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In the distance, the light of the morning sun began to spill over the mountains. The snow caps on the tall peaks were painted in pink and orange hues with the morning light. The forest before the mountain was filled with many types of trees, it was lush and thick. The meadow stretching out towards the forest was an immense sea of wildflowers. The vista was truly magnificent, but if you were to experience this spectacular view for the first time you would soon become uncertain of the world. There was no sound, not even the wind blew, and there was no sign of life. In fact, nothing living could exist here naturally. This was the Fade Realm, an area that exists between both dream state and reality. The Fade Realm was a painter’s canvas with infinite colors and the brush strokes know no limits.

There were two ways one could enter the Fade Realm and both required magic to achieve. You could meditate yourself into a semi-unconscious state projecting a manifestation of yourself into the Fade and you would appear with flames surrounding you. Being projected into the Fade limited the things one could do, mostly meetings, interacting with non-conjured items, and the instant creation of things. The second way was harder to achieve and required the person to be a stronger wielder of magic to successfully cross over physically using a doorway. This method allowed for speedy travel, it was the only way to bring items or living things into the Fade, and being physically in the Fade Realm amplifies one’s magic tremendously. You could not create things from thought as with the projection method. However, you could interact with things created by someone projected in the Fade Realm. Time flowed differently in the Fade, one day outside of the Fade could be a day in the Fade or just as easily a hundred years

Miles away from the mountain in the middle of a flowered field a tall flame erupted, it was a sign someone was projecting oneself into the Fade Realm. The flamed died down and a man was there. His head was shaved, polished, with the exception of a black braided side knot held at the end in place by a leather strap. His skin was an exotic brown, his eyes were black with amber flecks peppered throughout his irises, and he was dressed in a dark blue robe tied with a white cord. At the end of the sleeves and at the bottom of the robe there was golden trim. A moment after his arrival the ground shifted from wildflowers to a polished stone floor and a polished marble table materialized shaped like a crescent moon covered in runes joined by five chairs. Four of the chairs were of equal size while the fifth was bigger in size and was flanked by two of the smaller chairs on each side. The man looked at the table and when he was satisfied the flames surrounded him again and he left the Fade Realm. Just as quick as he was gone a plain looking door appeared and the same man stepped through it, entering the Fade Realm physically carrying a large book and a sword in a black scabbard. The only thing notable about the sword was the black polished stone attached to the hilt. The man laid the book and sword on the table. He turned and walked back through the door and when he returned he was carrying a black glaive. The door shut and vanished. The war glaive was taller than him, solid black with the exception of the silver and gold runes engraved on it. The glaive was called Witch Devil due to its master’s proficiency in handling the weapon. Those who have seen him wield the glaive has described it as a bewitching experience while watching the devil hewn men as he danced around the battlefield. He walked over to the table leaning the glaive on a chair. He waved his hand over the book and a green mist enveloped it. The mist dissipated and the book was no longer there. Opening his robe, he hid the sword in the excess fabric.

Another flame flared and a beautiful woman with tanned caramel skin appeared behind another chair next to the one Witch Devil was propped up against. Her garments were cut in a way to tease a man’s eye. Her dress was a dark blue silk. The neckline plunged daringly low, a silver chain with a cut green stone hung from her neck nestled between her cleavage. Her hair was pulled into a braided ponytail with golden chains weaved through it. Around the hem of her dress flames seemed to dance around casting embers upward, as they traveled upwards they faded out. “Ah Lizbeth I am glad you are here,” the man said as he sat down.

They both were magi. Two of the four eternal beings that walked the lands of Gawraith, their world. They all possessed enormous magical abilities. In ancient times they were considered deities. Other times they just walked away from life and let the world take its natural course. The magi watched empires fall and rise. The world was their playground, they were kings and queens, tyrants at times, they were bitter rivals over the course of their many lifetimes, and at many times they have tried to kill each other. But when you can live eternally barring an unnatural death, people mindsets can change. The Magi over the course of their many lifetimes laughed, cried, fought, destroyed, created, loved, made mistakes, and evolved. They did not even remember where they came from with the exception of Lizbeth who had a remarkable memory. None of them knew why they were the only ones who had such unrestricted access to the magic in the world.

“Clyden, I told you I would come. The others, I am not sure,” Lizbeth said in a neutral tone while looking around at the landscape Clyden constructed in the Fade. “Why did you pick this setting and five chairs when there is only four of us?” she asked.

“This scenery is all I can vaguely remember of where I was raised,” Clyden said. He touched one of the chairs, “As to the extra chair, I will tell you all once the others arrive,” Clyden replied.

“Very well. I will wait,” Lizbeth said as she waved her hand and the world shifted, “But I prefer here.” They were no longer outside, but inside a building seeming to have no ceiling. All that remained of Clyden’s creative efforts was the table and chairs. There were thick white marble columns emitting light. The columns stretched up, their light even disappearing into the infinite blackness of the ceiling. There were rows of bookcases stretching as far as the eye could see. In the Fade Realm, the painter with the infinite brush strokes of their imagination could create any setting or object so long as they know the purpose of the object. You could even create living creatures, they just would only exist till their creator left the Fade while inanimate objects would remain till someone deconstructed them.

“This seems like you, Lizbeth,” Clyden said looking at the endless rows of books.

“Ah, you think so? This is my library. It is the only place I can keep all my books,” Lizbeth said pointing at her massive collection.

“You have quite the collection,” Clyden was saying, but two flames flared up and a man and woman appeared in unison. “Ah, welcome Servan and Malve,” Clyden said to the new arrivals. Servan stood in a black rob with his face veiled. Malve was in a black dress much more modest than the one Lizbeth wore. Her hair was black, cut short with the sides shaved off completely “I am glad you all are,” he began to say, but Clyden was interrupted by Malve.

“We haven’t met altogether for a century. Just get to the point, Clyden,” Malve said impatiently.

“I agree with her,” Servan said still veiled as he sat down crossing his arms and Malve sat down next him, leaving only the larger chair empty.

Clyden stood up and cleared his voice. “Very well then,” Clyden said waving his hand, a green mist appeared surrounding his fingers, and traveled to the middle of the table. The mist lingered just a second and then formed into the book he brought in earlier. For a moment, the other three magi were struck with surprise. The book was thick and bounded in black leather. It had no decorative features and even though the book was huge, its weight was next to nothing.

“A compendium? Where did you find it Clyden?” Lizbeth asked excitedly, reaching for the compendium.

“Where I found it is of no importance. It is the book’s owner, whom it belonged to that is what is important,” Clyden said pushing the book over to Malve. Clyden calculated this move out ahead of time. Magic left traces of residue and it could be traced back to the caster of the spell unless concealed properly. Clyden knew Malve had the greatest emotional connection to the owner of the book and he would rely on those feelings. Malve would immediately fall in line and she would become his ally in what needed to be done.

“It is his, it belonged to Varoosh,” Malve said touching the compendium. For a moment, a hint of pain was in her voice. Malve opened the book, but the first page was blank. She turned the next page and it was blank also. Malve opened the compendium to the middle and it was blank. The entirety of the book was blank. She closed the book, pulling it into an embrace. Varoosh, you never could do things the simple way, you had to seal it, Malve thought to herself. Malve laid the book back on the table. Lizbeth motioned for Servan to hand her the compendium.

Varoosh was one of the magi. No, he was more like a brother, a friend, husband, and a king to them. He was strongest of them all. He was the person that bonded them together. He went missing almost 400 years ago while looking for another land not part of their world, Gawraith. The aftermath of the failed experiment left the remaining four magi in a coma for three hundred years in the Fade Realm. When they awoke their world was changed, magic users were all but extinct and could do little more than parlor tricks. The animals who relied on magic such as dragons, phoenixes, or sphinxes became feral and were used in stories to scare children. New monsters roamed the lands. Things were much different when they awoke. Once they were family and now they were strangers to each other. Clyden often bothered them all in his obsessive quest to bring Varoosh back. He was unable to let Varoosh go and his relentless search for Varoosh led to bitter feelings between Servan and him. Malve just avoided Clyden because it pained her to believe or hope Varoosh was alive.

“As you all can see the book is sealed and will not open. I do not think it would open for Varoosh even if he was here himself,” Clyden said pointing at the book.

“You have a theory to open it,” Servan stated.

“The book is under a compound lock,” Lizbeth said offering an answer first, inspecting the book. “Knowing Varoosh, I would say it can only be open if all four of us were to agree to open it.” Her mind was always the quicker of theirs. Varoosh had once said ‘Lizbeth name should have been Knowledge.’ She was by far the most versed in the arcane arts among them due to her gifted memory.

“Wait, you said it wouldn't open for Varoosh either,” Servan said taking the book from Lizbeth. “What are you after?” he asked turning the book over in his hands, tracing his fingers along the leather binding.

Clyden took a deep breath. This is the moment he had prepared for the last ten years. His voice was timid as he spoke, “We can bring him back. I think the retrieval spell is in the compendium. I have tried for ten years to open the book. I have come up with new ways to unlock many things,” Clyden pointed at the book, “but this book will not open for me. I think he used the Eye of Bane,” Clyden said as he pulled from his robes an ordinary looking sword, it rasped against the metal portion of its scabbard as he drew it. The pommel of the sword was made of a mounted black polished stone. He laid the sword down on the table along with its sheath. “It is going to take the five of us to bring him back.”

“Bane! Where did you find his sword?” Malve asked. She never, no none of them ever thought they would see Varoosh’s sword again. The day Varoosh vanished, he did not even have Bane with him. Bane looked as normal as a plan sword could present, but Malve knew well the potential power this sword had. The sword itself appeared to be dormant because the runes normally engraved into a magus focal thaumaturgy were hidden. Each of the magi had their own focal thaumaturgies, items imbued with their magical essences. Magic was wild and hard to handle, it is like swimming up a tall waterfall trying to control it without the proper tools. Many practitioners drowned or burned out failing to do so. A magus with a focal thaumaturgy had a path to walk on instead of drowning trying to swim up an impossible waterfall. The magus’ focal also allowed the wielder to channel more magic than they could safely handle. Clyden had his glaive, Lizbeth the green stone around her neck, Servan was his robes, and Malve’s was unknown.

Bane was deadly sharp, but two things made this weapon special. One was the ability for the weapon to morph into the needs of its master. Each of the magi at the table has witnessed Varoosh change the sword at whim to whatever weapon Varoosh desired and he wielded Bane with deadly precision. Only Clyden could best Varoosh in a physical confrontation. The second and most important thing about Bane was the black polished stone, the Eye of Bane. The Eye was a stone with special magical properties and it was the only one in all Gawraith known to all of them, it was a gifted to Varoosh from another Magus. The Eye of Bane acted as a magical capacitor, storing magic and the essence of the sword’s master or other magi.

Servan stood up angrily at the sight of the sword and tossed the book on the table. “Bring him back!” Servan said, his voice was heated as he slapped his left hand on the table. “He abandoned us! Why should we bring him back? We slept for three hundred years because of what he did.”

“Servan, what he was doing was experimental. Varoosh was trying to find a place to banish Revlaman to. I do not think he would have gone forth with it if he knew it would send us to slumber for three centuries, or take him from us” Malve said touching his hand. It was like watching a tornado vanish before it could make landfall as Servan’s anger subsided.

“Anyways it doesn't matter,” Servan said sitting back down. “You said it would take five of us and there are only four magi left. We won’t ever know.”

“To answer your questions on where I found the sword,” Clyden said picking up Bane bye the blade. “I found it in Loudas. It hung on the wall as decoration in the King’s castle,” he told the story as he moved the sword hilt in front of Lizbeth she reached out and touched the stone, her eyes widen with surprise. Clyden placed his right index finger over his mouth imploring her to be silent and continued with his story. “Imagine my surprise when I saw it on the wall,” moving the hilt to Servan he touched the stone and the same recognition Lizbeth experienced flashed in his eyes, Servan finally lowered his veil and there for just a brief moment, emotion was in his eyes, “If it wasn't for the Eye on the pommel then I wouldn't have ever found it. The sword was gifted to me for service rendered for curing Prince Danyais from poison,” he said moving the sword hilt towards Malve. She reached out tentatively with trembling fingers. “If we were to,” he did not have time to finish his statement as she touched the stone.

“Infuse our essences also,” Malve said finishing Clyden’s sentence as a white light surrounded her. The Eye of Bane glowed molten red. Varoosh was there, his essence and life force still imbued in the stone. This was the closest Malve has been to him in four centuries. It ached and shredded her heart to the core that she did not have a body to embrace. Tears welled up and traveled down her cheeks. “He is alive,” she said in shock. The grief that has held her prisoner for the past hundred years since Malve woke up in the Fade fissured instantly. Hope began to seep through the cracks. The light around her dimmed a little, Malve grabbed the stone with both hands, and Clyden held onto the blade with all the strength he could muster. Malve wore a look of desperate determination on her face. The light intensified around Malve and the Eye of Bane went from molten red to white blue. Runes not visible before on the blade lit up pulsating between red and white as they were engraved back onto the metal blade and handle. Malve forced more of her essence into the Eye of Bane. A white light emitted from behind her eyes. When Malve opened her mouth to gasp for air, light spilled from her mouth. Malve could not hear any noise at all with the exception of the loud river in her head. Malve knew her magic was flowing into the Eye and she could feel the stone drinking in the essence greedily. The river was not loud enough. I don't care I will give it all if it brings him back, more, I can give more, Malve screamed in her head. The disparity shattered and hope washed over Malve.

“Stop her, Clyden!” Lizbeth yelled. She must have judge Clyden to slow in his actions, “Servan, break the connection!”

Servan stood up and grabbed Malve’s shoulders trying to push her away and she did not move. Servan turned his attention to her hands clutching the stone and grabbed them. He somehow managed to weaken Malve’s grip or she lost the will to hold on, but her hands withdrew from the Eye of Bane. Malve swayed and fell into her chair. “Malve are you OK?” Servan asked.

It was a moment longer before Malve spoke, “I am fine, help me to stand I must finish the binding.” Servan looked as if he wanted to protest, but the look Malve showed them all quelled any meager protests they could manage. Glaring at Clyden, Servan took the sword from Clyden. Servan held it out near Malve. She took the palm of her hand and placed it on the edge blade. With a quick downward motion, she sliced open the palm of her hand. Malve’s blood still held the white glow of the magic just coursing through her moments before. Her blood was white as it escaped from the cut, turning to bright red when it touched the surface of the table. Malve placed the hand with the bleeding gash to the Eye of Bane. When she removed her hand, the stone absorbed the blood like sands in a desert with water. It was done, the slash in her hand mended instantly. She sat down heavily and sighed. Malve was bonded to the Eye of Bane and she could feel Varoosh.

One by one the remaining magi picked up the sword and poured their essences into Bane repeating what Malve did. Clyden was the last to go. Immediately after his blood was absorbed by the stone. A small slit lit up on the cover of the compendium not there before. It was the keyhole, the release of the compound lock holding all the secrets to Varoosh’s magic. They all sat there in tired silence.

“Do you think he will look the same? It has been 400 years,” Servan said breaking the silence. The hostilities in his demeanor earlier seem to vanish at the notion he was about to get his friend back.

“I think Varoosh is going to berate us for how long it took us to get him back,” Lizbeth said back to Servan before turning her gaze to Malve. “But we may have to wait another hundred years to see him once he gets back, eh Malve,” she teased jokingly to her friend.

“150 years minimum,” Malve said embarrassingly in an awkward tone, her face turning red as she averted her eyes shyly away from her friends. For a brief instant there was silence and then all four of them erupted in rare laughter.

“Shall we open it?” Clyden asked, refocusing their attention back on task. Malve, would you like to open the lock?” he asked Malve, offering her the sword.

“No, it should be you, Clyden. It shames me, but you are the one who never gave up on finding Varoosh of all of us. Besides, I will be somewhat satisfied with my 150 years,” Malve said with a small grin. The others nodded their heads in agreement while smiling at what she said.

“Very well then,” Clyden said. Servan stood and picked up the compendium and carried it over to Clyden laying the book in front of him. The others got up from their chairs and moved to stand behind Clyden, each one of the Magi placing a hand on his shoulder. Clyden took Bane and turned the point of the sword towards the slit in the book. The light in the slit grew brighter as Bane approached closer. When the sword tip reached the slit sparks erupted from the keyhole and lightning arched up the blade stopping at the cross guard. Clyden pushed the sword in further it was as if the book absorbed the sword, the pages on the side turned to a bluish white color. There was never wind in the Fade Realm, but the book roared as a storm. Bane’s entire blade now rested in the book and yet it did not extend out the back of the book. The compendium swallowed the rest of the sword only leaving the Eye of Bane on the outside of the book. The stone looks like a knob to a door, Clyden thought. In reflex to his thought, he grabbed the stone and twisted it as if opening a door. The storm raging a moment before instantly vanished. The pages ceased to be bluish white. The book’s black leather cover changed, it was no longer blank and all black. The corners of the compendium were decorated in gold leaf. The leather moved as if it was breathing. At moments, the cover seemed textured, switching quickly to animated pictures. A dragon flying across the sky. A bird landing in a tree. Children running through a field.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” Lizbeth said. “The way the cover changes. It is amazing. When did Varoosh create such a thing?”

“Well, let us ask him,” Clyden said as he pulled Bane from the book. The sword's blade was no longer a dull color, but it was polished brightly. “Servan the scabbard if you would please.” Clyden handed Bane to Servan. Bane radiated with new life. The runes were now clearly visible. Servan slid Bane into the scabbard and golden runes appeared on the leather. At the top of the scabbard, there was a grouping of runes he never saw before.

“Do you know what this says, Lizbeth?” Servan asked Lizbeth.

Lizbeth took the sword from Servan and looking at the scabbard. “I have never seen these before. What could it mean? Are these letters? Something new?” Lizbeth asked herself aloud in rapid succession. “I have never seen these before. Another question for Varoosh when he is back,” Lizbeth concluded to the rest.

With that statement, Clyden opened the book and was visibly relieved when he saw words on the first page. What he did not expect was to see all five of their names. Malve Hartswood, Servan Arlaman, Lizbeth Ratoval, Clyden Dergoz, and Varoosh Sanc written in gold letters. He turned the next page and it was blank. Clyden turned another page and it was blank also. He opened it randomly choosing a place well into the middle of the book and yet another blank page stared back at him. With a longwinded sigh of disgust, Clyden sat down in his chair and pushed the book away. “It must be locked still,” Clyden said defeatedly. Each of them picked up the book and turned the blank pages.

“Clyden something did happen,” Lizbeth said attempting to lift Clyden’s spirit. “Maybe there is another lock that we do not know about. Look the first page isn’t blank anymore.”

“Maybe whatever this is the final lock,” Servan said pointing to the seven runes no one ever seen before.

Malve took the book in her hands while the others theorized what to do next. The cover of the book changed forms again. This time it was a ship at sea. Why does the cover of the book change randomly? What are you trying to tell us Varoosh, Malve ponder? The cover of the book shifted again and for a moment Malve swore it was an image of her with a hand touching her cheek. Something tugged at her memory, but before she could delve any further the cover of the book shifted again this time it was a stream. She opened the book to the first page. Malve touched each person's name with her finger and when she got to Varoosh’s name she touched it fondly and absentmindedly said his name out loud, “Varoosh.” A light emitted from the book pages violently and blinding them. Malve dropped the book out of reflex. The compendium reacted to her; Varoosh’s name in the book turned black. When her vision returned she saw Clyden holding the book. He was flipping the pages frantically.

“What did you do? The pages are full now,” Clyden said excitedly. The others got out of their chairs and surrounded him, pressing him from the sides trying to get as close to the book as possible.

Malve tried to remember exactly what she did. “I was just looking at the cover, then I opened it, and I was touching Varoosh’s name and said it then a bright light happened,” Malve recounted to them. Lizbeth took the book from Clyden’s hands.

“Servan,” Lizbeth said and nothing happen. Lizbeth touched Servan’s name this time “Servan,” the same bright light occurred. This time Lizbeth was ready for it, she had turned her head away. The others did not anticipate this and were rubbing the sight back into their eyes with the fingers or palms of their hands.

“A little warning,” Servan started to say.

“Clyden,” Lizbeth said. The same bright light appeared and groans from her counterparts ensued. “Oh, I am sorry, but I know how the book works.”

“We know how it works now,” Servan said. “Can you tell me how to make my eyes work properly again?”

“Sorry,” Lizbeth said sullenly.

Clyden took the book from Lizbeth hastily laying it down in front of him. He touched Varoosh’s name. “Turn away now,” Clyden said warning them, “Varoosh.” The bright light flashed once more. This time everyone was ready for it. Clyden began to turn the pages. The pages were written in Varoosh’s hand. Clyden continued to turn the pages. It was like a diary, a collective of Varoosh’s life and memories. As he skimmed from page to page Clyden recognized some of the stories. Clyden skipped about half the thickness of the book and spells started to show up. On the page, there was a spell to turn ice into fire. He turned the next page.

“This is the spell I helped with to make an egg hatch instantly,” Lizbeth said. Clyden turned another page.

“This spell turns one’s tongue black for a month for speaking falsely,” Servan said. The others looked at him with befuddlement. “Well, it was meant for Malve.” Malve expression was rife with surprise. “What? It was during that time when Varoosh wanted to know how you felt about him. You were giving him mixed signals.” Malve face started to become indignant. Servan quickly assisted in turning the page. The spells ranged in difficulty from simple to complex. There were ones they worked on together, some they never saw before. They kept flipping the pages in search of the only spell that matter right now. The four magi had to have been there for hours now flipping pages and it seemed as if the compendium pages were endless. Lizbeth at some point theorized the compendium collected every spell Varoosh ever cast and it also took the moments important to him which explained all the stories at the beginning of the book. Lizbeth wondered if their names were also volumes in this book and therefore somehow the book managed to horde all of their memories and spells. It was something to be checked on later after they located what they sought. Finally, after hours of searching Clyden turned the page and found what they sought.

“This is it,” Clyden announced. On the page, there was a diagram of a giant circle with four little circles drawn on the outside. Lines extended from three of the four circles to a fifth circle centered inside of the giant circle and it contained Varoosh’s name. Each of their names were written in a circle. Varoosh’s handwriting dotted the page randomly with notes and instructions. Lizbeth took the book from Clyden’s hands, studying the spell intently looking at it. Something sparked in her mind. In front of Lizbeth appeared an inkwell and quill. Lizbeth copied the pages from the book onto a conjured piece of parchment exactly even though she had a photographic memory.

“This spell of summoning isn’t complete or isn’t right. Something is off with it,” Lizbeth said to her friends.

“What do you mean?” Servan asked.

“Just a moment,” Lizbeth said. She was flipping back to the first page. touching her name, “Lizbeth,” she said without giving any warning again and her friends griped in unison. “Sorry, I forgot,” she apologized, holding the compendium while starting to flip pages, skipping large chunks of pages. “It is like I thought somehow this compendium has managed to rip from us our thoughts and the memories that impacted our lives the most. Fascinating. I can’t wait to ask Varoosh how this is possible.”

“Focus Lizbeth,” Malve said pointedly. “You said something is off about the summoning spell. What is it?”

“Ah yes, just give me a moment, the summoning spell was missing the catalysts needed. I helped him, inadvertently of course with this,” Lizbeth said skipping large portions of her book, only glancing at the pages briefly to determine if it was the information she sought. “I am quite certain on what is needed, but I just want to be sure. It was just a theory mind you when I helped Varoosh with this. Ah, there it is,” Lizbeth said glancing at the page as a flame flared around her and she left the Fade Realm. The book she was holding felled with a thud to the table. The remaining three looked at each other confused as to Lizbeth's sudden departure. Before any of them could voice a question, a plain oak door appeared. The joints on the door cracked as it opened. Several large sacks were thrown through the door.

“That’s the salt.” Lizbeth could be heard from the other side, strong magic users can come and go to the Fade Realm, but it took a door to bring anything into the Fade.

“Lizbeth?” Clyden asked as he was walking towards the door. Lizbeth step through the door and the door vanished and another door appeared. It was plated in gold and carved in the door was the image of a dragon. Lizbeth opened the golden door and the sun spilled in. Lizbeth ran through the door. The three remaining in the Fade Realm walked towards the golden door. A giant bone was heaved through the door forcing them all to dodge instinctively. The bone was a colossal sun-bleached vertebra of a dragon. It clunkily rolled before falling over. Lizbeth ran through the door covered in soot slamming the door as flames tried to leak through the closing crack. She wiped the soot from her shoulders. Malve helped her dust it from her hair. The door closed and vanished.

“Well that is everything we need,” Lizbeth said clapping the dust from her hands.

“Everything,” Servan asked tilting the dragon vertebrae on its side. It came up to his hip.

“Oh, can you grind the bone to the consistency of flour, you have to do it without the use of magic also,” Lizbeth asked of Servan. Servan looked at her questioningly.

Clyden took note of Servan’s expression, “I will help you with the grinding Servan,” Clyden said. The door Clyden enter into the Fade the first time appeared. Clyden step through it. Servan vanished from the Fade, the bone felled over, and another door appeared Servan walked through it. Servan went over to the dragon bone and tilted the vertebrae back on its side and kicked it. The dragon bone rolled through the door Clyden created. “This is the Kingdom of Loudas,” you could faintly hear Clyden explaining to Servan before the door closed.

“Is there anything I can help with?” Malve asked Lizbeth.

“Yes, before you step out I need you to draw the ritual diagram on the ground. We will use it as a template to lay the salts and bone dust over it,” Lizbeth instructed as she handed the parchment she copied before to Malve.

"OK,” Malve said studying the parchment closely. Malve looked at one of the tall columns and visualized a winding staircase leading up one of them. It manifested and she ascended them. When she reached the top Malve looked down at the floor. “Lizbeth, you are in the way,” she told her. Lizbeth did not respond to Malve’s request, she was sitting in her chair at the table, holding the compendium, and lost to the vast wealth it contained. “Lizbeth!” Malve said again. With no response from Lizbeth, Malve sighed and she deconstructed the table in front of her and still did not get Lizbeth’s attention. A wry smile crossed Malve’s face and the chairs vanished.

“Hey!” Lizbeth squealed as she fell to the floor. She stood up rubbing her rear end. “Why did you do that for?”

“You never will change, Lizbeth. I did ask twice for you to move,” Malve said suppressing her laughter.

“Oh, sorry. At least put the chairs back, Malve?” Lizbeth asked with an apologetic and embarrassed tone.

"OK,” Malve said. Three chairs materialized followed by a red chaise lounge. Lizbeth beamed with delight “Consider that my apology.”

“Oh, and can you make me a night shroud about three times the size of the book?” Lizbeth requested as she jumped into the chaise and proceeded to make herself comfortable. The night shroud cloth appeared and it dropped onto Lizbeth’s head, “Hey!” Night shroud cloth has the ability to absorb all light so long as the source of the light was behind it.

Malve smiled at Lizbeth who was protesting while covered up by the shroud. The two of them once were like sisters. The endless adventures the two of them shared. Malve would have to read her volume in the compendium to relive those adventures. Lizbeth would drag her to the far reaches of the land in search of her books or Malve would drag her to some hidden or lost city for exploration, they all were once like family, and when Varoosh vanished everything between the four of them changed. She pulled away from her friends. In truth, they all pulled away from each other. Clyden and Servan fought with each other constantly. Mainly due to Clyden’s relentless search for how to bring Varoosh back. Servan wanted to move on and forget Varoosh, while Clyden was annoyingly in search of him and constantly beseeching the other magi for help. When they all gave up Clyden never did. It was painful to be around Clyden. Varoosh, Clyden found you, he looked for you for 110 years and found you, Malve thought to herself guiltily for giving up. Malve silently thanked Clyden in her head for returning hope to them. They were all going to be a family again.

“Exactly as it is shown, Malve. No mistakes,” Lizbeth said.

“It will be as you say, I have done this before,” Malve said. Now the room was cleared of obstructions Malve had enough room to work. Malve visualized the outline of the larger circle in her mind and it slowly began to appear. One could conjure something as complex as a dragon instantly in the Fade, but when it came to powerful magical rituals it could take hours to just lay a diagram. After a while, the large circle was done. Malve looked at the parchment to get the locations of the smaller circles attached along the edge of the larger circle. The smaller circles would have rested at the north, south, east, and west points on a compass. They appeared in tandem one after the other until all four circles were perfectly spaced. With a fifth small circled centered in the middle of the larger circle. Next, the lines were drawn connecting three of the smaller circles on the outside to the inner circle except for the northern circle. Below the northern circle on the parchment were summoning runes drawn, covering half of the circle. The runes began to appear on the floor. Malve worked diligently, making sure it was correct. When she was satisfied she descended the winding staircase down the column. She walked over to the chaise lounge and moved Lizbeth’s legs. She sat down sighing, “Finished.”

“Took you long enough,” Lizbeth said sternly.

“Well you could have done all this before you projected yourself out the first time you know,” Malve said back. A person entering the Fade physically could not manipulate things on a whim as someone projected in and they would have to wait several days before they can project themselves back in. Malve was the only one left projected in so she would wait until the last moments to enter physically in case they needed anything else conjured.

“I did not think about that. Besides I had to do important research,” Lizbeth said suspiciously.

“Research,” Malve said. There was something in the way Lizbeth had said ‘important research’ that raised flags inside her. Malve looked at the night shroud cloth and moment of clarity registered in her. “You book rat you have been using the shroud to cover up the light as you switch from person to person in the book,” Malve accused Lizbeth as she leaned over to try and see the page Lizbeth was reading. Lizbeth closed the book with her finger still marking the page. “What are you up?” she demanded.

“Book rat!” Lizbeth said trying to sound indignant. “It is research,” she said hiding her face behind the book.

Malve knew Lizbeth all too well, she knew Lizbeth was smiling behind the book. She pulled at the large compendium and for a moment Malve saw the smile. Now she knew something was up. “Let me see this ‘research’,” Malve said reaching for the book again.

“No,” Lizbeth said panicking now. Lizbeth was trying to sit up now, but before she could shackles suddenly appeared around her wrists and feet. A solid bar appeared around her waist securing Lizbeth to the chaise. She dropped the book.

Malve picked the compendium up and open it and started to read it. The book was set to her volume. Malve looked daggers at Lizbeth before asking, “What were you researching?”

“I can’t remember,” Lizbeth feigned forgetfully.

“Your memory is perfect, Lizbeth,” Malve touted back.

Lizbeth smiled devilishly then began to recite teasingly what she was reading in the book from memory, “‘I do not know when I noticed Varoosh’s strong shoulders...His eyes are like fire rubies...His lips are soft and sweet.”

“Enough!” Malve said loudly leaping on top of her and covering her mouth. Malve was completely red in the face. Lizbeth was laughing. “I ought to leave you locked up like that,” Malve threatened her as she returned to where she was sitting at in the chair.

“I am happy for you though, we have all missed him,” Lizbeth said to Malve soothing the mood. “You are about to get Varoosh’s soft lips back,” she laughed. Malve shook her head and she laughed like she has not in a long time.

“Do not think you will get away so easily,” Malve said laughing menacingly as she started to tickle Lizbeth sides in revenge. The restraints on Lizbeth prevented her from escaping. Lizbeth tried to twist and fend off Malve as much as possible, but it was useless.

A door appeared and Servan walked through it. Servan carried a sack over his right shoulder. It was the dragon bone dust needed for the spell. “It was nice of King Ledan; do you think his son will like the,” Servan trailed off from saying. Servan came to a complete standstill in the doorway, his jaw dropping, and he was astounded at what he was seeing. Malve was on top of Lizbeth who was wearing shackles and with some sort of metal ban over her waist strapping her to a chaise lounge. The two women looked at Servan. In an instant, the restraints on Lizbeth vanished. Both of them sat up meekly in the chaise now.

“Hey, go on in,” Clyden said pushing Servan from the back into the room completely. Servan stumbled a little. Lizbeth and Malve could not contain their laughter any longer. “What is so funny?” Clyden asked with a puzzled looked on his face.

“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” Servan said with a smile looking over his shoulder at Clyden.

“What?” Clyden asked again. The two women laughed again.

“Let me see the bone dust,” Lizbeth said still laughing, standing up, and walking towards Servan. He laid the sack of bone dust down on the ground. Lizbeth put her hand inside of it and checked to see how fine the powder was. If one did not know this was dragon bone dust, it could have been mistaken for flour in a baker’s kitchen. “Yes, this is perfect,” Lizbeth said pulling her hand from the bag. It was covered in white dust. She blew on her hand channeling a little magic into her breath. It mixed with the dust on her hand flying into the air and the dust sparked making crackling noises. “Yes indeed, this is just right.”

Clyden noticed the ritual diagram was already laid out on the floor for the summoning. He saw the parchment Lizbeth copied the spell from in the book laying on the chaise. Clyden walked over to pick it up so he could verify if everything was correct. It was not that Clyden did not trust their work. He knew it was already perfectly laid out right. It was just when dealing with magic one always checked and rechecked before starting, but when in the Fade working with magic one checked, rechecked, and then rechecked some more. The last time they attempted a ritual of this caliber. The four of them slept for 300 years and Varoosh went missing. So, after Clyden was satisfied with the thoroughness of the ritual diagram he handed the parchment to Servan. Servan was just as meticulous as he walked along the circles looking at each one glancing at the parchment constantly for reference.

“Alright, it is done right. The salts are to make up all the circles. The dragon bone dust will be the lines and the runes,” Servan announced.

“Me and Malve will do the salts. You and Lizbeth can handle the runes and lines,” Clyden said. Picking up one of the sacks of salts Lizbeth brought earlier. Servan and Lizbeth shook their heads in agreement. They all set out to do their tasks uttering a fixture spell over the bone dust and salts making them a permanent as the stone on the floor in case the wind picked up from the spell being cast. Magic was strict when it came to the rules of the spell a gust of wind could ruin the whole spell or worse. It is why they first started to work magic in the Fade Realm to limit the uncalculated risks in the real world. Clyden had a spell ruined by a bird landing in a spell diagram once.

“Be sure you do it right,” Lizbeth warned them. The warning was more for her than them. She knew if she felt anxious and excited about seeing their friend again, they all had to feel same. Lizbeth did not want to make a small mistake due to impatience. The ritual diagram created in the Fade began to be covered by the salts and bone dust. Clyden and Malve opened the final bag of salt and was working on the south circle. Lizbeth was just finishing up the runes. Servan was already done with the lines. Each one of them was clapping the residual dust from the reagents from off their hands. Lizbeth walked over to the column stairs Malve created earlier. She climbed them, at the top she looked down on the entirety of the project. “It is done. Malve if you will please.” Malve burst into flame then a door appeared and she stepped through. Malve closed the door and it vanished. Lizbeth was descending the stairs.

“Let us begin then,” Malve said, you could hear the tempered excitement in her voice.

“It is going to work,” Clyden said. “Lizbeth, if you will please.”

“The summon is quite straightforward. Bane is the key and is the only focal needed. I think it is why Varoosh sealed the compendium with it because he knew all five of our essences would have to be used to open it and therefore all five would be used again in the summoning,” Lizbeth said. The others nodded their heads in agreement. She continued, “Bane is to go into the middle circle. The spell will not activate till we all stand in our designated circles.” Lizbeth walked over to the circle at what she designated to be the south. “Servan, this one is yours,” she then pointed to the circle to the right, “That one is yours, Malve and you have the one across from Servan, Clyden.” Clyden walked over to the circle with no line connecting it to the middle circle. The others walked to their circles while Lizbeth went over to the column Bane leaned against. Lizbeth picked up the sword looking at the unreadable runes one more time on the scabbard and drew the sword. Lizbeth laid Bane in the middle of the circle making sure the point of the sword would face Clyden. “When I start the incantation, first you, Malve will step in. Servan, I will point at you then you will follow. I will go next. Clyden, you will be last when I signal you,” Lizbeth finished saying waiting to see if any of her friends had any questions. When no one asked she continued, “When it is done we all will finish by saying his name together and Malve will get her 150 years.” The joke made everyone smile, though Malve smiled and blushed.

“Let’s get to it then,” Clyden said.

“Yes,” Servan agreed.

“Please work,” Malve said standing next to her circle. The other’s walked to their assigned circles, standing just behind them.

They all looked at each other. Each nodding, signaling to Lizbeth they were ready. Lizbeth closed her eyes imagining the flow of time and then a book where the pages began to turn, but the book never ran out of pages. This was her method of tapping into the essence of her magic. The green stone around her neck lit up vibrantly and an aura of green light surrounded her body. She opened her eyes and looked at her friends. Each of them was surrounded by an aura of light. Servan’s aura was yellow, Malve’s was white, and Clyden’s was orange. “From what was taken should be given back,” Lizbeth said pointing at Malve. Malve stepped into her circle and it turned white. “Distant matters not, all time is brief, but a moment to walk one step,” Lizbeth motioned for Servan to step into his circle and he crossed over into his, turning it yellow. “Bonded we four call forth what was misplaced,” Lizbeth said as she entered her circle turning it green. “Lost and returned it shall be, the distant matters not, now take one step,” she said queuing Clyden to step in. Lizbeth raised her hand signaling the others. They all said Varoosh’s name together.

Columns of light matching the color of each circle shot up surrounding the magi. Bane in the middle circle raised into the air held by an unknown force. Clyden looked at the sword. Bane’s point faced the floor now. The stone on the hilt was an angry red. The same color of Varoosh’s aura, it matched the color of blood. The sword began to spin, slowly at first then it became unnaturally fast. The lines connected to his friend’s circle began to light up then traveling from their circles to the inner one. The dragon dust sparkled in colors of yellow, white, and green. Upon reaching the circle containing Bane the circle lit up in equal amounts of yellow, white, green, and orange. A column of red light shot from the center now. In the red column bolts of red lightning arc and crackle.

Bane stop spinning in an instant and was violently thrust downwards to the floor. It pierced the stone easily sinking halfway into the stone floor. The entire Fade Realm shook violently, books fell off of their shelves, and Lizbeth fell over hitting the column of green light surrounding her. She touched it. A wall of light, this can’t be, Lizbeth frantically thought as she placed both her hands on the green light feeling around it. Lizbeth was trapped inside it and she looked at her friends seeing each of them feeling their own barriers of colors matching each of their auras, but what scared her the most was Lizbeth could not feel her magic. Lizbeth looked at Clyden and was about to speak. A door manifested behind Clyden. “Look!” Lizbeth said raising her voice to be heard over the crackling hum of the red lightning. She pointed at the to the area the new door appeared in.

Servan was touching the light of his walls. He heard Lizbeth shouting something about a door. Servan saw she was pointing behind Clyden. Servan looked and saw the door she was talking about. “Is it Varoosh? Is he home,” Servan asked eagerly optimistic.

The door opened and no light spilled through from the other side. A person cloaked in shadow stepped through, no he was the darkness in the doorway. A dark ominous shadow crawled over his body in a baptism of darkness concealing him. The door vanished. He walked over to the circle, more like he floated over the stone floor. “It took you all long enough to figure this out,” a man's voice whispered, it sounded like it was twisted with madness.

“Who are you?” Clyden demanded still pushing on his light barrier.

The shadow formed stopped and the fog dissipated collating at the feet of the intruder revealing a gnarled grotesque man. His skin was robbed of pigment, he was as pale as the ash of a long dead fire. His left face hideously deformed. His eyes were milky white with blindness. The man ribs were exposed as if he had nothing to eat for months. Black veins could be seen beneath his thin skin. He had a gnarled walking stick with runes carved into it, being clutched by bony fingers. His eyes went black and he spoke, “Who I am?” he asked this time speaking in a different voice. Fear gripped them all, it paralyzed their very souls. The eyes returned to the gray-white hues, “Master you must not show yourself. They are not worthy of your voice,” the man said in the first voice they heard, “this one is not worthy of your presence and I fear I will fail you if you do.” His eyes turned black again, “Silence the next is ready as we speak. You have served your purpose,” the man said in the voice they all feared. The left hand of the man smolder at the tips of the fingers. A hiss was heard and his fingers began to crumble to ash continuing all the way up his arm till it was gone stopping just at the shoulder.

“Revlaman?” Malve asked covering her mouth in shock. The fear as palpable as the water in the sea and just as vast.

“So, you do remember me, my love? Malve, I have waited four hundred years to see you,” Revlaman said ominously floating towards Malve’s light column prison.

“You are not him, Rev,” Servan started to say.

“You are not worthy to say his name!” the man screamed at Servan with fury and pain from his arm being burnt off, his eyes pale white again. He glared at Servan with murderous intent and he dropped the gnarled walking stick. He produced a disk about the size of a small plate from somewhere and he breathed on it and runes lit up an angry purple color. He vehemently tossed it at Servan. The disk impacted into the yellow column of light disintegrating and being absorbed into it. The column began turning red, starting from the top. Servan looked at his yellow light barrier slowly change. All eyes were transfixed on Servan and his column. “Oh my,” it was Revlaman’s voice speaking this time, his eyes were black. “I would say your goodbyes now if I were you all.”

“NO! Stop! Please stop!” Lizbeth screamed, falling to her knees. The tears were flowing, a torrential downpour from her eyes. Lizbeth was touching the green gem around her neck wishing for an ounce of her magic she was cut off from now. Red lightning started to arc from the center column surrounding Bane to the parts of Servan’s column turned red. It hummed and crackled like mini thunder. The column was half yellow from the bottom, and red at the top. The red light marched on with a slow pace downwards. All who were trapped in the columns of lights now grasped the situation. “Rev,” Lizbeth began to beg again.

“Not worthy,” the emaciated man screamed in madness, the eyes flashing back to milky white and another disk appeared. He blew on it activating the runes. Lizbeth clutched her hand to heart.

“Me! Revlaman, me! You are an old piece of dried udder leather!” Servan defiantly yelled. Revlaman's vessel looked with hatred at Servan. His eyes turning black.

“Very well then,” Revlaman said tossing the disk at Servan’s column. It struck as before. The pieces disintegrated increasing the pace of the red light converting Servan’s column to red. The air was congested with sounds of fear, pleas for mercy, and vows of revenge. Revlaman stood listening to it all and soaking it up as if the bitter amalgamation of emotions nourished him. Servan laid down in his cell, the red light was almost to him. “What no more words for me, Servan?” he mocked.

“Shut up all of you!” Servan yelled in a calm stern voice. His friends in their light prisons fell silent. He was laying on his back looking at the approaching crimson light. Servan turned his face to see Malve kneeling, her head pressed against the invisible wall. Their eyes locked “Malve, I am sorry that I let us all go away. I could have tried harder to keep us all together. I abandon us. I was selfish,” he talked calmly.

“NO! Servan, I could have tried also. We all could've tried harder,” Malve said, sobbing in her lighted prison, and pounding her light cell with her fists.

“Clyden, although you and I always fought. No, I am just sorry,” Servan said to Clyden. He could not see Clyden, but Servan could hear him pounding on the walls of his prison. Servan was calm, unimaginable brave since he knew his time was over. Servan did not want his friends to remember him as weak, for however long they all had left. The hairs on his body stood up, reacting to the pull of the red lightning. “Lizbeth, I wish I could have been one,” Servan was struck with a red lightning bolt to his chest. He screamed and all of his friends screamed along with him. Instinctively Servan raised his hand to his chest. Another bolt struck him in his raised hand. Servan’s hand vaporized and his voice was in agony as he sat up reacting to the pain and his head entered the red zone of what was once a yellow column. Another bolt struck his cheek and his jaw was stolen from his body. Servan crumpled and ceased to move. The light surrounding him vanished in unison with Servan’s life passing from his body.

The three remaining friends cried, screamed, sobbed, and they baptized Revlaman with agonizing promises of revenge. To Revlaman it was a beautiful scene. “Yes! Yes! Give me more,” Revlaman said basking in their indignation. Revlaman stretched out thin fingers and the gnarled walking stick moved instantly to his outstretched hand. He floated over to Servan and poked him with the stick. “Servan, I thought we would have more time to talk, I feel cheated.”

“How are you here?” Lizbeth asked. Lizbeth's face was puffy from the tears. Her voice wavered.

“Ah curious and know-it-all, Lizbeth,” Revlaman said goading her. He floated over to her. Revlaman knew Lizbeth’s curiosity was her greatest pride. The shadow mist began to stir around him. It concealed everything except his face. “Would you like to know curious Lizbeth?”

“Y-yes,” Lizbeth hesitantly answered him. If he tells us then maybe we can figure out how to stop him, Lizbeth thought. Her was racing with theories, speculations, and ideas. She looked at her friends. Both of them were on their knees. They already gave up or were in shock. Lizbeth was trying to will her friends on in her mind. Revlaman moved in closer. He leaned over to her barrier and Lizbeth locked eyes with him. The fog surrounding him thinned out. Her eyes widen in a fearful surprise briefly. Floating in front of him were six of the disks used on Servan’s column, Revlaman smiled with all the cruelty of child plucking the wings off of an insect.

“No,” Revlaman said. All the disks impacted her column, she did not even have time to scream as the red light encompass all her green column in less time than a person could take a breath. Multiple bolts arc to her body from head to waist and Lizbeth’s upper half of her body vanished along with the column of light. Her lower legs still attached to her waist fell over twitching violently. Lizbeth Ratoval was no more.

Malve and Clyden were both still in shock from watching Servan die, neither of them noticing the interaction between Revlaman and Lizbeth until a red light flashed. Malve looked at where her friend was. Lizbeth’s legs were twitching, they slowed, and stopped. Malve screamed with all her anguish, “NOOOOOOOO!!!” With Malve’s scream, it brought Clyden back to his senses. His friend Servan was dead. Clyden glanced over to Malve. She was still screaming frantically clawing at the invisible wall. “Lizbeth!” Malve sobbed. “Clyden, he killed Lizbeth!”

“Lizbeth?” Clyden asked as he turned and looked at where she was imprisoned. All he saw was her legs. White hot anger raged in his heart as he yelled.

“HAHAHA!!! Now you all have an idea how I screamed in my mind for 200 years after you all imprisoned me,” Revlaman said. His smile revealed a mouth of rotted teeth. “You all should have killed me. It was a mistake when you all decided to imprison me.”

“They all wanted you dead, but I begged them for mercy for you,” Malve said.

“You? I didn’t know you could be so cruel, my love,” Revlaman replied to Malve, floating towards her. “My mind broke and mended itself. It has been a vicious cycle. Do you know that when you are forced into such a situation? You can learn many things you would not have thought possible. I found out how to leave my body. Only my mind, it only took me a hundred years to figure that out.”

“Please, if you ever loved me then stop this,” Malve said calmly trying to sound sincere.

“‘Loved,’” Revlaman snarled back at her. “Loved is past tense. It means love no longer exists. There is no past tense for me. I still love you, Malve. I would have spared you if you would have just seen our love wasn’t a thing of the past.” Revlaman produced another disk in his hands he blew on it and the runes activated, glowing purple. He tossed it gently in the air and it floated in front of him. “Now my love, you must suffer the anguish of watching everyone you care about die. It is only a shame you will never see Varoosh’s face when I kill him after he is summoned.”

“Summoned?” Clyden asked, it never occurred to Clyden this was not anything other than a trap once Revlaman appeared. Revlaman turned his attention from Malve and focusing on him. Revlaman moved towards Clyden laughing.

“I guess we all have you to thank for this. Clyden, do tell me why did it take you so long to get to this point. I found the book,” Revlaman said gesturing with his staff towards the compendium laying on the chaise chair Malve made for Lizbeth earlier, “almost 200 years ago. I made some alterations to it. It was never Varoosh’s compound lock. Why would he lock the book when he needed you all to get him back,” Revlaman boasted to them both loudly. “I thought about putting it in Lizbeth’s path, but she would have been suspicious of such a book falling into her lap and I could not take the chance of her seeing through the trap. I had a good laugh when you didn’t even question finding Bane stuck on some castle’s wall. It just happened to be in the same corridor as the sick-poisoned-by-my-followers two-year-old future King of Loudas resided in.”

Clyden looked down thinking to himself this was all his fault and he killed his friends. He wanted to die, death was the only escape from the guilt. “Malve, I am so sorry,” Clyden said in a low tone.

“It is your fault, Clyden,” Revlaman said smiling viciously at Clyden as if he just read Clyden’s thoughts, continue to rip into his despair. “You performed the part I set out for you magnificently. I used your persistence against you all because none of them believed in your mission to bring Varoosh back. I believed in you. I knew you were right,” Revlaman’s voice grew louder with anger. “I just did not think it would take you a hundred years to get to this point! All the conversations I wanted to have with you all,” he paused momentarily. “I blame you,” he struck Clyden’s column of light with the gnarled walking stick. “Four hundred years I have waited for this. This moment is holy to me. When all of you are dead then Varoosh will be summoned back. You see your lives are part of the catalysts needed to bring him home in this version of the spell,” he laughed and his face beamed with cruelty. “I did say I made changes. Forgive me for being so talkative. You see I haven’t had the opportunity to entertain anyone for a while. I hope it is to your liking,” he cackled maniacally. The disk floating in the air around Revlaman moved towards Clyden’s column.

“No please don’t,” Malve begged yet again. She was on both knees her face touching the floor. Revlaman looked at her as she begged. He waited for Malve to make eye contact and then forced the disk into the pillar of light. The red light began from the top conquering the orange light at a slow, deadly march. Malve saw this and wailed in her white prison.

“YES! That is what I have waited for. All of this is your fault. If my heart was not betrayed by you then none of this would've happened,” Revlaman preached in a justified tone. Revlaman looked at one of the chairs and he uttered a fetching spell floating the chair across the room and setting it in front of Malve’s column. She turned her back to Revlaman as he sat in the chair. Whimpers mixed with sobbing gasps for air were the only sounds Malve made.

Revlaman thought Clyden was broken. Thought, after he told the story of how he killed his friends Clyden would accept death. Moments ago, Clyden would have gladly welcomed death. However, Revlaman inadvertently told him how to escape. Magic is wild and unpredictable, it needs rules to make it work properly, and once those rules are established for whatever the magic spell is to do they become laws and must be obeyed. It is true, one of Clyden’s forte is healing and Clyden did save the prince’s life working with his extensive knowledge of potions. Clyden took a particular interest in poisons and how to nullify their effects. The poison used on Prince Danyais, Clyden managed to isolate it. Once he found out the poison was sourced from a local plant, Clyden conducted studies on it. He even figured out how to make a potion that could stop the heart with it and an antidote to neutralize the poison only if the heart was stopped by it. In short, the poison would kill him and the antidote will bring him back. He looked at the red light creeping slowly to him. Clyden gauged the timings in his head. If I take it too late I will die from the lightning and if I take it too early and if he turns and notices I am dead while unconscious, Clyden plotted the different outcomes out in his mind. Clyden would also have to sell his death to Revlaman in order to not seem suspicious. Clyden opened up his robe and in a small dark vial was the poison that would stop his heart and next to it was a clear one containing the antidote to save him.

“Do not worry my dear. I do not intend to make you suffer as you did me when you locked me away,” Revlaman said to Malve trying to sound gentle on her impending death.

“You still are locked away,” Malve said her back still towards him.

“With your beloved Varoosh’s death I will be free from this prison you all cursed me to. I felt my bonds weaken with each of their deaths,” Revlaman said. Six disks appeared floating around him. “It will be quick.”

Clyden looked at Revlaman’s back. He saw the six disks floating aimlessly around him. With two of the disks, they all witnessed how quickly it killed Servan. Clyden did not notice how many were used on Lizbeth’s green column, but she was gone so quickly. It had to be more than two, Clyden rationalized. He had to act now. Clyden pulled the cork stopper from the dark vial and swallowed thinking he would have to do something about the taste if he lived through this. He would need to wait for the dizziness to start before he would take the antidote.

Malve turned back around to face the man she hated. Her legs were crossed. Malve leaned on the invisible wall looking at Clyden’s orange column as it slowly turned red. Lightning started to arc from the center towards his column. Malve had no tears left to cry. No more words seemed to come to mind. Malve was ready for it to be over. She looked at Clyden.

Clyden saw Malve was looking at him he started to scream and wail pleadingly, “Please give me time, Revlaman please have mercy, just give me time.” Revlaman did not even respond he just looked at Malve. Clyden was dizzy and he leaned against the confines of his prison. His legs buckled and he sat down. Malve watched Clyden raise his hands to his face. Clyden slowly laid down the same way Servan did, trying to stall the inevitable.

The red light consumed half of Clyden’s orange column. Malve readjusted herself so she could face Revlaman. “How did you escape, Revlaman?” Malve asked him. She looked at the withered man before her.

“Were you not listening earlier?” Revlaman asked sounding annoyed.

“I didn't quite follow everything you said. I was preoccupied with other things,” Malve said looking at where her friends once stood, a tear streamin down her face.

“I understand,” Revlaman said placing a hand on her white lighted barrier. “It must be a lot to take in after not seeing me for 400 years.” Revlaman looked over at the body of Servan casting another fetching spell, Servan’s corpse lifted up the arms and legs dangling. Revlaman hurled it at Malve. The corpse hit the barrier with force. Malve could hear the bones in Servan’s body crack. She pulled her knees up to her chest and found the tears to cry into them.

“Please! Just kill me now?” Malve begged him to release from this nightmare. She wanted to escape to endless sleep. Malve looked over towards Clyden. The red thunderous light was getting closer to him.

Revlaman turned to look at Clyden. Seeing the red light was almost finished with its murderous march he returned his attention back to Malve and said, “It shall not be long now, my love.”

Clyden knew he was about to die. He could feel his heart slowing. He saw the light and knew it was going to kill him. I must have misjudged the poison. I will get it right next time, Clyden laughed at himself. He knew his thought process was slowing and he felt sluggish. There was something important to do, it was detrimental. Clyden could feel the hair on his body being pulled towards the red lightning arcing in front of his face now. He could feel the reverberations of the encroaching red lightning. He let out a last scream of despair, it was a wail of hate, it was a prayer for mercy, the scream was of hope, and when it was done Clyden was dead.

Malve looked over at Clyden when she heard him scream. The red light vanished in unison when his screams concluded. She did not even have the words anymore. Her heart was broken, turned to ash by this evil monster sitting in a chair looking at her with black eyes. Revlaman just looked at her with a smile on his face. “You are right this was all my fault. If I would have chosen you over Varoosh then none of this would have happened,” Malve stated calmly.

“It is too late now, Malve,” Revlaman began to say.

“I know that!” Malve said with animosity in her voice. It was her last will of resistance embolden by the vestige of anger she had left. Revlaman recoiled a little.

“Hahaha, that is the Malve I remember,” Revlaman said leaning forward from the chair pressing his cheek to the white light.

Malve crawled the little ways to where Revlaman’s cheek was pressed against her invisible wall. “Do not do it quick. My punishment should be drawn out,” Malve said to him. Revlaman sat back stunned at what he just heard from her. Revlaman looked like he wanted to argue with her or plead with her to let him end it quickly, but he said nothing. Revlaman just shook his head. All of the disks floating around Revlaman dropped to the ground, breaking with the exception of one. Revlaman took the disk in his bony fingers, kissed it and then blew on the disk. The runes turned purple.

“Very well my love. I was unable to give you happiness, but this I can do,” Revlaman said as he pressed it against the white column of white. The white light began to turn red at the top of Malve’s column as it has done for her friends. Malve stood up looking at the red light above her head. She looked at Revlaman.

“Do not look away,” Malve demanded of him. She wanted Revlaman to see her eyes and face vividly. Revlaman shook his head in agreement, granting her last wish. She visualized how Servan’s face was blown apart by the red lightning and how Lizbeth’s entire body from the waist up was taken in an instant

Ba-dump, Ba-dump, it was a heartbeat. Clyden eyes opened slowly and he could hear faint noises. He could tell someone was talking. Who is talking, am I dead Clyden asked himself? He clearly remembered he was going to die. He did die and he was sure of it. Clyden’s eyes focused on the chaise lounge. Laying on chaise was the giant compendium he found. The book, it was a trap, and with that one thought, it all came flooding back to him. Everything washed over his conscious quicker than a breath. So much pain, unbearable guilt, anguish, and Clyden really did wish he was dead. Clyden’s gaze shifted to what was lying next to the book on the chaise. It was Witch Devil, his glaive. He turned his head. In a chair sat Revlaman with his back to him. He was alive and his plan worked. In front of Revlaman, a column of white light was slowly turning red. Clyden looked at Revlaman’s back with untold anger. He rolled over to his side. Clyden reached for his magic and was relieved he could feel it again. Clyden silently began to whisper a fetching spell as he crouched to his feet. The heat in his heart would vaporize iron. A dragon would not have dared stand in the inferno of his fiery judgment and in one silent motion, Clyden leapt in the air being carried by a speed spell.

Malve looked at Revlaman’s hideous face. A tear formed in her right eye and traveled down her cheek. Revlaman looked at her and smiled in amusement. He must have thought it was her last tear of despair or regret. Revlaman was sure Malve was broken completely, all of his actions and words were calculated strikes to shatter her resolve. Until he saw Malve’s facial expression change from resigned despair to hope. A smile formed on Malve’s lips. She was not looking at Revlaman. He whipped his body around, standing up and knocking the chair he was sitting in aside, at an unnatural speed. Revlaman was able to see Clyden’s glaive, the runes on it lit up as if fire spilled out of them. Witch Devil flew towards him deadly intent on collecting his soul.

“Revlaman!” Clyden screamed loudly just as his hands gripped the haft. Clyden put as much righteous hatred and force as he could into the strike. The black blade sunk into Revlaman with ease pushing its way out through his back with the momentum of the trust pushing into the red and white column of light. The column cracked and shattered in a rain of red and white sparks.

Clyden held onto the glaive looking into Revlaman’s eyes. Blood oozed from his mouth. With a groan, Revlaman’s eyes closed and he died. Clyden sighed closing his eyes. For a brief moment, Clyden thought with bitter remorse of Lizbeth and Servan. He was relieved his plan worked. He opened his eyes. Revlaman’s body started to disintegrate as hot ash fell to the floor. The relief he felt just a moment before became like the ashes of Revlaman falling to the floor now. The glaive that rendered righteous punishment to Revlaman, punctured through him and the prison containing Malve. What Clyden did not anticipate was it would also claim the life of Malve, Witch Devil was embedded into her chest.
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