As Derry's senses began to focus, he
became aware of the searing pain in his temple and the cramps in his
shoulders and knees. "Ahh, I see that you are finally with us,
Lord Derry," a voice intoned, intruding on and amplifying
Derry's pain. Slowly he opened his eyes and saw his prison for the
first time, yet it was all too familiar. With a sickening shock that
cleared his focus all too sharply, he realized it was identical to the
cell where Wencit had held and tormented him.
"I see you recognize your
accommodations," the voice
Warily, Derry turned his head to see
Henrik walking around behind him, holding a long staff. The cell was
cramped and dark, but Derry did not need to turn around to see the
window just out of reach of the chains that bound him to the floor. As
he eased the muscles in his shoulders and tried to stand defiantly
before his captor, he was forced to the floor once more. Henrik had
shortened the chains, to force his prisoner to kneel before him.
Feeling the gibbering terror trying to rise back to the surface, Derry
shut his eyes and took several deep breaths. But before a feeling of
calm could settle over him, he was interrupted by a voice in his mind.
"You cannot defy
me!"raged that voice, sounding
frighteningly like that of Wencit just before he broke Derry in a cell
just like this.
The terror bubbled to the surface as
Derry was forced down by pure fear. **The bindings are not gone!**Derry
thought to himself in panic. He could feel Henrik's mind in his own
mind, controlling the fear as his father had done.
"Do you see what your
Lord Derry has become, my dear?"
said a voice somewhere outside the ball of fear that had enveloped
Derry's heart. His eyes darted to Henrik, only to see him looking into
the shadows at a person Derry had not seen before. "A weak,
pathetic fool, trying to win back his lady from the evil tyrant, is
that right? Fool!" The last words were spat out in contempt,
an inch away from where Derry lay in a heap, quivering with fear.
The voice that answered Henrik with
some bravado was more familiar, but in this setting not the least bit
comforting to Derry. "You are the fool, Henrik. Your father
may have broken Lord Derry before, but you are not half the man he
was, nor are you anywhere close to being the man that Sean is. Let us
go, and we will let you live."
Henrik chuckled softly, looking at
Derry, who had turned his face toward the dark corner. Derry's mind
tried to swim up out of the depths of his induced terror, but nothing
was making sense. Henrik stood and paced over toward the door. He
placed the staff against the door and took the torch from the wall
sconce to light other torches in the room. The dark corner was
revealed, and Derry saw Dacia surrounded by a sort of misty glow. A
groan escaped his lips as he realized that she had seen him in this
"Sean, snap out of it!
Don't let him do this to you; you can overcome this!"
Dacia pleaded with him, but as his head sank slowly down to the
ground, she knew that words alone would not help him here and now.
Despair was etched in his posture and in his face.
Dacia abandoned trying to reach Derry
with words and turned her attention to the wards Henrik had cast
around her to keep her presence from disrupting his nasty game of
breaking Derry. She had seen the weakness in Henrik's wards; holding
them was consuming much of his energy. A distraction of her making
should be enough to make him let them slip even further.
she shouted at Henrik. "How can you enjoy such torment of an
innocent human? Lord Derry has done nothing but his duty!"
"As I am doing mine, my
dear," Henrik said smoothly. "Will
you watch your Lord Derry die? Oh, but I don't mean to kill him just
yet. Morgan is on the way, did you know that? They do say Morgan and
Derry share a bed. You had of course heard that?"
"You are a vile, sadistic
The evil laughter was purely delighted.
"Why, Lady Dacia, you surely know that a man may bed both a
woman and other men. Come, come, you are a woman not so innocent as
all that, surely!"
Henrik thought to insult both her and
Derry -- not that he was paying much attention to the man -- with that
remark, but it actually provided the opening Dacia had sought. A man
who is amused is not one who has the leisure to hold wards at the same
time he is laughing, no matter how perverted the source of his
pleasure. Dacia's thought cut across the wards that bound her body
away from Derry.
** Sing Hi! Use the power within
you! Do it now! **
Henrik's smile faded as Derry's head
jerked towards Dacia in recognition. Two hurried steps took Henrik
across the room. His fist lashed out to backhand Dacia across the jaw,
and she went limp and crumpled in a heap to the floor.
Henrik, puzzled by a sudden drop in
temperature, looked from the dazed Dacia to see his captive no longer
gibbering and afraid but contorted by pure rage.
Rage burned through the drugs in
Derry's system and cleared away the clouds in his mind. Henrik turned
away from Dacia to behold Derry crouched in his original position, yet
blazing with blue-white light. His mien was no longer that of a
tortured prisoner, but that of an avenging angel. "You....Will....Not.!!!!!"
Seizing on the harnessed power from
within, Derry rose slowly, gathering more energy into himself.
Henrik's expression was one of open-mouthed astonishment and fear as
the aura around Derry dimmed slightly while the shackles on his arms
and feet glowed with pure energy. Suddenly, with a shower of sparks,
the shackles snapped like string pulled too tight. Henrik's link to
Derry's subconscious was similarly severed. The sound of Henrik's
shield snapping into place was almost audible as he regained control
Derry's facial expression has changed
from animal rage to icy sternness. He set his feet and extended his
right hand toward the door. The staff floated out of the corner to
rest in his hands, and the last vestiges of his previous fear melted
away. The change from fear to grim determination and vengeance was
evident to Henrik as he watched the flaring blue-white aura settle to
solid, impenetrable personal shields.
Derry's voice seemed to be overlaid
with another as he spoke, low and menacing, but with certainty and
confidence: "Never again will you strike an innocent, Lao Jun.
Never again will someone suffer your vile touch. Your guards are not
here to hold me as they did while you kill my students. It is only you
and I. Come and fight me, if you dare."
"So it is you! I thought
it was only that meddler San Te." As
if in answer to the energy from Derry, Henrik's aura flared purple
about him as he grasped his sword. "It will be a pleasure
killing you again, you fool."
Neither man saw Dacia sit up at that
moment, hand to her aching jaw. She started to speak but realized that
both were beyond the sound of her voice now. Silently, she crossed
herself and scooted back into her corner for what protection it might
offer from what was about to happen. She snapped her own not
inconsiderable personal shields into place as she did her best to get
out of the way of the surging energies in the cell.
Both combatants suddenly raised their
arms and closed their eyes. As the twin shield rose, its ghostly light
seemed to show Dacia the forms of different combatants altogether.
Standing in cat stance, left hand in guard position, Derry whirled his
staff to a ready position behind his right arm. His dirty clothes had
been replaced by a simple white monk's robe, tied with a black sash.
The grimy boots were now gone. The only thing that was the same was
his face, and it seemed almost unrecognizable in its calmness. Henrik
stood in guard position, fully facing his opponent, his sword held two
handed. Gone were the rich robes, replaced by strange dark wood and
leather armor. As Dacia, in awe, watched the combatants square off,
she realized that beneath the shield she saw not their current forms
but their true forms.
Biting down on her lip, Dacia watched
the two stalk one another. As they moved around in their grim dance,
each attempted feints, with the first blow struck after they had
completed the first circuit of their deadly pavane. Henrik whipped his
sword around and charged Derry with a yell. More quickly than Dacia
has ever seen Derry move in the past, he deflected the sword and
whirled to face the next move of his opponent. The savagery and speed
of the sparring that ensued took her breath away. Both combatants
blazed with inner light, both sword and staff extensions of their
wills. This was no fancy sparring match, but a brutal fight to the
Whirling suddenly, Derry brought the
staff around in one hand, seeking to trip Henrik low at the knees.
Seeing the move, Henrik jumped over the staff and led in with an
attack. Eagle Leads the Way blocked the overhand sword strike as Derry
crouched low and brought the staff over his head to block the blow
that would have severed his neck. His face was still calm as he flowed
into his next combination, Dragon Crosses the Mountain. Springing up
on his feet, he was momentarily floating in the air, striking at
Henrik's knees, midsection, and head with blinding speed. Henrik
succeeded in blocking the staff strikes, but the flying kick that
finished the combination grazed him. Flinching too late, he
nonetheless moved enough to avoid having his head taken off. He spun
away to avoid the next combination, but he was moving slower than
before. The tale of how the fight was going was apparent in Henrik's
grunts and the sweat that poured off his face compared to the calmness
A sudden clanging at the door caused
Dacia to whirl towards it She came face to face with San Te, who
greeted her with a nod and slipped into the cell to observe. Surprised
as she was to see the monk in the castle, she was doubly surprised as
the King and his Champion filed into the room. Kelson nodded to her as
well., but Morgan spoke.
"My Lady Dacia,"
the Duke of Corwyn said with great concern, "you should not be
here. Pray, allow the guards to escort you to safety."
"I am as safe as you are,
Your Grace, and my interests in one of the combatants here even more
vested," she shot back defiantly.
Kelson gave a snort of amusement. "She's
right on both counts, Alaric." And the king and his champion
moved to stand beside Dacia and San Te.
"We should do something,
San Te," Morgan said under his
"Patience, my good Duke.
As I said before we entered, I believe my student has things well in
hand," San Te said mildly, but his
stance was rigidly alert as his eyes followed every move of the two in
the shielded circle.
The fight had continued unabated; for
the combatants, it is as if no one else existed. It was clear to the
observers that Derry was, indeed, very much in command of his flagging
foe. In desperation, Henrik attempted to use a move he hoped would
distract Derry. Feigning a fall, he scooped up some dirt and launched
it at his opponent. However, the opponent was no longer where he had
been. Henrik did not have time to roll even to his knees before the
sword was knocked away from his hand. Landing on his back with a
startled grunt, he found himself staring up into the face of his
adversary. The voice not quite Derry's own said, "It is over.
Yield. I do not kill unarmed men."
Knowing he was beaten, Henrik signaled
his defeat by bringing down his side of the circle. Derry stepped back
and brought down the other side, footing his staff by his right side.
He bowed to his opponent, his eyes never leaving Henrik. As Henrik
slowly moved to his feet, Derry turned to his teacher, bowing once
more. He then bowed to the King and said, "I believe this is
the miscreant you are looking for, Sire. I hand him over into your
He smiled slightly and was about to
speak to Morgan when Dacia screamed, "Sean, look out!!!"
Derry whirled to see Henrik glowing
with power, muttering in an unfamiliar language. "For the
glory of my emperor," he said softly. San Te and Derry nodded
knowingly; the other three were left wondering. San Te gestured, and a
golden shield materialized in front of those behind Derry, faster than
their personal shields could be raised.
San Te muttered in a voice cold with
lack of emotion, "He is too far gone now. Finish it, Sing Hi.
There is no other way." Although Derry had turned his head
slightly to listen to San Te, he kept his eyes on his adversary He
nodded, and moved to face his enemy.
Derry bowed once to his opponent.
Henrik's visage was one of pure hatred. His feet bare upon the floor,
Derry assumed a horse stance, his legs spread at shoulder width, his
knees bent. Holding the staff in his right hand halfway up its length,
Derry gathered power into himself and used his left hand to sketch a
rune that hung in the air. The rune glowed golden and midnight as it
rose over him and settled like a mantle on his shoulders. He
straightened from his stance into a fighting position as a similar
rune floated in the air and settled onto Henrik.
The spectators on the side, with the
exception of San Te, stood open mouthed and tense. The King looked at
Morgan who shrugged incomprehension and returned his attention to the
two combatants facing one another. Kelson whipped his head around as a
voice too loud for human speech boomed from Derry's mouth.
"It ends here and
now!" the voice proclaimed as
Derry's whole being began to glow. Doubt began to show in Henrik's
eyes as he moved to the side to begin circling Derry once more. He was
halted as Derry launched straight at him. A few feet from Henrik,
Derry leaped into the air, glowing like a miniature sun. He brought
the staff held over his head down in a vicious arc towards Henrik's
head. Henrik barely had time to raise his sword to block, only to have
it shatter in his hand. He had only a split second to stare at it
before the staff cleaved in his head.
For those on the sidelines, it was as
if a light went out. The cell returned to its gloomy, dark reality,
and they could see only the crumpled form of Derry, the white robe
that covered him heaving in and out where he lay exhausted from his