Half Blood Part XXVII--The Final Confrontation

Fiction By Heather // 10/15/2010

"I didn't see you at the beginning of the battle," Danilos remarked.
Jokk glared at him, clenching his hands around his quoroni.
"Where were you? Hiding in a cave, afraid to come out and face me? You always have been a coward."
Jokk lunged at him, the blades on his quoroni whistling. Danilos lazily brought his sword up to meet it. At the first shock, Jokk felt fear spike into him again. What was he doing? Why had he come back only to face the one man he feared?
"You feel it," Danilos hissed.
Jokk reluctantly dragged his eyes to meet Danilos'. He could see his fear reflected in the sorcerer's eyes. Angrily, he thrust out against it, shoving Danilos back.
Danilos' eyes flicked up, and Jokk knew what he was seeing. Varian and Fleet had listened to him—they were flying south.
"You think that they can free Jevran?" Danilos glared at him. "They're worthless. Barely trained. You know this. You're sending them to their deaths." But even his evil art couldn't hide the truth from his eyes. Jokk saw this and knew that Jevran had been left unguarded, that he'd been right in sending Varian after his brother.
Jokk remembered what Archflame had told him about Varian's words. And his fear vanished. He was left with peace. He knew what his part was in the battle—his part was to keep Danilos away until Varian could accomplish his mission.
Danilos snarled and backed away. Jokk jumped at him, flicking out his quoroni's blades. The point caught Danilos' robe near the corner and tore it. Danilos heaved his sword up, striking as hard as he could. Jokk parried easily.
Back and forth they swayed, neither one giving away his ground. Wood and steel rang, and their weapons formed a lace of death around them. Jokk's feet were lighter than they had been for years, dancing back and forth with ease. He blocked everything from his mind save for the sound of Danilos' panting breath, the stoop of his shoulders, and the way one hand dropped rom his sword hilt.He was failing. It was time to move in—
Jokk's feet left the ground, and he tumbled head over heels. He felt a shock spreading over him, and knew that Danilos had used his sorcery. He saw the flash of a sword and felt it slice into him. He doubled and cried out, feeling pain spread from the wound.
Danilos sneered and stepped back, his sword streaked with red. "You have failed!"
He ran to his dragonmount and sprang onto its back. A black cloud formed around them, and they were gone. Jokk tried to get to his feet, but he felt numb and useless. Blackness was edging around his eyes. He knew it—he was dying.
"Archflame!" he shouted hoarsely. "Archflame! Go after Varian!"
Somehow his weak voice found the Great Dragon. Archflame spun and locked eyes with him. Then the dragon nodded firmly and took to the air, the wind from his wings flattening the men around him.
Jokk gasped and fell back, clutching his wound. God, help them.

***

They rode through the night. Fleet said it helped his shoulder to keep moving, and Varian wasn't going to naysay him. The dragon's scales were burning with anger. Varian stretched out on Fleet's neck and managed to catch a little sleep. When he awoke, the eastern sky was pink wih dawn, and Fleet was circling over the Lowlander castle.
Varian sat up and choked in shock. An oily billow of gray smoke poured from the castle. From what he could see, all the buildings in the courtyard had been razed, and the roof of the Great Hall had collapsed.
"Lower," he croaked.
"Are you sure?" Fleet asked gently.
"We have to find my brother."
Fleet glided lower until he was skimming the walls. Broken stone spilled from the outer wall like gutted fish, leaving gaps large enough to admit a dragon of Archflame's size. The courtyard was also pocked with holes. They gaped down into the dungeons and cellars of the castle.
"What happened here?" Varian muttered, scanning for Danilos. Neither he or Dakrfang were to be seen.
"Maybe the sorcer knows he has been defeated, and came back here to destroy the castle in a fit of rage," Fleet suggested.
"Maybe."
Suddenly a blow shuddered through Fleet's body. He jerked upright, his foreclaws tearing at something. His wings stopped moving.
"Fleet!" Varian yelled.
Fleet shuddered again and tried to flap his wings. The courtyard rushed up to meet them. Fleet flapped weakly again, but he couldn't stop. His stomach crunched into a heap of rubble. It sent Varian rolling from Fleet's back.
He lay for a moment, stunned, then slowly turned onto his back and faced the dragon. Fleet lay on his side, an enormous arrow buried in his chest. Varian felt bile rise in the back of his throat. He scrambled up and ran to Fleet's side.
"Fleet! Get up!"
Fleet tried to roll, and flames flickered from his nostrils. They were no longer bright red. Varian fitted his hands under Fleet's neck and nearly dropped it in surprise. Fleet's scales were coller than they had been for weeks. Varian felt like his heart dropped into his stomach and settled into a cold, heavy lump. He knelt.  
"No—Fleet—yer flame." Varian stroked the cooling, scaly cheek. Fleet breathed out, and a dark red flame flickered briefly, then died into a tendril of smoke. The corners of Varian's eyes burned with tears.
"Yer flame's dyin'," he whispered.
"Yes." Fleet coughed. "I can feel chill taking my body."
"Don't die! C'mon, Fleet, ye can pull through. Get up!" Varian pushed against his neck. "Get up, Fleet! Ye can make it home and Onna can heal ye."
"No—I'm afraid it's too late."
"Don't give up—" Varian choked and pressed his forehead against Fleet's scales.
Fleet lifted his head, laboriously, and trumpeted two notes to the sky. The third note trailed off into nothing as his head crashed back on the ground.
Varian trailed his fingers across Fleet's bony eyebrows. A moan tore at his chest. No more daring dives. No more scaring Varian out of his wits. No more sarcastic remarks. Anger burned in him, making his face flush as hot as Fleet's scales had once been. Danilos. He'd been the cause of this.
He stood and ran forward. He jerked his quoroni out of the straps on his back and tightened his hand around the shaft.
The castle was engulfed in roiling gray smoke. Varian felt the heat like a gentle resistance against him. He heard the distinctive whomp, whomp of dragon wings and felt the eddies of breeze tug at his clothing. He ignored it. No one could see him.
In the shifting smoke, he could see broken walls rising out of the gloom like jagged beggars' teeth. The smoke made phantom shapes and shadows all around him. Varian set his teeth and plowed forward. Every breath he drew stung in his throat and lungs.
Without warning, he slammed into a rock wall. Varian dropped to his knees, gasping. Another rush of air, the smoke cleared, and for a moment he could see Fleet's body resting beside him. Then it was lost to his sight.
He'd been running in a big circle.
Varian grabbed a projecting rock in the wall and hauled himself up. As soon as he found a solid resting place for his feet, the ground shuddered. Varian clutched the wall as the ground quivered and rumbled beneath his feet. Then the stones, one by one, began dropping from under his feet. Varian managed to shove his quoroni into the holster.
Then the rumbling stopped. Varian lifted his body so he could get a foothold on the rocks and looked down. The light made it difficult to se, but he guessed that the courtyard rubble lay some forty feet below him. It had broken through several of the castle's underground layers—cellars and dungeons.
He pulled himself to the top of the wall, breathing hard. The smoke cleared just a little, allowing him to see the ruined catwalk on the walls. He scanned across the walls and the top of the castle, searching for any sign of life—there.
The trapdoor on top of the castle lay open. Varian stood, sweat trickling down his face. A hand appeared through the trapdoor, then a shoulder and a head.
Varian gasped, clenching his hands.
Danilos stood on the rooftop, his counselor's robes swaying in the wind that was clearing the smoke. They made eye contact, staring across the thirty feet of air. Even in that distance, Varian could see Danilos' eyes blazing.
"Why?" Varian croaked.
"That's a foolish question, Ramiuson. You know why."
"Aye, I know why." Varian raised his voice until he was shouting. "Ye spilled the blood of men and women, children, soldiers, dragons, and for what? A Crown that's nothin' but a crown! Ye spilled innocent blood for a useless piece of jewelry!"
"Blood I spilled, yes, but not innocent. Your people were just as guilty as mine in the ancient war, Varian. The brothers fought because neither one was willing to share the crown with the other."
"A vicious cycle that's continuin' today!"
Danilos narrowed his eyes. "Then why don't you let me take it?"
"Let ye? Aye, ye can have the Crown—it means nothin' to me. But I won't let ye take the Highlands—or the Lowlands, either."
"The owner of the Crown is the king."
"Over my dead body!"
A slow smile spread over Danilos' face. "If that's how you want it."
Varian felt a crushing numbness spread over his torso. What was it? He gasped. It had to be magic. Some force that Danilos was controlling that squeezed out his breath, clutching him like a giant's hand. He tried to drop to his knees, to wriggle away from the invisible magic.
It swept him up and flung him across the empty space. Varian cried out as he hit the rooftop, rolling head over heels. He sprawled flat on his back, gasping. Somehow he still had hold of his quoroni.
He tried to raise his hand, to use it, but though his muscles flexed and strained, he couldn't move himself an inch. Danilos' magic still held him fast.
Danilos stepped to his side and crouched. Varian bared his teeth and tried to snap at Danilos' hand, but his head didn't move. Danilos' fingers came to rest on his forehead.
"A question," Danilos said. "You are in the Great Dragon's confidences, this I know. Where is the Crown of Ages?"
Varian bit his lower lip.
"You don't want the consequences of not answering me, Varian. Tell me—where is the crown?"
Varian took a deep breath and clenched his eyes shut.
"Very well," Danilos said quietly.
Varian arched his back, ground his teeth against the enormous, flooding pain. He struggled against the magical bonds, felt them tighten over his body until his fingers were numb and his breath came in short, shallow pants. What can I do? What else—what else—nothing to do. He'll stop. He has to. Then I can think—then I can break free…
The pain was dulling his mind. Varian couldn't stand it any longer—he threw his head back, screamed, "Stop it! I'll tell—just stop!"
Danilos stood, snatching his hand away. Varian slumped, moaning. His head throbbed, his chest throbbed—every inch of his body ached in time with his heart.
"Spit it out, or I'll feed you to Darkfang—and believe me, he will take great care in how he begins his meal. I believe he favors fresh tendons, torn from his living victim, as a delicacy."
Varian flinched at the thought and Danilos laughed. Got to get free—how? Magic—in my head, holding me down—how to break it?—how to free myself? Archflame said it—he said something about magic—said I couldn't break it…
Danilos curled his hand again. "Hurry up, halfblood!"
God. Varian winced and bit his lip. Archflame said only the power of Light could dissipate the power of darkness.
A black shape loomed over him—Darkfang. The dragon's mouth opened in a yellow-toothed grin. He spread his massive claws over Varian's chest. One claw slipped into Varian's shoulder, between his collarbone and his arm. Varian yelped as it nicked his tendon.
"God!" he shouted. "Break this—free me, I beg you!"
He could feel the weight of the magical shackles disintegrate. He lunged to his feet and jerked out his bootknife, slamming it against Darkfang's shoulder. The point of the knife slipped between a chink in Darkfang's armor, just where Jokk had told him to aim. With a squeal of pain, Darkfang leaped away, jerking Varian's knife out of his hand.
Varian turned to Danilos, who faced him with a twisted, snarling expression. Hatred boiled out of his eyes.
"By the power of my God, ye cannae touch me again with yer magic," Varian growled.
For answer, Danilos sprang at him. Varian met the attack with his shoulder, only to be jarred back, startled by the man's strength and power. Danilos's fist connected with his jaw, throwing him to the ground. Varian sat up, holding his mouth. He could see purple and black mists swirling about Danilos and realized he had merely sourced his power into himself, enhancing his own strength.
"I cannae defeat him alone," Varian whispered to himself, even as Danilos gathered for another spring.
High above them, he heard a dragon singing—a whole range of notes, layered one atop the other. Through the mist and the smoke, a great shape barreled toward them.
Varian's heart jumped. "Fleet?" he shouted. 

Comments

Danilos sends chills down my

Danilos sends chills down my spine.

But I wanted to shout for joy when 

Varian called out for God's help! 

Kyleigh | Fri, 10/15/2010

YES!!!

He lives! He lives! TAKE THAT, Danilos!!! TAKE IT!

Anna | Fri, 10/15/2010

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

I've been waiting over a year...

In the next chapter, Danilos' head better be removed from his body.  Thus to snakes.

James | Fri, 10/15/2010

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

...

Killing off Jokk? And Fleet? BOTH of them? How could you?! At least, I'm guessing Fleet is dead and that's Archflame showing up now...

Danilos had better die soon. >.>

Who shot Fleet, anyway? There didn't seem to be anyone around.

Leandra | Sun, 10/17/2010

Wow...

 This is probably the most awesome story I've ever gone through...THE most awesome! Keep it up!

 

Jackie West | Mon, 10/25/2010