The Chosen

The powers of the Chosen are growing, but so too grows the power of the Void. It is, and has ever been, unstoppable – even for the Maker. And now, the Void is more powerful than ever.
Only by uniting do the Chosen stand a chance against it. The powers of good and evil, light and darkness must come together as one. Divided, they all will die.
But first, they must reach the besieged city of Lock Core, where the Dark Army is spilling into their world. And during their journeys, they must learn that there are many paths to the city, but only one path will lead them to victory.
To follow the Maker’s path . . . it is the only way.
Though the path was paved for them ages ago, they must find it soon, else the Void reclaims all of creation.

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6. BRICE

 

 

 

 

Brice did his best to keep pace with his mother.  But his mother was tall; her legs lean, strong and long.  Only by clinging to her hand was he able to remain with her, though he was more or less dragged along the rich marble hallway.  Servants and soldiers passed them by, many shoving or pushing Brice and his mother aside.  They once devoted their lives to serving the Langlia household, but now such things as ‘rank’, and ‘position’ were forgotten and ignored in their own haste to abandon the manor. 

All that they cherished, they abandoned.  Unless it could be used as a weapon, it had to be left behind.  Anything else would only hinder their escape, for even their greatest treasures would hold little value while fighting their way through the streets of Lock Core.

Brice’s mother on the other hand, had no need for weapons.  The only thing she took from the mansion was her son.  

It all began two days ago, when, for the first time ever, the Death Bell was sounded.  The hollow gong reverberated through the streets of Lock Core, filling its citizens with fear.  Though they never heard it before, they all knew that the constant, deep clanging could mean only thing -- the Black Door was open.  And so it was, for soon after the echo of the Death Bell faded, the Plague poured into the Seventh World.

Thus, the battle to save their world commenced, and for two full days the citizens of Lock Core waited in fear, hoping the forces of the Seventh World could do the impossible; stop the Plague.  But today the word was spread: “Lock Core was doomed.  The city was to be abandoned”.

All was lost.  All must leave.

Everyone fled.

Since it began, Brice knew fear.  But now, that fear had grown greater than he ever thought possible.  He knew what awaited him in those dark streets.  As much as his mother had struggled to shelter him from the truth of the last two days, he had heard the rumors.  He had seen the flames rise above the sky, and the shadowed figures they revealed. 

Without a doubt, Brice was worried about what his mother and he would soon face, but even more so, he was afraid for the fate of his father, Dane Langlia, who fought atop the fallen wall.  Brice was well aware that his father was used to danger, but not even his great Outland adventures could prepare him for the horrors of the Plague. 

It was typical for his father’s journeys into the uncharted lands to last for months at a time, but never once did Brice doubt that his father would return . . . until now.  He had only been gone two days now, but Brice and his mother had lived every second of those days in dread.

Unlike the rest of the noble families of Lock Core, the moment the Death Bell tolled, Dane Langlia took the majority of his garrison and marched out to the great Red Wall.  They were some of the first true soldiers to stand the wall.  Though the soldiers of Lock Core’s garrison were trained to fight, they existed mostly for show.  Few, if any, had actually fought a real battle.  For the most part, they spent their service walking the Red Wall.  If they ever lifted a weapon, it was to salute a tourist.

But Dane and his soldiers were hardened warriors, adventurers who spent most of their lives walking the wilds of the Seventh World, the specter of death always at their side.  Over the years, they earned a great deal of fame and respect among the citizens of Lock Core.  Because of their explorations, much of the “uncharted lands” were now thoroughly charted. 

Likewise, the items they returned with brought great wealth to the city: sacks of priceless gems, gold and silver objects of every shape and size, artwork from distant foreign cultures.  But, perhaps most impressive of all, they often found ancient artifacts, items many thought to be relics of  the Exodus – perhaps even older, from a time before the days of the Plague. 

As impressive as their treasures were, the stories they returned with were even more impressive.  There wasn’t an Outland child who didn’t know the tale of ‘The Companions’ Curse’, or ‘The Blade of the Unholy’.  To the citizens of Lock Core, the tales were legendary, and often retold.  Dane and his soldiers had become a great source of pride for the city; heroes to the children, and celebrities to the general populous.

But Dane’s greatest fan of all was his son.  One of Brice’s greatest joys in life was his father’s homecoming, and the plethora of new bedtime stories that were sure to accompany him.

The last two days had seen Dane’s fame and legend grow exponentially.  Many new stories of his father’s exploits along the Red Wall filtered down to Brice. 

It was said, that with only a handful of Magi and the soldiers of Lock Core, Dane and his men were able to hold the Dark Army back for the first day.  Dane himself was credited with that small victory.  His ability to coordinate a quick and effective defense kept the Plague at bay.  Many even claimed it was a slaughter, that Dane’s cleverness turned the field of battle into a pit of ash and silver-fire.  And for a moment, they even believed themselves victorious; the Plague seemed to fall back to the Rift . . .

. . . then the second wave came, and the third, the fourth . . .

Remarkably, the defense held.  Dane continued to adapt to the efforts of the Dark Army, no matter what the Rift threw at him.

His efforts may have been responsible for repelling the initial wave of the Plague, but his greatest achievement was being an example for others; getting them to aid in the defense of the wall, thus allowing the fight to continue on. 

When the Death Bell first rang, Dane never hesitated to do his duty to protect the city, nor did he cower in his manor – as did many other lords, and city officials.  Dane’s bravery brought them all to the wall, rallying the city for a fighting chance.  Had the rest of the nobles turned and fled, surely the battle would have ended after that first day.  After the stories of his bravery spread, even soldiers from the Outlands poured in, and continued to come.

Until now . . .

But none of it was enough.  And where was Brice’s father now?  Was he still fighting atop the wall, or lying dead upon it? 

Or was it even worse . . .

Brice had to know.  He wouldn’t leave the city until he knew. 

Squeezing his mother’s hand, he joined the exodus, realizing that to get closer to his father he first had to survive his flight from the keep.

His mother took the lead, effortlessly guiding them through the crowd.

Everywhere they stepped, his father’s artifacts, and his mother’s art, littered the floor.

Ancient tapestries were left to be torn and trampled upon.  Stone statues toppled from their pedestals, scattering across the floor in broken chunks.  The art his mother had once nurtured to life with only the magic of her imagination, and the many priceless objects his father risked life and limb to acquire, had turned to trash, becoming little more than obstacles for the fleeing mob to avoid.

Brice tripped on one such obstacle.  He slipped from his mother’s grip, landing face-first into the floor.  His mother’s white robe vanished in a press of servants.  Even her flowing red locks, which normally towered over all others, began to fade from Brice’s sight.  Brice struggled to his feet, but alone he was too small, and was jostled to the ground as the fleeing crowd surged on.  They were as oblivious to his small body as they were to the many priceless tapestries strewn along the corridor floor. 

Their heavy feet began to kick and trample him.

A boot landed on his back, stomping the air from his lungs as he sought to scream his mother’s name . . .

Though Dane may have taken his fiercest and most loyal troops to the wall, he didn’t leave his son unprotected.  In fact, he left Brice with the greatest protector of all – his mother, Lady Corel.

A wall of fast moving blue flames plowed toward Brice, flinging everyone it touched to the wall.

The onslaught of feet stopped.

Blood pouring from his nose, Brice looked up.

Engulfed in fire, his mother, Lady Corel was hovering over him.

“Enough!” She screamed, her voice amplified by the Oneness.

“I know your fear. As I know too that I can no longer order you as Lady of the manor.  But I beg you, please, stay calm.  We may have lost this battle, but the least we can do is try not to kill each other before the dead have a chance to do so.  I promise you, there will be time enough for us all to leave the keep.  But to leave here safely, we must work together.  However, once beyond these walls, we are all on our own.  I know not what lays waiting in the streets, only that we each must face it on our own.  I believe sometimes, it’s not our lives that are important, but how we face our deaths that matters; with bravery, or cowardice.  Sometimes, the manner of our death is the only choice we have left.  Please, in what may be our last moment, be brave.’

Many bowed, falling to one knee while they whispered, “Pardons, my Lady” or “Forgive me, Lady Corel”.  Others lowered their heads; simply too ashamed to face their former mistress.

Her words brought their judgment back.  They remembered why they served the house of Langlia; the pay was good, but they loved their masters.

The house began to empty single file.

Brice’s mother reached down to him with a slender hand covered in blue flames.  She rested her palm on his forehead.  Licks of fire crept down his body, mending his bruised body.

“Come, Brice,” she said, helping him to his feet.  “We must leave this place.”

‘The sooner the better.  Despite what I said, haste is essential,’ his mother continued, relaying a more honest assessment of the situation through her powers of telepathy.

Brice nodded his head while smoothing out his ruffled silk coat.  He took his mother’s hand and they continued on, joining the, now orderly, procession heading out of Langlia Manor. 

All was well until they reached the foyer – the place where his mother’s most prized possessions were once displayed for all who entered Langlia Manor.

At the sight of the destruction, one would have thought the dead had already ravaged the place. 

A sigh left his mother’s lips.  Her eyes misted over.  The works were scattered along the stairways, their frames broken beyond repair, and their canvases torn. 

As tattered as they were, Brice recognized many of the paintings.  The images filled his mind with memories of the hours spent at his mother’s side, watching as she transformed the blank canvases into rich images filled with color and life.  She never once summoned the blue fire while she worked, yet to Brice, her paintings seemed birthed of magic none-the-less.

They would be lost to her now.   Even the few that remained unscathed could not be carried to safety.  They would be left to rot along with the rest of the city.

She took a moment to glimpse them one last time – possibly trying to burn their images into her mind – then tightened her grip on Brice’s hand and continued on.

“Come,” she said, carefully guiding him down the grand central stairway.

Blood spills slicked the steps, a clear indication of the prior, hasty retreat.  His mother side-stepped them with queen-like grace, her shimmering white robe never brushing the red pools.

Once at the bottom of the stairway, the great double doors leading to the courtyard loomed before them.  Brice felt his mother’s urge to flee, but she buried it, and patiently waited for their turn to exit.

She spared no more final glances to her abandoned home, but kept her light blue eyes fixed on the doors before her.

The moment they crossed the threshold, everything changed.    

In the courtyard, chaos reigned.  The calming words of Lady Corel were forgotten.   The sky poured rain, yet was on fire.  The heavens burned with lightning and blue fire, driving the mob into a deeper frenzy.  As one, they bolted toward the eastern gate – the exit leading away from the great Red Wall. 

The pounding rain, and feet, had turned the courtyard into a mud pool, causing many to lose their footing in their mad dash.  Those who fell were trampled and ignored.  The sight of the eastern gate – and the promise of safety beyond – again filled the servants of House Langlia with mad panic.  And when they did reach the gate, the surge of bodies plugged the twenty foot wide opening, forcing them to claw and punch their way into to the city streets beyond. 

Aghast at the sight, Brice followed his mother as she stepped outside -- into the darkness and rain.

Instinctively, Brice moved to join the fleeing crowd, but was halted by his mother’s thin, but deceptively strong, arm.

“I know another way,” she said, guiding him away from the madness.

His boots filling with mud, he trudged through the courtyard.  To avoid slipping, or having one of his boots swallowed in the muck, Brice had to keep his focus on the ground.

But his mother was ever vigilant on the path before them.  There was a single misplaced shadow hidden in the rain, and the moment she saw it, she instantly ignited into blue flames.

Luckily for the newcomer, her flames illuminated his features.  She recognized him just moments before burning him to dust.  But even so, Brice could tell by her tense grip on his hand, and continuing swell of flames, that Lady Corel didn’t think the threat of danger had passed.

“Stand where you are, Mal’tavoy,” she called out, her voice booming with the Oneness.

An often friendly playmate and instructor, Mal’tavoy was the teenage son of Hansel, House Langlia’s master-at-arms, and garrison commander.

Brice recognized him, but barely.  The young man looked haggard and half dead, not the lively youth so full of laughter and warm smiles that Brice was accustomed to.  Also, his black cloak was shredded, and the plates of armor beneath were heavily dented.  He was hunched over, and favored his right leg as he walked.  His once sharp, pointed nose was smashed in, his upper lip swollen to twice its size.  Blood poured down his face, washed away by the rain before it passed his chin. 

“My Lady,” the young man said, limping forward and doing his best to accomplish a bow.  To avoid collapsing in the mud, he had to prop himself up with his silver etched long sword.  “I know what you fear, but on my father’s immortal soul, I promise you I am uninfected.”

Lady Corel didn’t hesitate to confirm his words for herself – her blue flames danced his way, and began delving into his flesh.

“Yes, uninfected . . . but not long for this world, Mal’tavoy.  Not without help,” Lady Corel said.

Mal’tavoy managed to stand without the aid of his blade as Lady Corel’s flames began weaving in and out of his body.

“What’s happening out there, Mal’tavoy?” Lady Corel asked.

One look at his mother, and Brice could tell she was dreading the young man’s reply.  His mother was normally so cool and collected, but now her fear for Dane was as visibly apparent as Brice’s own.

 “My Lady, the city is lost . . . and I dare say the Seventh as well.  The good Master, and those of us that lived, chose to stay for what would undoubtedly be the final assault.  I saw it coming with my own eyes, and surely it would overwhelm the Wall.  Master Dane wished only to buy the city time.  Any thought of victory had long since been forgotten.  He knew it was over, so he left me a message, and sent me to find you and the young master.  The city is overrun, but I reached the manor through the sewage tunnels and hidden passways.  They have yet to be infested, but for how long I cannot say.  I only know that to take the streets is certain death.”

“The message . . . ?” Lady Corel said, dropping Brice’s hand and striding toward Mal’tavoy, her indigo eyes filling with tears.  “What of my husband . . . what of Dane?”

“My Lady, please,” the young man said, casting a nervous glance at Brice.  “Master Dane wished his final words to remain in my mind, for only you to see.”

“I keep no secrets from my son, nor would Dane.”

“ ‘For Lady Corel only’, on this he insisted.”

Covered in swirling flames she went to him, silently probing his mind.  The flames, and tears, surged as she found her husband’s message.

She spun around, scooping Brice up in her arms.

‘I love you, my son,’ she thought, consumed in grief.

Her wet, red hair draped over Brice.

There was another thought in her mind as well, one she sought to hide from Brice, but was so overwhelming it filled her mind.

‘Such horrors . . . greater than anything we could have imagined.’

Brice glimpsed the horrors as well – images of the battle at the Red Wall that his mother had viewed while probing Mal’tavoy’s mind.  In all of his short life of seven sons, Brice never had a nightmare as terrifying as what he saw in his mother’s mind. 

‘You must leave now,’ his mother commanded.  ‘Mal’tavoy will lead you through the tunnels and out of the city.  Once you are free of this place, do not stop.  Never stop.  Leave this city as far behind you as possible.  This place has become death.’

Brice didn’t bother to ask why she was leaving him, or where she would go.  Their fear of the evil spilling into Lock Core was mutual, as was their shared love for Dane Langlia.  Even with the macabre visions of the fall of Lock Core at the forefront of his thoughts, Brice’s love for his father was the stronger force.  And like his mother, he felt that force pulling him to the northern wall.

“Go now, Mal’tavoy,” Lady Corel said, gently setting Brice down on the mud.  “Please Gods, see my son safely from this place.”

Despite her words, she still clung to Brice’s hand. 

“On my life, my Lady,” Mal’tavoy said, grabbing Brice’s other hand and forcibly pulling him away from his mother.  “We shall leave this hell far behind us.”

‘You know why I must go, Brice?’

Brice nodded, as ever his mind was as one with his mother, Lady Corel.

Never forget us, my son.  And remember how we fought so that others could live.  So that you could live.’

With that, his mother turned and left.  She ignored the eastern gate -- where a crowd of people continued to fight for a chance at freedom in the streets -- but continued through the courtyard, running in the opposite direction of the fleeing mob.  Lady Corel went instead to the western gate, and the road to the Red Wall . . .

 

 

 

 

. . . No more than twenty feet into the tunnels, Brice stopped.  Silently, he watched as Mal’tavoy’s torch faded to a dim flicker . . .  a distant glow . . . and then vanished in the darkness. 

Before Mal’tavoy even realized he was missing, Brice was back in the courtyard heading for the western gate and the dark streets of Lock Core. 

The flashes of lightning fell more sporadic, but the darkness and rain were as thick as ever.  Even so, Brice could see it.  The Red Wall loomed in the distance; a silent shadow.  The bursts of Mage-fire illuminating the skyline were no more.  Because of their absence, the wall appeared almost peaceful.  But even Brice’s young mind knew what the silence meant.  He knew the defenders had failed, and that the wall had fallen.  Even so, it was all the more reason to go there.

He had to get to the wall.   He had to find out what became of his parents.

 

 

 

 

Disgusting, the creature thought, averting his large yellow eyes from the sight.  As usual, he squeezed his wide nostrils together to fight off the stench of his ‘companions’; careful to keep the hooked claws of his thumb and forefinger from cutting his face.

Though he no longer looked, the wet slurping sound was enough to nearly make him wretch. 

One would think, he thought.  Galimoto should be used to this by now.

After countless standard years of servitude, he should have gotten used to such horrors, but thankfully he had not.  Without-a-doubt there was a vein of wickedness within his own soul, but compared to what The Master had become, he seemed more a seraph than an imp.  Yes, Galimoto was very thankful he was still repulsed by The Master and his appetite for brains.

The slurping sound continued, accompanied by an ecstatic moan from The Master.

Galimoto waited for the sound to subside before opening his eyes.  The Master was hunched over a humanoid being with a hollowed out head.  Fresh brain matter dripped from The Master’s long, angular beard. 

Please don’t eat that, Galimoto silently begged.

The Master wiped off the remaining chunks with a blood drenched hand, then licked his fingers clean, giving one final moan of pleasure.

Unlike the rest of the Rotten Ones, The Master maintained a strict diet of only brains.  A diet The Master had begun the day he was infected by the new and viler version of the Plague.  After the Dead Tree took root within his flesh, it was no longer just his body that rotted away, but his soul as well. 

Despite his repulsion, Galimot had to admit that The Master was wise, and knowledgeable of many things.  And he knew that what he did was essential to both of their existences.  As implausible as it seemed, there were worse things . . .  Galimoto knew it to be true.  

The Master was a pureblood Makii, one so powerful he crafted life with the Oneness – of which Galimoto’s own existence was accredited.  But unfortunately, that very same power played a part in the creation of the Plague as well. 

The Virus . . . it was his last creation. 

And afterwards, he brought only death.

When the tree took over the Dark Army, like the rest of his kind, The Master had no choice but to accept the new Plague.  Otherwise, the Void itself would or rise up and destroy him. 

Even Galimoto wouldn’t stand for that.

So, in order to save his soul, The Master devised his diet.  He discovered that by devouring the minds of others, he could maintain his own. 

Before they came to this world, it had been so long since his last feeding that Galimoto feared The Master had left, and only the tree remained.  The Master never spoke – rarely thought.  Galimoto often tried to spark a conversation, just to kill the boredom, but it was like talking to a tree – one that wasn’t possessed by the evil incarnation of the Void.

But after eating a few brains, The Master seemed well restored, nearly as good as ever. 

At least he is happy now, Galimoto thought, noting the ecstatic look on his face – the way his soggy grey eyes rolled back in his head.

Galimoto would prefer it if The Master didn’t have to eat brains – or flesh, but an undead Master was better than none at all.

Galimoto knew that The Master liked his brain diet for another reason as well; those he ate stayed dead.  He spared them his own fate, for The Master was one of a few Makii that had come to realize the creation of the Plague was a grievous error.  There was a time when The Master was a peaceful giver of life.  He devoted himself to unlocking the secrets of creation.  To bring life from nothingness became his singular obsession.  The Master believed the Virus would grant him such a power, and if it failed to do so, he would still have an eternity to discover a solution.  But after he was infected, it soon became apparent that he was a slave to the Hunger, and the ‘feast’ had become his new singular obsession.  Even in the midst of his lustful cravings, The Master still had enough sense to realize what that meant, and what he had lost.  He knew he had become a monster.  But the hunger drove him on.  Despite how repulsive he viewed his own existence, all he wanted was to feed.

And so it went, for more days than Galimoto could possibly remember . . .

His latest meal complete, The Master stood up.  Wasting no time, he began sniffing the air to catch the scent of his next meal.    

Like a pack of wild animals, The Master’s other servants moved in, tearing into the poor humanoid’s flesh with their bony hands and rotten teeth.  In moments, the being was picked clean.  Then they moved on, continuing to hunt the streets, as hungry as ever. 

The scene was repeated, over and over.  After a while, Galimoto lost count of how many they took. 

All Galimoto could do was pray for it to end.  Even the boredom of a living on a lifeless world, talking to a lifeless master, was preferable to the massacre he was now forced to witness.  He didn’t bother trying to flee or hide, Galimoto knew all too well the depths of pain The Master could inflict when angered.  He understood the nature of his existence, his position in the hierarchy of servitude, and that his life was tied to The Master.  It was all quite simple really -- the Hunger controlled The Master, and The Master controlled Galimoto. 

In the beginning it was different – The Master was different.  But The Master had become a demon.  As for the demon he once created; Galimoto was the sole remaining testament to his goodness.    

His wings of black leather beat hard to keep pace with the hunters as they tore through the city.  With every feast, The Master and the other hunters grew stronger, killed quicker, and took on larger prey. 

Foolishly, many actually thought to hunt them.  But they had little time to contemplate their error before The Master and his minions were upon them.  When it was over, they too became a feast.

Galimoto buried deep the hope that one of the planet’s defenders would prove a match to The Master.  But it had been ages since Galimoto had seen his Master so strong.  Few had ever stood against him -- as a true threat.  And those that did, ended up proving themselves inadequate to the task.  Not to mention, The Master had a distinct advantage over those he faced – the magic of the imp, Galimoto.

Galimoto was pretty certain, The Master was invincible.

Still though, he enjoyed the hope it brought him when creatures did try to kill The Master.

The hunters found another, helpless victim.  Galimoto felt The Master exerting his willpower to the utmost to hold the hunters at bay.  The Master always wished to be the first to feed, saving the choice parts for himself – the brains, of course.  It seemed to Galimoto, that The Master’s struggle to control his minions grew stronger with every passing day.  They too were infected with the new Plague.  It was only because of his Master’s strength that they obeyed his commands above the will of the Void.  But like his wise Master, Galimoto realized that soon the day would come when they would be beyond even his Master’s power, brain diet or no.

Galimoto zipped through the air, barely able to keep up with the speed of his engorged Master.  They found his skeletal minions surrounding their latest victim – a frightened, sandy-haired young boy.  The boy cowered in the circle of undead, a meager aura of blue covering his skin.   The child believed his barrier was the only thing keeping the hunters from tearing him apart, but unbeknownst to him, it was the will of Galimoto’s Master that kept him alive.  Empowered as they were, the boy’s thin veil of Oneness would be torn asunder as easily as his flesh. 

The undead parted as the Master approached.  The boy’s fear visibly increased, along with his barrier of flames.  But it would amount to not.

Galimoto closed his eyes and turned away, all too aware of what came next.

But instead of a wave of pleasure emanating from the Master, he sensed shock – and perhaps even a hint of fear. 

Galimoto opened his eyes, but had to immediately close them for he was nearly blinded by a sudden brilliant blue light.

As they adjusted, he squinted at the scene, taking note that a woman now stood over the child – her red hair alive and encased in blue flames.  Galimoto couldn’t remember having seen a more beautiful creature.  Her legs were so long, Galimoto wished nothing more than to climb them, perhaps make a nest amongst her ample bosom.  He watched them heave with her every moistened breath, clearly so plump and round through her white, rain drenched robe.

She stood fierce, powerful, and unafraid before The Master.

Almost stronger than his desire to suckle her, Galimoto felt that sense of hope again – oh how he longed for this woman to kill The Master. 

Perhaps the powerful beauty could become his new master?

Several of The Master’s hunters were headless, their bodies scattered across the street.  Galimoto wondered how it was possible, until he saw several of them charge the woman, only to be lifted skyward – a noose of blue flames burning through their necks. 

The Master seemed impressed, but also angry.  His minions were precious to him; each one hand-picked from his many battles throughout the universe.  Many had served him for a millennium.  They were irreplaceable, especially in this age. 

Galimoto was glad to see them go.  Every headless body flying through the air left him with a wicked grin.

Then it was The Master’s turn.

A blur, he charged the woman.  A dozen threads of light whipped out at him, hoping to snare him like his fallen minions.  But The Master moved impossibly fast, and continued to charge right through.  The woman barely had time to raise a blue shield before he bore down upon her.  Wisps of black smoke rose from his alabaster fists as he hammered down upon the shield of flames.  Galimoto had seen those fists crush stone with a single blow – and that was when The Master was at but half of his current strength.

Galimoto expected the shield to crumble, and feared that with every coming blow The Master’s fist would tear through it and her body.

Remarkably, her shield held.  She even had enough excess energy to begin forming another attack. 

But the Master was wise, and had fought and defeated many strong opponents through the ages.  He sensed the coming attack, and redirected his own attacks on the boy -- forcing the woman to increase the size of her shield. 

They entered a stalemate.  As long as The Master continued his attack, she was forced to defend.  Perhaps The Master’s strength would prove superior in the long run, but he wasn’t going to wait that long to find out.

The Master’s summoned others of the Dark Army.  He knew for certain, his strength would hold out long enough for aid to arrive, and then together they would tear her barrier asunder. 

Galimoto also sensed that after her defeat, this brave flame-haired woman would get to keep her brain, but she would join the likes of Galimoto and become a servant of The Master.

“Attack her, Galimoto!” The Master commanded.

Galimoto didn’t want her to become a servant, her wanted her to become The Master.

“No,” Galimoto replied.  “Galimoto is done fighting for The Master.”

The look The Master sent him assured Galimoto an eon of suffering, should the woman fall.

She was going to fall. 

Many came to the Master’s call – Galimoto smelled them coming. 

He thought to aid her, turn his magic against The Master.  But his ability to be disobedient to The Master only went so far.  If The Master wasn’t so focused on killing the woman Galimoto would have to do what he willed, whether he liked it or not.

An army of the dead filled the streets, swarming down upon the red haired woman.  The woman must have been special indeed to illicit such a response from the Void, it seemed as if the entire Dark Army had been redirected to fight the woman.

Buried under a pile of rotten limbs, her shield glowed . . . and continued to hold.

But it was fading – slowly, but definitely fading. 

It was only a matter of time now . . .

Galimoto distanced himself from the scene, and once more covered his eyes.

Then it happened . . .

A miracle.

. . . The Master was destroyed.

Galimoto sensed it coming and opened his eyes.

A wave of darkness arose, engulfing the sky.  With an ear-shattering roar, it spread across the city, spilling into the streets and laying waste to all it touched. 

The Master sensed it too.  He paused his attack and turned to face it. 

The wise and ancient Master looked on . . . confused. 

Before he decided what to make of it, the wave washed over him . . .

Then, just like that he was gone.

In all of the madness, the beautiful woman sensed it coming as well.  Unlike The Master, before it fell upon her she decided how to face it. 

She gave every last ounce of her strength to her shield, and then focused it solely on her son.

 

 

 

 

When the darkness passed, there was little left; no Master, no woman, no city . . . and Galimoto was soon to join them in oblivion.

A single thread of magic remained.

Galimoto understood that, if he was to live, he had to bond with it.

So he followed it . . . and he found it faintly beating in the charred little body of the boy . . . his new Master.

 

 

 

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