Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Forty-Four

Zanthys had already forgotten who he was supposed to be looking for. The savage fool Draegon had only given him names and vague descriptions anyway, and how was he supposed to find two complete strangers in this chaotic, panicking crowd? People, both Keidenelle and civilized, were running in every direction, cowering in alcoves, breaking things, screaming at the top of their lungs, pushing each other, and everything else people do when they’ve been driven mad by uncertainty.

The great doors of the castle stood open, showing only blackness. That thick, congealed-looking darkness scared him, froze him right to his soul. And what was even more terrifying was that some people were actually running straight out the doors and being swallowed by the nothingness. They just… disappeared. For one moment, they existed, then in a second they were gone, swallowed up so that their screams were cut off completely. They disappeared. Zanthys didn’t want to think about what happened on the other side of that black wall.

He backed away from the open doors, wanting to put as much space between himself and the blackness as possible. Where had that foolish bard Draegon gotten off to, and that girl Kemeny? Zanthys scoffed at the thought of the two of them. He shouldn’t even be here! It wasn’t his fault someone else picked up his fake Sonsedhor! No matter what had happened since then, it was a fake, and if it had caused problems for this Roark fellow, well he shouldn’t have picked it up anyway. Zanthys couldn’t control that, much less reverse his actions now. What were they really expecting, him to apologize and for that to make everything better?

He passed by a wide arch that led into an audience chamber and did a double-take when he glanced into the room. There was a dead body on the floor– Keidenelle by the looks of him– and a pair of men grappling on the throne’s dais.

One of the men he recognized immediately as Jaidyn Huntley. Anger welled up in him at the sight of the man who had ruined everything, all his plans, his prank– it was really Jaidyn’s fault that Zanthys was here, trapped in a castle with scores of Keidenelle savages. He drew his sword. He might not know how to use it– not really, anyway– but he knew which end to stab people with. He rushed toward Jaidyn and the man he was fighting with. He realized they were grappling over a sword, a sword he recognized: his false Sonsedhor.

Jaidyn glanced up as Zanthys hurried forward, sword drawn. His eyes flashed with sick amusement, and Zanthys saw for a moment a very foreign look in his contemporary’s eyes. Jaidyn looked– he couldn’t think of another word for it– possessed. Like someone else had taken him over and was looking through his eyes. Glancing at Jaidyn’s opponent, he saw the very same look mirrored in this stranger’s eyes. It was foreboding, calculating… evil. He shuddered but did not stop advancing.

Somehow, the two other men both got hold of the false Sonsedhor’s hilt and raised it to meet the descending slash Zanthys aimed at them. The fury of a demon came over Zanthys– he wasn’t sure from where– and his sword became a blur as he slashed and swiped with it wildly, pushing the two other men back. Neither of them relinquished his hold on the hilt, and together they parried blow after blow, not struggling for possession of the sword anymore, but for an advantage to dispose of Zanthys. It was almost as if they were of one mind; Sonsedhor moved smoothly, arcing, slashing back, flicking…

The two other men took a step backward. Sweat beaded on Zanthys’s forehead as he pressed on, pushing the mad-eyed men back one step after another. Through an open doorway they went, through a small antechamber, and onto a balcony.

The moment Sonsedhor crossed the threshold onto the balcony, somewhere between the balcony rail and the black curtain that loomed dangerously close, lighting flashed.

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