Epilogue
The Immortal Enemy

AZ 1454 - Autumn
Outside the Ruins of Karas, The Darklands

Telemachos dragged Duke Cronos into the relative safety of the ruins of some ancient nobleman's estate.
"Heavy infantry to the left flank," the Duke muttered deliriously. "Cavalry circle around to the right... Archers, loose volleys to harry the enemy front... Battlemages, damn you, battlemages..."
The Duke was pale and feverish, slick with sweat and shuddering uncontrollably. Though Telemachos killed the shadow-walkers that tried to kill Cronos, one of the foul creatures still managed to score a hit. Though little more than a scratch, it would probably be the death of him.
Telemachos sat the Duke down propped up against the wall.
"This is the best I can do for you, milord," the Master of the Sword said. "All we can do now is hope your constitution is strong enough to bear the poison."
The Duke's mind was racing but all to no effect. He could not make any sense of all his fleeting, fragmented thoughts. However, despite this, he immediately recognized the danger presented by the dark figure that followed them into the ruined estate.
"Telemachos..." the Duke whispered. "Over there..."
Telemachos turned to see the dark figure of the enemy commander. Though he appeared human, he was something far more sinister. His armor was in the style of old Euros, enameled black as obsidian. Were it not for the whiteness of his skin, he would have been completely black from head to toe.
Gripping the hilt of his sword, Telemachos said, "Stay here, milord."
"Telemachos, no. He is too strong."
Indeed, the Duke had seen this monster tear through heavy armor like gold leaf and break men like dry reeds. His sword could cut a man in twain in the blink of an eye. For all his skill, Telemachos would not have a chance to prevail against such unnatural power. Surely he had to know this, but still he stood as boldly as he did facing any other opponent.
"I have my duty, milord," Telemachos said resolutely, "and you have yours. Live, milord. Live, reassemble the Legion and continue the fight."
"Telemachos..."
Nothing the Duke could say would dissuade the Master of the Sword, not that Cronos was in any state to argue with him. He could only sit there helpless as Telemachos faced off against the enemy commander.
Telemachos drew his sword and pointed it at the enemy commander, saying, "I am Telemachos, son of Meleagros, Master of the Sword of the Zephyrian Third Legion. I will not let you pass."
The enemy commander drew his own sword and slowly walked toward Telemachos, saying, "You claim a name, a title and a lineage, but only that sword in your hand will prove if you are worthy to have them or for me tell you my name."
"I don't need the name of a dead man."
"A dead man..." the enemy commander mused. "You are more right than you realize, Zephyrian, but do not think I am like anything you have ever faced. It will not save you, but you may flee now if you like."
"I could say the same, Darklander."
A faint grin crossed the enemy commander's pale lips.
"I cannot remember the last time I crossed swords with such an amusing adversary."
"Enough talk," Telemachos said. "Come at me!"
The enemy commander obliged, rushing at Telemachos faster than the eye could see. For any other man, the first blow would have been the last, but somehow Telemachos anticipated where the enemy commander would strike and parried the blow.
"Impressive," the enemy commander said appreciatively. "Now try this."
He then proceeded to rain down a flurry of blows. Telemachos parried what he could and bore what he could not. The enemy commander was not using his full strength. If he were, Telemachos would already be dead. This was nothing more than a test and the enemy commander was clearly pleased with what he saw.
"Skillful technique," he said, "but Zephyrian steel has its limits."
The enemy commander brought down his sword with all his strength, smashing through the blade of Telemachos' sword. It was all Telemachos could do to deflect the enemy commander's blade from cutting him right down the middle, but the force of the blow was so great that it paralyzed his arm. He was now wide open for the deathstroke, but still he fought on.
Without a moment's hesitation, Telemachos drew his pugio and thrust at the enemy commander, only for him to catch Telemachos' wrist before the point could reach its target.
"Close," the enemy commander said, "but not close enough."
The enemy commander gripped Telemachos' wrist tighter, twisting and snapping it in a single, brutal motion. Telemachos howled in pain. His arm hung helplessly, bent at an unnatural angle, the jagged bones jutting out through the skin and blood spurting from the wound.
Even this did not stop Telemachos, he swung his broken sword at the enemy commander, turning his howl of pain into a warcry. The enemy commander caught his arm, though, and wrenched it back, straining the shoulder joint to its very limit but not going so far as to dislocate it. The goal was not to disable him further but to immobilize him.
"You are indeed worthy, Telemachos, son of Meleagros," the enemy commander said. "Were I still a mortal man, I may have been sore-pressed to defeat you. In honor of your strength, I will add it to my own."
The enemy commander whispered something into Telemachos' ear and then bit down on his neck.
"Telemachos!" the Duke cried.
There was nothing he could do. Telemachos struggled to break free, but he was no match for the enemy commander's overwhelming strength. The color drained from his flesh and his body went limp. The enemy commander released him, laying him down gently on the floor. He then positioned Telemachos' arms over his chest, still gripping the hilt of his broken sword.
The enemy commander drew himself back up and turned to Cronos. Telemachos' blood was smeared around his mouth and dripping down his beard. Who could stand against such a monster?
The enemy commander looked down on Cronos scornfully and said, "As for you, Duke Cronos, your blood is only fit for spilling."
Though the poison sapped his strength, the Duke pulled himself up. He had to lean back into the wall to stand on his unsteady legs. He did not have much time.
Drawing his sword, he told the enemy commander, "See how a man of Zephyr lives and dies with honor, fiend. Your day will come soon enough. Glory! Honor! Victory!"
The enemy commander stood there impassively as the Duke turned the point on himself and fell forward onto his sword. At very least, the monster would not have the satisfaction of killing the Genius of the Nanoi Campaigns himself.