Deragan's Need for Vengeance
GRIER COUNTRY border (immortal two hundred ninety-three yrs)
By dusk that night most of them had come. Traveling under a velvet evening sky which sparkled like diamonds on a marbled surface.
Brightening their way to them.
A beautiful night to mark such a brutal loss. Deragan stared upward. The shining lights reflecting in his blue eyes.
Still others arrived by the half hour. A great feat since they could only travel their quickest at night, and the places most of them originated hadn’t yet had nightfall. But the Forever Knights militia knew they couldn’t gather unless in times of war.
They know what’s to come. Deragan stood over the soft dirt mound that marked her.
They’d buried her together. And now he mourned the loss of his mate yet again, aside his brethren.
They understand the significance of the loss. He’d told them he didn’t believe she’d be able to return this time. But I’ll look for her just the same. His attention was focused on his thoughts of where he could begin searching this time.
I won’t give up on her.
“Could you do it?” Lucien Sabias asked Sebastian out of Deragan’s hearing range.
I’d be too painful.
Bast tilted his head in the negative. “It is a fact. He spends more time without her then he ever gets with her.”
“By the time he finds her again, charms her and weds her Radix is already on his heels.” Lucien concurred. “But on their wedding night? That’s callous even for Radix Malorum.”
Nothing is beyond his evil. That much Sebastian had learned over the years.
“Not even one night together.” Bast shook his head sadly. Feeling the pain of the night seeping in like bitter sap.
“His Honeymoon and he’s burying his wife.” Chavias Derenoe joined the conversation. “It’s no wonder we go to battle.”
“It’s a wonder he hasn’t lost his mind...” Mardichi’s dry cynicism was present as he strolled over to join the conversation. A horn of ale already in his meaty hand.
He’s not wrong.
“Chavias, Old Friend.” Bast greeted. “I wish to speak to you in confidence.” He was reluctant to have the conversation but felt it a necessity.
Lucien Sabias gave them a nod and moved to join the Captain. Allotting them privacy.
“Is it truly something necessary at this time?” Chavias gestured to the Captain knelt over the fresh plot in the isolated little cemetery.
The rain had already come.
Inadvertently summoned by Deragan’s grief. Sebastian knew.
Putting a hand to the darker man’s shoulder Bast guided him from hearing range of the others. They walked toward Rosewynn Manor’s cellar. Flipping the little wooden door, they took the stairs until in the lower room where Bast began rifling through casks of wine to share with his friend.
“What is this about?” Chavias leaned against the wall, eyeing his long-time friend.
“You know we fight harder than any other two men in the brotherhood.” Bast turned and offered him his attention. Pouring from a bag into two goblets from a dusty shelf.
“I’m aware.” Chavias nodded. Brow furrowing at the rare severity in Bast’s voice.
A stray cat hopped on the table, drawn to Bast.
Sebastian began absentmindedly stroking it. “We must protect him.” He gestured towards the door and outside with the goblet before putting it to his lips.
Bast nodded. “If anything happened to him the Forever Knights would be lost.”
“Aye.” Chavias acknowledged. “But it would be nice if you weren’t so reckless with your own life, Bast. You’re a linchpin amongst us. If the Captain is our strength, you’re our drive.” Chavias gave him a long look. “Without him they’d scatter.” Chavias gestured above. Where men surrounded the plot so close by. Heads lowered in reverence. “Without you, they’d have no hope.”
That’s not true!
Sebastian was startled. “I’m not as important as that.”
“You are to them.” Chavias lifted his chin resolutely.
“But not to you, aye?” He attempted to lighten the mood.
What is Chavias saying?
“I ask you to have a care for yourself, Old Friend. But I don’t intend to worry about your back. I intend to guard it. As you look out for the Captain, I will look out for you and perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll all come home.”
Those words would echo through Sebastian’s head for a lifetime.
After the quiet ceremony, the Forever Knights scattered around the house awaiting Christophe Rhyers return.
He alone could track Radix, knew his habits, his preferred hideouts, Radix’s methods for building his Cimmerii armies.
Deragan snarled deep in his chest, when a reassuring hand landed on his shoulder.
“Christophe will know where he is.” Raese offered with a nod. Retracting his hand with an apologetic look.
They should know better then to touch me when I’m unprepared. Deragan’s lip curled. Blue eyes flaring.
“My hunger for vengeance is so great that I feel starved every moment of this waiting.”
“Patience, Captain. The time draws close.” He attempted to reassure their leader.
Deragan turned and lifted a dark brow as he met the other man’s vivid green eyes. “You are telling me this?”
My patience has been endless.
I have to extend it beyond anyone’s endurance every time I woo my mate. Every time I let an opportunity to kill Radix’s minions coast by in the effort to await the opportunity to crush him entirely.
Raese laughed a little nervously. “I certainly am not any longer.”
“Does your wife miss you when you come rejoin us?” Deragan’s tone softening. Wishing to think about anything but his pain.
“My wife worries for me.” He said sagely.
She has a right to. We’re always in danger.
“She’s a wise woman.”
“She’s a dangerous woman.” His chin hitched proudly. “She fears nothing but me being harmed. I am her weakness.”
Deragan knew Calisto. And he was very sure that was true.
Raese closed his eyes and was able to reach Rhyers’ mind. Seeing the dark-haired tracker intently leaning over a track in the meadow. Eying it coolly. “He’s getting close.” Head falling forward, Raese’s green eyes luminesced until green glowed in the descending darkness.
Finally. Deragan’s stomach coiled with anticipation. A need for vengeance.
Just before nightfall they saw Rhyers’ tall willowy silhouette entering the Rosewynn’s lawns.
“I have his trail.” Rhyers called up at the second level. Knowing the other knights lurked there.
Where? Deragan met him in the bailey. “Lead us to him.”
Rhyers gave him a steady look.
“Of course, you can.” Deragan realized.
He can find anyone.
“Are you certain you want me to?” Rhyers gave him a warning look.
“He doesn’t travel alone.” Rhyers tossed his head. Throwing the thin black hairs escaping the tether back from his face. A movement he did when disconcerted.
Of course not.
“He never travels alone.”
“I know this.” Rhyers nodded. “But the tracks are far apart. Distanced. Deep and precise. He wanted me to find them. They were easy tracks.”
“He’s careless in his arrogance.” But Deragan was slightly uneasy. He knew he was dismissing Rhyers’ cautioning uncharacteristically quickly.
“He knows me well. I’ve followed him a long while. Nearly becoming his shadow. He knows how easily I would spot that track.”
“You sense he left it apurpose?”
Rhyers gave a slight nod of his head.
“Are you afraid for us?” Deragan asked, his eyes narrowing.
“I am never afraid. I know you are wise, and you lead us carefully. I merely fear more deaths of our brethren.”
As do I. Deragan gave him a long look. Tossing his head in a dismissive gesture made Rhyers turned and soundlessly disappeared back into the trees.
Deragan turned and found he faced Sebastian. A growl rumbling up his throat as he started.
“How are you, Captain?” Sebastian asked. Concern soothing Deragan’s flash of irritation.
“I worry. Rhyers is unsettled.”
“That’s a rarity.”
Which is why I worry.
“He thinks it may be a trap.”
“It most certainly is.” Bast agreed. “The decision you have to make is who is better prepared?”
Who is better prepared? We’ve been readying for this for two centuries. Practicing weaponry. Teaching ourselves speed and perfecting shifting.
But Rhyers doesn’t think so. Worrying.
And Bast seems unsure. Also worrying.
“Very little.” Bast laughed. “I dare offer none on this subject. You are our leader and I do not pretend to be any wise council. Alazareth would be better suited to that end.”
True. He is wiser. More careful.
He will tell me to wait. Too plan.
“He is always wary.” Deragan knew.
“But he is usually right.” Bast pointed out. Showing none of the reluctance to compliment his twin that Alazareth did when it came to Sebastian.
I tire of waiting.
I want to watch the light die from Radix’s eyes like it died from hers…
That night Deragan stood under the night sky staring. The brightness of the moon vivid. He’d waited hours for it to creep over the horizon.
There was a round of cheering as it came into view.
All my knights know the significance.
As long as it shines…My angel is out there somewhere. Her soul alive and ready to fill another body. His chest ached from the constricting in his heart and his throat was tight from swallowing the emotion choking him since the first hours of the morn. Too overcome with gratitude to ponder how it was possible.
“I wish you were here.” He whispered upward.
When you come back this time it will be safe.
I’m going to kill him.
Raese watched from a distance, sensing Sebastian’s approach.
“How does our leader fare?”
“He grieves.” Raese said blandly.
“Are you prepared?”
“Have you ever known me not to be?”
“Only when dealing with your wife.” Bast flashed white teeth.
“That is your fault.” Raese turned waspish. “You could have warned me. You could have played more fairly. Rather than moving me about like some pawn in your games.
“My games amuse me.” Bast laughed.
Raese’s green eyes lit.
“Calm, calm.” Bast made a levelling motion. “You know how your wife feels about you getting squirrely.”
“Squirrely?” Raese spat. Twisting his wrist, making his staff appeared in hand. The green orb atop glowing brightly.
“Whoa!” A deep timber interjected as Raese was lifted from the ground. His surprise causing his staff to vanish. “Hold wee bairn.” Mardichi dangled Raese. “Ye no’ be attackin’ our dear friend ’ere.” He gestured to Bast who looked superbly amused.
“I’m not attacking…I’m considering killing. Despite a life-long friendship!”
Mardichi gave him a rough shake like a hound with a rodent. “Play sweetly.” He set him down.
“Have I mentioned?” Raese glowered. “How distasteful I find it when you treat me like a child.” He stalked off.
“On grea’ occasion!” Mardichi declared. “Tha’ is why I fin’ it so endearin’!” He took another deep dram from the ale horn he’d been toting throughout the day. Giving a satisfied smack.
“You are rather a bully.” Bast commented.
“Ye like tha’ I’m a bully…”
“You think that merely because I’ve been your friend far longer than most would tolerate you. But that doesn’t make it true.”
Mardichi grunted and shrugged.
Bast reached over and gingerly gripped the ale horn, sliding it from Mardichi’s hand. “I’ll just take that. We don’t want you to be overlooking which side you are on amidst the fight, and sending those club hammers,” Bast nodded towards Mardichi’s fists, now clenched in ire at the removal of his drink. “in the wrong direction. Now do we?”
“Now ye speak to me like a bairn?” Mardichi’s voice rose.
“I do not fear you.” Bast skittered from reach. “I revel in your clumsy attempts to get ahold of me.”
“Bu’ one day,” Mardichi declared. “I will. An’ yer wee li’l arse will be a mite sad me did.”
“I would bet a mite more than ‘a mite.’” Bast laughed.
Chavias appeared. “Can we have some respect, boys.” He nodded toward the distance where Deragan’s silhouette over his wife’s grave was visible. “Our Captain, our alpha, is in pain.”
“You know well we jest to cope with sorrow.” Bast said somberly.
“’Cept ye.” Mardichi slapped Chavias’ back. “Ye jest at nothin’. Ye’ve all the good humor of soured milk. If I’m the bully brother, ye’re our angry papa.”
Chavias’ steely gaze darkened on Mardichi. “I do not like you.”
“I know.” Mardichi nodded with a grin. It was apparent he was not pained any more than surprised at the announcement.
“But Chavias is right in this.” Bast said quietly, his gaze locked on their Captain. His shoulders slumped as his focus returned to Deragan’s head, bent toward the ground in sadness. Grief nearly tangible.
“How does ’e press on?” Mardichi wondered aloud. “’ad me the unfortunate luck to become besotten with some pretty maid, one me found my equal in all things…not so certain could let her go.” He said thoughtfully. Voice dropping. “I think I’d soon give up.”
“He presses on for her. And for all of us.” Bast murmured.
Rage fueled Deragan, forcing him to rise and start another day. I’m coming for you, Radix.
As did his promise to her. I’ll find you again, My Dear... Dropping to a knee he flattened a palm against the fresh dirt saying a final farewell to his young bride before wrapping his pain in anger as he prepared for the day to come.
Two hours before dawn Rhyers came with word. Radix Malorum had camped near the plains.
A day’s travel away...Unless we fly.
“We will.” Deragan assured. “We’ll have the element of surprise.” Pausing thoughtfully, he lifted his head to look at another of the Forever Knights. “Raese do you have the staff?”
“I do. It’s hidden but I brought it with me.”
“We may need it.” Deragan gave him a long look. “And you’re the only one that can wield it.”
“I’ve been training Tev.” He said quickly. “In-case anything should happen to me.” His eyes fell.
If all goes according to plan, he won’t have time to do anything to us.
We’ll overwhelm him in sheer numbers.
Deragan tossed him a quick look. “If anyone doesn’t want to join this battle,” He announced. “I do not require you to. Go home.” His eyes roved the line, but no one moved nor uttered a word of leaving. “I’ll harbor you no ill will.”
“We’re not going anywhere.” Tev gave his hatchets a meaningful twirl and offered Deragan a nod.
Chavias Derenoe and Sebastian Bodane exchanged a long look, only they understood.
Captain Deragan Black was the first in the air. Thin black wings unfolding from his body to spin out as he took the sky. Body expanding and thickening enough to support the massive head bulging from his shoulders. The horn flap loosened and whipped out to frame his square snout. Triangular teeth filled his mouth. Sapphire blue eyes turned molten white as he gave a deep groan at turning into the shape he’d avoided for so long.
Dragon. Katash. The only difference is the word.