As Tristan and the griffin riders raced across the skyline, he felt a great sickening creep into every part of him. It was a horror that poured itself over him in waves. He shuddered and grabbed hold of the medallion, saying a prayer to Eschua for peace. The feeling subsided as a light pierced through the storm clouds. He felt renewed, refreshed, and noticed the other riders did too.
He looked back behind him and gaped in horror. 6 flying monsters, closing resembling dragons he had seen in paintings at the monastery, were quickly gaining on them.
“Drakes!” One of the griffin riders yelled out from Tristan’s right. The lead rider, who Tristan assumed was the leader, rode a larger black drake. The others seemed to be covered in blood red leathery scales. Black smoke seemed to pour out of the lead rider like fog rolling over the ground. It crept and crawled down his sides before dissipating a few feet below the drake. His armor seemed to be a mixture of scales and ash as parts of it seemed to smolder and flake away. As Tristan looked towards his face every nightmare, fear, and horror rushed out at Tristan and ripped through his mind.
“Don’t look into his eyes,” Tristan heard but it sounded like it was far away as he became enveloped in darkness. Every sin and nightmare he had ever faced revealed itself over and over again. He was frozen, he could not turn his gaze away.
Your brother loves you and how do you repay that love? You abandoned him…
The words rippled through his mind in waves. As each wave hit, pain rushed through his body racking his bones and piercing his veins. Fire and electricity coursed through his blood burning every fiber of his being.
You can’t hold on to anyone you love…
You couldn’t protect your wife…
Images of her face flashed before him, smiling, longing for him. Then fear covers her as she is ripped backward from his sight into shadow.
You couldn’t protect your daughter…
Fire and smoke rushed around an image of his daughter like a great flood. It swirled and rippled as she reaches out for Tristan, crying, screaming.
Tristan grabbed his head and screamed. He shook his head back and forth trying to get rid of the images, when suddenly, a light washes over him.
Warmth, peace, stillness…
Tristan opened his eyes to see Father Alban standing before him in a field just outside of his old village. It was untouched by fire, and everyone was going about their daily lives.
“I…I…I don’t understand?” He stood in a sea of grass whipping lazily around them. Tristan saw Isabella running around the creek with other children, giggling and playing. “Isabella?” he whispered. He started towards her, his left hand outstretched toward her.
“No Tristan, you can not go to her,” Father Alban’s voice was gentle, but firm. The statement stopped Tristan in his tracks.
“Why can’t I go to her?” He watched her continue to play in the distance. He longed to pick her up in his arms and never let go again.
“Where they are you can not go yet, lad,” Father Alban placed his left hand on Tristan’s shoulder, “They are in the next life, a place we can all go to, one day.” He looked deeply into Tristan’s eyes, holding his gaze as if to keep him anchored.
“Then why show me this? Why torture me like this?” Tristan shook his head, tearing his gaze away from the priest and back to his daughter. She turned just then, seeing him she smiled and waved. He waved back and started forward again, but Father Alban’s grip on his shoulder was unusually strong and held him back.
“If you go now, you will be lost forever, and you will not reach them.” He held Tristan’s gaze again, “Those that try to go before their time will fall short and be ripped away from paradise to the Abyss.” He continued to anchor Tristan in place with his hand and gaze for behind Tristan was a great shadow. It blanketed fog rolled across the fields, the sky, and everything behind Tristan, engulfing everything in darkness. It crept slowly closer as Tristan still fought against Father Alban’s grip.
“I don’t care I didn’t want this in the first place,” he reached for the medallion around his neck. The shadowed fog rippled and expanded, pulling itself closer at a faster rate.
Father Alban grabbed Tristan’s hand before he could tear the medallion away. “It must be done by you; you and your brother are linked by more than just blood.” He breathed deeply, beads of sweat began to roll down the old man’s face as he continued, “Listen to me Tristan, your daughter is safe with your wife here. Now...” Tristan tore gaze away from the priest and searched for his wife.
“I don’t see my wife…” Just then she appeared from behind a barn, carrying a basket of clothes at her side. She called after Isabella but Tristan couldn’t hear her voice. Her dark brown hair tossed in the breeze as it flowed back and forth over her shoulders. She wore one of her simple work dresses, this one a sandy color with stains from dirt and food most likely.
Even from this distance, he could see her fair, light colored skin with the occasional freckle. He finally managed to break from Father Alban’s grip and began to run towards them.
Father Alban called after Tristan, “No Tristan don’t, you will lose them forever if you go now.” He held his cane up over his head toward the darkness, trying to hold it at bay as he looked over his shoulder at Tristan.
Tristan stopped, he watched as his wife looked over at him, smiling she waved at him as Isabella came running up to her side. He wanted to go to them now, he ached for them with every breath. But something in Father Alban’s voice told him to look back.
His eyes widened with shock as he saw the darkness almost upon the priest. As he looked upon the priest trying to hold the darkness at bay and then back at his family he suddenly knew. He knew it wouldn’t be over until he finished his task. Tristan knew he had to face his brother, and face the Dark Lord if he ever wanted to see his family again.
He waved to his family one more time and then turned back to Father Alban. He took a step toward the priest and the darkness. The medallion around his neck began to glow with a dull white light. Tristan walked a few more steps and the light began to slowly grow brighter. With each step toward the darkness the light grew brighter. The fog seemed to recoil at the approach of the medallion. With realization now, Tristan began to run toward the darkness and Father Alban, whose hands were still upraised.
The shadowed evil withdrew quicker and quicker almost rushing away like a great dam breaking somewhere off in the distance. As Tristan reached Father Alban’s side, the medallion had become so bright around his neck that he could almost not see. With a thunderclap and a lightning striking across the sky, the darkness disappeared.
“You have done it Tristan, you have unlocked the medallion’s powers and your own.” Father Alban leaned against his knobby can, his breath ragged and his heart racing. “Just…in time…too, lad.” He half heartedly chuckled.
“What do you mean? What powers?” He grabbed the priest’s arm and helped him stay upright. The energy had been completely sucked out of the old man. He could see how much it had taken from him to hold the darkness at bay while Tristan found himself. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I will be fine.” He straightened up a little and turned to look deeply into Tristan’s eyes once more. “Listen now my boy. There is not much time. I brought you here to give you something to anchor onto in times of darkness.” He waved his hand back at the village.
Tristan looked back to find that his family had walked back into the village, probably to go home. “I don’t understand Father Alban.”
“Keromas and the others will try everything to destroy you, body and soul. This place is to anchor you in the light,” he reached for the medallion which now glowed faintly, “and to call upon the Light when you need it most.”
Tristan looked down at the medallion. “Thank you, I will do my best now more than ever.” He closed his eyes for a moment as the breeze picked up and ruffled his hair across his face. He pushed it back behind his ear and looked at the priest, “What do I have to do? Keromas is there still, how do I fight him?” Doubt crept across his features as he thought about the Dark Messenger.
“Hold onto this image and believe, the light will do the rest, plus,” he smiled and shrugged, “you’re not without help.”
The light from the medallion began to glow and pulse once more as Tristan looked back at the village. The light became so bright that Tristan’s vision was washed over with it…
Thunder rumbled overhead as Tristan’s vision became clear once more. The griffin riders and the drake riders were fighting each other all around him as he and Armania continued to fly toward the mountains. But, Keromas was right there with them as well. He held Tristan’s gaze once more and it began to start all over again. The darkness began to close in until Tristan looked down at the medallion. A faint light glowed from it; a candle in a raging storm. He smiled as the village passed across his view for a fleeting moment.
That moment was all he needed…
He looked back at Keromas for a second and smiled, “Not anymore, tell you lord that darkness has no hold on me, ever again.” He patted Armania’s side, and she cried out in understanding. She turned away from the mountains and came down on one of two drakes attacking Argus.
Her talons ripped into the neck of the serpent as her beak snapped at the left wing. A massive tear erupted across its leathery surface cutting a jagged edge across the wing. The drake screamed in agony and the rider was tossed off as the monster snapped its body and convulsed in pain. Armania let go and the drake plummeted away, its cries could be heard drifting away through the storm.
Tristan felt a darkness creep up behind him, almost slithering across his neck. He glanced back in time to see Keromas bring his drake down from above. “Dive Armania, dive!” He gripped onto her feathers tightly as she inverted herself completely and fell like a rock toward the ground, miles below. The wind clawed and raked against his body as Armania picked up speed.
He could barely turn his head to look back without snapping his neck under the pressure. Everyone seemed to shrink away through the clouds as they plummeted. The griffins and drakes continued to battle high above, and as Tristan looked down again he watched the battle below rise up to meet them.
Everything seemed to slow down once more as the darkness seeped across the back of his mind once more.
You will fail…
The Dark Lord awaits you…
He is a patient one…
The words whispered through his head, low and scratchy, almost echoing from afar.
“I will gladly let him wait…” Tristan said as the ground rushed up at them with only seconds away. He felt warmth from above and looked up as two arrows of light rushed across the sky. “Enjoy Keromas, I will see your Lord soon enough,” Armania pulled up at the last second and swooped low over the seething army. Arrows and spears rushed to meet them but at her present speed none could reach them.
A siege tower loomed in front of them half a mile away. Armania screeched and Tristan realized what she wanted to do. “Go ahead girl, but then we must be on our way.” Tristan held tighter and Armania brought her wings out fully stretched to break their current speed and arc her upward just slightly as they came upon the siege tower.
Time seemed to slow down as the battle raged around them. Each beat of Armania’s wings felt like drumbeats in Tristan’s ears as he looked around. Soldiers below moved away in horror as the shadow of the great eagle past over them. On the walls soldiers cheered and raised weapons and shields in the air in salute.
Armania reared up for a second before swooping down onto the top of the tower. Her razor sharp claws wrapped around the point of the roof, and dug deeply through its walls. The talons pierced the structure like a stick through paper. Some soldiers were punctured through the chest while others scrambled out of the way. Armania snapped wings twice and whipped her legs forward letting go of the tower in the process.
The tower creaked and groaned under the weight and force of the attack. It teetered to the side for one moment, knocking soldiers over inside and the combined weight tipped it over. It fell onto orcs and goblins below with a great bellow and thunderous crash. Earth and bodies went flying in every direction.
Cheers and calls went out across the ramparts. The attack had not been a winning one but it had slowed the army considerably as the tower blocked the host from a large section of the northern wall.
Armania snapped her wings furiously as more arrows and spears flew toward them but she quickly rose high above the battlefield. “Nice one girl that should help out a bit.” He patted her side as he looked below at the army trying to scramble around the fallen tower and regroup on that side of the fortress.
The great eagle once more flew off toward the mountain range, and Abydos beyond. She snapped her wings rhythmically as she gained speed and altitude until they finally broke through the storm clouds and the sun shined brightly on their faces. Tristan closed his eyes and allowed the warmth of the light to wash over his body. It rejuvenated his aching muscles and ran off the last wisps of darkness that stalked near the edges of his mind. Armania caught an air current and relaxed, allowing the powerful energy of it to whisk them off toward the west.