Chapter 10 – The Final Star Goes Dark

“There is no pain more excruciating than bleeding in a world so beyond reason that poetry is blasphemy. The prevailing order is foul! It must burn, burn and burn some more, until the three kingdoms are all ash!” Maron bellowed at his audience.

He moved his hand from his bleeding wound, opened his red palm, at the center of which rotated a ball of fire.

“I can now create worlds in my palm. Suns and galaxies…”

The group stared at the miniature sun, which despite its tiny size, lit up the gloomy valley of shadows that was the dig site. So deep the undead had dug, the expedition were surrounded by stone pillars and structures from ancient times. As the waves of light licked them, the runes on the structures began to flicker. The robed reaper wiped a runaway trickle of blood from her cheek.

“You killed all those people… just so they’d dig up that unholy relic”, Nembra sighed.

“The ore they mined went to tools of murder”, Maron replied dryly.

“You killed women! You killed children!! The mining villages were unarmed families!” Nembra cried out.

“Technically, the one who cut them down… was you”, Maron replied.

“What is that huge tombstone?” Karma interjected.

Eyes turned to the young monk in black robes, for he had asked what everyone was thinking.

“On the stone behind me is a message from the future. Our common, inevitable future. Unless something is done, this realm of existence will cease to be not many generations from here. The royals of Sharam stand in the way of all solutions”, Maron explained without a hint of hesitation.

“Magic leads to corruption, you know this! Every civilization that studied the Language destroyed itself. Every single one!” Nembra cried out.

The mage laughed so sharply and so loudly, his voice echoed from the ruined pillars around them.

“The tragedy of our world is how little it takes to be god… and how few attempt it”, Maron hissed.

“You’ll die from blood loss. Surrender, please, end this madness”, Nembra pleaded.

The coldest cackling erupted from the man sitting on the reddened sands. While the soldiers and the monks and the reaper were unmoved, seeing only the sad sight of a dying little man, Boros gripped his hammer tightly with two hands.

When the mage’s laughter finally subsided, he spoke:

“Since I met you, Lady Death, my life began. Every moment and struggle and choice that led to that moment finally made sense. In this dimming universe, nearing the end of its lifespan, my love for you is the final star that goes dark.”

There was a restless hissing in the ruins. Something had stirred below their feet. The expedition heard it, but too late. Half-rotten warriors burst from the ground, gripping the legs of everyone, the path behind them became walled by a thick flood of twitching undead bodies holding axes and swords, sand pouring out from between their ribs, their mouths and eye sockets. Their swinging blades stopped to hover mere centimeters from the throats of the surviving members of the military expedition.

“Heal my wound now, or you all fucking die!!” Maron demanded.

While the monks and the reaper had mere robes for armor and the soldiers wore chainmail, Boros was clad in a complete body armor.

“Shut up! Your yapping skull’s worth bags of gold”, the mountain of a man replied and stepped forward, effortlessly breaking off from the bony grip of the undead.

He was almost twice as high as the next tallest man. Heaving his hulking body forward, his helmet and breastplate and the creaking pants he wore made every cut bounce off. He just laughed mockingly, bony fingers and wrists snapped as he advanced.

“In the mountain empire, we train and train! Just to wear this godless armor to battle! Mage, you got one shot, make it your best!!”

Maron closed his palm that held the small sun, then extended his hand forward, lunging a head-sized ball of fire at the advancing warrior. The crackling sphere of crimson and gold ricocheted off comedically from the man’s helmet.

“Easiest bounty I ever collected, hah!!” Boros laughed, while running at his foe.

The fireball landed on a nearby pillar, exploding messily upon impact, sand flying everywhere. A trail of trampled undead behind him, the armored warrior swung his hammer at the slender man’s face, stopping barely above his head. And with that, the battle was over as suddenly as it had begun many nights ago.

“Cut your tongue, necromancer. One whisper from you and this bludgeon of steel crushes your skull”, Boros stated the terms.

His words still lingering in the musky air, the fleeting flash of arcane brilliance had vanished. The swarm of undead men and women dropped their weapons and fell on their knees first, on their faces seconds later. The strength of the mage’s fingers were drained by blood loss, unable to make a snap. The slender man slumped to the ground, his guts spilling out.

The monk in black robes gasped, his step forward unnerving the reaper beside him.

“Stop, Karma! Take no step closer”, Nembra urged the monk.

The miserable pile of flesh heaved. His eyes half closed, bathed in his blood, crushed under the shadow of a warrior, the faintest smile carved the necromancer’s lips in a line. He said:

“Karma… So that is your name. Heal me, Karma… and my book of spells is yours.”

“He’ll take it from your corpse”, Boros stated and raised the hammer high above his own head.

The mage’s ribcage caved in with a crunchy thud.

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