Arabella soared towards the portal that hung like a low stormcloud over the remnants of the hideous altar. Coming to a stop, she hovered in mid air. Quickly, she took stock of the battlefield below.
Tifa’s small form lay curled and unmoving among several dead skeletons. Arabella’s curse was nearly a sob. Her small friend’s eyes stared silently up at her. Tifa had bled out. Arabella flinched as an explosion blew out the wall of ice covering the door at the back of the room. At least Maximus, the chosen one and the one she had to thank for this fly spell, was OK. Below her, the rhino was recovering. The druid would live, too. That was something anyway. In the center of the room, Kilhgarrah and Arnie had Tinan cornered near where Birgitte had fallen. Arabella started forward, she seemed determined to finish what Sven’s mother had started.
Before she could move, Nyssa loosed three arrows in quick succession from behind the lich. The first spun Tinan around, staggering him to the left and clearing space between Arnie and Kilhgarrah so her next two shots were free and clear. Nyssa’s second arrow tore through Tinan’s throat and her last embedded itself deep into his left eye. His body jerked from the impacts, then crumpled to the ground at Arnie’s feet. Done.
Tinan’s gear forged giants were not however. They closed quickly on Arnie and Kilhgarrah. I ducked my head back into Arabella’s sleeve, not sure I wanted to look. That would be a near thing I suspected.
“A soul to open it…a soul to close it,” Arabella whispered. I opened my eyes and uncoiled a bit from her forearm so I could see her face. She was gazing up at the portal. Despite the Lich’s death, it remained stubbornly open. Thick, inky black magical power roiled in mid air with the faltering spark shining within it. Interrupting the ritual, killing the lich, none of it had forced the portal to close. Though Arabella and I no longer shared our thoughts, I recognized the look in her eyes.
Arabella swore and swept the corpse-strewn floor with her gaze again. “I could really use a cigarette…”, she murmured. She caught the druid’s gaze and grinned a little crookedly. Her eyes started to shine, tears reflecting the small spark within the portal. A wave of courage suddenly washed over me and I heard the distinct roar of a dragon.
“Make sure to take care of these…” Arabella called down to the druid. She held up the mace and shield. “I’m going to put an end to this.”
She took a deep, trembling breath. “And say goodbye to my family for me…all of them”, she added looking once more around the room to take in the remaining Horde of Morons.
She let the mace and shield drop from her hands and started to fly upwards. As the mace fell something snapped back into place suddenly and I was no longer alone. She was back in my head…
Arnie and I understood what she was doing at the same instant.
“No!”, he yelled, leaping towards her, his orange robes flapping with the speed of his launch. Fast as he was, not fast enough.
“No!” I yelled from my vantage point on her arm. My yell got her attention at least, though it did not slow her acceleration towards the portal.
“Nicholas?”, she breathed. For a second, she was happy. “Good to have you back…”, she thought to me as we hurtled into the portal. “Sorry about the circumstances…”
I took quick stock of things and made an even quicker decision. “Don’t worry kiddo,” I replied to her fiercely as we were engulfed by the portal. “One soul to open it, one to close it. I got this one…”