Chapter 1

A Knight's Resolve, Part 3

The most skilled archers in Valerius let loose their bows and hundreds of arrows whistled through the air. The beast howled, confirming their accuracy. But two fast volleys later and the monster was upon them. It crashed through the first line of shields and into the center of the company. The Knight Aveline was desperate to provide her soldiers a chance to recover and stepped forward to confront the beast.

The monster paused and seemed for a moment to recognize her, then resumed its vicious attack. Possessed by unshakable resolve, Aveline deflected the monster’s frenzied talons with her legendary sword, Durendal. Shards of obsidian rained to the ground as her magic blade did its work. Shield-bearers, swordsmen, and spear-wielders dispersed and encircled their furious quarry, waiting for any chance to strike.

Frustrated by the Knight’s defiance, the monster roared again. It lashed out in every direction, intent on wounding as many as possible with each swing of its long arms. Aveline leaped backward as knife-edged fingers reached for her. Archers continued to empty their quivers, and when those were exhausted, arrows deflected by armor were collected from the ground. 

Healers rushed among the melee, administering what aid they could to the wounded, chanting prayers and wrapping injuries. Keen howls of pain were smothered by discipline and pride among the riotous cacophony of combat.

The shadows that enveloped the creature filled the space like smoke. The heat of the battle was overwhelming. When a fighter fell, reinforcements from outside the crucible joined the fray. There were no screams of despair, no sobs of fear. Only shouts of command and lamentations of failure. Chaos reigned, but every warrior knew their responsibility to see the task was done.

Though the army fought valiantly, the Knight Aveline feared the mystical beast could very well outlast them all. She devised a plan and called for spear-wielders and shield-bearers.

Within seconds one hundred of each stood before her. She informed them of her plan and deployed them to opposite edges of the cavernous space, where they took position to either side of their enemy. As the shield-bearers set their bodies like stones behind their armaments, the spear-wielders hammered long spikes into the obsidian floor. To these, they tied the long ropes attached to each of their majestic spears.

The dark beast seemed bemused by this change in tactics and paused in its destruction. For a better opening, the Knight Aveline could not have asked. At her ferocious command, the shield-bearers parted and spear-wielders threw their weapons harder and faster than they had ever thrown before.

The hundred spears struck true and pierced the monster’s shadow legs. A deafening, anguished scream burst forth as it attempted to retreat, but escape was impossible. The spears’ tethers held fast and in its frantic urgency, the monster crashed to the blood-soaked floor. Her comrades breathed relief, but the Knight Aveline knew the fight was unfinished. Even now the murderous demon, its six eyes burning with rage, sliced at the restraints.

Aveline looked to her spear-wielders and signaled to attack again. New spears launched into both arms of the beast and as it struggled against the humans, hundreds of soldiers piled onto each line. Hundreds more of those remaining moved in close to continue the attack, stabbing and chopping wherever there was an opening between the obsidian plates that covered its body.

The Knight Aveline joined in the frenzy. Her legendary sword shattered obsidian and cut deep into shadow. Sure-footed and bold, she leapt onto the beast’s incapacitated arm and ran upward onto its heaving back. The soldiers erupted with elation and cheered for their hero. Darkness writhed beneath her feet and wherever she stepped, it rose like smoke. But Aveline would not be deterred from her mission.

Her heart heavy with the trust of her honorable compatriots, the Knight Aveline raised Durendal high above her head. Without hesitation, she brought the blade down with all of the strength she could manage. It was enough. The sword’s indomitable, enchanted edge sliced into the beast’s neck, then parted its head from its body. Glowing eyes were extinguished, arms and legs were still. After hours of fighting and untold casualties, the beast was dead.

Aveline gave silent thanks to her father and teacher, Great Knight Roland.

The massive body of the beast began to evaporate into shadow, but before the soldiers could enjoy victory or attend the wounded, a new mystery emerged from the dark. When the last shard of obsidian fell away, the Knight Aveline gasped. In the demon’s place, a bloodied, unconscious King Aurleon now lay.