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09 August 2017

Sir Ryac and the Dark Mage - Chapter 4: Hidden

Written by Sarah-Maree

It seems my mind never does what I want it to do! That’s good news for Ryac fans, because the story within the journal is back! Hopefully it was worth the extra long wait!

Edited September 6, 2022

Holiday weekends, am I right? All the best laid plans really do have a tendency to go a bit awry. Well, that’s more than fine by me! Things are still well on their way, even with the setbacks!

The chapter below has been updated with what I hope will be the final print. Fingers crossed on that! Oh, and this edited bit is all new, of course! Oh, and I succeeded in editing all of Sir Ryac and the Dark Mage on Tuesday August 30th! That’s one full day ahead of schedule! I took a bit of a mental break and decided I needed to have a quick beta read done. Those last ten chapters had some heavy plot edits, including an all-new chapter added. Hopefully that clears up plot holes and gives the story a stronger ending. I’ll have to see what the beta readers think.

Coming up, chapter five will be making its debut! From there, well, it’s back to the old schedule. Formatting will be next, followed by two more read throughs. I won’t be making the same mistakes I made when I published Positivity Camp! All new mistakes? Maybe, but not the same ones! As for publishing, that certainly isn’t happening this September! October? Perhaps. November? More likely. December? Hopefully not! Either way, it’s looking like I have a book to publish this year. Exciting things are on the way! May your adventures be many and your inspiration be endless!

Photo Credit: Tobias Bjørkli

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“Sir Ryac, please-”

“Thou doth not knoweth what thou doth ask of me. Thy handmaiden-”

“Is dead!” DeNadie looked away, ashamed of her outburst. “She’s dead, Ryac,” she reiterated more somberly. “The ring is not safe in my keeping.” She took his hand and folded his fingers back over the ring. “Until the wrongs have been made right, keep it. And mayest the spells upon it protect thee.”

“M’lady, upon mine honor, I shall guard it with my life,” the knight reluctantly obeyed.

With a pained expression, DeNadie nodded her assent. “I must hasten to the castle before I am missed.” She flinched a moment later as she recalled her lessened role in the royal court, thanks to the Dark Mage’s meddling.

“I shall escort thee,” Ryac stated. The princess was sure to be picked on by her former servants if she arrived alone in the serving quarters. Since none recalled her true position, they would chastise her, same as the other servants. However, with a knight as an escort, they could only do so much. Ryac removed the beam he’d leaned across the barn door before DeNadie could protest.

“’Tis a dark night. I’ll not be detected. My cloak shall conceal me,” DeNadie protested half-heartedly.

“Are not the Vampire Lord’s powers increased on moonless nights such as this?” Ryac asked innocuously. “And thou without thy ring of protection,” he added as DeNadie shook her head in protest.

“Very well,” she said, resigned. She flipped her hood over her head and pulled it low. Then she made sure her gloves and cloak were snug about her. When she was convinced the dark clothing would properly shield her from sight, she turned to inspect Ryac.

Without a word, Ryac had begun his own preparations. As he did so, DeNadie cringed. Each movement he made was accompanied by the creaking, clinking, and rustling of his chainmail and armor. His armor, at least, was slowly being stripped off.

“Perhaps…” DeNadie began, hesitantly.

Ryac dismissed her concern. “Fear not, M’lady. The armor doth make too much noise, but my chainmail shalt prove the stealthier option. I have no desire to fight the Vampire Lord, nor do I think mine armor would prove much use against such a foe.”

Matt settled into his chair further as he imagined an armored knight going up against a vampire. The thought of an upcoming battle thrilled him. Despite that, he found himself hoping the princess and her foolish plan got her killed. After all, wasn’t traveling at night with a vampire on the loose dangerous? It would serve her right for endangering the knight! After all, wasn’t this a her problem? Her name lost; her ranking lost. Maybe she should have talked with the mage and tried figuring out why he was upset with her. Maybe he was just resentful of her special, royal treatment. Instead, she decided to send her knight after him.

Rooting for the Vampire Lord to attack and teach the foolish princess a lesson, Matt turned the page.

They were quite for a moment. “Sir Ryac, dost thou truly wish to avenge me?” the princess asked, her eyes intent upon her knight.

“Yes,” Ryac said, surprised, but no less willing. “Prithee tell, is something the matter?” he asked, concerned that he had somehow misspoken as the princess looked uncertain.

“No, nothing like that,” she answered elusively. “Let us hasten our departure.”

The knight had been about to press for an answer, but he nodded instead. There was little to be gained from arguing and much to lose. He finished packing up his armor and hiding it in the stable with his war horse, Zor. The longer they delayed, the greater their chances were of encountering the Vampire Lord, or so Ryac believed.

They were silent as they made their way from shadowy alleyway to shadowy alleyway. The light rainfall masked the sound of their passing. The wind often ruffled tarps over street carts or creaked against old wooden beams, which only heightened Ryac’s apprehension. There were few insects around this time of year, and fewer animals that dared to walk the streets at night. Each movement, and each sound had him on edge.

Despite Ryac’s concerns, they made it unhindered to the palace gardens. By then, the rain had stopped entirely. Its absence left the knight feeling exposed. The night felt too still, and the clouds overhead made the world too dark. His eyes darted about as he searched the darkness. His hand never left the hilt of his trusted blade.

They passed beneath ivory trellises with morning glories strung across the fragile seeming beams. More flowers lined the cobblestone path as they entered the outer gardens, which were available to all citizens to wander.

Matt cringed as more flowers, trees, bushes and the like were described, mostly from memory as it was too dark to see. If it was too dark to see, Matt reasoned, then why describe them?! Once again, he found himself skimming past the description of the outer gardens. Then he skimmed more as the two travelers entered some middle garden area. He wasn’t sure what it was called as he didn’t really care at this point. As the description dragged on, he found himself rooting more and more for a vampire to destroy the stupid garden.

“Finally!” Matt groaned as he read the sentence he believed marked the end of the three page description of plants.

Together, the two stopped under the stone lion archway that led into the royal gardens.

“Thou hath done well, but I must travel on alone from here,” DeNadie said. She hardly paused as it became evident that Ryac intended to go with her all the way. “Thine presence would rouse rumors or worse,” she warned.

Ryac nodded his understanding unhappily. He had not thought of that as a potential outcome. As the princess dismissed him with a curt nod of her head, he remained alert and vigilant. He had never heard of anyone being attacked on the castle grounds, but then, he had never heard of anyone staying out at night, not since the first attacks.

Ryac did his best to watch over the princess as she worked her way under stone archways, around elaborate fountains, and between intricate networks of flowerbeds. He lost sight of her more than once as a tree or stone blocked his view. Each second wore on his nerves and every rustling leaf had him fighting to hold his position.

He dared not cross under the South Wing’s stone lion archway, not now. Had she but given her blessing, he could have traveled with her safely. Only those of royal blood retained access into the gardens at night, despite the queen’s curfew. DeNadie still had her blood, if not her position or name. He lamented not asking her to grant him permission to enter, but then he would have followed, which she had clearly been against.

Wait, Matt thought suddenly. Wasn’t Ryac supposed to go with her all the way? So he could help her with the other servants? What happened to that plan? And he didn’t even fight it?

Matt rubbed his temple and sighed. At least this way there was the possibility that the stupid princess was alone when her stupidity caught up to her in the form of a vampire. And that meant Ryac wouldn’t suffer from her reckless behavior. He rather liked that thought.

It was too late now. He had to wait here, lest he trigger a protective spell and alert the palace guard to the presence of an intruder. He doubted they would take kindly to either him or the princess (now at the station of a servant) being out at night. That is, if they even bothered to leave the safety of the walls. Regardless, the alarm would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the princess to sneak back to the servants’ quarters undetected.

Lost in thought, Ryac nearly missed the darkening of the world around him. While it was dark enough without the moon or stars, as the storm clouds had yet to fully disperse, the torches lining the path lacked flickered and dimmed. The knight’s eyes flickered about as he felt rather than saw the unnatural dimming. No breezes stirred; no rain fell. The world was silent and still.

When Ryac’s eyes flickered back to the place where Princess DeNadie had been, she was gone. He shifted his weight as he prepared to charge into the gardens in search of her. He caught sight of her running form as she darted to the garden’s West Wing entrance. Something large, too large to be the Vampire Lord, followed close behind.

Ryac wasted no time. He turned and ran away from the South Wing’s entrance and took the path that would take him to the West Wing’s stone archway. If he ran fast enough, it was possible he would reach the archway ahead of her. He ran, his heart racing, his blood pumping, and his mind ready for combat.

Matt practically giggled with delight. This was the moment he’d been waiting for!

He reached the archway, but there was no sign of the princess or her pursuer. He pressed forward, fully prepared to charge under the West Wing’s protective lion archway.

A terror-filled scream split the air, followed by the sound of a beast’s blood-chilling shriek. They both cut off suddenly and unexpectedly. The chilling silence stopped Ryac’s blind charge. He instead moved swiftly and silently under the shadow of a tall bush.

Moving carefully so as to avoid detection, Ryac parted a few leaves and peered into the garden. A lone figure stood unmoving. A breeze picked up and moonlight illuminated the night. Standing there in the garden was a man dressed in a flowing, blood red robe. Atop his head was a golden crown with jewels as black as night.

With a heavy sigh, Matt didn’t even bother skimming the next paragraphs, he could already sense a massive dump of useless clothing descriptions. Three pages later, he found where the excitement picked up again.

The Vampire Lord, for it could be no one else, strode casually toward Ryac’s position. Not even daring to breathe, Ryac remained crouched and unmoving. Only when the vampire stopped and stooped down did the knight begin to breathe again.

From what Ryac could see, the vampire picked two small, figurine-sized creatures off the ground. He knew one of them to be his princess, and quickly surmised the other to be the beast that had pursued her. It took a great deal of restraint to keep from charging the seemingly prone man. The knight knew better than to attempt such a foolhardy thing. Everyone knew, even reckless knights, that vampires could only be slain during the day or else with magical items, both of which were currently unavailable.

Helplessly, Ryac watched as the Vampire Lord placed the tiny princess and his pet into a pouch at his waist. Then he raised his hands to the heavens. Ryac’s eyes flickered to the cloudless sky where the stars burned bright once more. When his eyes looked back, the vampire was gone.

Despite the anger he felt, Ryac began planning his next move. He had heard rumors the wise woman Pa-Rell knew where the vampire rested during the daylight hours. If he moved swiftly, he might reach her house before dawn. Rather darkly, he realized he could move more freely now that the vampire had a captive to keep him busy.

Ryac dared not think of the princess’ fate. He was about to turn to leave when movement within the garden caught his attention. A dark form had stepped out from behind a dark pillar, no doubt also feeling confident that the danger had passed.

Rage filled the knight as he saw who it was that had so boldly stepped into the light: The Dark Mage.

“Heh, better her than me,” the Dark Mage cackled as he pulled his dark cloak tightly against his side.

This time, Matt did laugh. It served her right, indeed! As much as he liked the knight, he found himself rooting for the Dark Mage’s victory. After all, if Ryac fell in battle, then there would be no one left to save the foolish princess.

He was about to skim ahead, but for once, his cousin didn’t give a long description of a character. That irritated Matt more than he cared to admit. Ultimately, it made him turn against the knight even more as the unfairness became more apparent, considering the knight had a full page or more of description, and here was the Dark Mage’s entrance and all he got was a measly one-liner.

Well, if his cousin couldn’t give the mage a proper description, then Matt would just have to imagine him as some badass mage with a super intricate silver staff and a wide-brimmed mage’s hat with a fancy feather. What else did mages wear? he wondered. He decided to look it up later. The Dark Mage deserved that much, at least.

Enraged at the sudden sinking suspicion that the Dark Mage had been the real target of the Vampire’s pet, Ryac drew his sword. Boldly, he hacked a branch out of his way and charged under the West Wing arch. Since neither the Vampire Lord nor the Dark Mage had triggered the protective magic, Ryac felt secure in charging forward. Even as he made his move, so too did the Dark Mage.

With a flick of his wrist, the Dark Mage tossed a small object against the cobblestones at his feet. A thick mist formed where the object struck the ground. Before it could conceal the Dark Mage and carry him off, his eyes met Ryac’s. There was a flicker of recognition as the Dark Mage watched the knight’s enraged charge. He laughed as the mist rose protectively around him. Then he too was gone.

“Curse you,” Ryac spat at the empty ground where the Dark Mage had stood mere seconds before. His sword hissed angrily as he sheathed it.

The sound of rock grating on rock behind the knight alerted him to the danger of his reckless charge. Somehow, the Vampire Lord and the Dark Mage had avoided activating the protective magic. Magic which Ryac had just triggered.

The knight knew he had only a few seconds to act before the rock would become fully animated. Keeping his wits about him, the knight knew his greatest odds of success lay in escaping out the nearest archway. Thus, he ran toward the West Wing’s entrance and the awakening stone lion. He caught sight of the magical creature as it raised its head to give a gravely rendition of a lion’s roar. Then it sent a tiny shower of rock around it as it tore itself free of the stone archway and prepared to pounce.