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And now for the penultimate chapter of Dark Origins: Tales of the Scarlet Knight Volume 0 as we get to the final throwdown between Merlin and Isis. Who will win? Who will survive? You'll find out in less than 1000 words!
From afar, a war of magic looks like a thunderstorm. At least that’s what the nearest people to the Hunting Grounds think. Except instead of only white flashes, those of green, blue, purple, and other colors light up the sky. There are booms like thunder while other times loud screeches like someone screaming.
The reason my master insisted on facing Isis in the Hunting Grounds was because a war of magic is also terribly destructive. Not so much to those with the magic; it’s the landscape and those who happen to be nearby who suffer the most. Stray bolts of energy evaporate whole stands of trees in an instant. A pool of water turns to ash in a heartbeat.
Anyone stupid enough to be close to ground zero wouldn’t see Merlin or Isis. At best they would see two vague shapes glowing with light. The figure made of white light would be Merlin while the dark smear with red eyes would be Isis.
Bolts of energy erupt from the two figures. They absorb these before generating new ones. When a bolt misses, the ground shakes and a good chunk of it disappears. On it goes for hours and then days.
Merlin is losing. While for now he’s managed to hold his own against Isis’ power, he knows he can’t last much longer. She might have usurped her god powers, but they are still the powers of a god. His own are more limited.
When another bolt strikes him, he feels the pain. His glow fades a bit. A few more hits like that and he’ll be dead. Isis senses her advantage and presses the attack. It’s as if Merlin is at the center of an electrical storm from all the bolts of lightning raining down on him.
He does the smartest thing: he flees. He zips away at supersonic speed, into a mountain. He merges his molecules with those of a vein of crystal while he gathers his strength. Isis will probably find him in a few minutes, but at least it will give him some time.
Back in the village, I’m sleeping next to Beaux when I see my master. He looks sadder than I’ve ever seen him. “I’ve failed you,” he says.
“That’s impossible,” I say. “You can’t fail.”
“Her power is too great, even for my own.”
“Bollocks,” I say. I put a hand on his shoulder. Though it’s a dream, it feels real enough. “You’ve always told me the real power doesn’t come from Anubis or any of them blokes. It comes from the heart. There’s no one I know with a stronger, purer heart than you. Look at all you’ve done here for me, Artr, and the whole village. If not for you that brute Elgar would have taken over. But now we have Artr. That boy is really going to be something, you wait and see.”
Merlin nods to me. “You speak wisely, my friend.” He pats my shoulder. “If I don’t see you again, know that you’ve been a great apprentice and an even better friend.”
“Thank you, my master.”
Then he’s gone. I wake up, but all I see is the hut Beaux and I share. She groans and then sits up. “What was that?”
“Nothing,” I say and then go back to sleep, unsure if I’ll ever see him again.
Spurred by my words, Merlin leaves the mountain. He finds Isis waiting for him outside. She probably knew he was there; she just wanted to give him more time to suffer. “Are you ready to finish this?” she rumbles.
He doesn’t give her the satisfaction of a reply. Instead, he zips right into her. I know a certain young scientist who could explain the chemical reaction of positive and negative charges. All I know is when Merlin merges with Isis, it generates an explosion greater than anything the planet has seen since that big asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs.
Merlin had chosen the Hunting Grounds because of its distance away from any population centers. That didn’t prove to be enough distance. The explosion of white light eradicates first the Hunting Grounds and then spreads across much of northern Africa. Thousands of people, their homes, possessions, and livestock disintegrate in moments. There’s no trace left of them.
All that remains are miles and miles of sand. Later on someone would decide to call it the Sahara. A desert. That’s all that’s left of Merlin and Isis’ war. In time, even the legends of it would fade away, except for me.
And yet in all that desert, a man gets to his feet. Much of his skin is red and steaming, as if he’s just survived the electric chair. He staggers around to see what he’s done. Then he screams.
Hundreds of miles away, there’s another figure in the sand. This one is of a beautiful woman. She appears to be carved entirely out of glossy black stone, but the level of detail surpasses anything possible in that time.
She lies there in the sand, in that shell, and waits for her time to come again.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Tomorrow, the series wraps as we learn the fate of Merlin...