XIX – Inferno
There was darkness. Stale air snaked through the gloomy tunnel, its passage creating an ominous moan that reverberated endlessly throughout the darkness, a sound of hopeless agony. The walls were perfectly smooth, the ubiquitous markings running along them in their elusive pattern, leaving not a single spot untouched. Twisting around like an agitated serpent, the marked tunnel ran into the distorted blackness, the loathsome howl of wind ushering all that walked upon it towards a dreadful secret.
Through the tangible tenebrosity came a crimson glow, one that seemed to amalgamate with the darkness instead of challenging it, as though they were kin. The bloody light was embodied in the two nefarious eyes of Opal Koboi as she walked through the tunnel, savoring the intricate markings all around her, which she alone understood. Her face was brimming with pleasure and enormous anticipation, her visage cast into a seemingly perpetual smile that stretched with calculative madness.
It won’t be long now.
Her footfalls echoed with the crying wind as she stalked towards an opening at the far end of the twisting tunnel. Red light poured from it, along with the invisible call of the Gate, pulling on her mind like a hand tugging a garment. It made Opal laugh openly.
Finally, after all these years.
Opal Koboi stepped out into the next room, her eyes widening as they beheld the expanse before her. The blood tinted chamber was not all that large, about a few hundred meters in diameter, its vaulting roof rising into darkness. It’s size, however, was by no means a factor. The stone chamber was covered with the same glyphs and patterns, but unlike the previous places, these ones were alive. The markings snaked and crept along the walls like endless centipedes, their own movements forming another pattern within the one already present, followed by endless more. Six massive pillars dominated the chamber, arranged in a circle around the room, their perfectly crafted forms displaying images of horrid monsters and dreadful wars, though they were nothing that Opal had ever seen or heard of, mysterious vestiges of a time long forgotten, or maybe a time yet to come. Koboi’s eyes immediately fixed upon the center of the chamber. Within the circle formed by the pillars were a series of rings cut into the stone floor. Within these rings were thousands upon thousands of glyphs and lines, a myriad of inner circles and designs that seemed to never end. It was by far the most complex magical circle Opal had ever seen.
In the center of the massive spell circle was a heavily ordained stone platform, about three feet high, with a flat top. Its surface had its own ritual circle upon it, an exact replica of the larger one, though condensed to an impossibly small scale. It was the exact length and width of the manuscripts, and as Opal got closer, the very markings that formed the rings seemed to reach out, struggling against their bonds, craving to be set free.
Koboi strolled to the edge of the circles, her face contorted with evil.
“The Gate.” She said with immoral glee. “Not a soul has laid eyes upon it for over a million years.” Her face twisted even more. “And it is I who will open it!”
She reached into her robes, gently pulling out the ancient scroll case. The old artifact was on fire with dark magic, its glyphs gleaming crimson as they too moved with a madness of their own. As she brought it out, every marked surface quickened its crawling pace, the air filling with a sense of dreadful excitement. The etchings of the magic circle before her began to rotate, eliciting a horrifying groan from an unseen place, a hellish cry that made the very room shake. Opal smiled endlessly, her mind drunk with desire as she saw the air fill with swirling magic and glinting energy, coupling with the maddening cacophony to form a mephistophelian spectacle.
Opal watched with sick delight, thrilled by what she saw. It was perfect, so very perfect. She had waited for so long for such victory, to become invincible, to become a god. Now, the workings of the dark magic that she sold herself to writhed before her, the entire chamber alive with it, dancing to the song of death itself. She could feel it within the very essence of her being, every fiber of her soul, as the Gate beckoned to her, begging to be released. She was happy to oblige.
“It ends now.” Opal growled devilishly, taking a step onto the magical rings. The moment her foot contacted the writhing surface, her mind bulged with awe and delight. She could see the endless seas of power, she could feel them. It was so monstrous that it boggled her intellect. It was like she was standing on the very edge of a bottomless precipice that was endlessly alight with fire; she could see into infinity.
“W-wonderful!” Koboi managed to say, her voice impeded by the wonderful feelings that racked her mind and body. She had never felt so much control, so much darkness, so much power. It was something that would make even the most sober of minds blind drunk in an instant. It was pure ecstasy.
With a surge of determination, Opal walked onto the rings, her red eyes ever fixed upon the pedestal before her, the manuscripts crackling in her hand with barely restrained energy. As the chorus of darkness swirled around her, only one thought came to her mind.
Inner Sanctum – Moments Before
Tremors shook the snaking tunnel as the six figures sprinted through it, the sound of their footfalls completely drowned out by the chaos that echoed powerfully down the passageway. The walls around them glowed a sickly red as the glyphs moved about, crawling above them like spiders stalking their prey. The six men and women didn’t pay attention to the magical entropy around them. They were far more focused on what it meant.
“She’s within the circle!” Quan yelled above the horrid cacophony. “We must hurry!”
Everyone doubled their efforts, not bothering to speak when words meant far less than actions.
Artemis was doing his best to keep pace with the others, though he was already getting tired. Not now! He thought. Artemis gritted his teeth, inwardly demanding himself to try harder. To his own surprise, he managed to push onward, willing his less than athletic body to hold up, just this once.
As they ran down the horrifying tunnel, even greater tremors roared, and the creeping symbols all around them gained momentum, as though the hellish display was rising towards a great climax. With Opal about to access the power she sought after, nobody doubted that such was the case.
Another howl of hot wind blasted by them.
“Artemis!” Quan called, running directly beside the boy.
Artemis looked to the warlock quizzically. He didn’t speak. He was almost out of breath as it was.
Quan reached into his pocket. He carefully pulled out the jagged form of the ancient dagger, promptly handing it to Artemis.
Artemis raised a brow in surprise. “W..what?” He uttered, his speech interrupted by heaving breaths.
“Take it.” Quan demanded, his voice only just audible amidst the monstrous noise.
Artemis gave him an inquisitive expression.
Quan’s face became even more serious. “Nº1 and I will be entirely caught up in holding Opal at bay. We cannot wield the dagger, not when we use so much magic near the Gate. It would destroy us.” He took several deep breaths as he ran. “And unlike everyone else here, you are the least suspecting in terms of a direct move.”
Artemis’ visage grew intense, immediately understanding what Quan meant. In every conflict, unless it was absolutely necessary to do otherwise, Artemis was one to stand on the sidelines. He was a tactician, not a soldier, a brilliant mind rather than a powerful fighter. He pulled the strings and challenged the odds, manipulating the players in the field, and even when he was required to physically take action, his performance was less than impressive. With Opal expecting everyone but him to boldly challenge her in battle, he held a certain level of surprise, especially with the truth that she had no idea that the dagger existed. Without the counteracting artifact in the picture, Koboi had no reason to think that Artemis was a capable threat in combat. She would thus focus on those who posed one, quite possibly intending to save him for last. Regardless, it meant that while everyone drew her attention, Artemis could deliver the real blow. It was a crazy plan, but it made sense, and made Artemis feel a great amount of anticipation. In the end, it was he who would try to finish her. He just hoped he would succeed.
With a fiery determination in his eyes, Artemis took the dagger, and as he did he felt the weight of destiny fall upon him. Everything was hinged upon his actions. If he failed, all would be lost.
How theatrical. Artemis mused as he ran, though any attempt to place the situation under the lens of logic and objectivity failed instantly. He could feel nothing but emotion, subjective thoughts, and burning determination. There was no room for indifference or distancing of himself from the moment, the gravity of it making it the most personal and affecting thing in the world. With a courageous glare focused upon the quickly nearing opening, Artemis tossed composure and restraint into the wind. He had to give his all, he could hold nothing back. For what felt like the first time in his life, he felt ready to fight, to take part in the ruthless game of life and death. Opal was his opponent, and though she seemed to hold all the cards, he still had one up his sleeve.
I will finish this. He thought with resolve. I will stop Opal, even if it kills me!
Around him, his friends held the same expressions. They all knew what had to be done, and equally what had to be given. They were prepared for sacrifice, though they hoped that such would not be necessary. But regardless of the costs, they were fighting to save the entire world. What was a life when weighed against the lives of billions? It was a morbid thought, and Artemis quickly pushed it from his mind. He was determined that everyone would survive.
An instantly recognizable laugh boomed from the expanse ahead, followed by the earth’s terrifying groan that was like a thousand simultaneous screams of agony. The writhing glyphs pulsed excitedly, casting even brighter crimson light upon them. As the howling wind and groaning cries of some unknown force echoed through the death soaked air, Artemis and the others pushed forward, the well lit cavern now only a few paces away.
Inner Sanctum – The Gate
It is mine! At last, I win!
Opal stood before the ancient pedestal, grinning madly. She held the scroll case over the stone platform, her eyes sucking in the malignant beauty that danced all around her. It was everything she imagined it would be and more, making her demonic eyes gleam with delight.
“Time to begin.” She said through a razor toothed grin.
In one fluid movement, Opal cast her own magic, opening the scroll case and letting its contents fall into the magic thick air. The ages old manuscripts didn’t fall in any natural fashion. They instantly began to float, their words lighting up as the magic around it sensed their presence. Below, upon the stone pedestal, the smaller ritual circle lit up with red light. The crimson energy shot from the surface, connecting with the archaic paper aligned above it. The manuscript’s glyphs rearranged themselves to form another, even more complex circle, combining with the other to form one whole picture. With a loud crack, a blast of energy erupted from the artifact, throwing gale force winds about the cavern. The wind soon subsided, but in its place rose another spectacle. All around the room, the markings on the walls ceased their movements, as though they had just heard something that made them pause. After a fleeting moment, the strings of glyphs flashed across the stone surfaces, running along towards the center of the room, where the spell circle was actively gleaming.
“Yes!” Opal roared.
The symbols pooled onto the floor by the circle, and began to from their own rings, each one completely different from the other. Endless chains of the mysterious characters weaved together with awe inspiring efficiency, moving at a rate far faster than the eye could track. Soon, the entire room was filled with writhing magic circles, each linked together to form a spell of colossal proportions. To any being that knew magic enough to grasp its workings, the arcane equations and transmutations that spanned the chamber would be the most awe and terror inspiring sight possible. It was a diabolic masterpiece.
Opal Koboi waited until everything was in place. Once she was sure that the spells were ready, she began to chant. She spoke in an dialect that not even the People had ever heard, each word filled with power and dread. As she recited the ritual chant, the manuscripts floated a few feet into the air, snakes of energy flying from them towards the spell circles all around.
Yes! Lend your power to me! Make me a god! Opal thought fiercely as she chanted, her shining eyes fixed upon the floating manuscripts above.
“I’m afraid we can’t let you do that”. A wise voice stated behind her.
As the disembodied speaker told her this, several loud bangs filled the air, followed by a series of sizzling cracks as three bullets smashed into the floating manuscripts. The rounds didn’t do a thing, but it startled Koboi all the same.
Opal immediately froze with surprise, the words for her chant falling silent as she gritted her teeth with utter rage. She could now feel a presence behind her, and from what she’d witnessed so far, it was the last thing she wanted to see.
Turning around, Opal beheld five beings. At the front of them, Quan and Nº1 stood at the ready, blue magic alight upon their fingertips. Behind the two warlocks, with weapons aimed, were Butler, Juliet and Holly. All of them bore expressions of iron determination, not a drop of fear in their eyes.
“You!” She glared.
Quan looked sternly into Opal’s horrid eyes as she glared at them. “You’re evil ends here, Koboi.”
The chamber shook as Opal’s eyes flared with hatred. “So you survived.” She growled, her withering gaze falling upon Holly, who simply glared back.
“It may seem,” Quan stated, “That the powers that be do not wish for you to succeed.”
The nefarious pixie’s eyes flashed to the old warlock, the depths of hell shining through them.
“The powers that be?” She asked dangerously. The tremors in the room increased. She grinned slightly. “I am that powers that be!”
With a malevolent grin she cast her magic into the air, forming a writhing sea of deadly tendrils behind her. The two warlocks readied their own, though waited for her to attack directly.
“So.” Opal stated, her voice suddenly less agitated. “All of the vermin have gathered together.” She looked over them, noting with silent displeasure that Artemis wasn’t amongst them. Was it possible that he hadn’t accompanied them? Maybe he was calling the shots from a distance away, safe from a situation that would easily end him in a heartbeat. With all of the chaos around her, she could not sense even the forms of the other humans before her, let alone one far away. It was disappointing. “It’s a shame that Artemis isn’t with you, otherwise I could have made him watch as I strung each of you up by your entrails.”
None of them responded to her, instead they waited with silent resolve.
Opal glared at them again, her grin working its way into an offensive snarl. “Very well. If you are so eager to meet your doom, I will not leave you waiting any longer!”
Without pause, Opal threw her magic towards them, yelling with rancor as she wished death upon them.
“Here we go!” Quan yelled as he brought up his arms.
As the wall of dark magic roared towards them, the two warlocks threw up a wave of their own magic, forming a multitude of glowing projectiles. With determined yells of their own, they threw the assault into Opal’s, sending the magical bolts barreling into the thick sea of crimson energy like a barrage of arrows. The two magical forces collided with a soundless explosion, followed by a delayed boom that threw waves of powerful wind throughout the chamber.
Opal gritted her teeth as she felt the power of the attacks reverberating through the air around her. She knew that she was stronger, but the combined capabilities of the two warlocks was an impressive force all the same. She knew that she would beat them eventually, so she let herself smile. With the thrill of fighting a capable foe now coursing through her veins, Opal threw a new series of strikes towards her enemy, screaming confidently as fire and dust mixed into the air around her. And so the fighting erupted like a supernova.
Crouching behind the shields of the two warlocks, Holly and the Butlers waited as the relentless winds subsided, their weapons held tightly. When it passed, they each stood up, aiming towards the pixie. Together, Holly’s neutrino and the Butler’s Sig Sauers lit up with fire. As Quan and Nº1 sent a relentless series of magical strikes into Opal’s own, the bullets and laser blasts peppered the pixie’s shielded form. Though they knew that such attacks were useless, they were also very annoying as well.
Opal twitched with irritation as the pathetic attacks struck her, their feeling very much akin to that of an elusive itch. It was the definition of annoyance that these feeble creatures fought against her, they were tiny vexations that no less infuriated her. She quickly doubled her efforts, pushing her enemy back with the sheer strength of her attacks.
As they held firm under Koboi’s ruthless assault, Quan and Nº1 motioned to the individuals behind them. Holly, Butler and Juliet nodded. They knew what to do.
As the three of them prepared, the two warlocks delved into the recesses of their magical reserves, pulling out immense amounts of energy. The magic pooled in their hands, condensed tightly into basket ball sized spheres. With Opal bombarding their shields, they each grinned.
“Let’s show that neophyte some real magic.” Quan stated.
“With pleasure.” Nº1 replied.
With a resounding whoosh of pure energy, the warlocks threw the spheres forward. As they flew, the four seemingly small and powerless balls of magic expanded into four gigantic blasts, each one striking a separate section of Opal’s defenses with enough force to shatter her dark magic’s intricate weaves. With a glorious explosion, the blue energy smashed into Koboi, obliterating her assaults.
“Dammit!” Opal seethed as the series of magical battering rams crushed half of her magical shields. The force of it made her kneel down, lest she be blown back into the stone pedestal over which the manuscripts hovered.
As Opal was forced into a defensive position, Quan and Nº1 let their shield drop. As it did, Butler, Holly and Juliet broke from behind the two warlocks, sprinting around the circumference of the room, the Butlers taking one side whilst Holly took the other.
Under the stress of the warlocks’ strike, Opal managed to cast several beams of black magic towards the moving foes. Her attacks went wide, and were easily dodged.
These fools are getting on my nerves! Opal thought angrily, still piecing together her broken defenses. With her anger kindled anew, she simultaneously threw new attacks towards the marauding warlocks, reducing their offensive capabilities.
As the pixie did this, Butler and Juliet positioned themselves by one of the pillars to her right, laying down a steady barrage of high caliber rounds. At the same time, Holly fired at her from the left with her neutrino, still running. With the warlocks sending wave after wave of magic towards her, she was facing attack on three fronts. The boundless tenacity of her foes was most astonishing.
Even though they cannot win, they fight as though they can. Opal mused, absentmindedly blocking a volley of magical bolts. What is it that they are hiding? She didn’t know, but regardless, she had to kill them so that she could finalize the Gate’s spells. With black and red tendrils swirling around her, Opal attacked with increased ferocity.
Magic and fire flew through the air as attacks were thrown and deflected on both sides, sending destructive bolts of crimson and blue energy careening throughout the chamber. As the bombardment continued, Holly kept running past the pillars until she found who she was looking for. Behind the pillar directly to Opal’s back stood Artemis Fowl, dagger in hand, and determination upon his face. As she reached him, Holly made sure to stay out of Opal’s line of sight as to not draw attention.
“Artemis.” She said with concern. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”
The boy gave her a reassuring smile, one that beamed confidence. “I am absolutely certain.”
Holly smiled, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “You’ve come a long way, mud boy.” She said warmly. “You would have never done such a dangerous thing yourself ten years ago.”
Artemis smiled. “I was a lot more selfish ten years ago.” He paused, hearing the explosions and gunfire that marked the battle taking place. “I cannot allow for everyone to put their lives on the line whilst I remain safe. This is a burden we must all share, including myself.”
An explosion blasted away a chunk of the wall to their left as one of Opal’s attacks were deflected. Holly readied her neutrino.
“You know what to do.” She stated. “I’ll take up position to your right, keeping Opal’s attention split between every side but yours.” She paused as another explosion drowned out her voice. “When the time is right, take her down!”
Artemis looked at the dagger in his right hand. “I will.” He said softly. He looked back to Holly, gratitude in his eyes. “Thank you, Holly. Good luck.”
“Right back at you.” The elf said enthusiastically before jumping out from behind the pillar, firing towards Opal once more. As she disappeared behind the series of stone structures, Artemis rubbed his temples, clearing his mind so that he could think.
Taking Opal by surprise was a lot easier said than done. There were hundreds of factors that played into the probability of the pixie noticing his approach, leaving a very brief moment in which he could strike. In order for his prediction to work, he had to know the magnitude of Opal’s physical senses, her hearing, sight and intuition, as well as the moment in which such things were most impeded. There was also her magical senses. Given that he was thus far undiscovered, it was safe to assume that she was greatly affected by the Gate’s magic, which she hadn’t fully bonded to yet, therefore causing conflicting magics. Yet still, as he got closer, the chance that she would feel him was greater. Though it was impossible to accurately predict, Artemis had a good enough idea. All of this, plus many other factors such as the frequency of Opal’s magical backlashes (which would kill him if he were caught in one), left him with an equation, one that would give him the best chance at succeeding. The one problem was that he could not predict what would happen next, and the equation only worked for real time events. Therefore, Artemis had to calculate the probabilities as the events were unfolding, which meant solving an extremely intricate series of functions and variables in less than a second so that he, if given the perfect answer, could still act whilst the moment was right. Artemis grinned slyly. He always liked a challenge.
“You are fools to believe that you can stop me!” Opal bellowed as she renewed her assault upon her enemies.
Using three primary spell weaves, she focused a triad of strikes upon her foes, one for each group. The main weaves were expanded by dozens of secondary and tertiary ones, forming gigantic serpentine beasts with feral eyes. The magical monsters flew towards their prey with frightening speed, shaking the earth as they roared demonically.
One of the crimson beasts slammed into Quan and Nº1’s shields, eliciting a great lightning crack of energy. The dark magic pushed against it, and even though they kept the shield in place, the two warlocks were pushed back a few dozen paces, unable to fully resist the powerful force that struck them.
As the warlocks deflected Opal’s strike, Butler and Juliet dodged another, while Holly did so for the third. The great beasts smashed into the ancient pillars by which they were standing, though it was not the pillars that were destroyed. As the dark magic hit them, the obelisks simply absorbed it, not even being scratched.
Holly hid behind one of these pillars until the deadly magic dissipated. She was in position, as were everyone else. The elf couldn’t help but notice as the Gate’s magic flew about the room, the countless spell rings still spinning madly. Opal’s spell was still in action, even as she fought them. Holly had no idea how long it would take for the pixie to fully access the arcane power, but judging by the rising momentum of the magic pouring from the manuscripts, it was coming fast.
With her neutrino in hand, Holly stood back out from behind the pillar, motioning to Butler on the other end with her free hand. Time to pull the card from their sleeve.
On the opposite side of the circle, Butler nodded, his face set like stone. He looked to Juliet, who immediately acknowledged what they had to do. The two of them reached into their pockets, pulling out big handfuls of HE grenades, courtesy of the Berserkers. With their fingers through the pins, they broke from their cover, rushing towards Koboi as she blocked one of Quan’s concentrated energy beams.
At the same time, Holly aimed her neutrino, firing the weapon at its highest possible level into the pixie, sending literally hundreds of high powered rounds barreling towards her.
With the neutrino rounds slamming into her, Opal turned her attention to Holly, flicking one of Nº1’s energy bolts to the side with one hand as she prepared to fire with her other. As she did this, she noticed the two Butlers to the other side, though they held no weapons, making her grin. However, as the two humans threw several handfuls of unpinned grenades towards her, the smirk disappeared. Damn these apes and their persistence!
With grenades coming from her right, lasers from left and magical attacks from ahead, Opal drew her magic towards herself, forming a shield just as they collided. The three pronged assault slammed into the compacted crimson barrier, the area around it erupting into massive explosions of fire and magic. The warlocks, humans and elf continued to hammer Opal without pause, reducing the entire center of the circle to a smoke clogged firestorm.
Behind the enormous battle, Artemis Fowl narrowed his eyes, his determination climaxing as he calculated. Opal’s backlashing magic was greatly dispersed, and with the three pronged attack dividing her attention onto three fronts, she was vulnerable. Additionally, all of the other factors were at optimal levels, as good was they were going to get. With the dagger clutched tightly in his hand, Artemis stood up fully, pushing all of his doubts and fears to the back of his mind, assuming an air of perfect readiness. It was time. With his black hair blowing messily in the wind and his suit very much dirtied, Artemis broke cover, running as fast as he could towards Opal Koboi.
Under her magical shields, Opal mused, her mind on other things as her enemies struck her.
None of their attacks make sense. She thought. They must know by now that I cannot be beaten by conventional means…And even if they didn’t they would behave much differently than they are…
She frowned in contemplation. What are they planning? Or are they so desperate that they ignore reason and try to stop me? She grinned evilly. They must be beyond desperate.
With a satisfied smirk, Koboi drew her magic into a condensed area, building it up casually. As the enemy attacked her, Koboi threw a densely packed ram of energy into the coming strikes, stopping them instantly. Her dark magic pushed the attacks back, and as they did, she sent a series of powerful bursts flying into the three directions, seeking to throw her enemy to the ground.
Holly and the Butlers quickly dodged behind the pillars, whilst the warlocks blocked it head on, resulting in them being pushed back even more. Quan was quick to extend his shield to cover Holly and the Butlers, who had little hope of avoiding the attacks for long.
With her enemies now forced onto the defensive, Koboi attacked ferociously, screaming with malicious glee as she hammered them with dozens of consecutive strikes.
As Opal’s strikes rained down on his friends, Artemis sprinted through the forest of swinging tendrils, knowing their exact pattern and therefore following a foolproof path through them. He grimaced as great balls of fire rose into the air in every direction but his, feeling the heat from Opal’s strikes blast by him. What worried him even more was the movement of the magical rings. They were starting to amalgamate into an even larger entity, an obvious sign of the spell’s progression. Koboi must have been able to renew her efforts. Artemis clenched his teeth together with fiery conviction. He had little time. If he didn’t stop her soon, it would be the end for them.
Sparks and debris flew past him as he ran, his labored breathing drowned out by the deafening cacophony of Opal’s power. Artemis didn’t flinch as rock fragments sliced his face, drawing blood as they left taunting cuts. He payed no attention to the pain in his chest and legs, the fear clawing in the back of his mind, or even the death flying all around him. He had a single focus: Opal Koboi.
The pixie had her back turned to him, her attention placed solely upon her vexing attackers. She laughed and snarled as she threw magic ruthlessly, her previous shields now gone as she focused entirely upon offense. Between her and Artemis, the manuscripts hovered five feet in the air, immense amounts of magic pouring from them as the circles beneath twisted into new designs, dancing with sick happiness as their intricacies were undone, their power only moments from being accessed.
Artemis as now only twenty meters away, so close he could hear her wretched laughter above the destruction. With one final push of will, he ran the distance faster than he thought possible, heedless of the powerful winds hammering against him. His cut face was determined, his eyes without hesitation. As he neared the unknowing pixie, he remembered all of the times he had faced her in the past, all of the pain and suffering she’d caused, and all of the lives she’d taken for her own selfish gain. He remembered the times she almost killed his family, his friends, and himself, each memory now amazingly clear. He could see the monster that she was, a monster that could never be satisfied, even if she gained limitless power and killed the whole world, such was the insatiability of her evil, the power of her madness. As she fought mercilessly before him, yelling rancorously, Artemis glared.
This madness ends here, Opal! He thought vigorously. Though a feeble human I may be, I will not allow for you to gain a power that no one should control!
He was literally a few meters from the floating manuscripts, the dagger held strongly in his hand, his visage fierce. He readied his arm, preparing to plunge the dagger into the artifacts that blazed brilliantly a few feet away.
“Die!” Opal screamed evilly as she rammed a massive strike into the warlocks’ shield. The strike tore through the magic, slamming directly into Quan and Nº1. The two warlocks deflected most of its offensive power, but the attack still hit them like a raging troll, sending them flying across the chamber and into its solid wall. The two unconscious warlocks landed with a crunch, alive but severely wounded.
Excellent! She thought as she turned her attention towards the now powerless Butlers. Now it’s your turn-
Opal Koboi felt something at the back of her mind, a presence. Whatever it was, it was directly behind her. Opal spun about, her eyes immediately falling upon Fowl as he held an archaic looking dagger in his hand, his eyes set upon the manuscripts.
“Fowl!?” She yelled as she turned, still caught up in throwing magic towards her enemies, and not completely convinced that the boy was a threat.
Artemis simply ignored her, raising the glyph covered knife above is head, an iron expression upon his face.
“You’re finished!” He muttered coldly.
Opal’s eyes immediately switched to the symbols upon the blade of the dagger, widening instantly with recognition. Everything made sense now, and it terrified her.
“No!” She screamed as she launched herself towards Artemis, every fiber of her being suddenly desperate and vulnerable.
Artemis brought the dagger down towards the manuscripts, the heat of its channeling energy searing his clothes and skin. As the ancient blade fell, everything seemed to move in slow motion.
“You bastard!” Opal screamed as she cast her magic, jumping into the air to intercept Artemis’ stab.
Too late. Artemis thought coolly as the dagger neared the flaming artifact, only an inch away.
Opal screamed with anger, her dark magic flying towards Artemis.
Artemis could almost feel the dagger touch the paper. Rot in hell, Opal!
There was a sudden flash to his right.
That’s where you’re mistaken, Fowl. Koboi’s vituperative voice spoke smoothly in his head.
Where Opal used to be, at the corner of his vision, was only air. He felt a whoosh of wind as something materialized beside him. In the slow motion of the moment, Artemis turned his eyes, just in time to witness Koboi flash into existence right next to him, floating in midair. Her face was dead serious, her eyes glowing madly. What happened next occurred faster than the eye could track.
Opal grabbed Artemis’ stabbing arm before he could bring it down upon his target, squeezing it so hard that his grip failed, his forearm breaking in a dozen places instantly. As she destroyed his grip, Opal brought her other hand about, grabbing the falling dagger smoothly, whist letting go of Artemis’ shattered arm. Using her spinning momentum, Opal spun about, dagger held menacingly. With a demonic hiss, she slammed the dagger into the boy’s upper chest, burying it up to the hilt with a sickening crunch.
It is you, Fowl, who will be rotting.
Opal’s strike was far too quick for Artemis to track, though once the dagger met his flesh, everything became agonizingly slow, as though time was falling asleep. As Opal grinned maniacally before him, he felt the dagger collide. He felt it as its dull edge punched through his skin and muscle, leaving a huge entry wound the diameter of a soda can. He felt it all the same as it smashed though one of his ribs, sending the bone’s fragments stabbing in every direction. And to his horrific terror, Artemis felt the dagger ram though his lung and into his rapidly beating heart, piercing his right ventricle like a pin into a water balloon.
Everything stopped. From his friend’s attacks to Opal’s own, everyone ceased in either horrified shock or sick pleasure. It was an impossibly frigid silence.
Artemis stared into space, his mind in a state of utter disbelief. Am I…dying?
A warm breeze gently caressed his face as he saw blood pouring from his chest, the dagger still buried to the hilt, unable to clog the wound. To his surprise, he felt nothing, his senses numbed into an ignorant bliss. How could he not feel his own heart get punctured? His hearing became weak, his brain only registering the faint sound of desperate cries and Koboi’s laughter. Everything felt so distant, like long forgotten memories, traces of dew in the morning breeze. The faint tinges of darkness were already creeping from the edges of his vision, which was already distorted as his eyes teared up uncontrollably, the images before him becoming twisted shapes and stretched lights. He felt his mind tire out, the memories of his life flashing by slowly like a brilliant slide show.
I can’t die. He thought tiredly. Not now…not when there’s so much at stake…
His own thoughts trailed off, failed just as his body had. He began to feel cold.
Opal pulled the dagger from Artemis’ chest, the weapon making a wet sound as it was yanked from torn flesh and broken bone. With the wound now fully open, blood gushed freely, soaking the boy’s suit in seconds. As she grinned with immense satisfaction, Koboi observed the human, who was standing motionless, his eyes set upon a distant place.
“Goodbye, Fowl.” She said smoothly.
With her clenched fist, Opal struck Artemis in his grievous wound, sending him flying a few meters before landing with a pathetic thump. He didn’t move.
Around the room, Artemis’ friends stood in shock.
“Artemis.” Butler said weakly, his massive frame shaking with grief, his hard face broken by flowing tears. Beside him, Juliet did very much the same. They had never felt so much pain.
As the others stared in disbelief, Holly ran. She ran as fast as she could, like a person possessed. She held her neutrino in one hand, though had all but forgotten about it. All that mattered was Artemis.
“Artemis!” She screamed as she sprinted to the fallen boy, tears already heavy in her eyes. She didn’t even pay attention to Opal as she passed her, her mind entirely focused on her friend.
Opal glanced casually at the elf, but made no move to stop her. This was the sort of tragedy she dreamed of.
Holly crashed to her knees beside the still breathing Artemis, putting her hands upon him immediately, staining them with blood. Blood. There was so much blood.
“Heal!” She cried, shaking as magic poured from her small hands.
The blue sparkles of light flew around the boy, assaulting the massive wound in his chest like a swarm of bees. Still, the blood flowed.
“Heal!” She screamed again, desperately willing the magic to save the boy, tears flowing like a river.
The blue energy sank into him, but only mended the broken bone and a bit of the flesh, leaving the grievous wound otherwise untouched.
“Heal dammit!” Holly yelled with fury, but her words met deaf ears. There was nothing she could do for the boy. He was dying before her very eyes.
She looked over the Quan and Nº1, her tear filled eyes red and swollen. They were the only ones who could help him, and they were out cold.
“…Holly.” Artemis’ voice whispered quietly, the one word an almost impossible task for his fading life.
Holly looked back to her friend, her grief stricken eyes falling on his.
“Artemis.” She coughed, choking back her sobs. “I’m so sorry!” She put her shaking hands upon his youthful face, feeling its cold immediately. His ivory complexion had drained of all the color it had left, leaving him the purest whites.
As Holly stared into his half closed eyes, Artemis looked into hers. His vision cleared, allowing for him to behold his dear friend, and what a suppressed part of him saw as a lover.
“Holly.” He whispered again, the elf the only existent thing in the world to him, her name the only word he could form with his sluggish lips.
The elf sobbed, holding him close. “Please, don’t die.” She cried, unwilling to accept what was happening. “I can’t…”
Artemis couldn’t hear her words, but he felt her warmth, and it warmed his death chilled heart like a miniature sun. The creeping gloom of death faded as he looked into Holly’s eyes, all worries and fears forgotten, small trinkets cast into a flowing river. He couldn’t feel anything but happiness, his dying mind having forgotten Opal and everything that was happening, leaving only that which it held onto the tightest.
There was another warm breeze, the air softly displacing Artemis’ black hair. It kissed his face, and as it did he felt his grip on life collapse. Death was calling to him, welcoming him with understanding and kindness, like a good friend. Still, he kept his eyes upon Holly, even as they ceased to function, his last sight being her brilliant mismatched eyes. What a wonderful sight.
He felt tired, so very tired. He felt the world around him fade into mist, the dark but warm wisps of death wrapping around him with care, lulling him to sleep. As his life closed its eyes forever, his mouth moved slowly, speaking so quietly that it was almost inaudible.
Artemis’ speech was followed by a long sigh as his life faded completely, the releasing breath sounding content and free. The faint breeze blew gently overhead, sweeping up high into the air as though guiding his spirit to the afterlife. Nothing disturbed the breeze. It was a thing so pure and innocent that even the dark magic in the air let it be.
After a short moment, the wind died, leaving Holly alone with the cold dead body of her best friend. Her bloodied hands were still upon his face, which was slightly warmed by their touch. Her eyes were still fixed upon his, which stared emptily into hers, their brilliant glint now gone forever.
“Artemis…” Holly croaked, her voice hollow and cold. She stared into his dead eyes, unbelieving as they looked right through her.
Holly knelt motionlessly above the corpse, reality still settling in, constantly refusing to accept what she saw. How could she? It was her worst nightmare, something that she had never gotten over since Artemis had died fighting Opal the previous time, but even then there was a way to save him. This time was different. He was dead. Opal had won. It was a colossal failure that shattered her hardened emotions, leaving her weak and cold.
With her blood soaked hands shaking uncontrollably, Holly let out a tormented wail of pure anguish, the sound of her cry reverberating around the chamber like a hundred voices in one. Tears poured like glistening dew from her eyes, falling upon the Artemis’ bloodless face. Holly had broken down completely, and that was something that she almost never did, not since Opal had taken Julius. The pain of the memory stabbed her like a hot knife. Koboi had taken Julius from her, the closest person she’d had to a father. Now she had taken Artemis, the most brilliant person she’d ever met, and the greatest friend that she had ever had. The grief of his death surpassed an entire life of emotional hardness, all of her training and discipline, slicing deeper than anything ever could. Opal had yet again torn out a piece of her heart, leaving it shattered and incomplete, a horribly shredded rag, doomed to be alone. She had nothing left.
Bloody dagger in hand, Opal Koboi watched as the elf cried uncontrollably, her face twisted with pleasure. She had never imagined such a perfect victory, it was wondrous.
Never in a billion years will this moment lose its potency. She thought, her magic swirling quietly in the air as to not disturb the sweet cries of emotional agony.
“Opal!” A yell came from behind, filled with rage and sadness alike.
Koboi turned about, and was met by a dozen high powered bullets to the face. She didn’t have time to block them, but she didn’t care, not even as her head exploded in a shower of gore.
Butler and Juliet, their faces stricken with pain, held their weapons up, firing round after round into the pixie in one final attempt to stop her. They knew they were powerless, but what else could they do? She had killed Artemis. They would take nothing less than her dead corpse or die trying.
Opal’s headless body cast a weave of magic, blocking the bullets whilst reforming her head in seconds, bringing her hateful gaze into the visual spectrum once more, her eyes gleaming dangerously.
“You fools never know when to give up.” She stated smoothly, gesturing with her hand.
A bolt of kinetic energy flew towards the two humans, who had run out of ammunition. Butler dodged to the right as Juliet took the left, each of them narrowly avoiding the deadly blow. Immediately after evading the attack, both of them charged towards Koboi, Butler wielding his fists and Juliet a Berserker sword which she had strapped onto her back. Together, they made one final strike, fire in their eyes as they came down upon an amused looking Opal.
How quaint. She thought as they came at her from both sides.
Butler struck at her first, his massive fist flying towards her like a brick wall. Opal brought up her free hand, effortlessly stopping the bodyguard’s powerful punch with her palm, grinning madly as she did. With Juliet charging from the other side, she sent a punch of her own into Butler, her small fist delivering an impossible amount of force. The kinetic energy of the blow sent Butler flying into the wall, leaving him motionless.
There was a whoosh of wind as Juliet swung her sword towards Opal’s head, the girl roaring with grief catalyzed anger as she brought the blade down. Without the slightest of worries, Koboi spun about, catching the blade with one hand.
“You shouldn’t play with knives, little girl.” Opal said dangerously.
With a flash of movement, the pixie wrapped her fingers around the blade, her magic making her impervious to its edge. With a satisfied smirk, Koboi squeezed the blade, effortlessly shattering it into a hundred pieces. As Juliet dropped the useless sword and brought up a leg for a kick, Opal simply made a dismissive gesture with her hand, sending the human flying across the chamber, landing in a heap beside her brother.
Opal then turned her attention back to Holly, who was still kneeling by the corpse of her friend, her strong persona broken by grief.
“Enjoying yourself? Tell me, how’s Arty doing?” Opal teased, walking casually up to the elf.
Upon hearing the pixie’s voice, Holly’s sobs stopped, her mind snapping into focus. It was like a heat seeking missile locking onto a target, and all that was left to do was kill. She felt a floodgate of hatred and rage pour from her heart, an endless tide of vituperation. Her eyes flared open, her shaking hands becoming still, the blood that covered them forgotten. Her head was filled with a sea of anger and despair, though only one word came to mind: Kill! Kill! Kill!
Holly spun about, neutrino held high and flaring with energy. With a possessed rage, she fired into the pixie, screaming with a hundred dark emotions at once.
Opal smiled as the shots dissolved in the air, having no effect upon her whatsoever. She didn’t stop the elf, however. She very much enjoyed seeing individuals reach the end of their rope. For her, it was like watching a comedy, except this one was constructed upon the most sickening humor possible.
Holly screamed until her voice failed, her powerlessness forgotten in the tide of emotion. Even as her enemy sneered at her attempts, she kept firing, she had nothing else.
“Enough of this.” Opal stated, swatting the gun from Holly’s hand with a kinetic blast.
To her credit, Holly didn’t even slow. Upon being disarmed, the elf immediately switched to her close quarters alternative: an LEP issued combat knife. With one fluid motion and a glint of steel, Holly drew the razor sharp blade, her eyes flashing with intent.
Koboi cocked a brow. “Oh, you’re not done?”
Holly didn’t humor the pixie with a response. With her knife in hand, she launched herself towards Opal, swinging the blade in a perfect arc towards the pixie’s throat.
“So persistent!” Opal sneered, pleased to see that her foe driven by such hatred, and grudgingly impressed by her perseverance.
Holly was on top of her target, her eyes gleaming as bright as the glinting blade, filled with hatred. With a slight motion, Koboi stopped the elf, leaving her hovering in midair, knife held half slash.
“A valiant effort, Short.” Opal growled happily. “Though as Fowl proved, such valor will only end in death.”
Without pause, Opal sent a spear of dark magic into the floating elf. The magical lance stabbed right through her, pulling her down onto the solid floor. With a splash of blood, the crimson spear pinned Holly to the ground, leaving her utterly helpless. She felt enormous pain, but she ignored it, her eyes still on Opal.
“Opal!” She screamed, her countenance that of a rabid dog.
The pixie watched her, smiling devilishly.
“Don’t worry.” She said with mock concern. “I was sure to avoid any vital organs. You will live for quite a while.” She motioned to the swirling magic that poured from the manuscripts. “And you will witness my victory without interruption. What a privilege!”
Opal’s eyes flicked to the ancient dagger held in her hand. Though her outward countenance didn’t change, she inwardly cringed. That was too close. She had never thought that such a countermeasure existed, and such ignorance had almost cost her everything. It shook her to the core. Such fear, however, quickly subsided. The Gate’s spell was unbroken, and now that she held the dagger, nothing could oppose her.
Still, I might as well make sure.
With her hand wrapped about the dagger, Opal pooled a dense concentration of dark magic, drawing a colossal amount of energy from the manuscripts’ flow. The magic surrounded the ancient artifact, her only weakness, and flashed brightly.
With a blinding explosion of light, the dark magic erupted upon the dagger. The stone blade glowed in defiance, but stood no chance. With a crack, the ancient weapon exploded, sending dozens of glowing fragments flying in all directions.
Now nothing can stop me!
Holly’s eyes widened with dismay as the glowing chunks of the dagger flew by her. Their only advantage, their only hope, destroyed. She grunted, trying to removed herself from the magical spear, desperate to do anything but lay useless. Her efforts were met by an impossible level of pain, and even with her tolerance for such, her body gave up almost immediately. Even if she managed to pull herself free, she would be equally as useless. Artemis was dead, everyone else severely wounded, and the dagger was gone. What hope was there? She shuddered as she saw the boy’s body to her right, oceans of tears coming to her eyes again. It was hopeless. It was over.
Koboi noticed Holly’s sudden change of demeanor, and chuckled with delight.
“You cared a lot for that fool of a human, didn’t you? You make me sick.” Her eyes glinted brightly. “However, if it is of any comfort to you, it will not be long until you join him.”
With the movement of the countless spell rings rising with the flow of magic pooling in the heights above, Opal placed her hands into the stream of flowing energy.
“Now, witness my power!” She bellowed. “Behold, the end of the world!”
The air exploded with magic, sending colossal streams flying about like massive snakes, though moving in a single pattern, swirling about Opal Koboi as she began the final phase of the spell. The earth shook violently, the roar of the dreadful magic now reaching a resounding peak.
I’m sorry, everyone. Holly thought sadly, watching helplessly as the world seemed to die around her.
The crimson energy met with Opal’s own, and began a maddening dance as they appeared to transfuse. The circles moved with possessed speed, every marking glowing blindingly. Above all of it, Opal’s laughter boomed, her voice now brimming with indescribable power.
I’m sorry, Artemis.