We moved in abosolute silence. My mind wandered on Alissa, our parting kiss, a final farewell. I swallowed, forcing myself to brush the thought aside - we had to focus on the business before us.
"Here we split," I stopped Tony, grabbing his arm. I didn't like the thought of separating, but he had insisted and, despite the danger of being apart, I also believed the idea quite good and efficient.
He nodded gravely. His excited, fiery eyes had cooled to a cool, solemn darkness that made me shiver, his expression serious and grim. I offered him my hand, which he held firmly, "Thank you, Andrion. I cannot express how much this means to me."
I tightened my grip before releasing it, "I understand. This is what is right. Now, be careful."
All being said, all prepared for, we nodded to one another once more and went our separate ways. We both knew our own way as well as we knew each other, wandering the halls and nooks and places for countless years. Drawing the cloak over my head, I set off down the familiar passageways, mainly empty, going, for the most part, unnoticed. I said a silent prayer, hoping that Anthony was having as much good fortune as I was having thus far.
A strong hand snatched my arm, reaching from the shadows, my heart involuntarily jumping into my throat. "Andrion?" came the quiet whisper, a familiar voice that registered instantaneously. I turned sharply, looking directly into the eyes of a former friend, gentle, searching, yet mantained the death's grip on my arm. He served under Alezae as I had, brothers in our league of guardians.
He did not allow me the answer, eyes deep with fear, with concern, with anxiety, voice throbbing with urgency. "Leave now!" he said firmly. "They know you are coming - Leave!"
"No," I replied gravely. "This is what I must do, Lyser, and not even you can stop me. You should have escaped while you had the chance. This whole place...it is corrupt...corrupted by darkness! Will you just watch as the universe is swallowed in shadow?"
Lyser drew a long, pale sword, "I am sorry, my dear old friend. My vow, my allegiances, still lie with Alezae, and I must fulfill my duty. I was set here, to await you're arrival. Do not make me fight you, take you in. Escape while you can!"
"I am sorry," I pulled my own weapon, swallowing. A glimpse of Alissa passed before my eye - the flutter of her lashes, the warmth of her eyes, the brilliance of her love. But, no, I could not think of her now, could not think of myself.
"You have missed your opportunity...," Lyser said slowly, sadly, and before I could blink he threw himself at me in a furious rage, wielding his long silver sword. Nearly knocked off my feet, I was only able to throw up my sword in defense just to protect against his brutal attack. Though it did not take long for me to regain my balance, and we engaged in a complex dance, the striking of metal-against-metal like silver streaks of lightning, echoing and rolling down the halls like thunder.
Finally I knocked the weapon from the master swordsman's hands in one fierce blow. I lowered my own sword, no intentions to hurt my old friend, the both of us tired and panting, stained with sweat. Yet I realized that he would not give up, wrestling me to the ground and ripping the sword from my own hand with unexpected strength. "I cannot allow you to pass....," he grunted through his teeth, reaching for the nearest sword as we kicked and punched at each other like boys. "...they'll kill me....,"
By now sympathy was long gone and a clock was ticking loudly in my head. Get out of here, you're running out of time....everyone else will hear the commotion and there'll be no chance of getting out of here... Remembering the daggers strapped to my waist, I fumbled to reach for one, only to find myself pinned tightly against the ground, unable to grasp at one of the deadly blades. I pushed against his grip, faltering ever so slightly, closing my eyes....digging, searching deep inside me for the power, the magic to release myself from this human chain.
Lyser was no idiot. Realizing what I was doing, he skillfully grabbed my head and banged it against the hard ground. Everything blurred inside me, thoughts mashing, blending together, my head throbbing with a searing pain. I tried to focus, to push through the dense fog clouding my senses, only to have him repeat the same thing...slowly, I was losing myself...losing myself to the darkness....
Andrion! I felt the warm tug of her connection, the strength of her love, filling me, every limb, every vein. Don't give up! Let me help you... I was unable to protest as she drained valuable energy from herself into me, putting strength where there was weakness. I began returning back to life, feeling the searing, sudden power gathering like a storm. Thinking that I was out, that his fight, his duty, was complete, Lyser softened his grip, breathing heavily. I could hear him, vaguely, murmuring between struggled breaths, "Andrion...my friend, I am so sorry...you made me do this to you...so...sorry..."
Feeling all the power, I leapt to my feet, snatching my sword in one quick motion. Lyser looked to me in shock, but it soon faded. Remaining in an exhausted heap on the floor, he stared into my eyes, shaking his head wryly, "I should've known that you wouldn't have given up so quickly."
I stifled a small smile, "I shouldn't have underestimated your fighting skills, old friend."
Lyser grinned, leaning back against the wall, closing his eyes, "Shouldn't you be somewhere, Andrion?"
But I was already gone, racing down the halls with renewed energy; quiet, fleet, longstrided steps, attempting to make up for the lost time. There was shuffling around nearby, people alerted by the sounds of our fight, but I escaped their notice as well, continuing with all haste and determination. I knew exactly where I was going.
I walked out into the open, meeting the eyes of the former holder of my heart. Alezae was sitting calmly on the throne. She was balancing a silvery orb in her hand, smiling coldly at me - a smile that reached its chilly hand right down into my stomach.