Keon faced off against the gigantic brute that wore his father’s face. Was it really him? He wondered. The creature wasted no time in charging at Keon, battle axe held high. Keon rolled out of the way a second before the huge axe split the ground. He felt sluggish. The armour was much too heavy for him to manoeuvre around in. His heart began to pound as memories of his father’s abuse came flooding through his mind.
The Kalor look-alike charged at him a second time, swinging wildly. Keon couldn’t dodge this time, he instead raised his sword and tried to block the blow. It was the wrong decision. Keon remembered what Ser Bealon had said to them during their training: “Remember, a battle is made up of decisions made by the warriors involved. Victory belongs to those who make wise decisions. If you remain calm, you will surely claim victory”
He was not calm. The sword flew across the cave and lodged itself into the rock wall. Keon’s wrist broke from the impact and he screamed out in pain. Kalor did not stop, he raised the axe above his head, preparing for the killing blow. Keon kicked him in the abdomen as hard as he could. Kalor staggered for only a moment, but it was enough time for Keon to put some distance between them.
“Don’t you recognise your own son, you bastard!?” Keon shouted through gritted teeth as he held his broken wrist with his uninjured hand. Keon felt a mixture of anger, hate, anxiety, sadness, and fear.
“Don’t recognise the son you’ve tormented for so many years!?”
Kalor rushed at Keon again, making growling noises like some sort of wild animal. Keon bolted to the sword that was lodged in the cave wall. He grabbed it and tried to pull it free, but it was difficult with only one arm. Kalor was getting closer, his battle axe raised high. Keon stomped his foot against the cave wall for leverage and pulled as hard as he could. Luck was with him this day.
The sword came free and he fell back against the ground just as Kalor’s axe came down on him, the blade missed his head by inches. Keon was on the ground now, his good hand clutched around the hilt of his sword. There was no time for him to get up as Kalor charged at him again, roaring like a vicious beast.
Keon took a deep breath to calm himself. Kalor got closer, preparing for the kill. Before Kalor could bring his axe down, Keon thrust the end of his sword through his father’s abdomen with all his strength. Kalor screamed in pain. Keon kicked Kalor with force to free his sword. His father fell back and whined like a wounded bear.
Keon scrambled to his feet and walked toward his father, sword held in front of him. Kalor looked at him with desperation in his one good eye. He screamed at Keon, but not in anger. Tears formed in the corners of Keon’s as he realised that his father had been suffering all this time. He didn’t know what the demons must have put him through but he hated them for it. It was not the empire that had ripped his family apart and hurt everyone that he cared for. It was the demons, it was they who needed to pay.
Kalor screamed at him again without words, but Keon knew. That scream meant ‘Kill me!’
Keon placed the end of his sword against his father’s throat, tears rolling down his cheeks. Kalor closed his eyes and began to hum. Keon recognised the tune instantly. It was the same tune his mother would hum to him when he was a child.
“I don’t know if you’re going to the same place as her,” Keon said, his voice breaking and his arm shaking “but if you do, give her a kiss for me”
Keon slowly pushed his sword through Kalor’s throat. He heard his father gurgle as blood sprayed out of his neck and poured out of his mouth. Keon pulled out his sword and held his father’s head against his chest. He rocked back and forth, wailing uncontrollably. He stroked his father’s hair with his good and kissed the top of his head before laying him down on the floor.
He needed to find Azzara. He gave his father one last look before grabbing his sword and jumping into the well.
Azzara kept looking back over Tarius’ shoulder. Her anxiety felt like it would consume her. She couldn’t see Keon following behind. Tarius had been carrying her for nearly a half-hour and there was no sign of her beloved.
“Eyes forward princess,” Tarius said suddenly “remember where we are, you have your own task to deal with”
She knew that. From the moment they touched ground in this ‘underworld’ she was afraid. Everything was dark, and they could only see a few feet in front of them. They walked along a narrow pathway that looked to be made of raw flesh. She had to restrain herself a few times from tightening her arms around Tarius’ neck. She already felt uncomfortable having another man’s hands on her body.
Tarius walked slowly with each step making a *squish* sound. Suddenly there was a burst of purple flames and Azzara screamed. The room was illuminated and they could see a large metal door in front of them. Standing in front of the door was a creature with the body of a woman. Its body was pitch black and had two curved horns on its head.
“My king awaits,” the creature said seductively “follow”
Azzara was hesitant but Tarius walked forward instantly.
“What are you doing!?” she demanded
“Marcus said the only way to close the gate is to kill this ‘king’. We have no other information besides that. If this is the only way, then so be it”.
Tarius walked with Azzara through the now open door. They found themselves in a spacious room that had nothing but a throne. It was a throne made of human heads that wailed constantly. Azzara whimpered as she took in the sight.
A strange figure sat on this horrific throne. It looked to be a man but was quite different. This man wore a long black cloak and a crown of blackthorns. He had no eyes and his cheeks were sunken in as if he had been starving for several weeks.
He floated toward them which made Azzara scream again. Tarius gently laid her down on the floor before drawing his sword.
“Greetings, children of noble blood,” the creature said mournfully “I have waited long for your arrival, Holy Avenger. You will finally grant me peace.”
The ‘king’ had no eyes but seemed to be looking directly at her. It made her skin crawl and her heart pound in fear. Tarius swung his sword at the creature but his attack is blocked by another sword. General Marcus now stood in front of Tarius, gritting his teeth.
“You will not interfere, knight,” the king said in the same mournful tone “I will not be your opponent this day”
Marcuse pushed Tarius back and struck him with a flurry of blows which the Imperial Prince blocked expertly. Marcus led Tarius away from Azzara as they fought viciously, the sound of clashing steel rung in the air.
Azzara was now left alone with this frightening creature. Her mouth trembled and her heart pounded as she looked up at it.
“Now, come Holy Avenger! Release us from this misery!”
“Misery?” Azzara said in almost a whisper.
“I was once human. Ser Galtix was my name and I was the knight-commander of the Gillian Knights.”
Azzara’s eyes widened. Ser Galtix was a legend in Gillian history. No one ever knew what happened to him only that he had died protecting Queen Tera.
“I was Queen Tera’s lover. When last the gate was opened Queen Tera, the last Holy Avenger had travelled here to the underworld to close the gate”
“But the king needs to die for the gate to close. If you are the king then…”
“…yes,” Ser Galtix said “There was a king before I. Queen Dahlia’s brother”
Azzara shook her head in disbelief “What does it mean!? Why did you all become demon kings!?”
“To preserve the balance,” Ser Galtix said simply “Without a ruler in the underworld, the universe as we know it would cease to exist”
“Then why did my predecessors not become the rulers of this place?”
“Love is a powerful thing. Not Queen Dahlia’s brother, not I, could watch our loved one sacrifice themselves to this fate. So we took their place”
“Then why do I need to be here?” Azzara asked
“Because only the divine blade of the Holy Avenger can kill a demon king. Enough talk! I have waited long for this moment. It is time to do battle!”
“Azzara!” a voice came from behind her. Azzara felt her heart flutter. It was Keon. Her beloved came running into the room with a sword in hand as he rushed at the demon king. Ser Galtix raised his hand and Keon went flying across the room, slamming against the wall.
“Keon!” She screamed
“If you do not fight then you will die!” Ser Galtix thundered as he threw Azzara against the other end of the room. How was she to fight? She didn’t know how to call upon this power at will. Tarius was still locked in battle with Marcus. Keon looked dazed and groaned in pain. She had to do something, why was she always so helpless!?
Ser Galtix grabbed her by the neck and lifted her. She struggled to breathe as he choked her.
“Kill me!” the demon king shouted as he flung her across the room, slamming her against the wall. She cried in pain, sobbing at the pain and helplessness she felt.
“Azzara!” Keon shouted “I believe in you! You’re much more than you think you are! You always have been!”
Azzara looked over at Keon. He was struggling to stand. Blood poured down from a wound on his head and it looked like he had lost the use of his left arm. Yet he still fought to stand, to fight for her. That was so much like him. No matter how weak he was, or hurt, even if the odds were against him he never gave up. There she was, giving up as usual. She was looking for someone to save her, to protect her. Keon was always there, never complaining, dropping everything and everyone to rush to her defence. But no more.
This time, she thought, I will protect him!
Then she felt it. A surge of power forming in her chest. A bright white light emanating from her body. It felt warm and comforting. She floated off the ground and felt her pain melt away. Her mind was clear and it felt as though she were sharing her body with someone else, something else. Balls of energy formed on the palms of her hands and extended. It looked like she held two swords of pure light.
She looked at the demon king.
“Come, Holy Avenger,” he said to her.
Azzara rushed at the king with immense speed, slashing at him with incredible strength. Ser Galtix dodged the blows and threw balls of black fire at her. She cut through them and rushed in again, this time succeeding in cutting open his chest.
“Finally…Tera” he whispered as his body turns to stone and crumbles into dust.
Tarius screams in pain. Azzara turns her attention to him. Tarius is unarmed and falls to the ground, blood flowing from his arm. Marcus held his blade to Tarius’ neck, grinning madly.
Azzara rushed at him and struck with a powerful blow. Marcus managed to block it but his sword was split in half. She slashed at his chest screaming “For my Father!” a second slash to the chest “For my brother!” a third “For my kingdom!” a fourth “For Vallarie!”
She ended her flurry with a final piercing blow to the chest “For Keon’s suffering!”
“Fool…” Marcus started to say as his body slowly turned to stone “If you’d let me live I would have become king! You’d need not sacrifice yourself!”
“If it means the death of a monster like you, I’d gladly sacrifice myself a thousand times over,” she said as she watched the subject of her nightmares crumble into dust.
Azzara began to feel weak as her powers started to fade. The light disappeared and she fell from the air. She felt Keon’s arms around her as he caught her. She kissed him softly on lips and whispered: “It’s finally over.”
Keon smiled at her and then looked over to Tarius “Can you carry her? I can’t use both of my arms”
“Keon-“ Tarius started to say but Keon cut him off “Please take her and leave this place”
Azzara looked at Keon with wide eyes “What are you-“
“I heard everything, Azzara,” he said to her still smiling “You will live, for both us”
“No! NO!” Azzara screamed but Keon let go of her and walked away. Azzara screamed and cried. She dug her nails into the ground and dragged her body toward him. Her fingers started to bleed but she didn’t care. “KEON!” she screamed over and over as she dragged herself across the floor. Keon picked up the black crown of thorns and walked over to the throne.
She felt arms wrap around her middle and pick her up. Tarius threw her over his shoulder and rushed toward the closing metal door. She never took her eyes off of Keon, not once. She watched him sit down and place the crown on his head. She watched a dark shadow creep over his body and blood drip down from his head.
Tarius had just managed to get through the door as it was about to close. Her last image of Keon was him looking at her and smiling as tears of blood rolled down his cheeks.
He was gone, she thought. She would never see him again, the one she loved most in this world.
Tarius rushed toward the closing portal to their world. He leapt into it just as it was about to disappear. Just before they could get through, she heard him:
“I couldn’t save my sister. I couldn’t save my home, I couldn’t save my friends. But, Azzara, at least I could save you. I love you, now and forever.”