Chapter Nine: The Black Forest
Grafeldr had to time his next move with precision or he would certainly perish. Calling on the power of his mind, he focused his will on one location, the one place he wanted to go. He used all his willpower to open a connection with that place and waited.
“Die then, old man,” Malik snarled at Grafeldr and, raising both hands, aimed a tremendous blast of elemental energy at the old man. The dǽmon saw the wizard raise his arms in defense, his feeble, white energy mingling with Malik’s powerful red. The ensuing blinding flash when the two magic energies met made Malik avert his eyes against the light. When the brilliance abated he looked back where the wizard had stood. A few remnant sparks snapped and popped where residual magic remained, otherwise, nothing. The old magician was gone. Not even ash was left.
Grafeldr felt his body flung backward into a dark void, the door to which his mind had conjured with not a moment to spare. Now faced with the vast emptiness of the void, Grafeldr turned his mind toward the destination he had desired when he summoned the opening. It was only with the strength of his impressive will that he was able to steer himself toward that far off objective he visualized in his mind’s eye. He directed his mind on the one distant point of light, for to lose sight of it would mean spending eternity lost within the void…with the others. Aside from spending forever, lost in the void, with its silent, but sentient emptiness rebelling against him, it was the myriad evil and powerful entities that inhabited the void that he was concerned with.
He could feel his body being propelled through the emptiness, his eye locked on a barely discernible pinpoint of dim light. Grafeldr opened his mind and waited to feel the embrace of the light, the irresistible attraction that would seize his body and draw it into and through the one exit door that waited inside the point of light.
As he concentrated on the light, far away, at the edge of sanity, he sensed a presence much closer and malevolent. Grafeldr felt the thing turn its baleful eye toward him as he was being pulled toward the doorway and the light, for now he sensed the doorway’s subtle attraction drawing him closer. But the thing in the dark must have felt it too for it began to approach Grafeldr, hoping to get to the doorway and find an exit from this boundless nothing, of which they were both prisoners.
Grafeldr locked his mind on the approaching point of light while he reached out with his other senses to locate the dark entity in the void with him. Without releasing his focus on his destination, Grafeldr felt the other presence. Its energy force reached out for his, Grafeldr’s, essence, trying to latch on and be dragged through the doorway. He could feel it, just behind him, like a bird flying in a formation to reduce drag. It was closing the distance and, Grafeldr felt sure, if he didn’t do something to detour it from its path, he might inadvertently pull the thing into his world or at the least it would cast him aside at the last moment and pass through the door instead of him. He could allow neither event to happen.
On a straight course for the portal, Grafeldr allowed his focus on the light to lessen and began to gather his power. Forming a tiny ball of white fire in the palm of his closed fist, he prepared to send it out into the void, in hopes of luring the entity away. But in the utter darkness of the void enough of this new light leaked through his fingers that it was perceived as a beacon by the dark entity trailing close behind. Then, Grafeldr felt an overwhelming force push him aside as it lunged for the source of this precious light. The impact sent Grafeldr tumbling off course and caused him to lose sight of the doorway as he spun through the emptiness.
He could feel the presence coming on quickly, trying to fly into the light emanating from his closed fist. As he cartwheeled through space, Grafeldr spotted the portal and craned his neck to keep it in sight. With the doorway found again, he closed his eyes and with a mighty throw, cast the tiny light ball in the opposite direction. As soon as he did so, Grafeldr felt the presence rush away, leaving him alone as it pursued its new, brighter target.
Slowly, Grafeldr opened his eyes and looked for the doorway, but there was only total darkness. It was gone. Determined not to panic, he looked in all directions for the light, but there was only the diminishing light that the dark entity was chasing.
Then, Grafeldr realized what the problem was. He once again closed his eyes and waited…reaching out with his senses for the fleeing presence.
Then, he felt it. There was an initial sense of achievement, followed by furious anger and frustration. The thing had caught the light ball and had tried to pass through it, only to discover that it was not a doorway at all. Then, in its anger, the thing had engulfed the light, extinguishing it utterly, which allowed the lesser light of the real doorway to once again shine as the brightest light in the void. Grafeldr quickly opened his eyes and searched for the doorway. And yes, there it was, just where it had been earlier.
He was still on course and could now feel its attraction growing stronger. He willed himself to fly faster. He could see the portal growing larger, getting closer by the second. As he got closer, Grafeldr sensed his speed increasing, which was fortunate, because just as he reached the exit, he felt the dark entity descending on him in all its wrath and might, a gargantuan force hurtling toward the doorway.
As Grafeldr felt the first cold touch of the thing’s essence on his back, he kicked loose and passed through the portal. “Shut,” he cried out in his mind just before he struck the ground hard and rolled to a stop in the snow.
Wincing as new pain mingled with the old in his aged body, Grafeldr sat up in the snow and looked up to where the opening to the void had been only a second earlier. A thin smile crossed his lips as he thought of the sound the thing made as the portal shut. At the last instant, Grafeldr had distinctly heard an angry, defeated cry, which was cut off abruptly as the exit closed, sealing the evil thing inside the void.
“Stay put a while longer,” Grafeldr said and got to his feet.
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