The Fall of Lord Covington
Lord Covington dropped the distance to the floor. He looked up at little Valerie's listless hand, his brow furrowed in determination. Not another child, he promised himself. He patted at his matted fur, the dirt and grime telling of the six generations he had spent protecting the children of Earth. He was more patchwork now, having been resown and re-stuffed more times than he cared to remember but never was his resolve stronger. He may have failed to defend the children of his home-world, Tau Ceti IV, but not here.
He felt the wet muzzle of a short-haired terrier bump his shoulder. He turned and said, “Pontifax, my faithful companion, I'm afraid this night I must work alone.”
No, Lord Covington, I am unafraid. We will stand against the Darkness, Pontifax of Rigel III mind-spoke to the determined teddy bear.
“No, my friend, you must remain behind. Someone must protect the child.”
Pontifax gave a small, pitching whine but lowered his head in assent. Lord Covington gathered himself. His fur had worn thin in many places, his eyes were mismatched, and he was suffering from a distinct shortage in the stuffing department. Despite all this, Lord Covington never felt so ready in his long life. This confrontation had been the end of his path for as long as he remembered, he just never knew the right time and place. He prepared his defenses and gathered his power, keeping the image of Valerie's sweat-soaked body directly in his mind's eye.
All his carefully crafted wards were swept aside in an echoing, tidal response to his power. Lord Covington grunted. Thick, black smoke issued from the torpid child's mouth, coalescing into the form of the great enemy: Marduk, one of the Archdukes of the hordes of Nemesis. His true form was masked by the aura of black smoke, only two hellish lanterns of light that were loosely analogous to eyes could be seen through the haze. They fixed upon Lord Covington.
“This is what Earth brings against me?” Marduk mocked, his voice distorted as if heard from a deep well. A deep, burbling rumble of laughter resound through the room, stealing over its sleeping inhabitants like the chill of the grave. “The best they could come up with is a mere teddy bear?”
Lord Covington gave no response. Instead, he raised both hands to manifest his power and send it out in ringing waves against the dark cloud. He despaired immediately as Marduk effortlessly outmatched him. Thick, ropy tendrils of necrotic power weaved within the matrix of Lord Covington's magic, creeping ever closer to him. Moments before the black power could corrupt and consume him, Lord Covington felt a tiny hand alight upon his shoulder. A surge of raw energy suffused him. Another hand, another surge. Lord Covington saw Marduk’s confidence falter. Bringing this new force to bear, Lord Covington perceived it tearing at the mooring that held his enemy to this physical plane, unraveling the seams of his soul.
Marduk made a desperate attempt to disengage from Lord Covington but it availed him not. Marduk, Archduke of the hordes of Nemesis, died with a whimper and a pop. Teddy bear victorious looked to Valerie. She stared at him with wide, clear eyes free of any sign of illness. As the power receded from him, Lord Covington tottered on one leg. Only the slender line that tethered Lord Covington to the doll kept it in any cohesive state.
Valerie rushed forward to catch Lord Covington as he fell. Tears streamed down her face. He lifted his one working arm and said, “No tears, dear child. You are safe and I go to a better place. I can finally be with my children...”
A long howl woke Valerie's mother from the best sleep she had managed in the days since Valerie had taken ill. Blearily Valerie's mother said, “Hush, Max, you'll wake...”
The words died on her lips as the sight of Valerie sitting up on the bed with Lord Covington on her lap pierced her sleep soaked brain. When Valerie looked up at her mother, her eyes red-rimmed, her bottom lip quivering, her mother nearly rushed her. Aware of how precarious her health had been, instead she asked, “What's the matter, honey?”
“He's gone and he told me not to cry. I'm trying not to cry, momma, but why can't I cry?” she whispered, barely controlled, as if to speak too loud would push her to tears.
“Lord Covington, momma.”
“Why can't you cry?” Valerie's mother's confusion just deepened as she noticed the condition of the child's favored teddy bear.
“He told me not to. He said he was going to a better place. But he fought for me, momma! I saw it in my dream. He was a hero, like in the movies! He fought the great black thing and it was so much bigger than him but he was so brave and he stood there and then it was gone,” she punctuated her story with wildly gesticulating hands, “and then he was gone. I wanna cry, momma.”
Valerie's mother looked at her a moment, utterly confused, then hugged her daughter. “I don't think he meant you shouldn't cry, he meant you shouldn't cry for him.”
“What's the difference?”
“When you cry for him, you're sad that something bad has happened to him but when you cry for yourself, you're sad because he's gone.”
“And that's okay?”
“Yes, it is. Will you be okay a second, I have to phone the doctors.”
Shall I continue, mistress? Pontifax asked when Valerie's mom left the room. Valerie merely nodded. Pontifax raised his voice in a sadly, ululating howl. Within her mind, Valerie sighed as the words blossomed:
Onward brave soldier,
Go forth unto the Light,
Onward my fallen brethren,
Your rest is earned this Night,
Onward my cherished brother,
We will carry on the Fight.