Shadowed Moon Chapter 22
Two long days later, our army, still small but steadily growing in number from the compatriots Veilara and Phyletus kept sending over, had camped in a valley a good distance off from the fortress ruins. While Ditri had been soaring high above Zandar elsewhere, Grinl had looked over the ruins and found, not surprisingly, that it was crawling with enemies—the like of which he didn’t care to describe. The smaller dragon had also informed us that a tower lay in one of the canyons nearby and from it he had felt what he could only call ‘a stirring darkness’; from that, we knew precisely where Kellen was.
For Faylin and I, the growing army was only like the trickling of sand through an hourglass. Both of us understood all too well that an army would do us little good against the forces of Kellen. But we spoke nothing of it to anyone, not even Ditri. No; if we wanted to win this battle, this war, then we would have to see to Kellen first. Only then could his army be defeated.
Faylin offered his ‘training’ services to the swordsmen—not one of them could touch him unless he wanted them to—and Enriad took it upon himself to make sure that we had a section of archers. On the days when Faylin wasn’t with the soldiers, he taught me how to use the shield in a fight, along with Ditri’s help. Kellen had the sword, yes, but I had the shield. The shield that the prophesy, and Ditri’s own words had hinted would be the bane of the dark magic.
For days we trained, and scouted, and planned. For days we waited, and talked, and worried. The other forces that Phyletus and Veilara had brought to us consisted mostly of other dragons—and I had no idea that there were so many, we must have had a hundred in our camp—but there were other animals as well and even a few people, but not many. Most of them were outcasts; some were, surprisingly, doctors and physicians, but all of them had dragons or dragonesses for friends and had decided to give their aid, such as it was. The animals were mostly large dogs, an occasional bear or wildcat, several smaller cats who made the best scouts, one otter, some badgers and some strange, foreign predators that I couldn’t name.
In the end though, we wondered if it mattered. Kellen would undoubtedly use his dark magic against us and would wipe us out before we ever had the chance to touch his own forces. The fact that he hadn’t struck yet gave us the hope that, perhaps, his abilities had limits. Perhaps we still stood a chance.
As each sunset followed each sunrise, however, the tightening knot in my stomach warned against all the things that could happen. Four days before the planned battle, I began having nightmares of Kellen and my companions; nightmares in which Ditri, Enriad, all the other dragons and everyone I had called friend were dead. The nightmares never showed Faylin, and in one dream I found myself running, searching for him, but I could not find him. Always, I awoke in a cold sweat and twice I awoke violently sick and had to race out of the camp.
The others, it seemed, had trouble sleeping as well and often I was not the only one to sit by a dying fire, staring into the hot coals. Faylin and Enriad sometimes joined me. Sometimes there were others whom I didn’t know; but they would sit by me and tell stories in attempts to comfort me. I felt utterly useless and weak as their supposed leader, while they were the ones that had to keep my spirits from falling into a pit which appeared to have no bottom. It was a pit which I had peered into many times before and curiosity mixed with horrible fear every time I looked into it.
When I told Faylin about this, the wolf’s bright eyes flashed with concern for the barest of seconds. “Then don’t look.” he said.
I stopped looking into the pit. It was still there, I could feel it there, but I refused to look into it again. The nightmares persisted, as did the dread, but I felt somehow stronger. I began to feel that, if I could control the fears and the darkness that waged war inside my head, I could defeat the darkness that waged war against us in the open. Kellen would have wanted me to keep looking into the pit. And Hevan—Leviathan—I shuddered to think of the evil being, but he too would have wanted me to keep looking. The knowledge of that only strengthened my resolve to keep away.
In the night, when I tossed and turned with restlessness while I could barely keep upright from exhaustion, I would go out and look up into the heavens. I hadn’t noticed so much from the ship as we traveled to Zandar, but each night we spent on the foreign sand I could see a small, moon-like orb edge closer and closer to the moon called Ulrashious. Beinar, the other, smaller planet, shone with such brilliance that it looked like a nearby star and the nights were as brightly lit as if it were just twilight. Our battle would begin in the night under the shadowed moon because the prophesy told us that was how it had to be done. The small amount of time given by the cover of the shadowed moon concerned me but I tried to push the thought aside.
I worked with the rest of the army to prepare everything for the coming battle, however short it might be. I attempted to strengthen our soldiers by reminding them what and who we were fighting for. We fought for family, friends and country. But, far more than that, we fought for the Creator of the universe. The One who made Kellen and everything else. The One who was in control. If we were to win against the sorcerer of Zandar, we would do it in the Creator’s power.
The day before the battle dawned, the sun beat down on us as we finished all our preparations, then it set and left the world in a darkness that you could feel. Taste. Smell. By this time, Ulrashious and Beinar were so close they almost touched.
I sent messengers through the encampment, telling all to get as much rest as they could before the battle began, urging them to sleep until we awoke them. I walked through the camp one last time and it seemed as though most of the army had settled into a restless, dreamless sleep. I smiled at Ditri as he slept beside Azteric, both curled up like massive, scaly cats. Narris was nowhere to be found but I figured the snappy hawk was roosting in a tree somewhere away from the rest of us and dismissed the idea of finding her. Catalee was asleep in one of the tents the army had brought to us. All seemed so still.
On the other side of the camp, as my own small shelter, I met Faylin. The wolf was wide awake and alert, the fur on his back raised just slightly and causing him to look larger and wilder than he was. His dark coat almost blended into the shadows and it was only because of his brilliant yellow eyes that I was able to spy him at all.
“You should leave them a message so they do not come before the time.” Faylin said in hushed tones.
“I will.” I ducked into my tent for a moment and came out showing Faylin a large piece of parchment I had ‘borrowed’ from Ditri’s sack. He read quickly over the message I had printed and nodded. I stuck a small, sharp bone into the fabric of the parchment and then dug the bone into a tree where all could see the message. Then I belted my sword and sheath around my waist, tucked my old knife into my boot, grabbed the shield and walked out of the camp with Faylin.
By now, the barest hint of darkness hovered on Ulrashious’ edge and Beinar was close enough that you could see no stars in-between the two orbs.
Faylin and I traveled swiftly and silently to where Grinl had said the fallen tower was. We walked along the cliffs of one of many canyons which scored the earth of Zandar. The canyons made it look like Zandar has suffered an earthquake large enough to split an entire continent.
As we walked, we said nothing to each other, only feeling the small comfort that this was the only way. If we succeeded in our plan, the last lord of Zandar would fall. If we failed, our own lives would be forfeit. But I believed Kellen would fall anyway. His time of rule would soon come to an end.
Finally, we reached the fallen tower and the darkness that seemed to swarm about the place was nauseating. I sank to my knees beside Faylin as we stared down at the tower. It appeared as if it had once belonged to a great city, but either it had been somehow washed down the canyon from the fortress near the shores and somehow became wedged upright, or the city which it had once belonged to had been swallowed by the canyons.
It had taken us nearly an hour to reach the tower. Ulrashious was half in the dark and the small, shining Beinar had touched the larger moon’s side.
Faylin breathed a deep sigh and smiled at me. “Call him out. He’ll hear you. I expect he has been waiting for you.”
I nodded agreement and face the tower. I didn’t have to shout, or yell, or make any sort of loud, attention-grabbing sound. I simply spoke as I would to one across the room from me. “Kellen, we’re here.”
On the message I had left at the camp, I had written this:
Faylin and I have gone to meet Kellen, do not try to come after us. We have known for some time now that this is the only way—I think Faylin has known it all along. Continue with the plans we have made and do not hesitate if, or when, Kellen’s army attacks; they still need to be defeated, even tough Faylin and I will not be joining that battle. If we have not returned by the time the first sliver of light appears from the Shadowed Moons, know that we have failed. Return to Karamin as quickly as you can. HolyOne will raise up another child for the prophesy if I am not the one to fulfill it. If our great God wills it, we will return to you victorious and if need be we will aid you in the battle against the remainder of Kellen’s forces.