• Chase Walker

Greed

Elias dashed to the side, narrowly escaping a blast of lightning. Heat singed the hair from his sword arm. He peered over his shield at the monstrosity on the mountain slope. The dull metal from the Helm of Infinity gleamed in the moonlight atop the Dark Lord’s head.


No man should wield such power, Elias thought.


The Dark Lord overswung his tree-trunk-sized blade at Yasmin, and she used the opening to charge him. She grunted and brought her ax down in an overhead chop, but he was too quick. In an instant, the Dark Lord had her in his grasp, fingers tightening around her throat. He shook her like a child’s plaything and Elias could only watch.


“Xander!” Elias cried out for the good-for-nothing wizard.


Chanting from the top of his rock, Xander conjured the energy from the air around him into a bright ball at the end of his staff. His bony fingers waved the ball tighter and tighter until it began to spin. It spun faster as Xander’s chanting grew louder.


With a sharp forward thrust of his staff, Xander sent the spinning ball of blue light speeding for the Dark Lord’s head and the Helm of Infinity that sat upon it. A flash of light blinded Elias and a thunderous clap assaulted his ears.


When his vision returned, he found the Dark Lord staggering but the Helm remained. Xander reached out with two massive ethereal arms to snatch the artifact.


Elias broke into a sprint to catch the Dark Lord while he was distracted. The Dark Lord dropped Yasmin to defend against the wizard’s magical reach. She hardly took a single heaving gasp before she hacked her ax into the Dark Lord’s leg. Black blood spilled onto the mountainside and he let out a terrible roar.


Ducking under a backhanded swing, Elias plunged his sword upward into the Dark Lord’s ribs, spilling more of his stinking, dark blood. The Dark Lord swatted Xander’s ethereal arms away and took a deep breath in, inflating his chest.


His exhale was a raging gale, bending trees over and nearly wiping Xander from his rock, but the wizard held. He leaned into the strong breath, robes flapping around his legs. Then, the Dark Lord clacked his teeth together, biting off the wind for an instant. Several sparks flew from his steel teeth. When he released the rest of his breath, fire engulfed Xander.


His beard shriveled and his robes burned away. His flesh bubbled and sizzled. The wind drowned out his screams, but Elias knew his friend was screaming. Elias’ heart screamed too.


“No!” Yasmin shouted.


As Xander crumbled away to a charcoal smear on the rock, Yasmin drew her ax back to swing again into this monster’s leg. He was too fast. The Dark Lord struck Yasmin with the back of his hand. A sound like a cracking whip split the night and she tumbled through the air. When she rolled to a stop, she lay on the ground, unmoving, staring at the stars above. Her back also faced the sky. The Dark Lord’s strike had spun her head on her shoulders.


Elias forced himself to look away; to focus on the fight.


I must win. There is no other option.


This world would crumble away to ruin like his companions if he failed. He tightened the straps on his shield and wondered if the old merchant had lied about its supernatural properties.


“When all is at its bleakest,” the old man had said.


Elias charged.


Lightning bolts bounced off of the shield leaving only the smell of ozone in the air. The Dark Lord took another deep breath and blew fire upon Elias, but the shield parted the inferno allowing him to continue his advance.


“Impossible,” the Dark Lord roared as he brandished his ridiculously large blade over his head.


He brought it down upon Elias but Elias took shelter under the shield. The giant blade shattered into pieces. Huge clumps of steel fell around Elias, and still, he moved forward. The Dark Lord wore a look of astonishment, even as Elias plunged his sword into his throat.


Black blood rushed down the sword and onto Elias’ hand. The Dark Lord toppled over onto his side and Elias withdrew his weapon. The Dark Lord shrunk down until he once again resembled young Prince Fabion.


Elias dropped to his knees as exhaustion washed over him. He shook the shield from his arm and dropped his bloody sword. He stayed like that for a long time, arms hanging limp at his sides. Finally, he willed himself to stand up. He shuffled his feet down the hill to the horses and withdrew the shovel from his mule.


#


Traveling down the winding road back to civilization, Elias decided to no longer grieve his friends. They had done their duty. They had helped him save the world. He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand.


Save the world, Elias thought.


The prophecy was true. He was the chosen one to vanquish the ultimate evil. All his doubts had been in vain. Elias couldn’t help but smile. From a humble farm boy, he had risen to the greatest challenge. The savior of the world. He could do anything. He could go anywhere. Riches, women, power was all in his future.


Elias shook his head, removing the smile from his lips. He mustn’t allow pride to get the best of him. He would not make the same mistakes Prince Fabion made. The poor fool. He believed all those things should be his, and he sought the power to get them.


This power.


Elias’ eyes flicked to the saddlebag on the right. The bulbous lump inside hinted at the god-like power within.


No man should wield this power.


True the Helm awarded the wearer great power, but it amplified his faults and insecurities. Even Prince Fabian began with good intentions, believing he could rule his father’s kingdom better than his tyrant of an older brother.


“No man should-”


There was a twang in the trees and something thumped into Elias’ chest. A burning pain radiated from his center. He looked down and found a crossbow bolt buried to the fins in his sternum. He let out a wheezing sigh as he listed in his saddle.


#


“I got ‘im,” Flouts said. “An’ down ‘e goes.”


The rider slid from his saddle and dropped onto the road below. Siff jumped from the bushes, waving his hatchet around in excitement.


“Oi!” Flouts shouted. “Come up on ‘im easy. ‘E may ‘ave some dyin’ to do yet. An’ don’ spook them ‘orses.”


“What you s’pose ‘e got on ‘im?” Siff giggled.


“Gold, I recon,” Flouts sniffed, loading another bolt. “I ‘ope.”


“Adventurers always got money,” Siff said.


“I dunno. This one don’ look well off.”


The two bandits approached the fallen rider and Flouts slowly took the horses’ reigns. Siff crept up on the rider as if he were in any position to lunge at him like a viper. He kicked the rider’s boot and the dying man groaned, watching the two with wide, focussed eyes.


“Quit toyin’ wiv ‘im an’ tie these up,” Flouts said, thrusting the reigns to Siff.


The boy took the leather leads but wouldn’t take his eyes off the rider.


“You gonna do ‘im?” Siff asked.


“Yeah,” Flouts gruffed.


Siff walked the horses to the tree line, periodically checking over his shoulder. Flouts stood over the rider as he writhed in the road. The big man aimed his crossbow down on the rider and, with another twang, ended him.


Turning his full attention to the horses, Siff tied the train to a tree and began ravaging the packs and bags on them. He threw a rather beat up tent to the ground and a muddy shovel down on it. Rope, blankets, a bundle of firewood, some old-looking rations, and several water skins followed the tent to the ground. Siff unstrapped a scorched shield and tossed it away. An old walking stick and a notched ax were all that remained on the trailing animals. Finally, he came to the lead horse. The horse the man was riding.


The valuables have got to be here.


He opened one saddlebag and pulled out a bruised apple and a rusty male shirt. Tossing these to the ground, Siff moved to the other side of the horse. He plunged his hand into the saddlebag and pulled out an old helm, nothing fancy, and long out of fashion.


“This lad ain’t ‘ave not but two coppers an’ this ‘ere sword on ‘im,” Flouts said as he strapped the belt around his gut. “Anyfing on the ‘orses?”


“Some camp gear, moldy food, couple pieces of old armor,” Siff said. “If ‘e was an adventurer, ‘e dint ‘ave much to show for it.”


“Always gotta be adventurers wiv you,” Flouts scoffed. “This lad was down on ‘is luck an’ ‘e found worse luck wiv us, izall. You can ‘ave the armor. It’ll make you ‘arder to kill an’ look fiercer ‘case we need t’ strong-arm somebody.”


“That shirt won’t fit me,” Siff wined. “Why can’t I ‘ave the sword?”


“‘Cuz you dint do the shootin’. I did. I get the sword. We can sell the ‘orses an’ this mule t’ put some food in our bellies. Now c’mon.”


Flouts untied the horses and began to lead them back to the road. Siff sighed and looked at the ugly helm in his hands.


“Better than noffin’,” he said, putting it on his head.



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Until next week,

Chase


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