By Alicia Steen
Gathyra. Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Seven.
“How long will you keep playing around, Parkr?”
Kyle has beaten me for the tenth straight fight in a row. Both of us are drenched, but I’m the only one that minds. If there were a trick or technique to his strength, I’d have beaten him long before now, but his strength is real. He’s not unbeatable, just nearly so.
A hand helps me up from the ground. Mykl’s. “You lasted longer than most anyone else.”
Great, I’ve become another casualty. “Easy for him to say. Playing around. He goes through more magic in a single fight than I’ll see in a year.”
Mykl laughs as he pulls me up. “Even Kathrine can accomplish that much. You’ll get him in time.”
I shake the water from my hair. “Hey, you can’t beat him either.”
Mykl’s dangerous smile overtakes his expression. “Not one-on-one. Not yet. In a team, though, we’ll beat him every time.”
“Every time,” I repeat with a smile. “Mystery, care to dry me off?”
As Mystery’s flame evaporates the water clogging my clothing, Mykl adds, “Let’s go find James.”
Parkr. Overlook, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.
As the memory replaces reality, I find my body moving from its position. When my eyes snap back to the present, I find I’ve dodged the First King’s finishing blow and am still very much in the fight. I laugh at myself.
“Playing around. Kyle might have a point.” I stand straight and sheath my sword behind me. “Let’s find out if he’s right.”
Now Jazuel laughs. “You are a bigger fool than I thought. That sword is your only defense.”
“Maybe.” I feel my face settling into the cocky grin that Kathrine insists precedes a victory. “Shall we?”
Jazuel moves in fast, but I find that without my sword I can fight in much closer quarters. Closer than Jazuel’s arms allow him to efficiently move. His reflexes are beyond speed, however, my own are a split second faster. I use this realization to full advantage.
His arms move in to crush me in a killing embrace, but I flip behind him. With my gaze almost buried in his thick neck, I call my sword. Jazuel realizes the danger, but even his speed only manages to glimpse my blade in his periphery.
“Shadows slain!” I slash my sword through his neck, but in that instant he vanishes from sight. My sword bites air instead. I land lightly and survey my surroundings, but even his presence no longer lingers. Jazuel is gone.
I gaze into the distance. “On to Dark Moon, I suppose. Those clouds are getting thick over there.”
Shem lands beside me. I sheath my sword and launch onto his back. “They could be thicker.”
Tree Line: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.
As Jazuel appears between the trees, his eyes gleam with anger. However, though he is most certainly angry, centuries of practiced self-control keep his voice low and his fangs hidden. “Why did you interfere?”
“It will profit us nothing if you kill him now.”
Normally Jazuel, the First King of the Nephilim, would never allow the will of such a young voice to triumph his own, but the owner of this voice had killed Lord Dragon with one blow. Jazuel shall have to exercise caution before killing him.
It can wait. So far the young voice has shown much more grit than Lord Dragon. This pleases the Nephilim.
He puts his anger away.
The owner of the young voice stares over the distance, taking in all the flaming chaos. “The age of heroes has past.”
Now he understands. “I should almost pity your brother, Mykl.”
The young man moves his piercing glare to Jazuel. “That is no longer my name.”
Jazuel smiles. “No indeed. Myzrath.”
Synrn. Crystal Falls: Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.
Kyle considers the slim dark wizard before him with a serious gaze. Then he makes the first move, to take the dark wizard’s measure.
“Not even the wise tread here lightly.” The river rises subtly, passing its banks until the dark wizard is knee deep in swift flowing water.
“Nevermore.” A wave of unseen magic starts to push the water back, but the waters break and the wave goes through them harmlessly.
With a motion from Kyle’s hand, a wave taller than any man swells and breaks over the dark wizard, who once again chants, “Nevermore.” The wave shifts to the side. This continues with multiple waves, the dark wizard deflecting every one.
“What magic is that, which allows her to deflect the water so easily?” One of the captains asks.
“None,” my low voice replies. “There is a discipline that removes all individuality from a wizard’s magic, enabling them to attack with ‘pure’ magic. This is thought to be stronger than all other forms of magic.”
“She seems to only have one attack.”
“Yes. Without variety, magic only has one form.”
A set of three of Kyle’s waves is deflected all at once. Another captain says, “Even so, the water wielder seems to be running out of options.”
Tetze replies, “Watch. He is just getting started.”
Kyle once more summons multiple waves. The dark wizard replies with her usual counter, but this time the waves shatter on impact. Hundreds of icy shards hurl toward the dark wizard from all directions, and, as she seconds before used Nevermore, there is no escape. Even Tetze, who was expecting something, seems surprised. More waves keep coming, faster, closer together, and in far more numbers than before without sacrificing size. Each one shatters when hit.
“One you lose, two I win. If you guard, you get hit; if you don’t guard, you get hit. In worst cases, Kyle’s opponents become too afraid to do a thing.”
“Nevermore!” the dark wizard screams. All the waves grow still, collapsing into the swift river.
Kyle is unfazed. “The crafty come with many plans, but the deep swallows them all.” The waters stir once again.
“Against the void, all shall become Nevermore!” the shadow above crackles with energy, as if preparing to unleash another firestorm.
“Break through delusion and crush their fated hopes. None who challenge him leave unscathed, if indeed they leave at all. Leviathn!”
Shadow above unleashes a firebolt towards Kyle’s position, but a far different roar rises from below.