The Last Battle Wizard.


A heavy, black leather boot stepped on the dust of a barren landscape. A hand in a dark leather glove rested on the handle of a sheathed long sword, which hung at the left hip of a tall figure in black leather armor. His face was obscured by a dark grey-black mask. Its visor was dark and empty, yet somehow the eyes within burned hot with the heat of rage. Around his head and shoulders hung the hood of a black cloak that reached nearly to the ground.

He surveyed the wasteland. There were the remains of trees, branches barren and broken, bark charred and blackened. The ground was lifeless and dry. The remains of farmland now sat, salted and barren. A short distance away was the smoldering remains of a village. Gray dust blew freely, and kicked up with every step. There were no signs of plant or animal that had not been scorched, drained of its essence, or otherwise snuffed out.

The black-hooded man remembered his surroundings well, though things were in far worse shape than when he had first been here.

---

He had ridden a black horse with a silver mane and tail. When he and his two guards had nearly reached the small cluster of stone and wood buildings, he motioned with one hand to halt, and dismounted. He walked, alone, the remaining fifty yards or so into town. Dutifully, a man wearing a plain tunic with a short ax at his hip began to introduce himself as the sheriff.

A deep, murky voice came from within the mask. "Where is the town sorcerer?"

The Sheriff replied, trying not to appear intimidated, though he was nearly a head shorter than the great black shadow before him. "He usually keeps to himself in the building with the high tower, just there. He doesn't much care for guests after hours. Is there anything I can help you with? A room for the night, perhaps?"

The black figure started toward the building without a second glance. "I am expected."

He could see why the old sorcerer had chosen this place. It's energies were still, calm, and asleep. There was no evidence of active magic use here, but there was certainly life.

The building in question had previously been a place of worship. The tower that once born a sacred symbol was now bare, the ancient religious sigil likely having been pried off years prior to be utilized more productively, or simply sold for scrap. Only the holes remained in the stones where the holy focus had once been mounted as it served to deter dark magic from the building, unbeknownst to the magically illiterate locals. Now, without its focus, the building was unwarded and vulnerable.

The large wooden door on one side of the building, at the base of the tower, would not open. The black knight tightened his grip on the door handle. Dark tendrils, unseen within the fastenings of the mechanism, began to eat away at the wood fibers surrounding the bolts and screws. Then, suddenly, with a noise somewhere between a crack and a thump, the handle separated cleanly from the door, along with the screws, iron fastenings, and the silver locking-bolts that some believed (incorrectly) would protect them from dark forces. The black knight dropped the useless hunk of metals onto the cobbled, cracking stone of the building's front step, and entered.

The main part of the building was mostly empty. Stone altars and offering tablets were still in place around the main chamber, though empty and out of use. Scraps of cloth and old banners that once hung high in the rafters now lay, frayed, on the floor all around. Each clunking step of black boots reverberated in the vast, empty stone and marble building. A sack-cloth bed roll lay in one corner. Various wooden and metal implements appeared to be stuck to the wall just above a wooden shelf that had been fastened below. Nearby was a crooked table and a stone basin half full of dirty water. A mortar and pestle sat precariously at the corner of the table. Some glass bottles of various sizes were strewn, disorganized, across the tilted tabletop surface, and nearby on the floor.

Within the mask, he closed his eyes and reached his mind out, feeling the energies of the place. He sensed the weakened spirits of a place of worship that had fallen out of use. Most flowed naturally, with no interruption, with nothing in the way, no disruption or agitation of the dim, melancholy currents as they flowed.

Then, just at the edge of his senses, barely there, was the slightest inkling of a presence. A strong, living magical presence, he sensed, not the shadows of powerless, old, dead superstitions. He looked left and opened his eyes. There, on the wall, hung three mostly intact banners of plain and faded blue. The cloth was roughly spun, hastily woven, and cheaply dyed.

One black-gloved hand lifted from the black knight's side and extended, open, toward the hanging banners. A moment's hesitation and his fingers slowly flexed and curled as though gripping something unseen in the air. The very atmosphere of the room became thick and heavy, oppressive in its weight and pressure. The banners shivered, and fluttered slightly.

Suddenly, a deafening crack filled the air, as though the steeple above had been struck by lightning. All at once, the banners tore from their fastenings and disappeared behind a tall, gray haired man with a thick, full beard now stood, arms held wide with palms facing down. The banners fluttered to the floor behind him as he slowly lowered his hands.

In one motion, nearly too fast to see, the Black Knight had drawn the shining black blade from his left hip into his right glove in a backhanded grip, the blade extending defensively across himself. A silver long sword met it with a loud clang, held by both of the old gray sorcerer's wrinkled hands in a standard battle wizard's grip.

Both contenders stood, motionless. Blade held against blade. Gray-blue eyes glared, glowing slightly, at the empty, soulless visor hole of the mask.

A voice spoke from within the mask. "You are a fool."

The old sorcerer's eyes glowed slightly brighter, as did his silver blade. "It's over. Let it go. You have lost."

The black knight scoffed. "You are all that is left, old man. A broken, old battle wizard, easily disposed of. You are no match. You will fall, and your lineage will end."

With a magical burst from the old sorcerer and a push of his silver blade, the gray wizard and black knight separated, each falling to their back foot. The old man readied his silver blade in both hands. The darkness held his glistening black blade in one hand at his side.

"It will not matter," muttered the old sorcerer. "Ours is not a power of will, but a mission of gnosis." Even now, he quoted that old verse. Suddenly, his eyes glowed with a pale blue, almost mischievous light, and he allowed the tip of his silver blade, slowly, to fall, pointing it downward to the stone floor off to one side as he let go with one hand. "I and my Order are irrelevant. It is done. You have lost."

There was a moment of hesitation. A moment of intense, heavy silence.

Then, CRACK. A burst of magical rage exploded from the knight, throwing the old sorcerer to the ground, his sword clattering to the cold stone beside him. He was engulfed in black flame.

The black shadow had extended his arms wide and thrown back his head. He channeled his rage with a great roar and forcibly drew the ambient currents of magic to himself as he focused on the torture and destruction of the pathetic worm that now died before him.

The old wizard writhed in pain, screaming, curling himself into a ball and rolling, writhing, thrashing, as the void fire consumed him. His robe disintegrated almost instantly. His skin became a crumbling, cracked mass of hardened ash and dust. His hair, his eyelids, his mouth and lips, all melted, or crumbled, or burned away. His thrashing and screaming reverberated in the run down old temple, up to the rafters, down beneath the floor, rattling the windows, and making the weak old spirit-husks that floated along the magical currents withdraw in terror.

There was a sudden flash as the dark blade sliced through the ashen man. The old wizard was reduced to dust.

The tumultuous magical currents returned to normal as the shadow let go of them.

The black knight turned and exited the temple, allowing the tip of his abyssal blade to lightly trail through the dust of the ground as he went, tracing an invisible magical wake behind him. He moved slowly, allowing the dark taint of his curse to seep into the very soil. None dared pursue him.

Just outside the village, a pitch-dark voice gave the command, which was swiftly relayed to captains, commanders, and soldiers. Minutes later, a company of two hundred Legion infantry arrived to eliminate the village from existence. All present either fled, or perished. From a distance, the shadow merely watched.

---

As he recalled his victory, he stood in the husk of the backwoods town. No life glimmered here. Not a flicker of energy. Not a ripple of magic. No vestige at all of dried-up gnosis remained, hanging in the air, as it had before. No spirit-husks floated invisibly around the magical currents. There were no magical currents at all. Not a single candle of mystic energy gave off so much as a trail of hidden smoke to drift from this place. There was nothing but death, and the remains of where there had once been pain. To the bare eye, it was a burned, ruined settlement. To the magically attuned, it was Void made manifest on Terrus.

The old fool had been wrong. The lineage of his ancient Order of Battle Wizards, traitors to the realm, had been eradicated. No candle of the old lights flickered here now.

None on Terrus remained now to teach gnosis in the old method. His was the power of all magic to teach, or to hoard, as he saw fit. His will was the only gnosis, now.

He returned to his horse and mounted. The mounted guard to his left spoke through his full-face helmet, "Anything, Lord?"

The dark shadow turned his horse around and paused. "There are none. It is finished."

"Well done, Lord Magister," the other mounted guard congratulated. "The old Battle Wizards are eradicated. Your success here is the culmination of decades of work."

"I know," said the darkness. He dug his heels into the sides of his horse and galloped into the night.


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