“How dare you!” Roared Farenan, standing, stretching to his full height. He seemed taller, but his size didn’t bother me. I was pleased with my entrance, catching him off guard. Now was the time to stay calm, do what I came to do.
“You have been a thorn in my side since the day you were born.” Malice flowed from Farenan’s words. His fists shook at his side with rage. “I’ve tried over and over to capture you, bring you to the south so I could steal your powers, or kill you so I wouldn’t have to deal with you any more, but who would have thought you would come here on your own. When I add your power to mine, I will be able to break free from this prison and travel to the upper world. I can still do what I originally set out to do. All life will be mine.”
Finally, the truth about why Farenan kept perusing me. He needed my power. His was not enough to carry out his deadly plan against my people, nor would it work while I stood in his way. I couldn’t let him capture my power, even if it meant I would have to take my own life, truly die. At least that alternative would give the Artican’s a fighting chance, more time to formulate a plan. I shook the thoughts from my head and concentrated on my task.
“You think you would have given up by now,” I taunted. “Since you couldn’t even kill me when you were living, what makes you think you can kill me now? My magic is much more powerful now.”
“You were protected then, but not now. It was stupid of you to come alone. I will take your magic.” A fire ball shot forth from Farenan’s hand. It blazed toward me, aiming for my face.
I moved my shoulders to the side, just in time for the flame to pass by. It was close, too close for my liking. The hair around my ear was singed. I could smell it smoldering, a sick concoction of flesh and hair.
Farenan’s anger raged behind his eyes. The piercing gaze that shot toward me would have been enough to kill. I just smiled and glared back, ready for his next attack, waiting, biding my time.
Another flame rushed toward me, but this time I was ready for it. I raised my hand, halting the flame in midair inches from me. It began to shake and change color, its flame of red and orange turned blue and white. The outside of the ball crusted over with a hard shell of ice. It glistened in the fire light.
Two could play at this game. I threw the cylinder, straight and true. It whistled as it flew through the air, faster than Farenan had been able to throw. Without a reaction, the ice impacted his chest, shattering into a million shards. They stuck to his dead exterior, penetrating deeply before melting away from the heat. Left behind were small holes that oozed a black substance. It was a lot like blood, but the smell was horrid.
Farenan cried out with pain. He stumbled back, almost falling into his chair before righting himself again. “How dare you!”
I wanted to make him angry. From experience, people made mistakes when they were angry. Although Farenan wasn’t human anymore, he still shared the same qualities. I hopped this would give me an edge, something to give me that one extra second I might need. “Farenan, quite playing games with me, or are you too scared to fight a little girl in hand to hand combat?”
“Argh!” Fire flowed violently from Farenan’s mouth. He was furious, just as I had wanted him. He looked beastly, mad in the head. For one second I thought, what have I done, but my magic overwhelmed my fears, telling me this was right.
Farenan charged toward me. I ran to meet him in the middle of the room. Flames grew in his eyes and on his palms, ready to burn me, turn me to fire. I let lose my magic. The ground below the keeper turned to ice. I fell to my knees, sliding below the charging Lord of Death. I sprung to my feet, throwing a ball of ice at his back. It shattered, penetrating the rocky skin. Black ooze poured from his wounds as he cried out again.
I didn’t stop my attack. I had the element of surprise and I was quick. Before Farenan could turn to face me, I formed a blade in my hand made of ice. With a call of power, my arms raised the blade over my head and slammed it down between his shoulders. The skin around it sizzled and burned. It turned black, dark from the ice. Farenan cried out in agony again as his hands scratched at his back. They tried to remove the blade that they couldn’t reach.
The ice started to melt from the flame inside Farenan. I took the shackle that the Artican’s had formed to subdue him from the waist band of my pants. I had hid it there when I left the mountain. If I could put the cold metal around the evil Lords neck, this would all be over, my friends would be safe.
With all the force I could muster, I heaved the shackle toward Farenan’s neck while he was still distracted. Fly true, I commanded. The shackle opened, charging toward its target. Just when I thought my job was done, Farenan spun, his hand contacting the metal ring. It clattered to the rocky ground a few feet away.
Farenan laughed manically. I dove for the shackle. I had to retrieve it, place it on the neck of the dead Lord. Panic began to take over my body, clouding my thoughts, distracting me.
I felt a stabbing pain in my gut. My body doubled over as I fell to the ground, gasping for air. My clothes sizzled, burned away to reveal dead black flesh on my stomach. It must have been a burning sphere from Farenan’s hand. I had to concentrate, I needed to concentrate.
Air filled my lunges as I took a deep breath. I knew there was only one way to finish this. I had to be close, latch the shackle around his neck myself. That would mean close combat. His superior reach would be difficult to surpass, but I was fast. I needed to use that to my advantage. My magic burned in my chest, letting me know it was ready to fight.
The shackle was in my hands in seconds. I sprung to my feet, lunging toward Farenan, ready to end this. “Fight me beast.”
My fist turned to a blur of ice, as it swung to contact Farenan’s skin. He anticipated my attack and threw his hand up to block me, forcing my arm back down to my side. It was Farenan’s turn to throw a punch. His flaming fist glanced of my shoulder, burning my jacket, but not hindering my attacks.
We fought in a dance of life and death, fire and ice flowing from our veins. The shackle moved between us, seemingly floating in midair as we fought for control. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if Farenan managed to place the metal ring on my own neck. If it was meant to subdue the wearer, I would be lost forever, always a dead shell.
I took a blow to the chest. If my heart had been beating, it might have stopped from the impact. I clasped the shackle with one of my hands. Farenan held the other side. I pulled on my magic to make me strong, to match his power, but it was slowly slipping from my grasp. My jaw clenched as I pulled, willing my grip to hold out. No, Farenan was stronger.
I released my hold and stumbled back a few feet to gather what was left of my strength, but Farenan didn’t back down. He pushed toward me the shackle in his hands. I stumbled, falling back onto the ground. He was over me in a flash, the ring open, bearing down on me.
My hands were in the middle of the shackle, pushing back as it moved forward, inch by painful inch. What was there to do now? I had no way of escaping this, no way of turning the tides and subduing the dead Lord. Not like this, but I couldn’t give up. My friends on the surface would die. The Articans would all perish all because I was too weak to do my job.
I needed to warn Tull, let him to prepare for the worst. I called to him, hopping he was still able to connect with me. “I’m sorry, Uncle. I can’t subdue Farenan.”
There was a pause. The only thing I could hear was my grunts as I struggled to hold off the shackle from my neck. It was so close, I could feel the heat from Farenan’s hands warming my skin. Was uncle Tull not hearing me? I needed him to hear me. “Uncle! Uncle Tull. I don’t know what to do.”
I was getting no response from Tull. He must not be able to contact me this far in the Underworld.
My chest was burning, struggling to stay calm, and pushing strength to my arms at the same time. Farenan was bearing all his body weight onto the shackle that hovered over my neck. It wouldn’t be long now till I would give out and be lost to the world of the living forever.
“Tabri,” Tull was in my head. A whisper. He could hear me. “Don’t give up. You are stronger than you know…” His words trailed off leaving me in silence. I wanted to scream back that I wasn’t stronger. I wasn’t anything, but a mislead, frightened girl who thought she could save the world. I was wrong.
I could see the sphere in the center of the room. My friends were fighting the undead. Nell was franticly circling, picking off any creature that slithered close enough to her blade. Piles of rotting flesh formed around her. She was protecting Arsan who lay on the ground. His hands clutched at his chest, blood soaking his shirt from a wound. He was dying. I could feel it in my bones. No, this can’t be happening. I was supposed to save Arsan. My magic raged out of control in my chest, angry, furious. I wouldn’t let Arsan die. He had saved me once. I would live long enough to repay him.
Ice flowed from my hands and into the shackle, forced there by my emotions. It followed the curve till it met Farenan’s fiery hands. They sizzled and steamed as the ice traveled over his fingers and up to his wrists. Farenan called out in pain as the cold penetrated his skin. He was distracted for a split second, just enough time for me to muster my magic for one last assault. I pushed with all my might, allowing the ancient magic to surge through my veins freely. I forced the shackle with all my might upwards. It only took a second for the ring to clamp shut around Farenan’s neck. He fell to the ground next to me, wailing and pulling on the ice cold metal as it burned his flesh.
The whole room lit up with a bright white light that blinded me. I shut my eyes and rolled away, covering my head from any form of attack. Nothing came and soon the white light dimmed to nothing. I turned back over to find Farenan motionless on the cave floor. He couldn’t move. He was under the command of the ancient magic, a power that would never be undone.
A sigh of relief escaped my mouth. I was exhausted and didn’t want to move, but my friends were fighting for their lives. Pulling my tired body to its feet, I stumbled over to the gazing sphere, hoping that Arsan was still alive.
The undead were collapsing, lying in heaps on the ground, their lifeless bodies rotting, motionless for all eternity. It was like it should be again.