NaNo 2011: Chapter 22 – Cameron and the King

Cameron watched the battle unfold below him, a sick feeling in his chest.  The sight of Evelyn again had cut through the haze of power in his mind, and he suddenly was filled with despair.  This was his fault!  It had always been his fault.  If he hadn’t loved Evelyn—if he hadn’t taken Baltasar’s soul—if he hadn’t!  None of this would have happened.  He stood next to the White King in his long black robes, and realized that Josiah had been right all along.  He was a traitor; he had been one all along, even if he had never physically done the deed.  He had never been strong enough to stand up for himself, and for what he believed in.

He watched as Evelyn opened the portal to the underworld, and as the beasts residing therein swarmed forth towards him.  He watched the grey reaver slice off Josiah’s leg, and physically flinched when Percival crushed Evelyn’s body beneath his club.  Even as the White King threw up spells and incantations to protect them both, Cameron stood dumbly watching.

Though the ghola was dead and the portal was closed, the battle was far from over.  Most of the grey reavers had been killed, but the monsters from the underworld did not much seem to care who they killed.  They came in all shapes and sizes: tiny little insect-like creatures that burrowed into the skulls of their victims and carved pathways through their brains; huge abominations that looked as though several different creatures had been smashed together by some infantile god; floating eyes that fixed men with baleful stares and sent them gibbering into madness.  The Chimerae were largely immune to many of these creatures, but there were plenty of other muscle-bound hulks and Tao-wielding demons to keep them busy.

The earth rumbled as the White King threw his hands into the air.  Deep fissures opened in the ground, called into being by royal command, swallowing men, Chimerae, and demons alike.  Tornadoes touched down around Castle Whitefall, throwing men into the chasms that had been opened.  Bolts of lightning thundered from the sky.  The earth trembled again, as though the White King were struggling to tear it apart with the force of his will.

Cameron watched all of this with glazed-over eyes, as though it were just a dream.  Suddenly, a hideous man covered in burns appeared at the top of the battlements.  “Cameron!” Josiah rasped.  “What are you doing?  You have to get out of here!”

The White King saw Josiah and scowled.  “Fool!” he said.  “Cameron serves us now.  You have no sway over him, Eagle!”  The King idly tossed a bolt of energy at him, and Josiah fell off the wall, plummeting to the ground.  The White King began casting another spell, but before he could complete it, Josiah flew back over the wall, giant angelic wings sprouting from his back, one remaining leg dangling limply in the air.

“You cannot dispose of me that easily, King!” Josiah said bitterly.  “It is your fault Evelyn came back as she did!”

A fiery whip lashed out from Josiah’s hand and made to snake around the King’s body, but the King waved his hand and the whip vanished.  The King yelled with rage, and sent bolts of lightning flying at Josiah, but he flew around to the far side of the Castle, screaming with mad glee.  “If you want me, you’ll have to catch me, King!” he shouted.

At that instant, three massive Chimerae burst over the castle walls in front of Cameron and the King, long, bladed scythes swinging through the air, a look of fury in their eyes.  The three of them raised their voices in an unearthly chant, building up the forces of Tao around them, and the White King was thrown off the battlements.  There was a sound like an enormous balloon imploding upon itself, and the ground shook as something slammed into it.  Cameron rushed to the edge and peered over, and just about lost his head as an enormous blast of fire came up from the courtyard below, where a powerful White Dragon sat, deep eyes scowling at the world, and daring it to respond.  The White King’s true form, brought upon him by the influx of hundreds of people’s souls into his own, was revealed.

The Dragon roared, and the entire battlefield once again paused at the sound.  Its massive wings beat against the air, and another burst of fire blasted from its mouth, scorching the three Chimerae that had been attacking.  The Dragon took to the skies, and in the instant before it had risen beyond Cameron’s reach, he realized what he must do.  Cameron dove off the battlements and landed on the Dragon’s back, clutching on to the hardened white scales with all his might.  The Dragon made no response; Cameron suspected it didn’t even realize he was there.

The Dragon began circling the battlefield, devouring Chimerae, men, and demon, in search of his prey; but in the confusion, Josiah had disappeared.

The battle raged on; the afternoon turned to night, though no one noticed.  The air was thick with smoke, and with the stench of blood and demon.  Except for the odd straggler, the Chimerae had managed to destroy most of the demons that had come through the portal Evelyn had opened, and were now concentrating on the King-turned-Dragon.  Many were lost, but still Cameron held on.  He noticed that with each Chimerae the dragon consumed, some small wounds on the Dragon’s body closed.  It was as though the Dragon were able to feed on the Tao-force of the Chimerae directly to strengthen and heal itself.

Josiah remained hidden; Idriys, hopeful that he might lessen the horrors of that day, moved from person to person, from Chimera to Chimera on the battlefield, attempting to heal some of them, and dull the pain of those beyond healing.  His efforts were largely ineffectual.

It was nearly midnight when the last of the Chimerae had either been killed or fled the battlefield.  The White Dragon landed on the broken, torn battlements of Castle Whitefall, and surveyed the countryside.  It let out a roar, and spewed fire into the night sky, when it noticed a small figure walking across the battlefield towards it.  It was Josiah.  The Dragon took off towards the figure, blasting another inferno through the air as it flew.  As it got close to Josiah, the Dragon let out another deafening roar as challenge, and shot a burst of flame at him.  Josiah threw up a defensive shield around him, protecting himself from the flames.  The Dragon roared again, and blew more fire at him, but Josiah’s shield held firm.

“What are you going to do now, King?” Josiah asked mockingly.  “You can’t kill me, and I can’t kill you.  We are at an impasse.”

The great Dragon began summoning the force of Tao around him; the smoke and clouds began swirling down towards him as he did so.  Josiah’s voice rose to the heavens and his hands wove complicated sigils through the air as he tried to counter the work of the Dragon.  The tension in the air was almost palpable.  A small black sphere appeared between the two of them, and began drawing in other objects to it; dust and water began rushing into the sphere as it got pushed, slowly one way, and then the other, back and forth between the two combatants.

Suddenly Cameron knew what he had to do.  He reached into the pouch of Tao that the King had given him when he stole Baltasar’s soul, and crushed a leaf and ate it.  Somehow, in the following vision, the White King had appeared!  The Tao was not just linked to Baltasar, it was also linked to the King!  And that was how the Dragon could be defeated now.

Without quite knowing how, Cameron forced himself back into that vision.  Once again, he found himself in the great, endless plane of white.  A few yards away from him lay Baltasar’s crumpled, withered body, now in severe decay.  Some huge, enormous monster was breathing loudly, and Cameron looked frantically around to see what new threat was attacking, before he realized that he was hearing himself.  Even through his vision, he could faintly hear what was going on in the real world – the deep roars of the Dragon, and Josiah’s muffled shouts as they fought back and forth.

But where was the White King?  The last time Cameron was here, he had just appeared; Cameron didn’t know how to find him.  Cameron took off running, unsure of exactly where he was going, unsure if it was the right direction.  He stopped and turned around, running the other direction for a short time; he had to find the King!  He had to be here somewhere, and time was running out.  Somehow he knew that Josiah’s defenses would not last much longer.  Frantically, he ran, desperately hoping to see something, anything, in this pale land of nothingness.

Then, off in the distance, he saw it; a small figure, standing against the endless white backdrop.  Cameron sprinted towards the figure, and as he got closer, he saw that it was indeed the White King.  The King seemed distant somehow, as though his mind was very far away.  Cameron tackled him.

At Castle Whitefall, the Dragon flinched, and some of the pressure on Josiah let up temporarily.  Josiah had nearly been crushed by the weight of the Tao-forces bearing down upon him, but in the slight respite he caught his breath and prepared for another onslaught.

Cameron wrapped his hands around the White King’s throat and began to choke him.  The Dragon teetered back and forth, and made several retching sounds, as though it were struggling to breathe.  It twisted its neck back and forth, trying to shake off the invisible bands that were constricting its neck, and its eyes lit up as it suddenly realized that Cameron’s body was still on its back.  It could save itself!  The Dragon slapped at Cameron’s body with its wings, knocking him to the ground.  In the endless White Plane, Cameron was thrown off the White King’s body as though he had been knocked off by a stampeding horse.  The Dragon, hissing with anger, rose up on its hind legs and sent a jet of flame at Cameron’s body, then slammed its forelegs down on his body, crushing it.  There were several cracks as most of Cameron’s ribs shattered, and in the white plane, Cameron rolled over on the ground and blood began to seep out of wounds and cuts that had appeared on his body.

As the Dragon reared up for one final strike, the meteor that Josiah summoned fell from the heavens, smacking the dragon directly between the eyes while it was distracted with Cameron’s body, and buried itself deep in the Dragon’s brain.  For a few moments nothing happened; then, slowly the Dragon’s body began to topple over.  Josiah watched as it fell to the ground, gathering speed before finally slamming into the earth with a loud thud.

Josiah ran to Cameron’s broken body; Cameron looked up at him, and said, “I… am sorry, Josiah.”  Cameron took one final, ragged breath, and then slumped into Death.  Josiah said nothing, but carefully closed Cameron’s gaping eyes and rested his head softly on the ground.

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