Fungal Halo

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A Date With Destiny

“At last, you arrive in my lair,” the Dark Lady of Nightmares drawls with a confident air of menace.

She rises from the Throne of Thorns, her seat of power overgrown with wild vines bearing threatening spikes which somehow never pierce her smooth, perfect skin.

The Champion’s face betrays no sign of intimidation, however, even as the Lady casts her arm outward, beckoning her power.

The room’s shadows crawl over every surface, slithering up her legs, across her body, along her arm, drawn toward her outstretched hand.

Darkness twists, coalescing into the infamous blade with which she has cut down countless enemies.

Teresa of Delenn—the Champion of Iver, Bearer of the Rose Crest, Chosen of the Stars—has seen it in person just once before.

“I know that blade, Dark One,” she says.

It was the day she had failed in her duty, back when she was just a guard in the service of her lord.

The serviceable armor she wore and the tabard of Lord Delenn’s house—it was far from the resplendent Champion’s Plate and hard-earned rune-covered relics she now bears.

She watched helplessly as the Lady of Nightmares swept through the lord’s manor, an unassailable storm of violence ending with that sword plunged into the lord’s chest.

As easily as she stole the sacred gem entrusted to his family, it may as well have been utterly unguarded.

Blades clash, shadow against starlight steel.

Sparks fly with each deflected strike, ephemeral constellations bursting to life and dying as the pair dance their fated dance with one another.

The former guard proves her mettle to the one who set her on this path so long ago.

It is a perfect rivalry. The Dark Lady finds herself laughing in delight to find one who can finally match her. The Champion’s grin matches hers.

In this pristine moment, there is only the two of them, and their attentions are wholly fixed on each other.

A break in the fighting affords the Lady her opportunity to speak.

“You know,” she says, circling the Champion, “my quest for power also began with the death of the one I served.”

Slitted violet eyes fix themselves on the Champion. “We’re not so different, you and I.”

“I know we aren’t,” the Champion replies easily.

Warm brown eyes hold the Lady’s gaze with ease. A soft, crooked smile replaces the fierce grin she wore during their clash.

“Why do you think I’ve been so eager to meet you, O Terrifying Lady of Nightmares?”

The Lady shrugs in a gesture that almost humanizes her. “I killed your lord. That usually suffices. Is it not revenge you seek, then?”

“Revenge? For that old homophobe?” The Champion barks a laugh. “Not a chance.”

Stepping slowly, the Champion closes half the distance separating the two. “It’s not that you killed him that pained me. It’s that you hardly noticed the quiet guard who was too busy gawking at your beauty to make any move at all.”

The Lady blinks in surprise and disbelief, cautiously moving to close the remaining distance between them.

“You treated with gods, bargained with fairies, visited the land of the dead, slew demons, and quested to become the Fated Hero, all to catch my notice?”

“I wanted to be worthy of your attention, yeah.”

“And now that you have it?”

In response, the Champion of Light reaches her hand into a pouch and offers up the last gemstone of power to the Lady of Darkness.

“How about a date? Maybe something other than a sword fight?”

The Lady’s eyes shine with triumph as her hand closes around the final gem needed to bring about the apocalypse. Her fingertips gently brush those of the Champion.

A rosy flush painting her cheeks, she responds, “I do know a lovely place to watch the end of the world.”