Argh! I can't seem to think of any new titles for my stories. Maybe I've drained my brain a bit too much or something, who knows? Anyway, i'm posting this story now, so you guys have something new to work with...I hope. Anyway, hope you all like it (like you ever say you hate it! *L*)
Seeya all around,
Ishindar, get up! Now! Time for your execution. one of the prison guards grinned cruelly as he turned the key in the lock. Good old fashioned gallows for you, mlad!
Aphrodite got up and stood in front of Ishindar. She could make out the forms of two other guards standing in the flickering torchlight behind the first. The door swung open and the shadowy figure walked in.
Get out of the way, you stupid bitch! I wouldnt bother trying to save your friend here. Hes as good as dead. Oh no, Id be more worried about saving myself, if I were you. he gave an evil chuckle and shoved the woman out of the way. She stumbled back against the wall and stepped forward to hit the man over the back of the head. But the other two guards drew their weapons and waved her back against the wall as their companion dragged Ishindar to his feet. He slung one of the elven warriors arms round his neck, then started dragging him from the cell. Ishindar lifted his head briefly to look at Aphrodite. His eyes met hers, and he saw the misery and pain in them. He smiled at her as they took him from the cell. The door clanged shut and the key clicked. Their voices faded away down the corridor and Aphrodite sank to the floor, sobbing.
The guards dragged Ishindar down the long, dark tunnels, towards the stairs that would take them to the courtyard, where the gallows lay waiting. Ishindar groggily lifted his head and gazed down the passageway. There were cells lining both sides of the walls and he looked into them. The first one he passed had a dwarf inside, quite ill. He looked into the next one. A human face peered out of the gloom at the elven warrior, haggard and hopeless. He seemed familiar. Then he remembered seeing him standing next to the Duke of Aquitaine during the siege of Waterford. The small group passed more cells and the elf noticed yet more soldiers of the Duke suffering cruelly in the foul dungeon. There were others too. Two orcs occupied one cell, smashing fragments of bones over each other for the scraps that were thrown in twice a day. Another room held a woman and a small boy. Two dwarves and a human were trying to saw through the bars of another, but stopped as Ishindars guards marched past, staring suspiciously into the gloomy cell. They reached the end of the corridor and turned left, the flickering torches pushing the darkness away as they approached the stairway. Climbing up it, they walked swiftly through the guardroom and up another flight of stairs. Passing under an archway, they came to a junction and went left. Ishindar saw the courtyard through the open doors up ahead, bathed in a white hue from the light of the moon. Stars appeared around the outer edges of the moons glow as they stepped outside into the chilly night air. He noticed Kuraine hand a slip of paper to a Vampire called Talgren, who bowed and leapt upon a horse. The Vampire Lord turned around to face them just as Talgren reached an archway, galloping swiftly through the main entrance and away into the night.
Ahh, Ishindar! I see that you are somewhat worse for wear for your stay in my pleasant hotel as you so kindly put it. I am sorry for the lack of hospitality, but these are difficult times, as you can no doubt understand. Its a shame that it has to end like this, but such is life. Kuraine shrugged as they dragged the elven warrior over to the gallows. They hoisted him onto a stool that rested on the wooden platform and slipped the noose around his neck. Ishindar gazed wearily about him, taking in the skeleton warriors standing motionless along the reconstructed battlements. Kuraines human lackeys moved swiftly about their assigned duties, swaggering with their own self-importance. The battlements glittered in the moonlight, the dull grey stone casting long shadows across parts of the courtyard. His ears caught the distant sound of an owl hooting as it flew about the wood beyond the fortress. His gaze travelled up past the great stone ramparts to rest on the full moon. It stared back at him, watching the proceedings with total indifference. He sighed and looked at the guard on his right. The man was busily tying the elfs wrists behind him, securing them to his ankles via a chain that ran down his back. Ishindar tested the rope that bound his wrists, but it was expertly tied for maximum strength. One of the guards bumped into the stool and Ishindar swayed precariously before managing to steady himself.
Careful! I dont want to hang him yet. I havent quite finished talki... Kuraine suddenly trailed off as a huge shadow fell over him, cutting off the light from the moon. Several guards screamed in terror, while others muttered curses. The Vampire Lord turned around to face a huge foot, whose golden scales sparkled in the pale moonlight. His eyes widened momentarily as they travelled further up the leg and rested on the grinning head of a great golden dragon, its green eyes staring malevolently at him. That was all he had time to see, before a hobnailed leather boot came down and kicked Kuraine squarely in the face. The Vampire Lord stumbled backwards and fell to the floor with a thud, clouds of dust billowing up around him.
Sauron landed beside the Vampire Lord, staring contemptuously at him. Kuraine regained his feet and dusted his clothes off, his eyes blazing. The human guards hurried to assist their master, but Kuraine waved them aside.
Sauron! he snarled, his face contorting as a mixture of emotions vied for control. So we meet again. I didnt think that you would have the audacity to attack me, at least not without an army behind you. It seems that I am wrong.
Youre wrong about a great many things, Kuraine. Now, wheres my brother? Sauron said, drawing his sword, his eyes roving across the courtyard. Kuraine laughed, the sound echoing loudly around the enclosure.
You can have him. It makes no difference to me. However, its you I want. Yes, dont look so surprised. Youve inconvenienced me greatly over the years, and now its time you got your dues.
Im afraid you wont have that pleasure today, Kuraine. Kyliandra would like a word with you. So, until next time. nodded Sauron, as he spotted the gallows, along with its sole occupant. He sprinted toward his brother, who was almost unconscious and teetering dangerously on the stool that prevented him from plunging to his death. Two guards ran to intercept him, and Sauron moved accordingly. He tripped one and brought his sword up in a sweeping arc that passed through the midriff of the second. The first guard rolled over and struggled to get up, but the elven warrior span round and delivered a quick thrust into the mans chest. Pulling the blade free of the guard, he continued on his original course. He reached the gallows without further interruption and leapt effortlessly onto the platform. He swung the sword over Ishindars head and it sliced easily through the tough rope that made up the noose. Without the added support of the rope, the elf collapsed. Sauron dropped his sword and caught his brother just in time. Ishindar sank into his arms and opened his eyes. They widened as recognition filtered into his sluggish mind.
Sauron! he whispered. But how?
Never mind about that now. Can you walk? asked Sauron, studying the extent of his brothers injuries.
Not easily. But Ill try. he answered hoarsely.
A roar sounded behind them and the two elves turned to look. A jet of flame spewed across the courtyard at Kuraine, who deflected most of it with an invisible shield. The Vampire Lord dodged to the left and jabbed at the dragon with his sword. The dragon deftly avoided Kuraines hasty counterattack and lunged forward, jaws snapping. The Vampire Lord rolled under the dragon and thrust his sword towards the creatures flank. It connected with the thick scales that protected Kyliandra, jarring his arm. The dragon snarled angrily, turning about to face Kuraine, just as a mixed group of guards and skeletons approached him from the other side. Another sheet of flame spurted from the mouth of the dragon, narrowly missed Kuraine and setting fire to a wagon in the corner of the enclosure. The wooden cart collapsed as it burned, the crackling flames creating a myriad of shadows that danced across the courtyard. Great plumes of oily black smoke rose up into the night and human guards rushed about with buckets of water as the thatched roof of the guard hut adjacent to the wagon went up in flames, painting the night sky with a fiery orange glow. Kuraine ran right, dodging a thin stream of fire that followed him across the courtyard. He ducked and rolled forward, slashing quickly across the underside of the dragon. Kyliandra howled and batted him aside with a sweep of his claw, sending him crashing into the ramparts. The guards charged the dragon just as Kuraine got back to his feet, but Kyliandra was in no mood to play anymore. He spewed fire over the advancing mob, turning skeletons to ashes and the men into human torches. They ran about screaming horribly as they blackened and burned, the foul smell of burning flesh emanating from their charred corpses. Sauron forced his gaze away from the fighting and turned his head to look at Ishindar.
Come on, weve wasted enough time already. Kyliandra can take care of himself. Its time I got you out of here. he said, struggling across to the entrance with his brother.
No, wait! Youve got to help her! Ishindar insisted, pointing towards the open door that led to the dungeons. Sauron stopped.
Help who? he asked, frowning as he saw where Ishindar was indicating.
Aphrodite! Shes still in the dungeons. Youve got to save her! the elf implored, just as he started coughing. Leave...me. Go...save...her.
Im not leaving you! said Sauron stubbornly.
Ill...be...fine. Now go! he demanded tiredly, recovering from his coughing fit. Ill wait for you. Im not going anywhere anytime soon.
Sauron looked at his brother, then back at the fighting. Kyliandra was still slogging it out with the Vampire Lord, and most of the remaining guards were attempting to subdue the fires, which now raged all around the courtyard. He sighed, and carefully lowered him to the ground.
Ill be back for you, I promise. he nodded briefly at Ishindar and then he was gone, sprinting towards the door. Ishindar watched him disappear through the doorway, then turned his attention back to the battle.
Sauron pulled up short as soon as he was inside the door. He looked around sharply and grabbed a torch from a wall holder. He wandered through an archway and found a flight of stairs that led deeper into the bowels of the fortress. Holding his sword steadily in front of him, he descended the stairs and entered a guardroom. It was empty, its occupants presumably helping with the battle outside. He quickly skirted the cluttered tables and filthy sleeping areas, reaching the door on the left-hand wall and he yanked it open. Another set of stairs sank deeper into the dark gloom beneath the fortress. He ran down the steps and turned right, walking quickly, but carefully, towards the room that Ishindar had mentioned. He passed dozens of other cells, almost all of which contained prisoners. He rounded a corner and almost ran into a skeleton warrior. It turned to face him, its empty eye sockets staring at him, yet somehow still seeing him. It raised its weapon and advanced slowly. Sauron kicked the creature in the ribcage and grabbed its shield, twisting the metal object from the undead creatures iron grasp. He brought the rim of the shield hammering down on the skeletons head with all his might, and the creature collapsed into a pile of bones. He looked down at the lifeless corpse and then glanced at the nearest cell. A man stood at the door, grasping the cold metal bars and staring hopefully at Sauron. The elf scanned the skeletal remains and picked a key ring from its belt.
Here, free the others as well. Then get yourself out of here as quickly as you can. Good luck! said Sauron, tossing the keys to the man, who scrabbled quickly with the lock as the elven warrior sprinted down the corridor. A coarse, grinding noise from behind, followed by a ringing clang as metal struck rock, told him that the prisoner had successfully unlocked his cell. He could hear more cell doors being opened as he ran down the dark tunnels, towards the cell which, hopefully, contained Aphrodite.
Hey, you! a shout echoed down the passageway, and Sauron turned. Two of Kuraines human soldiers were running towards him, swords drawn. He dropped his newly acquired shield and slipped a throwing knife from his belt. He squinted carefully at the advancing men, and threw it. It struck the guard on his right squarely in the throat, bright red blood gushing through the mans fingers as he reached up to feel the dagger protruding from his neck. The man collapsed to the floor, gurgling and spluttering, his eyes rolling in terror as he felt his lifeblood slip away onto the cold stone floor. The other soldier had slowed to a careful walk, advancing warily down the dimly lit passageway. Sauron drew his sword and picked up his shield, moving slowly to intercept the remaining guard. They stopped within two metres of each other, the guards eyes flickering nervously as he tried to stare down the elven warrior. Suddenly he lunged left, his blade narrowly missing the elfs right arm as Sauron dodged right and under the mans subsequent backswing. He slashed across the guards chest, leaving a thin line of blood where it cut into the skin. He brought his shield about and smashed it into the mans face, crushing his nose. The guard stumbled backwards, holding his nose as blood streamed down his face. Sauron fell to one knee and jabbed upwards, and the blade sank into the mans stomach. The soldier breathed reflexively, holding the sword where it had punctured his chest, then sank to his knees. Sauron kicked the sword free and the dying man fell onto his back, his breaths coming in sharp, ragged gasps. He left the dying guards and continued down the passageway. Finally, he reached the last cell. Water dripped from the ceiling, clinking as it splashed into the numerous puddles that were scattered across the roughly hewn floor, and a luminous moss grew across the surface of the limestone walls. The guards hadnt even bothered to put torches this far into the dungeon. Sauron held aloft his torch as he approached the prison door.
Aphrodite? he called softly. No answer.
Aphrodite? he said again, a bit louder this time. There was a moan and a woman answered.
Ishindar? she asked questioningly. But how did you...I mean, I thought they were going to...?
Im Sauron, Ishindars brother. He asked me to get you out of here. Hold on while I open the door. he interrupted. Aphrodite got to her feet and stood away from the door. A key clicked and the door swung open. Sauron beckoned to her. Come on, lets go. We dont have a lot of time.
But wait! What about your brother? Aphrodite asked as they left the cell.
Hes fine. But we must go, now! he urged, pulling her along the corridors. The two of them reached a junction and turned left. Suddenly they heard a roar, barely audible this far underground, but a roar nonetheless. Then the ground shook as a tremor ran through the earth, and they stumbled forward onto their knees. It passed almost as swiftly as it had come; yet, they were left with a great sense of despair and sorrow. Quickly they ran towards the exit.
Kyliandra snarled, a low, guttural sound, before launching himself at Kuraine. Flames spewed from his mouth in a fiery torrent, crashing against the battlements like waves against a sea wall. Kuraine threw up his arm and cast a shield about him, deflecting the fire that scorched the ground and blackened the rock faces behind him. Kyliandra raked his right claw across the ground, knocking the Vampire Lord flat. Ishindar watched with baited breath as the two continued to struggle for supremacy, neither striking a decisive blow. He crawled closer to the platform upon which the gallows rested, as the two ancient enemies battled across the courtyard. Again, Kuraine was knocked to the floor. Again, he parried the dragons downward strike. Kyliandra reared up, as the Vampire Lord rolled to one side and recovered the weapon that the dragon had just knocked from his grasp. Kyliandras golden scales reflected the fires that raged around the fortress, making him look like an avenging war god of ages past. He brought his huge bulk down to crush Kuraine, but the Vampire Lord rolled aside. Kuraine saw his chance and, pointing his sword upwards, launched the weapon at the mighty dragon as it descended upon him. Guided with uncanny accuracy and unholy spells, it plunged straight into Kyliandras heart. An almighty roar reverberated around the courtyard, deafening Ishindar, and he clamped his hands over his ears in pain. It echoed in the surrounding hills, as the golden dragon came crashing to the ground with a thunderous boom. Kuraine rolled aside, narrowly missing being crushed to death. A great tremor spread outwards across the surface of Hiddenworld as Kyliandra, the last of the mighty golden dragons, passed away.
In Waterford, people fled in terror as an unstable building collapsed into street, great clouds of dust rising up around the rubble as the tremor passed through the ruined town. People cowered in fear, wondering what Kuraine had unleashed upon them now.
In Tor Harravon, the scholars of the great library looked up from their work as ancient shelves gave way, the leather bound books tumbling to the floor, and glass windows shattered into millions of glittering shards as the tremors spread through the capital city of Aquitaine.
Deep in the Pfeirienferg Mountains, many hundreds of miles away, a huge marble tower shook violently. The great wizard Yaztromo sat outside on a rock, tears rolling down his cheeks as he looked up at the night sky, feeling a great whispering sigh rise up into the heavens, before it was blown away on the wind.
The shock wave passed around the globe in a minute, bringing a feeling of despair and hopelessness to all it touched.
Kuraine got to his feet, just as Sauron and Aphrodite emerged from the doorway on the far side of the courtyard, along with the rest of the prisoners. Aphrodite gasped in shock and Sauron just stared, unable to believe his eyes. Kuraine stood next to the head of the fallen dragon and his lips curled into a cruel smile. He turned to face the crowd of prisoners, but instead found a demon, a dragons head sitting on top of those impossibly wide shoulders. Horns sprouted from the top of its head and the demons dark, charred body rippled with powerful muscles that glowed dully with an inner fire. Cthulu, Lord of Hell, was an awesome figure, despite the horror of his presence. He looked down at the dragon, his face expressionless.
So...the day long prophesied has arrived. The greatest force of good in this dreary little world has passed away, Kuraine, and all that remains to challenge us now is Damien Lightbringer. But it is not your destiny to defeat him. Others will rise, but this dragon was the last...the last of an age, and the last remnants of that age have now been destroyed forever. he said, without betraying a hint of emotion. Waiting patiently next to him, unnoticed in the great demons shadow, stood a lesser demon, wearing a mask shaped like a skull. His hair was fair of colour and his muscular body towered seven feet above the earth. Agarash the Damned strode forward and kicked Kyliandras lifeless body.
Ive waited for this day for a long time, Kyliandra, a long time indeed. Youll be next, Sauron! he laughed mockingly at the elven warrior standing in the doorway. Cthulu turned to the gathering.
It is time now for me to depart, for I cannot remain for long on this plane, but rest assured, you will all see me again. As for you, Kuraine, I trust that you are satisfied with my help? the demon asked, his fiery gaze focused on the Vampire Lord.
Indeed I am. He answered. The demon nodded and faded away. Agarashs hoarse laughter echoed in their minds, as he too disappeared. Silence descended upon the courtyard, and even the roaring flames seemed to have dimmed to little more than a quiet hiss. Kuraine walked over to the dragon and pulled his sword free of Kyliandras heart. Then he turned to face Sauron, and broke the silence.
Kill them. Kill them all. He waved his blade vaguely in their direction. Guards sprang down from the battlements and skeleton warriors marched through the archway. Sauron pushed through the melee of prisoners who now kicked and punched through the guards in their bid for freedom. Ishindar rose unsteadily to his feet and moving towards his brother.
Sauron! Head for the main gate! Ill meet you there! he shouted over the din of clashing weapons and cries of battle. Sauron nodded and dragged Aphrodite through the melee, kicking a guard to the floor and removing the legs of another careless enough to be in the way. He wove in and out of the struggling groups of people and emerged at the back, to face ranks of skeletons marching under the archway. A horse rode up to him and a hand offered itself to him.
Care to join me? The horse can take three for now; it only has to get us away from this place. Ishindar smiled tiredly. Sauron grinned and hoisted Aphrodite up onto the back. Then he pulled himself up. Ishindar dug in his heels and urged the horse forward. It whinnied and galloped forward under the arch, trampling skeleton warriors underfoot. The dull grey stone of the fortress gave way to a gusty night wind, whistling past them as they rode down the main road.