By Nathan Steen
Edited by Alicia Steen
Note: the term ‘Nightbringer’ is used here for both singular and plural references, much like the words ‘cactus’ or ‘sheep’.
Ecalai counterattacks with all his fury. By using magic, he increases the speed of his strikes with hopes of throwing Mykl off balance. In addition, he executes one his favorite combinations: cuts and slices designed specifically to overwhelm an opponent. Even so, it is no use. Mykl flawlessly blocks or dodges every strike. Not only does Mykl keep up with the increase in speed, he responds with an even faster series of his own. Ecalai is barely able to hold Mykl back.
“You are pathetic,” Mykl spats. “Even your magic betrays you powerless, but still you are too stubborn to realize it. You can no longer see the truth of what you have become.”
Ecalai continues to focus on fending off Mykl’s blows. He knows he must take this fight to the next level if he is to have any hope of victory. Ecalai activates even more of his magic to speed up his reactions as well as the clang of his blades.
“I am more than what you think I am, just as there is more to the world than what the eye can perceive,” Ecalai responds with vengeance. “Shadow may come and darkness grow, but dawn must also break as surely as the morning sun rises. You may think I am weak, but you don’t know the whole story.” Ecalai uses his increased reaction time to avoid Mykl’s sword, executing a lightning fast slice of his own that will surely take Mykl’s head. There is no possible way Mykl can guard against this strike from his position or even see it coming.
In the last possible moment Mykl’s sword flashes through the air and stops Ecalai’s blow short of its target. Ecalai’s blades freeze. None had ever stopped that attack at that speed.
“Is that the best you can do?” Mykl asks, pulling back. “If you really believed that you would not be as you are now. You are only deceiving yourself if you think that what men like you truly believe could actually be so noble.” Mykl becomes a blur before disappearing into the darkness. Ecalai loses sight of him, but he can still sense Mykl stalking him.
Mykl continues, “You of all people should know that shadow is something you can never escape. No matter where you go it will follow you. It strikes unseen and unexpected.”
Ecalai still can’t catch sight of Mykl. The shadow is hiding him from all Ecalai’s attempts to locate him. Suddenly, Ecalai’s sixth sense warns him of Mykl’s sword coming at him from the left. Ecalai reacts just in time to block what might have been a deathblow. Mykl’s sword vanishes as quickly as it appeared, leaving no time for a counterattack. Another slash comes from Ecalai’s right; then another from above. Ecalai becomes disoriented. How is Mykl able to move around so quickly?
Mykl’s voice continues to taunt from the darkness. “Shadow can even enter your mind and corrupt your thoughts. It will never let you forget the pain you have felt in your life. Even as the years go on shadow will haunt you with all your old scars. Even when you cannot take it anymore it will never relent until it brings you face to face with your pain yet again.”
At last comes a cut that Ecalai cannot block. The wound is shallow, but it burns intensely. Ecalai grunts and drops to one knee. Mykl’s strikes cease but his voice does not. “You know of what I speak. You have spent your entire life running from the horror that you experienced, but you cannot. No matter where you run you are constantly reminded of that which you try hardest to forget but continue to see again and again. You try to pretend you are different from those misguided men whose mistakes allowed and perhaps caused the horror in your life. Yet, after time and time again of being slammed into the ground the realization creeps up that you are exactly like them.”
Ecalai’s pain burns deep, but not from the wound inflicted by Mykl. Mykl’s accusations do not stop. “People like you are the very reason shadow exists. You can try to escape from its grasp, but it will always stay with you. No matter where you run you will never get away.”
“Enough!” Ecalai shouts. He stands to his feet. “Your accusations are but baseless deceptions! I am done listening to your lies. You’ll have to find something stronger than mere shadow if you want to get inside my head. Darkness is not the greatest power in this world and I plan to prove it by putting an end to your schemes.”
A sinister laugh echoes from the surrounding darkness. “Shadow does not lie, Ecalai. It can see everything that you are, even that which you do not know yourself. Your fate has already been decided and nothing you do can change it. By rights you belong to the darkness.”
“You are wrong, Mykl. I will never let that happen. I am protected by the power of the Ancient of Days.”
Silence rings in the shadows around Ecalai. An uncomfortable stillness fills the air. Slowly, a bone chilling sound starts softly then grows to fill every corner of the darkness. It is a hideous laughter, though it comes not from Mykl, and it causes a tinge of fear to grow in Ecalai’s mind. This is the sound of the Nightbringer, and more than one.
“Do you think that will save you?” a Nightbringer taunts in his laughter.
“Why would he care for a fool like you who walked deliberately into the shadow?”
“You came here for revenge in spite of his warnings.”
Ecalai stutters in an attempt to answer, but his growing fear silences his tongue.
“You know it to be true,” the Nightbringer continue. One massive form emerges slowly from the shadows.
“You left the wind far behind you at Dragon Mountain and have been wandering blindly ever since.”
“Thanks to your own foolishness you are far beyond any protection his flame may once have provided.”
A second Nightbringer emerges from the blackness. “You are alone, hero, and all that is left to you is shadow. Did you think that because you can fight off the dark you could defeat it?”
“Little do you realize that the shadow is far more than mist alone. Your imagination fails to even comprehend, mortal, the true shadow. It is an all-consuming darkness and we are its rulers.”
A third Nightbringer emerges behind Ecalai. Still laughing, it speaks. “Yes, you may pretend you can somehow fight the shadow, but it is far too late in time for that. Shadow has already won this world.”
“All that remains is to clean up the few misguided ‘heroes’ such as you.”
More Nightbringer step from the darkness. They all seem to laughing as they close in on their chosen prey. It is Mykl who silences them with a raised fist as he too steps forth. “Do you see it now?” Mykl asks. “You have already lost. By the authority of the Contract that governs reality darkness has laid claim to this world. The sons of darkness, the immortal race that has haunted this world since time began, will rise and rule all. Your fate will be worse, as I will make certain that all you think you are is stripped from you. Then shall you finally understand what it is to face Myzrath.”
Only one thought rings through Ecalai’s mind. He has tried to hold it back but without success. He cannot mask the one emotion he has now felt for the second time in his life: terror.