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Hey everyone, I finally finished my book. And it's all here. It's all gonna be up in two parts, the beginning and the end. Anyway, here's the first part, enjoy:

THE VALLEY OF MISERY

      A lone knight strode through the plains, black armor glistening with blood. He had a dark sword at his side, covered in blood. Behind him lay a countless amount of bodies. This was war, and he was getting tired. He had served his king for years upon years, yet now something was different. The king was changed; ever since that damned crystal had been found, nothing had been like it once was. Wars ravaged his lands, and famine swept the world. It was obvious this was happening in every kingdom on the face of the planet. It seemed everyone had one motive: To shed as much blood as possible and come out on top, no matter the consequences. Thieves were rampant; Fires laid waste to thousands of acres by the hour. It seemed nothing was safe from the genocide of all that lived. Few turned their backs on it all, but those who did knew the truth about all this. One man summoned the crystals that emerged from the earth. A man who saw the world as a plaything; the lives of millions as puppets. He created the crystals ages ago, before being struck with a rare spell... Sleep of the Ages. It had caused him to drop from the world almost completely. That is, until now; He was a great prophet, and knew it was coming. That is why he created the crystals.
      When he awakened, the crystals would rise from the darkest bowels of Hell, taking control of all on the planet. However, the crystals had sat for ages, and their power had weakened. The few who stood up to the tyranny are the ones with a mind strong enough to resist the power of the crystals. The puppeteer, Archmage Thurstreng, knew these were a problem when he saw them. He viewed the world after the crystals took their effect and saw that he had failed to seize the souls of some. So he added to the power of the crystal, but could not take the minds of the few; instead, since he had been cast down into the Abyss, he decided to start pulling strings. He cast a spell on the crystals to get him out when a simple 50 crystals were united; there were a total of 2500. And that day was coming. The only one who had a chance would need access to the royal families. The crystals, when seized, moved into the bodies of the royalty. Unless royalty did not take them; then they were suspended in the air. Nobody knew that, and nobody would hurt the regents. He had concocted the master plan, except for one flaw: The black knight.
      The black knight, Sir Marusyn, had finished crossing the fields. Before him lay the great castle that held the army that he commanded. He alone defended the kingdom that lay within the walls just recently, and was returning from battle. He strode in, headed for the palace to talk with the king. He passed through the gates, and was immediately congratulated by farmers, merchants, townsmen, etc. He continued on, his face expressionless, his voice silent. He walked up to the main door to the palace, and spoke to the guard standing outside. The door swung open, and he strode in. He approached the steps leading to the throne, and saw something flash by out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head, but saw nothing, and continued up. At one point, he thought he heard a click, as if a crossbow were being loaded, but saw no one, so he shrugged it off as his imagination running wild, thinking the battle still raged on. He reached the top of the steps. "Your Majesty, the battle is finished. I have won. They lost all their men. We do not know where they came from; Your orders?"
      "Hmm... Wait. They'll be back. In the mean time, train more soldiers. I doubt it was anyone other than the Squirrel family... Their kingdom has been a problem. Get the armies ready. We'll move out in 24 hours."
      "Sir, might I ask, why do you insist on destroying all of these kingdoms? I mean, I see it better to take them peacefully. Democratically. The peasants would not revolt if..."
      "I do not care. Our military is the strongest, and everyone needs to know it. If we shall rule by military, so be it. If the peasants revolt, so be it. We can get you to handle that, my friend."
      "But, Your Highness..."
      "Enough! Go and carry out your orders, or I will have you behead..."
      He could not finish the last word. A small crossbow arrow had flown directly into his skull, killing him almost instantly. Marusyn drew his sword and turned, ready for battle. He donned his helmet, protecting himself while allowing him to turn into what he really was: A demon. Well, not really, but close; He could shift his form to that of a stronger race, a very rare ability. He refused to do it unless none could see his mutilated features in this form. His strength was improved; His senses higher; His reactions quicker; His speed lightning fast. He saw an Elf holding a crossbow behind a column in the hall, concealed perfectly.
      "Must've snuck in with me..." Marusyn walked toward the being, not seeing his king's body start to faintly glow. "Show yourself! 'Tis useless to hide!" Nothing happened. "I will find you and kill you if you do not come out right now!" Nothing. He stepped off the last step, shifted the sword's position in his hands, and approached the pillar. He saw the Elf clearly now. "Found you," he said. Marusyn swung his sword at the Elf's neck, but his adversary jumped above it. "What the hell...?" He sliced at the Elf's feet.
      "Stop! Please! I didn't mean to cause trouble!"
      "What?! You kill the king but don't want to cause trouble?!"
      "You questioned your orders, I saw it! He was being corrupted! Look!" The Elf pointed at the king's body. Marusyn turned and saw 19 crystals floating there, surrounded by a mystical aura.
      "What the hell are those..."
      "Crystals, dumbass! We gotta destroy them! Those are what's causing this death, this destruction! Now, come with me! We can break 'em if we work together, dumbass!"
      "Dumbass? You want me to help you but call me dumbass? No!"
      "Alright, Mr. Big Bad Knighty Guy, c'mon!" He jumped up the stairs and stood by the crystals. Marusyn followed, shifting back to his normal form.
      "Okay, now what?"
      "Break 'em!"
      Marusyn stood there. "How the hell am I supposed to break these crystals?!"
      The Elf shrugged. "I dunno. Whack 'em!" Marusyn swung his sword at one, but it bounced off.
      "Huh?! This sword has never failed me! Wait... Maybe if we mold these into a blade, I could..."
      "Hell no! I will not let you do that!" The Elf took a crystal and threw it against the wall. It bounced back.
      "And who are you to not let me do things?"
      "I'm Twisty, master thief-assassin of the Elven guild of Black ops!"       "Alright Twisty, what do we do?"
      Twisty thought for a while. "Hmm... Magic!"
      "You got some magic we can use?"
      Twisty cocked his head to the side and put a sarcastic expression on his face. "Yeah, I got a magic spell. It's called kick people in the shins. No, of course I don't! I'm not a damn mage! I was thinking that maybe you would, seeing as you're so powerful and shit..."
      "Don't take that tone of voice with me. And no, I have no magic. But I know someone who might. Now, do you have any idea how many crystals there are?"
      "My guess is about 2500... One per kingdom," Twisty shrugged.
      "Damn! So you're saying we go around killing kings and queens, and taking the crystals?!"
      "Yep. So, where should we put these things?"
      "In a bag, imbecile. We'll take them with us and destroy them when we find my mage friend."
      "Good idea!" Twisty shouted, producing a bag. He collected all the crystals in the bag. "So... 19 crystals. Let's go ok?"
      "Alright..." It was clear Marusyn would rather take this trip on his own, but the Elf would not stop. They left the town quickly, so as not to be arrested for assassination. They rented horses from the stables and moved towards a nearby kingdom on their way to the village in which the mage lived.
      They traveled for hours, then dismounted to camp. A group of golems approached in the night. Marusyn stood watch, but had fallen asleep. He awoke when he hard the rustle of leaves and the cracking of branches. He kicked Twisty, trying to wake him. It would not work. He donned his helmet, shifting forms. He drew his sword.

      From the Abyss, Thurstreng looked on. "Yes, my golems... There... He can't kill you... Get him now, while he's not ready... And the Elf too... Hehehehe...."

      The golems marched into view, and Marusyn's eyes widened as he saw their numbers. A total of 15 stood in front of him. He immediately went into action, jumping into a tree to get a better attack angle. He pounced down on one, driving his sword into its bald head. He withdrew the blade, switched it's position in his hands, and jumped at another, slicing it across the nose, then driving the sword into the monster's eye. He forced himself off with his feet, taking the sword out, and moved away from the falling giant body. He then leapt up, slicing the third across the stomach, and twisted his body a little, placing his feet on another tree. He propelled off it, thrusting a foot forward into the fourth's chest, and then slitting its throat. He leapt off the body into the branches of another tree, where he turned to Twisty. "Still sleeping? Damn..." He threw a stick, hitting Twisty across the chest. The Elf awoke with a start.
      "Huh?!" He turned and saw the golems. "Shit..." He drew his crossbow, arming it and aiming at the jugular vein on number five. Marusyn proceeded to six, carving a circle in its arm as he went by. He jumped onto its shoulder, thrusting his blade down into the beast's body. It roared, and fell back. Marusyn drew the sword out as Twisty fired on Number Five, hitting it square in it's vein. It fell to its knees, then hit the ground. Six fell back, clinging to number seven with his clawed hand, ripping the golem's skin. He swung back, but instead hit 8. Eventually all the remaining golems were dueling each other. Twisty and Marusyn looked at each other.
      "Run!" Marusyn shouted. He jumped down, grabbed the bag, and hopped onto his horse, slicing through a golem's back as he fell. Twisty put up his crossbow onto his back, and hopped onto his horse, following Marusyn into the distance.

      "No! They're escaping! Bastards! I should never trust golems! Dammit dammit dammit! Stop fighting each other! Your dinner's getting away, idiots! No!!" Thurstreng yelled.

      Marusyn and Twisty rode off until noon, when they reached the kingdom. They proceeded toward the palace, and received an audience with the local monarch. Marusyn shifted to his alter ego as he climbed the stairs to the throne.
      "Yes, traveller? What do you want me for?"
      Marusyn was confused. The king had seen one person... Not two. Twisty must've run off to a safe location. "I need to discuss business with you. I am Sir Marusyn, the Black Knight."
      This was the first time Twisty realized who he was working with. "Damn!" He muttered from his hiding place.
      "The Black Knight? Business? Bah! What does your king want?!"
      "Nothing. He can't want. He's dead."
      The king's face turned to a surprised expression. "Dead? How?"
      "A little Elf. Actually..."
      "Actually? Actually what?!" The king was getting quite worried at this point, especially from Marusyn's calm sounding voice.
      "...Actually, the little Elf... Is in this room right now." When Marusyn finished that sentence, Twisty fired. Marusyn turned. "Nice job. Now, let's get these crystals and continue on, okay?"
      "Righto, buddy!" The two collected the crystals, numbering six this time. "Twenty five... Well, let's go."

      From the Abyss...

      Thurstreng's face turned to a wide-eyed smile. "Twenty-five... I'm free, free! No more time in this prison! MWAHAHAHA!!!" He spread his arms out like a bird. He rose out of the pit of the Abyss, cackling the whole time. A hole appeared in the floor in front of Marusyn and Twisty as they left the last step in the throne room. "AHAHAHA!!! YES!! I'M FREE!!"
      Marusyn's eyes widened, as did Twisty. "Dammit, Twisty, what the hell is happening?!!"
      Thurstreng rose from the hole, arms still spread. His gray hair was tied back neatly. A single strand ran down his face, passing in front of his left eye. His eyes were unnaturally green; Greener than the grass, than the trees; An insanely bright green that almost glowed. His veins showed through, a dark blue that seemed to chill the room with its icy color. He wore a long black coat with a gray stripe going around the edges and the part in the front where it separated, revealing his black armor. He used his magic to call up a sword, with a handle made of ruby and a blade of obsidian four feet long. His head was lowered, looking back at his former prison. "You've freed me... After eight ages, I am free... Free again to rule the world... And this time, none can stop me... Hahaha..."
      "What?! How? Who the hell are you?!" Marusyn demanded, drawing his sword.
      "The crystals... I created them ages ago, before my banishment... 25 were united in this room, and I was called back to this plane of existence..." The hole to the Abyss had sealed by now. "I am the ultimate power... The great mage... Sent to Hell for my crimes, but summoned back to commit atrocities... I am Thurstreng... Master Archmage..." Thurstreng raised his head to look into Marusyn's. "And you, wish to stop me... I can tell... Your veins pulse with the desire to destroy me... Your veins glow with it... I'm afraid it's your time, mine will not come for several thousand ages... Fools..." He sliced his sword through the air, not hitting anyone, but a large blade of flames lashed out on the path the blade had created, swelling out to Marusyn. He raised his sword to block, but it was useless.
      "Argh... Damn... you..." Marusyn was engulfed, but only for a second. He fell to his knees. Twisty had gone unconscious.
      "What? Damn me? Too late... That was done at the time of my birth... I'll return to Hell one day, to rule it... But for now, this world will do wonderfully..."
      "You... can't.... Succeed, Thur... streng...." He was about to fall down unconscious as well.
      "Why not? Are you going to stop me? I don't think so... I have trained in the Abyss, destroying countless souls... I am stronger than anyone on this planet... I am stronger than God... You can't do a thing about it either..."
      At this point, Marusyn fell. He had gone unconscious, almost dead. Thurstreng smiled.
      "Well, I'll leave you two... You'll be arrested, thrown in jail, and executed soon after... I can't risk letting you live... Last time I did that, I ended up in Hell..." He looked upward, dropped his hands to his side, and flew upward, passing through the ceiling. He stopped about a mile above the palace, pointed his sword at a guard, and said "Go." He then continued on, to the place he had prepared to rule from eight ages ago... The Valley of Misery.

      Hours later, Marusyn woke up. "Wha... Where the Hell... Am I...?" He looked around, seeing he was in a small room, three stone walls and a barred wall in the front. It had a small section that could be distinguished as a door. A bed was in one corner, a bucket above a deep hole in the ground in the other.
      "Dammit..."
      "Twisty?" Marusyn turned around, looking for his partner. He wasn't in the cell. "Where are you?"
      "Across the hall... Where are we?"
      "Jail. We killed the king; they'll kill us for sure. We gotta get outta here."
      Twisty looked up at him. "Well, I could get us out, but they confiscated all my stuff."
      "Well then, I'll hafta break outta this cell. Now, where's my helmet..." He hadn't realized that he had been stripped of his armor, left with some old clothes.
      "Uh, hey, you're armor's gone too."
      "What?" Marusyn looked down. "Oh, dammit! How the hell am I gonna..."
      "Why were you looking for your helmet anyway? It magical?"
      "No."
      "Then why do you need it to get outta there?"
      "Because... I'm a..."
      "You're a what? Guy who's obsessed with his helmet?"
      Marusyn stared at him coldly. "A half-demon."
      At that, Twisty's eyes widened. "Holy God! So that's it! You can transform into a demon, but don't wanna be seen like that?" Marusyn nodded. "Well why the hell not!! It'll intimidate the crap outta people!"
      The knight turned his back to Twisty. "No... I can't. We'll have to wait. I've got a plan... You a good fist fighter?"
      "No, not really. Will I need..."
      "Alright, that won't work. Plan B, though..."
      Twisty's eyes narrowed. "Plan B? I don't like Plan B. You make it sound evil. What's Plan B?"
      "We wait till they come to take us out to die, and then I resist. They'll all come up to me when they realize how strong I am and..."
      "Shut up and transform, dammit!! I don't care how terrible you look as a demon!" Marusyn transformed. "Oh... Damn..." The knight ripped out some bars from his cell, then Twisty's. He then shifted back to Human form and they ran down the passages.
      "Any idea where we're going?"
      "Oh yeah. Been in hundreds of these. They're all the same."
      "Very reassuring, thank you," They ran through a corridor and ended up in a large room with doors lining the walls.
      "Alright, this is where they store people's equipment when they get caught. Look behind enough doors, and you'll find it. I had a mage enchant mine, so I can walk right to the correct door."
      "Me too." They each opened a door, and found their equipment. Marusyn quickly put on his armor, fastened his black cape around his neck, and donned his helmet. He then became the demon. Twisty had put on his normal clothes too, and held a loaded crossbow in his right hand. "Let's go," Marusyn said.
      They ran down another hall, and saw a small sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. "There!" Twisty yelled. However, this attracted the guards. They stepped out from niches in the walls ahead of the two, bearing swords. Twisty fired an arrow, killing one, while Marusyn sliced wildly through the ranks of soldiers. Twisty then drew a dagger from his side and got into a fight with one guard, blocking the longer blade with great ease. At the end, he kicked the guard in the knee and drove the dagger through the man's skull. "Well, that was fun, but look at the time. Gotta run, see ya later..." He bolted towards the door, following behind the flowing cape that trailed behind the demon-knight ahead of him.
      Marusyn sliced the door open, and sunlight flooded into his eyes. He immediately shifted to Human form, and stepped out. "Damn, that's bright. Well Twisty, let's go. We've got a mage to see..." They went to the stables and, slicing a couple heads off, stole two horses. They rode off towards the mage's home, without running into any danger. Marusyn saw a set of huts ahead and slowed down, knowing that they were there. After a little more riding, they stepped off, into the village...

      Thurstreng floated above the Valley. His castle had survived the ages, guarded by demons, ghouls and skeletons. Dragons lay asleep, brooding, in the mountains. Archers mounted the battlements, swordsmen in towers spread across the land. Wyverns ruled the skies, flying up and down the Valley. Orcish soldiers roamed the land, ready to battle at any moment. A lone armored dragon sat on the roof of the castle. It wore a breastplate, handcrafted from diamonds and bloodstones especially for him. He wore a crystal helmet, and his wings were covered in Obsidian. Emeralds lined his neck, and sapphires coated his long tail. The rest of his body was ruby; it was as if the beast was a jewel in and of itself. He looked up suddenly, seeing the Archmage. He spread his wings, gathering the attention of everything within one hundred feet. He flew up, towards Thurstreng. Everyone knew something big was happening, for this dragon had not moved in eight ages, since the banishment of Archmage Thurstreng, their leader.
      The Archmage smiled. "Ah, you still recognize me, my friend! It has been ages since we have spoken, and I wish to catch up on things, Tiamat!"
      The dragon flew up to Thurstreng's level. "My Master, you have returned to us. This was most unexpected; we had thought it would take ages to get twenty-five crystals in one place."
      "It would have, Tiamat. But we had a little help. Now, let us go to the castle. And stop calling me Master, Tiamat. You know just as well as I do that we are equal in our strength."
      "Yes, Thurstreng. Let us go." Tiamat turned, and flew down, Thurstreng not far behind him. He landed on the castle roof, gathering all around him. Thurstreng floated down to the roof slowly, landing in front of the dragon. The troops whispered and murmured amongst one another.
      "My friends, I have returned! It has been eight long, hard ages that I have been left in the Abyss, and I am back, ready to conquer the world! I hope you all have been training. I also hope that none know of this place... The Valley Of Misery must remain secret. That is our best defense. If they don't know where we are, they can't launch an attack. Now, where are my commanders? I want all of you... All eight of you. Step forward." He turned. "You, Tiamat, do not have to step forward. We don't want me to be crushed by your paw, now do we?" He smiled, and turned. "The rest of you are dismissed. I want to speak to these men alone." The troops walked off, satisfied that their leader was with them again. "Now, gentlemen... Shall we make this place what it should be? Get me the mages, I need to instruct them on the rituals. Ah, Commander Grael," the skeleton faced him. "I want you to do this for me. Have them waiting in the training area. Not the one in the castle though..." He turned and pointed off to the horizon, where the mountains completed a circle, and a pool of water lay across the land, littered with tiny islands.
      "That one. But not yet... I need to know if any of your men have noticed spies or anything suspicious around here."
      "Not in my company, sir. The platoon leaders report that everything is going fine," stated the ghouls leader. Thurstreng looked at the others. They shook their heads.
      "Alright then. We might need to do more recruiting... Tell me your numbers."
      The ghoul looked up. "One company. That's it."
      The skeleton counted on his fingers. "Almost a battalion, sir."
      "We've got a regiment or two." The demon stood there, head lowered, as he spoke.
      "Almost five hundred Wyverns."
      "Two thousand Archers," said a dark elf holding a longbow.
      "We got about three hundred swordsmen,"
      An Orc grunted, "Five hundred."
      Tiamat looked at Thurstreng. "One hundred, Thurstreng. I suggest that we do go ahead with the recruiting; But none of these. New races have emerged: Half-demons, able to shift from Human to demon at will; Draconics, men with dragon-like wings. They have great magical power; And also the dreaded Espers. These are few. They are powerful, though, and their power can be trapped inside a crystal. We have been researching these things for some time now. We have not quite mastered the process, but have advanced beyond the rest of the world."
      "And who approved this testing? I am sure that this research has to have cost a good bit..."
      "I did," said a man in a black cloak. "Thurstreng. Good to see you again..."
      "What are you doing here still? I thought you would have died by now."
      "Well, I survived. And I have led these men since your banishment. Tiamat here has been my right-hand dragon..."
      "What?! Who said you could lead them! And how in God's name did you get here, Aramoth?!"
      "Your banishment spell was not strong enough. Turns out that when you were sent to the Abyss, I could roam free again. I returned to this area because of its emotional value. And then I found these troops wandering about aimlessly, and I assumed control after talking to Tiamat."
      "You agreed to this, Tiamat?!"
      "Thurstreng, I didn't do anything of the sort. I only let him take control instead of me because he said he could get you back sooner than you could have, and..."
      "And you believed him. You believed him when he said that HE, NOT I, was the best mage to roam the planet?!"
      "I..."
      "Thurstreng! Stop! He was misled. He was in confusion about your banishment. Everyone in this cursed place was. I was not; I knew exactly what happened. I came in and said that you'd be back, and I could help them. They wanted to get you back. Nothing else. They thought I meant get you back sooner. I just wanted to make sure everyone survived to see your return."
      "So... That's it... You tricked them. Fool... You do not deserve the title of Archmage, but of scoundrel! You have put disgrace upon the few of us left!! Tiamat, exactly how many Archmages are left?"
      "Just the two of you, sir."
      "What?!" Aramoth nodded, then spoke.
      "He's right. In the age following your banishment, they decided that the order was pure evil, and hunted us down and killed all of us. Except for me. You chose a great place to stay, Thurstreng, I give you that; We did encounter some resistance, but it was no match for us. I destroyed everything with simple spells. These men weren't of much use."
      "Well then... These men need a leader, and it seems I am the favorite. Step down, Aramoth."
      "No."
      "What? Why not?!"
      "They've learned my powers. They never saw you in action. They know I can protect them. They think of you as a lazy man who just wishes to have more control."
      Thurstreng turned to the commanders. "Dismissed," he turned back to Aramoth. "Alright. We'll fight... You insist on holding the reins, so be it. Let's just see if you can keep them intact!!" Tiamat saw this coming. He spread his wings and flew upward.
      "Alright. I can't watch you two fight. Thurstreng, Aramoth... When one of you wins, get me. I'll be at the pool..."
      Aramoth's eyes narrowed. He shed his cloak, revealing his blood-red ruby armor. He drew a diamond-encrusted sword from its scabbard at his side. Thurstreng held his sword up, gripping it with one hand. His other was behind his back, glowing very faintly. In his head, Thurstreng chanted the words to an incantation. "Well, Thurstreng, if you insist," Aramoth lunged forward, blade above his head. He brought it down hard, but Thurstreng raised his blade quickly to block.
      "I don't think so," Thurstreng said, not losing his concentration on the spell. He pointed a finger at Aramoth and shot a lightning bolt at him, knocking him back. He continued chanting.
      "Agh!" Aramoth hit the ground. "Dammit..." He got up, and sliced upward at Thurstreng's right thigh. The Archmage swung his sword, blocking Aramoth again. "Damn you!!"
      Thurstreng smiled. He was almost done, and his hand had stopped glowing. He put it on the handle of his sword, and slashed at Aramoth's midsection. However, the younger mage jumped back, landed, and launched a fireball in Thurstreng's direction. The second it slammed against the old man's Obsidian armor, the skies darkened, and rain fell. Thurstreng's eyes flashed bright for half a second, then went back to normal. An Obsidian helmet formed on his head.
      "What?!" Aramoth knew something was wrong. He snapped his fingers, and his ruby helmet appeared. He then charged forward, attempting to impale Thurstreng on his sword. The older mage did not move, not even to defend. The diamond blade hit Thurstreng's armor, but did not penetrate. The two stood there for five seconds, rain pelting their armor. They stood motionless. Then, the diamond blade shattered.
      Thurstreng smiled, and looked up at the sky. He spread his arms out wide. A dark shield formed on the castle roof, enclosing the two. Thurstreng floated upward, out of the bubble-like force field. He stopped about ten feet above the thing. Suddenly, a beam of light broke through the clouds, yet it was extremely bright. It pierced through the bubble, striking the castle roof. A small flame appeared where it hit. The winds kicked in, whipping around Thurstreng's long, gray hair. A chill came from the north, but only made Aramoth cold. The ray of light was growing, as well. Then, a bolt of lightning struck the castle through the light beam. The small flame erupted into a large explosion, completely engulfing everything in the bubble. It carried with it the force of a hundred nuclear weapons, exploding at the same time, at the same exact spot. The bubble acted as a wall, but it broke. The flames started whipping out of the bubble, circling around Thurstreng. His black cloak did not move at all in the tremendous force of the wind, which was uprooting trees throughout the valley. Troops had to move inside the towers to avoid being hurled out of the place. The troops were staring at the castle roof, watching the flames. Tiamat, with frost on his wings, stared at the sky.
      The flames turned into wings on Thurstreng's back, making him seem as if he was a demon straight from a horror tale. He glided down to the explosion after several minutes of watching the flames; it was now dying, but it had done considerable damage to the castle, as well as completely destroying Aramoth. The castle roof was wiped out, and the walls were breaking. The floors ripped apart. However, one spot stood up, held by stone pillars. On top of it stood an upright skeletal figure in ruby armor...

      Marusyn knocked on the door to a small hut. An old man answered. "Ah, Mordor! Good to see you! However, this is not a pleasant visit. We have a problem."
      Twisty piped up. "A guy named Thurstreng came outta Hell. He wants to kill us all or sumthin like that."
      The old man's face drew to a harrowed expression. "Thurstreng, you say?" Marusyn nodded. "Oh God... Please, come in..." The three walked in.
      "What is it?" Marusyn inquired.
      Mordor stared at the floor. "Thurstreng was the Head of the Order of the Archmage, but was banished. He had committed many atrocities and was sent to Hell as a punishment. It is said that there is only one being on the planet that could possibly be stronger than him..."
      "Who? We might be able to get some help," Marusyn stated.
      "I doubt it. Tiamat, the great dragon, has been the guardian of the Archmages since this world came into existence. He's like a God. This world was created twenty-three ages ago, and he was there, fully grown, teaching us everything. He has disappeared, allowed to live only because of his importance to this world."
      "Tiamat? I heard of him." Twisty said. "Supposed to be encrusted with jewels... If he's a God, he's the God of the Thieves' Guild, with those gems."
      "No. I doubt it. Anyway, he's probably already helping Thurstreng get back on his feet..."
      "Wait." Marusyn interrupted. "You said he was allowed to live? What do you mean by that?"
      "Well, during the fifteenth age, Thurstreng was banished. In the sixteenth, the High Council of Terra met and decided to destroy the Archmages. Only one opposed them: Aramoth. He was second to Thurstreng's power. It is said that they fought off an invasion of Archdemons on their own. They are usually very competitive though."
      "Really... Listen, did Thurstreng have a base or hideaway of some sort before banishment?" Marusyn asked.
      "Come to think of it, yes. He placed it in a small valley. Used to be Armstrong Valley, for a military installation once occupied the entire place. But soon after the Council decided to eliminate the Archmages, Aramoth disappeared. He's never been heard from. At about that time, the enormous military at Armstrong Valley, which was the largest ever seen by this planet in all it's existence numbering well over a hundred million men, started to move out. It is said only half moved; the strategic power of the Valley was too much to be lost. They left half their men there in case anyone attacked. Thurstreng, before he was banished, was spotted talking to Tiamat. He mentioned the Valley, an installation, and a secret army. Of course, this is a rumor. Tiamat flew off in the direction of Armstrong Valley at the time of the banishment. We received information that he was helping the military there."
      "But then turned on them?" Marusyn asked.
      "Yes. We think. Aramoth disappeared, flying north. Toward Armstrong Valley, perhaps. We stopped getting reports from the valley about a day after Aramoth left. It is estimated it would take him about half a day to get there, and not much longer to take control. We think that he and Tiamat built a large military there and have been there for eight ages. We sent large amounts of men there several times, but none returned. I have a map indicating the approximate location. I suggest you stay away from the place; It was renamed the Valley of Misery after we lost it. Too many died there. We don't want you to do the same. If you do go, get help from..."
      "From who? The kings? Queens? Why would they help? It's been how long since they stopped attacking the Valley?"
      "Six ages."
      "Six ages! That's 3,000 years!!! Do you think anyone will ever think the place exists? It's probably been forgotten completely!"
      "You're right. I would go, but I am too old. 289 years I have been here, and I am too weak. You must go alone. Sorry. Thurstreng must be stopped, if he is back. I will try to get you some backup. But I can't guarantee anything." He handed over the map.
      Just then, the door swung open, and a peasant stood in the doorway. "Mage Mordor! Come quickly! We have an important visitor!"
      "Alright." Mordor rushed outside. Marusyn and Twisty followed. A carriage stood at the edge of the village, pulled by two horses. Six knights escorted it to Mordor's hut. A large man stepped out.
      "Ah, Mordor! Good to see you!" He said. A smile was spread across his face.
      "King Balthasar, it's been a long time. What do you come for?"
      "Your aid. The High Council is reforming. It seems that something has been manipulating all the rulers of the world." Marusyn and Twisty looked at each other.
      "The crystals," Twisty said quietly.
      "Excuse me?" Mordor turned around, hearing the elf.
      Marusyn looked at the mage. "Mordor, we know what's been controlling the royalty." He held up the bag.
      "What? Let me see this," Mordor took the bag and opened it, seeing the crystals.
      "When we got these twenty-five crystals together, Thurstreng appeared. We're the ones who set him free. It would have happened anyway. Twisty here thinks that there are 2500 of them in total."
      Mordor looked at King Balthasar, who was confused. "Do you have any crystals like these?" He dumped them on the ground.
      Balthasar looked at the crystals, then at Mordor. "Yes... We all do. And who is this Thurstreng that these two have set free?"
      Mordor sighed. "Do you remember the Order of the Archmage?"
      "I thought it was but a fairy tale..."
      "It wasn't. The Archmages did exist; They were like the Mages of today, but different. Much more powerful. And their lives seemed darker; Two Archmages stood out from the others though. Thurstreng and Aramoth. They were two of the most powerful beings to ever walk the planet, second only to the great Tiamat."
      "What? What does this mean?"
      "Thurstreng, the more powerful one, was banished to Hell. He was pure evil; Aramoth assumed control of the Order immediately after. Actually, some say it was Aramoth who had Thurstreng banished, so he could take over the planet. Tiamat served the Head Archmage since the world's beginning. He suggested the formation of the order. In the age following Thurstreng's banishment, the Archmages were ordered to be destroyed by the Council. Aramoth went to Armstrong Valley, where Tiamat was. The dragon was apparently helping the troops there, but..."
      "Wait. Armstrong Valley? Why have I never heard of this place?"
      "It's been forgotten for the past four ages. Thurstreng and Tiamat were like brothers, and I believe he had Tiamat in the Valley to prepare a large force to take over the planet when he returned. He knew he would be banished. I believe that Aramoth went to assume control. The valley was attacked several times, but nobody returned. Thus, it was renamed the Valley of Misery."
      "Well then. We'll have to attack, won't we?"
      "No! Aramoth and Tiamat on their own killed fifty million men who were guarding it!! If we attack, we're bound to die, if Thurstreng has returned! Do you remember the tale of the Archdemon invasion?"
      "Yes. They were extremely powerful beings from another plane of existence, and two men fought their invasion back. So?"
      "There were hundreds of thousands of Archdemons, Balthasar. We tried to kill them on our own, but couldn't. We called on the Archmages. Aramoth and Thurstreng alone destroyed every one of them without taking any damage in the battle. This happened in the twelfth age, when Aramoth assumed the seat below Thurstreng in the chain of command in the Order."
      "Alright. You said Aramoth, right?"
      "Yes, why?"
      "A powerful mage just visited the Council. We met recently, after the crystals lost their power. He said he represented an even more powerful mage, named Armith. Do you think this is more than just a coincidence?"
      "Oh no... What did he do?"
      "He suggested we revive the Archmages. Everyone agreed."
      "Oh God! What have you done?! If he succeeds, then we won't stand a chance!"
      "What should we do?"
      Mordor's face lit up. "There's only one spell book that holds the spell he needs. The spell was made in case the Order was ever destroyed. If he uses it, then many people will gain power beyond their wildest dreams and join this mage."
      "Where is this spell book?"
      "I have it." Mordor turned to Marusyn. "I'll need your help. This needs to be guarded. And Balthasar, they might need help. Marusyn here is the Black Knight, but..."
      Balthasar's eyes widened. "The Black Knight! Of course I will help! If he dies, we won't stand a chance!"
      "Exactly. Now, if I'm right, we should get visitors within the next week..." Marusyn's gaze shifted to beyond Mordor.
      "Or the next ten seconds! Get help, Balthasar! Leave these knights here, I'll need them! There's an invasion force headed this way!" Balthasar rushed to his carriage and gave orders. The carriage rushed away, and the knights turned to the approaching monsters. Mordor started chanting a spell.
      "Alright, let's go!" Twisty pulled a small, black, strange looking weapon.
      "What is that?"
      "An auto-crossbow, shoots real fast!" The elf fired off several arrows at the monsters, shooting some out of the sky. All were flying. At the lead was a large dragon. But not Tiamat, for this was a minor mission.
      Marusyn donned his helmet and shifted to half-demon form. He pointed a finger at the monsters, and a pillar of fire shot at them. Many were destroyed, but not enough. Mordor stopped chanting, looked at the swarm, and raised his hands. Thousands of lightning bolts flashed from the sky, cutting down some beasts, and igniting fires all over the countryside.
      "Dammit!! This is not good!" The monsters got closer.
      "Mordor, you got a gryphon or something I can ride up there?" Mordor pointed to a large building. Marusyn rushed over to it, kicking the door in. he saw a large, gold/silver gryphon sitting there. He hopped on its back, and the beast flew up, shattering the roof. Marusyn rushed over to the battle.
      Arrows flew from Twisty's weapon, and lightning was flung from Mordor's fingertips. A few monsters had landed, and the knights were dispatching them. Marusyn rode the gryphon straight for the mainstream of the invasion, slicing beasts out of the sky left and right. Flames shot out from his hand occasionally. Suddenly, the lightning stopped. Marusyn looked at Mordor, who was hit by a spell of some sort and could not move. The arrows were next. Marusyn ordered the gryphon to stay and fight in the air. He leapt off and ran toward the cabin, seeing a mage in black robes and an emerald suit of armor walking toward the cabin. Marusyn rushed towards the man, and sliced his sword down at him. The mage turned and raised his sword, then shoved his fist into Marusyn's stomach in under half a second. Marusyn was flung back a few feet, but would not stop. He pointed his sword at the mage, and a black ball of fire flew at him. It knocked the mage back, but only got him closer to the hut. He rushed forward, but not in time. The mage grabbed a small book, and thrust a finger out, stopping Marusyn in his tracks. He then left.

      At the Valley...

      Thurstreng had finished training his mages and had returned to the castle when a man in Emerald armor flew up to it. Thurstreng stood on the roof, smiling at the ruby armor that still stood there, Aramoth's skeleton inside. He turned and saw the mage flying toward him.
      "Hello, mage! How can I help you?" Thurstreng called out.
      "I need to speak with Lord Aramoth," he replied.
      "Lord Aramoth? I don't know who that is, but I know Aramoth."
      "What right do you have to refer to him without using his proper title?!" The mage inquired, about ten feet from Thurstreng. He did not see the armor.
      "My name is Archmage Thurstreng! What right do YOU have to talk to me like that?!"
      "What?! Archmage? Bah! Only Lord Aramoth is an Archmage, the last of the Order!"
      "No. I am. He banished me to Hell so he could control the world; He was power hungry and greedy. He had to be evicted from this place!"
      "Where is he now then?!" The mage was frustrated.
      "Right here," Thurstreng said. he stepped aside, revealing the skeletal figure in the ruby armor.
      "Y... You... You killed Aramoth! Wait until the rest of the Valley hears of this! Tiamat will have your head!"
      "They already know! Tiamat has served me since the fifth age!! What business has Aramoth sent you on? I have assumed control of the Valley of Misery, as is my right! Now answer me!"
      The mage was speechless for a second, but then spoke. "He had me get this book," He held the spell book out. "He plans to revive the Order of the Archmage,"
      Thurstreng smiled. "Well, he was a smart man, I give him that. Now, give me the spell book, and gather the Mages in the Valley. I shall cast the spell." Thurstreng flipped through the book while the Emerald Mage went to gather the mages. "Hmm... Here it is. A week's preparation? Damn. I'll have to start right away, then..." He closed the book and walked to the mages room, where they had gathered.

      Marusyn and Twisty had received their backup, but it was too late. An hour after the mage left, the army arrived. Marusyn and Twisty had set off toward the Valley of Misery, using the map Mordor gave them. The army followed, numbering over ten million. They had nothing in it but 9.5 million draconics, and the rest were half-demons and Espers, which had been found lurking in the countryside, and had instantly joined. They soon reached a small gap in a mountain range, possibly the Valley. Mordor had enchanted the map to show the exact position on it of the map holder. This was it. The Valley stood in front of them. Marusyn walked forward. It had been five days.

      Thurstreng and the mages stood in around a large hole in the earth, as the spell had said was necessary. For five days they had cast the spell, and it would take one and a half days for anything to get through the passages to the Valley. They were safe. The spell would work. Thurstreng had ordered that all reports of attack be given to Tiamat.
      Tiamat sat on top of the castle, staring at the skies. An archer ran up to him. "Sir, a large invasion force is headed this way!! They number over ten million, we estimate, and consist of nothing but Draconics, half-demons and a few Espers, Sir! Our recruiting hasn't even started, we fear the battle is hopeless! What shall we do?"
      Tiamat looked down at the Archer. "Then get everyone down there. We need to guard the Valley, no matter what. Thurstreng is two days away from the finish of his spell, and when that time comes, we can fight back and win. Easily." The Archer ran off, spreading orders to the Commanders. Swarms of creatures moved toward the tunnel through the mountain wall. There was one entrance, through that tunnel, and it was heavily defended from the start.

      Over one and a half a million men died in the tunnel of disease and exhaustion. There were about eight million left when they ran into the forces from inside the Valley. They had spent a day so far in the tunnel; One day was left for them to get to Thurstreng. Marusyn and Twisty's forces fought hard, and battle went on for six hours. In the end, only two thousand men were left, all on Marusyn's side: A thousand Draconics, 750 half-demons and 250 Espers. Marusyn and Twisty continued leading them through, but everyone moved faster now. They eventually broke through to the exit.
      The Valley of Misery was shrouded in darkness at this point; Rain pelted them hard. Cold winds blew all around the place, and lightning flashed through the skies frequently. Fires burned in spots. The troops continued on toward a large black object in the center; the castle.

      Thurstreng was almost done. It would be seven hours until the spell was finished. He knew not of the invasion that had occurred, and was calm because of that. Tiamat dared not disturb him. He just flew over to about a hundred feet from the chasm. The mages chanted a spell over and over, summoning up the Archmages from Hell, attempting to spread their power amongst the mages present. The rest of the world could send no more to the Valley. All they could do is wait, hoping that the Black Knight could save them.

      As Marusyn's army walked through, they came upon the castle. The doors had disappeared, as had the windows. Stairs on the side led up to the roof. Marusyn walked up, followed by Twisty. The rest stayed behind. Marusyn reached the top, and the first thing he saw was Aramoth's skeletal form. He then looked around and saw the Emerald Mage.
      "Haha! You are too late! The Order of the Archmage shall revive!"
      "Who are you?! And who was that?!" Marusyn demanded.
      "My name is not important. They call me the Emerald Mage. This," he waved a hand to the ruby armor. "This was Aramoth."
      "What?!" Marusyn gasped.
      "I arrived after Thurstreng killed him. I serve Master Archmage Thurstreng now, no one else. My orders are to kill you!" He lunged forward, slicing an emerald-bladed sword at Marusyn.
      "Alright, let's go!" Marusyn shouted. He raised his sword to block, and thrust a foot up into his opponent's stomach. He then drew his sword back, and shot him with a fireball.
      "Agh! Damn!" The Emerald Mage slashed sideways, but Marusyn ducked under the blade. He lashed a foot out, sweeping under the mage's feet, tripping him. He then launched several fireballs into his chest.
      "Goodbye," Marusyn said. He stood up, pointing his sword at the mage's forehead.
      "N... No, wait!" Marusyn didn't listen. He shoved the blade through his enemy's skull, then drew it out quickly. Blood flowed out, staining the obsidian castle.
      "Uh, Marusyn... Look over there!!" Twisty pointed into the distance. Marusyn rushed over.
      "What the hell is that?!" He said. Then he saw Thurstreng at one end of the circle of mages. "Thurstreng... C'mon, Twisty!!" He turned to the stairs, but stopped. Tiamat had flown over. His claws were stained with blood. Marusyn's army had been defeated.
      "I am the god of this planet. I was here since the beginning. I have trained for 11,289 years here to fight you... I am the great dragon of Terra, our planet... I am Tiamat... Prepare to die..." The dragon swung his tail around, slamming it into Marusyn. Twisty pulled his auto-crossbow and started firing, but the arrows bounced off or broke on the jeweled skin of the beast.
      "DAMN!" Marusyn screamed. He shifted to half-demon form. He then swung his sword at Tiamat's tail, slamming it into the beast hard. He sent cracks up and down the gems in the tail. Marusyn jumped back and fired a fireball at the tail, destroying the jeweled armor on the tail.
      "GRRAHHH!!! FOOL!!!!" Tiamat yelled out. He slammed his paw into Marusyn, flinging him off the roof. Twisty fired the auto-crossbow at the tail, embedding several arrows in the dragon's hide. He then looked up and down the monster's body while it cringed in the pain of the arrows. Twisty saw one spot that had never been touched by the gems; Under Tiamat's jaw was a bare patch of scales. He aimed, but could not fire. Tiamat slammed an obsidian-covered wing into the tiny elf's body, throwing him off the roof. It would be thirty minutes until Thurstreng's spell was complete, and Marusyn, the one man who could possibly save them, was nearly dead.

      Back in town, Mordor searched frantically through his books for something to stop the spell. He stumbled upon one book that mentioned a spell similar to the one Thurstreng was using.
      "Ah, revival of the... Archraces? Hmm? Strange... Let's see... After the spell is cast... Archraces will rise from Hell... Those who belong to the half-races will become members of the corresponding Archrace?" He shut the book. "So... It'll only let half-mages become Archmages... And... Oh, God! Marusyn is going to become an Archdemon!! And the Elf... he seemed to be a half-dragon. I could tell... His eyes resembled those of the few I have seen! He could have turned into a dragon if he wanted... If he knew how! An Archdemon and an Archdragon? Oh God, this could be very bad... Unless they can control their power..."

      Thurstreng stopped chanting. The mages stopped, looking at him. For seven days, they had chanted the same words over and over. Thurstreng looked into the chasm. Something was approaching... Something like a demon? He was confused. It was followed by a dark-colored dragon. "What? The spell... It must have gone wrong!!" He searched through the book. "The Archraces?!! What? Half-races will turn into Archraces... Dammit! Only the Half-mages will become Archmages... And they are extinct... And... Wait! That knight... He's a half-demon!!! NO!!!" Thurstreng's eyes widened and turned blood red. They started to grow, and a large shock wave shot out of his body. It destroyed all the mages there, and ripped through the mountains. It destroyed the castle. Tiamat flew above it all. The winds picked up, blowing so hard that Tiamat had to struggle to stay in one place. Fires broke out all over the place; the entire planet turned dark. Lightning struck across the land. Ice formed on buildings; the world turned cold, as if an Ice Age was starting. The flames that had begun grew larger, until they almost engulfed the planet. Few people survived. Thurstreng floated in the skies, staring at the Chasm. It was closing, and the Archmages had not been revived.

      Marusyn awoke. He felt different; looking at his body, he found it true. He had turned into an Archdemon. He looked at Twisty, who had become a four winged, dark scaled dragon. He drew his sword, and looked at Tiamat. He found that he had grown wings. He let out a small growl and flew into the air. Twisty followed him. "Twisty, I want you to take care of Tiamat. I'll get Thurstreng!!" Marusyn flew off toward the Archmage. Twisty glared at Tiamat, and battle ensued...

      Thurstreng looked straight ahead, and saw the planet erupting into earthquakes. He had shifted the balance of good and evil, and Terra, the planet he was going to control, was being destroyed in front of his eyes. He turned around and saw a black skinned, horned thing flying toward him. He had not seen anything like this for eleven ages. Then it dawned on him:
      It was an Archdemon.
      Thurstreng's eyes widened. He drew a sword, ready to fight. Marusyn flew at him, and as soon as he could, he sliced at Thurstreng, then flew straight upward. Thurstreng moved his sword to block, but not in time. The blade slit his coat, but did no damage to him. He shot a large lightning bolt at Marusyn. He moved his sword, blocking the bolt, and reflecting it back at Thurstreng, who moved to the side. It struck the ground, igniting a large fire below them. Thurstreng used his dark bubble spell, and encased them in a large bubble stretching to the ground. Flames lined the walls; Thurstreng did not move out of it though. They moved closer together, and a large swordfight ensued. Blades flew left and right, clashing and clanging against one another. Sparks flew from the force of the impact of the swords. They thrusted, lashed and slashed at each other, but the other blocked every move. The swords flew through the air with lightning speed. Eventually, Thurstreng flew back. He exited the bubble.

      After a long period of slashing and attacks, Twisty and Tiamat were exhausted. Twisty was winning though. He stared at Tiamat had. "You... Fought hard... But now... I've got to.... Kill you," Twisty gasped. He lunged forward, extending a long claw. He shoved it straight into the patch of skin he saw earlier. Tiamat roared loud, so loud that the entire world heard it. Twisty withdrew the claw, and watched as Tiamat fell to the ground. He hit, and shook the area for miles around. He looked at his foe for a minute, making sure that he had killed Tiamat. It seemed too good to be true; the strongest being on the planet being killed. He looked at the sky, then toward Marusyn. He flew over to watch.

      The light had pierced through the bubble, and the lightning was about to strike. Marusyn looked at Thurstreng, and extended a hand. The wind formed something like an invisible hand, like Marusyn's. He moved his hand and made a fist, and the air closed its fist around Thurstreng. He didn't notice it though. Marusyn then jerked his hand back, and Thurstreng was pulled into the bubble as the lightning struck. This was larger than Thurstreng had ever used. This time the spell carried five thousand times the force he used on Aramoth. The bubble held for about five seconds, then shattered, shooting the flames all around the planet. Most of the living things on the planet died instantly. The flames did not. Twisty flew up to get away from the flames.
      Marusyn and Thurstreng floated there, in the middle of the flames. It was as if a path had been cleared between the two, and they stared at each other. Then the ground opened up, and swallowed the two into itself. They were in Hell now.

      The flames cleared from the planet. It was not much more than a barren wasteland now. The rift that had released the Archraces and swallowed Marusyn and Thurstreng was gone. Twisty landed on the ground. As soon as he did, he switched to a full Elf. He was no longer an Archdragon; The Archraces had died out again. He looked around. The Obsidian castle was destroyed; Parts of it were scattered around. The mountains were gone; The Valley of Misery was no longer a Valley. Twisty looked around and saw a Wyvern, and walked over to it.
      "Hey, little Wyvern guy... Whatcha doin'?" Twisty asked, trying to tame it. It screeched at him. "Whoa, big fella! Calm down!" He looked over it, and saw that a slab of Obsidian had ripped through its wing. He pulled it out, and the Wyvern looked at him. He had tamed it in a way. He hopped on its back, and flew off to survey the damage the world had taken. He saw dead bodies everywhere. Trees were uprooted, cities destroyed. Nothing had survived, he thought. Then, he saw it: A lone castle, constructed of stone, standing in the middle of a circle of mountains. Towers were placed randomly around the area. "Wait... That looks just like the Valley did, but... That can't be right..." He flew closer. It was; but something was different. He flew up to the castle, and a soldier stepped forward.
      "Welcome to Armstrong Valley, Sir Elf! How may we help you?"
      Twisty's eyes widened. He asked, "What... What age is it?"
      The soldier seemed confused. "Why, it's the fifteenth age. Why do you ask?"
      "Oh God... No, it can't be!! Listen, I need to know, is the Order of the Archmage still around?"
      "Why, of course! Why would they not be?"
      "Who is their leader? Tell me, now! This concerns the fate of the entire planet!"
      "What? How?"
      "Just tell me!" Twisty shouted.
      "Master Archmage Thurstreng. Why?"
      "Okay, good. I still have time. Where can I find the High Council?"
      "Well, they are in the city of Corjen, why?"
      "Where is that?"
      "That way," the soldier pointed into the distance. "Now, answer me, why do you ask all this?"
      "Alright, thanks." Twisty turned the Wyvern around and flew off to Corjen.

      Thurstreng looked at Marusyn. He laughed quietly. "Heh... The world above us... It has reverted to the fifteenth age... We are in Hell now. I am more powerful here, not up there. The flames of Hell power my magery. Now, let's go. We will fight to the death. The winner returns to Terra. The loser... Gets his soul destroyed..." Thurstreng raised a hand toward Marusyn.
      "Thurstreng... This battle will decide the fate of Terra. I can't lose..." He drew his sword, and pointed the tip at Thurstreng. He shot a bolt of lightning out of it. Thurstreng was surprised. He thought that half-demons and Archdemons could use only fire magic, which would heal him; But apparently Marusyn was no longer either of those. He was a mage now.
      The lightning hit Thurstreng square in the chest. He fell back. "Agh!" He yelled. He was starting to cast a spell to have the ground come up and crush Marusyn, but couldn't get much of it done. Thus, all that happened was some of the ground fell out, leaving them suspended on a small rocky island above the lake of fire. Flames leapt up as the brown rock fell into them. Thurstreng stood again; He knew that if either of them fell off, they would die the second they were touched by the flames. He looked directly at Marusyn.
      "Thurstreng, you can't win! I will defeat you!!" Marusyn rushed forward, slicing his blade through the air toward Thurstreng, who raised his own blade to block. Marusyn thrust a knee up, hitting Thurstreng in the stomach. He fell back some more. About ten feet left until the Archmage fell to his destruction. Marusyn pointed his blade at the ground, and shot a thick, sharp icicle into it, splitting the ground into two parts. A rift separated the two. Thurstreng stood up, and leapt across the gap, bringing his sword down toward Marusyn's head. The knight raised his weapon up, blocking Thurstreng's. He then made a fist with his empty hand, and it became covered with fire. Lightning shot through it. He shoved his fist into Thurstreng, hurtling him back until he landed, his head hanging over the flames.
      "Urg... You... Bastard!!!" Thurstreng floated up, and pointed his hands at the ground. It started to break apart. He hurled one large stone at Marusyn with a burst of flames.
      "No!" Marusyn yelled. He dropped his sword, and pointed both palms at the boulder. Bursting forth were lightning bolts. The two mages stood there, magic preventing the boulder from going either way. Whoever tired first would be hit with it, and knocked into the fire below. Marusyn floated into the air as well. They stood there, firing all the magic they had in their bodies.

      Twisty saw a large, tall tower in the middle of an open field. "That must be it!!" He said. The Wyvern flew to it, and to the top. The air was thin here, and the temperatures low. Twisty shivered as he stepped off onto the roof and opened a door leading inward. He traveled down several sets of stairs until he came upon a door. He put his ear up to it, listening. It was the High Council.
      "Thurstreng is not here, correct?"
      "That is right. Now, what shall we do about him?"
      "Aramoth, what do you mean?"
      "He's a problem. His magery has given disgrace to the Order of the Archmage. As second-in-command, I ask that something be done to rid us of him."
      "Why? I thought you two were friends."
      "No. I only serve him as he is the Head of the Order. He must be stopped though; I have heard him and Tiamat talking about raising an army and overthrowing the world's leaders. And he has the power, too... Unless we act quickly."
      "I agree with him. This must not happen."
      "Yes, that's right. I call for a vote."
      "All in favor, raise your hands." There was a pause. "Thirteen. Unanimous. Well, there we go, then. Let's do it."
      "Aramoth, what should we do?"
      "There's two things. First, we need to have someone cast a Sleep spell on him, but a very powerful one. Sleep of the Ages. It would make normal men sleep for thousands of years, but a Master Archmage would last about three hours asleep under this spell. So we will have to do the next part very quickly. I suggest we banish him to Hell."
      There was a lot of whispering and murmuring. Then it ceased. "Aramoth, do you really think that is necessary?"
      "Of course."
      "All in favor," another pause. "Eight... Nine... Ten. Well, that's a majority. Let's do it. I assume you have the spells we will need?"
      "Yes, of course."
      "Might I ask a question, Aramoth?"
      "Of course, Balgar."
      "Why not just kill him while he is sleeping?"
      "No, we want to torture him. True punishment."
      "But he might escape!"
      "No. I don't think he will."
      "Aramoth, listen to me!! If we don't kill him, he could come back ages from now and attack while we least expect it!!!"
      "Enough, Balgar! We will go with Aramoth's plan. Any other news? Suggestions?" A pause. "Alright. This meeting of the High Council of Terra is adjourned." The members of the Council left their chairs and exited.
      "So... That's it. If I can kill Aramoth when he finishes the Sleep spell, I can get to Thurstreng. They'll kill off the Archmages, I'm sure of it. Now... Where are they going to do this?" He heard two men talking. One was Aramoth.
      "Well, Aramoth. You have the spells. Where should we meet to cast them?"
      "We will not meet. I will ask Thurstreng to meet with me on the roof of this tower, as it is easily accessible and no one can overhear us there.. Our headquarters is right downstairs, you know. I will have one Archmage with me to help with the banishment."
      "Well. It seems you've got everything under control. I look forward to your leadership of the Order of the Archmage."
      "Thank you, Emperor Cedric. The next age is going to arrive soon, and I look forward to a glorious term with you leading the Council."
      "Thank you. Now, may I ask when you will be casting the spells exactly?"
      "Midnight tomorrow. We have..." A pause. "About twenty-six hours left with him on this planet. I pray that nothing goes wrong."
      Twisty rushed out through the top and hopped onto the back of the Wyvern. He headed for a nearby town he had seen on his way to the tower and rented a room at the Inn. He slept until an hour before midnight, then left.

      The battle was drawing to a close. Marusyn was getting weaker. Thurstreng spoke. "Haha!! Soon, my fifteenth age counterpart will arrive! We will join together and become a God!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!"
      Marusyn saw the boulder draw closer to him. Then he thought of a plan. "If you can survive!!!" He flew upward, releasing his electric stream. The boulder was flung under him. He fired lightning at Thurstreng, knocking him back. He looked down, and saw that the stone they had stood on was gone now, along with his sword. Thurstreng looked up at him again.
      "A little longer, and he will be banished. He will join us!! I will reign supreme!"
      Marusyn stared at him. He thought, "C'mon, Twisty... Whatever you can do... Do it, now!!"

      Twisty neared the tower, and saw clouds surrounding it, but leaving a small sphere around the roof. "There... I can hide there," He said as he loaded both crossbows. He packed fifteen into the auto-crossbow. It would take a full second to unload all those arrows. He was saving it for Aramoth, and had them poison-tipped. A short sword hung at his side, enchanted so it would kill Thurstreng. At least here, anyways...
      He arrived at a spot where he could barely see the roof, but couldn't be seen at all by someone standing on the top of the tower. The entrance into the tower opened. "Here we go..." He said, very quietly. He pointed the auto-crossbow. He saw Aramoth and Thurstreng standing on the roof, talking.
      "Well? What do you want, Aramoth?"
      "I need to discuss some important matters concerning the Order."
      "Alright, go."
      "Some of the members do not feel happy with you leading and me being in the second-hand spot. I think they want us overthrown, and..."
      "I know of this. I have sent a request to the Council to hunt down those Archmages who oppose me and have them killed."
      "Well, it seems you've got that under control."
      "Is that all? I have research to do, and..."
      "No, Thurstreng. There is one more thing."
      "Oh, yes, the Council meeting that I missed! How did that go? What news do you have?" Twisty saw Aramoth's hand behind his back, fingers moving and twisting, his palm glowing faintly.
      "Well, not much. War has ripped through the continent of Archelleas, and a famine has struck the area around the city of Duren. And Armstrong Valley has still done nothing. They worry me a little... I fear they might attack the world. They have well over one hundred million men there."
      "Hmm. How'd the wars go?"
      "Terrible. The lands were decimated."
      "What is Aramoth doing? Why isn't he casting the spell?" Twisty said faintly. "Oh, it must take preparation..." He realized.
      "I see. The famine can be handled by the lesser mages, and..."
      "The famine is spreading rapidly and will soon engulf Forgas and Merian."
      "I see. We will handle it. And Armstrong Valley has worried me too. Tiamat and I have talked, and we are closely watching the place. If anything happens to me, he will go there and do something about this."
      "Right. And also, at the end of the meeting, we talked about you. Actually that is when they realized it was me there, not you."
      "Really..."
      "Yes. Some of them are concerned. Your research has been going on for days, and they fear you might be plotting something. I, of course, opposed them, and..."
      "Aramoth, are you lying to me?"
      "What do you mean?"
      "Your eyes. They are different... Did you really oppose them?"
      "Yes, of course! Why would I not?"
      Thurstreng's eyes widened. "Power hungry fool!! You think I cannot see into your thoughts?! You think I cannot tell that you have lied to me? You want to overthrow me! You incited revolt in the Order to grab more power!! You'll never get it, Aramoth, not while I am around!!!"
      "You won't be around," Aramoth thrust his hand out and hit Thurstreng with the spell, putting him to sleep. A mage rushed up to the roof. Twisty raised the other crossbow.
      "Sir, it's done. Shall I cast the spell?" He questioned.
      "Yes, let's do it now." Twisty aimed the single-shot at the newly arrived Archmage and the other at Aramoth. The two raised their hands, palms facing Thurstreng. The ground opened up under Thurstreng's body, which floated there, unable to descend until the spell had been cast.

      Thurstreng looked up. "There it is!!! We will join together soon!" His gaze lowered to Marusyn. "And then, you will die!!"
      "Dammit, Twisty! I know you're up there! Get them now!!!" Marusyn shouted. He knew the elf couldn't hear him though.

      Twisty breathed in deeply. He cleared his mind, his aim perfect. He then looked at his targets. He fired the crossbows simultaneously, slowly moving the auto-crossbow downward to spread the fifteen arrows out.
      The younger Archmage died, and fell into the pit. His body disintegrated, leaving a soul to fall to the lake of fire. Aramoth stood there, unmoving. Twisty wondered if he had even hit. He drew his short sword and flew up to the tower roof, jumping off the Wyvern. As he fell to the stones below, he kicked Aramoth in the back, and realized that the arrows had hit him, one lodged deep in his brain, another jabbed through his neck, and the others through his spinal cord. His foot landed on one, driving it through Aramoth's heart, which had not been touched yet. The Archmage fell forward, descending to Hell.

      "WHAT?!! NO!!!" Thurstreng shouted. "No! Dammit, Aramoth! What happened!! You were supposed to banish me!!!! You bastard!" He then saw the arrows sticking through his back. "Wha? Arrows?! An assassin?! The... The ELF?!!" He looked at Marusyn, who had found his sword sticking into the rock wall nearby, and carried it in his right hand. Marusyn smiled.

      Twisty walked over to Thurstreng's body, and picked it up, laying it on the stone surface of the tower. He knelt down, sword in hand. He raised it above Thurstreng's neck, and wondered if it would work. After a minute or two, he decided to try it anyway. He very quickly lowered the sword through the Archmage's neck, raised it and buried it in Thurstreng's heart.

      "NOOOOO!!!" Thurstreng said as he watched from Hell. "That damned elf! AAGH!! DAMMIT!!!"
      Marusyn gripped his blade in both hands, and stared at Thurstreng. "Something strange is going on here, Thurstreng. You know it and so do I. It's as if time is shifting to right the wrongs you have caused. I will destroy you..."
      Something was strange. Thurstreng's soul did not fall down into the flames. It stayed up there, and Twisty had left on the Wyvern.
      "He may have stopped me from going to Hell, but not from surviving to conquer the world!!" He said. He then spread his arms out wide, and let out a maniacal laugh.

      At that time, Marusyn, Twisty and Thurstreng all saw a bright light in front of them, growing larger. Eventually it swarmed over them, nearly blinding them.

      When they could see again, they had moved elsewhere. Marusyn looked around. Twisty was behind him. They stood atop a stone platform. On the ground, a large battle was being fought. "Twisty... Isn't this place..."
      "The Valley of Misery. I remember it now... The Archmages must be dead except for Thurstreng. He must be here somewhere. He and Tiamat must be taking control of the Valley."
      Marusyn scanned the skies. Tiamat was there, flying around. Ballista shot at him. He could not see Thurstreng though. Then, a lightning bolt struck from the sky. He could see a figure in the clouds above them. He tightly gripped his sword and stared as Thurstreng lowered from the clouds. He landed on the rooftop, and drew his sword. "Twisty... Go help the ground troops. They need help with Tiamat. I'll take care of him."
      Twisty bolted off, running to a ballista which was abandoned. Marusyn stared at Thurstreng, then rushed at him. As their swords struck together, they disappeared.
      When he could see again, he saw that he was not in a room, not in Hell, not in any noticeable place. He could see perfectly, but was surrounded by blackness. Thurstreng was in front of him. Nothing supported their feet, yet they could walk freely as if there were a floor.
      "Welcome to my home... Where I was born. The Astral Plane, where all things go when they cease to exist. After a time of torture in hell or pleasure in heaven, they come here, and die. Your fate will be theirs. However... I cannot use magic here. But my sword fighting skills have been greatly improved. Prepare for the biggest fight of your life, Marusyn, Black Knight." He raised his sword, and charged.

      Twisty aimed carefully at Tiamat, whose back was turned. He was burning knights one by one with tiny fireballs. He raised the amount of pressure the ballista would fire with and checked his aim again. "This should work," he said as he fired it.
      Tiamat had just finished with his knights. He turned around, and saw the giant arrow heading straight for him. He panicked and hovered there, unable to move as the arrow pierced his jeweled breastplate. It broke through the scales and skin on his chest, and drove itself through the beast's heart. It then continued on to break out the other side. The dragon fell from the sky, blood flowing freely onto the battlefield, covering several soldiers. His body struck and made a crater in the ground. The enemy troops saw the great dragon fall, and their hopes drastically decreased. They stood in terror for a few seconds, which the army defending the Valley used to make a massive strike against them. Twisty grabbed a horse and a long sword and rode around, shooting some with his crossbow and slashing through others with the sword.
      After another hour of fighting, the battle was won. Bodies littered the field. Blood drained out of them, coating the valley. Twisty rode toward the castle on his horse, hopping off when he arrived. He rushed to the top, and saw no one there. "Dammit! I wish this would stop happening!!" He held his sword tight, ready for battle.

      Marusyn was getting tired, as was Thurstreng. They had traded blows, none hitting either man. Marusyn rushed forward again, his sword held high above his head. Thurstreng saw him, and raised his sword to impale him a few seconds before Marusyn would strike him. Marusyn saw the blade, and his eyes widened in his last few seconds to survive. He lowered his blade as his torso slid onto Thurstreng's sword, hoping to kill the Archmage.

      Twisty saw something strange in front of him, a rift in the air. He walked up to it, and saw Thurstreng and Marusyn. He walked through into the Astral Plane. He saw Marusyn run forward. He saw as Thurstreng raised his sword. He gazed on in terror as Marusyn was impaled. He then saw Marusyn's blade come down as Thurstreng's ripped through his back.
      "NO!" He saw the blade go down to about the base of Thurstreng's neck. He wasn't sure if it had gone through the evil mage's skull or landed on his shoulder. The two stood there, motionless. Twisty inched forward. He could see no blood coming from either. He then saw Marusyn's body moving back, off the sword to hit the ground. Thurstreng still stood there. He ran over to Marusyn, seeing the wound. No blood came out for some reason, but Thurstreng's blade was coated in the red liquid. He stared into Marusyn's face for about ten seconds. Then, a reddish glint caught his eye. He looked to his left, and saw Marusyn's sword. It, too, had blood on it! He stood up and looked at Thurstreng. He seemed alive, but Twisty was not sure. He raised his sword, and sliced at his neck. That was when he saw it:
      A small wound in Thurstreng's shoulder.
      He saw it right before his sword came to a snapping halt. He looked back, and saw Thurstreng smiling. He had blocked the long sword's blade. Twisty reached for his waist and drew the enchanted broadsword. He thrust it into Thurstreng's stomach. "This... Is for Terra..." He turned it so the edge of the blade faced upward. "...And Marusyn!" He thrust it upward, driving it through Thurstreng's lungs and into his neck. He then drew it out, and sliced the long sword again, this time through Thurstreng's stomach. He cut the Archmage in half. He turned around, kneeled, and picked up Marusyn's body. He stood up, turned, and looked at the rift. It was closing!!
      Twisty ran as fast as he could, diving at the end, carrying the body of his fallen comrade with him as he tumbled through the gap. He landed on his feet, and still had the body in his arms. He laid it on the ground, and walked off, exiting the Valley of Misery. As he reached the tunnel, he looked back, and saw a dark hole in the sky sucking up everything. He stood there, not afraid. If he was going to die, he was ready. He had done what he was meant to do.
      The hole sucked up everything around him, but left him alone. The bright, blinding light came at him again. He shut his eyes.
      When he opened them, he looked around. Mountains surrounded him. A large open field lay before him. A castle stood in the middle, old and decrepit. He turned, and saw a man there, staring at him.
      "Where am I? And what year is it?"
      The man looked at him, confused. "Why, it's the 23rd age. Year 289."
      Twisty was confused. It was the exact year that he and Marusyn had disappeared and fought Thurstreng throughout time.
      "And this is the Valley of Hope. That castle has been here for many ages, and on top is the dead body of a knight who we believe saved us from the evil Archmage Thurstreng."
      "What? Him? No! It was me, I tell you! He died fighting Thurstreng, then I stepped in when Thurstreng was gloating over the knight's dead body! I killed him, not Marusyn!"
      "How do you know the name of that brave knight, when you don't know the year?!"
      "I traveled with him. We changed history, starting in this very year. We battled Thurstreng, and won. Marusyn and Thurstreng went to Hell, while I was in the fifteenth age. I stopped Thurstreng from being banished to Hell by killing Aramoth and another Archmage, who were going to do the banishment. All three of us were then transported somewhere else, I'm guessing the sixteenth age..."
      "When the Archmages were killed, Thurstreng took the valley, and was soon after killed."
      "Yes. I fired the shot that killed Tiamat. I then ran up to the top of that castle... I saw some strange gap in the air leading to a dark place. Marusyn and Thurstreng were battling. As I stepped through, Marusyn was far from Thurstreng. He rushed forward, his sword raised high. Thurstreng raised his blade at the last second, impaling Marusyn. I saw his blade go down, and it sank into Thurstreng's shoulder. I walked up. Marusyn's body fell to the ground, and I thought Thurstreng was dead, but he still stood."
      "Sorry, but this sounds like a fairy tale. I can't believe a word of what..."
      "Listen to me!! That's when I swung my blade at Thurstreng's neck to be sure he was dead! I then noticed the cut in his shoulder. He raised his sword, blocking mine. I then quickly drew my short sword," he raised the weapon from its sheath, then put it back. "And shoved it into his stomach. After that, I don't remember much. Last thing I know was I leapt through the gap I mentioned before, carrying his body. I walked off this way, and that's when I saw everything here, and you."
      "True, you did appear out of nowhere. Nobody was in here, and I was leaving myself. I turned around one more time to look at the castle... You stood in front of me. But you have no proof."
      Twisty sighed, then turned and walked back to the castle, and up to the roof. He looked at the sky, and saw it turn dark suddenly. He looked back to the normal level, and saw Marusyn standing there. The area looked empty, like it did after Thurstreng had cast the spell that sent them all through time. He saw they were on the Obsidian Castle. They were in their time again. Thurstreng's body lay on the roof of the castle, lifeless. A sword stuck through the chest, and an arrow pierced through his forehead.
      "Twisty... Do you... Remember what just happened?"
      "You mean that weird time traveling thing?"
      "Yeah, that! Did you really kill Thurstreng in the Astral Plane?" Twisty looked confused at the mention of the place's name. "That big, empty black place where I had lost to Thurstreng? I saw you kill him, I think. Did you?"
      "So you didn't die?" Marusyn shook his head. "Well... I remember it. What should we do now?"
      "I don't know." Then, the two of them saw something in the distance. Ghostly images of mountains surrounded the area. Translucent figures of the soldiers fought below. They looked to one side. Thurstreng battled an Archdemon, while higher in the sky, Tiamat fought with an Archdragon.
      "Twisty... I think we'd better leave. I think this that we're seeing is a warning to future generations of what may happen again. The Valley of Misery will keep its name, replaying this battle for eternity, I fear. Let's go... We know what'll happen." They walked down the stairs and through the fields, watching the images of the troops fighting valiantly in the valley. They reached the tunnel and passed through it, not turning back.
      If they had, they would have seen an image of a man in a black robe, decorated in gold and lined in blood red fabric. Under it he wore a black shirt and pants, with matching shoes. His golden hair flowed down his shoulders. It was an image of a future Archmage. He said quietly as they left, "Oh, yes, it's a reminder of what WILL happen in the future. And of what I should not do.." He pivoted around, doing a 180-degree turn. He walked toward the castle, slowly fading from view.
      As Marusyn reached halfway through the tunnel, he turned around. "Something's wrong, Twisty. I think there's someone else in there..."
      "What are you talking about? We killed Tiamat, we killed Aramoth, we killed Thurstreng. Who could possibly be left?"
      "I don't know. But I'm going back. Tell Mordor that I'll arrive soon," he said as he ran off.
      "What?! Marusyn!!" Twisty yelled. He then sighed, and lowered his head. He turned around and walked out.


DAMN that was hard to write. So was the next part. Anyway, feel free to go back to the main page or something.