“Kin. Kindred. Of a kind. You. And me.”
Rath moved to the side slightly - the movement shaking the cavern floor. Another shape emerged from the darkness near Rath. Kindle’s heart nearly stopped.
It was Varun.
The Rath-possessed Mage smiled his impossibly large smile and looked to Julia.
“Miss me? I knew you would come to me, darling. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“You keep away, you filthy creature!” Kyte stepped in front of Julia.
“What do you mean, kin?” Kindle said, finally regaining her voice.
“Don’t listen to him Kindle! Rath is a master liar!” Findar yelled.
“Ah, but it is you that have been lying, Findar the Mage.” Rath spat. His huge form turned to Kindle, who felt impossibly small.
“It’s quite simple, Kindle. You see before you what you will eventually become. I am the first FairyKnight.”
*No! It can’t be! Why didn’t you tell me Deltia?* Kindle dropped to the ground, standing unsteadily as her wings twitched in fear and anger.
“Kindle!” Kael stepped toward Kindle, only to find his way blocked by dozens of Knife Respers.
Julia, Trixen, and the rest of the party stared at Kindle - speechless.
“Your Elf friends are a pack of liars, Kindle. They’ve been using you all along.”
Rath’s body shimmered and shrunk rapidly before them. A moment later he stood before them as an impossibly handsome male Fairy. Kindle stared. No! This was impossible!
*I could not tell you because I was sworn not to, Kindle. But Rath does not tell you the whole truth. Yes, he is the first FairyKnight, but he was an experiment. The armlet that Fairy used was flawed, twisted. Instead of the Fairy gaining the wisdom and insight of a dragon, the dragon itself took over the Fairy. In the battle for the Fairy’s body, the Dragon went mad. That Fairy’s name is not Rath, it is Argent. The Dragon is Rath!*
Rath-Argent smiled at Kindle. He was so handsome that Kindle had to close her eyes. He had dark wavy hair, pale skin, and the lithe, muscular form of a male fairy. He wore dark, shiny close-fitting clothing. Kindle realized that she saw patches on the suit that were lighter. From the scales he had lost. Kindle began to shiver uncontrollably.
“I am your future, Kindle. You see, I also helped you as well. I helped create the armlet that you put on as you fulfilled your destiny by becoming a FairyKnight” his voice when he changed had become warm and rich, soothing. Kindle felt sick.
“He’s lying Kindle, he only helped by showing the Elves just how flawed the first armlet was. ” Findar snapped.
“Yes, and all the while trying to keep me locked away, denying my true power!”
Rath-Argent’s eyes went wild for a moment, but it was enough for Kindle to see the true madness within.
“Join me Kindle. Join me and we can rule this land. I will make you a Queen among Fairies. All will bow down to your will... And mine .” He looked at her with heavy-lidded eyes. Then he gasped in mock-delight. “Oh, you’ve returned my sword to me.” He raised his hands like a child discovering a new toy.
Kindle stared at the sword in her hand.
*Cirrus? Is it true?*
*Argent was the finest, bravest Fairies the Fae had ever known. He was the natural choice to be the first one to try the armlets. Yes, I was his sword. But the Fairy you see is not Argent. Argent is dead. Rath... ate him from within. I was connected to him as I am you. The last thing Argent did was spell me away back to my home with the Elves. To prevent me from falling into Rath’s hands.*
Kindle fell to her knees and weeped.
“So, what will it be, FairyKnight? Join me.” His voice was flat. “Or your friends die.”
Kindle felt hollow inside. Betrayed. Was she really just a pawn of the Elves? She thought about Braigeth, and her friends. She turned to see each of them standing some distance away. They were waiting to see. To see her. But were they waiting to see if she was just as much of a monster as Rath? She looked down at her hands. The clawed tips that were now part of her Dragon transformation.
She turned to look at Julia. Despite everything, Julia gave her a lopsided smile. She looked at Trixie. She was just a girl like Kindle, transformed by magic, just like Julia as well.
Then she remembered the words of Granny Lin. “Just because you have great power doesn’t mean you are a slave to it.”
Years ran down her cheeks as she stood slowly and faced Rath. “Never!” She screamed.
Rath-Argent’s face twisted in rage. “So be it.” He nodded to Varun.
The white - haired Rath-possessed Mage leapt high in the air with lightning speed toward Julia.
“Die , Child of the Earth!” He screeched.
Julia held up her arms and screamed. She was still completely magic-blind. Kyte let loose a bolt of energy from his staff that flew wide.
As Varun was just about to hit her with his full force, he was viciously thrown to the side by a mountain of white fur. Trixie cried out in pure rage and let fly a volley of deadly arrows of ice. Varun twisted out of Currick’s jaws with inhuman speed and smashed the arrows with his claws in mid-spin as they reached him.
“Kindle!” Kael cried as Rath-Argent gestured with his hands and she was lifted high, then thrown to the rock floor.
Findar’s new cloak grew white hot, he channeled all of his energies into a single massive assault aimed at Rath. But his breath caught as twin blades erupted from his chest. Rein was standing behind Findar with both of his blades buried deep in Findar’s back. He twisted them, spun in place, and flung Findar to the ground. The old Mage did not move. His cloak was dark. Smoke rose slightly from the energies that rapidly dissipated in the cold cavern air.
Kael stared at the fallen Findar in horror.
Currick howled in anguish.
Varun started pacing around Trixen and Currick like a cat playing with its prey.
“Rath hasn’t forgotten how you escaped him in the dungeon, Trixie!” Trixen started. “How do you know my name?”
“It’s quite simple, Trixie. I asked for you by name. I was a student at the Mage Institute. That is, before Rath liberated me. I was once called Aaron. ” Varun bared his jagged white teeth and laughed.
That stopped Trixen short. “Aaron! You were one of the first students to disappear! Oh my gods!”
“Don’t pity me you dog-keeper! I’m free now! I have more power than I would ever have as a pathetic Mage. And you’ll learn soon enough the incomprehensible joy to be one with Rath!” Varun pulled back his cloak to reveal his true form. He raised upwards high above Trixen and Currick on six spiderlike legs that extended from his cloaked form. Then, impossibly fast, he rushed at Currick. The wolf snapped at the daggerlike legs, but at the last moment Varun lept, grabbed Trixen by the shoulders and pressed a large,shiny, and black object to her chest. Instantly it burned through her clothes and attached itself to her chest. Trixen screamed.
“A present from Rath” Varun whispered in her ear before being pulled away by Currick’s vicious attack.
Trixen slumped and fell from Currick’s neck to the floor, steam rising from her chest.
Kael sent bolt after bolt of energy towards Rein, but the man in black jumped and dodged with energy and grace.
“You traitor! You’re the one who’s been feeding information to Rath! All this time! Murderer!”
Kael was going berserk. Kindle had fallen, as had Findar, and now Trixie. They were all dying. He was the one who was supposed to have all the answers, to find out the hidden things and inform the Archknight in time to stop Rath’s plans. Instead, he had been trading barbs with the very traitor he had been assigned to find. He felt like a fool, and now his friends were dying. He was probably going to die too, but not before he took Rein with him.
Rein’s face was a rictus. His eyes were bulging in his face, and tears ran down the corners of his eyes. He struggled to speak. Finally, after holding back a furious assault from Kael he managed, “Kael. Please. … Kill. Me.”
Julia watched helplessly as one by one her comrades fell, and Rath had not even moved more than a few feet from where he had transformed. Kyte was shivering in fear as the Knife Respers began to close in on them. Julia sank to her knees and closed her eyes, clutching the quiescent amber gem.
*Please, help me* she cried in her thoughts.
A vision appeared in her mind’s eye. It was not of someone she was expecting. The Elf Queen, Braigeth, was there, with her ocean blue eyes and delicate features.
*Dearest Julia, I’ve given gifts to everyone in your party who would accept them, but what I have for you is not something you will believe is a gift, at least for some time. I give you the gift of remembrance.*
As the vision faded, it was if a light went on somewhere in the recesses of Julia’s mind. Memories came flooding back.
“This place!” she cried as her eyes snapped open.
“What? What is it?” Kyte asked. He managed a quick glance in her direction. He was standing next to her, firing short bursts of energy at the growing circle of dark entities with jagged claws, the Knife Respers.
Awareness flooded back to her. Awareness, then recognition, and finally shame, and fear. “No! I’ve been here before! No! NO. NO!” Julia began backing up.
One step. Two.
“What are you doing Julia? There’s nowhere to go! I can’t protect you if you walk right into the Knife Respers!”
“No. NO. I have to go!”
Julia turned to run. She had to get out of here. Not this place. This is where she was supposed to die.
“Why did you do it? Why did you remind me?” she called out through gritted teeth to the Elf Queen, who was not there.
Suddenly, the world froze in place. The Knife Respers were halted in mid motion. The battle between Rein and Kael was frozen in time - a bolt of energy hovering just past Kael’s hand, while Rein’s jagged expression belied his own movements.
Granny Lin stood before Julia. Dressed in the plain clothes she had worn before, and her gnarled wooden walking stick clicked as she walked up to Julia.
“Dear, dear Julia. It was I that told her to do it. And not just that dearie, but the magical block as well. My dearest sweet daughter. I’m sorry I had to mislead you. But I’ve been looking for you for so long. And now you are here. You know it’s time.” Granny Lin said with a sad smile.
“No...” Julia said softly, tears running down her face. “No no no no”.
She shook her head back and forth. Her hair caught across her face. The Queen’s gift had been simple. Julia had forgotten who she truly was. Even though she had heard it over and over. The Child of the Earth. She was Cariniana’s daughter. And she had been in this place before.
Her memories played back to her like a movie in her mind. The Elves indeed had attempted to do anything to imprison Rath for all time, including reaching out to Cariniana. And the eternal tree had made an ultimate sacrifice. She had given the Elves her own daughter: Julia. The Child of the Earth. It was her destiny to come to this place and to die, like any seed must die, so that the life within it could grow, and become a new Tree.
“Oh mother. Oh mother. I don’t want to die. I am so afraid.” she sobbed.
Julia now remembered clearly that time so very long ago when she had travelled here, and had first laid eyes on this terrible creature. It took all the remaining FairyKnight’s powers to hold Rath in this chamber. She had been ready, but then fear overtook her. She was only a little girl. She had fled the horrible prison, hiding herself. Changing appearance like her mother before her, but never remembering the past. So terrible was the memory.
“The FairyKnights left behind never had a chance. Mere shadows of themselves now, they are now called the Knife Respers.” Granny Lin said.
Granny Lin gave her daughter a gentle hug. “It’s ok. It’s going to be just fine. You are more than what you were. What is all this talk of dying? It’s been far too long for you my love, my dearie. You have forgotten yourself. Look at your new friends.”
She gestured to the fallen Trixie, Kindle, Findar, and to Kyte and Kael. “Even now, they are fighting for their lives. All in the hope that somehow, you will save them all. Do not let fear bind you. Or power overtake you. You are not like that Dragon. You are my Daughter! And you are not alone.” Granny Lin’s image faded.
“I am not alone.” Julia turned to Kyte and saw the fear on his face, but also the courage. Something settled within her. It was time. The block within her that had separated her from her power faded as well.
The world resumed it’s madness and motion. Julia pulled the amber Gem from her shirt and lifted to her face. Somehow, she needed to get it to Rath. The Gem had not been made by her mother, it had been made by her. Like trapping an ant on a tree, that amber was the key to imprisoning Rath.
But, just as she turned towards Rath, a Knife Resper leaped above Kyte and slashed at Julia - wounding her and cutting the Gem from her necklace. It fell to the ground, with Julia falling after.
“Julia! No!” Kyte screamed.
Kindle drifted in and out of consciousness. She was battered, defeated, and blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth.
*Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you think I shouldn’t know?* Were they her thoughts or someone else’s? She didn’t care. They had her voice.
*Rath was not always like this, Kindle. Argent and Rath were the best of their kind. Rath was a strong, powerful, noble Dragon. I would curse the Elves for this terrible experiment, only I am now just as much a part of it as they. The Elves made me vow before they took my soul into that armlet not to tell whomever I joined with about the true nature of the FairyKnights. Please do not hate me, Kindle. I’ve only ever wanted to help. I wanted to find a way to undo the damage that Rath has done. That my son has done.* Deltia weeped as only a Dragon could, as a mother could, in Kindle’s mind.
*Rath? He’s your son?*
*Yes. Kindle please. You have to do something. End his suffering. Please. For me.* Deltia faded from Kindle’s thoughts.
*Deltia! Deltia* Kindle snapped awake. It was at that moment when she saw Julia cut down by the Knife Resper. A burning rose within her, and she shot across the cavern to where Julia was lying.
“Julia!” Kindle cried. Kyte was barely holding his own against the onslaught of Knife Respers.
Kindle glanced over at Kael, fighting Rein. He was growing tired. She could see it on his face. Currick let out a howl that shook the air. Kindle looked in terror to see Trixie lying on the floor with a scale from Rath’s body on her chest. She was twisting and thrashing - and Currick was standing over her - not letting Varun get to Trixie, but the white wolf was bleeding from cuts all over his body. His golden helm was the only thing preventing Varun from making a killing blow.
Julia opened her eyes. “Kindle, you have to get that gem onto Rath. Somehow... where he can’t take it off. Please, Kindle. Help me. That Gem is his … prison.” Julia reached out to the Gem weakly.
At that moment, Kindle now knew what she had to do. It would probably cost her her life. But if she could save her friends, or at least DO something, she had to do it. She looked down, YES! She still had the golden thread wrapped around her waist. She quickly unlooped the thread, placed the Gem carefully on it, and turned to Rath.
He was yelling, cursing Varun to go in for the final strike, to kill Cur so that Trixie could become fully Rath-possessed. Kindle steeled herself and flew up to Rath.
He was fully mad. She could see that clearly now. A bit of spittle dripped from the side of his mouth. His impossibly handsome features now seemed … off. With disgust she realized he looked more like a puppet than a real Fairy.
“Rath, I’ve changed my mind. Call off your minions, and I’ll - I’ll join you.” She gave him her biggest smile, and walked up closer to him. Thrown off by her actions, Rath eyed her suspiciously.
“Why the sudden change of heart?” he asked.
“My friends are all dying anyway. I won’t have any more ties to this land. “ her heart shriveled as she felt herself saying those words. She took a step closer. Just one more step and she would be close enough.
“So, the trappings of power do lure you. You’ll make a fine Queen.”
He took a step toward her, she could not believe her luck. She reached behind her back where she had hidden the Gem and threw the golden string over his neck. The Gem was threaded through the string several times, to make a noose-like necklace.
As soon as the Gem touched the surprised Rath it burst into light.
At the same time, the air was torn by the sound of Julia’s scream.
Trixen could feel the ugly tendrils of Rath’s scale burrowing in. Not just to her body, but mind as well. Madness was encroaching upon her. Her body writhed in pain.
“What’s wrong Trixie? It doesn’t hurt as much if you don’t resist.” Varun taunted her, just out of Currick’s reach.
Her name was no longer Trixie.
Why had the Elf Queen renamed them? Trixen and Currick, not Trixie and Cur. She was not the same person, any longer. This scale, this living soul-eating thing was expecting her to be this helpless girl Mage. It was counting on that to devour her soul. She stopped thrashing as realization dawned upon her. If there was any further indication that she was now a new entity - one with Currick - now was it. She reached out with her mind and sought out her friend, her companion, her PACK.
*Currick! Hear me!* she cried in her mind.
Currick looked down at her. *Morsel? Are you still Trixen-my-pup? Or should I devour you now to save her last memory?*
*It’s me, Currick! Trixen! I know how to fight this thing now, but I need you! What do you do - when - when your Pack is attacked?* tears were running down her face.
Currick’s voice echoed across the chamber “YOU FIGHT!”
At that moment he leaped with incredible speed and took the smug Varun by surprise. His jaws closed across Varun’s torso and he bit down with all his strength. He felt bones cracking. Varun screamed.
Trixen felt the wild energy coming from Currick. The thrill of the hunt. The sense of family. His bond to her. All of these things would have been alien to Trixie, the timid Mage student. Trixen embraced them all, and felt herself shifting from within. The encroaching madness dissipated. She reached down to the shiny black scale and pulled hard. It came free with a sickening crunch and she flung it as far as she could.
Currick tossed the struggling Varun away and ran to her side. She was bleeding freely from her chest, from several puncture wounds, but she was still alive, and not Rath-possessed.
*Thank you, Braigeth* she thought, then passed out.
Rath looked into Kindle’s eyes. “You! You will pay for that, you little bug!” he spat. Before Kindle could react he struck her across the face and flung her to the ground. The gem was glowing brightly now and it was growing. Rath tried to transform back into Dragon-form, but the golden thread around his neck held tightly, and he began to choke as he grew larger. He roared in frustration and looked around the cavern wildly. His eyes fixed on the broken body of Varun and he clawed his fist in the air. Dark, swirling energy began surrounding him. Rath pulled in his arm and Varun flew across the cavern to him.
*You have failed me!* Rath’s voice was frantic.
“I’m sorry Master. Kill me now.” Varun’s broken body hung limp.
Rath pulled Varun up close and whispered something in his ear, then with impossible strength he hurled Varun from the cavern, back through the doorway. The amber was now completely covering his chest, and hardening as it grew. Rath fell to the floor.
Julia knew it was time. As she saw Rath fall she reached out for her full power and found the immense line of magic that underlied the mountain. Rath had been feeding on it for centuries, and now it was Julia’s turn. But. First things first.
Her eyes began to glow with a golden light that cast stark shadows across the cavern. She reached Kyte first. He stared into her eyes, despite the light. The battle with the Respers was forgotten. They were now simply standing in place staring at their fallen master.
“Dear Kyte. You’ve stayed with me despite everything. I’m afraid I have to say goodbye to you.” Julia bit her lip.
“What? No! Julia?” he managed before she rushed up to him and kissed him fiercely. He returned the kiss with desperate passion.
Rein had fallen to the ground at the same time as Rath. Kael was about to deliver the finishing blow when Julia held back his hand gently. How she had managed to span the distance from Kyte to Kael was an answer only magic could give.
Rein was writhing on the floor, screaming in pain and anguish.
“Kill me! Kill me.” he cried.
“There will be no more killing today.” Julia said as she slowly reached down and touched his chest. His shirt burst into flames and the dark, twisted scale that gripped his chest burned away in moments.
“I couldn’t stop him. The goblins had captured me. They brought me here. To Him. Julia. “ Rein was crying freely now. “Julia! Forgive me!”
Julia smiled. “It’s ok. It’s ok.” She felt calm now. It was almost the end. She looked down at her own hands. They were growing hard, and turning a deep brown. She glanced at Kael.
“Take him, and the others. Get out of here. I won’t be able to hold this back for much longer.”
Kael stared at her. “What are you?”
She gave him a weak smile and her lips quivered a bit. “A seed.”
Rath was now completely covered in amber, imprisoned like a fly in tree sap. The ground began to shake beneath them. Roots burst from the hardened stone as if it were fresh wet soil and began to envelope Rath’s amber-encased body.
Kael gently lifted the unconscious Kindle and held her in his arms like a child. He brushed back her hair gently and retrieved her sword. She sucked in her breath and opened her eyes.
“Nice hat” was all she could manage, before she passed out again.
The rumbling grew louder as large chunks of rock began to fall from the roof of the cavern. Julia’s skin was now completely brown. Her arms were outstretched.
“GO” her voice boomed across the cavern.
Currick picked up Trixen gently in his mouth as Kael and Kyte ran up to him. Kyte was pulling the now unconscious Rein and struggling to keep both him and his staff. Currick motioned for them to climb on his back as he lay down momentarily. After pushing Rein up on the wolf’s back, Kyte jumped up but dropped his staff. Kael caught it deftly.
“Thank you. It was Findar’s gift to me. I don’t know what I would do without it.” Kyte said. Kael nodded silently.
Kael carefully climbed up on Currick’s back as well and the wolf swiftly made his way out of the cavern. He began to run as the falling rocks grew larger, and the floor beneath them shook, with cracks spidering out everywhere.
Kyte risked a glance back to see Julia fully enveloped in light. Her feet were now part of the roots that were growing larger and larger. Her arms were now thin and leaves were forming all about her. Her face was still smooth and more beautiful than ever. The amber prison around Rath was now completely enveloped in tree roots that even now were merging, growing, pushing upwards.
“I love you!” Kyte called out, just as they reached the entrance to the cavern.
At that moment the full power of Julia’s transformation took over and the entire cavern was destroyed as an immense tree truck burst from the ground and ripped a huge hole in the side of the mountain. It did not stop there. It grew, and grew. The tops forming a dense, beautiful canopy.
Julia felt herself growing, changing, and she completely enveloped the dark heart of the creature she was destined to forever imprison. She felt herself slipping away, as her humanity dried away like the shell of a seed. Her fading thoughts formed words “Mother, can you please save my friends?”
*Oh Julia, so dramatic. You are fully my daughter. While I could save them, I think perhaps you are now up to the task.*
Julia found herself standing in a wondrous grove of trees. It was springtime, and cherry blossoms were falling all about in the gentle wind. She was standing by a stream, clothed in a plain brown dress, and Granny Lin stood next to her. Ducks were swimming about , making gentle ripples in the water.
“What? What is this place?” Julia managed.
“It is a place where you and I can be together. We have a lot of work to do, and you’ve only just begun your journey. Imagine your friends, safe and sound back at their camp.”
Julia closed her eyes and imagined seeing her friends. She saw a blue portal still glowing within the camp. The ArchKnight was there talking to Hrogthor about how the Goblins had just suddenly turned and ran. They were laughing and shaking hands. Currick the wolf burst through the portal with everyone else holding on for dear life.
Trixen regained consciousness to find herself still in Currick’s mouth. “Looks like you finally got your wish.”
*Yes, I did, little morsel, and I never even knew I had it.* he lowered her gently to the ground. She stood up unsteadily and hugged him with all the fierceness of a wolf.
Kindle opened her eyes. “Did we do it? Did we make it?” she whispered.
Everyone gathered around her. Friends old and new.
“Yes, Kindle. You did it. You got the gem to Rath. Julia wasn’t carrying the seed. She WAS the seed. You helped her fulfill her destiny.” Kael said gently.
She smiled. “I have. Something to tell you. Kael” she spoke breathlessly and placed the back of her palm to her forehead.
He leaned in close, suddenly concerned. “Yes?”
She sat up, grabbed his ears and planted a fairy-sized kiss on his lips. “Gotcha.” she breathed.
A crude wagon moved slowly in the night, pulled by a large Goblin war boar. The remnants of the Goblin army were travelling slowly away from RavenBlight mountain. Their defeat had been complete when the power of Rath had been broken, and their Rath-possessed leaders fell before the onslaught of men, Mages, and Elves. The wagon was covered in a rough cloth that covered the bulky passenger within it. The wagon hit a bump and the cover moved slightly to reveal a pale clawed hand. The hand was clutching something tightly, even though the owner was broken and unconscious.
It was a small, dark, and twisted armlet that shone in the darkness, even though the moon was not present in the starless sky.
Kindle’s story continues in FairyBlight - found here:
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