The Shadows Chapter 19
Into the Palace of the Shadows
By Keith Adams
Magus felt the snow press against his face, chilling him, and snow leaking through his clothing to press against his skin. The sun was gone - he couldbarely make out anything other than he was on a small jutting out section of the mountain that was covered with snow.
Magus looked for the Peak of Death Peak's, and saw the outline of a Palace, blacker than night, with a single reddish light beacon at the top. The palace was more akin to a tower with 6 smaller, shorter towers surrounding it. The top of the tower was a disk.
Magus broke off one of the branches from the tree and layed it across the ground. Concentrating on the branch, Magus felt the branch - every particle of it, the slightest indentation. He found one indentation and began concentrating, murmuring a slight chant underneath his breath to aid him, and part of the branch bursed into flame.
The fire flickered; left, then right; orange, red; it crackled slightly, but the wood that served as the source of the flame was unburnt. Magus layed his cloak across the ground, preparing for a nice sleep.
Roger strode through the black-tiled platform to his room. It was a small room, totally black, with a small black fireplace and a small cot to sleep on. Roger sat crosslegged in front of the fire, with dying embers. Roger sat, and meditated, concentrating on the fire.
Suddenly Roger was thrown back, hitting on the stone wall, and his hands burned. A surge of mystic energy filled him, far more powerful than anything he had felt before. Something had disturbed the energies from which he drew his magis. Concentrating, he left his physical form behind, journeying into a plane that reflected reality, save there were glowing colored strings throughout the world. He was in his room, and the lines, arrayed in a web like fashion, stopped at his fireplace, which was a sort of black hole. Roger became a ball of light, splitting among the strings, dividing, searching for a hole ...
There it was. On a small cliff was a fire, burning the lines. Something had absorbed Mystic energy from where he was trying to gather them as well for this fire. But his room was over a mile away. What sort of being could disrupt Mystic energies over such an area?
Huge bombs of fire overwhelmed him, burned him, but he pressed on, made him feel as if his skin was being ripped away from him, twisting his stomach into unimaginable contortions as huge waves spread out, hitting him with the force of ten thousand hammers. The sky flashed red, and small blue spheres drew in balls of burning fire which exploded into a flash of light. A mask lay on burned grass, revealing what should not and must not be revealed. A girl was killed over and over, and nothing anyone could do could change that fact. The dead person died; the one who didn't live returned to life. Shadows were cast over the tallest mountain to the depths of the ocean, and powerful men fell to the black, returned with nothing but black pupils. Orange devils danced and burned and died, blind to the light, abandoned. Little white rolls burned and gave off smoke. The evil vanished and dissapeared, replaced with a grayish cloud. For one great, unimaginable moment, Magus understood them all.
And that understanding was gone, replaced by confusion, as if a vast gulf was placed between him and what he was for that one instance. A Cold him ran through his cloak, chilling his skin. The moon overcast it's light upon him and the fire he had started, which was contorting as if someone tried to come near it and drew it's attention elsewhere. Magus was awake now, and few stars shown as clouds covered the sky, lit by a soft moonlight.
Magus looked at the palace with the single red light atop it. He was in a daze, but felt, somehow, clearer than what he felt towards Lavos, which was a hate of Lavos filled with a greater hate for himself, he knew that the Palace was the key. That was where his enemies were. He knew that his enemies were there. They were his enemies. It was as simple as that.
Roger knew the being was coming. He felt a connection to it, an unpleasant bond, the kind of which exists between a predator and his prey. The prey knew it was finished, and the predator wanted to end the game. The predator was closing in, Roger could feel it, getting closer and closer by means unknown to the Shadows. He went into the black, dimly lit corridors of the Shadows, made of a sort of black marble, with a lack of noises akin to the void of space. No Shadows were awake except himself - and one other. He went up a spiraling set of stairs, reaching the top of after an indetirminate length of time. He was in a half circular room, with the very center a throne made of black steel turned towards a window.
"High Lord," said Roger, kneeling on one knee, to not show himself subservient.
"Yes child?" asked a deep, confident voice from on the throne.
"My lord, I have felt someone tonight ... someone who could destroy us all, ravage us, annihalate us to the last man," explained Roger "He is coming, and filled with some unexplicable hate.
"I know of him. He would have to come sooner or later, whether or not he knows it. He knows the truth, whether he is consciously aware of it," a hand waved from behind the throne "is irrelevant, because the truth is so horrible that he simply cannot accept or explain it. So he will merely do. I expected better of someone I trained. Dismissed, Roger."
Roger got off his knees and went down the staircase, and after what was both an eternity and a second, arrived at the bottom. There were other Shadows, cloaked, masked by robes, not betraying what they felt as they concentrated on what was to come. Suddenly a howling wind swept through the palace, and Roger felt that his end was coming. Shadows were dying - no not dying. Shadows couldn't die. They would be transported. But Roger felt none of the magical discharge that accompainied the transport. Shadows were dying, being destroyed down to their very souls, being ripped out of existence. What kind of force could do that?
Roger looked down the slightly curving hallway. He began to hear very faint rips, as if reality was being destroyed. Flashes of dark obscrued the faint light in the corridor. There was a clapping, inrushing series of noises, getting louder and louder. 4 Shadows were in front of him, readying weapons of destruction, prepating to destroy any intruder, knowing full well that whatever was coming, it would destroy them.
And come it did. A man shaped figure came around the bend, and a black triangle appeared where they were, rotating in place, drawing Roger near him as air was sucked in. Suddenly the triangle dissapeared, and the Shadows in front on him were gone.
Roger looked at the man. The man had pale white skin, bleached, and covered with blood. His clothing was ripped, and a blue cape hung limply around his shoulders, ripped in a dozen places and held with one of the mans blue gloved hands, the other of which was holding a simple scythe. Roger looked at the mans eyes. They were eyes unlike anything else; they seemed to represent everything mankind had lost, down to nothing, where there was nothing left but a useless life; eyes that burned red with rage and the fire of lost understanding. Eyes that seemed to be the whole of humanity; of it's apathy and triumph. Eyes that could engross one forever. Roger hardly noticed as those eyes grew closer, and with a momentary change of expression to something - benevolent, was it? - greater. Roger hardly noticed the scythe ripping apart his gut.
Roger looked onto the blood stained floor. Rogers held his hands up, and they were covered with a thick, red substance. Roger began to laugh, but couldn't, and collasped into a fit of coughing. Roger tried to lift his other hand but he couldn't. It took so much effort to hold on, to keep his hand up. He couldn't do it, and his hand fell to the floor right before his eyes turned to meet the eyes of his murderer.
Magus felt a twinge of guilt. Why was that? Why? This was his enemy. He knew it surely as he breathed. He felt an odd connection to this - thing. Magus kneeled down, sliding his hand down on the staff, and took off the hood of the dead man. The dead man had black hair, and a black steel mask covering his every bit of skin. Magus grabbed onto the point where the mask met the mans hair, and pulled down. The mask resisted gently before peeling off. There was nothing. No corpse. No body. No man behind the mask. But there was a man. Whatever had happened, he wished the man well. He felt an odd connection to the man, touched with a sweet inevitability.
Magus looked beyond the pile of robes, and saw a twisting staircase leading upwards. The staircase seemed to twist more than space - it seemed to twist time as well. If he began onto it, it could take enternity. And atop, Magus knew, was the one who stood at the center of all this. He sent a triangle directly in front of it, and it ripped whatever enchantments lay on the stairs right before he ascended.
The ascent took a minute as Magus briskly paced up the stairs, one per foot, never resting, and he arrived at the top. It was a half circular room with a throne facing him. On it sat a slumped figure that was attired in much the same way the other Shadows were; but upon reflection, there were so many contortions and twists in his robes he might be taller than Magus.
"You took your time," the figures mask smiled a hollow smile, deprived of joy "I have been expecting you for an eternity. You are mine Magus; you have been guided by me. I have set your course, wrote your script, and you have played it wonderfully."
Magus pulled down on his gloves "I know what you are creature, and I shall ...,"
"You shall what?" the figure sneered "Free the world from my tyranny, Janus? Don't act so suprised - I know everything about you. You are mine, Janus. I know what lies in wait for you, as you do. You are just as much a tyrant as I, and we are both driven by neccesity. You did what you had to do with Ozzie so you could survive, as have I; but the stakes for me are much higher. You are no innocent; you've felled too many a man in cold blood for that, Janus."
"You are a weak man, controlling other weak men. You pretend to have power you don't; you are nothing more than a J'tuan fish, puffing up at the slightest hint of danger."
"I control everything from my vantage point. You lack understanding of what time is, Janus. If you believe I am a J'tuan - then strike," goaded the Shadow.
A white triangle appeared, spun towards the High Shadows throne, and then around it to the back of the throne and out the wall. The Shadow sat calmly, and seemed to be on the verge of being asleep.
"Foolish child. Strike with all your power, and you cannot move me. I am inplacable; I am unmovable. You cannot harm me," sneered the Shadow "For I am the Dogod, and you are dead." White lightning shot from the Shadows fingers. A green field appeared around Magus, absorbing the lightning, and dark spots appeared in it, and slowly began moving.
"You are nothing," continued the Shadow, unimpressed with Magus adding the lightnings power to the field, and the Shadow shot several sharp cones of ice at Magus. They hit the green field with unimaginable speed, burrowing themselves into it to no avail. The Shadow gave a look of minor annoyance and then flicked his hand, sending a cluster of fireballs directly into the green field. The green field was darker now, and whirls began appearing in it.
"You dare to have that kind of power? You are a threat to everything," the Shadow put his hands on the thrones arms "You thnk one such as yourself can't fundamentally alter the world? You are far too powerful to be allowed to live," the Shadow concluded. The top of the room was now a spinning mass of stars. The Shadow got up.
Suddenly Magus unleashed a volley of triangles, one after the other after the other, at such speeds they were barely visible, and the Shadow unleashes blue wires, curved, that floated through air and collided with the triangles. Balls appeared on the wires and flew into the Shadow, knocking him into oblivion as the now blue triangles expanded, engulfing Magus and the entire palace, and everyone in it. Magus had an nagging sense of familiarity about the whole thing.
The High Shadows picked himself off the spire of rock he was on. His robes were torn, so he discarded them. Janus had played himself right into his hands. Everything was going according to plan. Now, if he could only count on those he taught to be hate-filled with him gone, the course of history would at last be set in his favor. The Shadow smiled a smile that would have caused anyone who could reliaze what it meant to die of fright at what was yet to come.
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