Epilogue
The Challenge

AT 1084 (AZ 1456) - Late Winter
The Ruins of Castle Euros, The Darklands

The siege of Karas continued, but the tattered Third Legion did not yield. They no longer had their Dragon to protect them, but for his disobedience to the Monarch Lich, Caligo was now far weaker than he once was. Centuries of power stripped away in an instant. In truth, it was a blessing in disguise.
Alone, Caligo strode out to approach the north wall, calling out in a loud voice, "Ionathas, son of Salemon, come forth! I would parley with you."
He called out a few more times before Ionathas appeared on the wall and shouted in reply, "I have no words to bandy about with you, monster!"
Caligo had to suppress a grin. The months of siege had done little to dim the fire in his belly. Would he prove to be the one after all? There was only one way to find out.
"I would not be so hasty, boy," Caligo said. "You and your men have fought valiantly these past months, but you cannot stand against me much longer! You are but men and all men must die and when they die, they belong to me."
"Come at us again and see how well your revenants fare!"
It was difficult not to laugh, not from derision but rather delight. The son of Salemon was the perfect opponent. Now to goad him a little further.
"Your clever devices will not avail you forever. Even with them, the curse of this land creeps upon you. Surely you have noticed it by now. The cough, the aching in the bones, the ill feeling in the pit of the stomach... Even if you left now, how many would survive the journey back to Zephyr, I wonder."
"If we must die, we die," Ionathas replied, "but not before we've destroyed you and your master!"
"If you are in such a hurry to face the Monarch Lich, then you have all the more reason to listen to my offer. In olden times, when two armies could not prevail over each other, they would each elect a champion and their duel would determine the victor and the vanquished."
Ionathas did not hesitate to ask, "And what manner of champion would you elect?"
Caligo thumped his chest and said, "I am all the champion I need, just as you are all the champion you need. I am going to withdraw my army into Arkadia and I will await you in the old palace. You will come alone and we will cross swords, man-to-man. If you defeat me, my army falls apart and the way to the Black Keep is clear. If I defeat you, the result will be no different than if I marched forward now.
"I will wait for you three days. No longer. Should you play the coward, I hunt you down and kill you to the last man, then I will contrive whatever means it takes to cross the sea. Your wives and your children, your families and your friends, everyone you left behind will die. Perhaps it will even be your own shambling corpses that feast on their flesh."
He gave it a moment for the full import of the words to sink in.
"I will be waiting, Ionathas, son of Salemon!"
Caligo turned and left, but as he was returning to camp, Ubu appeared.
"Sir Caligo, what do you mean by this?" he demanded. "The King has not given you leave to play these games. Stop toying with the Zephyrians and finish them off. Do your duty and your power may be restored."
Caligo glared at Ubu and ground his teeth.
"The King..."
He reached for the hilt of sword and said, "I have had my fill of the King."
Even with his powers diminished, Caligo was faster than any shadow walker, even one as skilled as Ubu. He could have easily cloven the shadow walker in two, but instead deliberately stopped the blade halfway into his chest, just to give him an extra moment of suffering.
Black blood dripped from Ubu's mouth as he choked out his dying words.
"You... cannot defy... the King..."
"Not directly, no," Caligo replied, "but we will see how his power avails him after I am gone."
Caligo then cut the rest of the way through Ubu's body, shaking off his blood with a swipe of his sword. His blood was not worth drinking. Now that his minder was gone, nothing would stand in the way of bringing his plan to fruition. If young Ionathas would prove himself worthy, Caligo's long cursed existence would be at an end and his Companions would be free.