Photo via Visual Hunt
Ardeth stood at the center of the rings with his hands raised to chest height, palms towards the setting sun. Behind him he could hear the sounds of restless men and animals, and the quiet growls from the man forcing him to cast the spell he now struggled with.
A brutal kick to his kidneys sent him sprawling, breaking his concentration. “You’re running out of time, sorcerer,” a deep voice barked. “Cast the spell.”
“If you keep interrupting me, it’s not going to happen,” Ardeth said, gasping and curling into a ball. “You have to be patient.”
“I have waited twenty five years for this moment. I refuse to let a backwater hedgewizard steal my moment,” the man snarled.
“Lord Oleon, you must give the man time to cast the spell. It takes several minutes, and the more you punish him for that the less likely you will get what you want for another twenty five years.” This was a smooth female voice. Ardeth glared at the woman in spite of his pain. She smirked down at him.
Kyra Blackfeather was a traitor to the village she’d once called home, and Ardeth hated her for it. She escaped a few steps ahead of a mob the day it was discovered the children who went missing were being used by her as blood sacrifices to a dark god as she tried to gain more power. Ardeth was the one who’d turned her in and he knew she would have vowed revenge on him. It was what he’d have done had the situation been reversed. If he’d been depraved enough to torture and murder innocents to add to his magical strength.
Oleon grabbed Ardeth and dragged him back to the center of the rings. “Cast your spell, sorcerer. Or watch your village burn.”
Ardeth struggled back to his feet. He raised shaking hands to the west and started again. He knew what Kyra wanted out of this. She needed the words to the spell. It was one of the final steps in gaining what she wanted. He wouldn’t give that much to her. He spoke the syllables silently, barely moving his lips, as he called on the Old Gods to grant Lord Oleon his wish.
Just as the last rays of the sun vanished beneath the horizon, the holy place erupted with light. Oleon and Kyra took a step back. Ardeth turned and faced the dark lord. “If you wish your reward, step to the center, Lord Oleon,” Ardeth said, his weariness evident in his voice.
“This better not be a trick, sorcerer,” Oleon said.
“Ardeth knows the cost if he should betray us, my lord,” Kyra said. She glanced over her shoulder to where Ardeth’s young and pregnant wife stood under guard, a sword tip pressed against her swollen abdomen. Kyra turned back to him, a cruel smile dancing at the edge of her lips. “Of course, if you wish your burden lifted, just ask. You can always join me.”
“You are nothing but a shell, Kyra Blackfeather,” Ardeth said. “You sold your soul for your dark powers. My wife is filled with light, something you will never have again. I refuse to allow myself to be swallowed by the same black void as you have been.”
Kyra scowled. “I should kill her for your insolence, Ardeth.”
“You swore by blood that you wouldn’t if I granted Lord Oleon his wish,” Ardeth said. “To do so would be to end your own life as well as hers. Even with her loss I win.”
Oleon shouted in agony. Both magic users turned to look. Fissures were appearing on his face and hands. His clothing smoldered. His hair sparked and turned to ash even as they watched.
“Ardeth, what treachery is this?” Kyra shrieked.
“No treachery, Kyra,” Ardeth said. “You and Oleon demanded I give him the power of a god, something only able to be granted on Midsummer every quarter century. I did as you asked. Mortal bodies are not meant to hold such power. Those who seek this, unless they are prepared, die horribly.”
“Kill the bitch,” Kyra ordered, whirling to face the soldiers. No one moved. “I said kill her.”
“They can’t hear you,” Ardeth said. “In point of fact, they can’t see you either.”
“What?” Kyra whirled on him, hands blazing red.
“Those outside the circle have no idea what happens within when the aura ignites,” Ardeth said. He drew a rune in the air in front of him. “Tell me Kyra, why did you cast your lot in with this man?”
“He swore to make me queen, once he took command of the power you were supposed to give him,” Kyra said.
“What oath did he give you that he’d do it?” Ardeth asked.
Kyra looked confused as she was forced to answer. “He swore blood oath.”
“So your blood and his have mingled,” Ardeth said, a smile slowly spreading across his face. He ignored Oleon’s screams. “You have cursed yourself, Kyra.” The rune faded. Kyra screamed as the first of the fissures appeared on her flesh. Ardeth strode out of the circle, leaving his two enemies writhe in agony for all eternity.