Saturday, December 11, 2010

Part 56 by Taylor

Laurel walked dejectedly through the forest where the army was camped for the night, feet dragging. Mintara had summoned her to a meeting, and had told her some things that Laurel hadn't wanted to hear. "Hey Laurel, what's up?" Kyrian asked, seeing her friend's miserable look. "Mintara just told me that we will be in Zarin in two weeks," Laurel said, referring to Melkor's evil mountain where he resided. "Oh." Kyrian knew exactly how Laurel felt; a little afraid and wondering if they were really ready to fight the world's most deadly power. "At least Cerelda's okay now," Kyrian tried to comfort the distraught elf. "Yeah, I'm sure she will do fine," Laurel retorted. Kyrian saw that there was no comforting the girl, so she left after a kind pat on the shoulder.

Kyrian was worried about the battle, but she knew that it wasn't the same for her. She was going to die anyway. What did the difference of a few hours make? At that moment, she realized her folly. She couldn't possibly marry Tomas, it wouldn't be fair to either of them. It would be so short-lived, it would be even more heart-breaking to say goodbye than if they had never married at all. Kyrian was almost sick with misery over her decision, but she believed in her heart that she had made the right choice.

"Tomas?" she called as she approached his hut. "Kyrian?" He ran out, obviously excited. He pulled her into his arms, intending to kiss her. Kyrian pushed away gently. The look of hurt in Tomas's eyes pierced her soul, almost dissolving her resolve. She swallowed hard and said, "Tomas, I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I just can't marry you."
"Kyrian, what do you mean? What happened?" Tomas gripped her arms as he spoke.
"Tomas, if I married you, it would end up just hurting both of us more. And I am not that selfish."
"But Kyrian-"
"Tomas, I've made my choice!"
Kyrian buried her face in her hands and ran off into the night. Tomas was left staring after her, the pain in his heart almost choking him. He turned abruptly and walked off into the forest in another direction, eyes brimming with tears.

Kyrian ran all the way to Mintara's tent. She wasn't sure why she went there, but at the moment, she didn't really care. She ducked inside and sank to the ground by the tent flap. Wiping the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, she looked up to see Mintara staring at her with a quizzical look. Kyrian poured out the whole story, regardless of the fact that the wizard probably didn't want to hear about it. When she finished, she looked up, expecting to see Mintara roll her eyes or tell her to suck it up. But surprisingly, the wizard looked somewhat at a loss for words! She had never known Mintara not to have a sharp remark or a biting reply. She remembered Mintara's own past with Emerion knew that Mintara could empathize with her. For just the briefest moment, Kyrian saw a flash of hurt in Mintara's eyes. "Where is Tomas now?" Mintara asked, becoming businesslike again. She pushed aside her sentimental feelings with disdain. She hated how vulnerable they made her, and she had built a hard shell around her heart.

Kyrain, seeing that Mintara was determined to show no emotion, tried to get herself under control. "Um, well, I don't really know. I mean, he ran off as soon as I left...." she let her sentence trail off. Mintara grabbed her staff. "C'mon, we had better go find him. We're very close to Zarin, and the woods are full of Melkor's minions."
"Wait! Should we bring Laurel?" Kyrian said as Mintara led the way into the dark forest. "Oh yeah, that's just the thing to do! Let's bring our only chance for success in the war against Melkor into the dark creepy forest!" Mintara's voice dripped sarcasm. "Well, I only thought her power might be of use," Kyrian muttered, but Mintara took no notice as she walked stealthily through the trees.

Meanwhile, Tomas was stumbling along through the woods, not knowing where he was going and not really caring anyway. His foot caught on a root and he fell to the ground. Instead of getting up, he just lay there, emotionally exhausted. In the bushes off to his right, he heard a strange rustling. He tensed but remained still. The rustling increased. Also, there was a weird musky smell. Tomas silently drew his sword and got to his feet. When he heard the sound again, he pounced and tackled the thing, holding the point of his sword to it's throat. To Tomas's surprise, the thing was only about four feet tall, wrinkly, and hunched. It squeaked pathetically, and screeched, "Don't! I didn't come to hurt you, no no!" Tomas didn't relax his hold at all. "Why are you here then?" he asked. "I saw, I saw what happened back by your tent with the girl," the creature said fearfully. "And I followed you here so I could make you an offer, an offer!" It cringed in terror. Tomas paused for a moment. "What kind of offer?" he asked harshly. "A way to keep her from dying, from dying!" he squeaked. Tomas's face paled. He missed the glint of cunning in the creature's eyes. "How?" Tomas asked, his voice quivering slightly. "This way," the creature said, getting up. Tomas, against his better judgment, followed the creature, but kept his sword drawn.

The thing led him to a clearing in the woods that was lit up by the moonlight. "Here is my offer," it said with a crooked grin. "You give us the Dragon Rider, and we will make sure that your girl doesn't die."
Tomas was shocked! But to his surprise, he didn't say anything. Instead, all he did was stand there thoughtfully. Tomas couldn't believe that he was seriously contemplating the idea, yet, there he was. "How do I know that you're telling the truth?" he asked cautiously. "You don't," the creature said simply. "You may do the safe thing and walk away, never to see me again. But is it worth the risk of your being wrong?"
That did it for Tomas. He sheathed his sword and said, "What do I have to do?"

The creature grinned, twisting it's hands together in front of it. "Either bring us the dragon or the rider. We'll take it from there."
"All right," Tomas said uncertainly. "But," he added, drawing his sword. "You must promise not to hurt either of them."
"Of course not! We'll just hold onto her until the war is over."
"Okay. I'll be back."

"I don't think he's out here," Kyrian said to Mintara as they traipsed through the woods.
"Maybe you're right. He might just have doubled back and went to his tent." With that, Mintara and Kyrian turned and began making their way back.

Tomas arrived at the camp and began walking toward's Laurel's tent, trying to act as casual as possible. In truth, he didn't feel well at all. He was extremely dizzy and his vision was blurred around the edges. "Why am I going to Laurel's tent?" he wondered. He couldn't seem to remember. He shook his head to try and clear it. He finally remembered and strode on with purpose.

Laurel was sitting in her tent, reading.
"Hello?"
At the sound of Tomas's voice, she dropped her book, sat up, and said, "Come in."
Tomas pushed open the tent flap and said, "Hey Laurel, do you think you can come with me for a moment?"
"Um, sure. But why?" Laurel asked, standing up.
"Um, uh, Landlion sent me to get you."
Laurel brightened instantly. "Okay!"

Kyrian tripped over a tree root and went sprawling. "Wait Mintara!" she called as she scrambled to her feet, not wanting to be left behind in the creepy forest. "Hurry," was all Mintara said. Without knowing it, they both gradually started walking faster. Kyrian knew what was bothering Mintara, she could feel it too. A sense of impending evil so terrifying it made both of their hearts pound. The feeling grew and grew, until Kyrian felt as if she were about to suffocate. The terror was so great, her body trembled and sobs worked their way up her throat. She had never been this fearful in her life.

"In there?" Laurel balked at the edge of the forest. "Yes, this is where Landlion wanted to meet you," Tomas said impatiently. "Well, okay." Laurel hesitantly moved into the woods, Tomas following. Amazingly enough, he remembered the way to the clearing. "C'mon, let's hurry."

Kyrian couldn't stand it anymore. She didn't care what Mintara thought; she grabbed the wizard's hand and ran for her life. Mintara didn't pull away; in fact, she gripped Kyrian's hand tightly back and ran with her. Kyrian wondered desperately where the camp was.

"Is this the place?" Laurel asked, following Tomas into the clearing. "Huh?" Tomas couldn't remember anything. Why was he in the middle of a forest? What forest was it? "Tomas!" Laurel's frustrated face filled his vision, extremely blurry. "I, uh......" Tomas suddenly collapsed in a heap. "Tomas!" Laurel dropped to her knees and shook him. "It's no use, no use," a voice came from behind her. She whirled around to see a gnarled little creature grinning wickedly at her. "Who-who are you?"

Mintara suddenly stopped, pulling Kyrian off to the side with her. She ducked into a huge hollow tree stump, and Kyrian followed. They waited for a moment, and the sheer terror subsided. "We lost it," Mintara mouthed to Kyrian. The girl nodded as huge tears began to spill down her cheeks. The immense relief of being away from that nameless force of evil combined with the horror of the chase caused uncontrollable tears to stream down her face. "Hey, what's that?" Mintara pointed. Kyrian looked out and saw a clearing. Laurel was standing in the middle of it, her back to them.

"The Dragon Rider, at last," the creature squeaked. "What have you done to Tomas?" Laurel demanded. "That is beside the point. You are now my prisoner, my prisoner."
"Oh yeah?" Laurel drew a silver dagger from her belt. She could easily handle this little pipsqueak. It only grinned at her. When she tried to stab it, it dodged her blade. She decided against a fight and turned to run. Only to find another one of the creatures right behind her, grinning wickedly. She screamed and ran to the side, only to be blocked by yet another creature. Every direction she tried to run, another one appeared. Soon, she was completely surrounded.

Mintara and Kyrian stealthily crept through trees, desperately not wanting that evil to pursue them again. They saw Laurel surrounded by the creatures, her face a mask of terror. "Oh no!" Kyrian mouthed. Mintara nodded grimly. "What do we do?" Kyrian asked. Mintara didn't have an answer.

The creatures moved toward each other, blending, morphing together into a grayish mass. Laurel was too terrified and awestruck to move. The shape twisted and shifted until it took the form of a man about seven feet tall. The grayish color cleared, and there stood-

"Melkor." The name was whispered, but Kyrian could hear the despair and hate in Mintara's voice. "We have to do something!" Kyrian whispered urgently. "Like what?" Mintara asked, still looking at the scene in front of them. Kyrian sat back and thought, as a plan began to emerge.

"M-Melkor?" Laurel stammered. A nameless terror was washing over her, giving her the almost uncontrollable desire to scream and wail. Laurel willed herself to stand.
"The Dragon Rider, at last," he said in a deep voice that somehow sounded like thunder. "So easy to capture, I am disappointed."
"Are you going to kill me?" Laurel asked, tilting her chin up.
"Yes," Melkor said, drawing his sword. He advanced toward her when a piercing wail cut through the forest. Melkor spun around and looked to where a white figure was emerging from the trees. Laurel tried to run, but Melkor's power held her firmly rooted in place. "Why?" the figure screamed. "Mintara," Melkor growled. Mintara nodded. "Why did you leave me?" she demanded. Melkor looked slightly taken aback. Then a fury of old lit his face.
"Why did I leave you?" A harsh laugh escaped Melkor's throat. "I find that amusing. You are the one who destroyed us! You and your, principles." The last word was spit out bitterly.
"Don't blame it on me! You knew that your excursions into dark magic were wrong! You always knew!" Mintara yelled back.
"You left me, joining up with that Emerion," Melkor gritted through his teeth. "He always was the straightforward little wizard, wasn't he? Never doing anything wrong."
"I had to leave you. You were becoming....THIS!" she pointed at him in disdain. Melkor slowly advanced toward her. "After you left, I buried myself in my studies. Dark magic controlled my life, made me stronger. My whole rebellion, was because of you. I was going to make you suffer. And I did." Melkor gave her a bitterly twisted grin. "And let me tell you something else. When this war takes place, I am going to capture that unicorn and kill him. Do you hear me?"
"Melkor, please. I never meant to hurt you, I just-"
Melkor raised his sword and ran it through her. Laurel screamed. But Mintara stayed on her feet. In fact, there was not even a rip in her white garment. She began to change. She no longer looked solid, she looked as if she were made of a fine mist. Melkor swiped his sword at her again, but it just passed right through her. She smiled up at him, then suddenly disappeared. The real Mintara stepped out on the other side of the clearing. "Clever, Mintara," he whispered.

Suddenly, a rush of wings sounded above them, and Cerelda hovered above the clearing, Kyrian on top. Two ropes were dangling from the dragon. Laurel caught one and Cerelda leaned flew down enough to grab Tomas, then shot into the sky. "I never was sorry!" Mintara said to Melkor with quiet anger. "And even if you do kill me, you will never find my necklace."
With a cry of fury, Melkor rushed at her with his sword drawn. Just in time, Mintara caught the rope hanging from Cerelda and was whisked out of range of Melkor's sword and his fury. "So, you have a friend, Mintara," he said, looking after Kyrian. He suddenly smiled wickedly. "Excellent."