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The Chronicles of Knight II: Rebuilding the Forsaken - Part Two


by fierwym

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Part Two:

     The Lair

      You shall never escape.

     You shall stay here forever, for you cannot die.

     And neither can we.

     We cannot die, and we will live on forever, right alongside you.

     For you will never escape.

     We won't allow you to.

     You thought that you were powerful.

     You thought that you were strong.

     But you were not.

     No.

     You were not.

     You are weak, helpless, drifting.

     You are dying, and yet you will never die.

     Did it hurt you when we placed that curse on you, brother?

     Did it hurt? Did you feel pain?

     Can you feel pain?

     You are weak, and you know it.

     We are strong, and you know it.

     You shall never escape…

     And you know it.

     Yes, Darigan.

     Despair in your waste.

     You will rot here without ever rotting.

     You will die here without ever dying.

     You will live here without ever living.

     You are trapped forever here…

     Despair in your waste, Darigan.

     You shall never escape.

     ***

     "My lord?" a voice said faintly, a soft echo in the mind of the great creature they called Darigan. The creature opened his amber eyes, and suddenly the other voices were gone.

     "I am fine, Kaeth," Darigan told the young minion. "I was just… Remembering."

     The young Zafara's eyes filled with concern. "It was a terrible time, wasn't it?" she asked.

     He sighed. Kaeth was one of Raatri's, one of the few young "demons" that the Prince had recruited to make Darigan's return much swifter. She was entirely loyal to him, and his deepest friend besides Raatri or Avari. She had a unique charm about her that made anyone instantly like her, and she had a caring heart, even for a minion.

     "Yes," he replied. "They would talk to me every moment in those terrible voices. Over and over, trying to break me down. It was… a terrible time, yes."

     She nodded, eyes still shining in concern. "You're home now, though," she voiced. "That's what matters. You can help to set things right. Along with Raatri and Lady Avari, Meridell and the Citadel will rise once more."

     "Bold words, young pup," he said, smiling slightly. "I hope they are true."

         ***

           You shall never escape.

     You are weak, defenseless.

     You will never rise again.

     Your petty Citadel will fall.

     Your petty Citadel is falling.

     Kings corrupt take over.

     They help cause the Citadel's fall.

     And you are not there to stop them.

     You'll never be there to stop them.

     You shall never escape.

           ***

     It was the day after his talk with Kaeth. The memory of those voices passed from Darigan's mind. It was the voice of They, of Them, of the terrible dark creatures that had cursed Darigan when he was a young and foolish pup. He was not quite sure what They were, though he knew They were of Nightmare.

     Nightmare. Darigan had spent a century in Nightmare, in the terrible Land on the other side of the world. He had known of it since his childhood, when he had been cursed. He had known that it was the Land of Nightmare that housed the Three, those ghost-demons trapped inside that accursed Orb. It was the Land of Nightmare that had caused all sorts of havoc over the lands, though none but a few from the Light Side knew of it. None had ventured past that horizon… save him and scant few others. Fewer still ever returned.

     Darigan had been cursed. Cursed, cursed, cursed. The thought rang through his mind like the continual beat of war drums. Cursed, cursed, cursed. Forever cursed. Forever alive.

     He shook his head slightly, tossing the thought away. It would do no good now to ponder on it. He turned his mind to the problems of the present.

     Though Darigan had returned to the Citadel to a wave of loyal supporters, there were still many who did not want him, who did not see the Citadel's falling. They saw the recently destroyed Blake as their ruler still, and were angry at Raatri for usurping him. They were angry at Darigan for returning.

     He sighed. There were some minions who followed the old ways, those young hearts that Raatri had recruited in secret, and others who had silently been loyal to Darigan, waiting, watching, appearing to serve Blake.

     Among those was the Cybunny Seer who had saved Raatri from the hands of Blake, and from the hands of Zev. If it hadn't been for her, Darigan's return may have never happened. For Raatri and his "enemy who became his closest friend" would have never succeeded if Blake or Zev had killed either. The Seer had waited all her life, pretending to be all-loyal to Blake, while in reality helping the young Prince along.

     Others, too, had stayed silent, waiting. But it had not been enough.

     He still had to pick out the traitors among the many living in the Citadel, and it would take him quite a while. He sighed again. He would begin a Search.

     A Search had not been performed for many countless years, the last before the ancient Darigan himself had even been born. A Search was basically a super-detailed searching, in which the Searcher looked at everything, every nook and cranny, every paper, every heart. It would take him months, but in the end, he would know who was loyal, and who was not.

     In the end, the Citadel would begin to right herself again.

     He shook his head at the thought of the tedious Search. It would take a long time, and it would be tiring. He forced himself to think of the outcome. He would know everything about the Citadel, and would not be left in shadows. His hundred-year imprisonment had left him in the dark. It was time to shed some light on the Citadel.

     Footsteps echoed along the stone hallway, and he glanced over to see who came. The familiar face of Kaeth came into view, slightly eerie under torchlight and moonray. She smiled up at him, and he at her.

     "You seem to have made some decision," she told him. He wished that she didn't know him so well, to be able to tell such a fact from a blank face.

     "Yes," he sighed. "I will perform a Search."

           ***

     You shall never escape.

     You are so weak.

     We are so strong.

     Do you remember what we did to you, brother?

     Do you remember the pain?

     The agony?

     The horror when you discovered what you were?

     The horror when you discovered what you would be?

     Do you remember that, brother?

     You are weak.

     You are so weak.

     And we are strong.

     We will rule the world, just as we rule you.

     A voice.

     Always there.

     Always speaking.

     Never ceasing to torment you.

     None will ever come and rescue you.

     None will ever try.

     You are in our Lands now.

     Nightmare, you call them.

     Nightmare we'll be.

     Always haunting you.

     And you will never wake.

     You shall never wake.

     You shall never escape.

          ***

     Darigan shook his head, trying to release the thought. No matter how focused he was, a little less than a year was not enough to block out the terrible memory of those voices. Those terrible voices. Speaking on, never ceasing.

     His amber eyes looked over what he was reviewing, and he understood why he had remembered. This was a book of ancient prophecies, recorded for the Citadel's use. In them he had found the prophecy the great prophetess Cassandra had made at the beginning of his rule, the prophecy Raatri fulfilled. For Raatri would "journey far and bring back he that would vanquish darkness…" Darigan. Raatri had to bring back Darigan. Darigan would escape…

     You shall never escape.

     The voice rang in his head like a trumpet's blast. Over and over They had spoken those four words, over and over, over and over…

     It was hard for him to forget. Even after a hundred years free from that cold grasp, Darigan would remember. Darigan would always remember, and so would They.

     There had been truth to Their words. For both They and Darigan had one thing in common: both would live forever.

     They would live forever because that was what They were: shadows that stayed eternally. Darigan would live forever because of Them, because of the curse they had put upon him.

     He turned away from the book, and looked around the great room. This, Raatri had told him, was the place where the young Prince's parents were murdered, and also where Raatri had stolen the plans Blake had to destroy Meridell. The room was still empty, save for the long-table across from the large wooden door. Darigan looked around. The room was lit by magic instead of fire, so nothing danced around in flames. As Darigan gazed around something new caught his attention.

     Along the wall left to the door was a thin line. Darigan's eyes narrowed. A hidden passageway, obviously. He walked over to it, placing an ear against the wall. Hollow within, he heard. Using his own small brand of magic, Darigan pushed the hidden door open.

     Surprisingly, the stairway beyond was lit by magic, some musty, old-smelling magic, but magic nonetheless. Darigan sighed and began his descent down the long passageway, following the curved stair.

     Eventually he reached a room. It was dimly lit and large, though not massive. Large cages lined the walls, and dark creatures scurried back and forth within, peering at him with crimson eyes. Darigan cautiously walked up to the nearest cage, peering into its dark depths curiously.

     "Come to stare, false-king?" a voice asked from within. A dark shape slowly came forward, crimson eyes glistening in hate.

     "Assassins," Darigan said quietly. "This is the Lair."

     "Very good, false-king," the Darigan Techo hissed. "This is where the Master keeps his assassins… Or where he did keep them. Foolish false-Prince killed the Master…"

     "The Lair," Darigan said again, ignoring the creature. Yes, the Lair. They had told him much about it, trying to break him down to uselessness. He was extremely happy that he had found the place, for these Techos all had one major thing in common: they all served the Master, Blake. They would never turn. From the moment of their birth they were taught by Blake, and Darigan could not afford to keep them.

     "Farewell, false-king," the Techo said sinisterly. "Yes, I know what you have in mind. You will kill us all. You will destroy us. Go ahead and try."

     The creature grinned at some hidden secret, and turned to scurry back into the darker reaches. Darigan could not see it even with the magic that lit the room.

     He sighed, suddenly very tired. He would have to perform a Search on the room later, when his mind was sharper. It took several minutes for him to snap out of his daze and turn around to climb the long stair.

     Once at the top he found himself running into a particularly worried looking Kaeth, who seemed very relieved that she had finally found him. "There you are," she sighed. "I've been all over. Where have you been?"

     "I was performing the Search," he replied, voice quiet. "I found something."

     "What?"

     "I shall tell you later, when I am certain we are not overheard. For now, go to Khallon and tell him that I need some… exterminators."

             ***

      "So close."

     The very sound of those two words on the Techo's lips might bring chills to some, for they were the words that the Wolf had spoken. But the Wolf was gone. That terrible, terrible female squire, now Lady Knight, had destroyed the great Wolf.

     But the second greatest was still around.

     Hyja remembered some nine or ten months before, when the Master had come and given her the next victim: the late king of Meridell. She had smiled then, for all were going well with the Master's plans. And if the Master's plans went well, then all things went well.

     She had done her duty. She had destroyed the fat king quickly. His finale words still lingered in her cunning mind: Guards! Assassin!

     How she loved those words.

     Contrary to her Master's plans, Hyja had stayed behind to spy on the castle of Meridell. It had been she since that summer that had been killing off Meridellians. She would've killed the young king or the Darigan Prince, perhaps even the young Lady Knight, but she had thought better of it. She wanted revenge on those three. She wanted them to die slowly for killing her Master.

     Two weeks prior she had left the castle, knowing that any day the false-king of the Citadel, Darigan, would find the Lair and kill the other assassins. She could not let that happen, if her plans to avenge her Master were to succeed. She had to do it quietly, in the way of an assassin, moving so that he would never know she was there.

     She watched as Darigan and his Zafara companion walked away, and knew from the careful words Darigan spoke that he had discovered the Lair… and would destroy its inhabitants.

     She could not let that happen.

     Not if her plans were to succeed.

     She entered the Lair.

          ***

     "Hello, my friends," she told the caged assassins as she entered quietly. Silence replaced the constant stirring created as they paced over their cages. Then cackling rose when they saw who it was.

     "Hyja, greatest of us all now that our dear Wolf is gone," exclaimed one.

     "She will free us," said another.

     "She will save us from the false-king."

     "And we will destroy him."

     "No, no, my pets," she told them cunningly, beginning to unlock each cage. "We must do this carefully. Just killing Darigan won't be enough. Tonight, we flee. But one day… One day we will return. And then vengeance will be ours."

To be continued...

 
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