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The Way of the Hunter - The Final Battle (Chapter Five)

Alya Elvawiel
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He hears the thunderous sound that signified the arrival of the King of Shadows as he approaches the fortress. The ground shakes violently, and the foundations of the fortress itself sway dangerously. This is a very old keep. Would it hold up if these vibrations continue?

Thankfully, the shaking stops, but as Bishop enters the keep through the secret entrance, he sees dust raining down from the ceiling. Small bits of stone litter the floor. Who knows how badly the rest of the fortress has been damaged? The tunnels appear dimmer, yet the torches that line them remain lit. It’s as if a veil of shadow has descended upon everything. He could hardly see anything beyond a few feet.

His heart lurches at the possibility that he may already be too late.

Blindly, he hurtles through the stone corridors, his boots scrabbling loose debris. One especially treacherous slip sends him crashing into a wall, jarring his elbow badly, but he pushes off almost immediately, ignoring the pain, and keeps on running.

He runs so fast, he very nearly collides with the rockslide before him.

Screeching to a halt, he stares incoherently at the wall of stones for a moment. Then, cursing, he tries to dig his way through. No luck, the entire ceiling has caved in.

“NO!!” he roars in frustration, throwing down the stones in his hands. His heart and his mind are both racing. There has to be another way in, but will he navigate the maze of tunnels in time?

This whole place is coming down. Best to save yourself.

He entertains the notion only fleetingly, and he is disgusted with himself. Grabbing a torch from one of the wall brackets, he begins to make his way deeper into the fortress.

* * *

“Grobnar!” she screams as the bard is knocked back by the force the spell thrown at him. She runs to his side, but the gnome is dead where he fell. “No…”

“Alya!” Ammon’s voice is commanding. “We don’t have time! Knock down the last one!”

Forcing herself into action, she practically throws herself bodily at the last Statue of Purification. The Rituals of Purification had seemed to work, but each time they felled him, the King of Shadows seemed to return, stronger than before. It took them a while before they realized that he was drawing his strength from the statues around him. Now, as she watches the last one crumble, she feels a surge of triumph as the King of Shadows lets out a screech of agony. Falling to his knees, he disappears into a mist of shadows.

Is it finally over? Her heart wonders, hope washing over her.


Out steps the King of Shadows again, looming larger than before.

“How many times must we kill this thing?” gasps Sand, as a torrent of flames drives him backwards.

He cannot be unbeatable! Alya thinks. Not after all we’ve gone through to defeat him! A spell lifts her off her feet, and she is flung across the chamber, landing painfully beside Zhjaeve’s broken body. Her empty eyes stare back lifelessly at Alya. As she gets up, she sees Khelgar attacking the Shadow with everything he has. Casavir fights alongside him, with Neeshka firing with her crossbow, while Ammon, Elanee and Sand fling spell after spell. Nothing seems to be hurting him.

Another burst of energy from the King of Shadows sends everyone flying far from him. Khelgar is thrown hard against the frame of the portal. It shudders, and the Shadow shrieks, lunging at the dwarf.

Since the last of the statues fell, the King of Shadows has never ventured far from the magical gateway…

“The portal!” Alya’s own shout spurs her into action. “Destroy it!” With Khelgar distracting the King of Shadows, everyone else starts to pummel the portal. To their dismay, it seems indestructible.

“It’s not workin-“ Sand starts, but his words are cut off as a bolt of lightning hits him. His body spasms as the electricity courses through him, the agony on his face painful to see.

“Sand!” Alya catches him as he collapses. She scrabbles in her pack for a healing kit, but he stops her with a surprisingly strong grip.

“No…” he coughs. “No…time…”

“Sand, hang on, I can help-“ his hand squeezing her wrist stops her in mid-sentence.

“The sword…” he points weakly at the Sword of Gith by her side, then his hand falls limp, and he too is gone.

In her grief, Alya has trouble understanding what Sand had meant. The sword? What about it? She looks at where it hangs on her belt…

The Sword of Gith, the lines where the individual shards were reforged still visible, is glowing – no, it is positively blazing. Puzzled, she unhooks it from her belt. It has never done that before…

Perhaps it is the shard in her chest, but something pulls her attention to the portal. As she steps closer to it, the blade she holds grows even brighter, and she feels the slightest tug, as if the sword is attracted to the gateway. Even her heart appears to start humming.

In a flash of realization, she runs at the portal, and starts hacking at it with the Sword of Gith. Where other weapons had only glanced off it, the portal screams in protest as the githyanki blade slices into it.

“Stand back!” she commands, increasing her efforts, as a new surge of adrenaline flows through her veins. “Keep him busy!”

“Aye, easier said than done,” sighs Khelgar, who has yet again been thrown around like a rag doll.

The King of Shadows turns, and tries to protect his portal. He swipes at Alya, but she sidesteps his attack. His claws gouge the stone floor. With a cry of rage, he brings his arm down again…

And his strike is intercepted by a shield. Casavir has interposed himself between the King of Shadows and Alya, but the force of the impact is so strong that the paladin is driven to his knees. “Hurry, Alya!” he grunts. “I don’t know how long we can hold him!”

Turning back to the portal, she attacks it with all her might, long, sweeping strokes of the Sword of Gith chopping chunks off the frame of the gateway. Come on, break already! With a final cleave, the portal shudders, rays of light blasting forth. At the same time, the King of Shadows wails piteously, and he flinches as Casavir’s hammer slams into his gut. All of a sudden, the Shadow seems mortal, beatable.

Alya pounces at the King of Shadows, fists flying, her punches connecting squarely each and every time. This is for Shandra…and Grobnar, and Zhjaeve, and Sand, and the people of Ember…

An explosion from the portal behind her throws her off balance. Seizing his chance, the Shadow swings, catching her on the side of her head. She lands awkwardly, a burst of stars clouding her vision. Something warm and sticky drips down the side of her face.

“Alya!” Casavir tries to aid her, but he is knocked aside by a swipe from the King of Shadow’s powerful arms. As she lies prone at his feet, dazed, she watches his claws descending upon her…

Thunk! Something is driven deep into the side of the King of Shadow’s neck, and he steps backwards, shrieking in surprise and anguish. Grateful for the diversion, Alya jumps to her feet – and pauses. Sticking out from the Shadow’s neck is the shaft of an arrow.

But no one here uses a bow…

Then she sees him, partly concealed in shadow. He stands at a different doorway from the one he had left through just a few hours before, his longbow already fitted with another arrow.


Why has he come back? Her mind spirals with conflicting emotions. Which side is he on this time? And why do I feel so glad to see him?

“For gods’ sake, Alya,” he barks, snapping her back to attention. “Finish him off!” Another arrow thuds into King of Shadows, but he is advancing steadily. With a primal roar, he throws himself bodily at her…

And falls onto the Blade of Gith, which she had just enough time to draw before he landed on her.

“This,” she says aloud, “is for West Harbour.”

The King of Shadows is close enough that she could smell the stench of undeath. The Sword of Gith has been driven right through him, and it glows steadily. Suddenly, emitting a cry so long and terrible she has to shield her ears, the King of Shadows begins to melt before her eyes, vaporizing into tendrils of shadow.

His dying scream echoes long after the last of the wisps of shadow has gone.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 5 - The Final Battle © Alya Elvawiel

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