The final chapter.
The people of Corus awoke to the sound of battering rams banging into the tall gates in the early morn. Horrified and yet curious, those living closer to the boundaries ran out of their houses to see why a din was being made. To their utmost consternation, the tall walls blocked their line of vision, but the sound of wood against metal reverberated around the city, and rising above that were the bloodthirsty cheers of trolls. Stunned for a moment, their eyes were fixated on the walls momentarily before turning and running back into their houses, bolting their doors shut and some, cowering under tables.
King Roald had sent out orders long ago. Should there really be an attack on the city, the people were to stay at home, lock up all windows and doors, and crouch under something solid- tables, chairs or beds. Extra food provisions had been rationed to each family to be untouched unless in the face of war. The people obeyed the commands dutifully and fearfully, parents clinging onto their children and refusing to separate while the men took out kitchen knives, dusty swords and long forgotten shields for defense.
Back in the castle, the king had heard of the attempt to break through the walls and imminent breech of the defenses. Calmly, he ordered a meeting with his supervisors and higher-ranked knights.
"The wall will fall," King Roald said detachedly.
"That's impossible!" Alex cried, skeptical, "the walls are almost impenetrable. They're made of wood and metal and have been standing for eons- a little bit of banging will not topple it."
"The wall will fall," King Roald said again, adamant. "It's only a matter of time. Trolls are remarkably strong and the walls have wasted away through time and under the constant attack of the elements- they are greatly weakened."
"Then what will we do?" Prince Jonathan asked.
There was a pause for a moment. "We'll try to defend the castle as best as we can," King Roald said softly, his tone sad. "We try our best and hope for a miracle."
There was stunned silence.
"Jonathan, get someone to close the gates of the castle. Get archers to surround the gates. Arm all who knows how to fight. It's going to be a long day, gentleman."
The men scuttled out of the room and for the next few hurried minutes, pandemonium ruled the castle as the servants and noble women cowered and shrieked in horror. They were calmly ushered to rooms in the dungeons, which were dank and damp and generally unpleasant. The dungeons were guarded carefully, by some knights, the pages and the squires, who took the ominous fight pretty composedly, their faces pale but determined.
The others, the veterans and the younger knights gathered around the top of the castle, bows in their hands and the arrows fixed to the front, awaiting the thumping footsteps of trolls. Roger was one of them, standing at the corner, arrow in hand and shadows hiding his malicious smile. It was the perfect ploy, a foolproof plan and indeed, only miracles could save the castle now.
The sound of distant footsteps started to ring- soft at first, barely audible, but slowly and steadily getting louder and louder. Surprisingly, there were no screams- just stunned silence and the sound of metal against gravel, the sound of footsteps, the sound of war…
And all this while, Alanna and Leo rode.
"Nazga, walk faster," Farga, a troll barked nasally.
"I can't wait," Nazga replied, "By the death of Mithros, if I could, I'll run."
"Don't be thick, fool," Farga cried, "the man said to stall for awhile."
"What does he know about blood and vengeance?" Nazga snorted.
"Enough to grant it to us," Farga said, his tone awed.
"Can't we just bang through the gates and kill everyone?" Farga complained. "It's faster, and I've waited all my life for this, I can't stand it anymore!" Farga declared, stealing glances at the neat houses to his side, drool dripping from his black lips. "Just one child…"
"Don't do anything! Remember, the man said to kill no one but the ones in the castle. He said 'untouched' remember?" Farga barked furiously.
"But think of the blood, Farga, the smell of it… It tastes better than the she-troll's cooking…"
"Don't be a fool," Farga cried.
"Well," Nazga made up his mind suddenly, "I'm going to steal one now."
There was the swishing of the axe and the sound of metal banging against something hard- Nazga's skull to be exact, and the troll fell, his head broken and blood oozing out of it.
Farga smiled coldly and continued marching.
The trolls came into sight. They carried big and thick battering rams, similar to those they had used earlier. The wrecking of the great wall had been the biggest obstacle and the castle gates were nothing in comparison. With ease, they lifted the ram up and grunted as they ran it through the wooden gates, which shook as a response. The whole castle felt it and shivers ran down their spines.
"Fire," Prince Jonathan cried as the archers released their arrows, the edge finding their mark on some trolls. They gave out horrified grunts and tumbled to the floor.
However, the arrows were useless in making a dent in the flanks of trolls and the attack on the gates continued ceaselessly. However, they constantly rained down, and occasionally, the cries of dying trolls could be heard. It was disconcerting in a way, to see them die, while their comrades looked at them dispassionately and without emotion- as though their death meant nothing.
"On three, harder this time," Farga commanded. "ONE, TWO, THREE!"
The impact of hundreds of tones against a wooden wall that surrounded a castle had finally happened and the wall broke into splinters, collapsing under the weight. There was silence for a moment- both the men in the castle as well as the trolls outside the walls stared at the broken wall for awhile, stunned, before the triumphant cry of the trolls filled the air.
The people shivered- in their houses, crouched under solid surfaces, the knights, who had tried valiantly to fight, the women in the dungeons- they heard the revengeful cry of jubilance and they shivered.
The true fight had thus begun.
The trolls rushed into the castle with no order or system. Instead, it seemed as though they were scrambling in, eagerly claiming a prize. The trolls had waited years to execute the perfect revenge- and success was just before them. Laughing in triumph and malice, they stormed in, their glints intent. Trolls were not by nature patient creatures- and the thought of bloodshed was too enticing for them to queue up. Instead, they ignored all orders from their supervisors and ran in haphazardly.
To any other army around the world, such rowdy behavior would have resulted in an imminent defeat. However, in such a case, the trolls had a reason to be exhilarated. They were up against an unprepared opponent with much smaller numbers. Frankly, the troll's sheer bulk and numbers were enough to smash the castle into smithereens and they knew it. The Tortallans knew that too- and that was the reason why they were so worried and fearful. Their best hopes had been that the wall withstood the barrage of attacks and the trolls would leave soon after- defeated. However, that was not to be.
Jorge held a sword in one hand tightly. Sweat rolled down his forehead ceaselessly. He took out a clean handkerchief from his pocket to wipe away the perspiration before standing in line again. The trolls were coming- he could feel the vibration of the floor shaking and hear the thundering of their heavy footsteps. A shiver ran down his spine- the fight before him was going to be bloody. No doubt that the casualties would be high.
"Goddess bless," he whispered, bracing himself.
"You'll be fine," George Cooper said, a grim smile plastered on his face. The king of thieves had arrived at the castle minutes before the gates had been bolted, eager to render his services. The king had frowned at him disapprovingly, but in the light of such events, the noble could do little but to thank George for his services. The war was looming before them and they had to do with anyone they could get- even thieves and outlaws.
"Aim for the neck," George whispered, "they're a wee bit weaker there."
Jorge nodded fearfully.
The sounds grew louder and the vibrations more rapid. The trolls were approaching- and suddenly, the arrived into the throne room, where the last defenses of the castle were congregated. Knights, squires, pages and even the daily helps held swords or axes in their hands, their face grim and some quivering in fright. Even the king was not spared- as he drew out his old trusty sword from its unused scabbard.
The first clashes sounded. Metal stuck against metal, the sound reverberating around the hall, echoes following after. It was ominous.
"FOR TORTALL!" Someone shouted as the knights ran forward.
Feeling encouraged, Jorge followed suit.
Alex and Gary
Alex was among the first few to rush forward, and closely beside him was Gary. Swords in hand, they hacked their way through the first rows, blindly stabbing trolls that were near them, in a both bloody as well as messy way. It was nevertheless, effective as their swords managed to puncture certain vital spots, killing a few trolls effectively and leaving the rest ineffective as fighters.
The two were fearful, of course, and their actions were stemmed from panic, fear, and above all, love for their country. Training mates from young and now, soldiers in battle, they moved together, gelled closely and their actions protecting both themselves as well as their partner. They were effective together- and left many trolls wounded or dead.
"Gary," Alex shouted, "to your right."
Gary turned his head barely to his right, only to see a cub hovering dangerously over his head. Letting out a shout of horror, he ducked, and barely missed a whack on his head. Staring furiously at the troll who had dared to attack him, Gary's usual calm composure diminished as he gave a growl worthy of a wolf. With a quick flash of his sword, he stabbed it into the troll's stomach and heaved in a deep breath as he pushed the blade through the tough and thick skin of the troll.
"Serves you right," Gary said irately.
They worked their way through the crowd. Around them, the constant sound of metal against metal could be heard, and the air was occasionally punctuated by the pain-filled screams that emanated from a person's dying breath. It was heartbreaking, knowing that somewhere in the throngs of fighting armed men and trolls, someone was breathing their last air and you would never know, till the whole battle was over who it was.
However, Gary and Alex fought on, watching for their partner's backs and always vigilant. Their training had been tough and at times, painful, and the results could be seen on the battle ground.
A particularly huge troll came to stand before Alex, who gulped. His hands were trembling slightly- as he stared into the vengeful eyes of a half-insane and furious troll. Gary, hearing the sudden silence that fell over his friend, turned. He too gave a small gulp, but instead of running away, he stood his ground.
"On the count of three- one, two, THREEE!" he shouted.
Gary and Alex attacked together at once. Gary took the left side while Alex took the right. Stabbing rapid shots at the troll, they soon took him down as the huge creature bumbled around clumsily. Trolls were known for their strength and not their agility. The sheer acrobatic skills required to duck two swords was too much for it to take, and in the end, it fell.
Alex sighed in relief.
"Wish we had Alan- no Alanna here," Gary grunted suddenly.
Alex gave a bark-like laugh. "She would put us to shame."
"I'm sure she'll come," Gary said, "when has she never?"
Alex looked around him. "I hope she comes- and soon, else there'll be naught left to help."
George Cooper had come of his own free will.
As an outlaw and one of the most wanted men in the city, coming to the castle to help could result in his capture by the king's guards. However, in light of recent events, he felt that his past 'crimes' could be forgotten should he render his services. Truth was, he was there to inform either Alanna- or Thom- who was the cause of the whole battle.
It was Roger of Conte.
His spies had come back with startling news that the Duke had been acquainted with the trolls and in fact, they were allies. There was a weak spot in the magical barrier that surrounded Corus, or so they claimed, for it was impossible for Roger to meet the trolls unless there was one. They had a good idea where it was, but it was impossible for them to pick out the exact spot. It would require them to walk close to the magical barrier, which was something that led to unwanted consequences.
There was no one else he trusted- he only believed in the Trebond twins. After all, all other occupants in the castle worked for the king, and the king would never believe that his nephew was the cause of all this trouble. No, George had to inform either Alanna or Thom. The only problem was that Thom was nowhere to be found and Alanna had been gone for weeks.
Somewhere inside him, George believed that Alanna would return, or was on her way back to the castle. It was unlike her not to help in the face of such dire need and nothing would have stopped her.
Perhaps he was so lost in thought, so busy pondering about the dilemma he had that he did not pay attention until it was too late. Staring at the bloodied floor, he saw the ominous silhouette of… a troll. Horrified, he whirled around, only to see a huge cub looming above him. He tried to stop it, raising his arms above his head to protect his fragile brain but against the sheer might of trolls, it was nothing and he heard a loud thud.
George fell to the ground. His hand had blocked off much of the impact but it had hit his head. Blood started to ooze out of the wound, slowly but steadily. George was numb all over- there was no pain whatsoever, nothing but realization and regret. Death was imminent, it was only a matter of time and George closed his eyes, peace descending over him gradually.
It was then when he felt someone shake him.
Jorge watched George fell in a strange sort of morbid fascination. To Jorge, a commoner, George was something like his personal idol. To king of thieves was renowned among the lower class- for his generosity and benevolence. However, watching the older man falling to the ground woke Jorge up and startled him out of his stupor. Rushing forward, he shook George frenziedly.
"Jorge?" George said weakly as his eyes flung open.
"Yes, sir," Jorge said, his voice a whisper.
"Ddo me a favor," George said with his last breaths, "tell Alanna or Thom that it was- Roger…"
Jorge nodded silently and morosely.
"And don't call me Sir," George said suddenly, with a small smile, before his eyes sealed- for the last time.
Jorge stared at the fallen body of the king of thieves for a moment and he got up.
When he was enlisted to work near the borders, he had never expected to end up fighting in a full fledged battle- against trolls, and in the losing side at that. However, fate had brought him here, and he was here for a purpose. His mother would be furious but Jorge was determined to do his best, or at least- to escape alive.
He had had second thoughts about fighting the battle minutes before. Blood stained the walls and the floors in lurid red patterns and the mere sight of it made him nauseas and queasy in the stomach. It was his first- and hopefully last- battle. However, now he had a task to do, and do it he would.
He had to find Lady Alanna or Thom of Trebond.
Alanna and Leo arrived at the city gates in trepidation. Throughout their journey to the castle, they had heard from various people about what had happened to the castle. Horrified and somewhat guilty, Alanna had quickened her riding pace. However, now that she was before the castle, a sense of sinister and ominous doom descended upon her.
The city had been surprisingly quiet, but from the castle, the sounds of war could be heard.
Following Leo, she entered through the main gates, only to see that the throne room was currently in the middle of a full fledged battle. Metal against metal, sword against cub, fists or legs against body- the men of Tortall were pitched against the exiled trolls. It was not a good combination. She was petrified- there seemed to be so much blood and so much fallen bodies.
She was about to rush into battle, as Leo had already done, when she heard a noise.
"Lady Alanna!" Someone cried. A man from the cavalry rushed towards her, his face glum but resolute.
"George," his voice fell to a sad whisper, "told me to tell you this. It was Roger."
Realization dawned on her. "Where's George?" she asked.
For awhile, she stood there, dumb, and then, the anger set in. Unadulterated anger surged through her veins as her heart started to pound furiously. Her eyes glinted with malice and her fists tightened into balls- her knuckles a pearly white.
Without a look at the battle, she rushed past everyone, ducking occasionally and throwing out her sword when she needed to. She knew where Roger would be- and she wanted a showdown.
The final Showdown
Alanna banged open the door rashly, all logic fleeing her mind. She was right, of course, and there, in the middle of the room, sitting rather comfortably on a chair was Roger. He stared at her with surprise, stunned momentarily, before smiling rather cruelly.
"Why am I not surprised that you are here?" he said benignly.
"You…you… evil… unbelievable…" Alanna stuttered, seething with anger.
"I knew you would come. It is just like you to meddle around with affairs not of your own. But that is not the point. I see you have something that I want…" Roger said, eyeing Amayaa, which was hung by Alanna's side. The lust on his face was evident.
"I will never let you get it," Alanna said furiously, unsheathing Lightning.
She ran forward wildly, her sword flying before her, aiming at Roger's heart. However, a sudden burst of magical energy from the sorcerer sent her flying.
Roger gave a laugh. "It is foolish of you," he said softly, "to not learn more about your gift. Rather stupid actually, and it will be your down fall." Roger paused for a moment. "You are very talented you know," he added suddenly, blunt. "As your brother is," he said- bitterly.
Alanna eyed him curiously. Bitterness? However, she shrugged it off and instead, got to her feet. "Let's fight," she said, "winner takes the sword."
Roger gave another one of his infuriating laughs. "I'm not that thick," he said, chuckling, "any fool knows that you are the most talented swordsman, or should I say swordswoman in this city? If we have to fight, I'll do it my way."
He walked forward, slowly. Alanna found that she could not move- it seemed as though her feet were glued to the ground. Staring in horror- her senses were enlightened. She could hear the pounding of her anxious heart as well as the sounds of his footsteps. They were soft and silent, but to her, it seemed as though they were drum beats resonating in an enclosed room. She could hear the sound of wind rushing past her ears, unremittingly, perpetually. She could taste tension in the air, and failure? This was the end- and she could do naught but stand and watch. Furious at herself, she tried to move again, but this time, a rush of pain ran up her spine. She winced but did not scream. There was an enchantment on her.
Roger approached. He gave a satisfied smirk.
"I've waited so long to do this…" he said softly and half insanely.
Alanna gave a sigh. "Why do you do this? Why do you do this to me? Do you hate me or something?"
Roger growled, "I don't hate you. Do you know how lucky you are? How fortunate you are?"
"You'll never know. I will never tell you why. But just keep that in mind- despite all your self-pity and misery, you're still lucky, so blessed. You just don't know it. But it's too late anyway- this is the end. Goodbye, Alanna. You've been a rather exciting but nevertheless, inept opponent."
It was then, however, that something happened. Just as Roger reached out for the sword that lay redundant by Alanna's side, just as his hands curled around the hilt, there was a loud bang and he was thrown to the ground. Alanna stared at him in surprise for a mere second before she found that she could move again. Unsheathing Amayaa, she struggled to hold it in her arms. It was vibrating ceaselessly and it shook so furiously that it seemed to want to get out of her hands. It was letting out a high-pitched ringing sound and it's blade was now a bright blue. For a moment, Alanna had no idea what to do. What was happening to the sword? But the sword could not be held down any longer- it's shaking was now to great, it could resemble an earthquake.
Alanna released her hold on it and almost fell backwards as she lost her balance.
Roger gave a scream.
The sword flew forward and landed itself stuck in the middle of Roger's chest.
There was a wheeze from Roger before… before…
The Amayaa had killed Roger. Alanna started at it in disbelief for a moment before joy started to mount in her heart. She had done it! Feeling relieved, she drew Amayaa out of the sword and left the room, ready to fight.
She was about to go when she heard her name being called. It was Thom. Running towards him, she said, "I killed him, Thom. It was Roger. Amayaa killed him."
Thom brushed it of, not surprised. Instead, he turned to her urgently. "You have to use it, Alanna. USE AMAYAA TO STOP THE BATTLE!" he screamed.
Alanna stared at him confused. "But how? And why?"
Thom did not say anything. Instead, he dragged her by the hand to stare at the throne room.
It was a miserable sight. Dead bodies were flung on the floor and blood coated the tiles. The number of fighters had severely diminished and it seemed as though the trolls were winning. Somewhere, she spotted King Jonathan surrounded by trolls, and he was slowly walking backwards in horror, trapped.
She had to do it, and she knew it.
Thom urged her, panicked. "Just tell it to do it! To summon the spirits! Just TRY!" he shouted.
Alanna nodded dumbly before unsheathing Amayaa again. She said to it fearfully, "Could you summon the spirits?"
Thom gave a groan. "Alanna," he said impatiently, "with this kind of tone you can't get anything."
Alanna nodded again. Concentrating, she ran a finger down the runes on its blade. She stared furiously at the gems on the hilt and felt power bubble beneath her, her inactive gift coming to life. She tried again. "SUMMON THE SPIRITS!"
She felt stupid saying that. It was a rather naïve as well as childish thing to say and for a moment, she half expected it to remain still but then….
There was a sudden surge of power everywhere. The sword started to rattle and rise into midair. Alanna and Thom took a few steps backwards, staring at the sword with both curiousity and fear. The sword started to spin in circles, starting slow and getting faster and faster and faster. There was a loud bang and suddenly, translucent wraith like mist started to emerge from its tip.
They descended to the battle ground, which had stopped its action. The battleground was silent and still and the mist flew down, circling around the trolls, which were too stupid and too stunned to react. There were a few muffled cries as everyone watched the spectacle in fear. Suddenly, the sword stopped spinning and vibrating. Instead, he remained still in the air, as every troll was surrounded by wraiths. There was a sudden tension that gripped the hearts of all in the hall- what was going to happen.
There was a loud BANG- and the trolls disappeared.
Alanna stared for a moment before slumping to the ground in a dead faint.
Roger was dead- and hence, his enchantment on the walls of Corus was removed.
Amayaa worked and the trolls had disappeared.
It was finished.
And somewhere in another divine realm, the Gods were smiling.
George, as well as the other fallen, was buried just outside the castle and as a sign of respect and mourning, the entire city was decked in black for a month. Alanna herself mourned for two months- the loss of her friend had taken its toll on her and after awhile, she left Corus to return to the Shang village with Leo.
Thom started to teach other children with gifts and worked in the city's brand new university, in which he was in charge of the magical department. He rose to become the most famous sorcerer in all the lands.
Jonathan eventually got over Alanna and found another girl, in which he married and ruled with her after his father's retirement.
Alanna never really forgave Jonathan but their relationship was greatly improved after a few visits to the castle. She also got along well with her other friends from the past, like Gary.
After a brief courtship, Alanna and Leo were married (finally) and they spent their time between the Shang village and the castle.
And what happened to Amayaa?
It was a bitter cold morning. Wind blew ceaselessly against all and the chill was to the bones- and Alanna hated it.
She was wrapped thickly in warm furs as she walked up the cliff. The sun seemed to be hidden beneath puffy dark clouds and there was no warmth emanating from it. Groaning and complaining, she strode up the barren hill, no trees sheltering her from the cold.
She walked towards the edge of the cliff and unsheathed Amayaa.
For a moment, she stared at it, running her finger down its blade, staring at the jeweled hilt and the intricate designs on it. For a moment, she hesitated but she had made up her mind and there was to be no return.
She gave a small smile and threw it over the cliff.
She stared at it as the tip plunged into the water, like a body splitting the surface into two. The ripples swam away from it and there were small splashes. She stared at it as it slowly disappeared, sinking to the bottom of the ocean. She had tied a small rock to it and it would hopefully, drop to deep crevices and the unknown abyss in the sea, never to be found again.
Amayaa had done its final work.
She smiled at the stillness of the ocean for a moment before turning around.
She never looked back.
That's it. That's the end of my longest completed fic and my first Tamora Pierce fic! After nine months, 21 chapters and thirty thousand plus words, I finally completed it! I feel kind of sad, because I did enjoy writing it! However, I can now start on something new- so watch out for it!
I would like to thank:
EVERYONE WHO REVIEWED!
Mage Light, AJ 4EVA, Jaid Ziaen, Imogenhm, Kore Yan, Lioness Fury, TP Fan333, Emiliana Keledry and finally, SAM!
And my sister!
THANK YOU ALL!
What's coming up
I intend to write a one-shot fic about Roger, as a companion to this fic, but It can be read separately. After that, I'll take a short break from writing TP fics and then, I'll return with my next fic:
The Riddle of Dreams
Starring a new character! (It's a Tamora Pierce fic)
So watch out for it! I can promise you one thing about The Riddle of Dreams. The updates will be slow, because I do have other fics going on, (I like to do multiple fics at one go. Bad habit but I can't break it. BTW, I have a few HP fics going on too so ahem. hint) but I will try my best to make it of good quality. There will be longer chapters: about 3000 words per chapter at a minimum.
And once again,