Dragon Fire: Episode 70

Aric took a step back reeling as the news struck him.

“What did you say?” Alidus asked in surprise.

Brother Egil looked toward the monastery and cautioned,

“Please, my brothers. We must return to the safety of hallowed ground. I will explain all once we are safe within its walls. I have said too much here in the open air.”

When no one moved, Brother Egil pressed.

“Please, your majesty, you must trust me. We are in peril here.”

“Lead on, Brother Egil,” Alidus answered.

The old monk turned and headed back to the monastery with Alidus as the others followed close behind. Once through the gates, Brother Egil sat down by a large fountain to rest. Looking up at Aric, he began his story.

“Your mother came to us after the battle against the siblings. She was a handmaiden for one of the lords whose land neighbored Ethion. She told us she had been raped and left for dead.  When we asked who had done this, she would not answer nor would she accept our aid until we swore we would tell no one of her attack. She was overcome with fear. In our care, her broken body slowly healed and the child within her grew, but she lived a solitary life, always watchful. When the day of your birth arrived, Aric, she lived only long enough to hold you. Then she slipped away in peace. It was not until recently the gods gave me knowledge of who had attacked her. He was Nesmoru, the prince who became the false king. He is your father, Aric, and you are a prince second only to Alidus whose father was the high king.”

Brother Egil turned to Alidus and said, “He is your cousin, sire, and his soul bears stains like your own. But those stains will be cleansed when he avenges the death of his mother and sets right that which was made wrong.”

“Tell me about my father,” Alidus asked.

“It grows dark, sire, and there is no time to give you the full story. Perhaps if we survive the night. Until then, you must take comfort in this. Your father was an orphan adopted by the high priest Zephryses who took him into the temple and gave him the name Zephryn. He loved your mother very much but knew his station. He could only admire her from afar. The high priest, thirsty for power, was corrupted by it. He drank deeply from a demonic well, the source of the siblings’ power. And so he began to plot against the king. He vowed he would marry your mother and claim the throne. But your father Zephryn fought him, a battle that killed the high priest and robbed your father of his mortality,” Brother Egil explained.

“If the high priest died that day, what is the darkness that corrupts the land?” Cerros asked.

“His death marked the end of his mortal form, but his depraved soul lives on. The power that corrupted the high priest cursed Zephryn with immortality. This power cannot be used against itself. Only you, Alidus, can destroy him. You possess the same power, but it has been purified by the blood of your mother that flows within you,” Brother Egil answered.

“I will go with them,” Degan said.

“You cannot. Your power is but a splinter of the darkness. You were meant to be his vessel, his new mortal form. If you draw too closely, he will consume you and you will be lost forever. Once Alidus has slain him, you will be free, Degan.”

“If any part of the high priest Zephryses remains, will he not return?” Razham asked.

“He no longer bears that name for he has taken a new name. If Aric defeats him tonight, his soul will descent into the pit forever and the power he leaves behind will be washed clean of his influence,” Brother Egil explained.

“Then I will no longer call him the darkness. He is not an invincible foe, an evil that cannot be overcome. He is a man and can be defeated. What is this name?” Alidus asked.

“I dare not speak it. To do so is to summon him,” Brother Egil said.

“I do not fear him,” Cerros said, drawing his ax.

“Even a valiant warrior knows fear,” the old monk corrected.

“Say the name!” Alidus commanded, his rage heating the air around him.

The old monk shuddered, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.

“Zulagareth,” he whispered.

Suddenly Degan bent over and grabbed his head in agony. After a moment, he straightened up. His eyes black as deep pools, he spoke in a rumbling, strange voice.

“You dare speak my name, old man. I will feast on your soul and pick my teeth clean with your bones before this day has ended.”

Alidus stepped forward but Brother Egil gently held out his hand to halt.

“Wait. This is not fully he who speaks, merely a portion. To act now would only harm Degan.”

Zulagareth laughed loudly and said,

“So the unwanted son has returned. Even your own father would not have you. Your mother took many lovers. She did not know from whose seed you sprang. The son of a harlot shall have no claim to the throne of Ethion.”

Unable to control his fury, Alidus burst into flames. Quickly, Brother Egil took water from the fountain and said,

“Be gone, demon! This is hallowed ground. You have no power here.”

As he spoke, he threw the water at Degan, and with a hiss, Zulagareth fled, leaving Degan to collapse.

Brother Egil bent down to Degan as Aric rushed to the side of his friend.

“He knows we are here, and he knows we are coming. Alidus, you and Aric must enter the castle and destroy the darkness and Nesmoru. Razham, you will go with Degan to find the hunter Vanamir. He has returned and lives by the power of the darkness. You must destroy him. Degan cannot defeat Vanamir as they share the same power. Cerros, you and Atol must do battle with the summoner and her brother. Even now they approach the kingdom from the north.”

Brother Egil lowered his head, said a silent prayer, then looked at each man with tenderness.

“Go now. There is no more time.”

Published in: on February 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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