The Shadow fell to the floor. Blood spilled from his robes. He breathed heavily beneath his dark robes and hood. He was being beaten severely for his failure.

"I am sorry, master," his rasping voice pleaded.

The Master looked down at the robed figure that was asking for forgiveness.

"You are sorry?" the Master bellowed. "Your apprentice failed me. He is dead so I shall punish you instead. There is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. I can only assume that the reason your apprentice failed was because of incompetence on your part."

"Master, please," the Shadow said urgently. "I implore you, give me a second chance."

A new but familiar voice broke into the dim light.

"Why should he?" it said. "You are a failure. A relic of the past that belongs in a chest lost in the sea."
From the shadows stepped a very familiar figure.

"James?" the Shadow whispered in surprise.

The assassin stepped close to the Shadow. "Oh, yes its me," he said.

The Master walked over to the two assassins. "I trust that Mon'diego's spell has made you feel like a new man," the Master said as he stepped into the dim light where the Shadow and his apprentice were.

"That he could use such a spell from so far away in an Omega Faction prison is quite remarkable," James agreed.

"Even more so is the fact that he was able to reunite your soul with you body and mind," the Master mused. "I want you to get him back for me, James. By all means necessary, I must have that wizard back. I cannot win this war without my apprentice by my side."

"His magic is almost as powerful as mine and I will not let the Omega Faction have him again," the Master shouted. "Go, assassin. Succeed where your master had failed. My armies are now at your disposal. Do with them as you would but get me back my apprentice."

"It will be done, my lord," James bowed to the Master before turning and walking out of the chambers.

"Ah, now where were we?" the Master laughed as he snapped his fingers and the Shadow was once again buffeted and battered by unseen minions under the Master's control.

"This will teach you to fail," he said angrily. "If I do not win this war I will never be able to achieve my full greatness. Without a major victory how will I ever gain permanent passage back to my Realm? I cannot afford to have a bumbling second in command."

The attacks on the Shadow ceased. The assassin looked up at his master. He tried to gurgle something through the blood that was filling up in his mouth.

"As of this moment consider yourself relieved of command," the Master told the Shadow. "You are banished from all of my lands. If I or any of my minions ever set eye on you again you will be killed."

The Shadow took one last look at his master and then heaved himself to his feet.

"I will never forget this betrayal, master," he said as he swung his robes around himself and disappeared in a pillar of black smoke.

"Damn, another one gone," the Master seemed angry but then began to chuckle. "But why should I worry about a single assassin when I will soon have the greatest weapons that the Realm has ever known under my sole command."

A single soldier ventured into the Master's chambers. "My lord," he stumbled over the words.

The Master waved his hand towards him.

"The test firing of the Lightning Bolt of the Gods has been a complete success," the soldier said a little more confidently.

"Then the end is beginning," the Master said, the very sound of his voice causing the soldier to drop dead on the ground.

"Let the final phase commence!"

To be continued…