by Robert Kevin Peterson Sr
“I don’t give a FUCK about your reasons Wizard” screamed the very young General Davius, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was addressing someone far above his social standing.”You’ve been sitting on your royal ASS for three weeks while thousands of men better than you have died! Get out there and DO something, ANYTHING! Do you have ANY clue why they sent me!”
“Yes.” Grand Mage Kanten replied simply, continuing to sip his bitter root tea.Savouring the sour lemony taste. He was just able to keep his shaking hand hidden from his uninvited guest. The strain of the deaths of so many men preyed on him. “ I am not going to give this idiot the time of day!” he thought.
Heedless of the answer, Davius continued, “My men are ALL DEAD! Every last one of them!” You promised the kings of the Free Cities victory but the battle has ground on for weeks! If you're as powerful as you claim, you can bring us the success you promised! Fucking get out of this fucking tent and KILL some fucking Minorans!” The shaking man ran out of steam and stood there, glaring at the tall, seated mage.
Kanten sat for a few moments more, and then put his tea down and got up. He walked across the tent and got inches from the general’s face. As he towered above the other man, the mage’s eyes glowed purple with his rising anger.
“Tell your superiors nothing has changed,” Kantan started with an edge in his voice. “The portents promise not just a victory, but a great one. I will join the battle when the time is right and not before. And if you ever address me like that again I will turn you into something I find less offencive. Now get OUT!”
General Davius turned a brighter shade of red but did as he was asked, leaving Kanten alone in the tent. He sat back down and sipped his tea, allowing his hand to shake with fear and anger.
The victory would come as promised, but he hid the rest of the truth. A truth he was only now coming to grips with. Two last pieces needed to fall into place and his fate would be sealed.
“I have explained over and over how the timing of the spell is so critical,” Kanten wondered out loud to himself. “It must be precisely timed when the enemy wizards act and not before. They would not understand that this is the only way.” He dropped his cup. It shattered into a thousand pieces. He savored the image of each broken piece and catalogued them in his mind. He watched the tea flow slowly as it spread out. “I can not do ANYTHING now! He said, more bitter than his tea had been.The price of victory was very high.
The arch wizard sat and did the only thing left to do. Wait.
Kanten’s spell books lay untouched three days later. He had memorized all that would be needed at the beginning of the battle. “I wish I could look at the spells one last time” he said to his apprentice. Then in answer to the unasked question, “If you were to look at the near living words, they might disturb the spells I have memorized.” Kanten lovingly passed his hands around the books.
The million man armies continued to grind each other down. As the thousands died, Kanten wished the portents hadn't been so clear. Longing for battle he sat and waited on his guest, she was so critical in the plan, the old witch would be here soon enough. The thunderous roar of so many men (and not men) battling disturbed him in ways he thought not possible. He imagined every horrible death as he listened to the screams of the dead and dying. “I wish I wasn not so near the medical tents.”
A near endless parade of intruders came to his tent, demanding action. Some his apprentice fended off, others barged in telling him the same tale over and over and over. He did not wish his plan said aloud, and he would not use telepathy either. He kept the secret even from the witch. With the patience of the immortal he was he sat through the uninvited guests. And waited.
Waited to cast the very last spell of his eternal life.
On the 27th day of the battle, the mage’s solitude was disturbed by a row in front of his tent. A battalion of demi human Nots had been resting in front of his tent ( “A subtle insult”). A goatman Not and a panther man Not were exchanging blows. In a flash the entire unit was brawling. Kanten summoned the military police. The Epicurian Royal Falconer’s from Kanten’s home city arrived quickly for such a large camp. They instantly losed their falcon’s on the errant Not men.
The falcon’s made for a very poor instrument of discipline. “I am the one who demanded the Falconer’s be used in this capacity.” the mage whispered.He could not have allowed these fine men of noble character to die in the attrition of battle. Picking and choosing who died did not suit him. He tasted bitter root .
On the 31st day of the battle, Kanten’s visitor arrived. The old crone had had great difficulty in getting through friendly lines and was going on about that. He looked at the garishly garbed Talini wanderer garb she wore, overwhelmed by the cheap perfume she wore and the everpresent old woman smell of urine.
“So then the guards strip searched me again…” Kanten listened as the old woman went on for about an hour and a quarter.
“....and now I am here. So what is required of me great one?” the crone said, getting around to the deferential treatment he was due.
Kanten inhaled deeply contemplating his next words carefully. This was his second to last chance to change his mind. “Ugh, what a smell!” he thought, actually considering a minor cantrip to rid himself of her oder. Although it would have been a very slight chance of offence, he did not wish to take the chance.
“Ancient lady..” He began “ I need you to reflect a spell I will cast back at me.”
“Good Sir, I lack the power to do this.” she stated bluntly.
“I have here, the Red Lotus Blossom, it will enable your reflective spell the power to overcome my defences, that I will not otherwise drop. It will work,” said Kanten as he opened a small box and showed her the three crimson petals.
Her eyes lit up with greed! “Surely only one petal would be required……”
In answer to her unstated question he said, ” Yes, the other two petals are yours in payment if you are successful.”
The witch eyed the mage wearily, “What spell will I be reflecting back? I can think of nothing good that it can be!”
“I will say no more than it is a curse, the rest is my business Lady, just be assured that you will be most unhappy if you are unsuccessful. I must not tip my hand to you or the Minoran Mages.”
At dawn of the 38th day Kanten had already been awake for hours. As he waited for his extremely special visitor, he read from Giltophic’s
. It was by far his favorite book. Dawn’s first light hit the book and the great god Hope appeared before him. The witch hid her eyes and trembled, not daring to see or hear.
The cross-like holy sword god glowed softly gold in the morning glare. Kanten prostrated himself in supplication. The divine greatsword hung in the air motionless, its magnificence overwhelming Kanten’s psyche.
“Rise good mage and rejoice!” The god said. “I have come directly as the stakes are great in your endeavour.”
“Oh Great Hope, I am sorry I did not expect you to come in true form,” Kanten said softly, but did not rise. “You risk much Lord in coming yourself!”
“Your sacrifice will be great Kanten and you are serving me directly. I wanted to bid you well as we will never see each other this way again.”
With that the divine sword divided into two leaving a connected avatar of himself in the mage’s outstretched hands. ”Farewell and bravely! There is always Hope,” the sword said, echoing the favorite saying of his followers then faded from sight.
As if on cue, a great cry arose at the sight of the horror that the Minoran’s had visited on the United Armies of the Free Cities.
Sounds of the horrors that the Minorans had summoned filled the air. Kanten gave the Free Cities credit. Only about a hundred thousand or so of the army was fleeing.
Turning to the crone, “It is time.”
The crone was filled with genuine fear. “I am ready Lord Mage,” she said uneasily. She gulped a lot of air.
“Be steady and stare into my eyes” Kanten said matter-of-factly.
He cast the memorized spell and it fled from him into the witch's eyes. It caused a green glow about her head as she caught and prepared to reflect it. She was nearly overwhelmed by the power but held on and pushed it back at him. He caught it in the eyes and tried to relax his powers and let it overwhelm him. Reflexively he almost caused it to hurl back at her again but eventually the green glow settled into his eyes. It took effect immediately and his vision became distorted. A large blind spot appeared before him and he could only see through his peripheral vision. This was how it had to be.
With time fleeting, he cast the remaining five spells in his memory, turning him from mere mage to a being of great strength, iron reptile skin, dog nose,bat ears and voluntary partial possession by the spirit of a great swordmaster.
“Vectin!” he called to his apprentice, holy avatar in hand. ”Take me to my griffon.” Vectin had everything ready as he was very well rehearsed. The spirit of the swordmaster whispered in his mind and called for battle.
Kanten, with the holy blade, mounted the griffon. In the mage’s mind's eye he saw the magnificent griffon, the winged lion with the head of an eagle, the very picture of battle and ferocity unbound
“Point me toward the beast,“Kanten said, and the apprentice turned the griffon and guided his master.
The arch mage mounted the griffon and rose into the sky,headed toward the commotion. The army was being torn about by a great force he could not see. This was on purpose. The demon god was too horrible for any man to view, so Kanten had eliminated its greatest defence by blinding himself.
Flying straight as he could, he allowed the beast to guide him toward the demon’s throat. It had been trained very carefully to always go for the throat, it’s bird brain too small to be horrified by the vestige of the thing that lay before them, he was far too beastial for the sight to affect him. The Free Army below was in terrible distress, they did not know that the demon looked far worse than it truly was.
Kanten had seen glimpses of it in his scryings and pitied the men who valiantly tried to continue the fight. Remembering his vision’s of the horror, he could see in his minds eye the thing. It looked mostly like a frog with a disturbingly humanish head. Pustules grew and popped on it as it hopped. Extra limbs in the form of tentacles would be crushing and throwing the Free Men.
One thing that had puzzled him was “How did the Minoran’s steel their men against his horror?” The spirit whispered tales of glory and distracted him from this goal as the well trained griffon headed where it had been so specially trained to go. He would never know the answer.
Even with his darkening vision , Katen could feel the ultimate terror induced by the huge frog shaped beast. As the archwizard choked back rising vomit , the griffon did exactly what he was trained to do so punishingly, go for the throat. When he could smell the stench of blood on the demon-gods breath, the fight was on! The dog nose spell turned out to be Kanten’s one mistake, the smells it perceived were nearly overwhelming and he tasted the bile it was bring him.
Kanten drove the holy blade into the demon's throat as the griffon battled off the demon’s left paw. The dark beast had trusted too much in his aura of fear and allowed the mage to get entirely too close for it’s safety. It made a vicious bite at the pair, but the griffon just dodged out of the way, Allowing the man another tear at the demon’s throat. A huge gush of blood rewarded Kanten, like a waterfall of disgusting pus and small vermin. Then the demon god made the last mistake it would ever, he bit and held onto the griffon.The spirit in his head laughed.
As the demon thrashed it’s head, attempting to tear the extremely tough bird lion in half, Kanten took swing after swing at it’s throat guided by his spell created bat ears. As the pair thrashed about in the demon’s mouth, Kanten’s swing often went wild but most of them cut the tender weak spot of the demon’s throat, guided by the swordmaster. The griffon was being torn up but was just tough enough, one wing nearly ripped off The terrifying creature let out a horrendous death roar as a final blast of it’s blood threw it’s killer’s to the ground.
Even as the horror struggled with it’s death throes, the Minoran army felt it like a mortal blow. Promises of victory for them caused their morale to completely crack. By the thousands, the Minorans quickly began to flee. Quick action on the part of the Free Cities, allowed them to fall upon the fleeing troops and a slaughter of epic proportions came to the Minoran’s. Never again would they be able to threaten the Free Men.
Vectin searched for his master in the chaos. He turned from one corpse to another. He scrambled past hundreds of men screaming from the agony of even seeing the demon god too closely. Finally after hours of wading through the aftermath of “victory”, he saw his master’s griffon vainly flapping with one wing. Their stood Kanten with his back to the boy. Vwctin scrambled over the broken bodies, corpses and the insane to be at his beloved master’s side.
“Master, you did it!”
The arch mage said in a low voice “ The curse allowed me to see enough in a way no mere mask would have.”
Kanten turned in the boy’s general direction and contemplated eternity blind as the dead holes where his eyes used to be bled furiously. The swordmaster spirit departed in glee.