The Last BattleA Chapter by Domenic Luciani
Its coming to a close. Only a few more chapters to go.
Chiron stared me dead in the eyes as he spoke, and I had to force myself to return the gaze.
“I’m rather impressed you made it this far,” he said icily. “But it’s time to end this game. I’ll tell you what, kid. You’re the only one I want. The rest of these . . . walking rags,” he gestured to the army of seasick children behind me. “Can return to the fields and I promise no harm will come to them.”
I’d seen this kind of bargain in movies all the time, and they never worked out well for the good guy.
“No way,” I said calmly.
There was a noticeable twitch in Chiron’s smile, but it vanished as soon as it came. “Why do think this is wise? I’ve tried to give you a fair fight up until now, but my master is growing impatient, and so am I.”
“Your master?” I asked.
Chiron’s smile grew even wider. “That doesn’t concern you . . . yet. What does concern you, is the fact that " here we are; two armies on the verge of a war. I have an army of immortals, and you " you have a rag-tag team of halfwits who couldn’t perform a simple task. They failed at the games for a reason.” Chiron started to walk back and forth then around me as he spoke. “Just give yourself to me, and this will all be over. I can’t make it any simpler than that.” Behind him, none of the immortals even twitched. They all carried identically blank expressions.
“Why do you want me so badly?” I asked him.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that,” Chiron answered.
“Why the games?”
“I had to weed out the useless ones, though you were never useless. You’ve proven that much. Not many had the opportunity or the guts to pull off a stunt like the one you did. Escape. Raise an army. Travel the underworld over looking for a way out. I saw you met your family again. Shame they couldn’t see you.” Chiron made a ‘tut tut’ noise and shook his head in fake remorse. “I’ll tell you everything you want to know. I’ll let you be with your family again. And all you have to do is agree to come with me.”
I shook my head. “You’re lying.”
This time, Chiron’s smile dropped completely. “I can’t help but feel that you’re taking advantage of my good nature. I promise you, if you refuse, there won’t be any mercy,” He said.
“I wouldn’t expect any,” I said, allowing a tinge of resentment invade my voice. I did my best to sneer, but I think I just looked constipated. I started to turn back, but Chiron said one more thing before I started to walk.
“Tell me one thing,” he said. “Does your head hurt at all?”
I stopped for a fraction of a second and cursed myself for it. Yes, I thought. My head did hurt. The way he had said it made it seem as if he already knew the answer. I waited until I had reached my own lines before I quickly rubbed my temples, hoping that Chiron hadn’t noticed my hesitation. He probably had though.
For the first time in a while, I had doubts. I looked around at the large group of children around me. Indeed, they were rag-tag. They were unorganized and nervous. They didn’t wear any armor, and the weapons had been gathered so quickly, there was hardly any sort of system to it. Some people were holding their bows wrong, others still couldn’t figure out which arm to put the shield on. Some of the more experienced fighters were trying to help them, but all-in-all; none of them were exactly battle-hardened warriors. Avra emerged from the crowd carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. I took them and tested the bow out. It was too large. When I drew the string back as far as I could, there was still some slack in it. I handed it back to her and shook my head. Jack was cleaning his feathers as I walked to him and hardly looked up as I moved past him.
Hermes was on his boat, leaning against the oar he had stuck in the water.
“Any last minute tips?” I asked him hopefully.
“Greek fire works best,” he said, “if you can get your hands on it. Other than that though, I can’t really help.”
I looked down with a sinking feeling in my chest.
“I can say this though. Chiron keeps something that binds us all here, even me. If you can destroy it, then there might be more I can do for you. Again, I recommend fire for this task, but that’s just me.”
My eyes brightened a little, a small glimmer of hope. “What is it?” I asked.
“Hmm. . . .” He mumbled. “Can’t say. It’s been a while since I made that deal. I think the sea waters been getting to me.”
Great, I thought. That’s pretty convenient. Hermes just shrugged an apology.
“Hey!” yelled Avra. She was running over with another bow in hand. From the looks of it, it might actually work, and it did. I lifted the bow up and pulled back the string. It was tight and the wood bent smoothly. I smiled and nodded at Avra, who returned the expression.
The sky was still grey, with churning masses of clouds that couldn’t seem to find a direction to move in, and the waves made a familiar sound as they washed against the shore. For a moment, I saw it and heard it all with crystal clarity . . . but only for a moment. Someone yelled in shock and my head snapped to wherever the sound had come from. Immediately, all the sounds and sights of the world beyond were drowned out.
Someone had been shot with an arrow. It stuck out of their chest like a black flag. I knelt by the boy who had been hit and realized he was fading away; his skin was turning to vapor that drifted away. Soon, the boy was gone. I looked up and across the battlefield to Chiron who chuckled to himself and then turned away towards Hades palace and vanished in a swirl of colors and a muffled fwoom.
Another arrow whizzed by and landed somewhere in the crowd, but I didn’t think it had hit anybody. There was a short pause and then a dozen arrows whistled through the air at our ranks. Jack sprinted up behind me and launched me in the air, practically before I even knew what was happening. Below me, movement erupted as the army of children suddenly charged at the immortals. Arrows and even a few spears were being launched between them.
Back in the sky, I could see that we clearly outnumbered the immortals by a few hundred or so. But they were immortal, so that balanced out the equation a bit. I pulled out an arrow, knocked it into the bow and fired a quick shot without aiming too much. The arrow shot through the air, but bounced harmlessly off of a brunette-haired girl’s shoulder.
I decided it would be a waste of arrows to try landing a hit on one of them. I wasn’t much use here at all, in fact.
As the two armies finally clashed together, I directed Jack towards Hades palace began to make my way there. Behind me, a few others with griffins carrying them, including Grayson and Avra followed. I had to dodge what I thought were stray arrows, but were actually shots aimed at us. A quick glance downward revealed that the immortals were hardly paying attention to the army of children, and were looking right at us! We had managed to only destroy a few of the immortals, and as I watched, two or three more of them evaporated into smoke. Flying was becoming harder though, as more and more of the immortals were focusing on us. There was no doubt in my mind that Chiron was controlling them.
Clangs of metal sounded loudly as the immortals were forced to defend themselves from overwhelming numbers. Shouts and battle cries usually followed. Our own forces were disintegrating at a much faster rate than the immortals, but again, we had the number advantage. Even so, it was time to do our part. Jack rose higher and then cut backwards in order to zip forward faster than I thought was possible.
Soon, the battle was far behind us and Hades’ palace was only a few miles away. There was a bridge that connected two of the large towers and when he came near enough, we landed on it. As our feet touched down, the griffins let go and began circling the palace.
We made a split decision to go left and headed that way in full sprint " everything we were about to do had to be done quick, or the battle would be lost. I knew we were looking for whatever Hermes had mentioned, though I had no idea what it could be. I explained what he had said to the others as we ran, and Grayson had quickly decided he would be the one to go after it. Avra had her job, and mine, of course, was to find Chiron.
The first room we entered through had a high-vaulted ceiling and light was streaming in from windows placed near the top. I opened a doorway for Avra as Grayson ran on ahead and proceeded down a flight of stairs.
An old man blinked curiously at me as I threw the door opened.
“What are you doing here?” Daedalus gasped as he realized it was me. “You shouldn’t be here,” he said sternly.
“We need your help,” I said. “You mentioned once that you were good with antidotes. Exactly how good are you?”
Daedalus thought for a moment. “What do you need?”
Alright, he was on board, as was Icarus after he had walked into the room and went wide-eyed at the sight of me. I quickly explained what I needed Daedalus to do, though it was hard, given the fact that I didn’t know exactly what illness Hades had. Daedalus wore a look somewhere between mild amusement and concern as I explained moments from our journey that might shed some light on the situation, even though I had to repeat myself whenever my words became too jumbled from talking too fast.
“Well, I guess I could whip something up,” Daedalus said, after I was finished.
When I tried to make a door though, nothing happened. I concentrated on what the room had looked like when I had ventured there the first time, but still, nothing. I stomped my foot in frustration. Why couldn’t I do it?
“I don’t think you’ll be able to make a door directly into Hades chamber,” Daedalus said. “That would have been a rather large flaw in the architectural planning.”
I kicked the wall in anger. O f course it couldn’t be that simple, I thought. “Come on, let’s go,” I mumbled.
We left Daedalus’ chamber after he had gathered a few small bottles of different colored liquids and some jars of assorted powders while Icarus had picked out a bow and quiver from a clutter of assorted weapons and " whatever that thing was that looked like a wax model of a fury. And then, suddenly, thought came to me.
“Wait,” I said, stopping him before we left. “Do you have any Greek fire?”
Daedalus nodded, ran back into the room, dug through a few more jars and pulled out two objects that looked suspiciously like a hand grenades. “Here,” he said, tossing them to me. “Just pull out that silver clip there to activate it then throw it. It spreads rather quickly so I would recommend you remain as far away as possible.”
Great, I thought. When Hermes had recommended Greek fire, I pictured something more, I don’t know, mystical looking. But there wasn’t any time to complain. I shoved the grenades into my pockets. Outside, after we ran down the hall and then an excessively long flight of stairs, we came to another hallway that didn’t look familiar, though touches of it did. Torches on the walls blazed with green fire and brought back bad memories.
Avra stole a glance backwards and gripped my arm tightly. I paused, waiting for something.
In the silence of the long hallway, some weird sense was going off in my mind. I held felt it before, back when I was still fighting for my life in the games. I looked around, cautiously. Avra moved close to me and whispered, “Someone’s watching us.”
“I know,” I said. “Just stay calm.”
We moved forward, though much slower. Daedalus was trying to stifle the sound of clacking bottles, but the brown leather satchel he had placed all of the items into continuously emitted silence-shattering noises. I gripped my bow tighter and kept my hand on the quiver, just in case an enemy popped out from around one of the many corners.
This place was just as confusing as I remembered it: stairways, hallways, and rooms, one after the other, endlessly. Once in a while, we came to an intersection and had to pick randomly which way to go. Other than that though, it was pretty straight forward. And I could only wonder how Grayson was doing.
When we finally came to the part of the palace that led to Thánatos’ and Hypnos’ old room, we stopped. There, in front of us, stood someone who I had forgotten about and had hoped never to see again.
Freckle face stood in the center of the room, his face was cast in shadow by the green light from the chandelier above him, but I could feel his eyes on me. They almost burned.
Next to him appeared, quite suddenly, Chiron.
“I have you come to accept my invitation to give yourself up?” Chiron’s eyes flickered to Daedalus, who was trying to switch his satchel from one shoulder to the other as silently as possible. It wasn’t working.
“Apparently not,” Chiron said.
I raised my bow and aimed it directly at him, knocking an arrow for emphasis.
“Don’t play with me, boy.” Chiron’s voice became deeper than I thought it could, almost like a growl.
I pulled the arrow back a little further and raised the bow a little higher. At this point, if I let go, the arrow would zoom straight through Chiron’s black heart. However, the freckle faced boy moved into the path and blocked Chiron’s pale form. I clenched my teeth in disgust. Of course Chiron would use a human shield. I just had to remember that he was an immortal, and that the shot . . . wouldn’t . . . hurt him. I mumbled a curse and lowered my bow. I couldn’t do it, even if he was immortal.
Chiron sneered behind the freckle faced boy. “I guess you are as useless as you appear.”
The six of us stood there for what felt like an eternity, motionless. At least that’s what I had thought, but apparently Icarus had been edging his own bow upwards, at the chandelier. When the shot was fired, my heart leapt because I didn’t know what was happening, but it all became clear when the chandelier fell. It was the oldest trick in the book. Chiron moved quickly out of the way, and freckle face got the full force of it, but he was immortal, so the twisted metal simply broke around him. It wasn’t a very effective attack, but it bought us a few moments time. Avra grabbed Daedalus by the arm and led him forward. He ran fast, but awkwardly, with his rickety old legs off balance from the weight of the satchel. They made it to the door just before Chiron had recovered. He made to run after them, but I shot an arrow that imbedded deeply into the wooden door next to him with a loud thud.
“Well, maybe . . . not so useless,” he said, sniffing and trying to regain his composure. “You’re becoming a rather large thorn in my side.”
A fact I was fiercely proud of. I quickly tired to knock another arrow, but in the time it took me to do it, the freckle faced kid had grabbed the bow and yanked it out of my grasp then tossed it across the room, where it skittered across the marble floor to the far wall. He then grabbed me by the shoulders and shoved me down. I managed to grab hold of his wrist with both hands and pull him down with me.
We rolled around like that for a while, punching, jabbing, shoving, and everything else. Icarus was in some form of combat with Chiron, but I couldn’t tell what they were doing, for every time I tried to look away from freckle face, a quick jab wound past my guard and caught me right in the chin. Sometimes I would have him pinned, others he would have me. Finally, I managed to wrap my legs around his waist and my arms around his neck. He was clearly stronger than he should have been " he was practically skin and bones and yet I was forced to use all my strength just to keep him in one spot. I wasn’t sure if you could choke an immortal to death, but it made me think of how things were going back on the battlefield.
I struggled with freckle face, but managed to look over at Icarus. He was a much better fighter than I thought he would’ve been after being stuck in that room for years. I guessed that came with being Greek. Chiron had summoned his can and morphed it into the enormous black club with silver spikes and was trying to bash Icarus with it. However, Icarus danced around the room, avoiding his attacks which cracked the ground and the walls while getting in a shot or two that grazed his shoulder. With a sinking feeling, I noticed Chiron was getting faster and faster, and his attacks were getting closer to their target, while Icarus was slowing down as the first few traces of exhaustion appeared on his face. Icarus stumbled back just as another loud crack sounded and Chiron forcefully removed his club from its place imbedded in the floor near Icarus’ foot. Icarus stood up, but Chiron had already recovered and swung a second time, landing a blow on Icarus’ left shoulder and sending him flying into the wall, where he slid to the floor and gasped in pain.
Time stopped. I mean literally, time stopped. I thought it was a moment of traumatic experience, but after a few seconds, I realized that the freckle faced boy had stopped thrashing and I could let go. Icarus was frozen; his face was twisted up with a look of pure agony. The only things moving in the room were me . . . and Chiron. Even the green flames that dotted the chandelier were stagnant.
“What the"?” I started to say, but Chiron spoke first.
“Master . . . what is this?” He called.
A booming voice set over the room. I could feel the room vibrate with every syllable. “Chiron, tell the boy.”
“But master . . .”
“I said tell the boy!” the voice shouted. I thought my eardrums would pop as the room itself trembled and even Chiron looked shaken. He gulped then strode over to me. I squirmed in an attempt to get freckle face off me, but his body was frozen, and I was trapped beneath him.
Chiron sighed. His pale face looked even more grim than usual. “You’re not dead kid.”
My entire world seemed to collapse from that single sentence. I tried to say something, but when my mouth opened, no words came out except, “What . . ?”
“I said you’re not dead kid. You’re in a coma. So is everyone else who entered the challenges. That pain in your head is because you’re mind is trying waking up. You have more physical form than the rest of these morons, which is why you have more influence on this world.”
I suddenly felt thoroughly defeated. I had been lied to the entire time.
“Look, I’m gonna keep this as simple as I can. Yes, you were dead. Emphasis on were"for about ten minutes. You were hit by a truck this time, which was the memory loss, though I was surprised to find that you had no idea how many times you’ve been down here.” Chiron studied the look of confusion on my face. “You’re an epileptic, kid " a real bad case, too. You have your episodes and die for a few seconds at the usual. Every time though, you’d have to get ferried, and that becomes a hassle. But my master sees your potential. See, if you become immortal here, you become immortal in the world of the living, except, most that come down here are dead anyway, so it doesn’t do much good, does it? And it’s the same way for this little voodoo trick I can make them do " very tricky, but very useful, as you can see.” I was still trying my best to escape from the unmoving body of the freckle faced boy, but I had started listening more and more intently.
“Now, think of what would happen if we could have an immortal, and have him be alive only a few minutes later . . . be a convenience, it would. But when his heart starts beating again, he’d wake up in his hospital bed and this would all be a bad dream before we even got a chance to do anything with him. And now imagine if we could bind that person here until we were done with him. As for what we want done with him once he’s alive "”
“That’s enough, Chiron.” The other voice said.
“Right, sorry master, anyways the games served a dual purpose. One was to find you, and keep you here.” Something finally clicked in my head. I had been laying still and stopped struggling. Chiron had made us sign something right after the very first challenge " the contract. It all made sense.
“Second, we wanted immortals for "”
“I said that’s enough, Chiron!” the voice yelled.
Chiron cringed at his name. “Well, I guess that’s all for today. I guess you’ll just have to "”
Chiron never finished his sentence. He was screaming in pain as a sword stuck through his chest. Icarus was gasping in pain again, the candles were flickering, and freckle face was squirming again . . . oh, crap. I sprung back into position, holding the boy down. Chiron growled in anger and disappeared in a burst of shadow that flew up in a thick cloud and slipped through a crack in the wall. Grayson was standing behind him.
“Hold on,” he said. He buried his knees into the boy’s chest as he sat on top of him.
“What err, are you . . . err . . . doing?” I managed to say.
Grayson didn’t answer. Instead, he pulled out the vile he had filled with water from the River Lethe. He uncapped the vile and forced open the boy’s mouth and poured the water in, then clamped it tight. Almost immediately, the boy stopped struggling. His expression softened and I let go of him. We both stood up, though Grayson kept a wary eye on freckle face.
“Where am I” the boy asked, genuinely confused.
“Water from Lethe,” said Grayson. “I told you it would come in handy.”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“You turned out to be a less favorable investment than I thought you would be.” Chiron’s voice was back, but thankfully, he was not. “But I will not be taking up my old post, mark my words. You, Nicolas Rider are the cockroach that I cannot squish.”
I wasn’t exactly fond of this analogy.
“But maybe I just need a bigger foot.”
At that, the whole palace began to shake violently.
“What is that?” Grayson yelled. But his question was answered by a great bellow that, like so many other things today, sounded horribly familiar.
We had a lot of things to do, and our time was running out very quickly, indeed.
© 2010 Domenic Luciani
Added on May 30, 2010
Last Updated on May 30, 2010
The River Styx and the Lord of the Dreary Coast
AboutThat is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..
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