A Long-Awaited Reunion
Ganelin D’mala knew his life was drawing to a close even before Kargosh emerged from the shadows on the far side of the ancient throne room. The Berserker appeared to glide across the dust-crusted marble floors, halting a dozen paces from a man he once knew. There was no emotion in his eyes. No anger, nor hatred. Berserker and wizard both understood what was about to happen.
“Long have I waited for you to return, old man,” Kargosh croaked. His voice danced among the darkness.
Small fires growled and cackled, licking flames upwards.
“Two hundred years has not seemed long enough,” Gage answered.
Kargosh laughed. “Has it been so long? The Creator’s death is still vivid in my mind. He warned me you’d return.”
“Perhaps he knew something none of us could figure out.”
“You should not have come back,” the Berserker warned. “There is no way out of here. Consider it your tomb.”
“Time will tell. You and all those like you have no place in this world. Make your peace with the Creator, for soon you shall be held accountable by his memory.”
This threw Kargosh off guard. “All by yourself? I wouldn’t have guessed you had the heart. Small matter either way. You’ll be cut down before you get this far.”
Only Gage’s heightened senses alerted him to the diving shadow speeding towards him. The gleam of steel blinked off the wavering firelight. Gage still felt the monster’s belly brush against his left arm, but the sword clashed against a broken pillar. The Berserker rolled and circled around the ceiling to strike again. His red devil eyes blared down on the human.
Again, the monster attacked, and again he was beaten back by the wizard’s will. A third pass was made, all with Kargosh patiently awaiting the results. He saw no point in tiring himself on menial battles.
Gage feigned a duck, and the shadow wraith flew into the sharpened tip of his staff. The steel ripped his stomach open, and gravity saw to the rest. Entrails and organs splashed across the floor. The Berserker howled before coming to a crashing stop. He twitched once and lay still.
“Invisible assassins. I see Aragin’s magic was wasted on you,” Gage taunted. He was tired and breathing heavily. The Berserker’s blade had managed to slice open his left arm, but the wound wasn’t as bad as it felt. He whispered a spell, and the wound meshed close.
“I am the last of those sent to redeem this planet. Know this and despair, demon! I am Ganelin D’mala, last of the great wizards of Helscape, and I have come to kill you.”
Kargosh regarded him for a moment. He looked twice the size he had when they’d first met. “I know you, old man. It was I who was sent to fetch you when the Creator lay dying. Do you remember? Yes, you must. Wizards have need of long memory.” He rose to his full height suddenly, his wings spread in horrific glory. “Let this be the epic battle to end all things. Come, wizard. Come and taste the fruits of your death!”
Xill and Emerald wasted no time in raising their rifles, but Kane stepped in front of them before they could fire. Dust and rock fragments drifted down from the doorframe, washing the scene a foul color.
“Slayer! I knew you were coming. The winds told me,” Mnemlath snarled. “No more hiding.”
“I have no reason to hide,” Kane replied.
The Berserker laughed. “Broken man. I took your hand, and you still come after me. You killed my favorite warriors. This is the last time.”
Kane remained rigid, his hand easing down the seam of his trousers towards the hilt of his sword. The Berserkers caught his faint movements and reacted as one. Two leapt into the air, weapons at the ready. Ion rounds blazed the sky in long lines straight into their chests. The salvo propelled them backwards, slamming their dying bodies into the rock face. Xill dashed forward and made sure they were dead. He was about to lean down when another monster crashed into him from behind, knocking them both to the ground. His rifle skidded away.
Both brutes grappled across the ground, raising dust clouds. Emerald tried to get a shot off, but they were too close to each other. Xill was going to have to deal with the Berserker on his own. A fist came flying from her blind side and slammed against the side of her head. She fell to the ground and lay still.
Mnemlath clenched his fist from the force with which he’d hit her and went in for the kill. He stopped as he noticed the slender figure standing beside him.
“Finally,” he hissed. “Now you die.”
They met in a fury of sparks and hatred.
Kargosh’s power drove Gage to his knees. The chamber was in ruins. Statues and old pillars lay scattered across the floor, and the fires were raging harder. Exhaustion and fatigue pestered his body, but there was no giving up. He had to win. Kargosh was in no better condition. He was favoring his right side where Gage’s magic had smashed half his ribs and ruptured organs. His left wing hung limp, on the verge of being severed entirely. It draped across his back down to the floor uselessly.
“Wizard!” he called with a heavy rasp. “There is one piece to this nightmare you do not know. Perhaps my telling you will ease your troubled mind during your passage to the next life.”
Silence was the answer.
“Would it surprise you to learn your dear friend, my creator, was is alive? I stole a piece of his soul before it left him. Can you feel him here? An old friend trying to kill you. So long as I breathe air, he stays alive. Can you imagine how much hatred he’s had in him for the last two hundred years?”
Gage remained quiet, carefully plotting his next move while attempting to ignore the Berserker’s taunting.
“We still preserve the body. Care to see it? One final reunion for old time’s sake.”
Kargosh stepped into the open, his upper lip drawn back in rage. The wizard was before him with his back turned. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Kargosh cast his spell with as much hatred as his battered body could withstand. Dark lights swirled around the Berserker. Death took form. Kargosh threw his hatred at the wizard. The blackness of filth and disease groaned through the chamber. The air shuddered as pure energy shot through the chamber. Tiny bolts of fire spit from the darkness. The magic crashed into Gage, and his body disappeared. The Berserker moved forward to inspect.
“You’ll need do better than that, puppet.”
It was a trap! The wizard had been an illusion.
“Let us see how well that works on a real man,” Gage spat.
The two stood staring at each other for long moments. Both were haggard and worn beyond their abilities. The end was drawing near for them both. Death and life struggled for possession, but at the same time, neither had any intention of dying today. Both foes started to glow in brilliant colors. Gage felt his eyes roll to the back of his head, his arms outstretched to the sides. Kargosh did the same, and the power collided in the center of the throne room. Magic wrestled for dominance, melting into a terrible ball of pure energy. Small explosions began going off throughout the room, minor sparks triggered by so much power.
Kargosh’s eyes flew open with genuine terror for the first time in his life. Gage’s body was practically dead, swaying lifelessly under the spell. Both wizards collapsed under the weight of the magic turning back in on them. Flesh and bone evaporated. The throne room exploded.
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