Shadow and Flame

By Justin J. Conidaris

The room was large. Far too large in the man's opinion, but he dared not say as much to the hooded, cloaked people surrounding him at the high, circular table in the very center of the dimly lit room with only one entrance. There were 18 of them in all, a council of evil that had ruled over the underworld of sorcery for centuries.

And the man, such as he was, was a mere lackey. Somebody sent to observe the recent assassination attempt on one of the council's most dangerous enemies. This enemy was a powerful woman, a sorceress, and a thorn in the side of the council, and as such an ancient being, crafted millennia ago with long-forgotten magicks, was sent to eliminate the woman.

The creature, known as a Will-O-Wisp, was an ancient golem. Sentient fog gathered around a magical Core, held within ancient, magic-immune crystal that served as its body. Against a sorceress, a woman that relied entirely upon magic to fight, it was the perfect weapon.

But the sorceress that had been targeted had proved to be more resourceful than most. The spy had seen her fight, had seen what she was capable of, and quite frankly, she scared him more than the dark sorcerers and sorceresses that were watching him at that very moment.

"Well?" the leader of the council said, his voice hissing. "Is she dead?"

The spy shuffled his feet, nervous. "Well, you see, um...no. She...killed it."

Silence fell upon the chamber as the council members stared at the spy. Finally, a woman spoke, "That is quite impossible. That was a Will-O-Wisp, immune to magic, its Core shielded from all attack by the crystal that made up its body! How could she have killed it?"

The spy sighed. "Well," he began, "she..."

oOoOo

It was a clear night, the three moons that orbited the planet were shining softly in the cloudless sky, though they were nothing compared to the lights of the city. He spotted her easily enough, coming out of a movie theatre with her friends. They weren't important, of course. The woman was, she was the target, the one that was going to die.

He tried to remember her description, the one given to him by the council. Long, earth-brown hair and emerald-green eyes? Oh yes, there. He had to admit, she was quite lovely, even if he was looking at her from a distance through binoculars. He dropped his gaze slightly. She was wearing a beautiful white dress that dipped enough to show her cleavage, and his attention was drawn to that. He was something of a pervert, and not ashamed to admit it.

Good, she was splitting off from her friends and heading to the subway. He dropped his gaze down below the waistline, smirking perversely as he watched her walk. The dress, while it wasn't overly tight, did show off her buttocks quite nicely.

He sighed. A shame she would likely be melted, he would have loved to have taken her corpse, revived it, and...had fun with it for a while. He enjoyed being a necromancer, playing with life and death...and it was hard for his 'lovers' to say no if they were undead and bound to his will.

He saw her round a corner. Good, that area was deserted at this time of night. The Will-O-Wisp would strike at any moment. It wasn't all that intelligent, but give it an order and something to kill, and it was a perfect weapon. With a grin, he focused his magic (it was nowhere near enough to gain him any real fame in the world of sorcery, but it was enough for his own needs), grey energy swirling at his feet before moving up the length of his body. He vanished moments later.

oOoOo

He reappeared on a rooftop, looking down at the street. He looked at the woman through his binoculars again, getting a perfect view of her cleavage, right down the front of her dress. What a waste of a perfectly fine woman. He tried to gauge her height compared to his own six-foot-one. He guessed she was about...what...five-seven?

Damn fine body, too. Lithe, but healthy, and he figured that she would have been able to bear healthy children if she were to get married. Half her legs were hidden by the boots she wore, but the right side of her dress was slit up enough that it showed flesh.

Gods, he wanted her. Maybe he would kidnap a healthy woman after this... This woman was about 20, perhaps, so he would go a year or so either way. He grinned. He liked making them scream in pain, beg for mercy. He gave it to them...after a few days.

A store front exploded, startling the woman. The necromancer grinned as he saw her step forward, towards the dust. He knew what that was, it was the Allure. The Will-O-Wisp was the basis for several legends and horrifying folk stories.

Something glowed in the dust, bright white light, luring the woman in. The necromancer's grin widened. Yes, go embrace your death, messy as it would be. There was nothing that could save the woman-

The woman stopped, shook her head, and tensed before lifting her left hand and holding it out towards a nearby car. It was a nice car, sleek, black. A new, expensive model with one of those environmentally friendly core engines, using hydrogen separated from the oxygen via some complex mechanism in the core itself, which then powered the car.

But, it was also an unstable engine at best. True, there were safeguards in place, but they only activated when the car was in motion. When idle...well, hard impacts were generally a bad thing. Now what was the woman going to do? He knew she was a sorceress, but a fledging one. No real power to her name, and he personally thought it was a waste to send a Will-O-Wisp after her.

What was she going to do? Lift the car up with magic – something easy for more experienced mages, but not a fledgling sorceress like this silly woman – and throw it at the golem? Surely not.

An aura, light blue in colour, surrounded the car. The necromancer nearly dropped his binoculars in shock as the vehicle, nearly a ton in steel, surely, was lifted off the ground and thrown at the light. The car hit with the force of a freight train, the unstable engine rupturing, the unstable fuel igniting.

The store went up in a miniature mushroom cloud, blowing the dust away. The woman held up her hand, a barrier shimmering into existence in front of her. The heat and flames washed over the barrier harmlessly.

The necromancer gaped in shock. She threw a car at it. With magic. Her magic. She is no mere fledgling. Who is she?

The explosion died down, and the woman stood there, behind her barrier. The necromancer didn't think that the Will-O-Wisp would be destroyed that easily, but it had been a shock to see this unassuming woman throw a freaking car at it.

And then a piece of rubble was thrown at the barrier. It struck the barrier hard enough to crack it, the defensive magicks already weakened by the heat and fire of the explosion. The woman staggered back, shocked.

The necromancer enhanced his hearing with a spell so that he could listen to what was no doubt panic from the sorceress.

"So this is a golem," the woman said. The dust cleared, revealing her attacker. It was, well, 'huge' would be an apt term. A twelve-foot-tall creature, made of crystal, and made to look humanoid...only roughly. There was no face to the creature, but then again, it had no need for a face.

And within the body, the clear, clear body, was fog. Dark...no... black fog, with the core glowing brightly where the heart would be in a human. Although it had no mouth, the Will-O-Wisp still managed to roar. The sorceress acted quickly, raising a hand and focusing magic, calling on the ambient energy in the environment. Magic permeated everything in the world, even in the middle of a city, rich with technology.

Fire formed at the very center of her palm, and the sorceress unleashed a sphere of red-orange flame. It flew at the golem, slamming into the chest and exploding. Heat and flame erupted around the creature, smoke erupted around the impact point.

The golem stepped forward, unaffected. The sorceress sighed.

"Well," she said, "looks like I have to do this the hard way."

She ran. The Necromancer laughed as the golem gave chase, faster than its appearance let on, its footsteps cracking the pavement as it went. Curiously, there was nobody else in the area. Then again, it was nearly midnight, the work week started in a few minutes, and most people were asleep. The Necromancer had to wonder why this sorceress was still out so late with her friends.

He shrugged, following the fight with rapid-fire teleports between rooftops. The sorceress threw a motorcycle at the golem, and a car, and even a street lamp. None of them even slowed the creature down. He could easily hear the sorceress asking herself how she was going to defeat the thing, with her magic useless.

"You aren't," he said to himself, stopping on a rooftop as the chase temporarily stopped in an intersection. Even this late at night, buses still ran, though the last one would stop at midnight. The sorceress stopped in the middle of the intersection and turned. The Necromancer raised an eyebrow. She was out of breath, it seemed, and sweating. Only natural, considering she ran five blocks without stopping.

A bus came screaming to a stop, empty save for the driver, and he took one look at the monster in the intersection, got out of the vehicle and ran away in a blind panic. The sorceress ignored him and raised a hand, lifting the bus with her magic the same way she had lifted the other vehicles.

The Necromancer scoffed. That wasn't going to work. The bus was bigger, yes, but it had a normal engine, it was an old model. Even if it did have the core engine, it wouldn't have scratched the golem's outer body.

And then the bus was covered in lightning as the sorceress flicked her free hand towards it and called on her magic. The Necromancer noticed that she was sweating more and smirked. The constant magic use was wearing on her. Good.

And the sorceress threw the bus with three times the force of the first car. It flew at the golem, and the creature lifted its arms...and caught the bus. The sorceress just stared as vents opened up all over the body, and the black fog poured out.

The bus started melting in the Will-O-Wisp's grasp. Steel, rubber, plastic, glass...it all melted to a puddle around the golem. The sorceress stared in shock.

"Immune to magic, hard as diamond, and it can melt things with that fog?"

The Necromancer laughed. "You've lost, bitch! Just let it kill you and be done!"

The sorceress, of course, couldn't hear him, but she ran again, though slower than before. The Necromancer grinned and followed again, ignoring the tiredness of his own body as he teleported again and again, following the woman.

The golem started throwing things at its prey, but the fact that the woman and the golem were both running made its accuracy rather abysmal. One piece of pavement clipped the woman's shoulder, eliciting a pained yell.

She fell, her shoulder dislocated. She forced herself to her feet again and ran, cradling the shoulder. The Necromancer noticed she was heading right for a construction site. Good, that would make it easier for the golem to kill her, and with a wounded shoulder, she wouldn't be able to cast as well.

The woman tripped over a piece of rubble on the outskirts of the construction site and fell down hard, screaming as she landed on her shoulder. The golem was getting closer, but she got up and ran at a nearby pole, slamming her shoulder into it and gritting her teeth at the pain.

The Necromancer grinned, enjoying the show as the woman slammed her shoulder into the pole again and again. "What are you doing, you stupid bitch?" he muttered. "That won't help you any."

The woman stopped suddenly and rolled her arm at the shoulder, grinning. The Necromancer blinked. "She relocated her shoulder?"

Without wasting another second – the golem was mere feet from her now, vents opening – the woman shot towards the crane that held the wrecking ball and got in. The Necromancer could see what she was going to do, but it was useless. The Will-O-Wisp would melt the ball as easily as it did the bus.

The sorceress turned the machine on and growled, turning the machine at full power, before swinging the ball at the golem. Predictably, it caught the massive sphere and emitted more fog, trying to melt it, though the force of the blow made it skid back a full foot. The ball was barely affected by the acid. The Necromancer stared. "Is that...no, it can't be...that sphere is made of some kind of resistant alloy... even the Will-O-Wisp's fog can't melt it all at once. Damn it, she's smarter than she looks!"

The golem released the ball and moved forward, only to be hit by the ball again, staggering it backwards, closer to the tower of steel that was the skeleton for what was going to be a skyscraper. Not giving the golem a chance to recover, she slammed it into the golem again, and again, driving it back each time.

And then the golem shot fog at the chain as it was heading back towards the crane. Unlike the sphere, the chain was made of plain steel, easily melted. The wrecking ball flew towards the crane, and the sorceress yelped and dived out mere seconds before the ball hit. Glass and steel flew everywhere as she landed hard, a piece of glass going into her left thigh. She screamed in pain and pulled it out, slamming her hand onto the wound, fire flaring up around her palm as she cauterized the wound to stop the bleeding.

"Right," she said, "now I'm just pissed off."

The golem had been knocked back enough that, even though it was moving towards her again at a slow, steady gait (almost arrogantly, if it could feel such things), it was still under the tons of steel towering above it.

The sorceress grinned in a decidedly feral way as she noticed the crack in the creature's chest. Fog was leaking out. The Necromancer stared, enhancing his eyesight to the limit to look at the damage. "Impossible...just with a wrecking ball..."

And then the woman gathered up her power, holding her hand high, and shaping her magic into the form of a dragon made of flame. She knew that it wouldn't scratch the golem, but the golem wasn't her target...

"I've have enough of you!" she yelled, and launched the spell at the supports surrounding the golem. The dragon hit the supports and exploded in a magnificent display of heat and power, decimating the supports.

Moments later the entire construct came down, tons of steel crushing the Will-O-Wisp under its weight. The sorceress limped over to the mess, and the Necromancer just stared. "Impossible. She killed it. Im-"

The golem erupted from the pile, cracks all over its body. The sorceress froze, then her eyes narrowed. "Okay," she said, "I really didn't want to do this, but I have no choice."

She held out her left hand, power gathering along her arm. There was a glow as something formed in her grip. A sword, with a long, double-edged blade and runes etched into the flat sides of it. The handle was elegant, pearl-white, and the cross-guard had an angel-wing design. A red jewel was embedded in the pommel, and even from where he was standing, half a mile away, the Necromancer could feel the raw magical power of the weapon.

And he recognised it. It was little more than a legend to most, but he was seeing it, right there, in the hands of a sorceress that was supposed to be a non-threat.

She wields it. The Angelheart blade. No, that means that... oh gods, what has the council started? What are they thinking, attacking this woman?

The golem surged forward, and the woman ran to meet it. Fog erupted from the vents, but the Necromancer could see how useless it was. The blade glowed silver, and the fog parted, disintegrating as the pure magic hit it. The Will-O-Wisp was immune to magic. The fog wasn't, nor was the core. The woman yelled and, ignoring the pain in her leg, leaped forward and drove the blade into the cracks.

It went in up to the hilt, impaling the core. It cracked, small cracks at first, then bigger, and bigger...

And then the core exploded. The golem's body erupted, a pillar of purest white light piercing the darkness of the night, outshining even the city lights for a scant few moments before it died down. The Necromancer, pale, prepared to flee.

Cold steel touched his shoulder. "Go back to your masters," the sorceress said as the last remains of her teleport dissipated, "and give them a message."

The Necromancer swallowed and turned. "Y-yes? What message?"

oOoOo

The council stared at their spy, unable to believe what he had just told them. A Will-O-Wisp, defeated? True, it was hardly an easy win for the sorceress, but she still defeated it. And the legendary Angelheart blade...

"So," a woman said, "our source was correct. No matter, we will still kill her."

The spy blinked and laughed. It was an empty, mirthless laugh. "I haven't told you her message," he said. "She told me to say: 'Watch yourselves, I know where you meet and I've been ignoring you up until now, but you've pissed me off. Prepare.' That's what she said... if I were you, I'd run and hide. In fact, that's what I'm going to do...and I will pray to whatever gods that will listen that she doesn't look for me."

The council laughed. It was a condescending laugh, they were that certain of their immunity to danger from a single woman. "The door to this chamber is warded," a sorcerer said smugly, "she can't force her way in through there."

It was then that the wall behind the council exploded, a spear of flame shooting through the hole to impale a sorcerer from behind. The force of the spear was enough to send the man flying from his seat, slamming into the ground behind the Necromancer. Seconds later the spear exploded into flames, burning the body.

"Hello," came a female voice from the hole. "My name is Rebecca Angelheart. You tried to kill me. Prepare to die."

Despite her wounds, despite the energy drain from her battle with the golem, Rebecca moved fast, clearly aided by magic. The next to die was a dark woman, a follower of Keiji, the Goddess of Destruction, if the emblem – a dragon set against twin scythes – around her neck was any indication. Rebecca drove an ice sphere into her face, freezing her head solid and killing her instantly.

Two more died of immolation as Rebecca created pillars of flame around them, trapping her victims within the merciless heat. By now, the other 14 members of the council had gathered their wits and were preparing to attack. Rebecca soon found herself evading lightning bolts, ice spears, and fireballs, using her blade to deflect as many as she could and creating a barrier for the rest.

The spells all hit her barrier at once, exploding on contact and making a crater in the middle of the group of dark mages. The dust and smoke cleared, and Rebecca was standing there, sword and barrier glowing. She raised her empty hand and waved her finger and her head.

And then she shot forward, impaling a man with her blade and slamming her palm into the chest of another woman, impaling her with an icicle. She pulled the sword from the man's body and lifted him with magic, setting the corpse on fire and throwing it at a trio of mages. The body exploded on impact, killing the three.

The last nine banded together to focus on a massive multi-element spell, forming a hydra made of fire, ice, and lightning. They sent it shooting at Rebecca, but she focused her magic into the Angelheart blade. She shot forward, thrusting out her glowing blade. It met the hydra head-on...

"Impossible!" one of the remaining mages screamed as their hydra was cut in half, the spell destroyed by the blade...and then Rebecca was on them, decapitating the last woman of the group and immolating another three men. The others tried to cut and run, but Rebecca slammed her hand down, focusing magic into the concrete.

Spikes erupted from beneath the remaining mages, impaling them all. Rebecca turned to the Necromancer, eyebrow raised. "You're still here?"

The Necromancer swallowed. "Y...you'll let me go, right?" he said, stepping backwards. "I did what you wanted, so..."

Rebecca sighed. "I'm afraid," she said, "that I cannot do that. You see, I hate necromancers. You sick bastards play with life and death, thinking yourselves gods among men. You toy with souls..."

She thrust out her hand, a fire spear erupting from her palm and shooting at the Necromancer. It hit him in the chest and sent him flying, pinning him to the table behind him. "So you can just burn, you son of a bitch."

The spear exploded, and the Necromancer was dead in moments. A painful, torturous death. Rebecca turned and walked back out of the hole she had made, before creating a dragon of flame and sending it into the chamber to burn everything in it.

"Now maybe I can go home," she said to herself. "Or the hospital...yes, the hospital. Ouch, damn it, my entire body hurts..."

Fin