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Chapter 9

Norman held his ground lost in fury, although the black inky mist surrounding the Envoy and holding him in place made it easy. He was not afraid to die now that he had professed his feeling to the one he loved. A love she probably could never return. With Occam out of the fight, the demon’s wrath fell totally upon the Protector, like the ferocity of fire. The flames danced off him in its frenzied feast and devoured the surrounding air. Light and heat poured into the cavern, the world rotated on the singular battle. Norman’s fire tried to feed upon the beast of hell only to join with it. Those nearby were consumed by thousands of tongues.

The Envoy battered the Protector with claw attacks and kicks. Norman blocked what he could and kept a defiant all-knowing smile behind blazing green eyes.

“Bring it on Beast! You’re a candle compared to my fury.”

“Your death shall be the first soul to feed my new Master,” the Envoy snarled his voice reverberating heavily of the stone walls. It stomped down with its leg, thick like a tree trunk, and squashed the irritating human to the ground.

Both Thauma and Brian stiffened petrified at the statement they both heard. It was identical to one over three years ago. They dared to look on seeing the Rogue Isle Protector pinned underneath the Envoy’s leg. This was no illusion of the mind, but reality. A chain of events had restarted mimicking what happened to PhoenixHawk long ago. The beast drew back its arm as if to drive its clawed hand through the Protector burying it deep into the ground. Simultaneously, Thauma and Brian yelled out launching their last spells before the fatal plunge. Thauma threw out her arms firing dark bolts of energy only to have them bounce off the hell spawn. Brian cut a large path of synaptic energy, similar to Sarah’s power in a wide arc stunning all of those between him and the Envoy. They Envoy unfettered struck out stopping short; mere inches, and released a large fireball instead engulfing the Protector.

Norman laughed. The Envoy had him completely pinned to the floor unable to wiggle free., but he convinced the stupid beast he could handle any amount of flames it could throw at him. The first wave he focused and set out enveloping the duo.

“Is that it?” Norman taunted. “I couldn’t even light Brian’s cigars with that fire.”

Norman summoned all the heat he dared muster and created a stronger and bigger bonfire. He rotated the column around them ensuring he kept the hungry flames off his flesh. Any Nightcasters daring to remain near or still transfixed by Brian or Sarah’s powers became enveloped in the flames and burned to death. The temperature rose twenty degrees within seconds and the deep cool cavern now lit up with bright orange and yellow flames.

The Envoy chuckled and summoned to it the true fires of Hell.

Control, Norman thought, I must maintain control. The idea of Thauma dying to this beast fed his fury and imparted upon him a degree of control over the inferno raging around him. Maybe, just maybe he could indeed burnout the Envoy.

*****

Occam felt a gust in the once calm air. It rushed from the surrounding passageways into the blazing melee and rose in plumes through cracks in the limestone roof to escape somewhere above. He could think of no plan that would allow them to kill either the Dark Lord or his new ally. They did have one chance and sensing Sarah at the boundaries of conscious thought, he reached out.

Sarah, please link the group.”

Occam’s Mind heard the call and did so; the thoughts of Occam could now be heard in the minds of those present. She shuttered at the inertia building up so close to the magic portal. The frictions of two different planes of existence created a nearly infinite power source to those gifted to sense and use it. The energy called to her and the entity deep within, but she resisted for such an act would overwhelm her and release the Other.

We have one chance to stop the Dark Lord and Envoy,” Occam said. “We must work together and send them into the portal then close it. It is our only chance; they cannot be released upon your world together. All of our efforts must be concentrated on keeping them off balance.”

All nodded, except Norman whose form was lost in the rotating whirlwind of fire and Brian who was contemplating leaving his friends again.

The air grew hotter still and the fear Sarah was using faded. Hovering above the fray near the alcove, she released everyone’s mind. She could still feel the Dark Lord struggling with the Other in her mind. The sudden loss of her fear attack and the sudden tearing of her mind as the Dark Lord was forced out panicked her. She reached for the power the portal offered and brushed against it sending forth a pulse of mental energy encompassing everyone’s psyche, but it was too much. Her pulse penetrated the minds of those on the other side of the magical gateway as well. Every fear and horror ever imagined flooded her mind causing her to gasp in shock. The Other reached out to envelop her, to protect her mind. She tried resisting, but the battle was already slipping away from her vision.

Help,” she gasped audibly and mentally to her confidant drawing his mind henceforth. She knew what must be done and was afraid at what may happen as a result. Sarah also knew Occam was too proud to ask it of her.

“Sarah, stay with us. We cannot do this without you. Fight the urge focus your mind,” Occam answered.

Tears pooled her eyes for she knew what was to come. “No. I can’t hold it back; you have to do this without me, and you know it. It’s the only way.”

I cannot ask it of you.”
            You don’t have to.”

There was a pause like the universe itself stopped waiting for the two to exchange goodbyes.

Will you catch me,” Sarah asked sobbing.

I will always be here for you,” the large drake said eyes like the sun extinguishing with tears. He knew what price Sarah might pay for her inner demons.

I lov-“

The Other had arrived.

Swimming contempt in the kinetic energies surrounding the portal it soaked the raw kinetic power in like a sponge. It was disgusted at the horrors revealed to Sarah and would smote all sources of the evil. The living id enveloped her in a psychic shell protecting her from the harm and the images of malevolence they had brought.

Sarah felt her consciousness slip away until reality was just a pinpoint of light, like a distant star. Falling into herself, she focused harder than ever in an attempt to protect the minds of her ad hoc team. The Other was usually not forgiving and made no distinction between good and evil. It was also there in the darkness, alone and falling, she heard the voices of those from the other side, their secrets opening up to her. She shook in fear at what they were planning to do and what was to come. Reaching her thoughts out she tried to warn Occam, but the tiny thread of reality she held onto only allowed her to protect the minds of her team.

*****

With tremendous effort and pain, the swift Crey drake launched away from Thauma startling her. He leapt in the air, caught Sarah’s falling limp body, and gently laid it upon the ground. He ignored his aches, for true loyalty, dedication, and love transcended all things. After he gently set her body on the ground, the Other struck.

It bent reality to her will forcing everyone’s fears into existence. In a blinding flash, every human except most of those allied with Sarah physically faced their deepest darkest fears. No one was spared save the Dark Lord and the Envoy. Their was one person in particular the Other did not spare, whose darkest secrets held true horror, the awfulness of guilt and betrayal. She could not let any darkness exist regardless of what Sarah wanted. Brian’s suffering would finally end.

Occam’s Bow displayed no surprise at the events. A singular action played throughout her mind and when the opportunity immediately presented itself, she acted. Thauma rushed over to Sarah and Occam when they collapsed on the ground to offer more healing magic. Bow knew whatever kept the Dark Lord from intervening in the fight was now at an end. His purplish green form darkened against the column of fire. More Nightcasters closer to the Saurian god burst into flames from the heat, but the prehistoric god seemed unaffected. She reached for the enchanted arrow. An arrow forged from the greatest magicks of the elf world and blessed with the love and gift of life. She notched the blazing white arrow and delivered the gift to Earth with the wrath of the elven race. Although the power in the arrow was great, it would only maim the Dark Lord and not kill. It struck the ancient god directly through his right knee.

The Dark Lord actually shrieked in pain and only those few not invaded by the Other covered their ears at the horrible cry. Paragon City shook above threatening to rezone the entire metropolitan area in the image of Faultline. The god crumpled to his left knee gripping the injured one.

No one understood the venomous threats the Saurian hissed, but Bow and Occam.            Thauma enveloped Sarah and Occam in a magical force field. Sarah still was breathing, but remained unconscious. She reached out to bubble Occam’s Bow when a stream of dark energy from the Dark Lord traveled through the force field and the female elf before exploding on the back wall of the cavern. Occam’s Bow lifeless body fell to the earth, dead before she hit the ground.

“No!” Occam and Thauma cried in unison.

Occam tried to get up but his wounded body resisted. He too should have been unconscious from the pain, but his dragon blood strengthened his determination. He rose unsteadily, but Thauma Guard rushed to the elf’s side.

The tall ebony skinned mage knew immediately Occam’s Bow was dead, her body as limp as Aaron’s when he faced the Envoy and lost. Sweat trickled down her face, resulting from the intense heat of the firestorm raging near the center of the cavern next to the portal. It was like the sun had decided to rise from the very spot.

“Now Thauma,” the Dark Lord proclaimed causing her to shiver in fear in knowledge such an evil being knew her name. “You will join your companion in Hell.”

Occam tried to throw himself in the way of the dark blast shooting at Thauma. He was weaker than he realized and fell way short of her location. He could only watch helplessly when the dark energies discharged.

The Other, absorbing all the kinetic energy available, appeared before Thauma in a shimmering bluish white light, her form resembling exactly Sarah Starling. It would not allow it any more. The energies meant for Thauma dissipated around the Other.

Through a pain filled haze, the Dark Lord saw the foolish child. He was angered at her defiance at not joining his cause. He knew the true power she wielded and desired her enlistment among his minions. Such a disciple with her power would feed his impotent strength by an order of magnitude. The young one obstinately refused.

“I know what you are afraid of Dark Lord,” it said mocking him.

“I fear nothing,” he growled vibrating the walls and floor of the cave.

“Today all will witness your fear.”

The shimmering white image of Sarah raised an out stretched hand. “Hail the return of the Dragons.”

No one ever could have guessed what the look of shock and surprise looked like on the ancient Saurian god. One would have thought the gods feared nothing. They would have been wrong.

To the humans three brilliant multicolored strobe lights appeared before the Dark Lord Ockham. He yelled in insolence for he and the drake only saw the true forms of dragons; they had returned from pre-history. They swarmed the Dark Lord like a hive of large angry hornets. The large lights buzzed and crackled with energy and the injured Dark Lord swung at them and released all the powers it could think of in an attempt to rid the Earth the zealous creatures.

The Other turned toward Thauma and smiled before it too faded into the battle scene. The tall mage did not understand what she saw. She was sure Sarah was now dead and it was her ghost that was striking back before traveling to the afterlife. Another team member had fallen and although she had not known Sarah well, only meeting her on girl’s nights out, she felt a sudden sadness for her. Her death was what waited them all.

“Brian,” Thauma said turning toward her once apprentice. He stood staring ahead with that thousand-yard stare she had seen before. “Brian you’re our last hope to warn the city. Azuria must be told of the Dark Lord’s plans.”

Brian turned toward her and blankly looked at his mentor and sister. He vaguely heard Thauma. Sweat trickled down his face and he stared passed the multitude of battles, the dragons attacking the dark lord, and the fiery tornado that enveloped Norman and the Envoy. Near the portal Aura Mattson stood smiling and it burned his soul. Behind her the image of Aaron stood, his brown eyes forever extinguished from their green light of life. She beckoned him closer, but he could not move, locked in place by Aaron’s frown. He wanted to run and leave the world behind. Her calls to him increased and she began getting angry. Brian backed up slowly; they were going to haunt him forever unless he acted now.

*****

Norman felt the fire licking the hairs of his face and dancing among the cracks of his breastplate. He sweated in the blaze and felt the ground beneath him softening and liquefying. He tried to keep the fire off his skin, but failed his hair burning off. He needed to burn hotter if the group were to have a chance to send the Envoy back through the portal. A ground of molten stone would allow that to happen. He reached deeper inside, farther than he ever thought possible and summoned the greatest heat imaginable. Even in the uncontrollable fiery whirlwind, he knew it was not going to be enough. His thoughts drifted to Thauma, he could not fail her. He wanted her to live, and was ready to make the sacrifice. With what he thought was his first selfish act he gave in to his flames knowing from his flesh an even greater tremendous heat would be born.

The Rogue Isle Protector took a deep breath sending the hellish flames down his throat and into his lungs where it devoured them. It feasted upon his flesh sparing not even his fireproof clothes. It gnawed on the weak spots of his uniform creating holes and even managed to melt parts of his breastplate. Norman lost track of Thauma during the melee and hoped he brought enough of a diversion so she could escape. Norman’s flesh melted off his bones feeding the bright beast but never satisfying its hunger. The bones cracked and sizzled like firewood before succumbing to ash... so passed Norman from this world to the next.

The Envoy laughed deeply and let the fires of Hell subside showing the heroes who was still standing. The flames turned a hotter bluish white and further melted the stone around him.

Thauma could only look on horrified at what transpired. She wished she never had to witness such an event again and would probably get her wish. The third member of their team had fallen. She collapsed near Sarah and waited for her turn. She hoped it was not going to hurt, but seeing Aaron again would make up for the pain. She begged for Brian one last time to leave and warn Azuria.

So Brian ran.

Maybe he should have thought it through first, because he found himself running from Thauma and Occam enacting the traveling spells contained in his boots. He heard Thauma cry out to him, but he was already half way to the Envoy and the Dark Lord. Facing the ones he killed he realized his fear was irrelevant. He remembered a stray phrase that said courage is how you act when frightened. In a brilliant streak, he raced toward the Dark Lord and his Envoy. He faced his fears refusing to back down to them. He was almost at the portal when he finalized his plan. He realized Aaron and Aura were offering him his redemption and a price paid in full for their murders.

The Envoy scarcely saw the streak of yellow from within the bluish white flames and barely managed to swing its flame sword at the new combatant. Brian’s destination was not them but the gate behind them next to the one he murdered. He leapt up, assisted by his special made boots, over the otherworldly creatures, and cast the spell he planned to use to raze the city of Oranbega. The spell could destroy a building with ease and required months of verbal practicing to speak it correctly. He knew the spell forwards and backwards. He chose backwards. With the telekinetic spell reversed, it would draw his targets to him instead of pushing them away. The words rolled effortlessly from his lips and he even chose his anchor wisely. Brian dropped though the portal managing to snag the Dark Lord, the Envoy and even some Nightcasters in the field of effect.

The humans tried to stop their descent but could not and were easily pulled through the portal. The Envoy leaned forward resisting the spell, but the molten earth only caused him slide backwards dragged into the gate scratching deeply grooved claw marks the entire way. The Saurian god fought the hardest with one good knee and a trio of Dragons assaulting him.

“Thauma,” Occam growled realizing victory was at hand, “Hit the Dark Lord.”

Thauma was in shock after witnessing Brian’s actions. She was dazed at losing yet another team member. She had been waiting to die and Occam’s remark was almost lost to her. Only when the Envoy slid into the portal did she even comprehend what had transpired.

She stood up with all the hurt from loss, suffering, and loneliness. Her magic summoned the most powerful force field she had ever, or may ever create, and flung it with the power of a woman scorned at the Dark Lord knocking him completely off balance into the air. Brian’s telekinetic spell instantly sucked the Saurian into the magical gateway bridging the two dimensions.

“We must close the portal,” Occam shouted through the continuing battles of fear that raged around them. About half the remaining Nightcasters had fallen to their own fears and the drake worried that the Other would attack them once they were gone.

“How do we do that?” Thauma asked helping the drake to his feet.

In response, the portal shuddered and exploded, the ground itself ripping apart. They had their answer, the portal was now closed and neither knew exactly why.






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