The apparition glared at Ivanson, tongues of amethyst flame illuminating its ebon frame. Though still as stone it radiated power, so much so that it made the traveller’s temples ache. Fighting waves of nausea as power washed over him, Ivanson concentrated. He reached into his core, gaging his own reserves of power. Though depleted, he could still sense a great spring of force within his soul.
Wasting no time, Ivanson released the power within himself. In an instant arcane might coursed through his veins, igniting every fibre of his body. Decrepit muscle swelled with power, filling the plates of his armour.
Ivanson raised his blade and lunged, new life surging through him. In a flash his sword grazed steel as the spectre turned to the side, narrowly dodging the blow. With soulless efficiency the thing twisted its blade and cut at Ivanson’s chest. Ivanson was sent reeling as the blazing sword struck his breastplate, toppling him and sending him rolling. With trained speed he recovered, pushing himself to his feet.
He had little time to react. The spectre was already upon him, its ghostly blade aimed at his unprotected head. Raising his left hand Ivanson made an intricate gesture. With a crack the spirit’s blade bounced off a shell of pale blue light, stunning the creature. His foe now open, Ivanson grasped his sword in both hands and swung upwards, striking the thing’s left armpit.
The sword chewed through shadow-wrought plate, scoring a deep wound in the spectre’s torso. Steam vented violently from the gash, forcing Ivanson to withdraw his blade. While he withdrew the spirit jabbed with its free hand, catching the traveler in the jaw. The jagged edge of the spectre’s gauntlet bit into Ivanson’s cheek, digging deep, bloody grooves.
Ivanson turned with the blow, the injury barely registering. He lowered his stance as the gauntlet slid free, ducking under the apparition’s arm. Levelling his shoulder he barged into the spirit, sending it sprawling. Following up he stepped forward, plunging his blade between the gaps in the spectre’s breastplate. His sword caught between the plates and stuck firm.
The spectre swung its free arm down, slamming its fist into Ivanson’s sword. The aged blade offered little resistance, snapping in half like a dry branch. Ivanson tumbled forward, his weight no longer held up by his sword. As he fell the spectre stabbed at his sides, violet blade sinking into his armpit.
Ivanson landed hard, his hand pressed to his side. The remains of his sword clattered across the scree, well out of his reach. The traveler scrambled to a sitting position, eyes fixed upon his otherworldly foe. The void-bound being had risen, pale eyes now fixed on Ivanson. Still grasping its blade of flame, it marched towards the fallen traveler.
Ivanson tried to back away, but he failed to find footing in the scree. In moments the apparition was upon him, a cruel gauntlet wrapped around the traveler’s neck. Ivanson feebly pulled at the plated hand, his eyes wide.
The spectre leaned towards the traveller, its ghostly blade levelled at Ivanson’s heart. The thing’s star-like eyes, cold and soulless, were locked on the traveller’s own. Resigned, Ivanson dropped his gaze and prepared to meet his fate.
Before he closed his eyes, Ivanson caught a glimpse of silver embedded in the apparitions frame. The jagged edge of his shattered blade was still lodged in the thing’s chest.
Ivanson acted quickly, siphoning what little power still flowed through his veins and directing it into his left arm. He could feel his body grow cold as his life-force collected in his hand. With a cry, he jabbed forwards, his palm aimed against the blade.
Ivanson was blinded by a flash of amethyst light, and he felt himself thrown back. He slid over scree for some distance, until he violently crashed against a headstone.
His body broken, Ivanson forced his eyes open. Before him a violet bonfire roared, surrounded by pieces of black plate. A number or steel shards stood round the inferno, cleaned to a mirror polish by the heat. Ivanson knew these were the shattered chunks of his gauntlet.
Ivanson exhaled, rolling his head to the side. Around him stood a ring of headstones, lit by the ghostly bonfire. He recognized many of the names; a distant cousin, a long dead grandfather, a stillborn half-brother…
His heart stopped as he passed a marker above an empty grave. Upon the fresh stone was carved “Maya Ivanson”. “My little flower,” he wheezed, forcing himself to his feet. “There’s still time to save you…”
The broken traveler hobbled across the scree, each step pushing Ivanson to his limit. Inch by agonizing inch he neared the marker, half crawling. He collapsed by the grave, using his remaining hand to pull himself forward.
“My precious little flower,” he sobbed, “I told you I’d move heaven and hell to save you. No man nor god will take my daughter from me.” With one final push he tumbled into the grave.
Embraced by the cold earth, Ivanson closed his eyes. His mind wandered back through the graveyard, past the sea of fog and into the world he once called home. He saw his humble abode, sat in a field of golden wheat.
Within the stone walls of his home, he saw an aged woman dressed in simple clothes, knitting in a chair by a bed. A half-dozen quilts were stacked upon the bed, and at the headboard a petite head rested upon a straw pillow. Her soft, rounded features were twisted into a agonized grimace.
As Ivanson approached, the girl’s demeanour softened. She appeared calm, any hint of pain gone. Slowly, she opened her amber eye’s, her gaze locked on Ivanson.
Ivanson’s vision grew dark as death finally claimed him. The last thing he saw was his daughter’s pale face, a weak smile on her lips.