are not equipped to take down a magical demi-god."
The three of them reached Darigan's chambers in good time, but they could already tell they were too late. The great wooden doors had been blasted off their hinges, and the remnants of them now lay splintered across the corridor. The Eyrie guards that had previously barred entrance to their master were hidden amongst the debris. Injured, but alive, Clayton noticed. Master Vex's rebellion was making sure casualties were at a minimum, at least.
Clayton signalled the others to pin against the wall as they approached. The sound of fighting was coming from inside - Darigan was putting up quite a fight.
A bright flash and a loud yell came as they neared the doorway, and General Kass was thrown outside by a sudden magical blast. The Darigan Eyrie impacted hard on the wall opposite Lord Darigan's chambers. He slumped to the floor, but Clayton noticed he was not unconscious.
"What is the matter with him?" Marko asked as he saw the Eyrie's eyes darting madly left to right.
Clayton and Elizabeth exchanged a glance. They recognised the agony painted on Kass's face. The true injury was taking place in his mind.
"The Three," Elizabeth answered ominously. "They are assaulting him from within."
"They must be sensing which way the wind is blowing," Clayton agreed. "They are looking for a new puppet."
Inside, the Spectre of Lord Darigan was surrounded by soldiers from both sides. He had transformed beyond recognition, fire now burst from his fur, burning on his flesh but somehow not destroying it. What skin that was not on fire had changed in colour, now black and red. His tattered wings swung this way and that, batting away the more reckless soldiers, and around his neck, the orb hung, powering the evil inferno.
"I will not fall as easily as Kass!" the yell of Galgarroth, the Grarrl General rang out.
He took a running leap at the Spectre, catching the Korbat in the side and causing him to momentarily wince with pain. The Spectre regained itself quickly, a fiery uppercut to Galgarroth sent him sprawling across the room.
Clayton and Elizabeth melted into the shadows outside of the conflict, while Marko rushed over to tend to Galgarroth's wounds.
Next, a yellow Chia in gleaming silver armour rushed forwards. Clayton recognised him from the Seeker's notes - the Yellow Knight. He had led an early attack on the Citadel only to be captured and imprisoned in Vex's dungeons. It appeared that the dungeonmaster, for now at least, was willing to liberate his prisoners to help with the war.
The Yellow Knight brandished a cutlass with a lazy flourish, but moved with surprising speed, ducking and weaving away from the Spectre's swipes. At last, the Yellow Knight found an opening, and took a wide slash. The blade impacted on the Spectre's flesh as if it was stone, and the Yellow Knight fell back, defeated for the time being.
The Spectre rounded on the Knight, intending to finish him off, but found himself tripped by the attack of Master Vex. The Mynci brandished a long metal pole wit the air of a master, spinning it and catching the Spectre across his chin.
"We'll never defeat this beast fighting one on one!" came a shout from King Skarl, battle mace in hand. "All at once, men! Give him what for!"
Skarl rushed forwards, along with Jeran, to give aid to Vex. The Yellow Knight meanwhile gathered his senses and took up his sword once more, rushing forwards with a few of Darigan's Draik guards. Another roar heralded Galgarroth's return to the battle as he steamrolled in towards his quarry. From the sidelines, Lisha and her friends were launching small magical blasts towards the Spectre. Their few days in Meridell appeared to have taught them some genuine magic, as the Spectre now flinched when they impacted.
All the gathered Neopets were now involved in the fight, and the Spectre appeared to be weakening. The fire seemed slightly less bright, his rage somehow less intense.
Clayton glanced back out towards the corridor. Kass's thrashing was becoming less. He was loosing his fight against the Three. They would soon be able to manipulate him just as they did Darigan. The Kougra wondered, perhaps, if this meant they were leaving Lord Darigan. Maybe the Korbat was returning to his senses.
A single bright flash brought Clayton's attention back to the Spectre. The Neopets attacking him had been forced back, and the Spectre was now kneeling, clutching its chest. They had done it, Lord Darigan was defeated.
The Spectre seemed to be listening, no doubt hearing the final taunting words of the Three in its ears. Abruptly, it leaned back, letting out a terrible scream.
A bright red flash of magic followed, and Darigan was gone. The orb remained, hovering in the air for a moment before gently falling back down.
Across the room, King Skarl and Master Vex exchanged a glance. As the orb began to fall, both declared that their own land should hold the orb, and darted forward. Both were too far away. The orb tinkled to the floor, and to the gasps of those gathered, split cleanly in two.
Their was a brief wind, as if the magic held inside the orb was escaping back into the world from which it had once been drawn. And then, there was silence.
Clayton quickly took Elizabeth's arm, drawing her away from the chamber and back into the corridor. There, Kass appeared to be regaining consciousness. They watched as he straightened out his armour and marched into the aftermath. It was him that broke the silence the others had been keeping.
"This is a victory for the people of Darigan," he announced. "I can only apologise for what we have done, King Skarl. But now, it is time for all of us to put this madness behind us, and rebuild."
Hollow words. The Three would make sure Kass only perpetuated the horrors.
"Why are you taking us away?" Elizabeth asked. "They wouldn't have seen us, and we needed to know Kass's plans."
"We have somewhere else to be, we have to get back to Meridell town and talk to Zylphia," Clayton said.
"Because Lord Darigan is not dead!" Clayton hissed.
"What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked. "We all saw..."
"We all saw him disappear," Clayton told her. "Nothing more. And I've been teleported enough times now to recognise it when I see it in action."
"He's... been teleported somewhere? Where?" Elizabeth demanded.
"I don't know," Clayton answered. "But Zylphia will be able to track it, I'm sure. If Darigan isn't dead, we may have just gained an ally in stopping Kass - we may have our method of stopping all this and saving all three lands!"
To be continued...