Posted Jul 23 2012 - 06:22 PM
Alkiviadis raced through the fortress, searching room after room. The passageways were new to him; he had never been allowed to venture further into the structure before. Now there was nobody to stop him, but this worried him. Where were all the guards? Surely they had not all been slain? And where was the Queen?
He entered one room, and a quick glance confirmed that Zykard and the Tenshiryu blade were not within it. But he paused as something caught his eye. On the far end of the room was a map of the surrounding landscape. Alkiviadis was familiar with most of the topography, but there were strange symbols placed on it that he’d never seen before.
He took a moment to study the map. The symbols appeared to represent areas of importance to the Raven Empire; surely Syrena had used it to plan her conquest of the neighboring lands. But one symbol was larger than the rest; it was the dragon’s wing, and it was printed over the mesa known as the Dragon Plains.
Comprehension came to Alkiviadis. The mesa must be connected to the blade, and if Queen Syrena had not gone after the village of Virdina or the bearer of Tenshiryu, then this was surely her destination.
Zykard felt a sharp pain in his leg, and the shock broke Tenshiryu’s hold on him for a moment. He collapsed to the floor, and turned to see who had struck at him and stalled his transformation. But his mood fell as he saw Dakari step forward.
“And they kept saying that you were such a great warrior,” Dakari mocked. “But one blow brings you to your knees.”
“Dakari, you must flee!” Zykard exclaimed. “It’s coming back, and I won’t be able to control it.”
“I am not going to flee,” Dakari said. “At least not until I take your shiny blade.”
“Dakari, you fool!” Zykard snarled, even as he felt Tenshiryu’s hold on him strengthen. “It will destroy you!”
“You are the fool,” Dakari snapped, pulling his second hatchet off his belt. “I was supposed to be our people’s greatest warrior, but then you came along. You stole my glory, and now I will steal your blade, and end your pathetic life. And then the people will know how powerful I am!”
With a mighty swing, Dakari brought his hatchet down on Zykard’s neck. Or, at least, he tried to. But in an instant, Zykard snatched up his fallen blade and used it to block the attack. Dakari looked Zykard in the eye, and saw that all sanity was gone. Tenshiryu was in control, and Dakari’s attack would not go unpunished.
Zykard left to his feet, throwing Dakari back with a lunge of his sword. Dakari steadied himself and readied his axe, even as Zykard charged. He swung his sword, expecting the blow to fell Dakari like it had felled the guards earlier.
But Dakari’s skills were not just boastful ramblings; he was indeed a worthy fighter. He expertly dodged beneath the swing, and as Zykard lashed out with a second blow, Dakari parried it with his hatchet.
The two traded blows, but neither touched more than their opponent’s blade. Zykard was powerful with his claymore, but Dakari was exceptionally skilled with hatchets. He drew a second one to his hands and used both of them to parry Tenshiryu. The clangs of metal echoed throughout the fortress, and sparks flew as the sword met the hatchets.
As Zykard descended into a blind rage, Dakari began to strategize. Over the years he had analyzed his comrade’s fighting style and knew how to strike back at him. But Zykard was fighting as if he was a different person, and Dakari had to use all his skills just to stay in the fight. But as the brawl escalated, Dakari recognized the tactics Zykard employed.
“He fights with confidence, like nothing can touch him,” Dakari said to himself. “He will not be felled in a single blow, but there are more ways to take down a warrior.”
Dakari pressed on the offensive. But instead of aiming for the chest or the head, he swung his blades at vulnerable sections of Zykard’s armor around his knees and elbows. His blows landed, but only resulted in slight wounds.
Zykard’s demented mind recognized the wounds, but ignored them. Tenshiryu was not one to be bothered by mere scratches, and he pressed on with the attacks. His blade sliced through the air, but Dakari continued to dodge aside, and the best Zykard could get were glancing blows off his armor.
Soon, Dakari began to notice a change. Zykard’s attacks persisted, but he was slowing. The wounds on his arms and legs were weakening him, and he was losing some of his lightning quick reflexes. Dakari pressed his advantage; he ducked beneath a wide swing of Tenshiryu, used his momentum to slide beneath Zykard, and then sunk his hatchet deep into the back of his opponent’s knee.
Zykard yelled out in pain, and stumbled forward. Before he could retaliate, Dakari was back on his feat, and kicked Zykard hard on the back. Zykard fell face first into the floor, and his grip on Tenshiryu weakened. Dakari knocked the claymore away, and pinned down his adversary.
“Now we know who the better warrior is,” Dakari gloated, and yanked his hatchet out of Zykard’s leg. He grinned as his opponent cried out in pain.
Zykard lay on the ground, wounded, but Tenshiryu’s hold on him was weakening again. His mind started to return, but rage was building up inside him. He was not going to fall to Dakari. But he needed time to get into position. It was time for a bluff.
“Please, friend, don’t,” Zykard managed to say, as he tried to push himself up.
“We are not friends,” Dakari snarled. “We never were.”
“But we are of the same people,” Zykard insisted. He attempted to roll over so he could face Dakari, while discretely reaching for one of his arrows from his quiver.
“No we are not,” Dakari said. “You are an outsider; a foreigner that we unwisely accepted into our ranks. There is nothing to keep me from slaying you.”
“And then what?” Zykard asked.
“Then I will take your claymore, and I will master its powers,” Dakari said. “And then all will bow before my might.” He lifted his hatchet. “I’m almost disappointed that you won’t live to see my rise to power.”
Zykard acted, even as Dakari prepared to deliver the final blow. Zykard’s crossbow may be damaged, but the arrows were still sharp. Zykard lunged forward and stabbed the arrow into Dakari’s exposed shoulder. The sudden wound took Dakari by surprise, and as such he wasn’t prepared for Zykard’s fist to make contact with his face. The punch caused Dakari to drop his hatchet and fall back on the floor.
Zykard stood up, ready to disable Dakari and prevent any further fighting. But then Tenshiryu took control of his actions again. Before he could stop himself, Zykard picked up the sword and stabbed the blade into Dakari’s chest. Dakari screamed out his last breath, even as Zykard pulled back.
“No!” he said, struggling to regain control. “I just wanted him out of the fight. I’m not a killer of my own people!” But Tenshiryu was exerting control over him again, and now he was focusing on Aimilia again. The princess had remained frozen as the two warriors had fought, and her eyes were full of fear as Zykard turned towards her.
But then a voice brought him to a halt. “So the power of Tenshiryu strikes again.” Zykard turned his head to see Alkiviadis framed in the doorway.
“Get out of here before I’m forced to kill you,” Zykard roared.
Alkiviadis didn’t move. “The blade has exerted its control over you,” he said simply. “But that last move was not guided by Tenshiryu. He would never show weakness, even as a ploy. That was the actions of the warrior Zykard.”
“It doesn’t matter who delivered the final blow,” Zykard shouted. “The sword wants the blood of the royal family of the Ravens. I can’t stop it, and it will kill all who stand in its way.”
“Then why do you seek to harm a defenseless girl?” Alkiviadis asked. He had never seen Aimilia before, but already he could guess at her identity.
“She’s of royal blood!” Zykard said. “It wants to kill her!”
“Why kill the daughter?” Alkiviadis asked. “When it really wants to kill the Queen?”
Zykard felt his body freeze, as the spirit of the claymore seemed intrigued by this new information.
“I know where Queen Syrena is,” Alkiviadis said. “And I will gladly tell you and then get out of your way.” Silently to himself, he added, “And then, when you finish off the tyrant, we can find a way to put this blade to use for my people.”
Zykard’s body relaxed and he turned away from Aimilia. “Tell me where the Queen of the Ravens is,” he said, with bloodlust in his eyes.