6. Battling the Beast
The monster screams thunderclap-loud in the confines of the temple and is suddenly engulfed in brilliant, blinding flames- rapacious red flames that pour out of its every awful pore and threaten to engulf all in their path.
The two blue-clad Wizards stand their ground, though their hats are scorched and their beards are singed and their robes seared.
"Have courage, brother!" cries the one in the light blue robe, even as flames lick at his eyebrows. The one in the dark blue robe shakes his head.
"We have need of more than that, brother..."
The flames die down as the Wizard's words echo away into nothingness, and the monster seems disappointed not to have deterred its enemies from their positions. Screaming again, it casts its arms wide and throws back its awful head in an unholy ululation that sets the teeth on edge and the bones a-shaking.
"...We need faith."
The Wizard in the dark blue robes speaks only three words, but they are enough to break the horrible hypnotic cadence of the monster's howl.
The Wizard in the light blue robe nods and begins a counter-chant, but it is too late- the monster's spell is completed.
All around the monster the bodies of fallen cultists begin to rise, ignoring even the deepest of cuts, the most savage of wounds. Life has long fled these poor unfortunates but the music of their Dark Lord's chant suffuses their misbegotten corpses with a dreadful, diabolical energy.
Something arcane and abominable glitters in their dead eyes, something evil from beyond the dawn of time and space, something eternal and evil that lusts for savagery and slaughter...
...something that directs all its hideous hate towards the two brothers in blue.
The Wizard in the light blue robes continues his counter-chant, but he knows that without help he stands no chance.
The Wizard in the dark blue robes provides exactly the help he needs, just as he always has done.
A savage battle-cry upon his lips, he flings himself into action, his blade bursting into brilliant blue flame as he does so, casting himself into the fray like a whirlwind. The un-dead cultists stand no chance before his savagery and fall like wheat before the thresher, but even as he drives them back the Wizard realises the futility of his actions- he is only striking down that which has fallen already.
The dreadful song of the monster- truly a Dark Lord now that it is general of a noisome, necromantic army- will reanimate its inhuman soldiers again and again until the end of Time itself unless the spell is broken, he realises- the spell will not be broken unless the monster's song is silenced.
Eyes blazing with righteous anger, the Wizard begins his own song, but it is not a song of wanton murder and mayhem- far from it.
This is naught but a song of righteous rage.
Even as he cuts down the un-dead cultists they rise again, but the Wizard cares not- they could die a thousand times each and it would only add to his power. Yes, cultists they might be- craven cowards the lot of them, fools following a fraud following a foulness...
...but they were human once. They do not deserve to be puppets of a beast, do not deserve to be servants to an abomination. Even they- weak and foolish as they were- deserve better than this, this....
Better than this mockery.
Louder and lustier and longer Alatar the Wizard sings, his sword swinging this way and that, a veritable whirlwind of death- and he hopes that his efforts are enough.
Pallando watches his brother give himself to savagery and slaughter and prays that his brother's actions will be enough.
His counter-chant stops the monster summoning still more monsters into this realm- even now he sees hideous, horrible apparitions clawing at the boundaries between reality and the void, turning the walls of the temple-cavern into artwork more monstrous than anything dreamed of by any human artist- but at the same time keeps him from aiding his brother more directly.
He watches, horrified, as the un-numbered hordes of walking dead attack his fellow Wizard- watches as they shred his robes, as they yank the hair from his head, as they tear great bloodied rents in his flesh.
Yes, Alatar is a Wizard, Pallando thinks...
...but he is still mortal.
It is the curse of the Five, he thinks- when they took human form they gained great power but lost greater power still.
Infinity cannot be made flesh, he thinks, and in that instant realises what must be done.
Closing his eyes, he begins to sing a different song.
Blood pouring from a thousand different wounds, Alatar suddenly finds that he is no longer attack. A second's pause gives him respite enough to heal his wounds...
...but also gives him time enough to recognise that awful, uncanny knowledge that he is sealing his brother's death-warrant.
With a slight change in song, Pallando has turned the blood-lust of the un-dead horde and now the bright-blue Wizard is the one in danger of being over-run. The walls grow horrible, hulking limbs, batrachian tentacles that have no business being real, massive fanged mouths that shriek and gibber in praise of their Dark Lord...
Even as Alatar watches the shambling tide overwhelms his brother and the light of his staff is snuffed. He wishes he could cry out, wishes he could draw their attention back to him and away from his brother, his friend...
...but realises that in doing so he would doom both of them. Whispering a plea for forgiveness, he clenches his fists even tighter around the hilt of his sword and leaps high into the air.
The monster was not expecting this, and as the Wizard in dark blue robes flings himself through the air towards it the howl dies upon its lips.
In that single second the spell is broken and the un-dead cultists fall like puppets whose strings have been cut, the vile energies sustaining their assault dissipated like mist before the morning sun.
In that single second, the walls become naught more than carved stone again- albeit stone obscenely carved.
In that single second the monster's advantage is lost...
...and in that single second Alatar is upon the monster, one hand sunk deep into the burning flesh of the creature's thing's chest and the other one wielding his sword like it was the blade of great Tulkas himself.
Even as his hand scorches and sears irrevocably, though it blackens and scars ever more awfully with each and every moment it is in contact with the burning heart of his hateful, horrible foe, Alatar realises that he must hang on or be lost.
He screams with pain and fury and hopes his sacrifice will be enough.
His staff blood-slicked in his hand, Pallando watches appalled as his brother recklessly throws himself at the monster.
Surely things did not have to end like this, he thinks- surely there could have been a different conclusion to this story...
...but even as he drops to his knees, exhausted by his battle against the monster's un-dead servants and the multitude of monstrous allies it summoned from beyond the walls of reality, the Wizard in light blue robes realises that this is the way the battle had to end, the only way it was ever going to end.
Muttering dark syllables to himself, the Wizard summons every last bit of his strength and uses his staff to pull himself one last time to his feet.
He only hopes his final act will not be too little, too late.
The monster beats at him with titanic fists, delivering blow after blow and breaking bone after bone, but still he hangs on, though every passing second is an eternity of agony.
It spits ancient curses at him, venomous hatred from beyond the dawn of time that scars him as surely as any sword, but still he hangs on, though every fibre of his being begs him to give in, to bring an end to the agony.
It buffets him with its awful wings, battering him as if he were caught in the heart of a tornado, but still he hangs on, though his every thought is to merely let go and borne away into the blissful peace of the void.
It screams with primeval rage, deafening him permanently, but still he hangs on in grim silence even as blood runs down the sides of his head from his burst eardrums, defiant that he will not- cannot- be beaten.
Its fiery blood spills onto him in great scorching gouts and sears him down to the very bone, but still he hangs on. Even the horrible smell of his own molten flesh is not enough to defeat him- still he hangs on.
He can do nothing else.
Pallando closes his eyes and continues his chant, though he knows it will be the end of him.
He is already weakened by the attack of the monster's un-dead servants- this will be his final act, and he knows it.
He wishes things could have been different- wishes that his brothers could have been here with him, wishes that the end he now faces could have come later, or less painfully, or never at all...
...but he knows deep down that wishes do not come true.
Even as he falls to his knees, his vision blurred, he continues his chant.
Even as he speaks the last word, the last entreaty to the One, he drops to his knees, his last spark snuffed.
And it is only then- there at the end of all things- that he realises that the only truth is the one that you make yourself...
Pallando smiles and throws his head back.
A terrible scream fills the temple cavern, and the monster ceases its assault on the Wizard attacking it just long enough to glance across to where the other one kneels upon a mountain of what used to be cultists in its servants.
A death-scream, it thinks- how apt. Now to...
It is only now that the monster realises that it had forgotten all about the Wizard whose arm is sunk elbow-deep into its chest.
The scream of the Wizard distracts the monster.
The scream of the monster as the Wizard crushes its hateful, hideous heart in his fist is enough to bring great chunks of the cavern down, destabilising the mountain the temple was carved into.
The scream of the Wizard as his foe dies is one of both triumph and tragedy.
Five minus two was not enough- two plus one equals zero- numbers are nothing, when you come down to it- blue burned long enough by red will eventually become black, just as red quenched by blue will always eventually become black, no matter how hot the fire...
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.