The Cathedralic holy library of Adraxis was now a flaming ruin of books and broken columns while hundreds of goat-like Asmen wailed victory cries. They thrust weapons in salute to white-robed Caldan who stood amid the carnage on a pedestal of shattered masonry. He basked in the furious adoration while acrid smoke rose to obscure the shattered mosaics of the vaulted ceilings above, then was drawn like a maelstrom into the portal of void behind him.
Portly and bald, the beardless wizard presided over the desecration as a conductor would an orchestra. Arms spread wide, he waved his twisted shepherd’s crook of blue-white energy and completed the glowing sigil hovering before him. The arcane symbol drifted into the spiral of sorcerous markings now orbiting the star-filled iris of void behind him.
The horned, goat-faced Asmen bleated forth exaltation at the sight. They formed a fetid sea of hoary to charcoal grey that loomed heads taller than the men they had faced and slaughtered in Caldan’s unbroken victories. Now their cloven hooves stomped the rhythmic percussion that had struck terror in those who had dared to oppose them… pounding out their hatred upon the shattered flagstones of the holy library, and prison to their God.
Caldan smiled with satisfaction and looked down from his perch above the horde of goat-men. “There is little time left for an impassioned speech, Kittala… The binding is finished and the summoning is but a few sigils from completion.”
“I would rather run you through!” she grimaced against the strength of a dozen arms barely restraining her.
The wizard withdrew his attention from the captive and began to etch another glowing line in the air. “A pity. You were most eloquent rallying your quaint little army earlier… I’d dare say I was moved as the Asmen tore it to shreds!”
“They gave their lives so others could survive! I know that such a deed is incomprehensible to a fiend such as yourself, and that is why all you shall ever be is a butcherer of men!”
Caldan’s smile diminished as he marked another line in the sigil with his crook. “There. That was more along the lines of what I was expecting… Tell me, how does it feel to know that covering the priestesses’ retreat gained nothing? That my victory and the return of Asmon is inevitable and imminent?”
The statuesque amazon’s fierce beauty and strength was unrelenting as she fought to free herself from the grip of the goat-men latched onto her limbs. Clad in a shirt of blue, skirted lamellar and polished bronze greaves, it took the effort of a half-dozen Asmen to keep the warrioress in check. Grabbing a handful of towhead blonde hair from her unhelmed head, one of the brutes menaced the pale cream of her throat with a jagged blade.
“Come now, no more words of defiance from the landless queen of Atlantis? I’m disappointed!” Caldan completed the glowing sigil, his eyes focused on his work but his smile strengthening the moment he heard the monstrous horde gasp in awe. The wizard looked over his shoulder in time to see the apparition of Asmon coalescing from the blue energy of the arcane inscriptions orbiting the portal.
Cloaked in a hooded shroud, the titanic specter floated horned and translucent over the fires. The Asmen met the icy malevolence of their God’s gaze with a roaring din that shook the temple’s smoldering walls. Soon they would witness untold ages trapped in flesh come to an end: Asmon would destroy the world that was his prison… And they would ascend with him to the high-priest’s homeland as true demons once more.
Caldan turned back laughing and Kittala attempted in vain to slip free. The white-robed wizard stretched his arms wide and began the next sigil in the sequence to unravel the bindings of Adraxis upon her brother. “Only two left… And you should know that I’m going to particularly relish the sound of your screams as I follow the tether my Lord has tied to the stone in the other world. But do die knowing, Kittala, that after he devours your soul along with this world… Perhaps only a hundred million souls from there will be required to sate his remaining hunger.”
The queen’s head slumped in defeat before it was yanked upright again, forcing her to watch the coming doom. “Oh, don’t be shy. I want to see those pretty blue eyes wide with terror!” Caldan sneered before Kittala’s gaze and grimace of determination flared to deny him.
Before another moment passed, a roar echoed from the burning rafters. For a shocked instant, Caldan and his minions looked up as the bloody war-cry followed the man who leapt down upon the horde from above. Slamming into the Asmen like a guillotine of sinews and steel, his broadsword cleaved the arm off of a goat-man holding the warrioress captive.
Amid bellowed screams, Kittala grabbed the wrist of the severed limb and bashed its shoulder into the snout of another Asman restraining her. Snapping the monster’s neck in a single blow, she escaped the clutches of the remaining goat-men like a tigress. At the sight, Caldan nearly etched the next line of the sigil improperly before screaming the command to slay them both.
The blackened floor at the base of the wizard’s perch erupted into a wild fray. The queen’s rescuer downed goat-men to his left and right, weaving between blows as Asman warriors attacked from all sides. Naked from the waist up and clad in trousers and boots, his herculean physique matched the leonine ferocity of his swordplay. Yet another Asman charged him, and the warrior sent its head flying, granting Caldan his first look at the man while the minion’s corpse fell.
“Korr!” The bald wizard gasped recognizing the huge barbarian from the tales of him alone. Caldan struggled to keep his hands steady from his rage as he finished the glowing symbol with his crook. He eyed Kittala with a snarl. “You! How!? How did you bring him here!?”
Kittala smashed the severed arm she wielded into the eyes of a snarling goat-man, shattering the elbow of the improvised weapon. No sooner had that opponent turned away in agony than another charged the warrior queen. A straight kick planted her heel into the monster’s midsection, buckling it over before she relieved the Asman of its sword.
“You are as impressive as I had imagined, barbarian,” she said ducking an axe swipe behind the huge man.
“As are you, woman,” Korr grunted running an Asman through with his blade. “The child-priestess sends her regards and the blessings of Adraxis.”
Kittala grappled an Asman by the horn and raked her sword across its throat. “We will need it!”
The pair fought back to back as Caldan watched them hold-off the encircling horde. The wizard-high-priest of Asmon began his final sigil with gritted teeth, watching the warriors cut into the goat-men like scythes felling wheat. On their own, either were the match for a score of men, but united they were like elemental forces. Together they struck down wave after wave of enraged Asmen who fell into a growing circle of the dead around Korr and Kittala.
“Last minute heroics will not avail you!” Caldan shouted etching more lines into the complicated ending symbol of the summoning. Behind him, the apparition of Asmon bellowed an otherworldly call of hunger and rage. “You’re both doomed! I have already bound the Lord and myself to the stone! Even if you kill me, he’ll escape through the tether into the other world, ripping the foundations of this one asunder!”
Korr locked his blade against the haft of a goat-man’s axe and pushed the monster like a shield into a lethal blow swung by another Asman. Diving a hand into the pouch on his hip, Korr thrust its contents high into the air. “This stone, wizard?”
The wizard turned pallid at the sight the exposed beryl that churned with a fragment of Asmon’s essence. “You fool! You’ve turned the tether into a loop!”
“No,” Korr said shouldering the slain goat-man into its cohorts. “You’ve turned it into a prison!”
Caldan watched the muscled arm of the mighty barbarian pull back with the stone. In that instant he dropped his crook realizing the threat, and fowled the etching of the final sigil. “Stop! Howard! Wait!”
Korr paid no heed to the wizard’s plea as he snapped his arm forward and pitched the stone forward. The still immaterial God roared as the stone containing his crucial fleck of essence sailed towards the open portal of void that he sought to escape. Casting down his twisted staff, Caldan leapt screaming to intercept the stone… Fearing the fate within the void far more than the flames below him.
It slipped past his fingers.
Bound to the stone by the incantation, Caldan’s screams blended into the roar of Asmon. His figure stretched into a distorted ribbon of white chasing the stone as it slipped into the void. The arcane sigils orbiting the iris of the portal, and even the titanic specter of Asmon himself, collapsed into a maelstrom of blue energy. The portal devoured itself with a thunderous crack while Korr and Kittala braced themselves against the rush of air that extinguished every fire still within the temple.
The Asmen looked about in stunned silence, oblivious to the warrior queen and barbarian in their midst. The pair exchanged glances before Kittala stepped towards the horde brandishing her sword. “Who is next?!” she challenged.
Having seen their high-priest and God vanish before their eyes, Korr wasn’t surprised when the goat-men fled en masse. The pair hacked down dozens of fleeing Asmen, and they poured from of any exit they could find to escape their wrath. Finally, the duo burst from the broken gap that was once the grand doors of the temple. Felling a trio of stragglers, they charged into the light of day only to see the fleeing backsides of the Asman host.
Ready to pursue the Asmen further, Korr stopped as Kittala raised her hand. “Better to let them go. Their fear will disperse the remains of Caldan’s army faster than we ever could.”
The barbarian kept his eyes on the fleeing Asmen and nodded under his mane of dark hair. “I’ll trust your knowledge of this place, queen. I’m the stranger here.”
“Know that I have no kingdom here, barbarian, and that I have seen little of this world past the local mountains… I have been, occupied, since my arrival months ago.” Kittala plunged her sword into the corpse of a goat-man and left it standing. “I am sorry, however, to have summoned and now trapped you here as well. But Caldan had to be stopped.”
The bare-chested man of bronze looked at her with emerald eyes. “You’ve done no wrong to me. My heart welcomes a world to explore.”
“What of Howard’s soul within that heart? Does it welcome this exile from all that it had known…? Or was?”
“It welcomes any world beside the soul of his woman,” Korr said standing his blade beside Kittala’s sword. “Would her’s say the same of his?”
The statuesque woman felt the barbarian’s gaze caressing her every curve. Smiling, she nodded and offered her hand at his approach. Korr took it and entwined his powerful fingers with hers before he spoke again. “If we’re neither the written nor the writers, then what are we?”
“The journey through the stone forged an amalgam of creator and creation, for good or ill.” The warrior queen drew in a breath as the barbarian’s grip glided up the feminine strength of her arm. Welcoming the embrace, she relished the touch of his cheek along her naked neck before she pulled away with power and grace.
The woman let the great man’s arms slide to her waist. “Wanderers, adventurers, warriors,” she mused tracing a circle over Korr’s heart with a pale finger. “We were written to be these things… But this… This gift comes from the other half of our sums. I am grateful it remains.”
Mighty Korr was silent, but the gaze between the pair was an affirmation beyond language while Kittala smiled. She then pulled him to follow her. “Come, barbarian… Let us end this tale as yours always do!”
Full Story Page (parts one, two and epilogue).
Copyright © 2015 Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.