Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14)


Actually, I think Friday is the Drankversary's holy day. But I see your point. Sagiro didn't actually need a plan; the chance of Dranko choosing to Become was so low as to be non-existent. Sagiro knows me extremely well.

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What struck me as genuinely awesome was the role of Cranchus in the selection of the party. Cranchus had become one with Abernia. Cranchus tried to speak to people, but the only person who could hear was Abernathy. Abernathy got the names of the party from Abernia/Cranchus. And all this happened after the party's visit to Cranchus in the past. Incredible!



First Post
Actually, I think Friday is the Drankversary's holy day. But I see your point. Sagiro didn't actually need a plan; the chance of Dranko choosing to Become was so low as to be non-existent. Sagiro knows me extremely well.

Even were you to choose the Becoming option -- you simply don't get to end a 16-year campaign without a climactic showdown, whether it's Dranko vs. Party or Party vs. Adversary. It would be like if you had a series of fantasy novels about a Dark One who's been sealed away for a millennia who's prophesied to be defeated by a hero who hears voices of insanity in his head, and the books ran for 20-odd years and then the author died, leaving them to be completed in a functionary, lackluster manner by someone with no vision.

Oh, hang on...
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So, Abernia was alive and doing mad gambit plans to save itself and everyone on it the way Chrono Trigger's world did, setting up stable recursion loops, preparing trials and arming living weapons to point directly at the heart of the enemy.

Well done, rodent of uncertain parentage. Stealing from the classics is the greatest homage you could pay them.


First Post
I'm curious what music you used for the final fight. If you did use something could you post it with the update? I'd like to listen to it while I read if possible. Would make it just a little bit cooler.


First Post
No wonder Tapheon didn't want him around...

Tapheon couldn't have known what it was, but sure, it would terrify him. That works.

I'm curious who played each of the NPCs during the Adversary battle -- there's 5 of them -- 6 counting Galdifain, who has no battle capacity -- and looking at the post again, I have absolutely no idea who Aristus from the Eye of the Storm is. Someone fill me in?
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Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 395
The Fate of Abernia

Meledien and Tarsos stand inside their small black circles, clad in their red armor. Meledien holds a glowing, flaming spear in one hand, and a shield in the other. Tarsos holds a heavy hammer, and his shield is ornate, radiating power. A design of a book is upon it, reminding the Company that in addition to looting the Spear of Caba, Tarsos and Meledien also stole the Bulwark of Leantha.

Seven Dark Words wears no armor. His black robes hang loosely over his lank body. Stringy black hair hangs down to his shoulders. His complexion is sallow. He and his two confederates occupy three points of a virtual triangle, with the Adversary standing in the middle. The God wears a human expression, one of confusion mixed with outrage.

The eleven heroes have been brought to this place and scattered widely about, none particularly close to any of the others. Above them loom the fingers of the Adversary’s Hand, protruding from high up on one wall.

The Adversary looks at Himself as though He’s never seen His own body before. Fury is writ large on His features. He shakes His stump, still weeping Essence, and where the blood strikes the ground, two enormous constructs, blood golems, rise up like looming shadows. Then the Adversary teleports, appearing next to Dranko.

Dranko is still on his knees, blind, blood pouring from his burst eyes.

“You will pay for your insolence,” thunders the Adversary.

“Hey,” says Dranko, blocking out the pain and pointing his head upward. “Since we’re on a first name basis now, let me tell you, it was totally worth it.”

The Adversary brings his titanic black sword down upon Dranko, who senses it coming but still cannot fully evade it. It slices deep into Dranko’s flesh, burning him. Then He levels His stump and disintegrates Dranko. The half-orc resists, and does not die.

He does not die! The Adversary experiences a new effrontery. His will is Reality; He wished Dranko dead, and took steps to make it so, and yet His will has not been realized. Outrageous!

The two blood golems each move toward the closest living foe. One bludgeons Ox with dripping fists, while the other does likewise to Morningstar. When it touches her, something burns beneath her skin, as though her blood was slowly catching fire. As though she has been infected with Essence.

Seven Dark Words shoots a glance across the cavern at Tarsos, quickens a spell upon his person, and then casts one of his most powerful magics. A two-foot-diameter sphere of annihilation appears next to Morningstar. She resists getting sucked into it, but it grazes her armor and burns a section of it away, searing the skin of her shoulder beneath. She takes a step back, understanding what it is. “Oh, crap!”

Aristus maneuvers his apparatus to face the nearest blood golem, and fires out a spray of bubbling green acid. No magic here; the stuff is purely chemical, and it burns a bit of the golem away, sending a splatter of Essence to the ground.

Grey Wolf places an ironstorm as carefully as he can, encompassing both one of the blood golems and Meledien, and none of his allies. Ox then casts an empowered chain lightning into it. Meledien dodges the electric storm but still takes significant damage; the blood golem gives off just the barest hint of Null Shadow smell, and takes no damage at all.

Then Ox doubles over in pain. Suppurations have appeared where the Blood Golem touched him, and black fluid bursts out. “I’m okay,” he croaks, though he feels far from it.

Flicker was placed farthest away from his enemies; while he dashes toward Seven Dark Words, Meledien and Yoba sprint toward one another, each with a weapon raised. Yoba smites evil with her sword, the Holy Blade of Anx, and it shears through Meledien’s plate. Blood pours out that’s thicker and fouler than it should be; it stinks of Essence. At the same time Meledien pierces Yoba’s shoulder with the Spear of Caba, the weapon striking like a bolt of fire. Yoba’s whole body becomes wreathed in orange flames.

Aravis casts time stop. For a few seconds, the horrors recede, but even with no time passing, the reek of the Adversary is all around him. He casts effulgent epuration, then manifests a black blade of destruction. Two can play at the game of controlled annihilating voids. Then he readies an action for when the time stop ends. When it does, he casts maze on Tarsos, the combatant he feels will be least likely to resist. Tarsos vanishes, Bulwark of Leantha and all.

Kay, who had been moving toward Tarsos, finds her target suddenly missing, so she runs toward Seven Dark Words instead. The Adversary takes an idle swipe at her as she dashes by, still groping for the memory of what it was like to have to strike mortals physically, rather than simply causing their destruction by desiring it. He opens up a frightening wound in Kay’s side.

Meledien bends backward to evade Aravis’s black blade of destruction, and avoids the worst of its effect, but she looks every bit as worried as Morningstar.

The Adversary looks over at where Tarsos just was. It is wrong that he is gone; Seven Dark Words and Meledien need Tarsos and his Bulwark to tell them about their enemies, their strengths, weaknesses and ability to resist physical and magical effects. And so, because He is still a God, and can still make some demands upon reality, He snaps “Get back here.”

And Tarsos reappears. He is a short, wide warrior, barely taller than five feet. He rushes to his nearest foe, who is Kibi. “I know everything,” he tells the dwarf. “I know you’re Kibilhathur Bimson. Goodbye, Kibilhathur.” He swings his hammer, and Kibi is lifted up and thrown back almost thirty feet, landing with a bone-jarring crunch on his back.

Kiro, the dwarven cleric who had joined the Company to battle beyond the Black Door of Het Branoi, casts his most potent offensive spell, a firestorm large enough to encompass both Meledien and one of the blood golems. The golem is unaffected. As for Meledien, the Spear of Caba erupts in sympathy with the Kiro’s flames, and when the fires have died down, she has healed as much as the spell should have damaged her. She looks over her shoulder at the crestfallen Kiro. “Thank you!”

Dranko is still blind, but his tongue works just fine. “You might not be able to guess,” he says to the Adversary, “but I’m a pretty devout cleric. So I’d like to give you the opportunity to convert. I hope Delioch will help you find peace.” Then, because he’s not quite that stupid, he breaks his refuge token that brings Morningstar to him, before healing himself with a wand.

Like Flicker, Cashbox Jack was brought to this cavern far removed from everyone else. He runs across a section of floor thickly covered with equations and black circles, and hurls two of his returning daggers at Seven Dark Words. Both miss.

Morningstar casts mass heal, bringing Dranko and Kay back to full health, and curing Dranko of his blindness. For good measure she quickens righteous wrath of the faithful imbuing her allies with extra fighting prowess. Ernie moves up and casts lion’s roar, damaging his enemies and further bolstering his friends. For the first time, the Adversary feels pain. It is not a sensation He is used to, and it brings forth an ear-splitting bellow of rage. Ernie then spins and casts holy smite upon Meledien. “Don’t touch my girlfriend!” he yells.

Kibi groans, stands up, and summons five greater earth elementals. They immediately commence grappling, and soon Tarsos, Meledien, Seven Dark Words and one of the blood golems are wrapped up in rocky embraces. Though the Adversary is still free, that seems to have decisively turned the tide of combat in the heroes’ favor.

With most of the enemies engaged, Galdifain decides it’s time. “Who would you like me to name?” The others are unanimous in their choice. She produces a scroll, utters a few brief syllables, and in a loud voice declares “Seven Dark Words.”

The dread linnorm, limned in aquamarine, springs into being from the scroll. It looks directly at Seven Dark Words, whose arms are pinned by an earth elemental. It tries and fails to fly, and so settles for a bounding leap. It lands in front of Seven Dark Words and casts disintegrate. The Black Circle adherent resists, but still flinches from the pain.

The Adversary looks about Himself, and sees His allies occupied by elementals, and that a dragon is attacking His most devoted servant. “No,” he says. “I will not have this.” He casts miracle, and all the elementals, as well as the linnorm, blink out of existence. Satisfied, He waves His bleeding stump, and a jagged bolt of Essence sprays from it, striking Morningstar and Kay. Dranko bends backward and the jet of blood narrowly misses him. He can feel its evil heat on his face.

One of the blood golems bludgeons Ox, and more oozy black suppurations appear on his skin. The other golem tries to smash Flicker, but the little halfling dances out of the way. Seven Dark Words, freed from the elemental and finding the threatening dragon gone as well, smiles as he brings forth a crushing fist of spite. It’s huge, a clenched fist fifteen feet across that drips with black fluid. It smashes down upon Aravis and Ernie, clipping them as they dive out of the way.

Then Seven Dark Words’ sphere of annihilation glides through the blood golem engaging Flicker, and rolls into the halfling. He can’t fully get out of the way; it cleanly removes the greater part of his thigh. As he screams and falls to the ground, clutching his diminished leg, Seven Dark Words quickens a teleport and removes himself from the immediate vicinity of his enemies.

Aristus backs up his Apparatus and sinks a claw into one of the golems. The machine is a battle dynamo, its claws delivering massive strikes. Essence pours out a large rent in the golem’s body. Grey Wolf sees that Seven Dark Words has not gone so far as to be out of range of an acid orb. He fires a green globe – which splashes harmlessly from Seven Dark Words’ robes.

“I hate him,” mutters Grey Wolf, as he moves to close.

Ox has better luck, striking Meledien with one of the two polar rays he can cast today. She cannot avoid it, and her body is covered with frost, but she survives. Yoba still stands before her, and so Meledien strikes with the Spear of Caba, once, twice, three times. Yoba is terribly wounded, and still on fire, and as if that weren’t bad enough, the flames destroy both her cloak of resistance and ring of deflection.

“So, you’re Ernie’s girlfriend?” sneers Meledien. “It’s a shame your souls won’t be together in the afterlife.”

Aravis moves to Ernie and quickens a teleport, bringing them both near Meledien. Then he casts reaving dispel on Seven Dark Words. This has the effect of stripping away several spells: energy immunity: fire, cold and sonic as well as indomitability. Better, it confers these spells onto himself! Over the mind-link he warns his allies that Seven Dark Words still retains immunity to acid and electricity, as well as a death ward. Finally, Aravis moves the black blade of destruction to Meledien, who ducks its deadly swing.

The Adversary looks at Seven Dark Words and Aravis. “No.” All the spells Aravis reaved from Seven Dark Words are reinstantiated, though Aravis still retains them himself.

Kibi points out that he still holds the Watcher’s Kiss, and that while he’s unlikely to make use of it in combat, surely someone ought to attack the Adversary with it. Kay sends Oa Lyanna to retrieve the golden blade from Kibi. Though flying is impossible here, and airy things cannot exist, Oa Lyanna defies these laws. Whether this is because her innate power has grown so much, or because some vestige of Cranchus is bending the local rules, none can say. Kay herself looks up at the Adversary, gulps down her fear, and slashes at Him with both of her swords. She makes several deep cuts in His legs; black blood gushes out. The Adversary looks down, annoyed, enraged, confused… how is possible that mortals are damaging Him? Why is this fight still going on? His power is absolute!

Yoba is still on fire, and nearly dead. She steps away from Meledien and lays on hands, though she has still looked better. The flames from the Spear of Caba are, for some reason, not scarring her skin or consuming her hair, but they feel terribly enervating, as though they are consuming some essential vitality within her.

Tarsos strides forward to Kibi and again smashes the dwarf with his hammer. Kibi is lifted and hurled against the wall, dropping to the floor and struggling just to get to his knees. Kiro, closest to Flicker, casts heal, undoing most of the damage the sphere of annihilation had done to the halfling’s leg.

While Cashbox Jack continues to battle one of the blood golems, Ernie decides to go full offense. He prays to his holy blade and invokes the Glory of Nemmin, becoming a peerless holy warrior of Yondalla. He puts himself between Yoba and Meledien. “You do not touch the people I love,” he screams.

Dranko and Morningstar find openings to strike the Adversary. The God feels a terribly agony as he is scored by Dranko’s whip and crushed by Ell’s Will. “I had the option of taking your place,” says Dranko, “but I decided that I’d much rather kill you instead.”

Kibi realizes that by rolling just five feet, he can line up Seven Dark Words and Meledien, though it will leave him close to Tarsos. He casts an empowered maximized earthbolt, then quickens another, also empowered. Meledien is barely hanging on to life, stumbling and reeling from the Company’s attacks.

“Meledien, you’re a giant bitch,” calls Dranko. “Also… “ he calls Meledien’s severed arm from his haversack. “…got your arm.” He waves it at her.

The Adversary snarls downward. Something about the glowing mace in the mortal woman’s hand is particularly disturbing; it is a weapon made to fight the divine. She who wields it must not be allowed to continue.

His terrible black sword comes sweeping down, and with a series of titanic slashes He cuts Morningstar into pieces. For a second she is kept alive by a delay death cast upon her, but the Adversary asserts His will. “No. You are not to survive.” Morningstar’s life goes out. The Adversary flicks His hand, and Ell’s Will flies up and across the cavern to stick, embedded and quivering, in the wall.

The God looks down at Dranko with a cruel smile. “I’m sorry,” He says. “Was she someone important?”

“Am I supposed to be demoralized?” asks Dranko, his voice low-pitched and flat. “Now, I’m going to pluck out both of your eyes before I kill you.”

The Adversary merely laughs. Killing one of these mortal insects has filled Him with confidence, putting the troubling reality of His wounds out of His mind.

While one of the blood golems batters at Kibi, and Aristus in turn gouges the golem with the claws of his contraption, Seven Dark Words steps to Meledien and casts heal upon her. The sphere of annihilation rolls towards Kibi, who barely avoids it. All of his enemies have moved out of the range of his hovering crushing fist, so he sends it toward Dranko.

Grey Wolf channels a maximized acid orb and slashes at Meledien. Just healed, she is now nearly dead again, screaming as the acid burns her face. Ox sees he has a chance to finish her off. He has now been pummeled so many times by the blood golem that he looks like he suffers from a terrible black pox, but he concentrates enough to strike Meledien with his second polar ray. “I don’t know you,” he says, “but I know I don’t like you.” The thin blue ray goes directly through Meledien’s head. She crumples, and the Spear of Caba blazes up. Her body is incinerated, her red armor falling empty to the ground. The Spear falls upon it, and with no one wielding it, its flames go out. The fires wreathing Yoba likewise are snuffed.

The Company cheers, but their celebration is tempered by Morningstar’s death. And as Ox finishes his casting, his body succumbs to his affliction of Essence. His body bursts open, his insides liquefied and turned into an unholy sludge by the infection of Adversary blood.

Aravis directs his black blade to slash again at Seven Dark Words, but the servant of the Adversary is so well warded, it inflicts only minor wounds upon him. Seeing it would be better just to nullify his enemy’s abilities, Aravis shapechanges into a beholder and plays his wide anti-magic cone over Seven Dark Words.

Oa Lyanna returns to Kay, bearing the Watcher’s Kiss. Kay drops her short sword and wields the Kiss in its place, and as her fingers close about its hilt, everything around her, even the Adversary, grows gray and faded. Only the sword itself retains its color, shining so brightly golden it hurts to look upon it. The Adversary looks down and for the first time a shadow of fear crosses His features.

Kay strikes. The Watcher’s Kiss sings in her hand, its metal infused with the memory of laying low the Adversary once before. Each wound it inflicts fills with an aureate fire, burning the God’s corrupted flesh. The Adversary stares, horrified, down at Kay, her sword’s light reflected in His eyes. But He will not be killed, not by a mortal wielding a fragment of Uthol Inga’s sword. He brings down his own blade in a mad fury of death upon Kay. The black sword obliterates her, so thoroughly there is nothing left of her except for Oa Lyanna. But the Yrimpa is part of her, and where Kay goes, she will follow. As the air spirit dies, she unleashes a parting whirlwind that sears the wounds left by the Watcher’s Kiss, and then she too is gone.

The Adversary flicks his stump, and as with Ell’s Will, the Watcher’s Kiss hurls itself into the darkness, straight up and out of sight. It does not come down.

Yoba had been moving to strike Seven Dark Words, but would have to enter the anti-magic cone, so she opts instead to cast a healing spell on Ernie.

Tarsos shouts to the Adversary. “My Lord! Our agreement!” The Adversary nods His head, and the Spear of Caba appears in Tarsos’s hand, his hammer falling to the ground. Fire roars along its length, as he strides forward and thrusts it into Kibi’s side. The dwarf catches on fire. Kiro casts flame strike on the Adversary, and penetrates the God’s resistance. The holy damage burns away chunks of the huge God’s flesh.

Dranko decides there’s no longer any reason to stay sane. He reaches into the depths of his mind and finds the gifts of the Cleaners still there. He casts time stop, and everything around him ceases to move.

Except the Adversary. The God has somehow joined him in the effect of the spell. “I was there far longer than you, name-thief,” He says. But the Adversary is still unused to lacking his full might, and struggles to take action. Dranko takes full opportunity, donning his ring of blinking and unleashing a full flurry of deadly whip-strikes. The Adversary doesn’t die, but his wounds now are terrible. With a little luck, Dranko thinks, they can pull this off.

“Stop that!” The Adversary waves His stump, and the ring of blinking crumbles from Dranko’s finger, turning to dust. While everything around them still frozen in time, the Adversary brings down His killing blade upon Dranko, just as He did to Morningstar and Kay.

Dranko doesn’t die. He’s made of tough stuff, and though he is gruesomely wounded, he endures the fierce cuts of the great black sword.

He spits out a mouthful of blood. “That all you got?”

“No,” says the Adversary. He casts a point-blank disintegrate, striking Dranko in the chest.

And Dranko still doesn’t die.

Time resumes. From the others’ perspective, both Dranko and the Adversary have spontaneously become grievously hurt.

Ernie realizes that while the Honor of Nemmin will be suppressed by the anti-magic cone, he himself will retain his formidable fighting skills, while his target will be nothing more than a brittle old man. He carves up Seven Dark Words, bringing the sallow-faced man perilously close to death.

Kibi is badly wounded, and his insides still burn from the touch of one of the blood golems. He tries not to think about Ox’s fate. Instead he thinks about what he can do that will most help the forces of good win this battle.

“I wish that Morningstar were returned, in full health, wielding Ell’s Will.”

And Morningstar appears, though her pale skin is gray. Ell’s Will dislodges itself from the wall and flies to her waiting hand. She knows, and Kibi knows, that she has merely assumed a brief revenant state, and soon she will die again. But for now she has been given a change to avenge her own death. She casts heal on the barely-conscious Dranko, then smashes the Adversary once more with her holy weapon.

Having cast his wish, Kibi sinks into the ground, since Tarsos could easily finish him off otherwise. The Adversary looks at where he was, then down at Morningstar.

“No.” The Adversary wills that Kibi not be hidden. The dwarf is forcibly ejected from the ground, and lands in a heap at Tarsos’s feet. The red-armored warrior smiles down at him, raises the Spear of Caba, and plunges it into Kibi’s heart. Kibi can feel time slowing down, and a chill runs through him. He knows full well that when a victim’s heart is burned out by the Spear, his soul is irrevocably destroyed.

Kibi is protected by a fortune’s fate, which should cast heal on him when he suffers mortal injury. But its magic now acts in contention with the Spear of Caba, and the fiery artifact’s magic is stronger. His soul is overheating, burning away…

But there is a third magic at work on the dwarf, one strong enough to overcome even the searing power of a God of Fire. Abernia is with him. As his soul ignites, Kibi hears the voice of the world, and it is the voice of his grandfather. “Kibi,” it tells him calmly. “I told you not to fear death. I will keep your soul safe from harm. The Spear is a powerful thing, but is not of the Earth. I can focus on you, and you will join me here. It’s time, Kibi. I’m not sure what will happen to your soul, but it will endure.”

“I’ll come with you,” says Kibi, “as long as I can return here and finish the fight.”

“You will always be here, Kibi. You have always been here. I’ve known it all along. Welcome home, grandson.”

Kibi’s body erupts in flames, burning so thoroughly that no remains are left behind. The others look on in dismay, assuming his soul has been destroyed, but Kibi himself retains a diffuse sense of self, his soul spreading out into Abernia. Cranchus is with him, and Kibi can feel his grandfather’s benevolence surround him. It is muted, slightly, by the ambient evil in this one location, but compared to the entirety of the world, that evil is weak, holding on now by only a tenuous black thread. Kibi realizes that if he focuses before his consciousness fades, he can take on a new form, and have a bit more to say in the battle with the Adversary.

Mere seconds after Kibi’s mortal body is destroyed, a tremendous humanoid form steps out from the wall, as though an enormous statue has carved itself from living rock. It is sixty feet tall, towering even over the Adversary. It resembles a cross between Kibi and an earth elemental, with enormous emerald eyes.

He is the Vengeance of Abernia, and he is displeased.

Seven Dark Words hastens out of the anti-magic cone, quickens a teleport to a spot far from its area, and casts a polar ray at Ernie. Its damage is severe, but Ernie was bolstered with elemental protection, and so endures it. Flicker, Cashbox Jack and Aristus continue to battle against the blood golems, which have proved unnaturally tough.

Aravis teleports, strikes Seven Dark Words one more time with his black blade of disaster, and quickens a disintegrate. Seven Dark Words does not fully succumb to either but the small amounts of damage they do are piling up, and he falls, weakened, to his knees.

“My Lord!” he beseeches, reaching toward the Adversary. But an answer comes instead from Grey Wolf, who launches a mighty flurry of swings with Bostock, channeling one more disintegrate though the first swing. Seven Dark Words, killed beyond doubt, starts to fall forward, but twitches and returns to his feet.

“You may not die yet,” says the Adversary. “I still need you.” Black fluid pours from the body Seven Dark Words, but his body retains a horrid pseudo-life, twitching like a badly-held marionette.

The Adversary looks down at Dranko and Morningstar. He has killed one of these beings already; He should kill the other.

“What’s it going to be?” Dranko asks defiantly.

“You will give back what you stole from me!” thunders the God. He slashes at Dranko, once, twice, three times, four times with His immense black sword. By some miracle Dranko is still alive, but barely. The Adversary grins. “Goodbye,” He says, and strikes Dranko with a final disintegrate. Dranko cannot resist it. He turns to dust.

As Dranko’s body is destroyed, he feels his soul depart, but it does not ascend to the afterlife. Instead it remains, standing, present but impotent, on the spot where he died. He is experiencing what Aravis described when the wizard was killed by Null Shadows. He sees Kay’s spirit as well, still trapped in this cavern. Morningstar’s soul is a flickering thing, fading in and out as her body continues to endure thanks to Kibi’s wish.

Yoba, now having witnessed the deaths of Morningstar, Dranko, Kay, Kibi and Ox, screams and charges the Adversary, smiting evil with every ounce of power that remains to her. Her blade sweeps through the God’s ankle, shearing off His left foot. A look of profound confusion crosses the Adversary’s face, and small tenatcles sprout from his face and neck. He is losing control of His physical form.

With the Adversary thus distracted, the animated form of Seven Dark Words wavers and wobbles. Ernie hacks it in half with the Honor of Nemmin. The congealed blood inside is no longer sufficient to hold it together. Seven Dark Words falls apart, and Ernie sees that there were no organs in his body. The man was just a bag of skin filled with Essence. But now even that is gone.

The Vengeance of Abernia looks down upon the Adversary. The world is angry, and ready to make an end. Kibi raises an arm and an avalanche of boulders flies from it, smashing into the Adversary’s broken body. After a few seconds the hundreds of huge rocks have collected against the far wall, and the Adversary is lying on the ground, crushed.

“You… cannot…” He croaks, coughing up a gout of bubbling black blood. “I am forever! I will outlast this world!”

The Watcher’s Kiss falls from the darkness above, landing point-down in the ground next to the Adversary’s shoulder. He lolls His head to look at it, and its golden light plays across His features. Then His eyes roll up in His head, and He loses consciousness. But His chest still rises and falls.

“My Lord?” Tarsos is in disbelief. He takes a step toward the fallen God, but his legs fall apart as he moves. Over the course of a few feet, he dissolves into a chunky sludge of Essence. The blood golems likewise collapse into puddles of impotent goo.

The Vengeance of Abernia sinks into the ground one last time, but Kibi’s dwarven spirit is, for the moment, left behind with the other fallen heroes. Aravis, Ernie, Flicker, Grey Wolf and Morningstar move to stand around the body of the Adversary. One of them, they realize, must finish off the Adversary, doubtless perishing in the attempt.

Morningstar, knowing her borrowed time is almost gone, decides it should be her. She tries to pull the golden blade from the ground, but it will not move. It whispers in her mind. “There is not enough life left in you, daughter of Ell.” And Morningstar understands. Her body falls to the ground, and her spirit moves to stand beside that of her husband.

“I will do it,” says Yoba.

“No, you won’t,” says Ernie.

Aravis steps forward and pulls the Watcher’s Kiss from the ground. Without speaking to anyone, he plunges the blade downward toward the Adversary’s heart, but Flicker grabs his arm and the blade misses its mark.

“Why did you do that?” Aravis demands.

“It shouldn’t be you!” shrieks Flicker. “You’re too important!” He motions to the others, to Yoba and Ernie, to Aristus and Galdifain, to Cashbox Jack and Kiro and Grey Wolf. “These people are going to need you to help them survive after this! I’m nobody! What am I going to do for them?”

Aravis opens his mouth to argue, but his eyes abruptly become star fields, and maze-lines draw themselves over his face. A black energy rushes from his eyes and mouth, coalescing in front of him into Belshikun, the Avatar of Drosh. He looks much more powerful than when they last saw him; he has brought much of the power of Drosh with him.

Aravis offers Belshikun the Watcher’s Kiss, but the Avatar shakes his head. “It is not for me,” he says. “You have channeled me, and I am here, but it is not for me to strike the killing blow. But before you decide who will, I wish to thank you, Aravis Telmir. The use of your mind, your unique mind, was instrumental. It was not simply the Crosser’s Maze I needed. It was you. Through great study, I was able to penetrate the Iron Barrier, using the Maze. And now I am here to do what must be done.”

He puts a hand on Aravis’s shoulder. “I’m afraid the Maze is nearly destroyed, but it was necessary. I had to be here, now, at the end.”

“It is probably better for the world that the Maze be destroyed,” says Aravis.

Belshikun smiles. “I discovered an interesting fact about the Crosser’s Maze while I was studying it, Aravis. The Maze, it turns out, will be created eight hundred years from now, in the far future, by the Abernian God of Knowledge. That God will clearly possess a unique perspective, in all the ways the Maze might someday come to be used.”

Before Aravis can respond, Belshikun looks down at the body of the Adversary. “I am here to take His soul. I cannot do it until one of you has killed Him. I am sorry. Whomever of you makes this choice will be dead, forever.”

Ernie motions to the bodies of Morningstar, Dranko and Kay. “Can they be brought back?”

“If they wish to be,” says Belshikun. “They are dead by a conflict of mortals. Now, I cannot stay long. One of you must drive the spike clean through.” He gestures to the Watcher’s Kiss.

Aravis is still trying to absorb Belshikun’s implications about the origins of the Crosser’s Maze. “Is it necessary that it not be me?”

“No, it can be you,” says Belshikun. “Perhaps I am wrong about Maze after all. If you are the one to kill the Adversary, I certainly will be.”

“Let me do it!” says Flicker. “You know the thing I most want in this world is a thing I can never have. And if I stay with the people I love the most, it… she… will always be there. And not with me.” He conspicuously avoids looking at Ernie and Yoba as he speaks.

Ernie gestures to the bodies of his friends. “I would volunteer, you know I would, but I’m the only one now who could bring them back, if they wish it.”

Grey Wolf steps forward and takes the Watcher’s Kiss from Aravis. “This is my job,” he says quietly. “After all, the Watcher’s Kiss is a family heirloom.”

Aravis nods his head, and Flicker doesn’t argue. “I’ll miss you a lot,” says the halfling in a small voice.

“I’ll miss you all, too,” says Grey Wolf. “Keep fighting the good fight.”

“May the doors of home always be open to you,” says Ernie.

Grey Wolf draws Bostock and hands the sword to Flicker. “I would normally find this intolerable,” says the sword. “But you are about to engage in an act of ultimate self-sacrifice, so I cannot find fault, despite my personal feelings. Perhaps I will allow Flicker to carry me until he finds a suitable warrior.”

“I’m coming with you,” says Edghar to Grey Wolf. “We’ve come this far together.”

“If it’s going to be done, best it be done quickly,” says Grey Wolf. He channels the spell of phoenix fire into the Watcher’s Kiss and stabs it into the off-center heart of the Adversary. A golden light flares up that fills the entire cavern, and when it fades, Grey Wolf, the sword, and the body of the Adversary are gone. Grey Wolf’s soul now stands beside those of the other fallen heroes, but where the God’s body had lain is now just a shadow, the God’s fading spirit. Belshikun manifests a tall gleaming scythe.

“Good riddance,” he says, and he sweeps the scythe through the spirit’s neck. The last vestiges of the Adversary break apart and depart the world.

“And now I have one more vision to show you,” says Belshikun. And into the minds of the living and dead alike, he shows them that

Naradawk and over sixty red-armored warriors stand before the ruins of the Greenhouse. The upper floor has been wrecked, and the section with the secret room has been obliterated. The remaining members of the Spire are there: all of the archmagi, along with Tor, Mrs. Horn, Maple Sunblade from Victory, and a tall, powerful man wearing the insignia of the Jewels of the White Plains. Only Eddings appears unperturbed. Naradawk laughs.

“So, at last I’ve turned over the last rotten log, and what do I find? All the remaining insects, blinking in a light too bright for them. It will be a pleasure to…”

Naradawk Skewn seizes up and his body convulses. Eyes wide, he literally falls apart, as the God’s blood that holds him together boils away. The same happens to the red-armored warriors, all of whom have been heavily infused with Essence. They fall prone, each in their own puddle of black sludge. While the members of the Spire stand dumbfounded and slack-jawed, Eddings breaks into a huge grin. “See! I
told you! I told you something like that would happen. Hmph. So much for the room full of geniuses.”

…to be concluded…
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First Post
Sagiro said:
"If it's going to be done, best it be done quickly," says Grey Wolf.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come.

--MacBeth, Act I, scene vii
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Terrific, terrific, terrific! Perfect climactic battle to this epic story. And to think, it all started with rats in Goghan's basement!

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