“Rey!” Kiran’s anguished scream was probably, the sweetest thing that Reyansh had heard. But,Reyansh ignored it as he used all his powers and strengthened the shield around him. Though both of them were twins, Reyansh realized with a twinge of sadness, that Kiran was where he was supposed to be – outside the shield, in the normal world, leading his people. And Reyansh was where he was supposed to be – alone and facing the monster who had made a murderer out of Reyansh,
“Being noble, are we?” The words of the Red King resonated in his head as the Red King changed form into pure dark energy as shot straight at Reyansh.
Reyansh could not shield himself. Not one bit. Reyansh had used up most of his magic just trying to set up the shield, figuring that it was up to him to stop the Red King, as his people got the waters of Lake Solare. That was all he was could do right now – give safe passage to his people by turning the attention of the Red King to him.
The Dark energy of the Red King flowed straight inside Reyansh as he felt it burning through him and his body was broken up real bad as he fell down, barely conscious, screaming as his head felt like someone had ripped it off. Reyansh was thumping on the ground, praying that it was over. He was not too sure that he could take all this and still keep up the shield. He…Reyansh screamed again as the ferocity of the King’s dark energy increased again.
“Let me out!” The Red King’s voice screamed in Reyansh’s head as the King changed into pure energy again and pounded Reyansh’s shield.
“Let my people go through to the waters of Lake Solare, Merkil!” Reyansh said in a hoarse voice, struggling to breathe properly.
There were very few people who even knew the Red King’s name, let alone have the guts to use it. Right now, Reyansh could not even summon enough emotion to be scared of the Red King. Besides, Reyansh had never been scared of the king. Even during the times, he had been the Red King’s apprentice.
“The people need the healing waters to save the life for the Queen.” Reyansh croaked feeling his powers and life ebb away. Reyansh could not bring himself to say that the Queen was his mother. Reyansh had never been her son. That was one luxury Reyansh did not have.
“I knew you would come here to the Lake, Rey!” The Red King’s voice was jeering, laughing at the tired human, who was struggling to stand before him. “I was the one who infected Queen Kira with the darkness, Rey! Her darkness could only be dispelled by the waters of the lake. I wanted to show you that your people would send their most expendable soldier to do the most difficult job. You.” Merkil screamed in Reyansh’s head. “I wanted to talk to you. To make you realize your foolishness! What makes your think that you are doing the right thing by giving up your apprenticeship with me, for these kind of people, Rey? Selfish cowards!” Merkil sneered angrily.
The King hit the shield again as Reyansh gasped and he could feel like someone had punched him in the gut. Reyansh nearly lost conscious as he slumped unceremoniously on the ground. The repeated attacks of the King on his shield, battered Reyansh’s body, but he could feel his shield holding against the king.
There was a small pause, as the King also stopped his attacks.
“Let my people pass!” Reyansh said in a hoarse voice, pushing himself back on the shield, trying to whip up some shield around him. Just something which would help him at least dull the ferocity of the Mind Attack of the King.
“This is not the life I had in mind for you, Rey! Look at you. Your Dark magic is nearly gone trying to put this shield around me and your light magic is non existent. You have been reduced to a pathetic existence where you have to spend your life as a commoner. No magic. Nothing!” The King’s voice was soft and Reyansh breathed a little easier. The Red King was not attacking him…it was marginally better, because Reyansh could focus on something – something other than the dark spots dancing in front of his eyes or his pain-filled body. “You were the most powerful Magi I had seen. That is why I chose you as my apprentice. Together, you and me can rule the whole of Alternia and all the realms around it!” The Red King’s voice was cold and Reyansh knew that the king meant it. Every single word.
“We are just in the outskirts of Lake Solare, Rey!” The Red King continued. “It is the month, when the lake is clear, instead of the smoky fiery surroundings that the lake had the last month. This month, the lake reveals its treasures, Rey. We can find the Jewel of the Night inside the lake and with the Jewel in our control, we can rewrite the destiny of all the people. I know you. I know how much you are attracted to the Dark Power.” The Red King’s voice was practically purring in Reyansh’s mind. “Quit this foolishness and join me!”
Reyansh smiled sadly. “Quit your work and please let us help these people, my friend. These people are innocent…” Reyansh never completed his words and screamed as something shot at him and the way Reyansh was feeling he thought he was being ripped to shreds.
Reyansh thought he saw the blurred outline of Kiran, outside the shield, look at him with a horrible expression on his face, as everything was going dark.
“What is all this for?” The Red King’s voice came after what seemed like an impossibly long time as Reyansh woke up with a start. His head and body was pounding and he could see nothing other than blurs and his body was trembling badly and every breath was an agony. Reyansh did not know whether he was alive anymore. But the Red King’s anger which he could feel told Reyansh that he was alive. Not much. But still alive enough to feel the King’s anger.
“You really think that by doing these foolish things, these cowards would accept you, Rey?”
The Red King’s anger told Reyansh one more heartening thing. Reyansh’s last minute desperate plan had worked. When the Red King had attacked, Reyansh barely had time to do anything else. He just had time to create the shield and hope that he could stop the Red King until at least his people would get the waters from the lake.
“For them, you are a murderer. A cold blooded killer. No matter what you do, nothing can change it.” The Red King sneered.
Reyansh smiled sadly as he saw his twin brother. Unlike the others, when Reyansh had wanted to turn a new leaf, Kiran had not doubted Reyansh. Not even once.
“These people that you want to die for, will not accept you, Rey! They will never accept you.” The Red King screamed, as Reyansh winced, his head hurting a lot. “For them you will always be a murderer. A hated man. Nothing more!”
For once, the words of the King hurt Reyansh. Reyansh was feeling a bitter taste of defeat in his mouth as he wondered how many people he had killed when he was under the power of the greed-fueled Red King. It was only six months back that Reyansh was able to break the hold which the King had on him. And Reyansh now knew that he was going to probably meet all his victims after his death and in that place, Reyansh could not ask for the forgiveness of his victims. What he had done to them, could not be undone by simple forgiveness.
For a brief second Reyansh wavered, fear filling him because he did not want to face his victims.
But Reyansh glanced at his brother, outside the shield, who was shaking his head, trembling with fear, and Reyansh felt firm again. Reyansh could not undo what he had done. But he could prevent it from happening again.
“I have made my peace, Merkil!” Reyansh said again, his throat burning him as he spoke. “So should you!”
For the first time, Reyansh saw fear in the Red King’s face. And as Reyansh felt the Red King trying to break out of his Mind Shield with a single minded ferociousness and Reyansh had no more illusions left. Reyansh knew that the only possible happy ending he could have was his death. That was way better than having to endure the fearful and hatred filled eyes of the people around him.
“What are you going to…..?” The Red King screamed and he never completed his words as Reyansh collapsed his shield. In a brutal move, Reyansh had destroyed his whole body, in his hope that destroying his body would destroy his shield and everything inside it.
For a whole second nothing could be seen inside the shield. Nothing other than a pure white light, surrounded by the swirling darkness of the Red King’s energy, accompanied by screams and shouts from inside the shield.
Kiran watched horrified as there was a huge explosion and the rocky ground of Alternia shook horribly and then as the smoke cleared, there was nothing to be seen. Nothing at all.
“We have the waters, your Majesty!”
Kiran was not sure what he had heard. He was tired. The entire place was nothing but a wreck. The place buzzed with magic and the debris around the place was horrible. His people had tried searching the place but had not found anything. But Kiran could not stop looking. His brother could not be gone. Reyansh had just come back to them and he was beginning to laugh again. He could not be gone so soon.
“Take the waters to the Queen,” Kiran muttered not even pausing to look at his general, as the General repeated what he had said. “That was what you came here for!” Kiran said unable to control his bitterness.
The General said nothing as he turned away. The General had lost men in battles before this and though it looked like he did not care, the General could name all the people who had perished under his command. Every single one of them. And one more name had gone up in that list. And the General felt a deep regret because he was one of the people who did not favour having the other prince accompanying them because the General did not trust Reyansh.
Right now, the General sympathized with the younger prince, but said nothing. Prince Kiran had to make his own peace with what his brother had done for them.
There was a sudden sound as both the men turned to find two women coming towards them. The General immediately went on guard and then relaxed a few seconds later. The women who were coming towards them, seemed to be Tribe Leaders – the General knew one of the women as the leader of the Vanara Clan – the Tribe of the Monkey and the other seemed to have a symbol of a Pangolin on her shield. The General did not know the name of the other tribe, but that the two women were clan leaders was obvious, which was why the General did nothing.
The soldiers around the General looked questioningly as the General shook his head slightly. The soldiers did nothing as they went back to their work.
“We heard that the Red King and his apprentice are no more....” The Vanara tribe leader said coming forward to meet Kiran.
“My brother is not dead! And he is not an apprentice!” Kiran shouted interrupting the woman, with barely controlled anger.
The woman said nothing as Kiran was panting angrily, struggling to control himself.
“Prince, I have come here to pay my respects to the Appren...Prince Reyansh!” The woman continued in a gentle voice.
Kiran and the General both frowned as the woman continued.
She removed a pouch from her belt and looked at Kiran. “Six months back, the Red King wanted our clan erased and had sent his apprentice to finish the work. However, the apprentice was grateful enough to let my people live.”
Kiran was unable to believe what he listening.
The woman removed a beautifully studded ring from her pouch and handed it over to Kiran. “The apprentice gave my people his ring to shield our village in case the Red King attacked.” The woman nodded. “I am returning the ring of the Apprentice to his family and I have come to tell you that the Apprentice will remain a hero among us. We honour our heroes even after they perish!”
Kiran looked at the ring and suddenly remembered his brother’s smirking eyes. That was the only way Reyansh looked at everyone – with a touch of arrogance and haughtiness – almost as if Reyansh knew that there was no one as powerful as him in all of Alternia.
It was at that minute that Kiran realized that his brother was not coming back. Ever. And Kiran wanted nothing more than to cry at the whole unfairness of it. They had come here to save their mother. And Kiran was going back without his brother. A brother, whom he had just got to know and Kiran realized that he would never know who his brother really was. Because his brother was a hero – a hero who had returned to his home.