disclaimer: I own only the plot
A/N: If only I had known what I was getting into when I started this. Did you know I was originally going to make it a one-shot? But anyway. I already have a sequel planned out which includes the rest of the digimon cast. And if ya'll think you can put up with my horribly slow writting for one last series then let me know. A special dedication goes out to everyone who has enjoyed this series. I'd name names but its 4:30 AM and I'm tired. Besides, I think you all know who you are. Please Forive any grammatical aNd smelling mistkes i've made?

Davis had heard that even the bravest warriors often vomited from anxiety and panic before charging into battle. And as he stared at the ground and watched as his last meal suddenly appeared before him, he was calmed a little by that knowledge, but just a little.

"Feel no shame, Sir Davis." an old lord with a grizzled face told him as he finally managed to stand up straight again. "I too, often lost my lunch before old age dulled my nerves a bit." the man patted him reasuringly on the back, and the others lords gave him gentle smiles.

Davis gave a flushed, thin smile back, trying to give the impression that the embarrasing bout of vomiting had soothed his nerves But the reality was that he was scared to death. He had never been in battle before, never even drawn his sword in anything but practice, and here he was about to lead an army against the overwhelming forces of a murdering tyrant. His heart beat madly against his ribs, and sweat poured down his face and shaking hands. For a brief instant he contemplated running away, living in shame was better than not living at all. He even went so far as to make a hesitant step in the direction of his horse. But then a sudden breeze tickled his face, cooling the sweat on his brow, and for some reason his mind was filled with thoughts of his friends. He thought of how they were fighting for their lives in the castle, or maybe already dead. And that grave notion was enough to steele his courage, and chase any cowardly thoughts from his mind. He was still so scared, and his hands still trembled, but he was no longer blind to the fact that fear and war were the best of friends, and that there was little one could do to separate them.

"We should get to our mounts." Davis spoke out in a low, steady voice. "The longer we wait the more suspicious they will become."

The lords nodded their agreement and moved towards their horses, but Davis first rushed over to Sora. She had been sitting beneath a small tree since the conclusion of their march, an old saddle blanket was drapped over her torn dress. There was a strange, vacant look in her cinnamon eyes, as if she was concentrating on a different time and place. And it took Davis a moment to gain her attention.

"You're about to charge?" she asked when she was finally roused. She watched the warriors prepare themselves, blinking her eyes like she had just woken up.

"Yes, and you're going to stay right here no matter what happens." Davis told her. "Tai would kill me if I let anything happen to you." he added with a weak smile.

Sora nodded slowly, giving Davis the impression that his words were of little importance to her. Her brow was furrowed, and the fire in her eyes seemed taught with tension.

Davis frowned at her with mild worry, but then he turned away and ran to his own mount. He looked to the senior lord, and the old man nodded at him as he pulled his visor down over his face. Davis held his hand up high, signaling the men and horses to begin moving in a slow trot. The plan was for the cavalry to charge directly over Mt. Julian, while the infantry would split into two groups and sweep around both sides.

The moment before Davis and the rest reached the top of the mountain was one of utmost silence in both body and mind. All weapons were drawn, all prayers had been said, all thoughts of loved ones at home were pushed to the back of the mind, and the only thing left was the sheer adrenaline of battle. If Davis could have gazed at himself, he would have seen how his hands no longer shook, and the look of somber courage and determination in his eyes.

The warriors reached the rounded peak, and for a second they stopped and reared up like a cresting wave. In the space of that eternal second Davis felt like he could see the whole world spread out before him. The puffy clouds moving sluggishly through the blue sky, sparrows darting through the trees, heedless of the carnage about to explode around them. Davis then looked to the enemy lines and burned them into his memory. The archers were nearest to the mountain, and possibly capable of loosing one arrow apiece before they became driftwood under the cavalry charge. The infantry was a little further up, swarming about like black ants. And the cavalry was massed at the edge of the forest, still unaware that their trap had backfired.

Then all at once the second ended, and world exploded into a chorus of sights and sounds that overloaded Davis's senses. The men around him began to roar, their mouths open wide and teeth bared like lions as they plunged their horses down the slope. Without even thinking Davis followed, his own yell swallowed up by the song of horses snorting and pounding the earth. He hunkered down low in the saddle and looked out between his mount's ears.

It was evident that the king's forces had been caught by surprise. Men looked at their neighbors as if asking for explanations. The enemy cavalry wheeled around and knifed through their own infantry in order to meet the attack. Most of the archers were running for their lives, leaving only a few brave fools to notch their arrows.

He looked to his left where the senior lord was galloping beside him. The old man was pointing towards the city, and his mouth moved wildly as he tried to shout something over the din. Davis looked in the direction he had indicated and saw a group of enemy riders making a break for the city. They were wearing bright, gaudy clothes marking them as lords, and Davis thought he saw the king's colors galloping at the group's head.

Davis felt a flash of white-hot anger at the display of cowardice. He and a few others began to veer their mounts to chase the retreating lords. But then Davis heard a strange, sharp whistling fill the air, and some great blow landed in his gut, spilling the air from his lungs and almost kocking him from his horse. The shock made him clench his eyes shut, and when he opened them again the world seemed to have become distant and slow, like he was far away watching what was happening. He looked down and with mild surprise noted that there was an arrow buried in his side, just a few inches to the left of his navel. It stood stiff and straight, and Davis did not really find the sight of it all that odd. It was as if it had always been there, and he just not really noticed it until now. He put his hand around the shaft, somewhat confused by the hot, sticky fluid spouting out around it. But it was just a minor annoyance. There was a battle, remember? He had to prove to everyone that he was strong, he had to help his friends. His mouth opened and a low, slurred mumbling sound came out. Then his eyes closed and he fell out of the saddle, flopping on his back like a rag doll.

Cody could not stand it another second. His back and neck were horribly cramped from being shut up in the cupboard. The burns on his legs and hands were bad enough to almost bring tears to his eyes, and worst of all, every second he was tormented by the thought that TK and Kari were facing death while he hid like a helpless child.

Two guards were still standing right outside the cupboard, and looking through a crack Cody could make out the backs of their legs. Ignoring the painful burns, he slowly turned his body until his feet were pressed up against the cupboard, his legs coiled up like springs. He gripped his mace as tightly as he could and took a deep breath, the deepest of his young life. Then with all the power he could muster, he shot his legs through the cupboard door. He hit the legs of one guard, causing the man to fall face first to the stone floor.

Cody pushed himself out of the cupboard just as the other guard turned around. And with a grunt of exertion, swung his mace right into the man's left knee. He heard a sickening crunch, and then the guard collapsed into a wailing heap on the ground.

The other guard pushed himself to his knees and moved for his sword. But Cody was already bringing his mace around for a backhanded stroke to the man's arm. The guard let loose an awful scream as his dropped sword clattered against the stone floor. Cody swung his mace again, this time at the man's head, but the blow was lighter this time, just enough to knock the man into unconciousness. He turned around quickly, expecting a fight from the other guard, but the man had already passed out from the shock and pain of having his kneecap caved in.

Cody exhaled a deep sigh of relief. His body was still aching from the adreneline, and his weary mind desperately needed some rest, but he knew that it was entirely out of the question. He hurridly pulled the tunic off the first guard and put it around his own shirt. Then he pulled the tunic off the second guard and carefully wrapped it around the man's oozing knee. He crossed himself and then took off running even as he said a brief prayer, asking God to protect the two guards and forgive their sins.

Cody encountered little opposition as he raced through the castle, it seemed as if the nobles still inhabiting the place were in a state of panic. Some rushed around lugging bags overflowing with jewels, silks, and other valubles, these seemed intent on escaping the castle. Others just seemed to wander through the halls without purpose, shock and fear evident on their faces. The few guards still left inside the castle gates were occupied trying to retain any order the could. Everywhere he ran Cody heard snipits of what was causing the hysteria; "The peasants are rioting in the square and coming to kill us all!" screeched one lady of nobility. "The king's forces are trapped in combat just outside the city." whispered one soldier to another.

The words made Cody's heart jump a little, and the burns on his legs seemed to cool a tiny bit. As he reached the gates he slowed briefly to tear off his disguise, for if the people were revolting against the king, then the last he wanted was to be confused for a real guard. And as he came to a large street just a few blocks from the castle, he was glad he took the precaution.

The common people of the city had definitely taken up arms. Members of the mob crowding the street carried hammers, hatchets, sickles, a few rusty swords, thick pieces of wood, anything that could possibly be used as a weapon. But whether they had any intent on laying siege to the castle was another question. As far as Cody could tell the people were not engaged in an angry riot, nor were they even moving towards the castle. They stood shoulder to shoulder, strength and proud determination in their eyes and faces. They had no intention of attacking, Cody realized. They were a defensive line against any forces that might come from the castle. They were protecting something. And Cody was overcome by a bizarre mixture of hope and dread at the thought of what that something might be.

As he came closer to the crowd, the people at the front of the line narrowed their eyes and leveled their crude weapons at him, daring him to keep advancing. Cody grimaced, he knew he would eventually be able to explain his way through the mob, but there was no telling how long that might take. But then he saw a pair of thick arms raise out of the mob, and a deep croaking voice calling his name.

"Its Brother Cody! Please let him through! He can help them!" The voice and arms belonged to a man named Muche. He was a miller, and member of the underground network. And at his urging words the mood and tone of the crowd changed completely. Instead of meeting Cody with weapons, the people pushed themselves to the side to make a path for him. Their dangerous and defiant gazes suddenly became soft and gentle, their eyes beeging him for help

It made Cody's heart drop to his feet. He was sure now that TK and Kari were in danger. He tried to call out to Muche and find out what had happened, but the only answer he got was "You have to help them! for God's sake hurry!" and that came in a chorus from all the people. They began pushing and pulling him forward through their ranks, never giving him a chance to think of slowing. And even when his legs and lungs cried out for mercy, he did not listen. Because everywhere he looked he saw people staring back at him with sad, imploring eyes, like parents pleading with a doctor to help their sick children. He seemed to run so far and so long that he thought the pleading eyes and desperate words would drive him mad. But then he finally reached the city square, and all the words and looks in the world did not matter to him anymore.

All around the wooden platform people were down on their knees in prayer, their heads bowed in supplication, rosary beads clutched in their trembling hands. The eight or so guards who had joined the crowd surrounded he platform in a protective circle, but even they were distraught with helplessness.

But these sights did not register in Cody's mind, because all he could see were TK and Kari, sprawled out on the platform like sacrifices on an alter. They were so still, and there was so much blood, Cody honestly thought there was no way they could be alive. He had come too late.

His eyes overflowed with tears, but he still kept moving forward. He reached the platform and climbed up. The guards looked at him with mournful faces, but made no move to stop him. Cody just stood stood there and gazed through tears at his best friends, still wrapped in each other's arms, still trying to protect each other. At that moment Cody lost any hope he had left, at that moment he was broken. And he would have been hopeless and broken for the remainder of his life. Except then Kari gave a soft moan, so quiet that it was unbelievable that anything could hear it.

But Cody heard it, maybe not with his ears, but he heard it. He fell to his knees, and his eyes widened with shock and amazement. TK and Kari were breathing, breathing so weakly that their chests barely rose and fell. Cody reached over and placed his fingers on their knecks, their pulses were almost nonexistant, just a last weak fingerhold on life. But even as Cody laid his hands on his friends, their heartbeats seemed to grow stronger. For a moment Cody could have sworn that TK and Kari's hearts were beating in perfect rythm with each other. But then Kari's became steadily stronger, while TK's stayed tired and faint.

Cody was no doctor, but from what he could see and feel, it appeared that Kari was not hurt at all, she had just somehow fallen into a deep, dark sleep. TK, on the other hand, had been tortured beyond the limits of normal human indurance. It was a miracle he was still alive, and Cody knew that if something was not done soon, then even a miracle would not be enough.

While he had been looking over TK and Kari, Cody had become partly aware of the eight guards climbing up on the platform to watch hime with pale, worried faces. Now he looked up and examined them with more attention. They were all young, none having seen their twentieth summer. And it was clear to Cody by the looks on their faces that they were scared by what was happening around them, but Cody also saw something in their eyes, he saw the will and desire to work past their fear, and genuine concern for the princess and her warrior.

"We have to get them somewhere safe." he announced aloud "And if we don't do it quick the boy will die, and for all I know the princess might try and follow him." his tone was sharp and firm, trying to explain the seriousness of the situation without panicking the young guards.

"Now, can any of you read?" Cody asked.

There was an awkard silence for a moment, but then a gawky youth with a face full of angry red pimples, spoke up tentatively. "My mother taught me a little, sir."

Cody looked the youth over for a moment, out of all the guards this one seemed to him to be the palest, the one most frightened by what was going on. Cody had no knowledge that this same frightened youth had personally saved the princess' life not long before he had arrived. "What is your name?" he asked finally, after deciding that the boy would do.

The boy swallowed visibly hard, but his answer was firm. "Lucas, sir."

"Lucas," Cody responded immediately. "there is an apocrethy shop one street over to your left with a bright green door. Just inside the door and to the right, will be a shelf marked 'salves and balms'. That's S-A-L-V-E-S and B-A-L-M-S. On that shelf will be a jar filled with a yellowish-brown paste. I need you to bring me that jar. Lucas, Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." the boy responded immediately. And without any other thought he jumped from the platform and took off down the street.

Cody watched the boy for a brief second before turning to the remaining guards. "Find a cart, or a small wagon we can put them in."

The other guards took off like shots in different directions, not one of them thought to question the orders of the strange young monk who had just appeared among them.

Cody on the other hand, was questioning his own orders, and where those orders would lead. He was begining to get a strange, sinking feeling that if TK did not wake up, then Kari would not either. But beyond the the infection fighting salve he had sent Lucas after, there was little he could do. In fact the only person who could possibly help was the royal physician, and he was locked away in the castle.

"We'll have to take them through the secret passages." Cody whispered to himself,. The only one he was fully familiar with lead to Kari's room. From there they would have to find the royal doctor and hold him at sword point to help TK.

It was a slim chance, but it was the only chance he had to save his friends. He looked up and saw the youth Lucas racing through the crowd with a jar in his hands. A little behind him, the rest of the guards were pulling a rickety ox cart behind them. Cody had seconds before he threw all of his strength into the last ditch effort. And he used those seconds to do the only thing he could think of that might possibly help the situation. He prayed.

Neither Tai nor Jyou had said a word since they had left the dungeon. In the past day and a half they had been subjected to horrible torture, and any unnessecary conversation seemed to be merely a waste of energy. They just leaned against each other for support as they stumbled as fast as they could through the secret passages of the castle.

Most of Tai's concentration was coldly focused on what would happen when he finally confronted his uncle. But he could not help being reminded a little of the war with Tachikawa, he and Jyou sleeping back to back in the freezing mud, their armour rusting on their bodies, the stench of rot in the air.

Jyou could not think of anything besides how absolutely terrified he was. Cold sweat poured down his face, no breath he could take seemed to be deep enough. He did not want to admit it, but his courage had been crushed the moment they put the spiders on him. And now he was practically blind, totally helpless, and scared to death.

They were coming to a bend in the passage when they heard it, the sound of heavy boots echoing off the stone floor. They stopped in their tracks, and for a horrible moment they both thought they were through. But then the first figure came around the bend, and Tai nearly dropped his sword in relief.

"Cody!" he called. "What are you doing here? Where are Hikari and Tak-"

Jyou guessed by the sudden choking sound his friend was making that something very bad had happened. He felt Tai pull away in shock, and then he heard Cody's voice.

"She's not hurt Tai. The blood is all......." Cody drifted off, but Tai had already guessed what he was going to say. He could see that blonde haired boy had been tortured to the brink of death.

Four of the guards were doing their best to carry Takeru and Hikari, but their efforts were somewhat complicated by the strange way that Kari refused to let go of TK, even though they were both unconcious. Cody had smeared the yellowish-brown paste over TK's wounds, but it seemed to be doing little good. Cody had noticed not long ago that his pulse was becoming even weaker, and distressingly enough Kari's seemed to be following suit.

"What did those bastards do to him?" Tai spat.

Cody just shook his head in response. "We have to find the royal doctor, it's probably TK's only chance."

"The royal doctor doubled as the royal torturer." Jyou spoke out from where he was leaning against a wall. "We'll have to find some other way." he could feel the fear eating at him like a vulture, so sharp that it made him want to cry. But somehow he managed to push through it.

"I have some old instruments from when I was about to go to the university, and some medical herbs I keep for emergencies."

"Where?" Cody and Tai asked at the same time.

"My room, an old leather bag under the bed."

"That's not far from Hikari's chambers." Tai thought out loud. He began moving even as he turned to Cody "Get them to Hikari's room, and I'll get Jyou's things."

He sprinted off without waiting for a response. He did not encounter a soul during his mad race, and he was somewhat dissappointed, he would have loved the opportunity to hack an enemy to little bits for what the king had done to his loved ones. But he had to settle for retrieving the medical bag. When Jyou had said the thing was old, he had been making an understatemnt, it was almost falling apart with age. And knowing Jyou it was probably a family heirloom.

A few moments later Tai arrived at his sister's chambers. Takeru and Hikari had been laid down on the bed, and two guards were again trying to seperate them, but even in sleep Kari moaned and held onto her love all the tighter.

Tai handed off the bag and then pulled Cody away from the bed. "What happened to Hikari?" he asked. "Why won't she wake up?"

"I honestly don't know." the young monk answered, shaking his head. "Something happened in the square before I got there. Something not entirely of this world."

"And what about them." Tai asked, indicating the guards with a jerk of his head. He had already dismissed them as a threat when they failed to attack him on sight, but he was still curious as to why.

Cody gave a thin smile. "They have seen the light of revelation." he said, casting a thoughtful look at TK and Kari.

Tai rubbed his temples and took a deep breath. "Any word from the battle?"

"Not that I've heard."

Tai's brow furrowed and he took a long look at his sister's face before sighing sadly. "Whatever else happens we need to get to the field. We'll leave two guards here with Jyou and-"

"No!" Jyou suddenly yelled out from where he was kneeling beside TK. He was grinding a handful of dry, brown leaves with a morter and pestel. "Nobody would be of any use staying here, just-just all of you go."

"Are you sure?" Tai asked.

"Positive. Just leave me a sword in case I need to look dangerous." Jyou's voice quaked a little despite his best efforts.

Tai started to ask again, but Jyou threw an impatient look in what he thought was Tai's direction, so the young prince just leaned a spare sword against the wall next to Jyou and started out the entrance to the hidden passages. Jyou heard Cody and the guards follow him, but even when they were surely a good distance away, his fear was so sharp that he wanted to yell out for them to come back.

Instead he forced himself to focus all of his attention on grinding and mixing the different powders and fluids in his bag. All he had to do was concentrate on the measurements and amounts, lose himself in the analysis of it all. If he could do that then he would not have any focus or attention for the fear to prey on.

Takeru's pulse was falling rapidly, but still Jyou could not rush himself. He had to make the mixture exactly right or else it do a lot more harm than good. After several agonizing moments Jyou finally held in his hands a small cup filled with chalky white liquid. Carefully as he could, he opened the boy's mouth and forced it down his throat, quickly clamping Takeru's nose and mouth shut so he could not spit it up. The boy shook and sputtered for a moment, but then settled down. His breathing seemed to become deeper almost immediately. His pulse held steady.

"Jesus Christ...." Jyou muttered to himself, laying his head down on the bed. He waited for the fear to reappear now that his mind was unoccupied, but he only felt faint stirrings. He began to think that he could hold it at heel.

Behind him he heard the wall door to the secret passages opening. He thought it was Tai and the others coming back for some reason, and his fear diminished even further. He started to turn towards his returning friends, but then heard a metallic, growling laugh that made the blood freeze in his veins.

"Like fish in a barrel." the king sneered.

Jyou could hear the words seep into his soul like a sickness, but all he could see were many fuzzy shapes emerging from a dark hole in the wall. He grabbed the sword Tai had left him, and in panicked desperation began swinging it in a wild arc in front of him.

Riotous laughter broke from the king and his men at his comical helplessness, but they seemed to hold their distance. It was not until the flat of a sword blade hit him square in the temple that Jyou realized one of the fuzzy shapes had crept up on him from the side. His vision went white and he fell against the wall. He felt something salty stinging his eyes, but he was unconcious before he had a chance to figure out what it was.

Claudius had been somewhat distressed when his own trap was sprung on him. Distressed enough to know that it was not in his best intrests for him to remain on the field of battle. He, and a group of his followers, had bid a strategic retreat, trusting in his men to sell their lives dearly, and so weaken his enemies enough for his reserve forces to finish them off. They were stationed just a week's march away, and it was imperative that he join them as soon as he collected some supplies.

The peasants revolting in the streets was surely a nuisance, but the signs of revolt had been visible for a while. And besides, any true student of history knew that the rabble tended to make trouble every now and then, all it took was an appropriate show of force to push them back into submission. And Claudius would soon have all the force he needed.

The only thing really nagging at his mind was his brat nephew. He would have to be sure and kill him before he left the castle. It was also somewhat of a surprise to find out that his niece, her slave, and the Lord of Kido were still alive, but he would remedy that soon enough.

"You five." he pointed to a group of lords at his left. "Stay here and kill them, slowly. I want them to be awake to feel it. And take notes, because I might want some entertainment over dinner." he broke into another genuine, cruel laugh and his men followed suit.

"The rest of you come with me." he said while walking back into the entrance to the secret passages. "I can smell my nephew nearby, and we have some family issues that need to be worked out."

The king's snarling laugh was the first thing that TK could distinguish in the darkness of his mind. It sounded so familiar, not the king's laugh in particular, but something more general within the outpouring of cruel joy. A second later he became aware of the knives that shot through his lungs every time he took a shallow breath. And then he could feel his numerous wounds sizzling like fire on his skin. Finally, his eyes began to open, and the first thing he happened to see was his beloved Kari, still as death beside him, her dress drenched in blood.

Silent despair plunged like a sword through his heart. He had no way of knowing that all the blood was his, that Kari was safely locked in slumber. He reached up a broken finger to stroke her cheek, and the lords waiting to kill him saw the gesture and burst out into laughter at the expression of utmost pain on his face.

TK turned his head towards them, that laugh seemed more familiar then ever. He raced through his memory searching for it. And then all at once he remembered, and along with the memory came a block of rage to settle in his heart.

It was the laugh he had heard coming from the men in black armour when they dragged their swords across his parents' throats, when they put his brother in chains and dragged him away. It was the laugh that had been in their voices when they told him he was too little to bring along, and so would be left for the wolves to eat.

And he had heard that laugh years later in the war. When a group of men had jumped him away from the campfire, pressing his face down into the mud in case he tried to scream while they assaulted him. He had almost drowned in that mud.

There were may other times he had heard that cruel laugh, coming from many different throats. It was the laugh of predators finding pleasure in tormenting their prey. And as TK remembered all of the laughs one by one, the block of rage in his heart grew into a great tower, until it grew so great that the rage consumed him entirely, until his every muscle vibrated with the desire to kill the owners of that laugh.

The sword Jyou had dropped was right beside the bed, and TK's hand slowly reached down to grasp it. The lords did nothing, they were greatly amused by this weak, broken slave trying to fight them. But then again they had no idea of what blood flowed in TK's veins, no idea of the birthright of darkness that lurked in his heart. They had no idea that this slave was a son of the House of Ishida, a son of the most bloodthirsty, indiscriminate killers in history.

Perhaps if the lords had known this, they would have fallen to their knees and begged for mercy, but it is unlikely that any amount of pleading could have saved them. Their fates were sealed the moment TK griped the sword in his hand. All of his rage evaporated like magic, leaving only a coldness in him. A delicious, unfeeling coldness. The blue of his eyes froze into ice, and his heart became black as coal. His wounds became meaningless to him as he stood up and stared at the suddenly uneasy lords. He was going to kill them, not because of what they, or anyone else had done, but because he was seized by the desire to kill, because every fiber of his being had been created to spill the blood of others. He stared at them with unblinking eyes, and right before he lept at them, he flashed a thin smile that looked very much like a wolf baring its fangs.

The closest lord did not even have time to raise his sword before blood came gushing out of his slit throat. The others did, but it did not help them. TK was a streak of lightning in their midst that they were helpless against, even their swords seemed afraid to touch him. He was the deadliest warrior in the world, and the only man who could hope to match him was a kingdom away. In a matter of seconds four of the lords lay dead or bleeding to death on the floor.

The last of them was curled up in the fetal postion against the wall, trembling like a child with terror. TK approached him slowly, savouring the anticipation of the kill.

"Please!" the final lord cried out as TK raised his sword. "I'll give you anything! Anything you want!"

TK wanted to feel the lord's blood splatter on his hands, He wanted to hear the primal death scream, and see the look in the man's eyes as the life drained out of him in a crimson flood. He brought his sword down again and again, relishing the moment.

"TK.........?" Kari whispered from where she was sitting up in the bed. Her lovely brown eyes were wide with shock and fear at the sight of her gentle, loving protector, glowing like a demon as he butchered a helpless opponent.

Her beautiful voice washed over TK like ice water. Pulling him into focus, pushing the darkness back into the depths of his heart. But he was still left with the memory of what he had done, and how much he had liked it. Fear and loathing for himself crashed over him, making him want to vomit.

"Oh, God help me." he moaned. The lord's glassy eyes were starring at him, begging him for mercy, damning him for not giving it.

TK turned away in terror, but the other dead lords were starring at him too, all of them damning him to hell. He shut his eyes, but then he could feel the blood of his victims burning his skin like brands. There was no escaping what he had done, no turning back now that the darkness had been set free. Again he implored God for help, but God was far away from him now.

The only one that could help him now was his Kari, his angel. He lifted his eyes up to her, silently begging her for help, for salvation.

And Kari could see what had happened, she could read his soul like a book. And any other person in the world would have never stopped running from this monster of the House of Ishida, this thing that had been marked by darkness the day he was born. Any other person would have cowered in fear from the pain and heartache that touching such a monster would surely bring.

But Kari loved him, he was her angel. She rushed to him immediately, throwing her arms around him and holding him while he sobbed, not caring that the blood on his hands now marked hers' as well.

"Oh God, Kari." he whispered through the tears. "What am I?"

The only answer she had was to tenderly kiss his lips, and to hold him even tighter.

"Just hold on, Davis. Please just hold on a little longer." Sora whispered the words to the unconcious knight even as she was struggling to hold on herself. Amid all the worry a fear in her mind, she made a solemn promise to herself that when it was all over she was going to learn the proper way to ride a horse.

She had been safely watching the charge from the top of Mt. Julian when she saw Davis fall. The next thing she knew she half-running, half-tumbling, down the slope. Even though they had only known each other less than a day, Sora already felt protective of the young knight. He was a member of Tai's family, and that made him part of her family. And Sora had already lost too many family members to lose another.

By the time she finally rolled to a stop at Davis' side, it was evident that the boy was deep in shock. His eyes were open, but they rolled around in his skull without direction. Untelligible mumbles were all that came out of his mouth. He was pale as death and glistening with sweat.

"He will die if not taken to a doctor immediately." the senior lord suddenly appeared beside her. The old man had lived through enough battles to know a grave wound when he saw it. He griped the arrow by the shaft, and in a quick motion snapped most of it off. He knew it would cause even more damage if he tried to pull the arrow out all together. Then without warning he picked Sora up and set her on his horse. A moment later he sat Davis up in front of her in the saddle.

"You're going to have to hold onto him or else he'll fall off." the lord told Sora. "Keep you feet in the stirrups and grip with your knees. This horse was reared in the royal stables, and I pray he will find his way back there now."

Sora answered him with a heavy nod, trying to set herself as the lord had instructed her.

"Take care of him, my lady." the lord whispered softly. "He will be a great hero someday." he then looked up and gave Sora a sad grin. "And take care of our Prince, he will depend on you much in the coming years." He gave the horse a hard swat on the backside, and the animal took off in the direction of the castle.

It was all Sora could do to grit her teeth, and try to keep herself and Davis from being tossed into the air. But at least the horse seemed to know where it was going. And after some of the worst moments of her life, it finally got there. They shot like a rocket out of the woods and into the courtyard of the royal stables.

It occured to Sora that she had no idea how to get the horse to stop. So she merely aimed for the nearest available pile of hay, and rolled off its back, careful to pull Davis on top of her so as to break his fall. The blow of the impact knocked the wind out of her, but she barely noticed the discomfort as she immediately tended to Davis. The harsh ride had opened up the wound some more, and Sora tore off yet another piece of her tattered dress to wrap around the arrow's point of entry.

"You just have to hold on for a little longer, Davis." Sora whispered to him, trying to ignore how much her hands were shaking. "Just please hold on a little longer." She pulled some of the hay on top of him so he would be hidden from prying eyes. She squeezed his hand tightly, and then started running for the castle entrance.

She thought that maybe she could find Cody, or possible the Lord Jyou, or just anyone who could help Davis. But she never got the chance to start looking. She had barely gone fifteen feet when she ran right into Claudius.

Tai had not led his men all that far when Cody, who had been at the tail of the line, rushed up to him.

"I held back for a bit at that last bend, and I heard men in armour running towards us." the young monk's tone was deadly serious, he anxiously rubbed the handle of his mace.

Tai did not even ask if Cody was sure. He just pushed himself into the deep shadows of the passage and motioned for his men to do likewise. He did not even dare to blink as he strained to keep every muscle completely still. And within seconds Tai too, could make out the sounds of heavy boots rapidly proceding down the passage.

"Wait until they're right on top of us." Tai whispered to Cody. "Pass it down the line."

He heard barely audible murmuring go down the line of guards, and then all was silent except for the echoing footfalls coming ever closer. Every muscle in his body was taut, his heart thumped along at an excited pace. Beside him he heard Cody suck in a deep breath.

The footfalls were no more than twenty seconds away, when Tai thought he heard a greater number of them start in. At first he thought that another group of feet had joined the first from off a side passage, but there was a difference to the tone that Tai could not place. He racked his brain for some explanation, and then with a burst of horror he realized what the only explanation could be.

"Their coming at us from both sides!" he clenched Cody's arm as he yelled. "Its a trap! Everyone back to back!"

The words were no sooner out of Tai's mouth than wild screams of fury arose from both ends of the passage. Tai jumped out of the shadows to see one of Claudius' lords running at him with his sword held high over his head. Tai ducked low, and took the man's legs out from under him with a vicious swipe of his own sword. Another lord came right on his comrades heels, but one of Tai's guards took the older man out with a long spear to the throat. Tai looked up and saw two more men rushing at him. He quickly darted forward and split open the first man's stomach with an upward thrust, then bodychecked the next one hard into the wall. Again Tai readied himself for more attackers, but none came, the only man ahead of him was the one Tai had waited six years to face.

Claudius stood a few feet away, his sword balanced neatly in his hand. He had no intention of joining the battle, he was just waiting for Tai to fight his way to him.

Tai gave a feral snarl as he rushed ahead with his sword raised. Claudius waited until the last second to raise his own weapon in defense. The swords of the two men screeched as they ground against each other. Their faces were just inches apart.

"Uncle." Tai sneered as their eyes bore into each other.

"Nephew." Claudius sneered back, then he pushed Tai away with a burst of strength.

Tai came right back with a set of swipes that Claudius parried easily. "I just came from you sister's room." the king smiled maliciously. "A pity you weren't there, we had so much fun."

Tai's vision went red as he screamed with rage, and charged at Claudius with a fierce cut meant to slice the king in half.

But Claudius sidestepped the blow easily, and Tai had put so much force into it that he could stop the momentum. His sword crashed into the stone floor. Claudius made a stinging cut into his side, and then brought an armoured knee up to Tai's face.

"Is that the best you can do, boy?" Claudius laughed as he skirted a ways down the passage. "Even your father managed better, and he was asleep when I killed him."

Tai did not even take note of the blood streaming from his nose and mouth. He was so caught up in fury that he just blindly charged at the king again.

Claudius leaned back and met him with a kick to the chest. The impact forced Tai to the ground. And before he could react, Claudius drove his sword into his left shoulder, twisting and grinding it through the muscles and bone. Tai choked back a painful scream as hot tears squeezed out of his eyes.

"Come to think of it, even you mother managed to scratch me with her nails." Claudius snickered as he pulled his sword out and moved a little ways more down the passage. He stood there and waited for Tai to charge him again.

Tai knew that he had to control his rage. No matter how blistering the words were, he had to remember that his uncle was toying with him, goading him into losing control. And if he lost that, then he could not hope to defeat Claudius, and he would die, and all he had worked for would be for naught. He leaned against the wall and pushed himself to his feet. Tai forced himself to think back to the countless hours spent practicing swordplay with his father. The hours of burning the moves into his reflexes, until fencing was as natural to him as walking.

"You're nothing but a murdering coward." he called out to Cladius, spitting out some of the blood that kept collecting in his mouth. "You could never defeat my father, you're too weak."

Claudius gave a dry laugh. "You insult me, nephew."

"Good." Tai answered. "You deserve to be insulted. You're nothing but a gutless piece of crap. You don't deserve to lick the horse shit off my father's boots."

A deadly flicker came into Claudius' eyes, his voice became little more than a snarl. "You're getting a little to big for your britches, boy. I think its time I teach you a lesson."

The king lunged forward and tried to bring his sword down on Tai's head. But the young man was ready, and met the blow with one of his own. The blades crashed together and sent sparks squirting into the shadows. For many moments the combatants traded blows, but neither man could gain an edge. Claudius was stronger, but Tai was younger and quicker. Their swords sang out as they they struck at each other again and again. It seemed like the duel could last for hours.

But then Tai began to tire, his sword felt heavy as lead, and his shoulder felt like it was tearing apart as he moved it. He could not even breathe through his swollen nose. His body had just undergone too much punishment. Soon it was all he could do to keep his sword up as Claudius rained down blow after blow. The king's eyes became dark as oblivion, and he began to smile as he felt the death blow coming ever closer. Tai slipped to one knee, and Claudius redoubled his efforts, trying to break Tai's sword in half.

Tai felt death near him, slinking about in the shadows. It gnawed at his heart, telling him how easy it would be to give up and slip peacefully into darkness. But then in his heart there appeared another image, a pair of beautiful cinnamon eyes, full of love and devotion. He needed more than anything to be able to see those eyes again.

"Sora." he whispered to himself. He summoned every last bit of strength he had, channeling it into his arms, letting it build up for one last chance.

Claudius lifted his sword high in the air, determined to end it with one final blow. He brought the sword down with a guttural growl. Tai saw it coming down, seemingly floating in slow motion. He gave a stiff grunt, and swung with everything he had left. He felt the blade cut through Claudius' wrist, and then slam into the wall. The impact sent tremors through the sword that stung his hands.

Claudius did not make a sound, he just fell to his knees and stared at the bloody stump that a second ago had been his hand. Tai pulled himself up on to unsteady feet, he hefted his sword with both hands and leveled it as his uncle's shocked face.

"Its over, Uncle." he managed to cough out. "Give it up."

Claudius bowed his head to the floor, and his shoulders began to shake. Tai thought the king had actually started to cry, and he unconciously lowered his sword. He did not see the dagger until it was too late. Claudius had pulled it from his belt as he slumped to the floor. The second he saw Tai start to lower his sword, he sprung forward on his knees and buried it in the younger man's leg, just above the knee.

Even as Tai cried out in pain and surprise, he saw his opponent jump to his feet and take off down the passage. Without even thinking, Tai pulled the small blade from his leg, and ran after him. He knew he that he could never live in peace if Claudius got away. Incredible pain shot through his leg as he ran, and his chest heaved as he struggled just to keep the fleeing king in sight.

Tai could not be sure of how long he had been running when Claudius suddenly dropped out of view. The prince grunted and forced his legs to pump faster, and it was not until he was falling that he realized that the chase had led both men to a steep staircase. Tai tumbled down the unforgiving stone steps, grimacing as he listened to his bones crunch and crack, and somewhere along the way he lost hold of his sword. He finally reached the bottom, and through bright flashes of light he saw Claudius slowly trying to crawl away.

Tai lept at him and wraped his arms around the king in a fierce bear hug. Claudius grunted and groaned as he struggled to break his nephew's grip. He pulled free his one remaining hand and pounded Tai's head repeatedly, but the young man only held on tighter. As a last resort, Claudius aimed his blows at Tai's already broken nose. The prince managed to hold on for a few moments, but then the pain became so intense that he had to let go. Claudius pulled himself away from Tai and crawled around a nearby corner.

Every single part of Tai told him to stay on the ground and close his eyes, but he did not listen. His dropped sword lay a few feet away. He grabbed it and used it to prop himself up, then he stumbled after Claudius.

Directly around the corner was a rickety wooden door that Tai just about fell through. It led out to the royal stables, and Tai was momentarily blinded by the sudden wave of sunlight. But when his vision cleared, his heart stopped.

Sora stood no more than ten feet. Tai did not know how, or why she was standing there, and that did not matter to him. What mattered was the look of intense fear in her beautiful eyes as Claudius held a gleaming dagger against her throat.

The king's obsidian eyes were bulging with barely controlled maddness. His stump of a hand was wrapped around Sora's shoulders, some of the blood mixing in her hair. His other hand held the dagger he had pulled from his boot.

"Its over, nephew." he spat out in a hoarse, grating voice. "Give it up."

"Let her go." Tai choked out. He tried to tell Sora with his eyes that everything would be okay.

Claudius gave a snorting laugh. "I think not. As a matter of fact I think it's quite fair; you cut off my hand, and I cut out your heart." He pulled the dagger tight enough to draw a trickle of blood.

"You touch her, and I'll kill you!" Tai shouted. He could see tears forming in Sora's eyes, and feel them in his own.

"I'm already touching her." Claudius said dryly. "Now you put down your sword, or I'll kill her."

Sora shook her head as much as she dared. "He'll kill you." she mouthed to Tai.

There was no doubt of that in Tai's mind. Just as he knew that he had no choice. "I love you." he whispered. And then he let the sword slip from his fingers.

"Just please hold on a little longer."

The carring words reverberated through Davis' fevered dreams; dreams of horses that flew like birds, battles that never ended, and his parents and sister waving at him from the courtyard of his home. He was curious as to what the words meant, and who spoke them. What was he supposed to hold on to?

He opened his eyes, and immediately he felt a rush of clarity. The battle, the charge, fragmented images of Sora and the senior lord looming above him. And he also instictively knew that he was dying. There was a numbness in his gut, and he could feel it slowly spreading to the rest of his body. His mouth was filled with the metallic taste of blood.

The knowledge scared him, he tried to force himself to forget it. He did not want to die. With shaking hands he pushed himself out of the pile of hay he had been laying in. Maybe there was still hope, maybe Jyou or someone else could save him.

He began to slowly walk towards the castle, his breathing becoming heavy with panic. His throat was dry and he needed to throw up. He leaned up against the wall of one of the feed sheds and stared at the ground. He wanted to scream for help, but he was afraid that the effort would make the wound worse.

Then he heard the voices; Tai's and Claudius'. He glanced through a crack in the wall, and his eyes went wide with shock. Claudius had his back to Davis, but the boy could see the gleaming dagger against Sora's throat. The king was laughing at something. And as Davis moved his gaze, he could see Tai standing a few feet away, his eyes and shoulders slumped in defeat. The king said something in a threatening voice, and Tai dropped his sword to the ground.

"No." Davis whispered to himself. Caludius was going to kill them both. He could feel it. All at once his fear of death changed to fear for his friends. The boy looked wildy around the area for something he could use as a weapon. There was a pitchfork laying just a few feet away. Davis put his left hand over the wound, trying his best to avoid toucing the arrow. Then he began to slowly ease himself to the ground and crawl over to the pitchfork. He tried to pick the heavy tool up, but his arms felt so weak that the best he could do was lift the handle a few inches of the ground, and the effort made his wound start to bleed even more.

"God damnit..." he cursed under his breath. He turned around and looked back out the crack in the wall; Claudius made some sort of gesture with his dagger, and in response Tai dropped to his knees and placed his hands behind his head. Davis could almost see the look of triumph on the king's face.

The young knight turned away and franticly tried to think of something. He needed a weapon, something to hurt Claudius enough to let Sora and Tai get away. But he could not think of anything he would be strong enough to use. He almost cried out in despair. But then he looked down, and the horrifying thought came to him. The broken shaft of the arrow rose and feel as he breathed.

"Oh God, help me." Davis whispered. Then without pause he griped the shaft as tightly as he could, and began to pull. Davis' face twisted into a mask of pain as the barbed arrow ripped through his flesh with a horrible sucking sound. He nearly bit his tongue off in an effort to keep himself from screaming. But he managed to pull the arrow out. He got to his feet, a fresh torrent of blood spilling down his legs. Davis knew that he would soon not be able to stand, so without even thinking he turned the corner of the shed and launched himself at Claudiu's back.

As he came close, he could see Tai's eyes widen in surprise. Claudius noticed this and began to turn around. But by that time Davis' hand was already coming down to strike with the broken arrow. He aimed for the the base of the king's neck, but he was so weak that the blow had no strength in it, the arrow's tip barely pierced the skin. And Claudius' cry was more out of surprise then pain.

Davis could see the fury of maddness in the king's eyes as he turned to him, throwing Sora to the ground and bringing up his dagger. The young knight watched helplessly as Claudius' plunged the blade into his chest. He felt a dull pain, and his eyes became heavy. As he fell to the ground he thought he heard Tai yelling something from far away.

"NO!" Tai screamed as he saw Claudius raise the dagger and stab it into Davis' chest. The boy's body went limp, and he slipped to the ground. Tai growled in fury and anguish as he snatched up his discarded sword.

In his insane rage Claudius had forgotton about the prince, and he suddenly felt a twinge of fear as he began to turn around, but by then it was too late.

Tears were pouring out of Tai's eyes as he thrust the sword into the king's side, forcing the blade further and further until it was buried up to the hilt. Claudius made a strange sputtering sound as he turned to his nephew, his eyes wide with shock, blood trickling out of his gaping mouth. Then his eyes rolled back into his head and he fell dead to the ground.

Tai had been waiting six years to see his uncle dead, but now he found that it did not really matter. He dropped to his knees at Davis's side. Sora was beside him in an instant, shaken but unhurt.

"Davis!" they yelled almost in unison. They both put their hands over the wound on his chest, trying to stop up the bleeding, but the blood just kept bubbling up.

"I'm dying." Davis said. His voice was no more than a fading whisper. His glassy eyes were half closed already.

"Don't say that!" Tai yelled through tears. "You can't die! You're a hero! You saved us!"

The corners of Davis' mouth turned into the barest hint of a smile. "Hero.." he whispered, savouring the feel of the words. Then his eyes slowly closed, and his head rolled to the side.

"Davis! Davis!" Tai shouted, seizing the boy by the shoulders and shaking him. "God damnit, Davis wake up!" but Tai knew that he would never open his eyes again. Tai buried his face in his hands andstarted to sob. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he turned into Sora's waiting arms. For a long while they just held each other and cried.

Peace did not immediately come with the death of Claudius'. Once word of the battle of Mt. Julian reached the king's reserves, they moved to take the city, and so started a series of small battles. Tai and his determined men were always able to turn them away, until the enemy finally had no more men left to fight.

Tai proved himself to be as an outstanding leader on the battlefield as he had been a master of intrigue and secrecy. And both noble and commoner alike prophesied that their young king would be one of the greatest in Kamiya's proud history.

But on the field of battle Tai would have to settle for being second best. For it seemed like no man alive could equal Takeru as a warrior. The older lords respectfully gave them the title of "the Iron Prince", for in battle he was as strong and unbreakable as an iron rod. Tai was proud to give him the title of prince, which he was entitled to as Hikari's husband, and to adopt him as his brother. The people loved him as much as they did Hikari, and as a pair they were sometimes referred to as the "angels of Kamiya". Soon after the fighting ended they slipped off into the night together, leaving a rather irritated Tai a short note saying that they would come back eventually.

Five of the guards from the square survived the battle in the secret passages, the boy Lucas among them. And Tai gave them special duties as the bodyguards to Prince Takeru and Princess Hikari, otherwise known as the Lord TK and Lady Kari of Takaishi. But the five youths were as bewildered as Tai as to how the couple had managed to slip out of the castle undetected.

Cody survived the passages as well, coming through with only a nasty gash on his forehead. In the insuing battles he split his time between fighting alongside Tai and Takeru, and providing spiritual guidance to the soldiers. He did whichever duty he felt was most needed at any particular time. When peace finally came, Cody went back monestary to rest and pray. But he promised that he would always come at a moment's notice if trouble arose. Before he left he had the honor of marrying both of the royal couples.

Jyou confided in Tai that his courage had been broken by Claudius' torture. And instead of fighting he stayed in the camp and helped the wounded as much as he could. He saved a good deal of lives. When peace came he left to rebuild his home, but likewise promised that he would soon be back to take the post of royal doctor.

The people took Sora into their hearts at once, the commoners especially were overjoyed to have one of their own as their Queen. She was always at Tai's side, and there was little doubt in anyone's mind that she was the source of the king's strength.

The stories of the days leading up to the battle of Mt .Julian were told and retold throughout the kingdom, usually with great exageration. But none were told in as reverant a voice as the last heroic act of Sir Davis of Motomiya. Hikari broke into tears when she heard of his death, as did the old lord who had taken such a shine to the young knight.

Tai would never be able to fully forgive himself for the boy's death. But he also vowed never to let his sacrifice be in vain. Davis would always be a hero, and Tai just hoped he could live up to his friend's example.