The Story Of Magus Chapter 16
MAGUS! Part 4
"Oooh, this promises to be one heck of a fight!" Ozzie chuckled to Drek, who handed him another full glass of wine. The spy nodded politely, his mind concentrating more on what was being said between the two combatants then his liege lord.
"A bit melodramatic, don't you think, Janus?" Flea sneeringly laughed.
"Perhaps so, but you do get the point!" Janus took three steps which drastically narrowed the distance between them. He made a swipe with his scythe which Flea blocked and jumped away. Janus stooped to a battle crouch and watched as the magician before him ducked and weaved and hopped around, always moving. "Ah, now I see why they call you flea. You move like one."
"Anyone knows that fleas are hard to kill, and so am I!" There was no warning of her intentions as suddenly a hand shot out and ice crystals, sharp and deadly as knives, sprang from her palm. Janus managed to roll to one side. The unfortunate Mystics crowded behind him, however, couldn't move as fast. They found themselves suddenly encased in a block of solid ice. The movement was extremely painful for Janus, since his wounds were not completely healed from the elixir he'd drunk from Dreck's flask. Flea drove him backward with her sword. High cut to the head. Block. Low cut at the waist. Block. Feint, parry, thrust, parry. Block. The weariness in his body made his arms feel like lead as he swung the scythe, defending more then attacking. Flea lunged forwards, locked swords with Janus, and then, as they grappled to force the other one to step back, she kicked him in the groin. Falling to the one knee, Flea grabbed the back of his head, tangling her fingers into his wild hair and brought his face crashing down on her knee as she rammed it upwards. Reeling back, nearly ripping out the hair she held by the roots, Janus scrambled crab-like to the side. His lower lip was cut where his teeth had bitten down after her knee hit him. Aside from the blaring agony, he would survive. At least his nose wasn't broken. He couldn't just sit there and nurse his wounds, though, so he struggled and was quickly on his feet with a counterattack of his own. Gripping his scythe in both hands, a reddish glow grew around his hands. Lifting one hand over his head, the red glow followed it, growing brighter and brighter.
"A fire spell, eh?" Flea murmured to herself. "What a dunce!" A blue glow formed around her own hands as she held her sword. With a yell, Janus completed the spell. Waves of intense heat covered the room. The air itself began to boil and seethe, causing small explosions to take place. Several of the Mystics gathered were singed. "Think a measly spell like that can stop me? Take this!" Flea cackled. She aimed her glowing blue blade at the ceiling. Two sheets of ice formed and fell to the ground. The combination of magic from opposite ends of the magic spectrum created friction. The buildup of magic negated each other. The heat became cooled by the ice and the ice vanished in a hiss of steam.
"That the best you've got, Janus?" Flea taunted. Janus gritted his teeth at her mocking tone. His magic was nearly depleted as it was. He knew that the more spells he cast, the more chance he had of burning himself out, leaving himself completely at Flea's mercy.
"I was just getting warmed up, so to speak," he answered, forcing a grin. His chest was heaving. Each breath was agony. But he wouldn't show that to his enemy. He'd die before he showed weakness again. Flea rolled her eyes at the bad joke, but appeared satisfied with the answer. Janus' moved stiffly, jabbing his scythe in maneuvers that would have made Slash cringe had he been present. They were rash and desperate. Flea was strong and barely winded, and he was panting. The room seemed to be spinning. Flea took a swing that he knocked to the side, but her returning pass caught him on the ribs. There was a sharp pain and a moment of stillness as the tip of the sword knicked his breastbone before pulling away. A bright line of crimson showed through his shirt. He couldn't let the new wound slow him down, though each indrawn breath was torture. The youth made a swipe at her legs, and as she sidestepped his blow, he angled the blunt end of the scythe upwards. It caught Flea's right wrist. There was a sharp snapping sound and the female magician cried out in pain, dropping her sword.
Cradling her arm in the crook of the left one, she left her sword where it lay and retreated. Janus followed her. "This is the end, Flea. Time to meet the Reaper." Raising his blade like an executioner, it glowed with power like some gruesome smile. The wounded woman forced a grin.
"Not yet, pretty boy. The fun has only just begun!" A dagger appeared in her left hand and she ducked under what would have been the killing stroke and caught him high on the left thigh, adding yet another cut to the many that dripped steadily. His clothes were now virtually indistinguishable in their colors. They looked black, and were wet and shiny. Each step left a crimson footprint on the stone floor.
For a while, they circled drawing closer and closer to each other. It was like a strange dance. There was a deadly grace to the way Janus moved. Flea could see a lot of Slash in her opponent. He had taught the rabbit well. But it would not be enough to save Janus from her power!
A boost of her wind magic allowed Flea to leap high into the air. Spinning as she landed, she blew Janus a kiss. Janus raised his cape like a shield, even though he didn't sense a magical attack. Still, he was physically knocked over by an unseen blow. It felt like a giant fist smashed into him, forcing him to his knees. The pressure wouldn't let up. "Damn it! What did you do to me?" he demanded. Flea laughed long and loud.
"That was my Chaos Effect spell! Your body now responds to MY commands! Ah, ha, ha, ha!" Flea laughed insanely when Janus stared at her with mounting horror as she snapped the fingers of her good hand and his body rose to it's feet against his will. "C'mon now, puppet. Let's play!"
The pressure on him eased. Thinking Flea had, perhaps, lowered her guard, he jumped at her, prepared to sever her head from her shoulders...only to find his feet rooted to the floor! He fell face first to the ground. His scythe skittered across the floor and out of his reach. The Mystics laughed at him and slapped each other on the back. Flea retrieved her own blade and took her time in walking around him. She poked his back none too gently with it. Laughing, she returned it to it's sheathe at her hip.
"Aww, did you fall down and go boom?" she asked in mock concern. "Let me help you to your feet!" Jerking her left hand, Janus felt his body respond. He was straightened up so fast, his head spun. There was a soft "clink!" sound against the stone floor a few feet away. Though his body couldn't move, his eyes could. His medallion had been flung off as his body had jerked upright. In frustration, Janus knew there was nothing he could do about it but hope it didn't get blasted in whatever spells Flea was sure to use on him. Flea walked around him, eyeing his battered body, his tattered clothes, the grim set of his jaw and the fire that burned in his eyes. "Did you really think you could defeat me? You are nothing! I am the epitome of all Mystic magic! I taught you everything you know!" She grinned. "Why don't you do yourself a favor and give up? There is no way you can beat me. Admit defeat and I might make your death quick and painless."
"Go to hell!" Janus spat. Flea slapped him so hard, her own hand stung from the impact. One side of the youth's face was a bright red. His eyes watered briefly from the pain, but he blinked them away.
"Obviously your mother didn't teach you any manners!" Flea shouted. Janus growled deep in his throat at that remark. "Maybe this will teach you!" With her one usable fine-boned hand, a wave of crackling electric energy surrounded his body. He couldn't move, couldn't even open his mouth to scream. The lightning coursed through his veins like liquid, searing every nerve with it's raw power. Each limb convulsed and spasmed out of control. His legs gave out and he fell onto his side, writhing in the grips of Flea's magic.
"He's done for, I'm sure of it, sire! Things don't look very good at all," Drek commented. Inside he was cheering, Way to go, Flea, old girl! Crush him like a bug!
Ozzie shook his head in silence. Flea couldn't win! Janus had to break free of her spell and fight, or else...or else...Ozzie swallowed hard and mopped his brow. He hated to think what tortures his sub-commander magician would put him through. Looking at Janus' twitching form that glowed with the lightning surging through his body, Ozzie felt bitter disappointment burning his mouth like bile. Clenching a green flabby fist, the Mystic leader cursed under his breath. Was Janus really as weak as what everyone said? Could his own judgment of the boy have been so far off? Janus had to win this battle. He had to!
Out of the corner of Ozzie's eye, he caught sight of Slash slipping into the room through the double doors. He was almost obscured by the press of bodies as the gathered Mystics crowded around the two combatants. His blue skin gave him away as he pushed his way through the crowd to get a look-see at what the commotion was. When he saw Flea standing over Janus, lightning magic spewing from her spread fingers into his twisting form, he gave a brief frown. He wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but he was almost positive that this wasn't a simple quarrel between the two
I must...not...give in! I must try and...defeat her...spell over me! Janus' mind raced with these thoughts as he struggled to move his hands, to think of a shield spell, of a counterattack he could use to stop the electric energy Flea was pouring into him. He waited for any distraction to give him opportunity enough to break free of her control. Janus wrapped his mind around the core of magic lodged in his being from Flea's Chaos Effect. In his imagination, Janus could almost visualize a sharp-pointed rod of energy buried in his soul, forcing him to obey Flea's will. Despite the pain, Janus managed to imagine his own vibrant magic wrapping around the rod, tugging it, twisting it, loosening his attacker's power on him. Flea was not unaware of her spell being tampered with. She tried increasing the outflow of her lightning magic to draw Janus' focus away from the magic rod, but he would not be distracted once his mind was set on a goal.
With a final jolt of magic, Janus gained a solid grip around the rod and pulled it free. Instantly, the glowing spear grew brighter and then dissipated like a snuffed candle. "No!" Flea howled. "That's impossible!" She could feel the tingle moving through her mind as her spell lost it's effect. Her concentration lost, the lightning sizzled once more and was gone. From his place on his throne, Ozzie sat a little straighter, beady black eyes narrowing. What was this new turn of events?
"That spell was perfectly cast! There should have been no way you could break it!" Flea was screeching. Janus groaned softly and struggled to his knees. It felt like a million bees buzzing in his head.
"But I did break your spell, and I will do so a hundred-thousand times if need be." Placing a hand on his knee, Janus pushed himself to his feet, staggering a little as the aftereffects of being so brutally attacked made him dizzy and faint. Using a hand to push aside the long blue curtain of hair that hung in his face, he lifted his head proudly. "You can damage my body, you can drain my magic. But you can never destroy my will to live. And because of that, Flea, you will never defeat me! EVER!"
He turned his head...and felt ill. Schala's medallion was gone from where it fell on the floor. A red haze fell over his eyes and all control snapped. Praying to every deity he had ever heard of to lend him the strength for what would probably be the last spell he would ever cast, Janus closed his eyes and chanted. "Born of darkness, you who heed the Reaper and his minions, grant your humble servant the strength to destroy all fools who stand before the powers you and I possess!" A purplish glow surrounded his body. Flea, realizing that he was about to cast some heavy duty spell, called forth every spell she could think of to distract him. But each time, her magic was repelled by that unusual glow.
Janus, deep in his meditative precasting state, felt the chilling touch of the Black Wind and heard the faint cry of Lavos. From somewhere deep inside his being, a well of black Mana was forming, growing bigger and bigger by the second. Raising his hands above his head, he risked casting a shield spell before releasing the biggest spell he had ever created. "Shadow Lance!" he cried, directing all the magical energy pent up within him at Flea. From his hands, a beam of purple light with black electricity crackling around it shot at the stunned Mystic magician.
"What? This is IMPOSSIBLE! I can't be defeated so easily!" she screamed. Flea tried to raise a magic barrier, but Janus' spell went right through it. The Mystics behind Flea scrambled to get out of the way and lucky for them they did. The blast slammed Flea into the stone wall with stunning force and didn't stop there. There was a cracking sound and suddenly, a huge hole appeared. The magic tossed the female magician outside. Her body went tumbling for several yards before laying still, surrounded by particles of rock.
For a moment, no one moved. They all simply stared out the hole in the wall at Flea's scorched and silent form. Slash was shaking his head, eyes wide, his mouth moving silently. He took a step...and another...and another, before breaking into a run. He was so shook-up that he didn't even bother with the normal levitation spell he always used. He swept past Janus as if he wasn't there and crawled over the rubble. With growing panic and shock, the swordsman barely felt where sharp-edged rocks cut his hands and knees. His boots skidded on the loose rocks and he slipped more then once before reaching Flea. Kneeling down beside the female Mystic, Slash wrung his hands over her, biting his lower lip. She was face-up, her eyes wide and sightless...and she was alive. "By the darkness...," Slash breathed in horror. "Oh, Flea...What did he do to you? Can you hear me, baby? Flea?" A spell of the magnitude should have killed her instantly, and yet, she survived. A shiver went through her body and she screamed. It was a thin, pathetic sound. She began to twitch and sob and scream at things only she could see. Janus' spell had completely shattered her mind. She had survived, only to become a prisoner of her own dark imagination. Slash looked at her in a mixture of disgust, pity, and perhaps a little bit of what could have been compassion in another person.
Gently, he touched her forehead and she whimpered. He slipped his arms under her and lifted her slight form with ease. Her head rested against his shoulder and he could feel her shaking. Now he used his levitation abilities as he floated over the rock pile and back into the room. No one had moved. They were all watching him and the gibbering Flea. Some began to shake their heads and mutter to each other about the power Janus had used against her. Slash floated up to the youth and held out Flea's form. "Would you care to finish what you started?" he asked harshly. Janus refused to answer. Slash pulled the defeated magician against himself again and faded in a glare of white light. All eyes looked to Janus.
He stood trembling with exhaustion. He had been drained of all color. His skin was a chalky white that made his purple eyes seem like two empty sockets. Slowly, he looked up towards Ozzie's throne. The fat Mystic leader was beaming. He knew he'd been correct about Janus. Flea was out of the way now and Slash wouldn't make a move against him as long as she was out of commission. The smile died on his lips, though, when the scorching emptiness in Janus' eyes met his own. Suddenly, Ozzie wasn't exactly sure if this victory had been a good idea after all. But the dark gaze wasn't meant for him, though. No. It was meant for the feathered figure that stood by the throne, yet out of Ozzie's vision. Drek had slipped in and out of the battle with all the ease of his trade and had snatched the medallion Janus coveted so much from it's position on the floor. He was holding it now in his hand with a mocking look on his beaked-face.
"Lose something?" he mouthed with a smirk. The expression on Janus' face didn't change as he raised a hand and pointed at Drek. The Outlaw's eyes widened and he felt a mite less sure of himself as he stood there, so vulnerable. He hadn't counted on Flea losing the battle, since everything had seemed in her favor. Facing this pillar of strength was not very pleasant. Of course, Ozzie would never yet him come to harm, Drek assured himself.
"Give...it...back." The words were a raspy whisper as they left the young man's throat. Drek weighed the consequences.
Ozzie, looking over his shoulder, saw what Drek was holding and glared. "Drek! Give it back to Janus at once."
"Yes, sire," the birdman sighed. Walking forwards, he held out the amulet. Janus slowly took it from the Mystic's grasp and replaced it around his neck and under his tunic. Drek turned and started walking back towards the throne.
"Hey, Drek. I have a message for you."
The Outlaw stopped and looked over his shoulder. "And what might that message be, Janus?"
"Rot in hell, bastard." Before Drek could utter a sound, a black hole formed from out of nowhere and engulfed him. There was one terrible drawn out scream and then silence. The dark cloud slowly lifted and all that was left was a mess on the floor. Ozzie turned a pastel green as he blanched and felt his stomach heave. His mouth worked like a fish caught on land.
"You killed him! You just...obliterated him!" was the strangled statement that escaped the Mystic leader's throat.
With a menacing look, Janus swept the stricken Mystics with a baleful gaze. "Let that be a warning to any who dare make accusations against me that are false or to lay hands on my property." Spinning on his heel, the young man headed for the double doors to exit the room. The crowd parted hurriedly. No one wanted to get in his way.
He paused at the door.
"Uh, we...Uh, that is, I have some things I'd like to discuss with you."
"Not now, Ozzie." The doors opened without Janus having to touch them. A mere look was enough. Ozzie coughed and looked uncomfortable. It was one thing for the boy to beat up his sub-lieutenant and kill his favorite spy, but it was another matter to ignore a un-stated command to stay.
"Janus, I know you have been through a lot of ordeals, today, but I really would like to talk to you about-"
The magician's head snapped around. Ozzie choked on what he was saying. In a dangerously soft voice, Janus repeated, "I said, not now!" With no further words, the youth left the room and was around the corner before two heartbeats had past. Once he was out of sight, the room burst into activity. No one was silent as they discussed the awesome powers they had seen displayed during the battle and Drek's untimely demise.
"Well, paint me pink and call me a human!"
"Totally unbelievable display!"
"Flea was snuffed like a candle!"
"Only a Magus..."
"Of all people, who would have guessed Janus to have been a Magus is disguise!"
Ozzie reclined back in his seat and rocked back and forth in his throne. It creaked dully against the din, but he didn't hear it. He was staring at the grisly remains of his feathered lackey. The smell of burnt chicken filled the air, along with sulfur and other more unpleasant smells. Yes, who indeed would have thought, he mused. A Magus in my midst and I didn't see it. More likely Flea didn't cultivate his slumbering talent. She merely ignored it to appease my whims. Looking at the still open double doors, a sardonic smile played across his flabby lips. This is an unexpected ace up my sleeve. I can use this to my advantage. Laughing out loud, Ozzie raised his untouched glass of wine Drek had give him earlier in a salute to the departed young man. "All hail the conquering hero," he said, and drank deep.
Janus reached his sparse room in record time, since it was on the other side of the fort. The door slammed open with a look and slammed shut the same way. The first thing that happened was that he was violently ill in the chamber pot. Then he gave in to extensive trembling. "Damn you all!" he whispered, leaning against the wall in a corner and sliding down till his knees reached his chin. "What have I become?" Hugging them, he laid his face against his knees and concentrated on blocking the images of the day from his mind. Words drifted in his brain like noxious wind. Murderer, they said. Monster! Coward!
Covering his ears, he curled his fingers around them as if to rip them from his head entirely. MURDERER! MONSTER! COWARD! "No, it isn't true!" he whispered, shaking. But it was true. He was a coward, one who could not face what he had become. He was a murderer. The faces of those he had slain in battle came back to haunt him, their mouths wide and crying for his eternal damnation for his sins. They were coming for him. He could feel their chill touch on his hair and arms and neck...and somehow, he was no longer in his room, but on the edge of the parapets of Ozzie's Fortress.
He looked down at the mist below that blotted out the ground. It would be so easy to step off of the battlements. The voices would stop forever. He'd be free. He'd be away from all the pain and fear and loneliness. One step, that's all it would take. Just one little step... His weight shifted and one foot rose over the expanse of air. But the final step never fell. He couldn't do it. Cursing himself for three times the coward, he hopped down from the windy turrets, back onto solid footing. "I see how it is, oh noble prince," he sneered at himself in open disgust. "You can take the lives of innocents yet you cannot take your own tainted soul and send it to the fires that surely await it."
Janus lifted his face from his knees, realizing he must have nodded off from sheer exhaustion, and he looked up and out of the small window at the stars. No, he had not the strength to take his own life. But he was a monster of his own creation, a sin darker then the night, and whether he could live with that fact or not would remain to be seen.