The lizard stared at the Djinni, craning its long neck to move its head this way and that. All around them the darkness loomed thick, yet no shadows were cast upon them. Even the lightning flashes of deep yellow and orange leaping about the Djinni’s form seemed muted, as though seen through a sheet of dark fabric.
“What manner of creature are you? Never before have I seen your like.”
“I am no creature,” the Djinni snorted derisively. “I am a Lord of the Djinn. We are magic made flesh.”
“I understand.” The wyrm settled back. “Thou art a spirit of magic. As the mountain is of earth; the oakmen of nature. The sylvans of emotion, or the Minstrels of Death.”
“Nothing so simple. Speaking of Reapers, why is there still no Caravan…” The Djinni looked at the distant figure in white. “I tire of this!”
“Ye spent a millennia hiding in me mother, and me mother’s mother, and me mother’s mother’s mother’s mother. How can ye be bored o’ death already?”
“I have been dead before. This is not what death is like.”
Aziz and the Djinni turned to look at the reptile.
“Death is notoriously difficult to escape.”
“Aye, one doesn’t just walk it off.”
“I am the wyrm of the wood. As the trees in spring, so too do I wake from my slumber with the seasons.”
“If this ain’t death, then-”
The question was cut short by an anguished cry as a figure materialized. Silhouetted against the blackness beyond, the figure lurched forward with one arm limp and the other tightly clutching it.
“Master!” The figure stumbled a half-step forward, almost fell, then staggered back to its feet. “Help… me….”
Aziz felt a distant memory pulling at him. He knew who this was. Beside him, the old wyrm took a few steps closer and leaned forward.
“It will not work. This place, it… eats magic,” the Djinni scoffed.
“We cannot merely stand idly by and watch him die!” The wyrm swiveled to stare angrily back.
“We don’t have to.” Aziz nodded at the figure.
Black tendrils coalesced from the darkness to wrap around him. As his arms lifted, Aziz spotted a wound in his side. The robes around the open gash were soaked with blood, and yet not one drop more flowed from it.
“Induar!” A shiver ran down Aziz’ spine as another memory materialized. Walking through halls laden with wealth, a dozen guards standing silent vigil at their posts with blood pooled at their feet. Each with a gash just like it.
“Beware one who casts two shadows,” the Djinni sounded bemused.
“Wha-” The question was cut short as coils of blackness erupted from the nothing to wrap around him. Aziz felt as though his essence got torn from him when they pulled away.
The figure gasped and tensed, letting out a soundless cry before slumping into a heap as the tendrils dissipated.
When he rose to his feet again, it was a transformed man. Thinning pale hair had been replaced by thick strands of black; wrinkled skin had smoothed greatly; a sneer of anger had taken the over from the mask of anguish and fear; and the wound in his side had gone.
He looked at the trio as if only now realizing they were there.
“Greetings,” the lizard began. “I am-”
“Unfortunate.” A predatory smile danced on the figure’s lips as he looked at them. “I know not what poor souls you are to be trapped by the Master. Nor do I care. I have been gifted the Master’s blessing and you shall feed it.”
As the figure raised his arms clouds of darkness began to gather around his hands.
Behind them, the Djinni laughed. “You think to challenge me in a duel of magic? The Djinn are magic!”
The man sneered, making a grasping motion with his hands. “Then you shall become my first feast!”
The Djinni roared in surprise and anger, struggling against a tangle of shadowy tendrils snaking around it. As they enveloped it, the veins of fire in its onyx skin began to fade; the lightning arcing about its body dwindled; even the glow of its eyes began to dim.
Caught in a web of darkness the whole Djinni began to quickly shrink away.