The Shadows Chapter 42

At the Gates of Gehenna

By Keith Adams

Magus sailed absently; the gray clouds cast a pale shadow over the ocean waters; they seemed darker than usual, as if evil had taken root. Winds whipped and lashed at the sail, which caused the ship to stagger along, rather choppily. The ship had been picked up at a dealer in Truce for a bargain rate; the dealer, an oily little man, said he had picked it up from a 'little green man' - Frog must be hunting the traitor on the High Council.

A traitor was the only explanation for the High Councils action; cutting off aid to Porre and the Knights, cutting back envoys, all to concentrate forces in Guardia. It was a crock; the Council was ready to write off Porre. A bunch of sniveling, useless cowards, as always. Magus remembered during the war, when the Council had repeatedly sent envoys, telling him he could dictate terms of surrender. Magus had always thrown the note into a bonfire - they had nothing that interested either him or Ozzie. But the Mystics didn't lose until Crono and his lot showed up - Guardian Forces had routed the Shadows at Porre, yet the Council was still demanding surrender; after the Battle of Zenan, the surrender offers had stopped. This time, someone on the inside was working for the Shadows. Didn't matter though. Frog was hacking at the effects, the periphreals, not the cause. The only way to beat the Shadows was to kill them. Whatever remains of their influence after that would be easy prey. But Frog had always attacked the Effects, not the cause; Frog had hated him, not Ozzie. Silly person. Without Ozzie, the mystics would never continue. Now, without the Shadows, their forces would never continue. But Frog was too blind too see that.

Magus picked up the scythe, then set it down again. He had to make sure that the Shadows were truly dead, and there was one way to do that. Magus smiled; they would be utterly annihalated. Magus opened his hand, feeling the drizzle of rain through his glove. Magus clenched his fist; a storm was brewing, one of fire and blood and death. Magus saw it clearly; dozens of Shadows lying dead at his feet, lightning crashing down, whether by weather or something else being indefinate, and blood on his hands. The Shadows were doomed, here and now. They will be killed - every last one of them.

Magus looked ahead; there was an island, shackles and tents above a gigantic buff, a hundred feet high. Spiderlike black shapes flew overhead, above and in the clouds. Lightning began to flash down, far in the distance, followed by a gigantic clap of thunder that seemed to envelope the entire world. Magus pulled down on his gloves, tightening them around his hands, feeling the cold drizzle of the rain against his face. The Shadows will be destroyed today, and if he was destroyed in the process - what of it? There was nothing pressing enough for him to go out of his way to elongate his life. What happened, happened, what came, came, what is, is. The strong survive, thrive, destroy the weak, until those yet stronger come to face them. The Shadows had thrived off Guardia. Now, it was time for them to face their better.

The boat stopped suddenly, hitting a rock. Twas nothing. The boat was useless anyway. Magus left the scythe - there would be no point to it anymore. Surviving by magic is the Shadows game. Now, they shall meet someone who is far better at it than they are. Magus looked up, and concentrated; he felt himself flying up, like a slingshot, the rain pounding against him. He was at the top, so Magus stepped on the muddy ground, his boots sinking a bit into the cold, damp, mud.

The Shadows base reminded Magus all too much of Zeal. At the center was a curved,, high tower with a red light at the top. Around it were small tents and huts. Robed figures milled about; they were everywhere.

Magus saw a group of perhaps half a dozen walking with their backs turned towards him. Magus aimed, then pulled on the threads of magic around him; the group erupted into a blaze of fire; the immolating figuresof the shadows wreathed in the agony, melting in the blaze.

Two spiderlike creatures swooped down towards him, shrieking a highly pitched sound that nearly shattered Magus' eardrums; Magus puleed down on the threads of magic, and lightning coursed through the two figures, sending them plummeting to the ground, spewing forth black blood.

Magus looked towards the sky - the spider-things were gathering, preparing to swoop in for the kill. Magus concentrated on the threads high above, pouring forth his energy. The sky erupted in a blaze of lightning, and the figures started dropping like meteors; they were ablaze as they fell, leaving a trail of black in their wake, crashing into houses, setting them ablaze. The encampment was catching on fire; shadows were coming out now, only to be killed by their falling servants, who, as they hit the robed figures, exploded in a mixture of red and black blood.

Magus looked to the side; one of the spider-things was right next to him. It jumped on him, pinning him to the ground. It raised one leg and then sent it plummeting into his left hand; Magus felt his bones breaking. Magus grabbed the leg which had punctured his left hand and pulled. With a slight sucking noise, the leg came off, sending a river of black mud into the mud. Magus got up; mud covered his backside.

"Very impressive, Janus," said a oily, familair voice. Magus turned around, and saw a black-jacketed figure who looked like the man Magus had seen at a house at the South Pole while searching for Schala, and from the bar in Truce; the guy who had warned him "I am Thiek."

That brought it home. The Guru's absent-minded, whining, pathetic disipline.Why was he here? Then the pieces slid into place; Thiek was a shadow, serving the leader of the Shadows. Which meant the Shadow was proabably from his time

."No reason to hide, Magus. We both want to end the High Shadows reign, whether you reliaze it or not -," Thiek explained.

"I reliaze what the High Shadow will do. Where's Schala?" The boy would get what he deserved.

"Why do you assume Schala's here," Thiek was scratching his shoulder.

"Stop playing dumb. Get out of my way and I won't crush you like the venal little bug you are."

"I've always disliked you; such blind arrogance and overconfidence. Let's see if you can deal with my test; I don't waste my time on has-been, overconfident, arrogant jerks unless theyare pretty bloody good. None have been. If you can deal with Lazarus, beat him, you have the power and fortitude to do deal with me."

Thiek dissapeared in a flash of light. Out of the mud rose a form, yellowish, mechanical; it was Robo.


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