VI. Game Over
Sarevok and Viconia were fighting the last of both the Amnish and Zhentarim forces on the battlefield. Almost every soldier who wasn’t dead had run off crazily, either lost into the nearby forests or drowned in Athkatla’s moat.
Sarevok felt a tingling on his forearm and drew out a card from the sleeve of his armor. Upon it was the laughing Jester surrounded by the Black Sun. The glowing card exploded into a portal.
"Time to go turn the Throne into a fool's court!" he laughed. "Don't worry my dark maiden, we'll be back to Ust Natha in time for the midnight sacrifices!" He grabbed Viconia and they leapt through the portal.
Cyrex stood on an endless plain of hard-packed sand. The sky was a swirl of light and dark. Two suns, glowing golden-white and black-purple were high in the sky, as Tyr and Cyric looked on.
"I challenge you, Kan!" Cyrex screamed, brandishing Lies and Madness. "Be a sport!”
A column of light appeared briefly and in it stood the avatar of Kan. Strong but limber, a monk's white fighting robe over his bronze skin, he peered at Cyrex calmly while holding his katanas Truth and Clarity perfectly still.
Cyrex laughed again as a portal opened behind him and Sarevok and Viconia stepped through.
He stopped laughing abruptly as another portal opened behind Kan, and Eryx and Luna appeared.
"Ah, how sweet" Cyrex dismissed them and swung Lies and Madness about, “the brothers who once faced each other.”
“This time, Jester, you shall face us side by side,” Eryx growled.
"Let combat begin!" Tyr and Cyric commanded in unison.
Cyrex and Kan leapt high in the air at one another. Their four katanas clashed and they spun around one another in the air, gazes and blades locked. Sarevok charged Eryx, who charged back but flapped his wings and flew over him at the last moment, kicking him in the head as he went by. Viconia and Luna each stayed back, preparing their deadliest spells.
Swords still together, Cyrex and Kan landed between Eryx and Sarevok. With Truth and Lies still crossed, Cyrex swung Madness out to meet Eryx’s arcing Foebane and Purifier while Kan sent Clarity out to parry the incoming Soul Ravager. Just before Luna got her spell off, Viconia cast a small but powerful earthquake at her feet which knocked her to the ground, stunned.
Now Cyrex had fully turned to face Eryx. Bastard swords clanged against katanas. Eryx brought around an armored wing for a smashing buffet, but Cyrex somersaulted over it and tagged Eryx with a katana as he came down. Kan was now a blizzard of golden-white katana blades against Sarevok, but the deft and mighty warrior managed to parry the speedy blows with clever economy of movement. Viconia cast slaying ability into her Skullmace and ran at Eryx behind his back.
Kan became a blur of katanas and legs and began to slash and pummel Sarevok, but the enhanced warrior bore it, regenerating almost as fast as he could be hurt. Eryx managed to push Cyrex back as well but Viconia was barreling down behind him with her mace glowing bright red. Just before she reached the knight, the now-lucid Luna came over the men's heads and smashed Viconia's weapon out of the way with her Moonmace. The priestesses swung at each other, their blows crossing one another or being blocked by their shields. Sarevok, though taking hits, was pushing Kan back and soon he backed into Cyrex. Eryx flew over them, getting a gash across Cyrex's forehead as he went by and then descending upside-down on Sarevok. Flapping his wings rapidly, he hovered above his uncle, swinging both swords wildly while Sarevok ducked and feigned to avoid them while swinging his own huge sword high in the air. Cyrex and Kan had pushed off each other's backs and spun to face each other again, katanas blazing.
“How’s the mundane rivvel existence, dear niece?” Viconia hissed at Luna as their Skullmace and Moonmace crossed. “It’s never too late to rediscover the ways of the drow.”
“The drow ways have their place,” Luna winked, “and it is not on the battlefield.”
They pushed apart and then swung in with maces and blocked with shields again.
Eryx swooped low under Soul Ravager and landed in a kneel by Sarevok, pummeling his sides with wing buffets before his uncle could drove him back with more swings. Sarevok swung in with a mighty overhead blow and Eryx stopped it between his crossed bastard swords.
“You were a fool, nephew, to spare your brother,” Sarevok bellowed as they pushed their blades against one another, locked in a war of dominance.
“And you were a fool, uncle, to oppose yours,” Eryx roared back and knocked Sarevok’s feet out from under him with an edge-on wing sweep.
Sarevok began falling and Eryx kept Soul Ravager away from him with Purifier while drawing back Foebane to thrust forward again and skewer Sarevok. Sarevok’s flesh was already healing in moments, but as he fell the bastard sword cut up through his torso and Eryx expertly twisted his wrist at just the right moment, shredding his uncle’s heart.
“Die!!!!!” Eryx thundered.
“Ssinjin eoul!” Viconia screamed and ran from her duel with Luna over toward Sarevok and froze Eryx with a hold spell. As she bent over Sarevok to resurrect him, Luna fired her a spell after her. Just as rejuvenating blue light was pouring from Viconia’s hands to the slain warrior, a maze spell formed around them and pulled her and the fallen tyrant she gripped to another dimension and out of sight.
Cyrex, seeing Eryx’s helpless state, spun out of his intense swordfight with Kan and charged the frozen cavalier, Kan rushing after him. Luna had already begun another maze spell and fired it at Cyrex. The jester screamed as it began to suck him away, but reached back pushes Madness through Kan’s thigh, pulling the monk away along with him.
Eryx unfroze and the young couple looked at one another, dumbfounded.
Flying across the multiverse, Kan gritted his teeth at the searing pain in his leg, feeling the madness from the blade quickly dissipate in his pure and noble blood. As he and Cyrex popped into a pure-white maze dimension, they fell apart from one another and tumbled through the labyrinth before coming to a stop.
Kan was up in an instant, katanas and ears perked. There was a minute of eerie silence, but the monk was confident nothing would escape his acute senses. He then heard faint laughter echoing from far across the maze, bouncing off the walls, floors, and ceilings, which were nearly indistinguishable for all being the same smooth, featureless white.
“Hah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Cyrex’s voice echoed. “Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s the new murder-god and where is he at?”
Kan heard the sound of hands and feet smacking the floor rhythmically, getting louder but still coming from all directions. He closed his eyes and concentrated. His keen mind parsed the exact directions and amplitudes of sounds coming into his ears and in his mind formed the implied geometry of the surrounding maze. He saw a mental map of the corridors and walls extending the three dimensions away from him, he saw rays tracing each sound in his ears back through the maze, and he could deduce the location and path of the cartwheeling Cyrex.
Then the sounds disappeared but Kan could mentally see his final trajectory. Cyrex was tumbling off a floor through the air over his head, a tight ball with katanas sticking out. Kan opened his eyes, squatted, and then leapt straight into the air at his assailant, nose and katanas pointed up.
Cyrex unfolded from his roll, katanas pointed straight down. Truth and Lies clanged along one another’s blades, as did Clarity and Madness and the two headbutted one another as their swords locked at the hilts. Kan did a midair split and pressed his feet against the vertical walls around them, and spun around in his wedged position as Cyrex fell into him and began to spin around him. Cyrex continued falling to the floor, blades now pointed up, and Kan had already pulled in his feet and now fell upon Cyrex. Cyrex landed in a smooth backward roll on the floor and sprung forward again, coming into Kan from the side in the air. Their blades locked again and they spun around one another in midair, then each landed on one leg while kicking with the other. They swung their katanas around in circles, trying to gain inside advantage, and ended up locking through each other’s elbows. They tried standing sweeps at each other with symmetric moves but their knees locked, and they stared into one another’s eyes across their blades.
“Yield, Cyrex, son of Cyran, son of Cyric,” Kan stated.
“Never, Kan, son of Onyx, son of Bhaal,” Cyrex retorted.
“Although your grandfather killed mine, I shall kill you,” Kan began.
Suddenly Cyrex lit up eagerly. “Never! You killed my father!”
Cyrex looked impatient. “Well?”
Kan arched a quizzical eyebrow. “What?”
“Ahem…then you say….” Cyric leaned in suggestively.
“What are you talking about?”
Cyrex sighed. “Ok, look, when I saw, ‘Never! You killed my father,’ YOU say, ‘no, Cyrex, I AM you father!’ “
Kan looked even more confused. “That’s ridiculous. I’m a monk. And besides, that sounds like a villainous line.”
Cyrex sighed. “Well, normally yeah, but since I’m younger, you’re the one in power, and I’m usurping it, and since you did kill my father, we have to do it this way.”
“But I’m not your father,” Kan repeated.
“Yeah, okay, I know, but it’s the closest fit. We have to do this.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Look, in case Mr. Deadpan Monk hasn’t noticed, I’m a PARODIC villain. And that means I’m supposed to work those lines in somewhere, possibly with a still-easily-recognizable variation.
“You just do! I HAVE to do this one.”
“Can’t we just finish our climatic katana duel?”
“Just say it.”
“Or what? You’ll swordfight me? Yeah, swordfight me.”
“Yeah!! Um…nevermind. Very funny. Or I’ll….SING!”
“Do your worst!”
“Okay……ahem…..Oh baby, baby….”
“Oh baby, baby…how was I supposed to know….”
“Um, forget that thing about your worst…I didn’t mean it. Really.”
“That something wasn’t riiiyiiight….”
“That’s not funny. Stop it.”
“Oh baby, baby, I shouldn’t have let you go….”
“This is a maze dimension, not the ninth hell…”
“And now you’re out of siiight, yeah,”
“Comedic villains aren’t supposed to be this cruel.”
Cyrex somersaulted back, landing with his chainmail stuffed with two skulls and twisted in a knot to reveal his midriff, his hair tied into pigtails, and he started spinning and dancing while casting mirror images that mimiced his every movement. “Show me…how you want it to be….”
“Most monks would have performed ritual suicide by now.”
“Tell me baby, ‘cause I need to know now, oh because…”
“Even Cyric wouldn’t stoop this low.”
The mirror images joined in the chorus. “My loneliness, is killing me…I must confess…I still believe….still belieeeeve…”
“The bliss of nonexistence harkens…”
“When I’m not with you I lose my miiiiiind….give me a siiiiiiiign…”
Kan gave him a sign, all right. Two of them.
“Hit me baby one more time!”
“You got it,” Kan’s arms blurred in a series of punches which sent telekinetic fists through the air, taking out the mirror images and then knocking Cyrex back into the wall behind him as his face and chest were pummeled.
Cyrex cast an invisibility spell on himself and ran. The following rain of phantom kicks and punches hit only air.
“Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide, sometimes I’m scared of you….” Cyrex sang. Kan concentrated and deduced his location from his sound, then send another stream of telekinetic blows at him.
Cyrex reappeared, bruised and smashing into another wall, but laughing insanely. “You drive my crazy, I’m so excited but I’m in too deep, crazy but it feeeeels alright” he sidestepped the attacks and sent his own cloud of magic missiles back at Kan, sending the monk flying into the opposite wall as his flesh steamed from the energy.
Kan leapt through the air at Cyrex but the jester fired another volley of magic missiles which sent the monk crashing to the wall again. “Oops, I did it again, got lost in the game, but I’m not that innocent now…”
“Guilty of the most heinous act imaginable, I’d say.”
“Well I’m not just a mortal, but not yet a god,” Cyrex smiled and batted his eyelashes.
“I’m going to do the multiverse a big favor and silence you permanently,” Kan sighed and raised his bare hands in a careful guard stance. Cyrex drew a crossbow and began firing a stream of bolts at him. Concentrating and moving at supernormal speed, Kan sidestepped the first bolt, watching it move past at a relative crawl. He pulled a shoulder down to dodge the second, then starting leaning back at his knees and twisting his arms and torso artfully to dodge the rest of them.
Cyrex sneered, threw his crossbow aside, and ran at Kan with his katanas swinging. Speeding up even further, Kan leapt straight up into the air with his arms outstretched and gracefully kicked Cyrex hard in the chest and sent him flying back. Kan landed and sent telekinetic punches after his opponent but the jester began running up and across the wall, keeping ahead of them and then landing by Kan. But before he could strike, Kan’s fists became a blur as he pummeled Cyrex mercilessly on the chest. Cyrex stumbled back and Kan somersaulted through the air over his head, coming down behind him and gripping him in a tight headlock.
“Do you know why I’m going to defeat you?” Kan asked rhetorically. “Because, Jester, you don’t care about anything. You don’t value anything. You don’t love anything! You don’t BELIEVE in anything!!”
“Anything there is, is nothing,” Cyrex sputtered, “Nothing is permanent - there isn’t anything to believe in. It’s all a big jest. Life is a passing joke. My existence is just a game.” Cyrex felt Kan begin the swift jerk to break his neck.
“…so that’s basically how last week went,” Onyx finished his story for Spectator Beholder. “This week’s been pretty quiet. We resurrected Sir Delryn and Lady Fentan, all had a big victory celebration at the Order together, and now my son Eryx and his girlfriend Luna are finally back for a visit before their next demon-killing spree. Of course, it sounds like her aunt resurrected my brother too, and I’m sure they’re already back in Ust Natha hatching their next scheme. So if some Zhentarim mining-slaves bust through a wall of your hive at some point, you know who to blame. “
“Man, don’t you just hate it when some psycho tries to take over the world or a diety portfolio,” Spectator sighed, his eyestalks looking at each other briefly and then nodding in agreement. “You’d never believe my week. So this insane old elder orb – let’s call him Xoxonoxorox, if I said his full name your head with probably explode - decides he’s going to get some of his buddies together and start telekinetically constructing an army of iron golems – all to help with the chores around his lair of course, he says. So my wife and I go down to the Hive Mother and start saying – well, telepathically - how this looks fishy, etc. etc. etc. – oh, and you’d never BELIEVE how many forms you have to fill out – we use color spray spells to do that, by the way – just to file a complaint with the beholder bureaucracy. Hey, if you think your human officials and lawyers make things a real maze of rules and regs and put it all in indecipherable language – well hey, think about how bad these all-intelligent beholder-crats can make things. Say, that reminds me, I hear that mindflayer law is pretty bad too. I’ve got this one friend Izzzzyxkkiy who went to mindflayer law school and said the term ‘cramming’ apparently originated with their brain-eating right before an exam.”
“Well, Amn’s bureaucracy isn’t nearly as bad as it was before Nalia…”
“So anyway, I FINALLY get the ear – I mean, thoughts – of the Hive Mother, and does she see a threat? Noooooo. But then, sure enough, Xoxonoxorox comes marching in and with his friends and their golems, seeking domination, power, conquest, the usual. You’d think such a smart orb could be a little more original.”
“So what happened?
“One of my kids had the brilliant idea of making some magnet golems, and all the iron golems just stuck to them, and then none of the golems could really move anymore. So Xoxonoxorox and his pals just tucked stalk and ran.”
“Typical. Well, I’ve really got to go change – we’re going to see the Qauyle & Garrick Circus tonight – hey wait a minute – I heard tonight has a new routine with a beholder – that wouldn’t be - “
“Yep!” Spectator grinned. “The new hypnotizing act! I have some great ideas too – like I’ve got this one volunteer and I’m going to hypnotize him into believing his pet hamster is actually a ‘Miniature Giant Space Hamster’ that can talk, and I’ve got this elf who I’m going to hypnotize into thinking the world is doomed to end in just a few minutes, and this other guy….”
“It’s gonna be a long night…”
VI. Game Over
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