When All Else Fails

  I do not know how long I lay unconcious on the floor of that old library. But slowly my mind cleared and cohesion returned to my thoughts. Panic raced through me as I forced my eyes open, expecting the first, and last thing, that I would ever see would be Victor standing over me, poised to give the coup de grace, and end my worthless life.

  However, as I blinked clarity back into my eyes, I saw that Victor stood not above me, but lay beside me, a few dozen yards away. From this distance, I could not tell if he had survived, but I received my answer, when a dull red glow returned to one of Victor's hollow eye sockets. And for a brief moment, we stared intently at each other. It was a strange standoff to be sure, two nearly dead warriors, each too weak to rise and wield a weapon, yet each desparately hoping that the other felt the same.

  "Victor!?" Victor shot me a lipless and toothless grin, "So, you still live. I am pleased. You can now bear witness to my transition, as it is almost complete." I just stared at Victor, and he emoted to me what he meant, but I would not accept it. I summoned Wrath and Justice to me. "Armor of Pain," I whispered. And the shards of Wrath and Justice embedded themselves into my flesh. I hated this technique -- where a million stab wounds became a network of support to replace that which my broken body could no longer provide. Tears trickled down my face. The pain was almost unbearable, but I had to stop Victor. And again, Victor just smiled, "Magnus, you are too late. I have chosen. I am free of the tyranny of the Creator's will." And then, a sickening crack reverberated through the air, as Victor's neck gave under the strain of his weight.

  "No," I whimpered. But it was done. I froze. Not knowing what to do. Then, a rupture opened behind Victor's lifeless form, and, well, something that I can only describe as very old and very powerful, came through the rupture. In that sickening creatures presence, not only could I not move, but I felt my life force drain away; however, the effect seemed different for Victor. Wave after wave of energy flowed from the rupture and washed over Victor, healing his previously fatal wounds. After a few moments, he slowly got up and began to walk toward that thing that had come through the rupture.

  "Victor. Wait. Please don't go, don't leave me." For a brief moment, Victor paused and glanced over his shoulder. "Kill him," hissed the unspeakable something. Victor laughed, and then, scowled at the creature. "I told you that you do not command me. In fact, I choose not kill him. However ..." And in an instant Victor stood behind me, with that hideous blade of his at my throat. Terrified, I tried to clear my mind and pray, it was all I had left. Both Victor and the unspeakable something burst into strange, mocking laughter. "He will not save you Champion, but I can. I will spare your life." Victor flicked his wrist and slashed my check just under my left eye. "Consider it a parting gift, no a reminder of what you learned here today." I collapsed to my knees, unable to maintain "Armor of Pain" or conciousness.

  Victor stood there, and just watched me fade away in agony. After a few moments, he sighed. "I have now taken all from you. I have won. But I am not your enemy Champion. And so, I will tell you what it is that you do not understand." I looked intently into Victor's eyes, and he emoted, "Freedom".

  I awoke shortly after that, and as I stumbled into the bathroom, I puked for what seemed like hours. My room mate knocked on the bathroom door. "Dude, you okay?" "Yes," I replied. "Well then, get the fuck out here, you will never believe what is happening. They just found some poor guy dangling in a maintenance closet down the hall."

  But my room mate was wrong, for not only did I believe, I knew. The off color patch of skin under my left eye was all the proof that I needed.

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