by Gordon Sun
The warriors of old always faced tremendous odds, ever worsening as
they approached the seat of darkest power. But there was always a
sinister mastermind waiting patiently at journey’s end, an evil
overlord that would explain its foul, twisted reasoning to the heroes
before being defeated in a climactic battle to set things right. There
was always enough time to plan ahead, always enough time to rise to the
challenge and end the latest cycle of despair. Sixteen generations of
legends could never be wrong—
It was not supposed to end like this.
As Corbin’s party stood spellbound and mute, the murky red orb
shattered. In an instant, memories of the last three years flooded
The flame-haired Corbin of “Skills-Builder” notoriety, kneeling
before King Jacques of Montnuage to accept his assignment to eradicate
the Obsidian, the cult responsible for razing the town of Landries and
brutally executing its citizens. Corbin recruiting best friend and
beast whisperer Lowell, then Shaalyn the mystical, waiflike cleric,
then finally the cheerful kunoichi Kano. All adventurers with the best
Convincing the Magicians’ Alliance to resist the Obsidian’s
treachery—and failing. Escaping imprisonment from the Ochre Mountain.
Suppressing an insurrection in Kano’s allied kingdom of Miraju.
Falling in love.
Learning that Montnuage’s capital had fallen in their absence, the
king dead, his subjects and even their domesticated animals twisted
into mindless, vicious brutes. The survivors staggering erratically
from town to town, babbling madly about hellish shadows that endlessly
haunted their victims, even in sleep; horrific monstrosities suffused
with the stench of sulfur and putrefaction; indescribable things that
defied the laws of nature and magic—
Searching for answers. Finding the long-lost Hermit in the Black
Box, ensconced in a strangely anachronistic structure of steel and
glass, waited upon by mechanical men who spoke in grunts and tweets.
Preparing battle plans. Training. Treasure hunting. Fighting. Artifact
gathering. Fighting. Growing in ability and power. Fighting. So much
fighting. So much time passing—
—finally turning north to face the countless waves of cultists and
their monstrous servants. So much fighting, and death. Thousands, tens
of thousands, of the Obsidian’s minions falling to the blades and
spells of the Crimson Four—
Returning to windswept Landries. Not a creature in sight—a ghost
—no one responding to communication spells—
—cold, gray sky, the tundra barren, scrubbed of life—
—the looming Dark Arch, the enemy citadel. Nothing. Like the
nightmares never happened, like the Obsidian’s insane followers never
reemerged from their decades-long slumber to wreak havoc upon the
The misty central chamber, and the two crystalline globes upon their
pedestals of polished black marble—
The pale-yellow orb exploded. And Corbin and his companions saw, in
a single moment, what the Obsidian wrought.
Four figures shrouded in inky black robes, leading an infernal
ceremony witnessed by thousands. Mass sacrifices of the innocent on
desecrated altars. The summoning of the ageless pale green dragon
Kronoroc, the grotesquely dysmorphic demon of a hundred unspeakable
names, the hideous Circle of Six whose mere presence reduced the
hardiest of men to gibbering wrecks.
Corbin’s team pushing forward on one front—the cult spreading havoc
elsewhere, pillaging, corrupting, slaughtering—
The Obsidian leaders suddenly entering the fray themselves, while
Corbin and his mates were occupied in Miraju. Inexplicable change in
strategy—terrifying new vision. No longer simply murdering innocent
townspeople—now massacring everything in sight, allied or not, while
driving their own followers deeper into madness, compelling them to
turn on each other.
Fighting. Growing in ability and power like their Crimson Four
counterparts. Fighting. So much fighting. So much—
Finally, dominating the forces of the dark dimensional portal.
Disintegrating Kronoroc in his lair. Banishing the demon and the Circle
of Six to the Abyss, where light is nonexistent and time is
All the while, with each act of mayhem, absorbing their victims’
powers into themselves—
The four leaders of the Obsidian, the last survivors of a genocidal,
—initiating the forbidden five-day enchantment, in an attempt to
bind their blackened souls to—
Corbin escaped his paralysis first, grimacing painfully as he
shielded himself from the relentless maelstrom of unfathomable energies
released by the destroyed spheres. We were patient. We were prepared.
We sought out everything, everyone, every advantage. But we took too
Corbin fell to his knees in agony. Shaalyn was already lost,
teleporting into herself after misspeaking the words of destination and
simply ceasing to exist. Unable to break free of the magical
transfixion, Lowell was forcibly ripped from the ground by the
mind-storm and disappeared in a flash of light, screaming.
Kano suddenly flickered in front of Corbin as he crouched on the
ground, placing her radiant fingertips together around an imaginary
ball. “Teishi jikan.” With a deep rumble, the kaleidoscopic tempest
around them suddenly slowed, yet failed to completely stop.
“Even temporal magic...cannot break this,” Corbin whispered.
“It will just give us a few more moments.” The storm was already
beginning to pick up speed. “I wish—”
“I know, Kano. We—I have so much to say—”
The kunoichi put a finger to his lips. “You will figure it out. You
always have.” The howling of the magical vortex churning around them
“But not without you. Not without—”
“You will have to. You will have to.” Kano took Corbin’s face
gently in her hands, touching foreheads.
“Mugen shīru,” Kano cried, weaving her fingers together just as her
time-stop spell came undone and they were slammed by the fully renewed
force of the tempest. Corbin could only look on in horror as his
lover’s body, now glowing completely, hovered in mid-air as the awesome
powers released by the crystalline orbs spiraled chaotically into her.
Moments later it was over, the kunoichi having sealed away the
mind-storm and vanished into the ether forever.
Now alone, the bloodied Corbin dragged himself upright, leaning
heavily against a marble pedestal.
All those years spent...
© 2019 Gordon Sun
Gordon Sun is an otolaryngologist and medical writer based in
Arcadia, California. His first short fiction story was published in Ars
Medica in 2018.
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