The winter’s sun reflected magnificently off the ice, dazzling the remaining combatants. Yet where Jason Fortuno stood, there was no light, just a human silhouette, impossibly dark, as Griffon had been upon the day of his resurrection. Around its form was a vicious, cutting wind that made it impossible for anyone to get within two metres of him.
‘Jason?’ Echoed a hollow, cautious voice.
The figure turned to look at Bianca, but it was impossible to determine whether it acknowledged her presence. Griffon was shocked, but the fear on his face quickly vanished and his expression returned to one of self-confidence as he stepped forward to confront this new challenge.
‘At last, an equal.’
He thrust his arms outwards to blast the silhouette with another torrent of fire, but the figure seemed to absorb the flames, which spread across its form, giving it the appearance of being shaped from molten liquid. Griffon tried again, this time with sparks of electricity, but he was met with a similar effect. That which was once Jason began to walk towards him, effortlessly absorbing all subsequent assaults. Griffon grew desperate, and he began muttering an incantation, exhaustion causing sweat to come pouring down his face.
‘No, stop him!’ yelled Simon Liberthine, but no one dared to interfere. The necromancer raised his arms and screamed at his terrifying opponent.
‘You think you can take this away from me?’
With every last reserve of his strength, Griffon sent an almighty shaft of dark energy at Fortuno, sending him toppling. The acolytes that Griffon drew his energy from were falling one after the other, their essence drained entirely.
‘I’ve waited too long for this! Sacrificed too much! This…is…my…victory!’ He roared, punctuating each word with another stream of energy that knocked Fortuno to his knees. Both men were exhausted, but Griffon was an experienced necromancer, while Jason Fortuno was still a relative novice in the sorcerous ways. He held up his hands to withstand the assault, and a beam of energy pushed against the combatants, each struggling to force it towards his opponent.
Outside of the cyclone, sorcerers and necromancers all watched and waited. Their skirmishes meant nothing compared to the clash of titans within the circle. Simon Liberthine watched with helpless dread, he knew Jason could not withstand the barrage for much longer, and the effort made to rejuvenate his power without a conduit was draining his life at an alarming rate, despite utilising the life force of his wounded enemies, who seemed to shrivel up as their essences were sapped away. Making one final effort, the young sorcerer flung his arms outward, reflecting the beam of energy back into Griffon. With a mere flick of the wrist, he sent his remaining enemies tumbling into the grass. Griffon’s hooded acolytes seemed to explode from the inside, reduced to dust in seconds. There was a hollow laugh, and no one on the field recognised it as Jason’s own.
‘Jason! It’s too much, you’ve got to stop now!’ yelled Bianca from outside the cyclone. But her friend did not hear her, and continued with his violent onslaught. Sorcerers and necromancers alike were trying to stop him, but he cast them aside indiscriminately. The necromantic corruption fuelled his actions, but the young sorcerer’s life-force was almost depleted, and every use of his new powers sapped away at his strength.
William Griffon had been too transfixed with terror to move, but now he pulled himself off the ground and began preparing the teleportation incantation that would take him away. Jason Fortuno’s corruption by necromancy would ensure that all his enemies were dead; the boy would not be able to stop his newfound power destroying himself and all he cared for. When the dust had settled, and he had licked his wounds, Griffon would return with a new army and finally reign triumphant. His plans had failed, but the necromancer was always quick to think of new ones.
‘Why, William?’ came a voice from beside him. Cornelius stood beside his master, his expression stoic.
‘Cornelius… you traitor! If you hadn’t concealed him… it wouldn’t have come to this if you hadn’t…’
‘It would never have happened if you had swallowed your pride. You killed your greatest friends without remorse; you’ve destroyed life after innocent life pursuing a twisted dream. Your bitterness and hate cost you everything in the end.’
The necromancer angrily went to reply, but could find no answer. Cornelius was right. He sank to his knees, and remained very still. Alice, Bernard, Vladimir, Sarah, even Evanna, who had eventually been consumed by necromancy and died an insane wreck, pleading for the end at the hands of Vladimir and Thomas Marshall. Everyone who he ever loved or who ever loved him was lost. And all because of him.
‘No…I simply will not give in!’ Griffon protested, but with little conviction. He had been fighting for so long to build his dream and make others see the right way, when maybe he was the one who had been wrong.
‘William… there used to be so much good in you. There is still time. Do some good now.’
Swallowing hard, and lifting up his head to the sky, William Griffon, his energy already greatly reduced by his exertions, extended his arms to Jason Fortuno. He called out, his voice rising above the tumult.
‘For all I’ve done… and all I might have done… I’m sorry.’ Then, Griffon took the young man’s head in his and kiss his forehead. The great wind was stilled, and the darkness that surrounded Jason began to fade. The necromancer smiled despite his pain as he absorbed the darkness into his own body. As the remainder of his life ebbed away, he whispered to his dying familiar, once again reduced to the form of a crow;
‘Why ever did I do that Cornelius?’
‘Peace.’ came the serene reply. As the wind died down, William Griffon thought of Alice, smiled, and closed his eyes for the final time.
‘He… gave his life to end what he started.’ Simon remarked, his voice catching in his throat. The battlefield was completely silent as the combatants all pondered William Griffon’s final act in life. ‘Gentleman, your troops are to stand down. There will be no further bloodshed today.’
He looked around for the assassin, but he had vanished from sight.
“I guess… the war is over.”