“…a better wizard than Laji,” said the Foe and his words echoed through Lajicuvatew’s mind. The failed counterspell was still rebounding off of his fingers, the lost moments weighing on Laji as he saw the others suffer for his failure. The Foe had been too strong. Cedric had weakened him but he was still too strong for them. Struggling to keep hopelessness from consuming him, Laji prepared another Dispel Magic and hurled it at the Foe. In the next moment it was exhilaration that he was suppressing. He had managed to wear away at some of the bastard’s defences. The Foe might still be stronger than him but Laji would not give up on killing him. The Foe would die or he would. It was a simple, almost magical, equation. Laji could not help but ponder what it would be like to die. He had never faced down the gates of death like the others had.
The thought made Laji glance quickly at the apparition of Brian hovering nearby. The Foe’s attack had been swift and brutal against the humble looking human. Nonetheless, it was a comfort that he remained with them in at least some capacity. Laji wondered if it was indeed purely on Brian’s shoulders that they were working against the Foe, as Regulus believed. The gnome who had answered the call to arms all that time ago seemed a totally different person. Laji knew that he had been even more self-serving then. Perhaps his younger self, less than a year younger but lacking a millenia of maturity, would have bent knee to this megalomaniacal fool. Perhaps once but never now. Now he would win or die.
The fight advanced and grew steadily worse. One after another, Regulus struck down the people who had become more a family to him than his own. His oldest companion Werevolt collapsed from a blow from the staff. Whether he was alive or dead Laji could not say and he dared not spare a moment to check. The loyal Jerble, his self-declared bodyguard, crumbled in the same way after dispelling the remnants of Brian. The freedom of lower magics was a mixed blessing as the Foe hurled forth more of his endless magic. In time it was only Imian and Laji standing, not the configuration that Laji would have wished for to make a final stand against King Regulus, the final hope of evil to triumph over oblivion. On some deep and not fully conscious level, Laji prepared to die.
Laji threw what meager magics he had remaining forward. Invisibility and a wall to hold the Foe at bay. Anything to buy them a few more precious moments of life, a few more precious seconds of struggle. Laji found himself bonded to Imian in the ensuing moments, as they squeezed each others hands in mutual recognition of the impending end. They were both apostates to the Foes twisted cause and they would both die rebelling. There was a simple comraderie between the doomed. Imian attempted to imitate tiny gnome footsteps and Laji felt a surge of gratitude as he snuck away, hopeful that the Foe would be distracted for even a moment. The ruse failed before it had even begun and the Foe, agitated by their persistence, hurled a spell to send Laji into a delirium of pain.
Laji felt the spell rebound off of his spell shield. It was a new addition to his arsenal, just barely within his comprehension. He felt a trill of excitement as he realized that it had worked and that the spell was returning to its caster. It smote into the Foe and he gave a gasp of surprise as the spell took effect. Laji stood frozen as he looked on. It did not seem possible. The spell shield had returned the spell and the mighty Foe was at the mercy of his own magic. He collapsed to the ground beneath the weight of spell. Laji surged into motion and he could hear Imian doing the same. Their invisibility crumbled away as they both fell upon the Foe like ravens upon carrion.
Laji’s bone was in hand and Imian wielded his rapier. They both felt the icy cold and the chills to their very soul as they smote the Foe. His defensive magics were still active though he was incapacitated. Laji did not allow that to slow him. Together they wore away at the Foe, accepting the price to their life force gleefully. Laji’s bone was slick with sweat and the bizarre substance that passed for the Foe’s blood. Timbertope chirped in exhultation as the bone smote down over and over upon the Foe’s face. Slowly his handsome face gave way, coming apart and melting away into skin flakes. Neither he nor Imian stopped. They continued to strike until the flakes were showering through the air from their exertions.
They looked at each other. They had done it. They had done the impossible.