With Fire and Friendship
The immense doors parted as Safira approached. She paused for a moment and glanced up at towers which stretched like a witch’s fingers into the night sky. Light from a single window defied the black silhouette, as if Arthelous needed to remind everyone that the only living occupant in this castle was himself.
Safira’s mood was foul. Not from the hundreds of steps she had to scale to reach these doors, nor even the plague Arthelous had sent against her home village. Her thoughts were on the war in the North where her talents were needed. Many of Queen Jennah’s Seraph would die because of this Necromancer’s game.
She strode past the doors and entered the Great Hall, passing between pillars whose heights were lost in darkness. Halting with a final smack of her staff, Safira tossed her auburn hair over one shoulder, laid bare by her rose-red gown.
“I am here, Arthelous!”
The Nercomancer’s name echoed back in her voice. In response, braziers all around her erupted in blue flame, revealing a throne-like chair atop a raised dais a hundred paces from where she stood. Her eyes shifted left as a door opened, allowing a black mist to swirl with direction and purpose towards the throne. The mist collected on the chair and took a man-shaped form, seated upon its cushions.
“Welcome, Lady Safira Rose, to my house,” the form said.
“Arthelous,” Safira said, scowling as if she sucked on a piece of rotten lime. “Do you so fear me that you would send your shadow?”
“I fear nothing,” the apparition said with a flick of its fingers. “I am merely being cautious. The pervious master of the black arts who angered you was blacker still after your fires turned him to ashes.”
“Them make not his mistake,” Safira said, “and remove your plague from Greenbrier.”
“Oh, I did that as soon as you set foot on the steps to my doors,” the shadow of Arthelous said. “Your beloved home will be back to its old self in a week or so.”
“Then our business here is done,” Safira said, putting the dais to her back with a scrape of her heel against stone.
The tall doors slammed shut, causing unseen bats hanging from the ceiling to flutter and squeak in rage.
“Oh no,” the shadow of Arthelous said. “You won’t be leaving. Not now, not ever.”
Sighing, Safira dropped her shoulders and faced the dais. “What do you want, Necromancer?”
The shadow touched the end of its fingers below its chin. Somewhere, in some distant chamber, Arthelous was undoubtedly doing the same thing. “What do I want? I want you. Our children will sit on the thrones of Tyria, trained in fire and ice, life and death. All races will bow to them, and they will bow to us. Well, to me.”
Safira laughed. “You are undead, Arthelous. How can you father a child?”
“Oh, do not think to be so clever,” the shadow scoffed. “I preserved my seed before taking Grenth’s blessing. Other girls I had brought here over the years were not strong enough to hold my offspring. I need one with fire in her blood, and that one is you.”
Movement to her left caused Safira to ready her staff. A miserable creature, half her height, sulked into the blue light.
“First, remove your clothing and hand them and your staff to my servant there,” the shadow on the throne said. “You will not need them any longer.”
Safira wondered how many other women stood here in terror, hearing words similar to those. How many were taken from fathers and husbands, ripped form lives they loved and children they raised. The end of Safira’s staff erupted in flames as she pointed at the imp. A bolt of fire smote it on the chest, disintegrating it into ash.
The shadow on the throne rose, howling in rage. Heavy doors thundered opened from walls and hallways as creatures came at her, some on wings, most on four or more legs. Safira drew a circle of fire around her and waited for them to come.
* * * * * * *
Arthelous watched the battle through his crystal. The smallest of his minions were destroyed in in the first moment. Safira smote and struck with lightning and fire. When a claw did penetrate her barriers and cut her skin, she called upon healing waters to blast the offender and close her wounds. She was more powerful than he had expected and for a moment fear chilled his unbeating heart.
His hope rekindled as she faced the last and greatest of his creations, a giant bone golem. It rushed her, swinging an enormous spiked iron club. Safira smote her staff against the floor and flew back a full twenty paces, just as the golem’s club cracked the floor where she had stood. A straight wall of fire appeared between Safira and the golem. With mindless obedience, it walked through the fire towards her, its bones turning black. The massive club lifted once again as Sofira let loose a blast of ice. The golem slowed, and then stopped. The hand that grasped the great club broke at the wrist and collapsed the golem beneath in a pile of frozen bones.
Safira leaned heavily on her staff. Now was the time! Arthelous created a dark portal between his lair and the Great Hall and leapt through.
“Now you die, witch”
Black energy shot from his clawed fingers and smote Safira full in the chest, knocking her to the ground and sending her staff spinning across the floor. Rolling to her feet, Safira part stumbled, part threw herself behind his throne.
Arthelous had had enough. Already this flea had cost him a host of minions. Teeth gashing behind pale gums, he summoned forth a cloud of black vapor which became thousands of beetles as it touched the floor. He directed the swarm behind the throne, causing a satisfying scream of terror.
As his victim ran into the open, Arthelous gestured with a twist of his fingers. Tentacles erupted from the ground and wrapped around the woman’s legs, body and arms. She struggled in vain as the swarm covered her from head to foot. Safira had time for one last scream before they stripped the flesh from her bones.
The Necromancer waited until his beetles had fully gorged themselves and dismissed them with a flick of his fingers, leaving behind a bloody skeleton and a few bits of cloth. He walked up to the gruesome pile and picked up a glistening skull.
“You should have taken my offer, woman.”
The skull in his fingers vanished. Confused, he took a step towards the safety of his portal and smacked full into an invisible barrier. The bones at his feet faded, replaced by a magician’s circle. Only one race could create a trap powerful enough to hold him.
Even as he thought the word, she stepped from behind a pillar, purple eyes regarding him beneath a mass of leafy hair.
“You tricked me!” Arthelous spat.
The corners of the Sylvari’s lips rose as her eyes shifted behind him. Turning, he saw Safira approach, staff in hand.
“Come now,” Safira said, summoning fires that would burn him to ashes, "that’s what the Mesmer do.”