A day had passed since they had made their way into the fortress. Azzara had slept for most of the next day. When she had finally woken up, it was late afternoon. A serving maid had helped Azzara bathe and dress her. The rolling chair that the Green Dragons had made for her was brought into her room. It was a little banged up but overall looked sturdy and working correctly. Azzara ate and was then taken to the fort commander’s study. She was told to wait as the King wished to have a word with her.
Azzara sat in silence while fiddling her thumbs and staring at nothing in particular. She was lost in her own thoughts. Witnessing what was done to Vallarie had broken her completely. Her brother, her father, and her best friend had been killed by Marcus. She did not know if she could bear to lose anymore. To say that she had nothing left would have been a lie. She still had Keon. When she had first met him, she had thought him nothing more than a country bumpkin. He was skinny and weak. She did acknowledge his fierce determination and resilience. She admired his kind heart and the confidence to stand up for what he believes in. She found herself being drawn to him without even realising it. He made her feel safe, warm and found herself needing to be close to him always.
She could not deny her feelings any longer. She had fallen in love with the young village boy. She had rejected his advances once so it would not be kind to reveal her feelings to him now. Maybe when this was all over, she would.
The door behind her had opened. She looked around and saw King Algon step in as the door closed behind him. He walked toward the desk and sat down.
“It has been a long time Princess Azzara. I would like to say that you ‘look well’ however that is far from accurate.”
Azzara remained silent.
“I wish to offer my condolences for the loss of your brother. I did not know him well enough to offer any kind words.”
Azzara gripped the sides of her chair hard and gritted her teeth. She felt a rage rising up her chest.
“Now you will tell me your story. What really happened at the village of Jesk and your journey up to this point.”
Azzara had heard enough “Shut up!” she shrieked “Who are you to demand answers from me!? You who cowered behind your gates while the Empire killed my father and took our lands! You who sat and did nothing as my brother suffered under the thumb of that monster who murdered him! And now you sit there! Not even shedding a tear for the sister who loved you more than anyone! You’re nothing but a coward and a disgrace!”
Algon stood up and banged his fists on the desk “You insolent child! Do you think her death and the manner in which she died does not torture me!? It does! More than you know! We did not have the closest relationship, and for that I blame myself. But that does not mean I did not love her! I have made many mistakes. One of them was not marching to Gillia when your father requested our assistance. It is a choice I will regret for the rest of my life. But don’t you ever accuse me of never caring for Vallarie. My relationship with her is none of your concern!”
Azzara wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the floor. She knew she had gone too far, but she did not regret it. Algon was simply a victim of her pain and frustration.
Algon sat back down and closed his eyes as he took a deep breath. They had both seemed to calm down. Algon tapped his fingertips on the desk before speaking up “Azzara, please tell me everything. I believe we are dealing with forces beyond our control. Perhaps if you tell me your story, I might be able to fit the pieces together. Please Azzara, for the sake of Fiondan, for the sake of the continent, help me figure out a soultion.”
Azzara looked up at Algon and nodded “Very well. It all started with a visit from three ‘Gillian Knights’ who had come to me at the Royal Palace.”
Algon listened intently as Azzara recalled her journey from the time she left the palace right up until she arrived at the fort with Keon and Farron. Algon had tried his best not to interrupt, as Azzara seemed to be on the verge of tears during some parts of her story, but he did ask questions at specific points.
When Azzara was done, King Algon sat back on his chair and looked to be in deep thought. After some time, he spoke: “So General Marcus is some kind of demon? And you don’t know what his after only that he wants you?”
“I know it sounds ridiculous! But it’s true! Keon and Farron can attest to seeing the blue demon as well!”
“Farron has left to rejoin his comrades in the Green Dragon Company. They are on their way here to flank the Imperials as soon as they lay siege. But do not worry. I believe you.”
“You do? Just like that?”
“Something happened a few days ago. Something unexplainable. Listening to your story, the incident in question now makes sense.”
“Before the Empire could siege the City of Pollian, I had sent Vallarie with an army of Rune Knights to help defend. However, the Knights had never made it to Pollian. On their journey there, it seemed that they were ambushed. Every single Knight and their squire was killed. And that must have been when Vallarie was taken.”
“How is that possible? They would need at least several battalions to even stand a chance against that many Rune Knights. And if they hadn’t taken Pollian how would they even get that many through without anyone noticing?”
“When we examined the bodies we found numerous claw and bite marks. Their armour was shredded to pieces. Limbs scattered the field as though they had been torn straight off of the body.”
Azzara gasped “Then that would mean…”
“Yes. I believe these Demons must have been the cause of it. If that’s true, if Marcus really does command an army of demons, then we are all doomed.”
“There must be something we can do, Algon! Maybe if we kill Marcus-“
“That will solve nothing. But I may have a solution. My years of studying in the Royal library were not for nothing. Come. Let us go to the Fort’s library. It isn’t as grand as the one in the Capital, but it will do for now.”
Algon took hold of Azzara’s chair and pushed it out of the room. They moved along the stone hallways of the fortress where armoured soldiers rushed around. No doubt preparing for the impending siege.
“Algon?” Azzara said suddenly
“The boy I came with, Keon, where is he?”
“The boy you said was able to kill a demon? If half of what you said about him is true, he would be a fine asset for the battles to come. He stayed by your side for a time while you recovered. Then he joined the men to prepare for the coming siege.”
“He’s going to fight!?”
“We all have to fight Azzara. Come, we are here.”
Algon brought Azzara into a circular room that had an enormous amount of shelves filled with books. Algon placed Azzara’s chair on a table before taking a seat. A bald man wearing white robes had rushed up toward Algon and bowed deeply.
“Your Highness. Is there aught I may assist you with?”
Algon ordered the scribe to bring him two specific books that Azzara could not bother to remember the names of. After some time, the Scribe returned with two books. One was old and faded with a torn brown cover. The other had a sleek black leather cover that was bound with straps of the same material. Algon opened the leather book first and browsed through its pages. He stopped at a certain point and placed the open book in front of her.
“This is called ‘The Dark King: Our Salvation’. It was written by an ancient cult a few thousand years ago. This cult worshipped the Dark King or ‘The King of The Underworld’. They believed that the underworld was a place that tortured souls go to when they die in life. Their souls become twisted, and they eventually turn into demons. This book gives a broad view of what we may be facing. Firstly, this book says demons cannot die. The fact that this Keon boy had killed the beast, Xander, who again appeared before you recently; means that this statement is true.”
“That’s right. Xander had come back for me while I was travelling with Farron. But somehow we had managed to kill him.”
“Yes. You told me about the power you experienced that had led to the death of this demon. And I have reason to believe that you have permanently killed him.”
Algon opened the second book and placed it in front of Azzara.
“This book is the chronicles of your ancestors. The first settlers in Gillia. Over a thousand years ago, the first ruler of Gillia, Queen Dahlia, was blessed with divine power from Boasis, the Goddess of Battle.”
“Vallarie had once told me about her”
“Indeed. Who do you think told her about it? I’ve always had a fascination with Gillian history. Boasis passed this power to Dahlia because the Queen had proven herself to be a powerful warrior. When Gillia was first formed, many men had fought each other to become King. Dahlia had slain them all in battle and proved her worth. She was named Queen and Ruled for almost a century.”
“That is quite interesting, but what does this have to do with the demons?”
“According to the cultists, there is a gate that leads into the underworld. That gate remains locked and is impossible to open from the outside. However, a thousand years ago, the gate had opened, and thousands of demons plagued our lands. Queen Dahlia had entered the underworld through the opened gate and used her Devine powers to slay the Dark King. The gate closed, and peace was restored for hundreds of years. The gate has opened many times over the centuries, and many Gillian Queens have used their divine power to close it.”
“So you’re saying that I have this power?”
“That looks to be the case. The last recorded Queen to have closed the gate was Queen Tera. Unfortunately, the Queen had four sons and no daughters. The power is only passed down to the females in your line. When King Kayden, Tera’s firstborn son, had taken the throne, he had declared that males would rule the kingdom.”
“So until King Kayden took the throne there were only Queens?”
“Indeed. As Boasis had intended. Now it seems the gate has opened once more, and only you have the power to close it.”
“That’s impossible! I can’t even walk!”
“That doesn’t matter! The power is within you. You are our last hope. Not only are you the true heir to the Gillian throne, but you are the last Holy Avenger.”
“That is what your ancestors called the legendary warrior Queens of Gillia. You are the Holy Avenger, Azzara. You are our last hope!”