November 22, 794 - TR
Zcuraks the dragon floated (rather than plummeted, which he was near to doing on several occasions) with a distinct lack of grace to the crumbled ruins of the City of Solitude, coming to a stop at the base of the lone tower still standing. Aerlin barely recognized it as the same tower her father had taken her into, along with her brother, on the day she was sent away from this place.
"Looks like no one is home," Solice commented.
"No, no one can be alive here," Aerlin said sadly. "Not even my father."
Bringer said nothing for a moment, his only sound coming from the crunching of dirt beneath his feet as he dismounted the dragon. Solice had somehow managed to convince Zcuraks to bring the three of them here, but still hadn't revealed his own reasons for coming, and both Aerlin and Bringer were still more than slightly suspicious of him.
Cocking his head to his side, Bringer listened to the mid-afternoon noise. "Don't count out the possibility of life quite so quickly, Aerlin. Your father would have seen us coming for miles, if he was watching. No doubt he prepares a suitable welcome for his daughter."
"He's not even really my father. But even so, that's how I always knew him," Aerlin revealed.
The news actually surprised Bringer, who genuinely thought that she was Gandalf's daughter. He brushed off this revelation, since it was irrelevant - he was here now, and nothing would stop him from exacting his revenge.
Within moments, the door to the massive tower opened up, revealing a very age-worn, weary Gandalf.
"Aerlin? You of all people are the last I would have thought to see again! What brings you here? Who are your companions?" Even as he spoke, he closed in and embraced his daughter.
The dark Tower of Oor-Tael in the City of Solitude was silent. Its few occupants were nestled in bed, asleep but for one man. Fuer Grisse ost Drauka - translated from ancient Tolarian, the Bringer of Death - paced around his room, mindful that his ages-long quest to slay his counterpart was nigh.
Silently, he called forth to the few remaining Wraith-kin. Contrary to what he had told Aerlin, with his release, most of them ceased to exist. What few survived, he had commanded to travel to the City of Solitude and await his arrival. The swift journey via Solice's dragon had thrown his plans off, and he was come ahead of schedule. None of the others had arrived. He must play nice a few more days before reinforcements would come.
November 28, 794 - TR
Gandalf had been keeping his eye on Bringer the whole time, pretending that he didn't know who Bringer was. It was a deadly game of cat and mouse, and Gandalf knew there wasn't much time. Before long, Bringer would attack him, and he didn't know if he would survive the conflict.
No longer was death a feared concept for Gandalf. He had lived a very long and often revered life. He had raised two young children, ready now to deal with the rigors of life on their own, in the absence of their parents. Indeed, he had already set them forth on their own lives, yet even so, one of them had returned unannounced and unlooked for.
Their departure had been marked with the belief that he had died. Much to the contrary, he had worked the essence of Oor-Tael even on his children, the true master of illusion that had founded that famous House. He hadn't wanted to take care of the children anymore, now that his wife and their mother, Siran Drauka, was dead. Off they had gone, and he had hoped they would never return to him.
He had meant to die then. Curiously, death held no grip on him, and eventually he recalled why. Fuer Grisse ost Drauka, his dark persona otherwise banished, still lived - or existed. For him to truly die, he would have to confront Fuer. The problem was that he knew not where to find him, so thorough had been his work in hiding his enemy from himself.
Now however, his daughter had brought his query to him, and Perhaps now, after all this time, he would vanquish his immortal foe and go to the rest he had been so long denied.
In pursuit of this goal, Gandalf had taken off into the night, into the mostly deserted forest surrounding the land that once was the City of Solitude. His journey was checked, however, by eerie keening deep in the night. As time wore on, he noted the noise coming inexorably closer; by the time he thought to return home, vicious howling was all about him.
One by one, wraiths surged forth from the darkness, swirling around and attacking him from all quarters. Still, old as he was, he was a planeswalker with no living peer in Phaema. The wraith-kin were no match for him as he summoned a dizzying level of walls and illusions for defense, then tore each apart by banishing them from the flow of time.
The wraith-kin were quickly dispatched, and Bringer stepped from behind a tree, a vantage point that kept him defended against Gandalf's swift torrent of spells, yet allowed him to watch his foe in action.
"Bravo, bravo, Gandalf," he said, clapping in mock appreciation. "Once more, you have saved the day for your illegitimate children. Someday, they won't have you to defend them."
"Aerlin was in no danger from you," Gandalf replied. "So you're the one behind the wraith-kin. I don't know why I couldn't guess earlier."
"It's too late to ponder the ineptitudes of the past, Stormcrow. One way or another, you won't escape me this night."
Not quite eager still to face Bringer, Gandalf sprinted off into the forest with speed which belied his age. Bringer watched him run, instead spending his energy calling upon the mana that was his to command. Tree branches whipped and sliced in fury at the air, striking Gandalf numerous times. That's it, turn around, Bringer thought.
Gandalf's run slowed to a walk, then a stop. He reminded himself of Elrohir, who chased down the First Evil rather than let it destroy what remained of the army assembled to fight against it. Who now was he to run away from his own dark half, fleeing the death he now could embrace? If it's a fight you want, Fuer, it's a fight you'll have.
Focusing his mind, Gandalf also dove into interwoven lines of mana, feeling it writhe and surge inside him. Blue phantom lightning arced around him from tree to tree, lighting the forest for hundreds of yards in every direction.
"So you're not afraid to fight me, are you, Gandalf Stormcrow? This is beyond my wildest dreams." Bringer's hands grew dark, enshrouded by impenetrably black spheres. Gandalf took his favorite position, hovering approximately four inches above the ground. A dark blue, almost purple sphere surrounded his entire body.
Bringer's hands came together, and corrosive acid spewed forth, consuming soil and vegetation with merciless precision. Gandalf's shield warped and melted, attempting to counter the attack. As he fought to maintain his protection, a second and then a third Gandalf appeared, each with similarly damaged shields. Lastly, a fog bellowed forth and obscured Bringer's vision.
"Trickery! Old fool, you still rely on trickery? Surely you know enough to realize I'm aware of every trick you've ever sustained. The reverse, of course, is not true. Otherwise you would know that I've...savored...every inch of Aerlin's body several times, and she doesn't even know! That is the essence of trickery, Gandalf, and it's something I'm sure you've forgotten." Bringer said smugly.
"Whether you tell me the truth or not is of no importance, Fuer. She is not of my blood."
"What concerns her ultimately concerns you as well. You raised her from birth. You are the only father she knows. Surely you would not now abandon her to my evil charms. I know you're not that careless."
"Maybe not, but she is not part of our fued."
"She is your family. She is part of the family fued. While she has pleasured me many a time now, it is the pleasure of your own death I have sought all the while." More acid. "You cannot imagine the hell I've endured for so long. I claim your life, Gandalf Stormcrow. It is forfeit. Surrender to me, now!"
Gandalf leapt from the fog, grappling with Bringer and causing both to drop to the ground. Bringer flailed wildly, coercing their clothing to catch fire as the rolled upon the ravaged soil. Gandalf promptly smothered it, then plunged into Bringer's mind.
Everywhere he looked, he saw phantom monsters hovering in the air, wailing for peace and release, never to be fulfilled. Each had their own particular sad story, but nevertheless they were trapped unwillingly, denied rest in the afterlife. The begged at him, clawing at his clothing and tearing it, scratching his limbs and leaving him bloodied when he did not answer. His pain was theirs. Their pain was his. Gandalf could not endure the torture. Above all was Bringer's hideous laugh.
"Do you not like what you see? This is my life, my existance, Gandalf. This is what you left for me, no hopes, no rest, just pain, endless pain."
Gandalf's comatose body lay prone before Bringer. His singed clothes still smoked, and he reeked of charred skin. So too, did Gandalf. Bringer could feel his nemesis in his mind, and reveled that he had the advantage.
"Where once I was the prisoner in your mind, old foe, so now are you trapped eternally within my own."
Tugging one last time at the mana around him, Bringer poured it vehemently into Gandalf's defenseless body with all his malice and hate. At first impact, Gandalf's body shuddered before acclimating to the power. Swiftly, each wave of darkness consumed the instantly lifeless form. Gandalf's corpse vanished, leaving behind only charred sludge.
Within Bringer's mind, Gandalf's own struggled in a vain attempt at salvation, grievously damaged and in terrible agony as he watched and felt his body wither to nothing. Gone now was his sanity, and anything else he had ever clung to.
"So it ends, Gandalf Stormcrow." Bringer fell to his knees as fire began to consume him from the inside. "So, this was the death that Jake felt..."
Gandalf was the first, who had come before Fuer had. With Gandalf's passing, so too came the passing of Fuer Grisse ost Drauka. Bringer bent, weeping silently, and drew the sword from his scabbard. He had at last slain his most ancient enemy in sweet revenge. No matter that the cost was merely his life. Aerlin still lived, and unless he missed his guess, she would bear his child in a mere nine months...
With that thought in his mind, Bringer succumbed to the fate of soul manifest. Thus ended the lives of Gandalf Stormcrow, founder of Oor-Tael, and Fuer Grisse ost Drauka, the aptly named Bringer of Death.
ha ha ha; old fool!; trapped eternally; I claim your life; So you're the one; not part of our feud; So it ends *CRASH*
Aerlin woke with a start. Her heart was pounding and she found that a pool of sweat had formed on the pillow beneath her head.
She got out of bed. She looked around the tower, but couldn't find Gandalf or Bringer anywhere. Aerlin headed for the Tower door to look for them outside. Something brushed up against her leg, startling her and she whirled around. She sighed. It was Zcuraks. "What are you doing, you stupid dragon. Go to bed!" she hissed.
"You won't find them out there, I'm afraid." Solice emerged from the shadows in the room. "They're both dead."
"You're lying! It can't possibly be true! I had him back and now he's gone?! It's not true! How dare you say that! I don't even know you, you old man! Get out of my house now or I swear I'll kill you myself!!" She shouted at him and then burst into tears, because she could feel the truth in his words.
"Why?" the half-whispered word slipped out of her throat, which wretched involuntarily with her weeping.
Solice frowned. Not his place to tell her that particular truth. Not yet, at least. "Wraith-kin. Their mission is finished now, and they're gone. As to why that was their mission, I wish I knew. It's just part of the shit that gets thrown at you in life, and it honestly isn't fair. If I had some sort of power to change it, I would. But I don't. I'm sorry."
The old man, no quips coming to mind at this particular moment, looked somewhat apprehensively at the sobbing girl. He sighed. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometimes. That night, Aerlin cried on his.
And ruined my best suit, too!
One small question: If Gandalf is the Blue Bastion, and Gandalf is dead, won't that screw illusion-magic everywhere?
Gandalf was thought to be the blue bastion. Judging from the lack of conspicuous effects on the blue magic flow upon his death (Elro doesn't typically forget about those kinds of details, since he more or less designed the "system"), it can be concluded that he either never was the blue bastion or that the blue bastion is now something or someone else. That's how continuity is preserved in the face of would-be contradiction.
Actually, if you check the stories, you will get a pretty good idea of who/what the blue bastion now is, but I thought I'd make a point about continuity, however obfuscated the delivery might have been).