Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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Showdown

Standing next to the yellow portal stone, Evan watched Brashani disappear. He was relieved his companions had returned to the swamp and took the gem with them. Hopefully, they were safe and they would get back to Clearbrook in the same condition. With luck, they would find a way to free the topaz from the helmet so that they could return it to Tindolen.

The Michaeline priest sheathed his sword and was about to step onto the portal stone when he heard a noise behind him. His eyes widened with surprise as a bald man stepped from the green portal stone that was halfway down the wall behind him. The man wore black boots and a workman’s trousers and tunic.

Evan recognized him immediately. “Jormundan!” the priest rasped.

The bald man looked up at the sound of his name and saw Evan. The dark mage’s brown eyes widened then narrowed. His mouth became a sneer. He raised his arms and stared intensely at the demon hunter.

Evan started to draw his sword as he ran toward his opponent. After only two steps, a wave of pain wracked his body. Evan stumbled and caught himself on a table.

Pain stabbed at him again, more intensely this time. Evan dropped his sword and collapsed. Every nerve was on fire. He had never felt anything like this before.

“Die, Michaeline scum,” screamed Jormundan.

Tears welled up in Evan’s eyes. He wanted to scream, but he wouldn’t give Jormundan the satisfaction. The pain increased. Evan felt his legs go numb and then his arms. He was helpless.

Jormundan slowly moved closer. He had expected the priest to scream. Stupid pride, Jormundan thought. “Beg,” he said to Evan. “Beg for death.”

“Go to Hell,” Evan choked out. His mouth was becoming numb, too.

Jormundan laughed. “I’ve been there and back. The great dark lord, Zortan, restored me and gave me knowledge and power to serve him. And now I shall by killing you in his name. You will serve him and know agony for eternity.”

Evan didn’t answer. There was no need. His power and support came from His Grace and ultimately from God and St. Michael. If Jormundan destroyed his physical body, Evan would ascend to Heaven and rest, having served St. Michael long and well. He would never serve Jormundan’s master. Never.

Jormundan ended his spell and drew a dagger. Evan heard him mumble a few words and saw him place his hand on the dagger’s blade. It glowed a sickly red, and a slow evil grin spread across Jormundan’s face. He approached Evan and stepped over him. Lifting Evan’s torso, Jormundan crouched and put the blade to Evan’s throat.

Evan braced himself for the death stroke.

It didn’t come.

Evan heard Jormundan cry out in pain as his weapon clattered to the floor. The wizard looked at his arm and saw an arrow shaft piercing his forearm. He turned and stood; Evan dropped to the ground. Iriel stood by the yellow portal stone. She had another arrow loaded into her bow.

“Move and you die,” she said. Jormundan froze.

Brashani suddenly appeared next to Iriel, his hands raised and ready to cast a spell. Instantly he recognized the necromancer.

“Jormundan? This is a surprise,” said Brashani.

The necromancer raised an eyebrow. “Do I know you?”

“I doubt you’d remember me. I was an investigator for the town guard back in Marngol trying to shut down your business in items tainted with dark magic.”

Jormundan thought for a moment and then smiled with recognition in his eyes. “I remember you. You’re that mage who tried to raid our warehouse, who killed our fire elemental, and set the warehouse aflame.”

“You remember me,” the fire mage said with sarcasm. “I am touched.” He clasped his hands over his heart.

“Burned off all my hair, too.”

“A shame,” replied Brashani in a mocking tone. “I see it still hasn’t grown back. Tsk, tsk.”

Jormundan glared at him. Iriel signaled with her bow and arrow as Jormundan started to stand. At Iriel’s motion, he froze again.

“Nice and slow,” said the elf. “And keep your hands where I can see them.”

Jormundan stood slowly, his hands at his side.

Evan, meantime, began to feel strength return to his arms and legs. He had heard Brashani’s conversation. Keep him distracted, Brashani, he thought, I need the time to recover. He wiggled his fingers, rotated his hands at the wrist, and tensed and relaxed his arms a bit to get the feeling back in them. As he moved his right hand, he felt the hilt of Jormundan’s dagger next to it. He grabbed it.

“You can’t stop me with a bow and arrow,” Jormundan said to Iriel. This time it was his turn to mock. “Because even if you kill me, I will be reborn.”

“I don’t think so,” said Iriel. “I have special arrows that negate Rebirth magic.”

Jormundan’s eyes shifted from side to side. “You’re bluffing.” He smiled.

Gritting her teeth, Iriel said, “Try me.” Her voice was hard and Jormundan’s smile faded.

“I’ll tie him up,” Brashani said and produced a coil of rope from his pack.

Jormundan made a sudden pushing gesture with both hands and Brashani and Iriel were forced back against the wall, unable to move.

Evan heard Iriel cry out. He moved, and pain shot through him again. Gnashing his teeth and anticipating the pain, Evan struggled to stand.

Jormundan heard a noise behind him and turned. His eyes widened and his brow furrowed as he saw the demon hunter on his feet.

Evan, dagger in hand, lunged at Jormundan before the wizard could react. The blade impaled the necromancer, and he staggered back.

Collapsing from the exertion, Evan gasped, “I’m spent.”

Jormundan saw a dark stain envelop his chest. His eyes grew round; he shrieked in agony and aged visibly in a matter of seconds. His skin fell away from his frame and his skeleton turned to dust before it collapsed onto the floor.

Brashani could barely watch the transformation, but forced himself so he would have a reminder that the power of necromancy was not something to trifle with.

Iriel couldn’t watch and closed her eyes when Jormundan screamed. She only knew the event was over when she felt the force that held her against the wall vanish. Opening her eyes, she saw the wizard’s bones dissolve to dust. Her stomach heaved, but she forced the vomit back down and raced over to Evan.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Awful,” replied Evan, with a grimace. “I ache in places I didn’t even know I had. But I’ll recover.”

“What happened to Jormundan?” the elf inquired.

“I don’t know. I used the blade he had prepared for me. He enchanted it with some kind of magic; I can only hope that it was deadly enough to stop even him.”

“It was,” declared Brashani, stepping away from the wall. “Judging by the effect, I’d say his soul was eaten.”

Iriel held her stomach again. It churned, but it did not heave. “Ick,” she said, scrunching up her face.

Evan agreed. It was an awful way to die but he had no remorse for Jormundan. He deserved it. “Let’s go home,” he said. “We have a gem to return.”

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