Prophecy of the Equinox: Part Four
Aloren stared at the blue Draik dumbly. “How do you know
my name?” she demanded after a long moment of confused silence. She had made a
conscience effort not to tell anyone anything about her. It was impossible! How
could he have found out? “Who told you?” she hissed.
Astrovia seemed unaware of the pain in his foot. He
was gazing at Aloren with wonder, not wearing the fearful expression that he
well should have been. “No one told me,” he replied evenly, and Aloren wanted
to slap the dreamy amazement off his face.
Though she knew she should ignore his irrationality
and bind him into silence, the Faerie Draik could not do so just yet. Curiosity
stirred within her, and if she let him die now without ever revealing his secret
and explaining the strange look on his face, she knew she would regret it forever.
“Speak,” she commanded in a low but fierce voice. “Tell me how you know what
I have told no one, and I will spare you.” He doesn’t know he is poisoned,
she reasoned with herself, pleased with her craftiness. He would die either
way, but perhaps she could use his ignorance of the fact to her advantage.
The Draik didn’t seem at all concerned for his life,
however. He merely nodded, as if she had requested for him to pass vegetables
at dinner, and said, “I have always known the name of my sister.”
Of all the things he could have said, this was what
Aloren had expected least. Her mouth opened, and she managed to sputter, “What?”
Instead of replying, this Draik who claimed to be
her brother began to sing. A momentary warning flashed across Aloren’s mind:
that he would wake the rest and they would be alerted to her treachery, but
the soft, pure, notes of the song ebbed away at the feeling until she had forgotten
ever experiencing it.
The song cut through years of hardness and training,
gently floating through the wall of stone around her heart, seeping into the
tiny spongelike holes of her humanity, reaching a glimmering pure essence that
the song of her parents had implanted so long ago. Aloren felt tears rise to
her eyes; she, who had never cried for as long as her memory spanned, was weeping,
and was too stunned and moved to even feel shame.
Astrovia’s song faded, and the Draik fell to his knees
weakly. The poison was affecting him more quickly than she’d thought; it would
not be long until he passed into unconsciousness. Aloren felt a tightening in
her stomach, and her throat seemed to clench. For the first time in her life,
she felt compassion. She didn’t want him to die.
He looked mildly surprised that the injury was weakening
him so rapidly. When he looked up at Aloren with question in his eyes, she whispered,
“You’re poisoned.” Her voice cracked when she said it, and new tears rushed
to her eyes.
Astrovia nodded. “It’ll be okay. Wake the others for
With obedience that would have impressed even General
Velor, she did.
Velor wasn’t sure what to expect when a frightened
looking messenger bid him go to Lord Dusken. “He… he wants to see you immediately,”
stammered the lad, quite unnecessarily. Velor wouldn’t have kept the Lord Commander
waiting even if they hadn’t been on the brink of war.
Nodding with impatience, Velor shooed the boy off,
and slipped on a black tunic fitting for an appearance before Lord Dusken.
The Darigan Draik strode briskly through the dark
corridors, not knowing if he should feel nervous or excited. He expected that
the news would be good, that the jewel had finally flared to life, giving off
their signal, but that was not consistent with the attitude of the messenger.
As he opened the heavy door leading to Lord Dusken’s
chambers, Velor saw that his commander was certainly displeased. The huge Mutant
Draik’s form was rigid with irritation, and a frightening malice stirred in
those red, red eyes. “My lord,” said Velor, bowing as he announced himself.
A deep grumble escaped Lord Dusken’s throat. “There
has been no sign,” he said in a dangerously low voice. “Your beloved protégé
has given me no sign!” In his clawed hand he clutched the twin to the jewel,
and it looked surprisingly tiny, hanging from a slender thread of gold.
Velor knew that Aloren would not fail him. He had
instilled in her unconditional obedience and plied her every day with careful
training. “The sign will come,” he said, and he did not have to pretend his
Dusken could sense his sincerity, which seemed to
calm him slightly. “I hope you’re right, for your sake,” he growled. “It is
well past midnight. The day of the Equinox is starting, and if she delays much
longer we will not reach the battle scene in time.”
As if responding to his concern, the jewel in Lord
Dusken’s hand shivered, emitting a sudden blood-red light that flooded the tiny
room before fading into a subtle glow.
“It appears you may keep your head after all,” announced
Lord Dusken, handing the glowing gem to his general. “Velor, rally the men.
We go to war.”
Aloren sat in silence, staring reflectively at the
red jewel in her hand. Her family was astounding; once awake and alerted to
the poisoning of Sapphire and Astrovia, they had circled around the two injured
Draiks, and begun to sing.
She still felt overwhelmed when she thought of it;
the unbelievable power that had reverberated through the hills, undulating from
the joined throats. The notes had spun a song of purest love and healing, and
finally she had joined her own voice to theirs in a low hum of apology. When
it had ended, her brother and his friend were strong again: completely healed.
Astrovia had forgiven her before the group, which
was enough to satisfy them. Then she and her brother had consulted with the
other leaders, and after listening to her tell them of the enemy’s plans, they
had decided for a strong initial attack, hoping to catch the unwary Forces off
The morning light was strong now; it had been hours
since the young Draik had betrayed her captors with a touch of her hand. They
were coming now, thinking that her family was leaderless and frantic---they
were coming to their doom.
A thin call, made to imitate a bird, disturbed her
reverie. It was the signal of the sentry; the enemy was approaching.
Astrovia was beside her before she even stood. His
face was flushed with the prospect of battle; he was eager to face the elusive
enemy at last, to avenge the sister which had been stolen from him, and have
her fight beside him, united at last.
Sapphire joined them, looking nervous. “They are within
sight,” he said.
Following his gaze across the plain, Aloren could
see that he was right. The dark mass of the Draik Forces resembled a fallen
stormcloud brooding on the horizon. With sudden resolution, Aloren slipped the
jeweled chain over her head.
“They’ll know who you are,” warned Astrovia, glancing
at her with concern.
Aloren smiled. “Exactly.”
Velor had led his men within a mile of the enemy.
The sun was rising into the sky, starting its daily arc. But this day will
mean more than the others, he told himself, and his eyes shone with grim
pleasure. It was the day foretold in the prophecy, and it would belong to him.
The speckled dots of blue and faerie Draiks moved
quickly along the hill, and Velor was sure that they were taken by surprise,
judging by the speed with which they darted and churned among themselves. All
the better, he thought.
He paused a minute, allowing them all to come to a
complete stop. Turning to face them, he drew his sword, letting its clang echo
through the hills. He looked into the eyes of his army, and saw glinting evil
gazing back. Raising his sword to shine in the light of the Equinox sun, he
The wind tore into countless eddies of air as the
army of Draiks lifted into it. The pulsing of their leathery wings vibrated
into his core, sparking to life a terrible ferocity that curled his lip in a
sneer of hatred and brought a strangled war-cry from his throat to join the
calls of the rest. In a rush of jubilation, he led his warriors to battle.
Astrovia’s group was already in the air, zigzagging,
working up momentum, when the enemy attacked. Now they resembled a stormcloud
even more closely, for the sound of their wings and the roar of their voices
was like thunder, and the flashing of their swords lightning.
With a glance to Sapphire, Astrovia and the leaders
swooped upward, preparing to execute one of their well-practiced maneuvers.
The enemy ballooned outward as the approached, making themselves harder to surround.
From where she sat in the grass, Aloren watched, scarcely breathing.
She longed to be among them, to claw at Velor’s deceitful
eyes. Astrovia had told her, in the stillness of the dawn, how the captain had
stolen her egg and killed her parents. Only their song had saved her from total
corruption, by giving her the memory of goodness that her brother had so recently
allowed her to recall. All his life Velor had raised her, poisoning her mind
with lies against her family, turning her against her own relatives for his
own profit. She wanted nothing more than to get revenge.
But Astrovia had told her to wait until the right
moment, and she knew he was right. She should not go out in the first wave.
She should reserve herself until she was really needed.
Grinning, she watched the sharp attacks of the six
leaders cut through the ranks of the enemy mob, separating them into smaller,
manageable groups. Velor had not been expecting such excellent training from
them; he had thought that Aloren would have made his job little more than a
simple raid on confused, unsuspecting peace-lovers, and had been set to steal
their fertile lands and extend the arm of his master, rising in power. Such
hopes would surely be dashed.
A sudden shrill cry of alarm pierced the air. Aloren
watched, horrified, as the enemy dodged out of the ring which her family had
been creating, swelling with their greater numbers to trap the would-be captors.
The faerie Draik knew that capture under Velor was a worse fate than death on
the battlefield. She could not let her friends be doomed to sickness and torture
in the cold wet darkness of his dungeons! She would not stand for it---not after
what he had done to her.
With a determined claw, she squeezed the white jewel
until it burst with light of red fire. Her black sword hissed as she drew it
from its sheath. She stretched out her wings and flew like a shooting star toward
the battle, gritting her teeth in fury.
Velor was pleased as he surveyed his army. The enemy
had put up a better fight than he’d expected; it seemed that Aloren had not
done her job as well as he had hoped. But no matter, they would win all the
same. He would, of course, have to beat his protégé for her less-than-successful
mission, unless she did something redeeming, which seemed unlikely. He hadn’t
even seen her yet among the ranks. If she is hiding, he thought with
a spark of anger, it will be worse than a beating for her.
But no, there she was. At least she had her sword
out; she wasn’t a total failure. But wait… Velor narrowed his eyes in disbelief.
She was cutting at his troops, each stab creating a fatal would with
the poisoned blade. The traitor! Using the skills which he had labored ten years
to teach her, she was betraying her own people. And she was coming straight
That’s it, he thought, willing her closer.
His clawed hand curled tightly around his blade. Come to me, Aloren. You
will bleed for this.
Hacking mindlessly at the dark forms around her, Aloren
made a beeline for Velor. The necklace glowed a deadly red, and his reflected
the color. She fought with such frenzied ferocity that soon the Force members
turned their skills on other targets, and she closed the gap between her and
her master unchallenged.
The hatred in his eyes reflected her own. “You spawn
of evil!” she cried hoarsely. “You wicked, self-serving pig! You kidnapped
me, raised me in misery, and ruined every waking instant of my childhood so
that I could defeat my own family? Well I remember the prophecy as well as you,
Velor, and I know that my decision will sway the battle. And I decide against
Velor sneered at her. “Not if you die first, hatchling.”
Aloren charged, half-blind with rage.
Their blades met in a clash of steel, and the force
of it almost shook the sword from Aloren’s paw. Velor wheeled about, lunging
at her with frightening speed. In her rage, she’d forgotten how fast he was---and
he was much stronger that she was as well. She was only his student; he was
the true sword master.
But it didn’t matter. Aloren’s anger spurred her onward,
and she twisted away from the lunge, knocking his blade away with a surely aimed
parry. All I need to do is nick him, she remembered. The poison will
do the rest. She didn’t care if she died in the attempt; it would be worth
Velor attacked with a speedy redouble, swooping down
at her from above. He pushed her down, down, down, so fast that she outstretched
her wings in an attempt so slow the descent. He is going to crush me into
the ground, she realized. Squirming, she fought to get free, but it was
useless. She hit the earth with bone-jarring force, and his knee held her firmly
to the ground. “It is a pity to waste such a promising student,” he said mockingly,
and she felt the cold, pointed edge of his sword at her throat. It’s over,
she thought, and knew that her last thought would be that she only wished to
have taken him down with her.
He snarled with sudden pain, and leapt up, spinning
to face someone who Aloren could not see. She struggled to her knees, and saw
that Astrovia was facing the general of the Draik Forces, holding aloft her
Velor’s face grew still. His wing was bleeding where
Aloren’s brother had cut it. “Poisoned,” he whispered, and then a mad surge
of fury contorted his features. “Poisoned! By a brat-son of trash!” He raised
his sword high above his head. “By Lord Dusken of the Forces, both of you will
die with me!”
On impulse Aloren opened her mouth, and a single sweet
note poured from it. Soft at first, it grew as she put more air into it and
closed her eyes, letting it swell over the fields and be absorbed into every
ear. She did not know why she had started to sing; perhaps it was instinct,
or perhaps it was in response to the bright, bright sun.
Astrovia was the first to join, adding his voice to
hers in a tenor pitch. From where they flew, her family sung as well, causing
it crescendo and swell over the entirety of the fields.
Frozen, Velor seemed unsure of what to do. The war-cries
had died from the lips of his followers, and they hovered in silence, struggling
to ignore the power of the song. Some put clawed paws over their ears and squeezed
their eyes shut in a futile effort to block it out.
Then one fell, dropping through the sky to land in
a still heap. Aloren opened her eyes, watching as still more began to drop,
and soon it was as if the stormcloud had finally surrendered to the inevitable
rain. The hills were strewn with motionless black forms; the song had worn away
their cruelty, leaving them nothing but voids. The body cannot live without
a soul, reflected Aloren, letting her song fade.
General Velor was staring around him in mute shock. His face was pale and drawn;
it seemed that the song had accelerated the deadliness of the poison. “This is
not the end, Aloren,” he managed to hiss before falling and becoming just another
Aloren smiled. “I think it is.”
The days and nights were peaceful for many long years
after the battle. Aloren’s family expanded, claiming the lands of the Draik
Forces as its own. The family members added windows to let light into the horrible
dungeons, and planted seeds so that the training yard bloomed with bursts of
color as an immortal reminder of what they had overcome.
Aloren sat among the flowers one afternoon, smelling
their sweet fragrance and humming a soft song to encourage them to grow in beauty.
Presently her brother sat beside her, and bent to inhale the scent of a soft-pedaled
rose. “You know what, Astrovia?”
He glanced up at her, and her heart swelled with the
warmth of his eyes. “What, my little sister?”
“I don’t think the prophecy was ambiguous at all,”
she answered. “I can’t imagine it ending any other way.”
He grinned. “You know what?”