Chapter 59: The Fall of Judah
Amid the chaos, Colin spotted Balaam braving the destruction erupting throughout the plaza and racing towards them. The Amorite onlookers ran for cover as their champion’s body collided with a nearby wall. Crag’s behemoth stone hands ripped through the ground and tossed Molek again. Balaam dodged around Molek’s feet as the giant stumbled into his path and nearly careened into Colin and Egan.
“Balaam? Where did you come from?” Colin called out, “Are you okay? The princess?”
The donkey flinched as the earth shook around him. “She holds the last terrace, boy, I would’ve stayed with her but she thought you should have this -- in my satchel.”
Crag threw Molek to the far corner of the plaza, the giant Amorite collided with the buildings and they collapsed like a house of cards. Colin reached into the satchel as Egan searched desperately for a weapon amidst the nearby wreckage. Another tremor rocked the masonry at their feet. They stumbled as Colin pulled out the scroll and opened it. He caught his breath.
“This is . . .” he began, his eyes darted across the script. The foreign letters and symbols wavered and melded into fiery words he could understand.
Egan glanced at him, “Samuel’s scroll. I thought it lost. Not sure how that could help us any more than your large friend over there.”
The trio watched on as Crag burrowed under the streets, splitting the cobblestone, before erupting once more to tower over Molek.
“Hmmm old root. Once a sapling of the Maker, now twisted into a weed,” Crag spoke down to the giant, like a father speaking to a petulant child. Molek cowered as Crag raised his great fist over his head.
“All weeds must . . .” Crag paused as the Lion’s Maw archway and the stairway leading down collapsed in a cloud of debris that flooded into the plaza like a wave. Colin covered his face and turned away.
* * * * * * * *
As the great Lion’s Mouth broke apart high above, Dagon lurched up the last steps dragging Alexandra past the ruined gates and into the plaza. The archway exploded overhead and filled his vision with dust and rubble.
The sorcerer shot his free hand upwards and felt the weight of the falling stone archway hold above him. His mind could keep it afloat for no longer than a moment, but it would be enough time. With a few more steps he was clear and the burning debris smashed to the ground behind him. He looked up and marveled at the great stone man towering over his broken champion.
“An elemental,” Dagon said as he clutched the princess tighter to his side, “How quaint.” Dagon raised his arm toward the stone behemoth. “You are stone. Stone rends before the black throne. You are life, life shatters before the dark one’s fist!”
* * * * * * * *
Through the dust and haze Colin, heard Crag speak out.
“You, you are not of the Maker. Stop!”
A thunderous crack echoed in the courtyard and Colin looked up to see Crag’s towering form split asunder from head to base and shatter. Massive boulders flew up into the air and crashed into the homes surrounding the Ambassador’s Square. The great stone behemoth was no more.
“Crag?” Colin stumbled back.
Dagon emerged from the dust cloud, his arm wrenched tightly around Alexandra’s neck. The horn slung at his side.
“Molek! Rise!” Dagon called out. “Let the power of the fallen one fill you! Let his wrath surge life into your veins!”
After a moment Molek lumbered from the rubble to stand behind Dagon. His faceplate was shattered, he ripped it from his head. Blood and tissue protruded from the giant’s skull.
“Destroy them!” Dagon commanded.
Molek roared with fury as he raced toward the trio.
Egan looked to Colin, shock setting in his eyes. “We always meet under bad circumstances it seems. I have no weapon left to use, no ploy left to play. I misjudged you, boy. You stand with us at the end, for that you have my gratitude.”
Molek raced closer, the ground beneath their feet shook.
Egan stepped forward, bracing himself against the giant’s blow. “I’ve failed Gilead, I pray she forgives me.”
Colin reached into his pocket and grasped the familiar stone he’d carried with him since Dana Point. A vision of Egan skipping stones with his father flashed in Colin’s mind.
“Everything you need, you’ve already learned,” Colin handed the rock to Egan. “I think this is meant for you.”
Egan gazed at it for a second, as the old leather sling wrapped on his belt came loose and fell to his feet.
He turned to face the giant and took a breath to steady himself. He picked up the sling and rolled the smooth stone into it, his fingers remembered the perfect grip and angle as if he was once again a boy at the seashore.
The pounding earth screamed as Egan brought the sling into a perfect arc over his head, and it sang for release as he spun it faster and faster. Egan’s aim was sure and perfect. With one final cry, the chief officer let the stone fly. It sailed through the air in a perfect arc and planted itself between Molek’s eyes. The giant stopped in his tracks. A long groan echoed from Molek’s mouth and his stare went blank. Then, like a long-dead evergreen, he collapsed to the ground. His lifeless body hit the cobblestone, and echoed throughout the city, making Gilead shudder one last time.
Dagon’s eyes widened as he took a step back and wrenched his arm tighter around Alexandra’s neck. “So now we come to the end game!” Dagon’s voice echoed across the courtyard. “For a century, we’ve planned your fall.” The sorcerer yanked Alex forward as he drew closer to them. “Your city burns, your people have all but sold themselves to us, and your king lies dead in the streets!”
“Let her go,” Colin called out, “Or I swear to God I’ll end you!”
“Such brave words, I’d expect them coming from the boy-captain, but you? You’re not even that, are you?” Dagon spat. “You’re nothing. You’ll always be nothing,”
The sorcerer’s words cut into Colin sharper than any knife. It was the same voice that had echoed in his head every day of his life.
“I’ll let your little battle mean something though, all of you.” Dagon eyed the scroll in Colin’s hand. “I’ll let the bitch live. I’ll give you your kingdom back and set you up as high rulers of it. I’ll have my forces retreat and you’ll be heroes, for a small price.”
Alexandra bit Dagon’s arm and he loosened his grip around her.
“I swear if either of you does any such thing I’ll tear your hearts out myself!” she screamed.
Egan stepped up, “Why would we ever trust you, demon? What would stop you from destroying us at your whim?”
“What’s to stop me now?” Dagon yelled back, and Alexandra could only cry out as his grip on her tightened again.
“My master and I came for two boons, one of which your princess so eagerly gave me earlier . . .” Dagon patted the horn at his side. “Now hand me that rag in your hand boy, and finally, bow, all of you. Proclaim your fealty this one time, and all that you see is yours.”
Colin and Egan glanced at each other for a second.
“How many more lives will you sacrifice for your petty honor Chief?” Dagon stared at Egan. “How much blood will it take to wash away your incompetence? It’s a small thing that the black throne asks of you. You’d be wise to accept it.”
Egan looked at his empty, crimson-stained hand and shuddered.
Colin wondered how many lives could they could save if they coalesced. Wasn’t peace worth kneeling for? Wouldn’t it be a better path?
A voice echoed in his mind, “No. It’d only be an easier one.”
Egan's mouth dropped as he watched Colin walk forward to face the sorcerer alone.
“Do you really expect to stop the inevitable?” Dagon snarled. “The Dark Lord’s will is unstoppable. Your small victories are nothing.”
Dagon pulled a knife from a scabbard at his side and held it to Alexandra’s neck.
“Stop!” Colin called and stepped closer to them.
“Your lives are forfeit.” Dagon hissed and ran the blade across Alexandra’s throat, blood-drenched her skirt and she fell to the ground. “You are nothing.”
“No!” Colin screamed.
Egan fell to his knees, stunned.
Colin stared on as Alexandra whimpered for a second then quieted. Her lifeless body collapsed into her own blood.