Half Blood Part XXVIII--The Triumph

Fiction By Heather // 10/28/2010

Archflame dropped out of the sky so fast that Varian couldn't follow him. He stared as the black dragon landed full on Darkspine's back. Darkspine collapsed with a snap. Then Archflame slashed at Darkspine's eyes.
Danilos snarled, and Varian swung around to face him. The sorcerer picked up his sword, ignoring the awful sounds of the dragon-fight. Varian lunged forward and scooped up his quoroni. Danilos' blade whistled over his head as he rolled, his shoulders crunching through shards of stone on the roof. He stood in time to see a dark cloud blossom from Danilos' hand—and mushroom around him, staying back by a hand's width.
Varian dashed through the cloud of magic. It parted and let him through without stroking his skin a single time. Danilos backed up, chopping wildly with his sword. Varian drove against him, the blades on his quoroni whistling as he thrust and spun. He jerked his hand apart and caught the sword on the metal-sheathed middle of the staff. Then, with a twist, he flung it out over Danilos' hands and over the roof.
Danilos staggered and Varian slammed the quoroni point into his chest. Danilos stiffened. He looked up, his black eyes wide in shock. The black in his eyes was draining fast, giving way to nothingness. He tried to speak and succeeded only in forming his lips into a snarl. Then he withered to the ground.
Varian stepped back and swallowed, trying to force his stomach back where it belonged. The crumpled heap on the roof looked nothing like a man, but it still made his gut turn. He heard a heavy step behind him and looked back. Archflame stood there, blood glazing his claws.
"You have saved us all," he said quietly. "Do not regret it."
Varian pushed his shoulders back. "I donnae."
"Let's go find your brother."
Varian ran to the trapdoor and lowered himself down. The Great Hall was filled with smoke. He coughed and sputtered as his breathing sucked it into his lungs. He pulled his tunic over his mouth and nose.
Archflame shouldered his way through the rubble blocking the entrance.
"Ye willnae be able to get into the dungeons," Varian called to him.He started for the dungeon door and stopped. In front of him, large black flames licked at the bare stone. Varian could feel the magic in them, fading, but still enough to feed the sorcery-fire for some time.
He heard a hacking sound, and drops of sticky wetness dribbled on him. A stream of saliva hit the flames, and with a rush of thick smoke, they sputtered.
He wiped the dragon-drool from the back of his neck and twisted, staring at Archflame.
Archflame patted his snout dry. "Apologies. I saw no alternative."
Despite himself, Varian chuckled as he darted past the smoldering rock. Archflame followed, squeezing himself thin until they were under the destroyed courtyard, when the mauled tunnels allowed him some measure of room.
Varian didn't pause as he wound his way through the tumbled rocks and half-filled corridors. He knew the only place Jevran would've been undiscovered would be the old dungeons. They would be choked with even more rubble now than before, but Archflame could easily shift anything they came across.
Before long, they stood in the entrance of a center chamber. Varian scanned the cells lining the circular room, hoping we wouldn't have to venture further into the slimy depths. Then he spotted a curled bundle in one of the cells. He ran forward and grabbed he bars, shaking them.
"Jevran!" he shouted.
The man uncurled and sat up. Jevran's wild blue eyes stared at his brother for a moment, devoid of recognition. Then he lunged up. "Varian! Thank God, I knew you'd come for me! What's happened?"
Varian rattled the cell door. The lock held. "Danilos attacked."
"Yeah, I knew the rat would. How goes the battle?"
Archflame snaked his head into the room. "The battle is over. The Lowlanders have been routed, and your brother has become the sorcerer's bane."
Jevran stared him. "Varian? You—you killed Danilos?"
"War stories come later, brother," Varian grunted, rocking back and forth, throwing all his weight against the door. He gave up and stepped back. "Archflame, think ye can deal with this?"
Archflame hooked a claw in the lock's hoop that ran around the doorframe and twisted. The metal gave with a shrill screech and made Jevran cover his ears. He stumbled out, and Varian noticed how tired and dirty his brother looked. Gone was his cockiness. Dirt caked his face and hands, and a blackened stain streaked the side of his tunic.
Varian reached out and put his hand on his brother's shoulder. Before he could speak, Archflame hissed, "Do you hear that?"
Varian paused. Jevran didn't. He dashed for the door. Varian heard a low grumbling sound, like a disgruntled dragon. At first that's what he thought it was. Then the truth hit him—in the form of a good-sized rock clipping his arm as it fell from the ceiling.
He wrapped his arms over his head and dashed after Jevran and Archflame. Jevran stumbled. Varian didn't slow down as he wrapped an arm around his brother's torso and dragged him along. The roar of the collapsing stone followed them, and shaken stone nipped their heels.
Archflame twisted a foreleg back and grabbed both of them by their tunics. Jevran yelped as the dragon leaped out of the corridor. Varian felt Archflame's muscles tensing and clenched his eyes shut. Then he felt a heave, and the jerking rhythm of Archflame's wings.
He opened his eyes. Jevran was staring ahead, frozen in shock, his gripping Archflame's claws so hard that his hands were turning white. Varian looked down, watching the courtyard collapse into itself, dust pouring into the sky.
He sighed and felt, for the first time, how tension had knotted his muscles. He flexed his hand, remembering how it had felt to drive the quoroni into Danilos' chest, the instant of shock when he'd realized that he'd killed a man—something he hadn't paused long to enough to realize in the heat of battle.
Archflame's claw gently nudged him in the back. "Well done, Varian. Your uncle would have been proud."
Varian smiled. He knew that he'd changed, that the weight of killing wouldn't pass away—but he could bear it, knowing that hope had won. 
***
That night, Varian stood surrounded by dragons at the funeral pyres. Tears pricking at the corners of his eyes, eyes that were blurred and hot from all the weeping he'd already done that day. A bonfire danced a few feet away. Beyond the circle of dragons stood the townspeople; Lia, Kearah, Solvar, and Jevran were at the front of the group.
Varian took a deep breath. Flameclaw had told him that Jokk, in his last moments, had asked to be cremated, and his ashes buried at the foot of Mount Arborn. Varian knew this to be right for his uncle. Jokk had given his life for the Highlands and the dragons. So, Jokk's body had been arranged on a platform of branches.
Beside him lay the body of Fleet. Varian felt a sob choke his throat. Two valiant warriors out of the many who had died that day. A memorial service had already been held for the others. Fifty-seven men had died—far less than the Lowlanders, but still too many.
All to fill a madman's lust for power, Varian thought. But the madman was dead, and all was safe.
Archflame nudged his shoulder.
Varian stooped and grasped the end of the torch burning in the bonfire. He lifted it, cocked his arm, and let fly. The torch turned end of end, lazily. It arced through the air, the flames rustling like a dragon's scales, the redness lighting up the dragon's faces, and landed on Jokk's pyre. The oil-soaked wood flared.
Varian threw a second torch at Fleet's pyre, and it too caught instantly. He stepped back between Archflame and Flameclaw. All the dragons drew a deep inward breath. They held it for what seemed like ages, the tiny torch-flames flickering on their scales. Then they blew out.
Streams of bright fire lit the pyres from every side. Heat blazed up, and Varian stepped back, shielding his face with his arm. The flames burned cleanly, coloring the dragon scales a ruddy orange. It flickered off the faces of the people and glimmered off the tears falling to the ground.
Then Archflame lifted his head. "Tonight, we mourn. The warriors we mourn were noble men. They fought nobly and died nobly. We honor their memory, for they helped reunite two countries in the death-throes of a war. But tonight, we celebrate also, for Orkanalia knows their souls and welcomes them to His paradise. Tonight, we honor the men who fought—for country, for crown, for Orkanalia—" His voice slowed as he whispered the last three words. "And for hope."
 The crowd burst out in a song of praise. All around Varian, the dragons unfurled their wings and launched into the air. The flames swirled from the wind of their wings as they soared above the pyres, ther voices joining the song.
They moved away from the pyres, to the other side of the village where another bonfire and food greeted them. Before long, it was like Kerrin's memorial service. Soft laughter flowed around, and randomly songs of thanksgiving, praise, and honor would roll over them, soothing and peaceful. Varian mingled for a while, talking and remembering. He, Rosebreath, and Goldtongue regaled the villagers with stories of Fleet's daring. Dulcan told and retold Jokk's exploits. Jokes and pranks were remembered with soft smiles and hearty laughter.
Then, inexplicably, the crowd around him faded. Varian clenched his mug tight in one hand and looked around. He spotted Jevran, his face lit by the fire, and for some reason was drawn to watch him. The scene changed. Varian could see grand white-granite walls rising in a Great Hall. It was like the Great Hall of the Lowland castle, but a little different. Newer, perhaps. Ghosts of Highlanders and Lowlanders walked around, smiling and talking as they were doing tonight. Jevran sat on the throne, and Varian stood behind him, dressed in armor and bearing a sword. On Jevran's head rested the Crown of Ages.
Varian gasped, and the vision vanished. The bonfire's light returned. No one had noticed him. He stepped, unnoticed, from the crowd and walked away from the village, into the moon-silvered night. He clambered onto the hill above the training field and sat down,wrapping his arm around his knees.
He wasn't alone long. The grass rustled around him. Behind him, he heard a heavy footfall. Archflame.
"You disappeared," Archflame said quietly, crouching beside him. "Why? Kearah is looking for a dance partner."
Varian smiled, briefly. "I had a vision."
Archflame's eyebrows rose. "Yes?"
"Aye. I saw Jevran, sittin' on the throne in the Lowland castle, wearin' a crown. The Crown of Ages. Highlanders and Lowlanders alike stood in the hall, and they were feasting. I stood behind the throne, armed, but also in a counselor's robes."
"And do you know what this vision means?"
"Aye. Jevran is the one to receive the Crown of Ages. And I'm to guard him and guide him." Varian looked up. "What do ye think?"
Archflame smiled. "I think you have found your destiny."

Comments

:)

Yay! :) Smiles are all I can say right now. :) 

Kyleigh | Thu, 10/28/2010

Really?

You mean Fleet is dead? Aw, crap!

But I like that end bit with Jevran, and I thought Danilos's death was swift and satisfying.

Anna | Thu, 10/28/2010

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

*sniff sniff*

 Does this mean that the story's over?

 Why did Jokk disappear? And why did he have to die?

 Good story so far!

Anonymous | Thu, 10/28/2010

*sniff sniff*

 Why did you have to kill Jokk and Fleet?

 And why did Jokk disappear?

 This had better not be the end!

 

Jackie West | Fri, 10/29/2010

*sniff!*

Ack!  Thea!  I haven't even read all of this since you made me promise not to but I saw the title 'Triumph' and just had to... and so I don't even know exactly everything that's happened but I'm STILL about to cry over the beautiful bittersweetness...

I think I need to go to bed...

Mary | Tue, 11/02/2010

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!