SquareSoft: Generations Chapter 11
ANARCHY! Part I
By Dawn Wilkins
"Ladies and Gents...we're still alive by the skin of our teeth...now it's the killing time...Angel in our pocket...Devil by our side...We ain't going nowhere cause heros never die...never die..." (Blood of Heros; Megadeath; Youthanasia)
Though the sight of a narcissistic, regally-dressed, smart mouth king sailing into a pine with all the force of an unleashed cork might have provoked giggles, Aurora refrained from doing so. It was not in her nature to rejoice at another's affliction because her calling, healing, forbade it.
Not that it wasn't funny mind you.
"I'm telling you that beast is possessed!"
Aurora, mounted, shook her head, crimson wisps of hair trailing in her wake. "You just don't have an affinity for animals." Adjusting the folds of her gold and silver robe she slid to the frozen ground. "Let's get a look at you, Edgar."
Edgar sat up, revolved his elegant eyes, and cast a black glare at his mount, a tempestuous horse. As she knelt by his side and lay one hand on his wounded forehead a sliver of memory seized her. Many lost years since this adventure she had ministered to another man. He, however, had lain in a pool of blood, his physical heart slowly surrendering while he had only his metaphysical heart to sustain him. But Aurora hadn't given up on him and he had lived. Lived, that is, to transform into a monster. A monster SHE helped create.
Words, voiced by the imperial pain, jolted her to reality. "Could this adventure get any worse? First, Terra disappears without a trace. Then I get swallowed up by a portal and thrown around a good bit. After that a huge mob chases me for no apparent reason and finally a devil horse tramples me! The only thing good about this trip so far is meeting such a beautiful woman as you." The king twinkled his trademark.
She shot him a dire eye.
"Can't blame me for trying, can you?" He shrugged, his own amber hair billowing. "Ah, well, Terra's prettier anyway." Ignoring further exhibitions of Aurora's irritation, Edgar continued, "I can only imagine what she would say."
"Probably what my father would say." Her hands softly slid over mangled flesh. A sigh divulged the monarch's appreciation as she weaved threads with her curing magic.
He leaned forward, curious. "Which is?"
"When the night is the darkest the day is the nearest."
The handsome azure eyes gleamed in mirth as he muttered, "Well, that'll be a welcomed change."
Aurora couldn't help but agree.
Adventure? One could mistake the whole mission for a lifetime of exploration and events rather than a handful of days. When Aurora had materialized (her not-so-speedy delivery the result of a transport portal) at the Bancock province she found locating the three new arrivals disturbingly easy. Easy because their appearance initiated public unrest. Reaching them before danger did and uncovering the sword was her instructions from her father.
Very few designs ever proceed according to plan. Hers were no exception. The teleportation device had discarded the healer far afield, requiring precious days to pinpoint the weapon's whereabouts. Of course, when she had at last procured the long-sought-for sword Aurora discovered merely the blade. Additionally, more valuable time was lost as she ferreted out the latest newcomers. Once the populace became aware of the group's manifestation things got a lot less difficult. She then presented the blade as her father had also bade.
Then everything went terribly wrong.
"Oh, blessed Figaro. Now look." Edgar gestured empathically upward.
Aurora's eyes, reminiscent of an emerald sea, left her task to rest on the mentioned subjectthe sky. In the turbulent clouds precipitation accumulated and merged with more boiling stratus. Comparable to an illustration, one might note. The painter meticulously slathered gray streaks with loving strokes to advance to a finish of a somber mood from silvery heavens. As it darkened, the healer could detect the massive build up which indicated the rudimentary states of a winter storm. And a savage one at that.
Ever the observant one (surpassed only by his annoying disposition) Edgar fingered out a congregation of buildings to the north. "We should probably shelter in those buildings. If they are real and not my imagination."
"And exactly how are you certain?" His cheeks drew back in a good-humored grin.
"I've been there." She smiled in rare indulgence.
"That settles it then, I guess."
For the better part of the journey the two trekked in silence. Well, the humans, anyway. Both the horses proved most difficult as they sensed the approach of the blizzard. Snorting and pawing the frozen ground, their mounts had to be pacified by Aurora (not like Edgar could do the job right!) lest they run wild. Already, thin threads of snow drifted off the ground to impede their progress, spiraling in rhythm like wolves that threatened yet dared not tread too near.
The blond monarch severed the invisible veil which bound their voices, "You know what?"
Her shrugging shoulders was his answer. Or, at least, he surmised it was.
"You never did tell me why a pretty girl such as yourself had so much interest in the three of us."
Still, she refused to converse. Father told me to avoid revealing too much. He's near the mark.
Mildly annoyed, just enough for vanity's sake, Edgar continued, "Blessed Figaro, this whole adventure is wack. Why did Terra have to get lost in some nasty place like this?"
Aurora stopped short. As if she could perceive his emotions, like probing the mind of a dreamer, the healer understood the frustration behind his statement. It wasn't just frustration, either. Something far more potent and endearing. With a quick glance at the attractive king, she saw him uncharacteristically frown.
And in that instant, Aurora knew. Perhaps his heart is for but one.
"Do you miss her?" gently probed the healer.
"Yes," he answered immediately. His response was so swift, in fact, it startled himself. "Not that she would believe it, though." The last words were articulated in such a faint note that Aurora wasn't sure she'd heard.
Trust Edgar to efficiently revamp the conversation, she observed, as he asked, "And still, you won't give a little insight. What about you, fair Aurora? Any dashing warriors stealing your heart away?"
She sent him another dire eye. But, the incorrigible sovereign refused to be denied. It was as if denial was an aspect so utterly foreign, that, the higher powers forbid, should he be rejected he wouldn't know what to do with himself. So, she finally consented, "...I once...cared about a man. However, that is long over. We parted ways."
"You could say that."
"Well, you're far too lovely to be with some drifter. If I knew him he would have to answer to me!"
Aurora could do nothing but smile at his loyalty. Of course, she neglected to answer his first question as they proceeded to travel. A crunch, characteristic of hard packed snow, accompanied each footfall. Both hoped the storm would refrain from increasing its intensity before the duo (or quartet, if you counted the horses) reached safety. More flakes descended from the somber skies, encasing them like a snow globe. Bending her flame-emulating head against the wind, Aurora was immeasurably grateful when their selected haven loomed into sight.
The opulent fortress rose before them. Sort of, if you took into consideration that it was lopsided. Half of it stuck out of the barren ground while the other half remained concealed beneath mounds of ice and snow. Regardless, its sheer magnificence could not be denied. Size alone offered awe but also the expertly-crafted walling and towering gates added to the astonishment. Beautiful battlements stood at a forty-five degree angle, ancient testament to its many wars that required vigilant surveying. Other evidence of clashes came in the form of shattered blades, various scattered armor, and abandoned catapults. Designs ran the length of almost all the present walls. It was fascinating.
And, as they might have guessed, deserted.
Both healer and monarch headed for the nearest opening, that of the fortress itself. A swift stride brought them in the midst of a door, partially embedded in the ground. Edgar sought to force open the entrance with his masculine strength but his every attempt was in vain. It was clearly frozen solid.
"Oh, that's my luck. Buildings as far as the eye can see and I can't get in one to save my skin." Although his words would imply despair, his tone was of a different color. As was his custom, his face was split by a grin.
Ever the joker. "Maybe a little magic might open it?" she suggested thoughtfully.
He blinked as if the words had just registered. "That was the next thing on my mind."
Although she was sincerely doubtful of that, it was beyond her calling to refute his words. Instead, she proceeded to lay two hands on the door. Cold as arctic fire, it burned her palms but the healer focused on her goal. As she channeled the magic another alien energy enveloped her. Like a drug, it stripped her senses and her head swam. The simple spell to open the door fled her mind as a new incantation fell from her lips.
It was devastating.
A scream came from the stone as it caved inward. As it exploded into a mass of rumble, neither Edgar nor Aurora could see for a moment. It require immense effort to keep the horses at bay. They could hear the crashing of rock on the ground and the smash of petrified glass that had withstood enough abuse over the centuries. When the duo regained their sight, they both murmured in awe.
One enormous gaping hole was the fruit of her labor. It didn't engulf the entire fortress, by no means, but nearly the length of their wall. Inside, beckoned several corridors and antechambers with still more dispersed items, arrows and clubs and visors and helmets. Darkness made all the objects less distinct but the concept that the fortress itself had not been spared war was explicit.
"Wow. You gotta teach me that sometime!"
She silently answered, Once I learn how, I'll let you know. Out loud, Aurora's words were, "Let's get inside. I'm sure we can find some shelter in this big a place."
Instantly, he agreed. After some careful prompting and the healer's tender loving care (Edgar's words, of course!), their mounts entered the confines of the walls. Meticulously, they weaved a path through the debris. Each clatter from an object resulted in the two having to patiently reassure the horses that they weren't being stalked by cougars. Thus, it consumed a fortune of time to pass the first number of corridors and chambers to finally reach one that, seemed, serviceable.
Edgar decided to briefly examine the surrounding rooms and the healer took the horses to appropriate accommodations. While herding the horses into a smaller room each, Aurora noted the whites in their eyes. This meant fear, to be sure, but fear from what was the question.
Spinning on her heel, she saw nothing peculiar. But her instincts claimed otherwise.
Perhaps...we are not alone?
The thought frightened her. After discussing with her father the outline of her upcoming expedition, he had been adamant that she avoid anything suspicious. "The Nightmaster has many minions with a long arm. In a battle with him you can't possibly hope to win. Stealth will serve you best. If suspect any of his allies are lurking don't hesitate to get away."
Normally, she'd follow her father's advice. But where could she go with a storm on the way?
And then, the eccentric summoning reached her. An attractive, exotic tune that hummed in the ears and reverberated in the healer's mind. It was a struggle not to hurl caution into the wind and seek out this cry that echoed in her heart. Even as Aurora took a pace forward, sped into a jog, and finally a broke into a run, the sound pervaded the every inhale of her lungs, every thud of her hearteverything. Thoughts and reason blended to one and produced a frantic yearning to answer this call. It was chaotic.
"No!" Her own voice was as foreign to her as theirs was.
We are you.
Unsuccessfully, the healer attempted to obstruct the sound.
You are us.
By the time she arrived back at their designated chamber, her heart pounded like the toll of death. More than a sole scarlet lock slipped free of her bun. Flinging open the door, she saw Edgar rise from a chair. His face exhibited rare amazement when she dashed into his arms. The trembles seized her senses and spilled them recklessly as if they were poorly-merged wine, neither color dominating, just swirling without a pattern save the absence of one.
"Hey, Aurora, are you okay?"
The moderate-toned words scythed through her ill-ease. After some length of time, she withdrew from his embrace and glanced up. A smile was full on his face, only Edgar could grin that way. Omnipresent, the voices refused to abandon the healer but she learned to contain them and regained her composure.
"I'll be alright. Just a case of the jitters."
"Can't say I blame youdid you see what is in that room left of here?"
Aurora couldn't say she had. Perceptive, the monarch had opted to do some exploration and, apparent from his gleaming navy eyes, he'd unearthed something worth writing home about. He immediately snatched her delicate yet firm hand and led the healer to his discovery. Eager as a child with something to show mother, the platinum-haired royalty swallowed the distance in short order. Past cob-webbed stairs and littered corridors, they finally neared their destination and, with a little theatrics, waved a hand at the room.
All the sensations in Aurora stumbled over one another. The voices returned with a vengeance, if anything more emphatic than ever.
In the rind of her soul, a chorused whisper, Home.
Brilliant azure flames blazed before the two, a shade unlike the bluest sky or the bluest ocean. Some flecks of fire licked the domed ceiling. Luminous, they expanded, like sea waves ribbonationg on a shore, and shriveled, as if those surges retreated home. A fountain of gold constrained those uncivilized flares, extending from the floor about two feet, and saving the chamber from incineration. It was not the only one of its kind. Many times many more fires illuminated this room and the antechamber beyond.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Tints of awe edged Edgar's voice.
Come. We are you. You are us. Home. Come. We are you. You are us. Home. Come. We are you. You are us. Home. Come. Insistent, the voices blurred and intensified until she could endure no longer. The flames did seem familiar, but as to where she'd caught sight of them before fled her mind. All the healer could recall was the impression of anticipation and longing. Suddenly, the flames seemed less like a star...more like a home.
She dove into the waiting blaze, gold and ivory robe billowing like the wings of avenging angels.
Aurora's scream, that seemed to come from an abyss where ambivalence is everything, accompanied her.
And, finally, the voices ceased.
Eyes strained beyond possibility, Edgar shouted, "Son of a submariner! What the blazes are you doing?"
Although all other objects in the fortress' rooms were as chill as death, the blue fire she bathed in couldn't be a more appropriate temperature. It was neither bitterly cold nor seething hot but an immaculate combination of both. She might as well have been lounging in a pond, similar to the one Aurora escaped to when she felt persecuted, like she often did. The king proceeded to call her name and sputter a string of obscene language. He was not given to cursing or anger but she imagined her wild action drew shock.
"I'll be fine, Edgar."
Two feathery blond eyebrows in an arched position related his disbelief. But she had little time to fret about his concern. Deep inside her chest, the healer experienced frenzied stirrings of her inner self. Her vision whirled, commencing clockwise then executing a complete circle to return to her eyes' starting point. The whole encounter made her ill and dazed. Flames enveloped the healer, seeming to yearn to become one with her. Am I changing? What is happening to me? Why is this happening to me? She did not perceive how, but her subconscious knew the answer. And it filled with the entire rainbow of emotions: surprise, dismay, joy, sorrow, and others she couldn't identify.
As if in answer, the building groaned. Then, it shifted. After that, it groaned and shifted. Soon, the entirety of the fortress vibrated under unseen forces. A shriek, like that of someone's death cry, and the walls developed enormous fractures. They began as diminutive cracks, grew like a stream to a river, then flourished even more into a massive multitude that spelled the destruction of this glorious building.
Casting his head one way, spanning gold strands, then another, Edgar cried, "I think now would be a good time to go, Aurora." He strode forward, evidently to force the issue. But for some reason he flinched as he approached and the monarch abandoned his opinion.
Instead, Edgar lifted two hands to the concealed skies and proclaimed, "I swear fate's got something against me! Now, I'll never get to date Terra!"
Thus spoke, a pillar near by shattered. It startled the king who was forced to dart back unless he wanted to become mashed potatoes. Dirt scattered the stretch of the hallway. Another followed suit. And another. The situation was progressing rapidly. Other rooms displayed similar treatment. Whatever the drive, from outside, to literally tear the house down it was doing a fine job of it.
You must go.
"Where?" she whispered.
Like that wasn't obvious.
They didn't need to tell her twice. Once the healer retrieved her breath and a portion of her stamina, Aurora climbed out, and hitting the ground, staggered over to Edgar. Wordless, he snatched her up in two arms and asked her where to head to. "...the horses...they will know the safest route..." He, too, required no further prompting. Carrying her, the king weaved his way down several besieged corridors. All suffered the identical persecution as the flames' chamber. More than once, he had to halt to avoid crumpling litter.
Finally, they reached the room. Inside was a bloody sight. The healer immediately leapt from his hands and approached her mount. She had strapped the halter to a column. Now, Aurora regretted that decision. The horse lay on the frozen marble flooring like a fallen bookcase, blood-splattered and devoid of life. However, they were not without luck. Edgar's mount had survived. And it screamed blue murder.
Fast as thought, the monarch grabbed the halter and prevented it from trampling him. A hideous cry ejected from its foaming mouth. Aurora glanced up from her dead horse and speedily instructed Edgar to release the tormented beast. Making sure he was not in line of fire of the beast's hooves, he obeyed, albeit reluctantly. One monstrous mass of fury, the horse galloped through the doorway. At once, the two raced after it.
More dust continued to invade the many crevices and still more debris. Hands clasped, they desperately pursued the horse, observing the tail as their only salvation. Powdery clouds concealed all else from sight. A silken thread of golden palomino hair spanned before them like a guiding hand from the heavens, advancing to a familiar area.
"The hole you created! That thing is headed for the hole!"
Breath deprived, Aurora could do nothing but nod. Brilliant light savaged their eyes, spilling from the aperture. The horse proceeded right through, snorted unpleasantly over some matter, and they heard it continue at a full gallop. The healer, faint from the experience from the flames and their revelation, permitted Edgar to deliver her over the threshold.
Not a moment too soon, eithertheir half of the fortress collapsed.
Royal garments flying, the king swung around, she still held. A low whistle expelled from Edgar's lips. Aurora straightened, then stood on her own. Brushing the various dirt off her disheveled robe, she glanced up to view those before her.
It might as well have been the legions of hell. Extending as far as one could strain the eye, there were numbers of black knights, nightmarish slimes, and nightstalkers. The black knights were...well...black. Ebony clothing, ebony mounts, even ebony expressions one might believe. Obsidian horrors, the slimes moved with agonizing slowness but no one could deny their attacks were deadly. Both were led by the infamous nightstalkers, silent shadows bearing the trademark, thrice-pronged daggers.
Leading them threatened two individuals. Each exhibited a grim appearance, but that's were their similarities ended. The one who had spoken was a plainly-robed, weaponless, hooded man. All his attire was black linen and not of expensive taste. Viewing his facial features proved impossible, concealed as it was by his hood. His only accessory was a transparent pyramid dangling from a chain. He did not smile, nor frown.(as if they could tell if he felt any emotion at all!) In fact, he did very little indeed, save articulating his demand. He was not an overly impressive man, to the naked eye. However, Aurora knew better. Something of this man claimed a silent power incarnate.
His companion could be considered ordinary under no circumstances. Like the sky pouring down from the heavens, azure strands framed the other's deathly face. Two blood-and-lavender orbs served as his eyes. His outfit, while not excessively garnished, was decorated with a flourishing crimson cape, akin to hellfire. Other ornaments were a beautiful platinum and gold pendant that bounced light and shadows off its curves and two brown gloves. While the gloves were certainly not grand, his demeanor made them so. Unlike his associate, this individual bore a weapon, a keen scythe. Plus, he was impressive to the eye and the mind. And definitely reminiscent.
"Blessed Figaro...we've got company." Edgar's words severed the tense silence. The robed mystery reiterated his command. Everyone of the army awaited orders from their commanders. Their other leader, the majestic sorcerer, observed all, cold as ice. Aurora glued her olive eyes on him, knowing him as some distant acquaintance.
Placing a hand over his heart, Edgar replied, "Don't you know who you're talking to? I'm King Edgar Reno Figaro!" The title seemed to hold little sway over the unadorned individual who repeated the single word again as if he knew no others. This more than miffed the monarch. Aurora restrained his arm., all the while examing the other man. He, however, said nothing.
Then, it flooded back. It all flooded back. In one horrible wave.
The man she hadn't given up on. The man she had saved. The man she helped become a monster.
"Magus...is that really you?"
He leveled duo fire-and-lilac eyes on her. For a moment, he did not recognize the healer. But the sudden gleam in those deadly orb related his awareness of her identity. Ashen lips parted. Eyes squinted. Cheeks scrunched. Yes, he recognized her. They locked pupils, olive-green to red-violet.
Blessed Genesis, she articulated without words, it is him!
It all didn't matter. He gazed past her as if she meant nothing. Instead, Magus turned his stare on the other.
"Nildemar, is this the girl? The one Tarus seeks?" His voice could have been carved from ice for all the emotion and compassion it demonstrated.
Nildemar's tone more than matched the absent emotion, "Yes."
A hand came down on her arm. His. Edgar strode forward, evidently to liberate the healer. The one-word man held him back with a mere skeletal hand. Was the king ever surprised to notice not a ribbon of flesh on those bones. His face comically contorted in disbelief. Magus' atrocious eyes revolved to land on her
"Yes, Aurora, I do recognize you. Much good it will do you. Tarus wishes to bid you greetings."
Captured. Exactly what my father did not call for.
Of course, Edgar struggled. But Nildemar's arm was amazingly strong. In fact, the healer could tell from his suddenly pained expression that the silent individual was making him reevaluate his decision to revolt. It didn't take longapparently the agony was excruciating.
"Well," he gasped, still a half-smile on his face. "Maybe, we could go for a visit. I heard your friend's place is beautiful this time of year. We can't stay long, however, since the lady and I have important businessugh!"
A short sprout of pain completely silenced him. Others of the wicked army crowded forward, eager. Nildemar produced one of the nightstalkers' knives. He then menaced it near the royalty's throat. "Blade." The demand from the robed individual only mystified Edgar. But Aurora knew what he wanted.
"We no longer have the blade. Release him and I'll go willingly." Her father had also made it clear that none of the traveler's from the other dimensions must be lost. Any one of them could be the one to bear the blade in the upcoming combat with the Nightmaster. If sacrificing herself would ensure their victory then so be it.
Nevertheless, Magus was in no mood to bargain. "Just kill that fool and let's head back to Tarus."
Like death come to take the lifeless home, Nildemar's eyes sought the sorcerer's and attained them. His voice was deadly, "I give orders. Not you." That was more words than he'd said all day.
While Magus' eyes narrowed dangerously, his companion dared the blade nearer Edgar's throat. It gleamed as if in anticipation of the monarch's death. Though undaunted, he was not witless, and the king proceeded to clash against the monstrous grip. He was held fast.
"Now don't go giving yourself up for me, Aurora. That wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me, would it?"
A chill breeze flittered through Aurora at that moment. It was thenand only thenthat she realized the impending storm did not come. This bewildered her. And the winds that screamed and wafted through the area were not of prosaic nature, she realized. Only Magus' hair and attire was affected, but was it ever affected! Blue and crimson merged almost to one as his azure mane and blood-emulating cape danced to the silent tune of air.
Could this be the infamous black winds father told me of?
The arrival of the breeze didn't go unnoticed by the dark wizard. His face twisted in hate as black as the winds themselves. The almost physical impact of it shot down into her soul's core. She would discover no mercy here. Delving deep in her exotic energy, the healer prayed she would find some mysterious magic to salvage the situation.
She did not.
It didn't matter. Columns of fire descended from the skies themselves, it seemed. The blazes scythed into the ranks of black knights, slimes, and nightstalkers. Screams, from a netherworld, shattered the air. All the beasts darted away, some just a short distance, others so far from their original position one could never believe they'd been there at all. A petite flare smoldered into her shoulder as well but it was of no consequence as she smothered it. Edgar was besieged by several blazes, on his arms, legs, chest, and golden hair. He was a human torch in a matter of seconds.
"Now this wasn't the rescue I had in mind!" His tone, still humorous, nevertheless carried a tint of fear.
One of the flames had landed on Magus' cape and he was forced to release Aurora or else become consumed in flames as well. Nildemar easily extinguished the spark that had dared to mar his immaculate, if simple, wardrobe. The healer raced over to Edgar and speedily cast a spell of water. But Edgar was a word ahead of her. A curtain of liquid showered him and dosed the flames. Her incantation only furthered his being drenched.
His finger lifted in the air to point out their saviors'.
While an enormous portion of the fortress had undoubtably fallen due to the assault by Magus, Nildemar, and their legions, the building was not so decrepit that it could not hold up three individuals. The first to come to her vision was a handsome warrior. He had the appearance of the warrior you dreamt about at nights; plated, white knights riding on ivory steeds with a beautiful sword strapped to their side. While this one had no such mount, he did carry a exquisite blade, with a gold and platinum hilt, that he bore with a fine grace. The remnants of firelight danced along the gems in his crown and the locks of hair. That hair was so gold it was almost white. His eyes told of wisdom and inner sufferingthe kind you don't just inherit but gain from painful and knowledgeable experiences.
Second to sight was that of an attractive wizardess. Like a goddess come down from the lands of the deities, she stood, a ball of fire yet in her hands. Waves of hair as green as the deepest ocean was pinned back from her head. She, too, wore armor, that of colorful leather. If she heralded a weapon, it wasn't visible. Her eyes were as emerald as her hairloving and mysterious in a blended childish-womanly way.
The last was a welcome sight. Expansive white hair spilled from his shoulders in satiny curves and from a moustache. His robes were an odd mixture of plain and garnished. He held no weapon, but not that he needed one.
Most would see him as only a grandpa who dabbled in sorcery. And they would guess wrong. Any who had witnessed him in fury knew differently. But he was not a man given to anger. Sapphire pupils flashed with determination and conviction and not a little good humorpowerful and juvenile all in one breath.
And he was her father.
"Father?" she cried in a relieved tone.
"Aurora!" returned he, no less joyful than she.
"Edgar!" shouted Terra.
"Terra!" Edgar yelled back with delight.
"Magus..." whispered Cecil in shock.
Magus shattered the monotony by refusing to reply. Apparently, it was beneath him.
For a brief moment the silence the dark wizard had created reigned supreme. The black winds continued to savage his apparel and mane. Nildemar had not moved nor spoke (not like that would surprise Aurora!). All the rows and columns of black knights and slimes and nightstalkers mimicked the oh silent one'. But that didn't last long. In fact, the next couple of events progressed so swiftly the healer found it difficult not to imagine she'd dreamt it all.
The knight screamed, lost his balance, and plunged down the side of the battlements. His cloak billowed out after him, as if to low his descent. As if that could help--a fall from that height would surly kill him. Evidently, the fortress was NOT so safe. Instinctively, she cast a spell to hold him aloft. Threads of light and aquamarine substance surrounded him like the hands of an angel. The healer met him at the base of the fortress.
Terra flung down the fireball, the one she'd been saving, at the healer. Whatever her dispute was beyond Aurora's comprehesion. Swift despite his armor, the knight covered both of them with his gold-white cloak. Oddly enough, the cape repelled the wizardess attack.
It wasn't long before her father joined the fray. One of his hands snatched Terra back, while the other sent a warning bolt of black lightning to keep the forces of Nildemar and Magus at bay. Meanwhile, both the unadorned individual and the dark wizard briefly argued over some matter of their annihilation. Edgar took action by unleashing an arrow, from some autocrossbow contraption, at the one constraining Terra. The arrow missed, but her father's displeasure was evident on his face.
"No, Edgar!" shouted the healer as she withdrew from the protective folds of the warrior's cloak. That knight had also elected to halt the king's decision to retaliate. He swung his illustrious sword in an angle, immaculate like one would imagine, against the monarch's mechanism. The force jerked the weapon out of Edgar's hands and it landed with a grunt on the snow. Little puffs of snow swirled as if they were specks of diamonds.
"Hey, that was MY crossbow!" Both king and knight faced one another, each with eyes aflame. The warrior spoke, "My name is Cecil. I apologize for disarming you but I could not permit you to shoot at my friend."
"Friend?" The monarch's eyebrows lifted with mild shock.
Aurora's words, urgent like a tense bow string, came before Cecil could reply, "That's my father!"
That father, seeing Terra float down to confront Aurora, immediately dashed over. Ponytail swaying one way then another, the wizardess arrived. Her father was not far behind. Now the five gazed at each other--stalemate. If either Cecil or Edgar moved to resume their struggle, Aurora would be forced to intervene. Undoubtably, Terra would act, either to save the knight or king--whichever was the question--and her father would have to break the whole unpleasantness.
Sky-blue to marine-blur. Emerald to sea. Sapphire to...well, all the other eyes.
Then laughter. A cry of amusement and malice that seemed to be the Devil's own voice erupted.
Magus' words, so cool it iced all their hearts, then reached them.
"Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. You're not dead yet. Here comes the classic battle of good verus evil. G-O-O-D verus E-V-I-L." At that moment he gestured to them and then himself in the proper order. "...Though the lines tend to gray, don't you think? And surly you all must realize the odds...if not, then get out your pen and paper and do the math. Good verus evil equals dead--for you, that is. So, surrender or suffer the consequences of defying my wrath."
"And that is?" Edgar dared to inquire.
"Why, a long-suffering, brutal death, of course."
Cecil, with all the poise the fables promised, strode forward.
"Never, Magus. I think I speak for all..." A pause, to allow anyone to refute that statement. After the four gathered agreed, he continued, "...when I say that we'd rather die than surrender to a traitor such as you. Damn the odds, damn your wrath, damn the death. Don't forget--good always wins over evil. Corny, but true. We all make our own hell; let's see if you can live with yours."
The knight lifted his blade in challenge.
Magus answered with a menacing of his scythe.
"Give yourself up, Magus, and I shall beg mercy of my companions."
"You always did have a way with words, Cecil. But are you as good with a blade? Hmm? Let the battle begin!"
And so it did.