When the World Falls to Darkness

A kingdom at war, a web of truth and lies, a vicious game of friendship and betrayal, and a world that will kill you, whatever path you take.
When the World Falls to Darkness, nobody is safe.
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Beautiful cover by River_Summers.

(I also promise much more frequent updates starting July, when exams are over. :D)

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16. Companions

You're not alone any more. The words filled him with warmth, like gentle embers slowly spreading around his body, fighting away the coldness of even Ryuu's gaze. Avalon's hand on his shoulder was warm, too, and firm. Like an anchor - chaining him to a single place, stopping him from his solitary wandering of the four realms.

For a moment, Lukas couldn't speak, couldn't physically find his voice to do so. He had known, since Avalon had saved him, that he'd found a friend. But for her to tell him this? To tell him he was no longer alone? He thought they'd simply bid him farewell and luck.

But not this. Never this.

"You mean it?" Lukas realised how hesitant and afraid his voice sounded, but it was too late to retake the words.

"You really have to ask that? Look me in the eye, Lukas, and tell me that I'm lying," Avalon said. Lukas met her eyes, and almost became lost in the swirling pools of moonlight as he sought out an answer. There was a fire in her eyes, burning with determination. Lukas had seen this in the eyes of people before - people who desperately needed to protect somebody close to their heart.

Avalon wanted to protect him.

"Sorry," he managed. "I just thought you'd want to leave me as soon as you could. Like..." Lukas trailed off, realising how weak he sounded. He'd already shed tears before Avalon, and he didn't want Ryuu to see him as weak, too.

"Like everybody else?" Avalon asked quietly. Lukas swallowed, nodding, and his eyes flickered briefly to Ryuu.

"Yes." Silence. He looked swiftly away as it fell over them, daunting, cold.

"Really?" Avalon laughed. "What, you thought we'd just let you save us, and then abandon you?"

The words sounded almost ridiculous on her lips. Ridiculous, and yet so true. "It's what everybody else does." And what Ryuu wants to do.

A snort.

"Well, everybody else is stupid."

Lukas smiled slightly, fighting the laughter down. "I'm glad you think so."

"I know so," Avalon told him, clapping him firmly on the shoulder. "And at some point, I promise you they'll know it, too."

"Avalon, that will never happen," Lukas said softly. "But... I'm honoured that you'd say that."

The angel shook her head, and grinned at him. "Of course it will!" she declared. Apparently, she was oblivious to Ryuu sighing beside her.

"She means it," he said almost begrudgingly to Lukas. As though accusing him - which really, was completely fair. It was his fault that she'd become wrapped up in Guardian affairs.

"It's impossible," Lukas told her.

"Not if they realise how much they need you," she snorted. Her moonlight eyes burned with a strange light, Lukas realised, like they withheld beautiful skies of blazing silver stars.

"They won't," he told her. "They never will."

Avalon shrugged. "You don't know that. Not if we make them realise how much they need you."

"How?" he asked.

"No idea!" she replied cheerfully. "But Ryuu's smart. Do you think you could figure something out?" she asked him. Ryuu sighed deeply, raising a brow, but inclined his head.

"Perhaps." He looked as though he wanted to add something else, but held his tongue. Lukas shifted awkwardly.

"Great!" she grinned, turning back to Lukas. "See?"

Did she honestly mean it? Did she really believe that the three of them alone could change something that had been set in place for years?

"There are three of us," he pointed out. "I don't think just three people can go against two armies, even if Ryuu's smart. And besides," he added, throwing another wary glance to the elf, "It wouldn't be fair to involve you."

Avalon shrugged. "We'll find others. And then we'll have an army of our own!"

"Don't argue," Ryuu advised quietly, a knowing scowl brushing the corners of his lips. How could she be so confident? Guardians had been struggling for centuries to fight against their suppression, some in organised groups. And yes, they had caused damage. But to bring about change? That had been proven impossible.

"You still don't believe me, do you?" Avalon asked him. Lukas sighed.

"No. I'm sorry, Avalon, but it's impossible," he murmured, bowing his head. She snorted.

"Then we'll make it possible. You'll see," she promised. Lukas raised a sceptical eyebrow, but didn't take the argument any further. He sensed that there would be little point in trying to convince her. "Think about the strategy while you cook us some food," she told Ryuu, flashing him another near-demoniacal grin, and clapping Lukas on the shoulder.

"You two start the fire, and I'll find us some food."

Avalon opened her wings, momentarily blocking the faint, silvery gleam of moonlight as she launched herself upwards. A freezing wave of wind rushed against them both as her wings propelled the air towards them, and Lukas shivered as she shot upwards.

"She's an idiot," Ryuu muttered. "But if there's anybody who can do it, it's her. I'll help her, but not for you. None of this is for you - it's for her. Got that? I hate the idea of helping you. You're everything we've been taught to fear and to hate, and I don't intend to go against that simply because she's rash. But I will support her, even if that means supporting you."

Lukas swallowed. He knew Ryuu wouldn't trust him, he had told himself as much again and again in the darkness of the prison cell. And yet his words still hurt him more than words should. "I don't want to drag her into any of this," he said miserably. "Isn't there anything we can do?"

The elf studied him with a steely gaze. "That won't happen. Avalon's decided she's going to do it, and she will."

So if she dies, it will be my fault, and mine alone.

The thought sliced through his mind, sending needles of guilt jabbing through him.

My fault.

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