Bartok had departed from the Fortress and had gone to Storm Haven. He was going to enter into the South by boat, and had realized that until he got into the South, he needed to conceal his identity. Once he had arrived in Storm Haven, he had used Magic to conceal his Robe and his weapons. He had placed a special concealing spell on his staff to make it appear as an old man’s walking stick, and had altered his appearance so as not to be recognized. His hair was white as snow, and his beard was silver and black. No one would recognize him unless they had the strength of Magic to see through his disguise.
He entered the ship, and took the cabin he had made arrangements for. He had stopped in to see Delvina before he had gone to Storm Haven, and told her that no matter what she heard, she wasn’t to interfere. She was afraid, and he told her not to be, no matter what happened, Morcandon wouldn’t be a threat any longer once he was finished. She was saddened by what he said, and gave him what he needed for the trip. In her store of lore, knowledge, spells, and potions, she had one thing that she had kept for him, it was an enchanted ring and amulet. One that was particularly powerful. He had made it as a gift for Morcandon and was going to give it to him when he passed the trials and The Well of Souls, when he failed, he had asked Delvina to keep it for him until he needed it.
As he sat in the ships cabin, feeling the gentle rocking of the river, his mind wandered back to an earlier time. A time when he had found a young man, he was fifteen or sixteen years old, and he was a born Wizard. He had been stumbling along using Magic without any discipline, and was about to make a horrible mistake when Bartok the Blue rescued him from his folly. He was trying to used Magic to hunt a stag, and he had no idea what he was doing, and almost inadvertently unleashed a horrible beast. The stag wasn’t a stag at all, it was a demon in the form of a stag and if he had unleashed that spell, he would have caused there to be a portal that would allow the Fallen to come into the Free Lands.
He had taken the boy as an apprentice, and had trained him well, taught him the same way as he had taught Sarzon, the difference was he had felt the draw of Dark Magic that day and wasn’t able to resist it. When he had failed in the Well of Souls, He opened that portal and went south. It had taken Bartok and the combined Power of all the Wizards in Benelvin to seal that portal, and raise the enchantments around Benelvin. Since that time it had been an ongoing battle with Morcandon, and he was on his way now for a final battle that would kill either one or both. But no matter what, Morcandon would come to an end.
The trip down the river to the headlands and the port would take two weeks to a month, depending on recent rains. He was using this time to prepare, reflect, and regret. His main regret was that he hadn’t seen the darkness in Morcandon, he seemed so innocent, and he was an eager learner, listened to his instructions, and was able to perform all of the spells, incantations, enchantments, and use all the potions. He was the best apprentice he had ever had, with the exception of Sarzon, the difference was he had raised Sarzon, and he had helped him to find the Darkness within himself and exorcise it.
He put all this aside, it was time to prepare. He had to go over everything he had ever seen Morcandon perform. As an apprentice, and then as the Black Necromancer. He recalled in a projection of memory the day they had met. He had felt Dark Magic growing and had went to investigate, when he had used the Magic he had, Morcandon had brought Bartok the Blue to where he was, and believing that Morcandon hadn’t realized that what he was doing involved Dark Magic, he had undertaken the task of training him properly to use the Magic of Light and overcome his own fears and become a Wizard in his own right, as well as one day perhaps to take Bartok’s place. He hadn’t noticed how Morcandon had always asked how Dark Magic worked, and why the Magic of Light was stronger, but in his explanations, he had inadvertently showed him how to use Dark Magic. Now he was going South to confront him a final time.
He had ventured South several times after he had passed the trials, and had become a very powerful Wizard. He had taken on many tasks, had been appointed unto the Council, and had taken his seat there and had remained for quite some time. Morcandon then began to make attacks into the North, and with those attacks, it became necessary for him to leave Benelvin, and return to the Fortress, where he took up residence, and had several Duels with Morcandon over the next five hundred years. He had been alone in the Fortress for a long time, and had found likely candidates and had sent them on to Benelvin to be trained. The agreement with Delvina and the Council was that they would train them, and once they had, they would stay in Benelvin until such a time as they had enough Wizards to face the Dark Mages and Morcandon.
How watched the river carry him south, day by day, the banks would sweep by, the river moved slowly, and the days dragged by, if he didn’t need to enter the South unnoticed and unrecognized, he could have made the trip instantaneously. This was the only way to get there undetected, he settled in and had continued to prepare, but soon, he would have to forgo using magic of any kind and move through the South until he found where Morcandon was at, and then when the time was right, he would need to gain access to his location before revealing himself and starting a battle that would be his last. over Morcandon that he might have. Having all his weapons with him, under his cloak, he made his way to different establishments in the settlement, listening for talk about Morcandon.
He hadn’t heard him mentioned. When looking at the people who lived in this realm, he saw that there were Men, Dark Elves, with their grey skin, red eyes and white hair, called the Delvin, and there was Dark Dwarves, these dwarves were different than the dwarves in the north, they were heavily armed and armored, they didn’t mine, these were warriors. They only cared about war. They sought it, and would fight anyone or anything. He learned that in the South, open war and open hostilities were normal. They fought constantly and the whole of the land was in chaos.
Into this land of chaos, mistrust, evil, and war, he was looking for the Dark Mages, and Morcandon. It seemed to him an almost overwhelming task. How would he find out where Morcandon was at, without tipping his hand by the use of Magic? Then he overheard a snippet of conversation that gave him a direction. The Elves were talking to a group of men, and one of them referred to the Black Wizard, and the dwarves immediately stopped talking, and had turned to look at the speaker. It was a man, he had been horribly scarred, and when he spoke of the Black Wizard, he had said he was preparing an attack on the North. One of the Dwarves rose, and moving so fast it was a blur, he took off the head of the man who had referred to the Black Wizard. Bartok wasn’t sure if he did it because he was his agent, or if he took his head because he hated Morcandon.
He waited it out, had a meal, drank a tankard of ale, and continued to listen. He got his answer about the dwarves. They were waiting on someone to contact them, and then they would be going to meet with Morcandon, somewhere in the south. He took the position of a casual traveler, looking for good he might be interested in trading for. He waited, and when the dwarves were starting to get anxious, the agent came in to meet them. He was a man, solidly built, and armed, he was a soldier, and he was going to take the dwarves to their appointed meeting. He waited for them to leave, then he followed as closely as he dared.
They had gone to the riverfront, entered a ship, which immediately castoff. He wanted to get on that ship, but was going to have to find a means to follow the ship, down the river. He hadn’t gone far when he was accosted by a group of guards who wanted to know why he was lurking around the docks instead of having a room and waiting until daybreak. They were going to take him and put him in the holding cells of the guard tower, and he didn’t have time to sit in a cell. There were only four of them, and they didn’t have horns to sound an alarm, so he took them on. Using his staff, he took out the first two so fast that the other two were caught off guard, one recovered quickly and stepped back letting his companion take the brunt of the attack. Once Bartok had dispatched the third one, he was face to face with the fourth one and he was good with a sword.
They fought for a few minutes, Bartok with his staff, and the guard with a sword, they engaged, and struck blows, and then with blinding speed, Bartok raised his staff over his head, spinning it furiously, and then he took out the guard. He took off after the last guard fell, and once he was sure he was a safe distance away, he slowed down, and looked for a hiding place. Once he found an abandoned building he ducked inside, and got to a dark corner to rest.
He had underestimated Morcandon, he thought he was only the Black Necromancer, but it would seem he was the master of the whole of the south. He had heard the Guards say that they didn’t want to fail, the Black Ruler would make them pay with their lives. He apparently had learned the power of fear along with the Black Arts.
What made the Dark Magic powerful, and what made it so hard, all Dark Magic was a reflection, in fact, whatever a Wizard used to create a spell, put up a ward, use enchantments, the Dark Mages used the mirror reverse. If a word could encourage a plant to grow, a wound to heal, or certain runes or symbols were placed in a specific order to cause a specific effect, then to use Dark Magic, the user would use the same words said in reverse, written in reverse, or the order of the runes or symbols would be written in the reverse order, as if looking in a mirror.
He had often pondered the implications and had as yet come up with a way to counter their magic, just saying it in the right order wouldn’t do it, it was almost as if once they reversed the spell, the original spell it countered was nullified and both would cancel each other out. He was still pondering that when he fell asleep. He awoke with a start. He had been asleep for hours, and following after the Dark Dwarves was out of the question. He would have to start over again. First things first, he was going to have to get out of the building and before that, he would need to change his countenance again, they would be looking for a man with white hair and a long white beard, and he couldn’t use his normal hair color of black, so he decided he would assume a dirty brown color, and changed his raiment so that it looked more travel worn, he had to use Magic to make the transformation, but he hoped that it was small enough to go unnoticed. He was sure that with Morcandon being the ruler here, that his belief being that no one would dare enter his realm, especially a Wizard that he wouldn’t have safeguards everywhere.
If he was right, he would have enough time to find out where Morcandon’s stronghold was located, get inside, and then have the Wizard’s duel that was inevitable. So far he had escaped detection, and hoped it would continue, and that his luck would hold out. This was the most dangerous thing he had done in centuries. If he was caught, they would take everything, and he would be held in a dungeon somewhere naked, and if the enchantments were designed right, he wouldn’t be able to break them unless he figured out a way to counter the Dark Magic and it not be a cancellation of the Magic, or a repeat of what happened when they fought the Fire Wraiths at the lake.
He travelled on along the river for a few days, finding secluded places to hide, and then he came to a long bridge over the river, and he could see the river winding away and in the far distance, he saw what he was sure was Morcandon’s stronghold. A large black Fortress, with spired columns, that came to sharp points, around it was what looked like from his vantage point, a burning moat. He was concerned about that, if that was a burning moat, unless he was able to hide amongst something crossing over that moat, he would have to use Magic to get to the other side. That would wreck his plan, he didn’t want to reveal himself until he got inside.
He continued to travel towards the Black Fortress and as he went along his way, he saw more Dark Elves, Men given over to evil, and Dark Dwarves as well. He saw all manner of vile and evil beasts, and as he drew near, he saw that on the ramparts, were chimera, their leathery wings up and he could see that the moat wasn’t on fire, it had fire wraiths patrolling the edges, set to flame anyone who came bent on attack. He saw a patrol of Manticores, they were flying across the sky as well as ravens and bats. This was a place of pure evil.
He saw the trolls, ogres, and goblins last, they were inside the keep, there was no gate, portcullis, or door. It was as if he was expected, and that the door was open for him. He started to step forward, and then he saw the trap. The reason the place was wide open was that Morcandon had placed a trap, the seal was half on the bridge, half on the landing, and as he scanned the bridge, he saw that there were traps of different sizes and were located all across the bridge, some of them overlapping.
He wasn’t sure how he would cross the bridge without setting off a trap or exposing his real self, when a voice called to him from the parapet. It not only called to him, it called him by name, it was one of the Dark Mages, and he invited him into the Fortress. He was shocked, no one knew he was here, and he had only used enough magic to alter his appearance, and no more. He knew that crossing that bridge or responding in any way, would seal his fate. They would take him and that would be the end. He looked up at the Dark Robed figure and said “You must be mistaken, I am just a travelling bard, what was that name?” The Dark Mage wouldn’t be fooled that easily, he must be careful here and then he would need to go north out of here and back to Benelvin. His mind guards were up, the kind that you can’t detect. When once again the Dark Mage called to him “I know that you think you have deceived us into seeing you as a brown haired man, but we can see you, the Magic of Light is emanating from you, Bartok the Blue.”
How could they see who he was, and then he realized that here in the south, anyone who was imbued with Magic, if it was Magic of Light, would stick out to a Dark Mage like a beacon light on a hill. In an explosion of blue light, he took his real form, armed to the teeth and using the technique that Sarzon had discovered he mounted his flying sigil, and went over the wall and into the Black Fortress.
When he crossed the wall, he was preparing as he levitated up towards the wall, his hands were a blur. He had placed every enchantment, defense spell, and sigil, he knew in case the Dark Mages attacked, and he had to defend before he got to Morcandon. The Dark Mages didn’t attack him, they let him cross, and told him that the Necromancer was waiting for him in the Great Hall. They let him pass without a fight.
He knew this was the most dangerous thing he had ever done. He had never come to the south before. He had come here with the intent of ending this ongoing battle he had been having with Morcandon, and was ready to end it all. Then he entered the Great Hall. He was still levitating, and he came to the large doors, and there he landed and put the disk between him and Morcandon. This was the first time he had been inside his fortress and it seemed eerily familiar, then it dawned on him, Morcandon had designed this Fortress, called the Black Fortress, to be a mirror image of his fortress prior to him changing it when he had left for Benelvin to put Sarzon through the Trials.
Morcandon sat at the top of a twelve step platform in a high backed armchair, it was a black chair with red leather upholstery, and it had his sigil on the faces of the chair arms, it looked like a great black throne. He sat upon the throne as a Dark Lord, and Master of the South, not the Black Necromancer who kept sending Dark Mages or came himself to the North to destroy anything they could, and to fight the Wizards and Sorcerers in the North.
Morcandon looked exactly the way he had the last time that he and Bartok had been together as Wizard and Apprentice. He had Black hair, which hung down well past his shoulder’s, the bangs were tied back Elf style, and he had a goatee instead of a beard, he had an olive complexion, with pock marks on his cheeks from an explosion during his apprenticeship. He wore a black cassock, and over the cassock was a black hooded robe with red runes all along the hemline, the cuffs, and the border of the robe. He invited Bartok to climb the stairs and come up to the raised dais at the end of the room where he sat upon his great chair. Bartok knew that if he refused, it would start the Duel, and he wasn’t ready yet, so he climbed the steps to the dais.
When he reached the top, Morcandon rose and faced him, hands down, palms open. He made no threatening gestures, instead he just spoke to Bartok. “We have been dueling each other to a stand still for five hundred years. I tire of the duels, and I tire of the division. There should be no division amongst us, the Light and Dark shouldn’t be warring, we should be united. Let’s end this constant warring and attacks, drop the border protections and live in peace.” It was an intriguing proposal, it would be better to be at peace, and not constantly warring with each other, rather than being on guard constantly from attacks from Morcandon’s forces.
Bartok wasn’t that trusting of his former Apprentice, he had made too many attacks, had attacked the Fortress four years earlier when he and the Wizards first came back from Benelvin. He looked at Morcandon, his dark black eyes like liquid pools of ink, and said “How would we maintain this peace you speak of? None of the Wizards in the North has ever entered your domain or came here and attacked you or your Dark Mages and your creatures.”
Morcandon looked at him and then he said “I will maintain the peace, I will destroy any Dark Mage or creature that goes beyond the border, and your Wizards won’t come here and make any attacks.” Bartok considered his proposition, then he said “That would be a problem for us, every time one of your Dark Mages or evil creatures come north, we have to heal the land, the Dark Magic kills all living things it touches. Your fire Wraiths poisoned a lake and killed everything in it. We are still trying to heal that lake.”
Morcandon, inclined his head slightly, and looking through his black brows, started to speak and Bartok brought all of his defenses up at once. He had been in this situation with Morcandon before. The last time, he got the jump on him and it took eighty years for him to heal, it had also caused him to have to stay in Benelvin for sixty years while Delvina and the Council worked tirelessly to heal him from that attack. He wouldn’t be taken by surprise again.
Morcandon’s first strike hit a wall of enchantments and vaporized. The strike also weakened Bartok’s defenses. Then it dawned on Bartok what had been escaping him for centuries. He quickly put what he had just had an epiphany of, he made a reflecting spell. One that would reflect whatever Morcandon did, and would make the spell he used return to him like he was looking at it in a mirror. The spell worked, the next strike required no magic from Bartok, the reflecting spell absorbed the spell and then reflected it back at Morcandon. When the reflection hit Morcandon, it knocked him from the dais to the floor of the chamber. Bartok brought his sigil under his feet and he sped into the air above Morcandon.
Morcandon was taken by surprise, and every time he cast a spell, it would reflect back at him, and would do to him whatever he had tried to do to Bartok. It infuriated him, and he brought his staff to bear towards Bartok, Bartok was ready. He had his staff in hand, and waited, if the reflecting enchantment failed, he would fire a blast of energy from his staff. The first blast was reflected with ease, Morcandon became more furious, and the angrier he became, the stronger his attacks became. He was almost in a rage, then, Bartok dropped to the floor, dropped all of his defenses, sat in a meditation pose with his staff in one hand, and his palm outstretched towards Morcandon, and he whispered YHWH, and the whole room began to shake and shimmer. Morcandon screamed, like a wounded animal, and shrieked. In a puff of smoke, he was gone. The residue of the evil in the room made Bartok want to run. He knew that Morcandon wasn’t dead, he was shrieking because Bartok had invoked the Name of God, which no evil could stand in the presence of. It didn’t destroy him, it just made him flee.
Bartok knew already that this fight wasn’t over, and if he tried to invoke the Name of God to many times. The Fallen would appear and he knew he wasn’t strong enough to take them on. No mortal was. It would take an angel, and more likely one of the Archangels. He wasn’t falling into Morcandon’s trap.
Since his true Identity had been revealed, he made a portal and stepped through to the other side of the bridge outside the Black Fortress, then he brought his power to bear. He wasn’t going to hurl Magic at the Black Fortress. He had realized that Sarzon had given him the answer when he asked that question about how come Dark Magic was so hard to overcome. He placed an enchantment, like the one on the border of Benelvin, except he wasn’t trying to encircle a huge area, he placed the enchantment as a dome over the Black Fortress. It wreaked havoc on the inside of the dome, the Dark Mages were attempting to take the dome down and in the process were battering the Black Fortress to pieces, they were killing the Fire Wraiths, Goblins, Dark Elves, Black Dwarves, Men, the Manticores and Chimera, everything but the trolls and ogres, and it would seem Morcandon. He was there standing on what was left of his Fortress, cursing Bartok the Blue, except everything he hurled at him, was reflecting back.
Morcandon finally stopped, Bartok knew the fight was far from over. He had a respite from the duel, and would wait for Morcandon to figure out how to reverse the enchantment. What he hoped the result would be was that all of his evil army, Dark Mages, and beasts would be destroyed and the only thing left would be Morcandon. As he watched it play out, he sat down on the road cross legged, on his levitation sigil, and floated up into the air and backed away from the Fortress until Morcandon could walk through the dome he had placed. It would work until they stopped firing magic at it, then it would come down, but slowly, and once it was down, he would be dueling an enraged Necromancer. The most powerful of all the Dark Wizards.
The Dark Mages kept trying to take down the dome, and one by one they were destroyed. All of the rest of Morcandon’s forces were already dead. Even the trolls and ogres. He hadn’t seen any cyclops here, but he knew they were in the south somewhere. Then the Dark Mages, one by one, vaporized and once they were done, the only living thing inside was Morcandon. He had been hurt by the reflecting enchantment, and once Bartok saw that he was all that was left, he dropped the dome as he rose to duel. Morcandon charged across the bridge and once he cleared the last trap, Bartok hit him in the chest with one of the Magic sigils that they had learned from Tandriel.
It took Morcandon square in the chest and had knocked him back fifty feet. What he didn’t know was that once he crossed that bridge, Bartok had raised the dome once again, and he couldn’t transport back inside. He was caught in a trap one that Bartok had carefully laid. The Necromancer had nowhere to run. Bartok had raised another dome around he and Morcandon, and he was very careful not to cast any kind of energy bolts towards him, the spell wasn’t one sided. It would reflect Light Magic and turn it to Dark Magic.
He told Morcandon to face him with weapons, not Magic. That didn’t appeal to Morcandon very much. He had never been able to best Bartok with any kind of weapon, or with the Martial arts. Bartok had beaten him every time. But he had no choice if he fired something at Bartok and it missed, when it hit the dome, it would be reflected back as harmless to Bartok and devastating to him.
He brought his staff up to the spar position, and Bartok faced him. He had known that if he put Morcandon in a place where he couldn’t use his Magic, he would face him with weapons. This would be their last duel.
He had forced Morcandon to face him with weapons, not Magic, the hardest kind of Wizards duel there is. The only time you can use Magic is if you’re sure that the Magic isn’t going to hit anyplace other than your opponent. They began circling, this would be a physically demanding duel, Bartok was up to it, all the training with Sarzon had him in excellent shape. Morcandon hadn’t dueled with weapons with anyone in five hundred years. The duel was hard, and it was brutal. By the time Morcandon raised his hand for Bartok to stop, he was beaten, bloody, and bruised. They hadn’t even used swords or the Martial Arts. Just with staffs.
Bartok took a defensive stance, and waited, he suspected trick, and Morcandon didn’t disappoint him. When Bartok assumed the defensive position, Morcandon fired a bolt of Magic directly at him. Bartok deflected the bolt with a reflection spell, and when it flew back at Morcandon, it exploded in mid-air. The reflecting enchantment was charged by the use of Magic. the explosion had recharged the dome around them and Morcandon’s desperate attack had made the dome stronger instead of weakening it or making it drop. With Bartok still in control, he had no choice but to face him with weapons again. This time he drew a sword. It wasn’t the sword he had been given as an Apprentice, this was a flaming sword made by the Black Dwarves, and Bartok knew if his sword came into contact with it, both swords would be destroyed. He chose to destroy Morcandon’s sword. If he survived and got back to the North, he could always make another sword.
When the swords struck, the blades turned to dust on impact, Bartok had his staff in his other hand and immediately encircled Morcandon in an enchantment, that caused his body to go stiff. He stood there as if he were frozen. The only thing he could move was his eyes. Bartok dropped the dome, and with Morcandon in tow, he opened a portal to the border. He was going to take him to Benelvin, or he was going to imprison him in the Fortress. He hadn’t decided what to do, beyond getting across the border, when he was attacked on the other side of the portal.
It was a cyclops, and he was in the Shadowlands, an area between the north and south where Magic couldn’t be used, the enchantment wasn’t effected, all Morcandon could do was watch. Knowing that he didn’t have the use of Magic, and with his sword gone, he was at a disadvantage. The Cyclops was fifteen feet tall, over twice his height, and it had the strength to match. He had no way of fighting the Cyclops, he was armed only with a staff that would serve no purpose here. The Cyclops could take the staff and break it as if it were a twig.
He couldn’t out run it with Morcandon in tow. He needed to get out of here and he needed to escape from that Cyclops. It was at least twenty miles to the nearest place he could use Magic. He was desperate, he needed a way out of here and he was looking for any way to get away, when he felt something was wrong, the cyclops would usually continue attacking until they killed whatever they were fighting. But this one had stopped and was staring at Morcandon. Bartok was afraid that Morcandon had somehow broken free of the enchantment, and turned to see what the cyclops was staring at, and then he saw it too. It was one of the large boars that inhabited the Shadowlands. They were over ten feet tall at the shoulder, and had large curving black tusks from the top jaw, large straight tusks from the bottom jaw, and between the tusks on the top jaw and the eyes was another set of tusks, these were curved as well, and it had seen the cyclops.
The huge boar weighed over a thousand pounds, and it charged the cyclops, one of its only natural enemies, and they started fighting. The boar could kill the cyclops, or vice-versa, but Bartok didn’t wait around to find out. He had to make that twenty miles and he was going to have to run most of the way. He had covered ten miles in about five hours, and he needed to stop and rest for a short time. He also needed to drink some ambrosia he had brought south with him when he came, but when he cracked open the stopper, what came out wasn’t ambrosia, it was an ugly brown liquid like a stale stout. He took off the skin, and saw what had changed the ambrosia, it had been pierced during the duel and had absorbed Dark Magic, instead of pouring it out, he stoppered it back up, and they went on. Another five hours at least to get to a place where he could create the portal he wanted. He had plenty of time to think, no matter what he did with Morcandon, unless he was killed, he would be a threat.
There were two places he could take him, it was either Benelvin, where he would be imprisoned somehow, or the room he had prepared centuries earlier that Sarzon, Lorelai, and Lazolon had helped him fortify for exactly this purpose. He decided to go straight to the Fortress and then he would figure out what to do about the Dark Mages that were still in the south, he knew only part of them had been overcome during the battle, there were other Dark Mages still down there and one of them would take over and continue the fight. But the Black Fortress was destroyed. He had left the enchantment their and if anyone tried to use magic there, they would recharge the dome and get trapped.