Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapter 36: Mist of Hope

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

This has been a wild ride in writing this story and I have made you all wait lone enough for this chapter.  So I'll keep this short.

 

Had a unique case of writer's block.  I knew how I wanted to start the chapter and I knew how I wanted to end the chapter, but while writing the middle I kept thinking of the end.  Finally able to get through it, I present you the final chapter.

(Well, technially there will be one more to hopefully answer any questions you might have in how Jarl figured it out, among other things.  It will be basically an Epilogue.)

 

Hope you enjoy the chapter.

 

PS.  The chapter is not very long...  Just a little bit over 7900 words.  XD

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

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Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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httyyd
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Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

Here is the music mix for this chapter:

KINETIC - Best Of Epic Music Mix | Powerful Beautiful Orchestral Music | BRAND X MUSIC

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 36

Mist of Hope

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         This is what we planned for.  This is what the whole week has been coming to.  Everything is where it should be.  Now, all we need to do is finish this thing.

         The moment we fly above the island, the complete look of the Shadow Dragon can be seen.  Extremely sleek, not for its hide but for the lack of many spikes or fins.  Its hide is coarse with each scale on its body distinct as if each one shows its age.  If it were not for the red eyes, I would think we were facing down Toothless.  Though, Toothless would have a much different reaction to what is greeting the Shadow Dragon right about now.

         There are dark clouds forming around us, just as they once did on The Golden Isles.  Darkness is fighting back against the fading light of the evening sky.  But darkness’s own design is to run away even if there is one spark of light.

         The Screaming Death attacked us on this island before because it was looking for the Shadow Dragon.  Now that it has found it, we have our opening to stop the Shadow Dragon.

         Annabeth was in the dark for much of this plan.  Skygge was using her against me.  Not that Annabeth would not give up any of our plan, I would not let Skygge put Annabeth in such a position to choose.  Skygge was always one step ahead of us all because of one thing.  Revenge.  Revenge against me and my family for what happened to his.  The very thing he has worked so long for is the thing which is his downfall.  Take out the biggest cog in his plan with no rhyme or reason, and he is left to fill the void.  While he is left scratching his head, I am able to get close to the Heart of the issue.

         I cannot imagine what she went through.  All this time, I have been helping others let go of their past.  Yet, I needed that same lesson.  What happened at the end of The Dragon War may have been a result of my decisions, decisions I have to live with.  But as my friends continually remind me, they can make their own decisions.  Regardless of what ends up happening, we all have our part to play.  And if we are stuck in the past, we have no future.  Live in the present and use our past to build a better future, a future better for all.

         What Skygge had planned because of me, none of it was good for Annabeth and myself.  Skygge’s whole plan hinged on one of us watching the other suffer.  Skygge thought he could use one of us against the other.  Seeing him already use Annabeth against me, I saw that he made his choice.  So I made mine.  Every time someone tries to tear Annabeth and I apart, it makes us stronger the more they try.  I had to put my faith in Annabeth she would trust our bond we share.  We both know the lengths one will go to protect the other.  But to do this, it is the truest test of trust and faith.

         The lengths I have gone to protect Annabeth has been farther than I ever thought I would go.  I always feared the consequences of such lengths, some lengths which might come back to collect.  Let them come.  The value I gained is well worth the cost.

         As much as I wanted to do this on my own, there were some who would not let me do this if they did not come along.  Actually, make that everyone.  Surrounding the island on all sides, forming a large circle, every single member of the rest of my crew are on their dragon.  No matter which way the Shadow Dragon tries to go, it will face opposition.  The Shadow Dragon was not expecting this as its hesitation allow Anora, Electic, Sun Rose, and Fredrick to fly into position.

         I speak up, “Whether you understand us or not, Shadow Dragon, you have two choices here.  You can either stop this madness yourself or we will stop you.  Either way, your rein of terror ends today!”

         Eye to eye with the Shadow Dragon, he spins around a few times seeing there is no way to escape on his own terms.  The Shadow Dragon looks behind him, eyeing me, then growls.

         Whispering to myself, I declare, “You’ve made your choice.”

         The Shadow Dragon whips around to chase after me.  Though because it is sorely out matched, it only takes a moment before every dragon fires upon the Shadow Dragon trying to chase me.  Dazed and disoriented for a moment, it flies back to the center before letting out a screech.  It calls out to the skies screaming.

         Seconds later, arcs of lightning begin to strike the Shadow Dragon.  More and more arcs come to it before the Shadow Dragon has the lightning coursing over its body.

         Cazi flies over to me, yelling, “I’ve only seen this once before whenever a Skrill seems threatened.  We all have to get out here!”

         Annabeth and Hyrith were right there, so we signaled everyone by having our dragons roar and dive down.  Just after each one started their dive, the Shadow Dragon let loose a massive electric energy surge which would have taken us all out had we not moved.  But it gets better.  Now the surge is chasing after us.

         Though no one can hear me, I quip, “Well, at least we won’t have far to fall the closer we get to the ground.”

         The water and ground are coming up fast to the point we must level out and out fly the surge.  Barely making it out of the surge’s reach, we find ourselves at the far edge of the island.  Immediately, we fly up to see the Shadow Dragon already trying to escape.

         Annabeth yells, “It’s getting away.  We-.”

         “Taken care of,” I answer in assurance.

         Every one of my crew know the stakes.  Sticking to the plan, Explod, Samantha, Ohmarr, and Faith head off the Shadow Dragon trying to escape south.  They herd it back to the east.  Kesu, Dagmar, Adam, and Cullan cut its route off forcing it to the north.  Meen, Tory, Asvord, and Elsa block the north.  Sapphire, Repteil, Hannah, and Abbie chase it back towards the middle.  At each turn, a small company of my crew stop the Shadow Dragon from its intended direction.  Seeing it cannot escape us, it finally turns to fight.  Though it breaks up our formation, our numbers allow covering fire for the rest of us which do not allow it to take any of us out.

         Cazi winds up flying with me for a run to get the Shadow Dragon off my parents Monstrous Nightmares; Cazi calls out, “I love a good dogfight in the skies, but we cannot keep this up forever.  None of our shots are making a dent in this dragon.  Nor is combining our dragon’s fire doing any good but dazing it for a few seconds.  Sooner than we will be able to tire it out, it will tire us and our dragons.  Something else needs to change.”

         Before I could think of an answer, the Shadow Dragon fired at us so we had to split away.  With the Shadow Dragon now chasing me, I try to think of something to do.

         In all this time, the Screaming Death was not doing much.  It was following out lead in trying to herd the Shadow Dragon, but this is no way to win a fight.  The Screaming Death loops around to break up the pursuit of the Shadow Dragon.  But as it goes, so does Annabeth and Anora.  Both of them are now in between the Shadow Dragon and the Screaming Death.

         “Annabeth, look out!”

         The Shadow Dragon fires at the Screaming Death, but Anora takes it upon herself to catch the blast.  Rider and dragon are violently separated from each other.  Though I want to go after Annabeth, Fredrick instead beelines for Anora.  Looking back up to see Annabeth, she is on the back of the Screaming Death, pulling herself up onto a spine.

         I let out a Stormcutter call to have Star Scream catch Anora.  He was already looking for us, I just gave him a bearing to hone in on.  Once Fredrick saw Anora was taken care of, I flew him towards the Screaming Death.  It suddenly turned around to cause Annabeth to jump and angle herself to land on the Screaming Death’s face as it flies back up.

         “What are you doing?!”

         “Making a connection!”

         Not knowing what she has in mind, I can only watch for a few moments before the Shadow Dragon fires again in my direction.  I have noticed it specifically fires at me, Hyrith, and Cazi.  It also singled out Annabeth, but it thinks it has taken care of her.

         After flying out of the way of the blast, I look back to see the Screaming Death finally grabbing the attention of the Shadow Dragon.  The Screaming Death climbs up in the air aiming for the clouds.  It has annoyed the Shadow Dragon with blasts and spine shots to keep the dragon’s interest.  When strength and precision meet power and speed.  They disappear into the clouds.  Their sheer size causes the clouds to create a wispy hole where they entered.

         Light flashes and thunderous sounds of dragon fire and roars, all we can do is look on.  For as numerous and mighty as my crew’s dragons are, it does us no good facing something so shrewd yet so dangerous in its tactics against us.  The Shadow Dragon is too resilient for multiple dragon shots fired against it to even stop it.  The stamina is so much more than our dragons’ and us too.  We need something else with the same set of attributes.  This fight reminded me of when we first met the Screaming Death.

         On one hand you wonder if it will turn on you next, but on the other, you are just glad it is here fighting with you.  When we must put our faith in something which once tried to destroy us, it is a conflicting helplessness.

         I am beginning to understand what Annabeth must have thought trying to put faith in Skygge to end his war against us.  It would be easy to take matters into your own hands and just take his life to be done with it.  But does that make you any better than Skygge, resorting to his level?  It would give up the original purpose of putting your faith in someone else for the sake of the desired outcome.  Had Annabeth or I already just killed Skygge, I am sure neither of us could live with the other because of doing that, let alone our family and friends.  All of that said, if a solution to the Skygge problem does not present itself, he is just going to keep coming back for more and hurt more and more people.

         I chuckle to myself for the ironic situation, “He’s kind of like the Shadow Dragon.  If left alive, could do more damage to us and others if they escape.  If killed, it would solve the problem.  But at what cost?  I’ve gone to lengths I never thought I’d go just to protect Annabeth.  Should I take it one step further solely for the fact of protecting her regardless of what she might think about me afterwards?”

         The sight of the clouded flashes of dragons blasts, the roars, and screams of blows laid against each dragon, it reminds my mother of something, “Almost like Hiccup’s fight against the Red Death.”

         My father adds, “Huh.  Always wondered what that would have looked like.”

         All of us are bystanders at this point, mesmerized by the fight above.  As I stare, an ache suddenly permeates throughout my chest.  Trying to rub my chest does not alleviate the pain, it only gets worse, making me sink in my saddle trying to make it stop.  I feel as though someone has hit me with a harpoon through the heart and is trying to pull me out of the sky.

         The sudden comments of the Shadow Dragon free falling in a lifeless state out of the sky snapped me back to reality although only for a moment.  I did not even realize the dragon blasts for the fight had stopped minutes ago.  Not waiting around for what to do next, I must go do something.  I point Fredrick back to the island, flying into a steep dive to build up the speed to swiftly search the area.

         “No,” I begin to mumble.  “No, no…”

         Not watching where I am going, I nearly collide with Marigold, my father’s Monstrous Nightmare.

         “What’s wrong?”  Upon seeing me in my state, he instantly catching on.  “Cazi and Hyrith are both feeling similar pangs brought on from apparently nothing.  What are you searching for?”

         Looking up and seeing Cazi and Hyrith only confirms the feeling in my heart, “It’s Annabeth.  Somehow, somewhere, Skygge…  He took her.”

         Everyone now concerned for we all realize Annabeth is not counted among us at the moment.

         My mother flies over to me, helping me focus, “We’re here to help.  Did you see which way they went?”

         “No.  I didn’t even see Skygge take her.  Last time I saw Annabeth, she was trying to get the Screaming Death to go after the Shadow Dragon.  Guess it worked.”

         “Are you sure it was Skygge?” Heather challenges.  “If you didn’t seem them, could it have been the Screaming Death.  I mean, it attacked you guys before.  The only reason the Screaming Death fought the Shadow Dragon was because we had a common enemy.”

         “I…,” I start to shiver as I feel cold.  “I just know.  A feeling I have…”

         I trail off only to have Cazi finish the sentence, “In my heart.  I believe Hyrith and I are feeling the same thing as you Jarl.  At first, I thought it was the obvious of Annabeth missing, but I think we all three know it is more than that.”

         We are confused as to what to do next, Hyrith speaks up with a tone of confidence, “Somehow we three are thinking and feeling the exact same thing.  We can’t concentrate on that now how could it be.  We need to find Annabeth.  Do we stick to the plan?”

         Feeling the pain level off a bit, I am able to confirm, “Yes.  We stay here and wait for him to come back.”

         “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Cazi and Electic block me and Fredrick.  “Are just going to allow Skygge to do whatever the heck he wants with her?  That’s my sister out there!  We HAVE to go find them!!”

         “I KNOW!”

         I talk back but then sigh for yelling at her, “I know…  Ever since we met Skygge, we have always been one step behind trying to figure out how to play his game.  Being so close to what he has lived his whole life for, the choices we make can have lasting impacts.  From all we have tried so far to play Skygge’s game, we have played right into his hands many times before.  I cannot, in my heart, do that again for the sake of Annabeth.  We have to make Skygge play our game now for the very reason of what he would do to her if we do find them.”

         This is extremely censored Cazi, for she has been Annabeth’s friend and closest thing she had to a sister for many years.  The self-control Cazi is doing right now is visible to us all.

         “If Skygge has an escape plan like you said all week, we’ll know what to do.”  She too lets go, sighing, “I just hope you are right.”

         “Look, I know we are putting a lot of faith in a guy who should have none given to,” I remind but also repeat why we should not find them.  “We came up with this plan over the last week to prevent what Skygge wants:  Revenge on me because of Annabeth.  Though he has said before he doesn’t care which one he gets revenge on, this whole thing depends on the fact of how he blames Annabeth for being the one to survive when Uskyld did not.  The situations for both were the same.  Burning building after the attack on their island.  But because Annabeth’s island was decimated and his island was still intact, he thinks Annabeth should have been killed and his little sister be alive.  Skygge wants to kill Annabeth to make up for what he thinks should have happened those years ago.  However, he wants me to suffer for it.  He wants me to feel the way he does.  If I play his game, I am not guaranteed the opportunity to stop him before I even dismount my dragon.  If I make him play my game for a change, he will be caught off guard, confused, and hopefully curious as to why I did not chase after him.  That will be my opportunity to stop him.”

         “I just wish I could be there instead of you to punch him,” Cazi tries to act like everything is fine.  “All the time I’ve spent punching Snotlout has been training for this moment.”

         “If it comes to it, I’ll be sure to land a few for you.”

         With Cazi, Hyrith, and I all in agreement, we settle down.  The pain in my chest lessens to a manageable tolerance.  It has to be something we have all shared in, including Annabeth.  Then it hits me…

         We turn our focus back to the Shadow Dragon.  A few in our crew, Ali, Michia, Valkarik, and Dawn, were already flying to inspect the dragon.  Where it crashed into the water was a few miles off the shore of the island.  Landing Fredrick in the water, we both look at the Shadow Dragon.

         Bruised, injured, and beaten, the Shadow Dragon is almost gone.  Easing myself into the water, I dare to swim near its head.  It sees me coming and tries to move away from me, yet its own pain is too much for it keep me away.

         Its eyes…  As if trying to tell me something.  I instead tell something to it, “You’re done.  You will never hurt anyone or any dragon ever again.”  I outstretch my hand to its nose.  It pulls back slightly and also growls, “You don’t have to fight anymore.  We can help you.  It is your choice.”

         The Shadow Dragon stops growling.  It looks at my hands, then back at me.  The dragon closes its eyes and…  And dives down into the water!  Watching it go, I briefly go under the surface to watch its body go lifeless, with no movement.

         Going up for a deep breath, Fredrick has the same idea.  I mount him and we both dive into the water to check the Shadow Dragon’s body.  Knowing I have very little time, I swim over to it head.  Eyes closed.  I move over to its heart.  Not beating.

         The Shadow Dragon made its choice.

         When Fredrick and I break the surface, I notice the last rays of sunlight went behind the horizon and the darkness of night is in full display.  But there is one thing the night cannot mask.  The small lights in a sea of blackness:  The stars.

         We prepare for Skygge’s return.  I wait alone on top of this island’s highest peak.  There is a small plateau near the top which I stand at the ready.  A few torches on posts light the small area.

         Fredrick and everyone else are underground inspecting what Pheonix left, staying out of sight to encourage Skygge to come in.

         While some of my crew did attack him, our priority was stopping the Shadow Dragon so that no man such like Pheonix could ever use this dragon against anyone.  When those who attacked him created the diversion for Annabeth, Cazi, Hyrith, and I to engage the Shadow Dragon, our friends soon followed us into the air to fight the Shadow Dragon.

         In other words, Pheonix did escape.  But if he acts anything like Ondott Wengo, we will see him again.  Some day.  He is a businessman, so he will go wherever the gold and power takes him.  One day we will stop him.  But today, I will stop Skygge.

 

         Three hours go by before I see something on the horizon.  The moon shines enough light between the clouds to reveal moving dark figure with wings from the south.  As I figured, Skygge went to his home expecting me to go there.

         If they were able to go there, that further confirms Grimwald and his people have left on their mission.  Whether that mission was against the Berserkers or not, we will find out.  My hunch is it is against someone else, for the map where they were planning against Berserker Island was only a ruse for Annabeth to report.  Somehow, some way, Grimwald worked for either Skygge or Pheonix.  Either way, were they trying to do the same thing Annabeth was in using a lesser threat to defeat a greater threat.

         There is enough room for Skygge to land Glint.  As Skygge dismounts, Annabeth tries to break free even with her hands tied behind her back, but he collars her with his arm.  I try not to flinch in how roughly he is treating her.

         “We just got here, and you already want to see him?” He draws his knife closer to her throat.  “Really now, settle down.”

         I address Skygge calmly, “Skygge.”

         “Why did you not come after us?”

         Folding my arms, I reply, “Right to business, are we?  What happen to the monolog of, ‘Stay out of my way,’ and all that?”

         Ignoring my statements, he follows up his own question, “I mean, you couldn’t have seen where we had gone, but still.  I thought you’d use that brain of yours to figure it out.  I thought you cared about her.”

         Annabeth tries to downplay, “Why would he after the way he has treated me?”

         “Oh, please stop with the innocent act.  You’re not a very good liar,” Skygge remarks.

         “Who’s lying?” she contends.  “I mean he did willingly offer me up as a sacrifice to the Shadow Dragon when his own life was on the line.  And even when I got free, he didn’t even bother to help me with the Screaming Death.  To top it off, he did not even come for me even when he would have known I was missing.  It’s a wonder if he even missed me at all.”

         “I don’t know what game you are playing,” Skygge admits.  “But believe me Annabeth, he cares about you.  I just don’t know what he is after.”

         “You are right, there is something I am after.  It is pretty simple though.  This game we have been playing between us…  It ends.  Right here.  Right now.  We’ve played each other evenly so far.  We could essentially prolong our fight for a long time unless we up the stakes.  If I win, you stop this quest for revenge and leave this archipelago never to be seen again.”

         Skygge smiles, “But if I win…”

         “If you win…  You get your revenge, but you still leave this archipelago.”

         “And if I refuse?”

         “I will not stop in trying to defeat you, Skygge.  So help me I will chase you to the ends of the earth.”

         “Uh-huh, there’s the Jarl I know.  You want to protect Annabeth and everyone else, regardless of your own safety.  What makes you think I will agree to any of this?”

         “The Shadow Dragon is dead.”

         This came as a shock to Skygge, I continue, “Your leverage against Pheonix is gone and his lead to Griselda has escaped with him.  If he is as smart as he says he is, he has played us both from the start.  Him pawning himself off as an old friend and needed ally.  He is probably already in hiding and won’t be heard of again for a long time.  You’ve got nothing left.  You’ll never know the truth.”

         Skygge becomes irritated at these thoughts, “Well, all I have to do is to kill Annabeth and make you suffer.”

         “You do that, and you’ll still never know the truth.”

         “Truth?  Truth about what?”

         I smile, “Beat me, and I will tell you everything.”

         Drawing my sword, I ready my stance.

         Skygge hesitates for a moment before throwing Annabeth at me!  I have to move my sword from piercing her.  But then whirl around extend a high block to Skygge’s two daggers, as he tries to strike me down!

         While we push against each other, I glance to see Annabeth is alright and out of the way.  Now, I can focus on fighting Skygge.

         Because he is using two daggers, I lift up my left elbow while I drop the other.  This movement causes his daggers to slide off my sword to the right while I throw my left elbow to his face in a jabbing motion.  It lands though he counters right away with a sweep of us daggers in front of him.  I must bend backwards to make them miss.  He slices with his left, I deflect.  He slices with his right, I deflect again.  But when he tries to slice again with his left, I step forward placing my sword against his wrist and push to try and disarm him.  He swings his other dagger around to get at my side.  Abandoning the disarming play, I spin to my left, to just barely miss the blade.  I step back as he does too.

         Skygge remarks, “I’ve got news for you, you are going to have to fight as if your life depended on it.  We’ve never beaten the other before now and you were holding back then.  You have to fight me Jarl, or this fight is as good as a draw.”

         I comment, “Is that why you always ran after our fights?  Are you finally going to finish a fight for a change or are you going to run away and not face the truth about Uskyld?”

         He charges me with a yell as he lunges forward, but I merely dodge to the left and trip him.

         I step back again, yet he then states, “See, you could have struck me there.  But you didn’t.  You won’t fight me on even ground.”

         “This is a plateau,” I tell him.  “I thought this would be the highest form of flattery I could fight you on.”

         “Since you won’t take this serious,” Skygge grins.  “Then I guess I won’t hold back either.”

         Skygge now sprints at me throwing a fury of attacks, all I block or parry with a few of my own lunges.  He dodges them all.  Then he pulls from his belt an object he then throws at my feet.

         A smoke bomb!

         Knowing what could come next, I roll out of the way as fast as I can, not even worrying about a recovery.  Skygge thrusts his dagger into the ground where I was.

         As I stand up and ready for any incoming attack, none comes; so I ask, “When did you start using my techniques?”

         Skygge stood up and let the smoke clear a little, “When you wouldn’t use them as effectively.”

         “I wanted to give you a straight up fight.  But I guess that has never been your thing,” I shrug.

         This time, I charge him.  Swing left, back hand right.  I dodge his lunge by letting him step towards me yet I stand still.  Switch my sword to my off hand.  He tries to jab me with his other dagger, I block with my right bracer, and then use the pommel of my grip to, well, pommel Skygge squarely in the face.  He staggers back.  I hesitate.  He expects me to take a break, but instead, I break my pattern and attack right away.

         I lunge to catch him off guard, but he then slides both of his daggers to sandwich my sword, one near my hilt and the other near the tip.  He drives his force down to my right.  I grimace under the pressure of trying to keep hold of my sword.  Seeing he has a free shot at my shoulder, I let go of my weapon and dive forward.  Before Skygge could do any more, I throw down one of his own bomb I used against the Shadow Dragon.

         “Oh, come now, Jarl.  Do we have to go through this again?  I told you.  This gas doesn’t affect me.”

         “I know it doesn’t, that’s why I threw it,” I reach into my vest pocket to pull out a glove.

         Skygge laughs, “See what’d I tell you.  You are a slow learner.  I tell you that you don’t use these bombs effectively, yet you throw one to not only affect me but your wife.  Maybe she is right.  Maybe you don’t care for her after what she has been through with these bombs.”

         “If these bombs are so ineffective against you,” I circle behind him, though he tries to listen to my footsteps.  “How come I am able to still move!”

         With my glove on my left hand and the cartridge in place, I hit the button on my bracer as I bull rush Skygge.  The moment I reach for one of his daggers, the contact of the Skrill charged glove stuns him…  However…

         The gas ignites and explodes, knocking the both of us away from each other!

         Thankfully, I am knocked over into Annabeth as I bowl her over.  I have the presence of mind to ask if she is alright both because of that and her capture.  She nods her yet is unable to stand.  She is a bit more dazed than she should be.  That has to wait, for now.

         I call out to Skygge, seeing him pick himself off the ground, “Of all the things that I found out that was in the gas, I am glad Heather’s hypothesis was correct in discovering Zippleback Gas in there.  I always thought there was something familiar about your Shadow Bomb, but beyond the sweet yet bitter smell of it, I was always too distracted to hone in on the smell.”

         “I figured you would find out what was in it,” Skygge stretches his back.  “Didn’t think you would find the antidote for it.  Guess you know just about as much as I do about Pheonix and Deondre’s Books.  Smart idea using your glove.  I hadn’t heard about that since your fight with Throst.  I will have to admit, it is quite a shock to see you actually fighting to win.”

         Though I have no weapon against one dagger, to Skygge’s surprise I reach for and pull his dagger to me using my Skrill glove.  Laced with the scales of Anora, no small blade can penetrate it.  I block a right cross before sending a flying kick to his face.  He staggers back, but I press forward.

         And with my Skrill glove, I turn him around and throw another right cross which finally lands, “This is for Cazi!”

         This punch knocks Skygge off his feet, disorienting him on the ground.  He has trouble getting up, so I go help him.  Before I could take him by the scruff, he sweeps his leg knocking me down.  Literally falling for his fake out, Skygge then jumps on me and we roll around.

         “If Annabeth were completely fine, she would be helping me by now,” I struggle to say.  “What did you do to her?”

         “Preceptive,” he confirms.  Using my push back against me, he suddenly crosses his arms forcing my hands in a pinned position.  “Too bad you won’t be able to figure out what it is.”

         He rolls me over to then tries to run towards Annabeth.  I quickly lift my grappling hook and fire it at his back.  Locking it in place as soon as it lands, I get up to my knee and wrench Skygge backwards, causing up to fall backwards.  Cutting the line as I go, I scramble towards Skygge.  He in turns comes back at me, shoving his shoulder into mine, and flips me over.  Controlling my flip, I am able to land on my knees and slide backwards.

         With a tone of nothing held back, I state it as plain as can be, “Skygge, I will not let you kill Annabeth.  You want her, you have to go through me.”

         “That can be arranged,” caution thrown to the wind, he does not care for anything except what he has set his mind to.

         He throws a right cross, I dodge and deflect it away.  His moment of unbalance, I send a haymaker to his stomach.  With him bent over, a left cross to his face, and to finish off, a full circle, sweeping kick.  At the last possible moment, he blocks and parries with something thrown from his wrists.  It lodges into my shoulder, cutting through my armor!

         Pulling it out, it is a throwing star forged of Dragon Proof metal!

         As I did, it creates just enough time for him to punch me in the face, in the gut, and take me by my back and throw me back towards Annabeth.

         “You…  You kill me,” I manage to say as the fight is starting to take a toll.  “You won’t get the revenge you’ve always planned for.”

         “If I have to kill the both of you, then so be it.  Annabeth doesn’t deserve to be here.”

         “And you do?  What have done with your life since that day?”  I do not give him a chance to answer.  “You both had your worlds turned upside down, both put your lives on the line for your islands, and both lived to tell about the tale regardless of the odds stacked against you.  Annabeth with nothing left to lose, reached out for help.  What did you do?  You chose a path your island, your parents, and your little sister stood against.”

         “Don’t you dare talk about my little sister!” he demands.

         “Who makes you the judge of that after the life you have led to this point?  Just stop and think for a moment of all the choices you have made to get to this moment.  If Uskyld were standing beside us, what would she think?”

         “Stop it!!”

         “Better yet, what would you think of her being where Annabeth is now.  Vulnerable, innocent in the matter, at the mercy of the attacker…  You.”

         “No, no…  Stop it!!”

         “Every day you have lived since losing her was to take your revenge on the one who attacked your island which killed your sister.  But have you ever stopped to think what your little sister would have wanted you to do?”

         “ARGH!  Stop it, I say!”

         He hurls more throwing stars my way.  This time I use both my bracers to deflect them.

         “You don’t want to think about it because you already know the truth which I know.  But you won’t admit it…  There was nothing you could have done to prevent the deaths of that day.  You could have stood by those of defended the first wave, but there are those in this world who would not let you do that.  They will plead with you to end this war and take out the evil threatening their island.  They willingly choose to put their lives on the line to protect the innocents and give them the second chance at life.  They made the choice that few can make to give you the opportunity to fight another day and defeat the evil.  You have that same choice right now.  You can stick with the choices you have made to this point, giving into your past, choosing a hopeless path for yourself.  Or you can make the choice to be the big brother you always wanted to be, the choice to be the son your parents raised you to be, the choice to be the viking your sister always saw in you.”

         He had paced these last few minutes, trying not to listen to my words, but then he looked up at me with fire and determination in his eyes.

         I plead with him, “Don’t try it.”

         “Annabeth is the reason why my sister is dead.  I’ll make you feel the pain I have felt these years and then you will understand why!”

         He rushes at me.

         I extend my hidden blade.

         Aiming for his side, he instead runs directly into the blade!

         Instantly take retracting the blade, in horror, I look at Skygge, questioning, “Why?”

         Clutching his stomach, he falls backwards.  I catch and lay him on the ground.  Not saying a word, he fumbles through his pockets and pulls out small horn flask.

         Reaching it up to me, he shoves it in my hand, “Go!”

         Understanding, I rush to Annabeth, now nearly collapsed on the ground.  As I lift her head to drink the antidote, I hear something behind me…

         Skygge staggers to his feet and flings himself off the edge of the cliff!

         After a few moments, Annabeth becomes more alert of her surroundings and asks, “Did I see that right?  Did Skygge just jump off the cliff?”

         “Don’t worry about him.  Are you all right?”

         “I think so.”  She sits up with my help.  “I’m sorry I let Skygge capture me.  After I was on the Screaming Death, I glided down using my flight suit.  Once on the shores of my island, I stood in awe as the rest of you were on your dragons, watching the light show above us.  I watched that but not my surroundings.  Skygge must have tranquilized me.  Feeling a small yet sharp pain in my arm, everything went black after that.  Later found out he used one of my own darts off my bracer.  Never noticed it until- Wait…  Jarl, you’re bleeding!  Your shoulder!”

         “Never mind that,” I brush her hands off, then grab her shoulders.  “Are you sure you are okay?”

         She does not reply…  At least in words.  The expression she stares at me with is all I need to comfort me in response, in more ways than one.

         “What did Skygge try to do to you?” I take her hands in my own as she still tries to tend to my shoulder.

         She sighs, answering, “When I woke up, my hands were tied behind me and we were at his old house.  Or what was left of it.  He made sure to tell me it was and all the reasons why all this was my fault.  Besides that, Grimwald, Skyjult, and their people are gone.  They just left.  Lock, stock, and barrel.”

         “When I saw you two flying from that direction, I figured as much.”

         “You ran an awfully big risk not coming after me.  You would have known the obvious places to check first.  He would not just take me with him to escape.  I’d slow him down, unintentionally and on purpose.  Why didn’t you try?”

         “I was tired of playing Skygge’s game.  I needed him to play on my terms, not for my own, but for your sake.  He wanted me to suffer by watching him take you from me in front of my own eyes as Uskyld was, making me feel his pain.  I wasn’t sure how he planned to kill you, but if I tracked you there, I would all put seal your destiny.  By calling his hand, I knew his curiosity would get the better of him.  I had to get you away from him.  So, once he landed, I used a few choice words to make him feel threatened by what I figured out.  His revenge would need one last piece before it would be complete.  Me knowing something more and degrading what he already tried to use against me, he would try to make me understand.  Knowing Skygge always has an escape plan up his sleeves, I knew his insurance would be you.  Because of this, he would keep you alive until he dealt with me.  For a change, I pulled his strings and it got me the opportunity to get you away from him.  All I had to do then was beat him.  But when I saw you still disoriented from the trip, struggling to get up, I knew Skygge did something.”

         “Speaking of which, why did he give you the antidote?  He could have easily let me hidethat way.”

         “I’m not really sure,” I offer my arm to help her up.  “In one last attempt, I tried to get through to him.  Though my words were to get him to understand me, it didn’t do much good.”

         She smiles, putting her hand on my shoulder, “You had to give even him that chance to make a choice.  He made his choice.  Regardless of what you said, he would have come after you.”

         “Knowing that although I wished it wasn’t so.  He would fight me to the end, just as the Shadow Dragon did.  All of our duels essentially were ties with no one clearly winning.  Neither of us would let the other win, it was merely a break before the next round.  For me to protect you, I knew enough was enough and I had to stop him once and for all.  After we disarmed each other and he came at me one more time, I extended my hidden blade to only inure him in the side, enough to stop his advance.  He instead ran straight into the blade even after I knew he saw it.  Stunned and shocked he would do such a thing, I knelt there in disbelief as I caught him before hitting the ground.  I still can’t believe he did that.  He reached in his pocket and said, ‘Well played. Go,’ and gave me the antidote.  I already had a few I thought I could try from studying Deondre’s Books.  But knowing he would keep you alive until he found me, he would have the antidote on him.”

         Walking over to the edge, I gaze out into the darkness, watching the wash clash against the rocks, seeing the mist rise from the contact and vanish before the next wave throws itself against the rocks, “Guess this fight was a tie too.  Skygge just could not give in no matter the odds against him.”

         “Besides taking care of me, why didn’t you go after him?  Or did Cazi beat you to it,” Annabeth and I see some dragons flying back.

         They are the sentinels I posted to watch for a Skygge attempt at an escape:  Cazi, Heather, Dawn, Hyrith, Asvord, Vixxen, and my parents.  A few of them perch their dragons on the surrounding rock formations around the plateau while Cazi, Heather, and Dawn land theirs.

         Cazi reports, “The dirty rat escaped.”

         Asvord adds, “I tried to track them for as long as I could, but a Changewing in this darkness is nearly impossible to chase.  Spiker lost the scent after a while.”

         I thank them for trying, “I wouldn’t put it past him to have planned for a way to mask their scent so no one could track him.  Even though he wanted his revenge, he was smart enough to plan for an escape if all else failed.”

         Dawn pipes in, “Griselda, these Warlords, and the Pheonix guy is still out there.  Do you think Skygge would have the nerve of going after them?”

         “He will have to survive the night first,” I inform them of what happened.

         Asvord shakes her head, “The guy’s insane.  Pulling such a stunt, we would be the closest ones he would have to turn to, to help him survive.”

         “As much as I wouldn’t want to lift a finger to help the guy,” Cazi clinches her fist but lets it go as soon as she did it.  “He did have the antidote.  Do you think he would have actually gone through with it?”

         “If he tried, I was ready, or should I say Elsa was,” Going over to a boulder, I bring my little sister out from her hiding place.

         “Ah, come on.  How did you know I was there?  Now, before you get all big brother on me, I-,”

         I interrupt her, “Thanks for having my back.”

         “I-,” Elsa stops and looks up to me.  “You’re welcome.”

         “You are starting to think more like me all the time,” I nudge her.  “Were you waiting for Skygge to get all confused and disoriented and step out trying to make it seem like you were Uskyld?”

         “Yeah, I did.  But I kept remembering what you were saying, ‘We have to do this for Annabeth.’  I too noticed Annabeth was still down and thought as you did that Skygge poisoned her.  Not until the antidote was secured would I step out and try and talk to Skygge.  Seeing him run into your blade was insane, but is more insane, I think he did it because of me.”

         “Why would you say that?” I question.

         “I think he saw me,” Elsa says.  “I must have peeked out further than I realized because his eyes looked over in my direction before he charged at you.”

         Dawn shakes her hand, “Woah, woah, woah.  Hold on.  Are you trying to say Skygge nearly killed himself just so he could escape?  The guy is beyond insane.”

         Svana comes over and puts an arm around me, “Maybe your words planted a seed he could not ignore.”

         For a moment, I thought she was hugging me, but she tightened her grip.  Wondering why, she is smiling, and her eyes point behind me.  I turn…

         To see Annabeth throwing a right cross at me!

         “Of all the low down, underhanded things you could have done to me,” she is not holding anything back.  Annabeth is trying to land a punch on me.

         I deflect her crosses and try to parry them, though intentionally missing of course…  She in turn tries grabs my arm and sucker punches me in the stomach.

         “Of all the things you have done before, this was by far the worst one of them all.”

         Seeing she has no intention of stopping, I finally hold nothing back!

         I grab her around the waist and kiss her!

         Once a few seconds go by, I start to let her go.

         “Another thing, you have the gall to fight me, chase me, and even capture me again when that is what you have been trying to do all along.  Are you crazy or something?!  I-.”

         I interrupt her again to kiss her.

         Again, letting her go after a few seconds, now she says, “Why’d you stop?”

         “Why’d I-?” I echo, folding my arms.  “Just a few minutes ago you couldn’t take your hands off of me worrying about my shoulder.”

         “Oh.  I’m so sorry,” she genuinely forgot.

         She fusses over trying to look at the wound.

         “Annabeth!”  Grinning, I finally have to raise my voice to get her attention.  “Let’s go home.”

         I try to walk away, but she grabs my arm, pulling me back to her…

         “I am home.”

         Laying her hand on my heart, she lifts her head to mine, we lose ourselves to the moment…

         And we kiss!