Well, as February 9th comes to an end, I'm presenting Chapter 4 of my Gauntlet Dark Legacy fic, Legendary Hereos. The third chapter, Flight of the Valkyrie was the third chapter that was a complete rewrite of a previous attempt. Like the previous posted chapter, I'm actually pleased with how the rewrite came out. I do hope you enjoy this one, as well as the previous chapter. You can find the previous chapter at the following link.
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. The events of this story take place before the game.)
Chapter 4: Dark Cloud, Dark Knight
Of the eight realms, one of the largest was that of the Sky Dominion. It was so large that it could, in theory, connect to several of the realms. The truth was that the Sky Dominion only had a small bit of land, on which a huge spire was built. That Spire was the linking point between the land and the sky, and it was also the home of the guardians of that realm.
Those men were the Knights, whose job it was to defend their realm, as well as the other realms, from those foul things that roamed the air. They also protected those people who lived in the various sky ships. It was a daunting job, and the men who were Knights were considered the best for it.
Two of those men stood on the spire, watching the horizon for any threats. One of the Knights, a man named Percival, was the first to notice something on the horizon. It was a vast dark shape, like a huge storm cloud. Every Knight knew that a storm cloud meant no ships could dock at the spire, nor could any ship survive the harsh winds. Most of the ships stayed where the storms would not bother them. Percival, however, could tell that something was odd about the cloud, and turned to his compatriot. "Doesn't that cloud look odd?".
The other Knight, named Jonas, nodded, but his face remained neutral. “It does look odd, but I can’t say it is a threat. Most likely another storm.” Jonas was a more experienced Knight, but for some reason, Percival could not shake the idea that the storm he saw was more than it seemed.
Apparently, Percival was not the only one to think that the cloud was more than it appeared to be. The most senior of the Knights stepped out on the spire’s top, and looked at the cloud as well. After a few moment, the man let out a low growl. “That cloud is both poison and plague. I feel it in my bones.”
Those two words made Percival pause. He had read the lore about the time of Skorne, and when plague carriers and living acid plagued the Sky Dominion. If it had not been for the Knight, Marker, things would have been far worse. All the realms might have ended up infected, and the people dying. They did not need a repeat of those times, which was why Percival spoke up at that moment. “Sir, we could go check it out. I know the lore, and we should make sure that the threat isn’t too big. We may have to hunt down Marker’s Javelin before we can hope to succeed.”
Much to the surprise of both the Knights, the leader had already had the Javelin with him. “Agreed. Something about that storm cloud seems to fit with the legend of Skorne’s Plague.” He then handed the Javelin to the Knights, and they ran for the nearest flying device.
The lengthy trip had given both Knights time to prepare for what they were about to see. Percival, who had less experience, almost gasped in shock when he saw the sight in front of him. The huge cloud had been the cover for a massive flying ship. It was almost as big as some of the settlements in the other realms. It could even house an army of troops. It was the words of the calm Jonus that snapped the younger Knight out of his shock. "That cloud is laced with Skorne's plague. If it were to dump that on the world, the death toll would be too large."
The younger Knight looked at Jonus, obviously admiring the calm the older was exhibiting. When the ship finally docked at a point, he jumped off, saying, "If that is the case, we need to either send it off, or destroy it." The younger knight ran forward, holding the Javelin.
He paused when the older Knight spoke words of wisdom. "The best course right now would be to send it back to where it came from. If we were to destroy it now, the plague would rain down on the Mountain Kingdom. The only safe way to destroy the ship is to destroy the plague.”
As the two Knights set forth, the air ship looked unmanned, but both Knights had enough training to know that just because something looked unmanned didn't mean it was. They proceeded with caution, and despite the rules drilled into them, split up. For Percival, it had been unintentional, since he was so focused on figuring out a way to destroy the plague.
While Percival made his way up the decks, he eventually found a very disturbing site. In a cage above the one deck, there was a skeleton. It was disturbing, but as the lone Knight stood captivated by the grisly sight, an ethereal voice spoke. "Brave knight. You must get the warning out to the other Knights."
Percival blinked, and then shook his head. He wasn't sure he had heard what he heard, but he knew better than to think otherwise. He looked around for a moment, and then said, "Who said that?"
The young knight’s attention then went to the skeleton, and for the briefest moment, he saw the thing turn its head to face him. While there were no facial features to make out, something of the ethereal voice made him think the skull could show emotion. “Young Knight, the Plague Fiend, servant of Skorne, is returning. They have corrupted another Knight. You must stop them, or Skorne will return.”
Percival realized what the statement meant. He had heard that one of the other Knights had disappear some time ago. No one had known what had happened to the Knight, but hearing one was corrupt was disturbing. It was something Jonus had to be made aware of.
He moved faster through the flying craft, and as he did so, Percival noticed some new things appearing on the craft. The legends spoke that the ship of the Plague Fiend had been manned by deformed creatures that wore masks to hide their deformed faces. Countless numbers of the creatures would come from something like a small wooden shack. That had to be what he was seeing now; the wooden shacks that the Plague Grunts resided in.
Finally, he had found a door that was open, and in it was the silhouette of a familiar figure. It was Jonus, and as he entered the room, he saw, to his horror, that they were on a platform high above a foul looking green liquid. It was the heart of the Plague Fiend’s power, but no sign of the fiend. The creature had yet to come back to life. He ran up to the older Knight, and said, “Jonus. This is the lair of the Plague Fiend. It’s trying to come back, but we might be able to stop it.”
He saw Jonus nod. “Yes, if one were to able to find the eye of the Plague Fiend, the only part that managed to remain after Marker blinded and destroyed it, they could effectively destroy it before it could reform. It would be a one in a million shot, something not for a novice.” With the last word, Jonus had held out his hand.
For a moment, Percival almost handed over the Javelin. Before he did, however, he remembered that the door was open. It was open, and obviously not forced, or there would have been some marks on the door. He also remembered the skeleton had said another Knight had been the culprit. He held the Javelin back, and said, “I think it would be better if I didn‘t hand it over, sir.”
For a moment, neither moved; then Jonus, almost foaming at the mouth in rage, lunged forward, and grabbed for the Javelin. “So you figured it out. You figured I was helping the Fiend. You know that Skorne is returning, and when he does, the weaker species will be destroyed.”
Those last words, said by a man Percival had trusted for years, gave him a surge in strength. He managed to throw Jonus, causing the corrupted Knight to look at him in shock. It also caused the man to fly off the platform, and into the toxic goop with a nauseating sucking sound.
Percival started gasping for breath, momentarily forgetting about the noxious goop below him. For some reason, he felt like he needed more air than normal. It didn‘t make sense, until he noticed his arms were covered in white fur. He took his shield off his back, and momentarily looked at himself in the shiny surface, amazed at what looked back at him.
He had turned into a walking Unicorn. According to legend, Marker had done the same when he was fighting the Plague Fiend. He didn‘t understand how this could have happened now, since the Plague Fiend had not reformed.
A new sound entered the air when that thought hit him. It was a bubbling sound, and he turned around. Before he finished, however, he jumped, since a green oozing tendril had come down where he was standing. The Plague Fiend had reformed, and to Percival‘s horror, the face shared features with Jonus. The voice it had, however, was almost a gurgle. “So someone has the same talents as Marker. This time, however, the hero will die.”
Percival reacted before the second tendril came down on him. He threw the Javelin, but it was what the monster had expected. The creature easily ducked aside, and the Javelin not only missed the Plague Fiend, but went through a portal in the lair, flying out into the sky outside. He knew that by the time he reached the flyer, the weapon would be lost.
He also knew that he didn‘t have a chance at beating the fiend. Before the cursed creature could attack him again, he bolted out of the place. While he could feel the form of the Unicorn starting to fade, he took advantage of it, rushing past the creatures now emerging from the shacks. He lucked out that they were so surprised by his appearance that they didn‘t have time to react until he had left the ship in his flyer. Now, Percival knew, he had to warn the others, as well as tell them the horrid truth.
After the long flight back, Percival relayed the news to all the Knights in the Spire. All of them shook their heads in disbelief, not believing the story, until one arrived from one of the flying outposts, relaying how he had been attack by ugly green blobs. An attack like that had not occurred since the time of the Plague Fiend.
The commotion that caused was only halted by the leader raising his hands and saying, “Enough. We knew this day was coming. Marker had predicted it. It saddens me to say that I did not expect one of our own to betray us. Since that is the case, we will need to go for help.”
Many of the other Knights agreed, and offered to volunteer, but the leader shook his head to all of them. “There is only one person who should go, because he will need to travel to other places as well. Percival will go to the tower of Sumner, and ask the great wizard for help.”
Percival was amazed at this, since he did not think it was wise. He stood up, and said to the leader. “Sir, I can’t leave now, not with the Plague Fiend coming back. I know how to find his lair and…”
He was cut off by the leader. “You also need to retrieve Marker’s Javelin, which no doubt fell into the Mountain Kingdom. Besides, that foul beast will be expecting more Knights to come. No doubt that if the Plague Fiend is back, the other realms are having their own issues. You will get allies, ones the minions of Skorne won’t expect in the Sky Dominion. Now go, Percival. It is your quest.”
Percival nodded, and then left the Spire, heading for the ethereal tower. It was an odd thing, since sometimes it was transparent, and other times it was solid. The stories all said that the tower home of Sumner existed in all the realms. The odd thing was that it was always nearest the heart of each realm. It was one of two buildings like that, and no one fully understood why. What Percival did understand was that his destiny was linked to going there. He had to do it, since the Plague Fiend’s return marked the return of the demon Skorne.