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Hero's Song - Chapter Twenty-Eight

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"The Parting Glass" - traditional irish music

o o o o o o

The sound of crashing magics and the screaming portal have me on my knees; my hands clap over my ears, weapons clattering to the ground beside me. The light leeches from the room, torches sputtering out around us, and a terrible pressure rises in my chest as the sword resonates, feeling the presece of it's enemy close by. Zhjaeve's words echo through my head: Once the Blade gets a taste of the enemy, it will not rest until the enemy lies dead at it's master's feet...

He steps out from the portal, and we rise to our feet as the shaking floor finally subsides. His armor shifts and slithers around him, like the shadows on the wall; no eyes stare out at us from under the blackened, horned helmet, carved like the face of some strange beast. The darkness that folds itself into the shape of the creature we see before us is absolute, liquid blackness. The light from my Sword merely brushes it's surface, unable to penetrate.

"It is you." There is no mouth, no face to mark with an expresison; his voice is deep and resonant, intelligence and power rife in it's nuances and tone. "I know why you have come. You would deprive this land of its Guardian."

"What do you guard, that all life must be destroyed in your path?" My voice sounds small, insignifigant after hearing the rumble of his.

"I was created to be the guardian of an empire. I do what I must to protect and preserve it."

"But you aren't protecting this land, you're destroying it!"

Khelgar snorts, muttering ruefully, "Even now, she tries to sweet talk her way through this..."

"Even such denouncements are a threat - if you believe Illefarn lost, you must be cleansed with the rest." He seems to inhale deeply, and suddenly the darkness spreads around us, thick and grasping. My Sword flashes once, twice...

"Use your powers from the ritual! If anything can stop him, they can!" Ammon is preparing a spell next to me as the dark thing reaches out...

o o o o o o

I struggle for breath; the amount of magical energy passing through my body has every joint and muscle straining to hold together. But he keeps rising anew, every time we strike him down, and I place my hand on a statue once more, calling on it's power once again...

As soon as I touch it, the King of Shadows rises yet again to his feet, and blasts my companions away from him. Realization strikes me. "The statues..." I turn, my blades striking the stone before me, sparks flying; bits of the brittle masonry crumble to the ground. "Take down the statues! They're keeping him alive!"

o o o o o o

I see Zhjaeve fall beneath a wide, devestating swipe from the his claws. She sprawls across the ground, arms and legs splayed like a scarecrow.

Grobnar rushes to her, crying out her name, near wailing it to the ceiling. He's knocked back as another spell blasts through the chamber, his head cracking like an eggshell against the last statue that still stands.

Casavir bends toward him, his mouth forming the words to a healing spell, but Ammon's sharp, commanding voice stays him, and he turns, lending his arm once again to the destruction; the agony on his face is almost unbearable.

Khelgar is next to me, refusing to leave my side; my silver sword flashes again and again through the air as I fight the King of Shadows, wounding him, distracting him, anything, to keep him occupied. The dwarf's attacks do little against the beast, but he fights with me, still.

When the last peice of stone falls to the ground, oh, how we hear it; a small piece, barely large enough to cause any sort of damage. But the noise echoes throughout the chamber, and I feel the difference instantly. He writhes in pain, ribbons of blackness falling away from him, armor unravelling and dissipating before our very eyes. We step back, eyes he crumbles, a deep rumbling fills the chamber, and even as Casavir runs forward and throws his arms around both of us, knocking us to the ground, a spectacular blast of magical energy explodes, shaking the room. I peer out from under the paladin's heavily armored chest...the King of Shadows is gone.

But this time, the shaking doesn't stop.

Elanee screams, "The door!" But even as we turn to look, part of the walls collapse, blocking our escape. In that instant, I see fate catching up with me like a raging bull bearing down, and I'm almost manically amused as I shout, "Perfect timing! Does anyone else want to point out any other escape routes, so those can collapse as well?"

"Unfortunately, I think that's the only one!" shouts Sand, blasting a particularly large piece of ceiling; small pebbles of masonry shower our heads briefly, but too many stones are falling thick from the celing. I feel one strike the paladin lying above me, feel his body shudder, hear his breath rush out of his lungs in a painful exhale. Khelgar and I drag him to his feet; a dent marks his backplate, and his face is ashen.

"We've got to find another way!" Ammon shouts over the noise, and I see him move to Zhjaeve, picking her up onto his shoulders.

"No shite! I thought ye were smart, warlock!" Khelgar cracks his axe at another chunk of rock that nearly crushes him. Elanee scoops up Grobnar in her arms like a child and runs over to us, her face panicked.

The collapsing portal behind us fills the air with a high keening noise, and we're all knocked off of our feet once again as another blast rocks the room. "Damn it!" I shout. We back up towards the portal as another side of the chamber wall crashes in; we were being herded, relentlessly, into the center of the room, and I knew without saying that when that portal collapsed, the explosion would snuff our lives out in the blink of an eye.

Ammon's eyes meet mine. He nods at me once, imperceptibly, and I know he is thinking the same thought.

Neeshka flinches as the portal behind us rumbles with an air of finality. "We're not going to make it, are we?"

"We've done what we've had to," says Casavir, quietly. "We've won."

I catch movement on the other side of the portal; standing between two quaking pillars is a dark figure, seemingly unaware of the chaos around it. It steps forward, and my heart heaves a sigh between my ribs; Bishop watches me from where he stands, his arms crossed in front of his chest. The portal's light increases to an almost painful brightness, but I can't tear my eyes away from his face. I stand still, even as my companions huddle around me, watching as stones fall around the ranger; even when one crashes to the ground next to him, he doesn't flinch. Those eyes are on me, piercing, and always watchful...

In a shattering of noise and light, color and shadow, the portal collapses, exploding.

And there is naught but darkness.

o o o o o o

Bevil coughed politely before entering the office. Kana looked up at him from the desk, an arch in her eyebrow. "Yes, Sergeant?"

"Daeghun left, Captain."

She didn't even blink. "I see." She rubbed her eyes wearily, setting the quill down gently on the half-written parchment in front of her. Not that she expected the elf to stick around, once she had been promoted and the Keep put into her hands. It had been so quick...barely half a ten-day, and they had already given Harper up for dead. Just last night they had pinned the captain's bars onto her uniform, as if to say Yes, we're glad she saved us, now can you please take charge so we can get back to normal again? "Does Sir Nevalle know?"

"Yes, he does," said Nevalle, stepping in behind Bevil. "I just went through his quarters; he left some time this morning." A cloth-wrapped, rectangular object was under his arm, and he set it down heavily on the desk, a cloud of dust rising into the air.

Her nose twitched as she plucked at the cloth, bemused. "And this is?"

"I found it on his bed." He pulled a crumpled note from his shirt pocket. "And this, as well. The first half's in elvish, I can't even begin to make heads or tails of it, but that last part...well, I just think you should read it."

Bevil had interposed himself behind Kana's desk, and pulled the fabric back, revealing a neatly bound stack of parchment, fresh ink on the pages. He frowned as he began flipping through them. "This is...everything. She starts it at West Harbor, and it goes on..."

Nevalle watched Kana's face as she read the note. Her eyes had become unusually bright, and she blinked rapidly as she set the note down, meeting his gaze. "We should read it to the men. Some of them still think she's coming back."

"You should read it to the men. I have to return to Neverwinter with Lord Nasher." He reached across the desk and gripped her shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze. "You'll do fine, Captain." His voice was quiet. "Send us word if any...for any reason." She was struck by the deep sadness in his eyes. It had affected them all; Kana wasn't used to seeing the Captain's suite empty, and didn't have the heart to move into it herself, so she still slept in the barracks with the other officers. Nevalle had spent the past five days wandering the keep, telling the soldiers how brave they were, that they had done a great service to Neverwinter and it's people, anything but mentioning the names of those who were now gone. She had noticed on her rounds of the walls that the sentries never seemed weary, or sleepy, or bored, and always, their gazes were more often than not fixed to the south.

She watched silently as Nevalle left, and glanced at Bevil, who was reading the tome on her desk with rapt concentration. Her mouth twitched in a slight smile, and her voice snapped him out of his reverie. "Sergeant, I need you to gather the men in the courtyard; every single one of them who is not presently on guard duty. Tell them I'll be with them, shortly."

He performed a quick salute and nearly dashed out of the room. She stared at the tome on her desk, closing it gently. The top page, scrawled in the bard's flowing, elegant script, merely read "Kallo' Hinue." She'd have to ask Aldanon what it meant, if he could align his brain cells properly long enough to explain it to her. Her eyes fell once again on the note, sitting like a crumpled leaf on her desk. Nevalle had been right, the first part was all gibberish to her, but there'd be no translating that; the note had been meant for Daeghun, after all. But below it, were verses, scrawled neatly in common, and off to the side a few bars of music, written as if in an afterthought. Maybe she'd find someone to play it for the men...

Oh all the money that e'er I had, I spent it in good company

And all the harm that e'er I've done, alas, it was to none but me

And all I've done for want of wit to memory now, I can't recall

So fill to me the parting glass;

goodbye, and joy be with you all

Oh all the friends that e'er I've had, they are sorry for my going away

And all the sweethearts that e'er I've had, I'd wish them one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot that I should leave, and you should not

I'll gently rise and I'll softly call;

goodbye, and joy be with you all

A lass may drink and not be drunk, a lass may fight and not be slain

A lass may court a handsome lad, and perhaps be welcomed back again

But since it's been so ordered by a time to rise, and a time to fall

Come fill to me the parting glass;

goodbye, and joy be with you all.

Hero's Song - Chapter 28 © Avariel

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