Under the swing of Kyrik’s scythes, the phantom fell as Kali destroyed its phylactery. With its dying action, it spewed an unholy ball that detonated in the sky, raining down like acid. Conjuring a ward, Kyrik prevented it from striking the Necrolites below.
For what felt like hours, they kept trying to trace Methir’s signal, only to be turned around each time they came close. Kyrik felt Jirmen’s arcane through the garbled energies, but no way to find him either. Wherever he was, he was fighting.
“I think we’re going about this wrong.” Kali glided over to Kyrik. “We’re following a signal that’s being redirected, yes?”
“Yeah.” Kyrik replied, frustrated.
“I couldn’t help but notice we’re going in a big circle.” Kali pointed further into town. “There’s the church we fought the first one at, and we passed it twice.”
“Did we?” Kyrik followed her finger and sure enough, he saw the church tower.
“Signals have a source, and if we’re going in a circle, I have reason to believe Methir is further in town.”
Kyrik would’ve smiled if he had lips. “You’re right! It’s projecting around the edges, so it’d have to be the place of equal distance. Wherever that is…”
In the sky, a rift erupted, sending shockwaves through the air that caused damage to nearby buildings. Necrolites screamed louder and louder to a fever pitch, to the point where they’d render each other deaf. Kali had to cover her ears, forcing Kyrik to create a blocker around them. Below, blood dribbled down the Necrolite’s maws from how forceful the screams were, wings unfurling as they began to take to the skies.
It was too late. With the opening of the portal, the final stages of undeath forever damned the citizens. Even if he saved the soul, there was nothing to go back to; brain death had occurred and the screeching left their vocal cords ruptured alongside their hearing.
“Kyrik…” Kali hovered closer as the necrolites began to swarm ominously. “What do we do?”
Kyrik focused intensely on the portal. Instead of something coming out as he expected, it was one made to be entered. The Necrolites slowly turned their attention to it, confirming his theory.
Methir planned to transport the entire town.
“I can’t save them.” Kyrik’s shoulders slumped before the glow of his eyes intensified. “But I can free them.” He glanced back at Kali, voice changing slightly to be more aggressive. As if someone was speaking at the same time. “You want to know what you can do? You can help me stop this. Stop the Necrolites from entering the portal.”
“I anticipated as much.” Kali nodded. “I am ready when you are.”
Kyrik said nothing, feeling his split personality slowly crawl to the forefront. It wasn’t dominant enough to override his will, but it gave more access to the reaper side of him. At his command, the scythe he previously swung materialized.
Ensuring Kali was as ready as she declared, Kyrik twisted the winds to his demand. Power rising in his very bones, Kyrik shot off like a bullet, using his element to batter the Necrolites out of the way. He couldn’t save them, and avoiding would only delay their release. In his wake, Kali used the slipstream to catch up effortlessly.
CRACK! A flash of red split the skies as bloodied ice ruptured from nearby Necrolites toward an unknown target. He knew who it was the manipulator immediately; Azulia.
Sure enough, the Queen of the Damned was locked in combat with a twisted abomination of flesh and bone. A ‘proper’ flesh golem. Decaying blood leaked from split skin and scale. Multiple heads, sewn together by spectral stitching, screamed at the queen in its torment. The spirits inside cried for release from their rotting prison, being used to power the hulking monstrosity as it crawled along rooftops to snap at Azulia.
No matter how many times the queen struck, the wounds regenerated. An unstoppable titan; this must’ve been what Methir’s end goal was. Its maws opened impossibly wide, smaller faces – hatchlings – poking through to expel deadly magic in an arc that followed Azulia wherever she went. Buildings crumbled as the odd Necrolite was vaporized in its blast.
“Kali, you can’t face that.” Kyrik turned to the petrified dragon, so stunned by the sight before her she’d forgotten to flap her wings. He’d been keeping her aloft to let her process.
“This…is this the doom I saw?” Kali muttered to herself, ignoring Kyrik. “I can read its mind. It wants to eat, to devour anyone and everything. Other Necrolites, the living…it doesn’t matter.”
“The lack of life makes those crave it.” Kyrik murmured. “Azulia is strong enough to hold off at least until you find Jirmen. This thing has to be contained and the portal blocked.”
“What will you do?”
Kyrik eyed a nearby church, feeling the source of the portal emanating from it. He knew Methir was in there. The power she needed to create such a monster and maintain the rift…it was beyond her. She was getting help. There was no other explanation.
The small spark of hope that always burned inside clung to the idea. If Methir was severed from the source, she could be saved, and the blame laid at the feet of whoever was supplying.
“I have to try.” Kyrik looked at Kali one last time. “I have to save her.”
“Alone?” Kali asked incredulously.
“Yes.” Kyrik indicated to the thicker mist around the church. “It’s much stronger there; I don’t know if you’re as resistant as I am. If my flesh fails, I can transform into this. You can’t.”
“You shouldn’t have to face this alone.” Kali’s tail thrashed in frustration.
“Find Jirmen. He can help end this.” Kyrik floated toward the entrance of the church.
Kali departed without another word, but Kyrik half expected her to come right back. He was glad she didn’t; he wouldn’t have turned her away. He wanted anyone – even Azulia – to be right by his side.
As he neared the ground, he transformed back to his normal state, skeletal feet touching the ground before flesh and scale regrew. His hearts beat to the point of nearing explosion. Claws gripped around his scythe until the knuckles were white, Kyrik hesitated before opening the door.
With Kali, who’d shown him no fear in his transformations and powers, he felt empowered by her presence. Just having someone who looked at him without terror was enough to keep his calm. But alone…alone, Kyrik felt his insecurities flood back. He almost flew away as they sank their dark fangs into his mind.
“I have to do this.” Kyrik whispered to himself. “I have to. I have to save her. I have to stop another me…”
With great trepidation, Kyrik pushed the door open.
The interior was everything Kyrik imagined in all the wrong ways. Hazy mist hid five feet before him. The stench of death and rot clung to the air. Necrolites stumbled forth, vacant eyes leering. With little choice, Kyrik struck with wind and arcane, breaking their brittle bodies against each other and the environment. The ones close enough to be struck with his scythe had their souls severed, free to pass onto the afterlife. With each swipe and attack, he swore he heard a rattling sigh of relief.
At the back of the desecrated church kneeled Methir, channeling the portal as the shard she clung so hard to floated in the air. A master-apprentice scene if Kyrik had compare, only fueling his desire to free her from the mind control.
“I knew you’d show, but I am surprised it was alone.” Methir stood and faced Kyrik, face neutral.
“Step aside, Methir.” Kyrik pointed his scythe at the shard. “I’m going to free you.”
“Do you believe the same as Jirmen? That I am in cohorts with someone?” Methir shook her head. “No Kyrik, I am doing this myself.”
“But you met someone who showed you this ‘truth’.” Kyrik stepped forward. Methir’s fingers twitched. “This is not you. I refuse to believe it. You would never do this.”
“You know better, Kyrik.” Methir snapped. “Stop acting like a naïve whelp. I am trying to save this world, not destroy it!”
“Then show me this truth.” Kyrik lowered his scythe. “You know what I am. If anyone can tell if this is a reaper lie or not, it’s me.”
Methir relaxed, wariness with a glimmer of hope crossing her face. Kyrik’s bravery waned as she turned to the shard to grasp it, holding it tightly in her palm. Slowly, she approached. For the briefest of seconds, she resembled her old self. No longer defensive, but happy. Seeking validation for her actions.
Something Kyrik knew far too well.
Kyrik’s other side leered at the shard now hovering before him, waiting to be grasped. How he wanted to snatch it already. But he didn’t. He already sensed the wrongness of the shard. Something both he and the split personality were in agreement with. His other half whispered without words, telling him what to do. A decision he had already made.
With the winds at the back of his blade, Kyrik swung his scythe and struck the shard.
It shattered upon contact, falling to the floor as the church rumbled. Screams and horrific imagery bubbled from the split object; the faces of the damned, monsters. Kyrik didn’t recognize any of them, but they were old. It lasted naught a second, and as it fell, a name entered Kyrik’s mind.
Kyrik smiled, watching the magic sustaining the shard sputter out. He looked to Methir hopefully, ready to see his friend and family return. She stood, eyes bulging out of her head at the remains of the shard. Immobile.
“See?” Kyrik said optimistically. “Now you’re free! You can stop this! Come on, we need to…Methir?”
Methir’s claw curled at his words, a prickling in the back of Kyrik’s mind warning him of imminent danger. Electricity sparked in her crystals as expressionless gaze she wore twisted into despair and rage.
“Kyrik…” Methir spoke in whisper. “How many times…how many times do I have to tell you…I AM DOING THIS FREELY!”