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Chapter 18: Light vs Dark

The rabbit led the King down another path where he found his armor, ready for war.

“You will need this,” the rabbit told him, “it has been over eight years now, lying here, waiting for you to become the man fit to wear it.”

“Why did it take me so long?” the King asked.

“There is no shame over how long it has taken you. What matters is you are here now.”

The King examined the armor before putting it on. It was light, like nothing he had worn before. He could feel every muscle in his body strengthen. After picking up his sword and shield he eagerly asked,

“How much longer must I wait?”

“Not long. In fact, the witch’s army is making their way to you now.”

“An army!”

“Yes, but fear not…”

Suddenly, out of the dark corners of the forest stepped forward different creatures. There were rabbits, sparrows, wild dogs, mice, and brown bears; all on the side of Hope.

“…you are not alone. As I said before,” the rabbit continued, “Hope is with you. As long as you have Hope, you can fight.”

“And will Hope be here as well?”

“Look around you. You are surrounded by His presence. Perhaps one day you will meet face to face, but not today. You do not need to see his face to know he exists, remain faithful.”

Upon saying this, there was a loud noise made by a crow flying close by. It rested not far from where the King stood.

“Caw, CAW!!!”

Immediately, the sounds of many crows, flying through the trees, were heard. They sat high in the trees, so numerous, they blocked out much of the light shining through. Then the others showed up: snakes, wolves, and black bears. The witch’s army was numerous, even outnumbering Hope’s. Like two great walls, the armies stood opposite one another.

“Hope is little, not much with so little,” the old familiar voice said.

The witch stepped out of the dark, in the middle of her army.

“Perhaps it is time for you to die, your time. I have had my fun for so long, such fun, I forgot you were here,” she told the King.

“Five hundred to one, our odds are still better with Hope,” said the rabbit.

“All of this will be pointless come tomorrow, all. I will accomplish what I need to destroy Hope. You of course will be dead, of course, as will your precious daughter, dead. She has served me well, so strong,” she teased with a wicked smile.

So the King, like a madman, gave out a loud battle cry and charged the witch. If he could strike her down, it would all be over, but just before he could reach her, she vanished, leaving him staring face to face with a roaring black bear. This was the beginning of the battle.

All of the creatures charged toward the opposing side, both eager to advance their Kingdoms. The King carried his shield faithfully, blocking the strikes from the black bear, but before he knew it, he was pinned down, cornered between two trees. Everything was moving very quickly. The dark beast went for the kill, but a brown bear intervened and removed the black bear with all of its might.

Now, free and in the middle of the fray, the King looked around to see the creatures fight fiercely to the death. A crow flew within inches of his face. The surprise turned him around to see several crows flying fast towards him. He got down on one knee and shielded himself.

The crows, in their berserker state, penetrated his shield with their beaks. One even managed to scrape the King’s arm. Not a bad cut, but enough to let him know he needed to take the offensive.

With one swipe of his sword, he removed the crows stuck to his shield. He then jumped back into the

battle and, blow by blow, he struck down his enemies.

Fair Warning

Although most of the creatures of Hope were not known to be as fierce as those of the witch, they found success by working together as a team.

The sparrows were particularly clever in their tactics as they flew in large circles, outside the hostilities, in order to attack unsuspecting crows from behind by lodging their beaks into the backs of their heads.

Many of the smaller animals could not be overlooked by their enemies. The mice climbed up the trees and jumped onto different foes all at once. They attacked in multitudes and their many bites to the neck would either kill their target or distract them long enough for their larger allies to come in for the finish.

Hope’s army had the upper hand until the arrival of the Abaddon. It flew in and there was an immediate turning point for the dark creatures. It was not to be outmatched. It was fast and brutally strong. Two brown bears approached it on both sides. They charged, but it didn’t move, it waited. The moment they touched the Abaddon, it extended its arms, punching through their chests, killing them instantly.

The King, in all of his fearlessness, charged the Abaddon, but was struck by its wing, sending him thirty feet away.

“I could have killed you King, just now,” the Abaddon said to him, “I will still, it is my nature, by order of the witch.”

“And yet, you stand there to simply gloat?” the King responded, hurting as he stood back up.

“I’ve been in this prison long enough, too long. While I cannot keep myself from killing, I’ve learned to delay it, if only for a little while.”

“Why do you choose to delay it with me?”

“It is important to understand how I learned to delay my appetite, and that is, I accepted my fate. I’ve hated the witch for a long time and solely blamed her, but it was I alone, my arrogance, my decisions led me to become this…monster. I killed my family.”

“You were a man once?”

“Yes. Just like you, I was a husband and father. I do not wish to see you fall into the same fate as…argh…as… I.”

“How do you know of such things?”

“I am blind, but I see fine. I have knowledge of the forest, of the witch, and your daughter.”

“Then, please, help me save her!”

“I…grrr…will. And so you must know, this fight will be to the death. My …aannnimal instinctssss… are taking over and I …wwill lose control. I cannot hear what …doesssn’t …mooove. You must trick my …ssense of …ssmmmell.”

“I do not understand.”

“You …mmusssst …kkillll, …AARGh… me if youuu wish to …ssee yyour girlll …agggainnn …GRRRR.”

The Abaddon lost total control. He gave a loud roar and charged in the direction he knew the King to be.

The brute creature lunged fast, wings spread at their fullest, claws ready to tear apart the man. The King managed to dodge the first attempt on his life. He threw himself to his right, rolling into a standing position. He saw the Abaddon destroy the base of a tree with the strike intended for him. The King quickly turned to run.

A wolf, hidden in the chaos, leaped out hoping to attack the King, but a rabbit countered with a mighty leap of its own, striking the wolf underneath the jaw and knocking it out of the fight.

“If we want to win,” the rabbit shouted to the King, “you must defeat the monster. It will pursue you, and never give up its purpose in destroying you.”

The King looked back toward the Abaddon. He saw it surveying the battle with its senses, hoping to track the King. With a giant leap, it flew up into the trees and was out of sight.

“You mustn’t give up on Hope,” the rabbit continued, “We are all here fighting the same fight. Now go! You must set a trap. We will keep the fight here.”

The rabbit jumped back into battle and so the King continued to run, stopping only to fend off attacks, until he was finally alone.

To the Death

The King stopped in a clearing encircled by trees when he heard a crackling of broken twigs. He drew his sword, but it was not the Abaddon stepping toward him, it was the maid servant.

“My King!” she shouted out as she removed her helmet.

“It is you,” he responded surprisingly, “I know you. You were a servant in my castle; one of the Queen’s favorites.”

“Yes, your majesty. It is as you say.”

“But…what brings you here, and in full battle armor, none the less?”

“I am here to fight with you, to save the Princess, your daughter.”

“How is it you know of her?”

“I was there when she was born. I was there when your wife gave her own life for this child, Princess Elise.”

King Eli, having heard his daughter’s name, grew weak in his knees. She was the promise he tried to withhold from his wife.

“She should have been conceived out of love, not bitterness and strife,” he confessed with a heavy heart.

“And yet, she is still your daughter and she is waiting for you. I am here to keep my promise to the Queen, a promise I will give my life to fulfill.”

Suddenly, there was a roar in the distance. The King could sense it getting closer. He started to think quickly and examined the trees encircling them.

“Trick my sense of smell,” the King said recalling what the Abaddon told him earlier.

The King cut his hand and placed the blood on all of the surrounding trees.

“What is it you are doing?” the maid servant said, confused.

“We must trick the creature’s sense of smell.”

“What is it you are trying to trick? What creature?” she asked with alarm.

“It is a blind creature that talks as if there is a man trapped within it.”

“The Abaddon! It is real? I thought it was just an old story,” she said surprised and frightened.

“We do not have time to compare stories. It will find us soon. Now, quickly, do as I do.”

The maid servant did. All of the trees surrounding them were then marked with their blood.

“When it arrives you must hold still and breathe as little as possible. Any movements will direct its attention at you.”

“King!!!” the Abaddon shouted abruptly just before it landed in the middle of the clearing. It inhaled strongly, searching for the King’s scent.

“I can smell your blood around me. I will taste it and then eat your…” he stopped short of his words and breathed in deeply once more, “There is another here with you. This will simply not do King. This was a valiant effort, but I …knnnow the …diffferrrence. Urgh. Your …bblood flows and …youuu have a stronger scent …wwith an open …wwound …sssuch as the one you …hhave. GRRr. My body …wwill decide which …tto …kkilll …ffirrr …GGRRR …ssstt. RROOARRRRR!”

The Abaddon went after the one closest to it, the maid servant. She was smart to have kept a tree between her and the Abaddon. It struck the tree and knocked it over, but it didn’t fall to the ground. Instead, it was leaning against another tree and on the verge of falling.

The King, too, positioned himself behind a tree and gave a loud shout to get its attention. The Abaddon flew towards him and once again, damaged the tree instead. The maid servant, seeing the opportunity to strike, with no knowledge of how fierce the Abaddon was in a fight, charged the creature, but before she could stab it from behind, the creature slapped her whole body with its wing, knocking her far back, half conscious, and incapable of defending herself.

“Do not cry out in pain,” the Abaddon told her, “for I can hear you. It is easier for me to kill you if I hear you. Smelling …bblood around …sstill throws off my sense of …ssmell, even if for a …moment.”

The Abaddon tried to contain itself. The Butcher, still inside, fought as best he could to hold back. This caused the monster to convulse. Its roar cracked as if it were in pain and crying out.

The King seized the moment. He ran towards the leaning tree, it was aligned with where the Abaddon stood, and he gave it the push it needed to send it crashing over for good. The tree smashed onto the shoulders of the Abaddon, pinning it down to the ground.

The maid servant managed to sit up as best she could while the King approached the Abaddon carefully. The creature snarled quietly in pain. It could no longer move; its back was shattered by the impact. Slowly, the growls died off and the man’s voice returned.

“Thank you,” he said, “I have carried this burden long enough. Perhaps there is Hope for me yet.”

“There is,” the King reassured.

“Then, please, free me once and for all.”

The King took his sword with both hands and thrust it through to the Abaddon’s heart. Immediately, a mist,

consumed the body of the creature. So much so, the King

and maid servant could no longer see it.

As quickly as it appeared, it faded away and there stood the Butcher, back to his human form, water dripping all over.

“Thank you, friend,” he told the King.

Out of the woods, two young children ran towards the Butcher. The same young children the King saw when he sat tied to a tree.

“Papa! Papa!” they shouted with joy.

The children embraced their father.

“I wish I could join your fight,” the Butcher told the King.

“No,” the King responded quickly, “it is long overdue for you to be with your family. May you go in peace.”

“And may you one day reunite with yours as I.”

The Butcher turned around, carrying both of his children towards his wife, waiting to greet him. Slowly, they walked off together vanishing into the forest.

The rabbit, familiar to the King, hobbled toward him injured.

“The battle is won for now,” he said.

The King was still staring in the direction of where the Butcher and his family walked off to.

“The forest is ours,” said the King, “now…let’s go rescue my daughter.”

The King, instinctively, ran up to a tree and started to climb. He made his way to the very top. From there, he could see the vast forest, but more importantly, he could see the smoke rising from the home of the witch. It was a day’s walk, but he did not plan on walking.

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