The Card Dealer: Part 13

Part 13: The Duel

 

My hands were shaking.  My knees felt weak.  My head was spinning.

But I still pressed through the cave towards the sound of Master Greave’s scalding shouts.  I was completely relying on the fact that Adrian might help me fight his former master, because if he didn’t, I would be on my own.  And if I was on my own, there would be no chance of me taking down Greaves.  This had to work.

I came out of the tunnel into the wide space where we had been just minutes before, and just as I thought, Greaves and Adrian were still there.  Greaves was pacing around Adrian giving some long speech about what would happen if he failed him again, and I wasn’t going to have any of that.

“Master Greaves!”  I yelled, coming towards them and trying to look brave.  Adrian whirled around to face me, and Greaves scowled.

“I see you have returned,” Greaves said, uncrossing his arms.  His tone was icy.  I raised my chin.

“I have returned to stop you,” I declared.  “I won’t let you take the Essence of anyone else!  Not ever again!”

Adrian was shaking his head wildly at me, but it appeared that he still couldn’t speak. I ignored him.

“You plan on trying to stop me?”  Greaves said, the slightest smirk on his face.  “A little apprentice like you?”

“Yes sir,” I said, projecting my voice the best I could without letting him hear how terrified I was.  “Master Greaves, I challenge you to a duel!”

Now he really was smirking.  “A duel?  And to what end?”

“To the death,” I replied simply.  Greaves though about that, then nodded.

“I only have one condition,” I asked.  Greaves nodded again.

“Anything,” he said.  He was clearly enjoying this.  I stood taller.

“I wish for Adrian rune to duel beside me,” I said, praying and praying he would agree.  I was happily surprised.

“Of course,” Greaves said with a laugh.  “You will need all the help you can get and more to stop me, and I will enjoying removing you both.”  He waved his hand, and Adrian went into a coughing fit.  I ran to him.

“Adrian!”  He got himself under control, then turned to me.

“This is the most ridiculous thing you have ever done, Claudia!”  He yelled, breathing hard.  I nodded.

“It’s a good thing I have you to fight with,” I said, looked up at him with a steel gaze. “I’m not backing out now!”

Adrian pressed his lips together, clenching his fists.

“Look, there’s no time to be angry with me,” I told him, feeling a rant coming on.  “Yell at me after this is all over.”

“If I ever get the chance to!”  Adrian shouted.  I tossed my arms up.

“Alright, alright!  Can we just fight?”

Adrian huffed, turning to Greaves.  “Fine…”

Greaves eyes darkened.  “A few rules, first,” he said.  “Any and all magic can be used.”

That wouldn’t make it a fair fight, considering that Greaves had nearly been a Master Class wizard.  Adrian gave a firm nod, however.

“And that applies to us as well.”

“Of course,” said Greaves.  “Rule number two, if one of you dies, then the fight is over.  the other will continue to do their duty to me.”

I flinched.  He was expecting to kill me off and continue along with his plan to gather Essence?

“Any more?”  Adrian asked, looking ready for the fight.  I tried to still my pounding heart.

“One more,” said Greaves.  “No escaping.  This is a duel to the death.”

I nodded.  “As I said.”

Greaves grinned, looking so smug.  I took a deep breath.

“Now…begin!”  And just like that, Greaves disappeared in a puff of black smoke.

 

~ ~ ~

While the duel was going on, Clark and Elena led Lex and Leon down into yet another secret tunnel they hadn’t seen before.

“We have to move fast,” said Clark as they ran down the dark tunnels.  “We can destroy it all and get out of here before the duel even ends!”

“I’m not leaving Adrian and Claudia!”  Lex said, sounding panicked.

“They might not survive that duel,” said Elena.

“Don’t say that!”  Leon cried.  “Adrian and Claudia are really strong!”

Clark shrugged.  “Let’s hope so.”

They came out of the tunnel to a tight room with shelves lines with bottles full of Essence.  There were no lights beside a candle resting on a table and the glow of the Essence.  Leon came in with wide eyes.

“Whoa!”  He said, taking one bottle off the shelf.  “Can I keep one?”

“I guess so,” said Clark.

“Where will we destroy them?”  Lex asked, rubbing her arms.  Elena sighed.

“They will only need to be broken,” she said. She took a bottle and dropped it onto the floor, causing it to shatter.  The Essence did not make a puddle on the ground.  Instead, it seemed to dissolve into the air.

“Oh good!” Leon said, taking another bottle and throwing it against the wall.  Lex laughed.

“This is a dream come true for him.  He can break things without getting in trouble!”

“Yes!”  Leon cried, going to grab another bottle.  Clark laughed as he reached for one and tossed it onto the ground.

“Though, I have to admit…it’s a terrible waste of Essence,” he said, his face darkening.  “All those people were killed for absolutely nothing.”

Leon hesitated to pick up another bottle.

“Yeah…,” he said.  “And I don’t think there’s anything else we can do with it…those people can’t be revived with it, not like how I was.”

Elena nodded.  “The only way to keep it out of Greaves hands is to destroy it.”

“Well, that is helping somehow, I guess,” said Lex.  She took a bottle, and it made her sad to drop it on the floor and watch it shatter.  She thought hard for another way.  “Leon…what if we let Greaves take the Essence?”

Leon broke another bottle and looked at her like she was crazy.

“You mean, let him kill take over the world?” He asked.  Lex shook her head.

“No, I mean like let him use the Essence to fight Adrian and Claudia. Wouldn’t a lot of Essence destroy him?”

“Yeah, and this island with him probably,” said Leon, crossing his arms.  “And we’re on this island, so…you do the math.”

Lex nodded.  “Yeah…it was just a crazy thought.”

“One that might work, though,” said Clark as he examined a bottle.  “There’s a lot here, anyway.”

“But I don’t want to risk everyone else,” said Lex, sighing.  “We…just have to count on Claudia and Adrian…”

Everyone was silent for a moment, all staring at the ground or at the glittering bottles of Essence.  Finally, Leon spoke up.

“Guys, destroying this Essence means those people died all for nothing…but if we use it to destroy Greaves, then that could be their way of getting revenge, you know.”

“But it would kill us all,” said Elena, her eyes going wide.  “Surely you can’t be saying we should do it!”

Leon narrowed his eyes. “Would you rather Claudia and Adrian and all those people and everyone at the Kingdom?”

Lex picked up another bottle. “He’s…he’s right…”

“But…,” Clark looked at Elena, who shook her head.  He huffed. “So we’re really doing this, then?  Sacrificing ourselves?”

Leon shrugged.  “If there’s enough Essence here to blow him up, then we might as well do it.”

“What if it doesn’t work?  What if he’s too smart for that?” Lex asked.  Leon waved his hand.

“Oh please, no one really knows how much Essence it would take but me,” he said.  “No one knows Essence like I do!”

Lex paled.  “Let’s hope you’re right.”  She looked at everyone.  “Okay then…we’re really going to do this.”

“Guess so,” said Clark.  “Everyone pile the bottles in that cart over there.”  He pointed to a rusty metal cart in the corner.  “I have an idea.”

 

~ ~ ~

Okay, so I overestimated Adrian and myself.

I guess it’s no surprise that Greaves was kicking our butts, no matter how powerful our magic was together.  It was almost humorous.  Almost.

Adrian was sweating and yelling out spells I had never heard of in my entire life.  The room would turn dark, lightning would flash, fire spewed out of nowhere. At some points the room would turn so cold ice formed on the walls, or so hot I couldn’t breath.  I was still tired out from my last duel, but he was clearly not finished yet.

Greaves’ magic was more powerful than anything I had ever experienced before. he would try and freeze us in place, put out spells to inhibit our use of spells.  We had to be careful about those.  At one point I barely, and I mean just BARELY got out out of the way of a giant flaming fire ball.  My hair was singed after that, but Adrian wasn’t fazed.

He jumped back to the center of the room and raised his hands, and the room fell dark.  I almost fell backwards when two black wings sprouted from his back, and he looked up with glowing eyes.  I hadn’t seen this spell yet!  I watched with wide eyes as he took off after Greaves and tossed a powerful ball of black energy towards him.

The ball hit Greaves, making him fly back against the wall with a grunt.  Adrian was quick to react and followed up with a beam of fire.  I shook myself out of my stupor and helped him with that.

When the duel first begun, I thought we’d be toast.  But then as it went on, I really started to believe we had him at our mercy.  Boy, how wrong was I.  All of our magic only made Greaves angrier.  He reached out with his magic and forced us both against the wall.  Adrian, breathing hard, raised a shield around the two of us before Greaves could summon his lightning.

“Well,” Adrian said, grimacing as the bolts cracked through the air and collided with the shield.  “I knew this was a bad idea.”

“Sorry,” I muttered between pants.  It was all I could think to say, and I was too spent to say anything else.  The lightning forced down hard, causing Adrian to have to force more magic into his shield.

“I can’t hold it!”  He cried.

“Then let me!”  I said, put my hands against the shield as well.  Together we managed to hold until Greaves was fresh out of lightning bolts, then we both collapsed on the ground as the shield let up.

“Move!”  Adrian ordered, jumping to his feet as fast as he could.  It took me a bit longer, but I managed to do it.  We both ran to the side before Greaves could shoot us with fire.  “We’ll never beat him!”

I glanced around the room, then from Greaves to Adrian.  He was right, I realized.  No matter what, we’d never be able to defeat Greaves.  I looked at Adrian for a split second before I had to run again.

“I’m so sorry, Adrian,” I said.  “I thought I was doing the right thing!”

Adrian gave me an exasperated shrug.  “It’s okay, Pink.  We’ll die together, I guess.”

That was comforting.

I shout made all three of us whirl around, and there was Clark, Elena, Leon, and Lex, pulling a rusty cart full of bottles with shiny liquid in them.

“What the-” Adrian waved his hands around.  “What are you DOING here?!”  He shouted.

“Master Greaves!”  Clark shouted, waving his hand.  “We’ve come to help!”

“HELP?”  Greaves boomed.  “I do not need help from the likes of you!”

“Well,” said Clark, glancing at the others.  “It would certainly wipe out these guys quicker!”  He pulled the cart closer, and Greaves gasped.

“What are you doing with the Essence?!”  He cried.  Clark bowed deeply.

“This is to assist you, Master,” he said.  “You’re welcome.”

Greaves looked from Clark to the cart full of Essence, and a cruel grin spread over his face.  What were they thinking?! I turned to Clark with clenched fists.

“Clark, how could you?!” I cried, my chest burning with rage.  If we weren’t going to win before, we really weren’t now.  Lex wouldn’t meet my gaze, and Leon was pale.  Were they seriously in on this?!  “Guys…I thought you were going to destroy the Essence!”

“Of course they weren’t,” said Greaves.  “They knew your fight would be a loss cause, so they chose to serve me instead.”

I looked at the four of them, completely horrified.

“I thought…I could trust you…”  Adrian was looking at Lex, his expression so crushed that it broke my heart.

Greaves laughed, probably because our faces were so pitiful looking.  I fought the urge to scream and yell and cast spells on the traitors.

“You have done well to prove yourself,” Greaves said, looking pointedly at Clark and Elena, and only slightly glanced at Lex and Leon.  He extended his hands towards the cart and the bottles it carried, and right before my eyes, the Essence flowed toward him and seemed to dissolve into him.

I couldn’t let this happen.  With a scream, I ran toward the cart with the intent of smashing the cart and the bottles Essence to pieces with my magic before Greaves could take anymore.

“Claudia, NO!” Lex screamed, running to meet me.  She grabbed me by my shoulders and forced me back.

“Let go of me, Lex!”  I cried, wrestling in her grip.  “Let go!”

Leon ran up as well to help push me back, and looked up at me with tears in his big eyes.

“You have to trust us, Claudia! Please!”

Trust them? Yeah right. I tried to push past them, but they were holding me back with everything they had, and soon enough, there was no more Essence to destroy.  Greaves had taken it all.  All was silent for a moment, as Greaves looked down at his hands, which slightly glowed yellow.

Then, Adrian gave a shout and ran to him, preparing to cast another heavy spell, but before he could, Greaves simply raised his hand and Adrian was thrown back against the wall.  He fell to the floor with a cry of pain.

“Adrian!”  Lex cried. I looked at her with wide eyes.

“Oh, so NOW you’re concerned?!” I said, waving my hands.  “This is partly YOUR fault!”

“No it’s not!” Leon cried. “You have to listen to us!”

“Enough of this!” Greaves ordered.  He cast more spells, and it was just barely that I could get a shield up around us in time to block them out.  And with those spells, my shield shattered like glass.

“Gah!”  I raised my hands to try and bring it up again, but it would only flicker before disappearing. “No, no, no!”

“Claudia!” Adrian ran to us, grimacing, and brought up a shield just as Greaves cast more powerful spells to rain down on us. I noticed that the yellow glow around his was starting to flicker, turning an almost orange color, but I was too concentrated on Adrian to think much about it. I put my hands up to the shield, though I wasn’t sure how much I was helping to keep it up.

“I can’t hold it!” Adrian said.  He looked back at me and the others.  “You have enough time to get out of here before it breaks!”

“No!” I said, turning my head to look at him. “I got us into this mess!”

“No, I did…,” said Lex.  “It was my idea for him to take the Essence…”

“But why?!” I asked.

“Because!” Leon cried. “It’ll be too much for him! Look, it’s already happening!”

So that’s what the flickering was about.  I could see it now.  Greaves power was getting to be too much for his body to handle.

“But that means…he’ll blow!”

“Yeah, and take this island with it,” said Leon.  I looked at all of them, and they had the same pale faces, all looking down at the ground.

“Are you crazy?!” Adrian shouted.  The shield was beginning to crack.

“It’s the only way to stop him for good!” Leon said. His eyes were fearful, and I could tell the others were afraid as well. They were all terrified, but still ready to die if it meant saving others.  I looked at Adrian, feeling a strange sense of resolution.

“Adrian…it IS the only way…,” I said. He knew it as well as I did, but he was stubborn.

“I can’t just…let you guys do this!” He cried. He grunted as more cracks formed in the shield.  Everyone was silent. The decision had been made, and there was no arguing. Any minute, Greaves would blow.

The seconds past by so slow I could barely stand it. My heart pounded harder and faster and my knees felt weak and my stomach was churning as the revelation that I was about to die set in. Clark had his arm around his sister’s shoulders, and both looked remorseful. Lex looked like she couldn’t decide whether it was a good idea or not to touch Adrian’s arm. Leon was clinging to my robe, trying to look brave.

Now I didn’t think Greaves could control where his magic was going. Balls of ice bounced off the walls, fire shot across the room. Sometimes a stray spell would hit the shield and cause another crack to go through it, but Adrian held it up the best he could.  I could see Greaves becoming more and more frustrated as time went on, and I think he was starting to realize what was happening all too late.

“Wait!” Adrian suddenly said, making the shield flicker.  “I…have an idea.”

We all turned to him, a hopeful look growing on my face.  “What?”

Adrian gritted his teeth. “Gather as close to me as you can, and when the Essence makes him explode, I’ll make the shield close around us!”

I raised my eyebrows.  “Will that even work? It’s already cracking.”

“Just trust me, okay? Unless you have any better ideas!”

I bit my lip. He had me there. So we all bunched around, Lex holding on to Adrian and Leon gripping my robe even tighter, his brave expression crumbling. I could see Clark shaking as he came closer, and it was clear that Elena was terrified.

Adrian watched Greaves for awhile, struggling to keep the shield up as yet another wave of fire broke out upon us. Greaves was wailing as the power became to much for even him to handle.

Adrian muttered something I couldn’t hear under his breath, and suddenly everything turned so bright I couldn’t see, and then I must have blacked out just as a terrible boom seemed to shake the entire island.

I had a vague sense that I was falling, but I couldn’t open my eyes, or even move. And for a moment, I couldn’t even remember what had happened. I felt myself sinking deeper into unconsciousness until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

~ ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥ ~

We are SO close to the end now! I’m going to share a little secret with ya’ll…I literally have no idea what’s going to happen in the end… All I have to go off of are tiny details that I somehow have to work into this, and I THINK there should be at least one more part after this…I’m pretty sure, but we’ll see. Then, it’s off to work on my next short story, which I am so sorry that I haven’t gotten out the title, cover art, or excerpt for. There has been a lot of technical errors with getting the cover art made, and my sister is trying her best to work on that, and to be honest, I’m still mulling over the perfect name for this story. All I know is that it will not be releasing until August so I can have a nice break to work on it and have some time off from posting stories every other Saturday.  Anyway, thank you for sticking with this story and I hope you’ve been enjoying it! God bless!!

4 thoughts on “The Card Dealer: Part 13

  1. cgirlwrites

    Well Ethelberd got overpowered with the power of the Rune Spheres, remember, and that basically destroyed him? That’s what it reminded me of haha!

    Liked by 1 person

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