Blood Oath (Book 2 of Alfireán age)

Fight for Glandledale

The blood oath crested the crater, his features highlighted in an eerie red glow from his channeled shield as he stared down at Alf.

Their eyes met and Alf nearly drew back in revulsion. The being that had sold his soul to Vackzilian was far beyond hideous; he was downright repulsive. Bulging blue veins ran down his neck and deformed, muscular arms. Pale gray eyes, glassy and devoid of life, gazed out from a bruised and twisted face. The man’s irises looked jagged and torn, his dark pupils horribly misshapen. Alf shuddered. The blood oath’s skin no longer bore any natural human coloring. It was as if someone had taken a hammer and bruised every last inch him, leaving his skin a dark purplish black.

Alf shuddered in disgust.

“I was wondering who would dare raise his hand against Lord Dy’Ixion, commander over all of Alfireá’s forces,” the blood oath spat. “I was expecting at least a dragon kin, but you… ,” he snorted. “You are nothing but a mongrel. A mortal!”

“Alf, see if you can either break through his channeled shield or get him to dispel it,” Drake’s voice said in his ear through a sound warp spell. “Rex, once it drops, you attack him from behind.”

Alf nodded and pointed his sword at the blood oath “You come against me with unholy oaths and power that is not your own, but I come against you in the name of the Lord God Almighty, The Lord of hosts, and The King of Kings, and today, you will fall by my hands.”

Dy’Ixion burst out in laughter as he stepped down into the basin. “I see you’re not only a pathetic nobody but a fruitcake as well. This fight will be rather short.”

“That it will be,” Alf said as a ball of fire blossomed at the tip of his shielded sword. Water raced down his arm and over the glowing blade, encasing the fire in a sheath of ice; then, with an audible whistle, the fiery ice javelin blasted away.

The blood oath guffawed and his channeled shield disappeared as he tossed his arms out.

Out of the corner of his eye, Alf watched as Rex appeared over the edge of the crater and dashed straight down towards the blood oath.

“No!” Drake screamed.

But it was too late; an invisible force erupted from Dy’Ixion’s out flung arms and smashed into Rex, sending him flying head over heels into the far side of the crater. Seconds later, the ice javelin met with the same unseen power and exploded harmlessly in the air.

Alf started to turn to see if Rex was all right when Drake’s voice boomed in his ear. “Never take your eyes off the enemy!”

Alf snapped his head back around to see the blood oath already had the palm of his hand pointed at him. His clothes flapped, and the flames behind Dy’Ixion roared as he sucked the air towards him; a massive, shimmering white blade coalesced as he compressed the wind into one long spear, and launched it straight at Alf.

Alf leapt forward and brought his shielded sword up just as the attack reached him. With a whistling hiss, the charged shield clipped the oncoming wind spear and sent it flying into the night sky. Another gust of air flew pass the blood oath, and Defender guided his hands as he tossed his blade to his left and thrust outwards. A second wind spear ricocheted off his weapon, flew out of the crater, and slammed into a silo.

Chunks of rock and stored grain rained from the sky as Alf recovered his stance and leveled his right hand at the blood oath.

Activating the spell imprint in his mind, electricity crackled up Alf’s right leg and down into his arm, then flashed in the moonlight as it raced crackling out towards the dark creature.

Dy’Ixion snapped his right hand up in front of his body, and the lightning careened into an invisible force, hissing and spewing sparks as it flew in all directions. Soon thereafter, the sound of rolling thunder echoed off the sides of the crater.

“Interesting weapon you have there,” the blood oath cackled. “But can you stop this?” He raised his left hand far above his head and brought it down as hard as he could with a sneer of pure hate.

“Above you!” Drake’s voice hollered in his ear.

Alf whipped his body backwards and thrust his sword skyward. An invisible, heavy object smashed into his weapon, smacking it back against his face and driving him down on one knee. He grunted as the pressure drove his back nearly to the ground.

“Use both hands,” Drake urged.

Using his right hand to grip the bottom of his hilt, Alf pushed with all his might, and the invisible construct rolled forward and smashed to the ground with a solid thud. Alf sprang to his feet, rolled over the unseen object, and swung his right arm in a powerful punch. A crescent wind scythe as sharp as any blade blasted forward and into the unseen barrier still in front of the blood oath. The wind screamed, sounding like sharp nails on a chalkboard as it scraped harmlessly against the unknown surface, and then shattered, disintegrating into the night.

“Humph,” he harrumphed. “It would seem the mongrel has some teeth, but now,” Dy’Ixion threw his arms wide open, “It is over!” he said as he slammed them back together in a thundering clap.

“Coming at you from both sides!”

Alf had figured as much and was already in the process of dropping to one knee. Shoving his hands into the dust, he jammed both his palms into the ground beneath him. Water shot down his arms, mixing with the soil as it shot up from below. Earth and ice spewed forth to his left and right and formed two protective walls. Just as the barriers finished emerging from the earth, Dy’Ixion’s invisible attacks hammered into them, and Alf pushed hard off the ground, throwing himself backwards as the walls shattered into millions of glistening pieces.

He landed safely on his back and rolled to his feet, coming up with his sword in front of him.

“You are a squirrely one aren’t you?” the blood oath spat.

“If I’m a squirrel then you’re a one trick pony,” Alf retorted.

Dy’Ixion’s right upper lip rose in a sneer. “It seems this fight will not be decided by conventional methods.” With a dramatic flair, he brought his right arm up. Crimson fire sprung to life on the tips of each of his fingers and rapidly formed into-fist sized fireballs.

Using Dy’Ixion’s excessive showmanship as an opening, Alf cast his own spells. The world around him swirled, and the raging fires on either side of the crater were suddenly snuffed out as two giant tornadoes formed to his left and right. The wind roared, whipping his clothes as it grew to monstrous proportions; then Alf launched them forward at the blood oath.

The two towering tornadoes howled and shrieked as they shot forward, ripping up charred remains and spewing them off into the night sky like old sacks of potatoes. As one, they rushed up the side of the crater then curved, circled around, and came back down at the blood oath from both sides.

Dy’Ixion didn’t even bat an eye, he merely jutted his chin at one then snapped his head towards the other.

A large force collided with the first tornado, and it sputtered and collapsed in on itself. Then, with a shudder, it dispersed, cutting deep grooves into the melted rock around it as its razor-sharp winds blew outward.

A breath later, the second tornado blew apart as an indistinguishable object the size of an elephant shot straight through it.

Alf clenched his fists in frustration. “Drake, I can’t get past his… Whatever it is!”

“I know. Apparently he’s able to block anything he has time to see coming. You’ll have to use a stealth attack. Your best bet lies with earth magic,” Drake answered.

“Gotcha. How’s Rex?” Alf replied. He made an obvious show of charging a fireball at the tip of the sword, while secretly channeling energy into the ground with his left foot. If he could just get through his shield, then maybe…

“He’s standing u-”

“Die!” Dy’Ixion howled as he launched all five fireballs.

But instead of launching them at Alf, like he was expecting, the crazy blood oath threw them at his own out-stretched left hand.

An obsidian flame erupted from the blood oath’s left fingers and swallowed the five crimson spheres whole.

As the ebony flame lingered above Dy’Ixion’s hand, the very air around it started to warp. The sky turned black; the moon disappeared, and an aura of evil permeated the area as the world surrounding Alf blurred.

Then, without warning, all five fireballs burned through the blurry haze surrounding Alf and reappeared only a few feet away from him.

Defender tried to guide his hands, but there was no possible solution, and his arms twitched as they were jerked from one stance to another, leaving Alf helpless. All he could do was watch in dismay as the fireballs converged on him.

Suddenly, Alf was ripped off his feet as Rex slammed into him and yanked him out of the way of the oncoming attack. Just as they hit the ground outside of the immediate blast radius, the fireballs smashed into each other and exploded, sending both Rex and him flipping head over heels.

They tumbled and bounced off the scorched earth in a tangled mess, Alf’s arms and legs scuffing the ground as they rolled right out of the crater and impacted hard against the rubble of one of the destroyed warehouses.

Rex untangled himself and grabbed Alf by the arm and hauled him behind a broken, half standing wall.

“What just happened?” Alf asked as he placed his hand over a deep gauge in his upper left arm. Blood seeped through his fingers, and pain lanced down his limb as he channeled energy into a healing spell, trying to encourage the skin to heal, while at the same time twisting his head around the edge of the crumbling blocks in order to keep an eye on their foe.

Rex fixed his mask and peered out from behind their hiding place and down into the crater. “His fireballs teleported.”

“How? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Beats me.”

“I’m surprised you survived that,” the blood oath stated mockingly. He strolled up the side of the crater and stepped out. Holding the black, shifting flame high in his left hand, he chuckled and said, “Dark magic is a wonderful thing, is it not. You really should try it sometime.”

The sound of his laughter sent goose bumps up and down Alf’s skin. The man was seriously deranged.

“What is that thing!?” Rex shouted angrily over the crater at Dy’Ixion.

“Oh, I’ll tell you… but first!” the blood oath raised his right arm.

Alf dropped his hand, forgetting about the wound, and sprung to his feet, readying himself for the oncoming attack.

As the wind howled through the basin, and the moon hid behind the clouds, Dy’Ixion brought his hand down in four, lightning-fast karate chops.

It was as if Alf had been dropped into the vacuum of space as air, dirt, and even heat was sucked away. A fine layer of ice rapidly accumulated on his clothing, and Alf stumbled, almost falling at the sudden loss of oxygen. Then the ground shook as four massive walls, swirling with dark magic, slammed down in a perfect square around them. The world took on a monochromatic look, as if all color had been leached away, and all sound faded till Alf could hear the heavy thumping of his own heart.

“He’s trying to trap you! Get out of there!” Drake’s voice screamed in his ear.

Alf rolled over top of the rubble and dashed forward, bringing his sword down on the magic barrier in front of him with all his might.

It didn’t budge.

“Throw me!” Rex shouted.

Alf reached out, grabbed Rex by the hand, and hurled him skywards, but as Rex flew out of the cage, a fifth, slightly visible wall smashed him back to the ground, closing them in. The vice champion crashed to the earth, and Alf kicked the partition they’d been hiding behind over then stepped protectively in front of Rex as the warrior slowly clambered back to his feet.

“Now,” Dy’Ixion drew a deep, wheezing breath. “I’ll tell you.” He tossed the black flame in his hand onto the melted gravel at his feet and shot three wind scythes into its bottomless depths.

“Alf, upper left! Rex, move!”

Defender jerked Alf’s sword up and to the left just-in-time. The first wind scythe skidded harmlessly over the shielded blade and crashed into the walls caging them in. The second attack dug a deep groove into the earth as Rex danced out of its way; however, the third wind scythe appeared right in front of Alf, and before he could react, it cut through his pant leg and bore a deep, bloody gash into his calf.

He cried out in pain as his left leg gave way and he went sprawling to the ground.

“Alf!” Drake screamed.

A smug, satisfied grin spread across the blood oath’s face. “Dark magic frequencies are specifically designed to pierce through all others. My Lord taught me how to use it to warp the world around me as I see fit.” The charred ground directly beneath the black flame cracked and the area blurred and flickered. Dy’Ixion’s eyebrow rose in amusement and he added, “Oh yes, it’s also extremely damaging to the environment, but who cares.”

Rex grabbed Alf by his arm and hauled him to his feet. “You okay?”

“Not really, but I’m used to pain. I can push through,” Alf gasped as he gripped his sword with both hands. “Drake, wh-”

“Lower center!” Drake warned frantically as the blood oath cast an ice spike into the black flame.

Thanks to his frantic warning, Rex swung his sword down and batted the ice spike out of the air as it appeared through a jagged crack in space.

“Interesting, it seems you have a keen sixth sense, but how about this?” Dy’Ixion formed a full-length ice javelin and jabbed it down into the black pit.

“Behind you!”

Rex slammed his back against Alf’s and used his sword to swat the javelin away.

The blood oath scowled, pulled the javelin back, then thrust again.

“Lower right!”

This time, Alf brought his sword down with all his might, cleaving the ice javelin in half and ripping it from Dy’Ixion’s hands.

The blood oath raised his palm and glared at the cut he had received when the javelin was yanked from his possession. “Fine, if that’s how you want to play it,” he snapped and brought both of his hands up. In an explosion of light, fire sprung to life between his fingers.

“Alf, use earth magic to escape. Now!” Drake demanded.

Dropping to one knee, Alf pushed his hand against the pavement.

“Oh no you don’t!” Dy’Ixion screeched as he realized Alf’s intent. With an angry shove, he threw the partially formed fireball into the obsidian flame.

“Rex, above Alf!”

Rex ripped his chest plate off in one fluid motion, and using it as a shield, interposed it between Alf and the churning blaze. The fireball billowed around the impromptu shield, licking at Alf and forcing him to pull back.

As he yanked away, his own unfinished charge went off. The ground where Alf’s hand had been roughly formed into the shape of a giant fist and bashed into the blood oath’s summoned construct. For a brief moment, it looked like it would break through, but the giant wall held firm and only a hairline crack appeared along its length.

“Good try, but don’t think I’ll let you do that again,” Dy’Ixion yammered as he used both hands to cast a continuous array of wind scythes down into the ever-expanding black flame.

“Doesn’t he ever shut up?” Rex moaned.

“Rex, to your left. Alf, lower right and…”

Time and Drake’s voice blurred together as Defender guided Alf hands, batting away attack after attack. Blood dripped down his arm and leg as he and Rex danced back to back ,blocking the never ending stream of magic attacks, Alf with his shielded sword and Rex with his makeshift shield.

“Keep it up. He’s getting tired,” the prince told them what seemed like hours later.

Alf stole a glance to his left as another wind blade bounced off his sword. Sweat poured off the blood oath’s face, and his arms moved sluggishly as he tossed his attacks into the dark warp that now stood as tall as him.

“Now Alf!” Drake said as Dy’Ixion once again tried to charge a fireball.

Rex grabbed Alf’s sword from him. Using both it and his chest plate to knock aside the attacks, he protected Alf’s back as Alf punched his fist into the ground and furiously pushed his energy into the blackened land.

“Gotcha,” the blood oath purred as he launched his fireball.

A crack in space opened up a hair’s width in front of Alf’s face, and he pulled back as Drake shouted something. Crimson flames hurled through the crack, singing Alf’s eyebrows and roaring in his ears as it charged straight for his chest, but seconds before Dy’Ixion’s attack blew him apart, Rex brought down the shielded blade, and the fire rocketed downwards. It crashed into his half-formed, earthen spell, and rock and flames exploded outwards as the two magic forces collided.

The explosion picked Alf up and slammed him into the back wall. As his head bounced off the invisible construct, he saw Dy’Ixion’s face light up with glee. Then all the sweat on the blood oath’s arms and face rose into the air and formed into thousands of tiny ice spikes.

Rex rolled in front of him, dropped Alf’s sword, and held his breast plate up with both of his hands as the air ripped open and thousands of razor sharp needles blasted through. They slammed into the chest plate with a sickening crunch, and Alf heard Rex hiss in pain as some of the spikes pierced the battered armor and bore into his arms.

“Alf! to Rex’s right,” Drake’s voice twanged, sounding hollow and distant in his ear. Alf tossed his head to the left, looking for the attack. A new rift split the air and he dived, grabbing his sword and yanking it up just as another barrage of ice appeared. The attacks shattered over his sword, and fragments of the ice nipped his chin, cutting small slashes into his skin.

Rex recovered his stance and pulled back while blood dripped down his arms, and hundreds of small holes became visible through his chest plate as the ice melted away. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up,” he gasped.

“Watch the air. It cracks right before an attack,” Alf said as the blood oath shouted in anger, “Would you just die already!” and pelted the ever-increasing flame in front of him with dozens of magic attacks.

“Rex, to your left, then c..nter, left and high right. Alf, b…ind, high left, and I think I figured ..t his wall spell,” Drake called, his voice fading in and out.

The air behind him opened, and Alf panted as he swatted away the oncoming wind attack. “What do you mean?”

“It I…s sol..d ai… If you u…e w…d m… you shoul…”

“What?” Alf wheezed. He jerked back and ducked as an attack he didn’t know was coming almost caught him in the chest. Then a rift, an arm’s-length long, opened to his lower left and two more scythes flew towards him.

Rex spun and grabbed his arm, pulling Alf out of the way just as another hand-sized crack in space appeared, but nothing came out. “He’s losing control,” the vice champion said, his voice heavy with worry.

“… h.. .. .. …..”

What should have been Drake’s voice was nothing but empty static.

As an attack sliced centimeters away from his left leg, Rex sluggishly danced to his right, and his limbs shook with weariness. “And we lost your kid’s eyes.”

A small rock floated several inches off the ground and burst into pieces. Alf’s eyes darted back and forth as five fissures ripped holes in the thin air. His chest heaved with exertion. “Drake will figure it out, just hang in there.” The breach in front of him visually belched and five wind scythes raced towards him.

“Easier said than done,” Rex complained as he fought off his own onslaught.

Alf clothes’ clung to him. Perspiration ran down his chest in rivulets as he struggled to knock aside all five attacks. Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, Alf’s medallion flew out from underneath his shirt and collided with an opening rift.

A loud whump sound echoed off the surrounding walls as the medallion exploded, spewing forth its contents.

“What in the-,” Rex exclaimed as one of Olivia’s cloaks fluttered into the air, catching on his face mask. He franticly tried to bat it away when a wind scythe slashed him in the back and drove him to his knees.

Before Alf could react, Dy’Ixion seized the opening and cast a powerful wind gust through the ebony flame. It smashed into Rex’s head and slammed him face first into the ground.

A resounding crack rang out as a piece of the vice champion’s mask broke off. It bounced off the walls, spinning around till it finally came to rest beside the fallen warrior.

Alf tried to reach down and pull him back to his feet, but Rex didn’t move; his body hung limp in his hands, and blood dripped down over the edge of his face mask. Fear and worry threatened to overtake Alf as the hopelessness of the situation bored into him. It didn’t look like they would make it. As he gritted his teeth and shoved the overwhelming feelings down, time seemed to momentarily slow down; then he pivoted on his good leg and straddled his fallen friend, defending him from two more follow-up attacks that battered into Alf.

Dy’Ixion’s laughter echoed up and down the crater, “Where’s your god now!?” he screamed.

Alf’s left leg trembled from the pain of his earlier wound, and his hands slipped from the blood running down his arms, but as the blood oath’s laughter rang in his ears, he remembered once more where his help came from. Gripping his sword with both hands, he started to pray, “Deliver me, oh Lord out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of this unrighteous and cruel man; for in thee do I put my trust, oh my Father, for thou art my hope, oh Lord God.”

“Oh how cute,” Dy’Ixion mocked. He wiped his hand down his arm, gathering his sweat into an ice spike, then launched his attack into the now elephant-sized shadowy black flames.

The ice spike appeared inches above Rex’s foot, and Alf grunted as he leaned heavily on his left leg, reached out with his shielded blade, and barely managed to smack it away.

Once again, the blood oath drew the sweat from his brow and shot off another ice spike.

“He’s aiming for Rex’s right hand!” Drake’s voice shouted crisp and clear in his ear.

Alf tried to spin on his left leg to block the attack, but halfway through the spin, his injured leg gave way and he crumpled to the gravel. Still, somehow, he managed to wedge his sword between the ice spike and Rex’s hand and the attack exploded against his blade, sending jagged shards into his face.

“From directly above you!”

Pain flashed through Alf’s face, and blood dripped down his forehead and into his eyes as he glanced up to see Dy’Ixion’s sneering smile through a rift; his misshapen features twisted in maddened glee as a tornado exploded into the cage. Struggling to see through the blood in his eyes, Alf grabbed Rex’s chest plate and shoved it in front of him.

The wind pounded fiercely against it, moaning and screaming in anger as it cascaded over the green armor’s sides and tore into Alf’s clothing. Alf wiped the blood away, scrambled to his feet, and thrust the chest plate into the tornado, attempting to disrupt its airflow.

“It’s spinning clockwise, counter it.”

Jabbing his sword forward, Alf simultaneously cast two powerful wind gusts into the belly of the tornado. “Drake,” he breathed, “I just saw his face through a warp.”

“Not surprising. The world out here is falling apart,” Drake answered as the tornado fizzed out and dissipated.

“I think it’s time I finish this,” Dy’Ixion gloated as he raised both his hands high above his head. Red strands of energy reached out from his fingertips and wrapped themselves like serpents around the shards of the demolished buildings. Lifting them high into the air, and pulling them together, it formed them into one gigantic boulder hovering high over the blood oath’s head.

“Eat this!” he cackled, but as he went to toss it into the dark abyss, Alf dropped the makeshift shield and grabbed his sword with both hands. As soon as the rift opened, he pushed off the ground with all of his might.

To both his and Dy’Ixion’s surprise, he flew up and out of the black, shadowy flame and emerged over the blood oath’s head. Dy’Ixion stared up at him in shock as Alf clenched his blade’s hilt and brought his sword down with all his might.

The blade smashed into the blood oath’s left ear in a downward slice and sent him sprawling to his side face down into the gravel. Dy’Ixion’s boulder shifted, the red strands holding it aloft ceased to exist, and the massive chunk of debris fell on the blood oath’s head with a satisfying crunch; then with an ear-deafening pop, the magical construct surrounding Rex vanished.

If Alf had remembered to turn off the shield on his sword, it would’ve ended the fight right there and then.

But he hadn’t.

The blood oath’s bolder exploded, hurling jagged chunks in all directions, and Dy’Ixion rose from its broken remains like an angel of death, his torn clothes fluttering about him, his shattered nose dripping dark blood.

A giant gash ran from his ear down to the end of his chin, and he hissed, spittle and teeth flying from him mouth, “Oo’ll pay for at.”

Black fire swirled past Alf and wrapped itself around Dy’Ixion like a shroud. His body blurred, and before Alf could react, Dy’Ixion transported several dozen feet away. With a blaze of light, the moon finally broke free from its cloudy captivity, illuminating the broken battlefield, and casting an eerie yellow glow on the blood oath as he raised his arms. Then the obsidian fire rushed into Dy’Ixion’s body, and black mist poured forth from his fingers and rolled down his shoulders.

“Oh no you don’t!” Alf shouted. He charged the blood oath, his sword raised high in his right hand as with his left, he pulled upon the last of his water reserves to form three final javelins of ice.

One after another they shot away, hissing as they sped towards their target.

Diexion pivoted, his black mist dispersing about him as he danced out of the first, then the second javelin’s way. Then his foot stumbled and the third javelin slammed into his right shoulder with a meaty thud, throwing him back and tossing him to the ground. He rolled to his stomach as Alf started to raise his blade for the final strike.

Just before his blade fell, though, the ground hiccupped under Alf, and he stumbled to the side, his left leg lancing in pain. Then a wall of air swirling with black mist slammed into Alf, launching him into the air and over the edge of the crater.

Sharp rocks scraped into Alf’s back as he rolled back down into the bottom of the basin and crashed into an empty set of metal armor. He gasped upon impact, and his lungs seized as the black mist from the wind crept into his mouth, stealing his oxygen and confusing his five senses. His vision wavered, and Alf tried to crawl to his feet, but the mist congealed around him and the strength in his legs vanished as hundreds of small strands of electricity leapt off him and flowed into the back mist.

Crackling and spitting, the electricity jumped from one dark particle to another as it streamed back up the mist and fed into the blood oath. Alf watched through unfocused eyes as Dy’Ixion rose to his feet, the mist thickening and rising around him. As it poured into his body, the blood gushing from his nose staunched; his jaw popped back into place, and he reached out with rock-steady hands. His claw-like fingers grabbed the ice in his shoulder, and with an angry hiss he pulled the blade out and tossed it to the ground. The ice shattered and the blood oath growled. “You were a fool to think you could ever defeat me.”

As Dy’Ixion raised his arms, Drake shouted, “Defend yourself!”

His voice sounded as if it came from behind him and far outside of the mist.

Leaning on his hands and knees, Alf raised his hand and tried to form a shield. For a brief moment, blue light coalesced in the air; then it sputtered and died.

Suddenly, the earth rumbled and two, massive pillars rose to Dy’Ixion’s left and right.

They pierced the sky and stood like silent sentinels guarding the dark creature.

“Use wind!” the prince shouted.

Realization struck Alf, and reaching deep into his core, he grabbed a fist full of his energy and shoved it into a spell.

The air around him exploded, scattering the mist and freeing him from its grasp at last. Alf rocked forward, coughing up blood and black slag as he tried to suck in a breath of fresh air.

“Get out of there!” the prince screamed, this time from what sounded like right in his ear.

Alf wiped his mouth, stood shakily to his feet, and charged up the side of the crater. His clothes hung from him in shredded ribbons; blood oozed from his many cuts, and Alf ached from head to toe, but he could not afford to lose. Not now.

As he charged up the side of the crater, Dy’Ixion stood there watching him with a bemused look on his face while his right hand lovingly caressed one of his pillars. “I believe it’s time for me to end this,” he purred.

Finally reaching the top, Alf jammed his hand into the jagged crest of the crater and pumped his remaining energy into the earth.

He released his charge just as Dy’Ixion’s pillars lit up with an eerie red glow. The air between them seemed to warp, and the moon took on a magnified look beyond the stone’s parameters.

Then Alf’s spell erupted from the ground. Four spikes of earth, one from each side, shot up and raced towards Dy’Ixion, their razor-sharp edges glinting in the night lights as they made their way forward, but a hair’s breadth from skewering him through, they suddenly melted away as if they were made of nothing but ice.

The blood oath smiled as his attack crumbled into dust and he stepped forward. “My turn,” he said.

The air hummed, and the pillars to his left and right plunged into the earth with a rumbling hiss, disappearing in the blink of an eye, and sending up massive plumes of dust.

A sickening feeling blossomed in Alf’s gut. That can’t be good he thought, and summoning the final dredges of his energy, he strengthened himself to deflect the attack that was certain to come.

But it was far too late.

The ground beneath him liquefied, and like a rock thrown into the sea, Alf plunged into the earth. As the brown sludge swallowed him whole, he sank deep into its depths; all light and sound vanished as the earth claimed him as his own. Bringing all of his power to bear, he tried to overpower Dy’Ixion’s control, but just as he started to gain a foothold, the blood oath stomped his foot against the ground and the condensed pillar raised Alf into the air. The earthen pillar wrapped itself tightly around him, forming into a cocoon and immobilizing him. He gasped for air as the clay pulled back from his face and swirled around his neck.

The blood oath reached out and stroked his face “How do you like my earth magic?”

“How is such a thing possible?” Alf grunted as he pulled back in revulsion.

Mirth, blended with a mixture of hate, filled the blood oath’s eyes. “Oh, you have your stony Emperor to thank for that. You see, for the last three years of my life, every day I’ve been forced to work in the mines under Victiles. As a result, I became rather proficient at earth magic, and thanks to my Lord’s power coursing through my veins, and you’re delicious energy,” he said licking his lips, “I’ve discovered a new trick.”

“There’s no way out,” Drake’s voice sounded in his ear.”You have to trick him into loosing focus. Provoke him.”

“Trick?” Alf spat. “You’re the one being tricked. Once Vackzilian is done with you, he’ll drain you of your energy and toss you to the side like a ragdoll just like everyone else. Then someone stronger will take your place. In the end, you’ve sacrificed your life, your soul for nothing.”

Dy’Ixion snarled and his face twisted as he screamed. “YOU will never take my place! NO ONE WILL! I, LORD DY’IXION, WILL REIGN SUPREME FOREVER!!” he said as he slammed his right foot into the ground.

Air whistled in Alf’s ears as the cocoon slammed forward and smashed his head into the pavement. A world of stars burst into existence as pain shot through his entire body; then all went black and he faded into unconsciousness.

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