The Battle of Nevermore
- story by Mark Kochte
kochte@stsci.edu
From the dawning of the Third Age it is recorded that Man acquired magical abilities with which to manipulate his enviroment: his pleasures, his pains, and ultimately, his neighbors. Few in number were these Mages of Power, but the power they did harness was indescribable. And utterly corruptible. It caused the downfall of many a wizard, destroyed many a city, obliterated many a race. Worlds collide, and the skies did crumble. By the dawning of the Fourth Age there was nought left but a handful of shadows to these peerless mages among those remaining mortals who still survived in the various worlds and planes around. Yet the lessons were not fully learned, for still Man grasped at the knowledge of these lost arts and powers. The New Age Wizards of Power now travel the various worlds and planes around, seeking to improve their own knowledge vaults as best they can. Some do this for the good of all. Some for purely selfish and malevolent causes. Most ride a line partway in between. For whatever the reason, few wizards count friends among their own ranks. And when two mages meet, the results are usually spectacular. And somewhat less than enviromentally sound.

Recorded herein is a story of a magical battle between three Wizards Of Power in a remote and unknown land. The conflict was long, and victory costly. But from the ashes did emerge a lone mage. This is his tale of the final hours in that grueling engagement.

I am your author. I am your victor.

I am...

Blackwinter


It had been a long, hard battle. Blackwinter gathered his wits, strength, focused his concentration on the lines of white and black force in his control. His opponents, the formidable green mage Caredy and the not-to-be-ignored green/white force practitioner, O'Burnos, had left him bleeding from numerous wounds suffered through the course of the week. In the distance he heard the faint wail of the howling magic pit he dug open early on in the conflict which allowed him to draw upon his resources faster. Unfortunately, it also aided his opponents in their resource gatherings. The creatures Blackwinter had been able to rally to his side this time around were few: the shining Serra Angel, the twin witch sisters of Cuombaj, and the chillingly frightening Spectre. Arrayed against him were legions of creatures his opponents controlled. Caredy had two pet thicket basillisks, a giant spider with a mile-high web, a couple of cat warriors whose stealth through the forest is unsurpassed, some elves, a druid, and a dreaded and undescribable Force of Nature. O'Burnos had, among other things, some dryads, tundra wolves, and a vicious pack of wolverines. Neither of his opponents had not escaped this magical war unscathed. O'Burnos was looking pretty sad from his hundreds of festering wounds. Caredy looked in fairly decent shape, all things considered. In fact, he looked the best of them all.

Blackwinter's head snapped around to a scream from within the woods to his right. Crashing sounds. Suddenly, bursting from the trees, O'Burnos' wolves and wolverines appeared. As Blackwinter watched, the wolverines began to glow, and then grow! They doubled in size, then the entire horde descended upon him. The Serra Angel moved to block this latest attack, but Blackwinter waved her off. They would maul her and he needed her for later. He whipped out his staff and beat off the canines as best he could, but not without suffering grievous bites. As quickly as they attacked, the wolves and wolverines retreated, with the wolverines shrinking back to normal size once again. Blackwinter could sense O'Burnos' satisfaction at this latest assault. Earlier Blackwinter was immune to almost all attacks due to a green circle of protection he created. But O'Burnos' managed to come up with a way of removing it, and ever since Blackwinter was subject to unstoppable attacks from both opponents. This latest was the worst yet. Blackwinter leaned on his staff to gather his strength...

A quick chill descended upon Blackwinter. He looked up and saw Death approaching. A woodland machine of destruction, born of the forests themselves, a veritable Force of Nature, coming for him. He knew he could not survive against this threat alone; he needed help. He stayed his Angel and Spectre to the side, and reluctantly called for the witch sisters to stand firm. They valiantly (for witches) stood in the path of the bulldozing monstrosity, and while they put up a great effort at attempting to stop it, that abomination of Caredy's kept coming. Within seconds it was upon Blackwinter, pounding left and right, knocking him down and around. He fought back as best he could, but it seemed hopeless. Then, as quickly as it began, it was over. The creature departed. Blackwinter could hear Caredy laughing, and sensed that he was being toyed with. Blackwinter's eyes narrowed.

"You should have killed me when you had the chance, Caredy", he whispered to himself. Looking up he turned his concentration to his resources and strength. The white lines of force were strong here in this world, not so the black force lines. He needed more strength, especially if he were to survive another onslaught as he had just done. He didn't have much time left. His broken, battered body creaked as he stood, blood flowed from innumerable wounds. He was dying and he knew it. There was no chance he could survive....

His concentration reached out and found several black lines of force. He grabbed one of them, along with a white line, and immediately shot out a wave of terror to decimate the stalwart bastion that was Caredy's giant spider. Then he released the Angel and Spectre to attack.

Caredy looked up from his vantage point as his spider suddenly cried out hideously, and died. He had nothing with which to stop flying creatures. He also realized how weak Blackwinter was compared to himself at this moment. He knew Blackwinters creatures could not kill him in this pass. And that was going to be Blackwinter's downfall. He grinned. "Not this time, Blackwinter. Not this time!"

Blackwinter concentrated, recalling from his studies of days gone by secrets known to those of the Black Robes of how to draw extra power from a few black lines. Tightening his focus he pulled and pulled. Slowly, oh so slowly, he doubled, then tripled the black line power! His eyes opened, a gleam showing through his bloody face, his voice croaking. "Caredy, you...are now... mine!"

Releasing the energies, Blackwinter reached out and grabbed Caredy's lifeforce, slowly sucking it from him. Caredy writhed on the ground, abruptly depleted of strength and energy. Blackwinter became that much stronger, some of his more serious wounds began to heal a bit. Soon there was nothing left of Caredy. The hold he had on his minions vanished, and they scampered off into the wilds, not to be seen again.

Blackwinter turned his attentions to O'Burnos. He realized there was no way he could survive against O'Burnos' next attack, and reluctantly decided he had to sacrifice his two remaining followers for the good of the long run. He gripped his Power Pearl, mentally snatched hold of several of the white power lines under his control, and released the most terrible energies that White Magic contained. A brilliant light of pure energy reached out and touched every creature currently between himself and O'Burnos. And at that touch, each died.

Blackwinter sat back down, saddened at loss of his Angel and Spectre, but comforted in the knowledge that he would live yet another day. His breath rattled in his chest, but he would survive the night. He hoped...

O'Burnos stumbled around, grieving at the loss of his creatures. How could Blackwinter release such power?? Where did he get it?? Unanswerable questions. Caredy was gone. Dead or vanquished, it was not clear. But it was a reprieve as his unstoppable stealth cat warriors would no longer be coming to rend O'Burnos to shreds. O'Burnos kicked in frustration, and smacked his toe on something hard. He paused, 6th sense coming. There was something, something of power here. He began digging....

By nightfall he had unearthed a machine of immense power. A Juggernaut, a force to be reckoned with. His bleeding hands worked the controls, bending his magic to the task, activating this monstrosity. He grinned. There was no stopping him now - Blackwinter would die by midday!

Blackwinter rested for a while. Sunset came and went, the stars slowly appeared above. It would be a calm, quiet night. Then almost imperceptibly he noticed a disturbance in the magic lines. O'Burnos was up to something. He concentrated, peering with his mind's eye to the camp of O'Burnos. And he saw it. 30 feet tall, a horrible grinning clown head on top, enormous spiked wheels - an artifact of annihilation. Blackwinter grinned. This is what he needed, and O'Burnos unwittingly supplied it for him. He returned to his makeshift hut, sat in his circle of divinity, lit a few candles around him, and turned his thoughts to O'Burnos' machine. Grabbing a line of white power, he twisted it slightly, focusing its energies upon O'Burnos' latest acquisition of mechanical destruction. Which promptly vanished before O'Burnos' very surprised eyes!

Blackwinter inhaled deeply, feeling the returning energies from his spell filling his soul, his body, healing him that much more. Feeling more refreshed, he stood and stepped out of his hut, looking up at the night sky. The stars shone brightly. He smiled, and went in for some much needed sleep...

Morning brought a knock at his door. Blackwinter rose to answer it. To his mild surprise, a pitiful-looking creature, once human, riddled with leprosy, was there, seeking aid. Blackwinter brought him in and fed him. Stepping back out of the hut, leaving the poor afflicted one to rest, he scanned the skies and horizon for O'Burnos' activities. He heard a trumpeting noise, and noted in the distance O'Burnos with a war mammoth. 'Wonderful', thought Blackwinter. 'Not much I can do about that against him.'

O'Burnos looked across the plains that seperated him from Blackwinter and grinned with the anticipation of sending his newly-found follower to trample the black-white mage's bones to dust. Then he noticed a figure emerge from the other mage's hut, and shamble over to stand next to Blackwinter. 'A...a leper. Dammit!', thought O'Burnos. If he sent his mammoth to kill, it would die going through the leper. Fortunately the leper posed no direct threat to himself. O'Burnos withheld the command to attack.

Blackwinter looked over his assets and decided now would be a good time to build some fortifications. He reached out, grabbed a few lines of force, and created out of thin air a castle (complete with walls) to bar any potential attacks by the war mammoth (or any other creatures that O'Burnos may come up with; he seemed good at doing that, with only Caredy being better. But Caredy was no longer a threat).

O'Burnos looked up at the shimmering magical castle walls and cursed Blackwinter. He had to think fast. As soon as one of the two of them got the upper hand, the other would be finished. And O'Burnos had no intention of playing second fiddle to anyone. He began gathering his lines of force...

Blackwinter drew a deep breath, exhaled, and stood firm. "This has to end, O'Burnos. Go. Leave this place, or suffer the consequences!"

"Never!!", shouted O'Burnos.

"Very well. I shall now finish this," declared Blackwinter. Concentrating, he twisted a number of lines of power together, and from the depths of the grave, recalled the Serra Angel from Death's Hand. Bewildered the Angel stood beside Blackwinter. "It is okay, my shining one," he smiled faintly. "I was able to bring you back. You live again!"

The Angel's eyes grew hard with anticipated battle, a grim smile came to her face. She raised her sword, and looked questioningly at Blackwinter. Her beauty struck him momentarily, and he was glad he had saved her from everlasting death. Her enthusiasm and loyalty washed over him like waves. His gentle smile became grim as his gaze turned towards O'Burnos. "Him..." he stated.

O'Burnos looked up, his concentration shattered. He saw Vengeance flying in, Her Sword glittering in the sun. It was the last thing he ever....


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Copyright © Sept 1994 M Kochte, Baltimore, Md. All rights reserved (naturally)

This document may be freely distributed via computer/other electronic network/media, or printed out of aforementioned media, for personal use only. Any other use, commercial or otherwise, without askin' me first, well, would be considered rude and result in acts unmentionable at this time.

Mark 'Indy' Kochte