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I, Garland, Will Knock You All Down
by demigod

The four entered the decrepit temple, wary of the unholy beings that doubtless inhabited the ancient edifice. Cursed souls roamed grounds of the once sacred place, long since corrupted. The skeletons of the restless dead rose against the trespassers who violated the silence of their final domain. These frail minions of the traitor to Coneria crumbled like dust before the determined blows of the Light Warriors and hardly accomplishing any more than briefly delaying the rescue attempt.

“You know your enemy has got to be evil when they're guarded by the undead,” remarked the black mage as they advanced to the room at the center of the temple where Garland must be holding the princess.

“How true you are,” responded a slow, sonorous voice from the doorway ahead.

A man occupied the archway, completely covered in armor gleaming in the last rays of the setting sun, giving it a warm red luster. His attitude might have been mistaken as a casual one judging by the way he leaned against the entry, arms crossed loosely against his chest, except for the overbearing aura of menace and hatred he exuded. The helmet, with its grinning skull faceplate and protruding horns, made the man appear downright macabre.

“You must be the infamous Garland,” observed the red haired fighter. “We'll be killing you and returning the princess to the castle; so if you could oblige us and die quickly, it would be much appreciated.”

“What? Not going to try negotiating me peaceful surrender by showing me the evil of my ways?” asked the rouge knight, surprised but not concerned.

“We are all intelligent enough to know what the results of such an effort would be,” answered the black belt in a matter of fact tone. “If there had been hope of redemption for you, you would not have committed the crimes you did.”

“Excellent,” Garland nearly cackled. “You have no illusions to your task. This will be a most amusing battle.”

The traitor stepped forward and rose to his full height, well over two meters tall to begin with and nearly two and a quarter in full battle garb. He drew the great sword slung across his back and smoothly stepped into a combat stance.

“So we're already to the fighting? I was hoping to sling some insults before we leveled your ugly butt,” complained the disappointed black mage.

The giant, armored man shrugged and replied, “If you so wish, insignificant toad, I will gladly allow you time for whatever pathetic taunts your empty mind might contrive. Victory will be so much the sweeter when I shove the words back down your throat.”

“Stop wasting our time, Quintus,” the healer scolded the faceless mage. “That thing doesn't deserve the attention you're giving him.”

“Fine,” the black mage snarled, beginning to crackle with electricity. “I guess I'll have to content myself with verbally abusing this piece of garbage after we've killed him.”

“Haa!” roared the fighter as he charged the renegade soldier. Brindar lunged and thrust, but Garland pivoted on his right foot while swinging a gauntleted left hand at the assailant, sending him crashing to the ground. The knight felt a blow on his back and turned to confront Arturus, who had a shimmering soft white aura surrounding him; magical armor created by one of Mana's spells.

“What harm can you possibly do me with no weapon?” the traitor bellowed and made to cut down the black belt with his massive blade.

He was interrupted by a blast of lightning from the black mage, causing him to stiffen momentarily from the shock; and the warrior in front of him took the opportunity to attack again, delivering a leaping high kick to the renegade knight's jaw. Garland staggered backwards, but recovered himself quickly enough to whirl around and block another attack from the fighter's rapier with his great sword, nearly knocking the weapon out of the Light Warrior's hand. Quickly the traitor swung his blade in a powerful downward arc, drawing a deep gash on Brindar from shoulder to waist, knocking him down again.

“NO!” cried the white mage, rushing to her fallen comrade's aid to cast a healing spell. As she crouched over the bleeding man, she suddenly jerked her head up at the intense pain that coursed through her. Slowly looking, Mana saw the renegade knight's weapon had pierced her stomach and was dripping with blood. She was pinned, motionless, impaled by Garland's sword.

“This wasn't supposed to happen,” she managed to choke out.

Her killer placed an armored boot on the white mage's back and pushed to remove his blade from the lifeless body.

“You bastard!” shouted Quintus, unleashing his rage in the form of a fireball.

The fireball impacted, but the skull-faced foe brushed it off as though the spell were a foul stench in the air. The traitor drew a knife from his belt and let it fly towards his attacker. The missile buried itself directly in the black mage's heart. The cloaked mage stared at the wound with his yellow eyes, face so pale it was almost visible beneath the magical shadow of his hat; the blue cloth was stained purple by the blood. Quintus staggered and, in a final act of defiance, cast another fireball before falling to the ground.

Garland turned back to the black belt, who was quaking with anger. “You shall be punished for what you have done here,” declared Arturus.

“I think not,” the renegade knight stated, swiftly decapitating the brown haired man. “No one touches my princess,” the traitor mocked the corpses. “Light Warriors? You impertinent fools. I, Garland, will knock you all down!” he laughed, his hideous voice echoing across the broken temple.

He turned his head with a sudden jerk to see Brindar; his rapier plunged through an opening in his armor just above the waste. The white mage had managed to cast the healing spell before her death.

“It is too little, too late,” Garland sneered.

“Not yet,” growled the fighter, rapidly drawing his sword from the armored man towering over him.

He lunged again, aiming for the head, but the traitor ducked out of the way. The redhead slashed at the knight only to be met by the monstrous great sword. Brindar whirled and swung again, but this time the force of his opponent's blow knocked the weapon clean out of his hands. Garland advanced and brought the blade crashing down on the fighter's head, splitting it in two, and then, as the body fell, he spun fully about and sliced it in half at the waist.

“And now that it is done, I am almost sad,” the renegade knight said to no one in particular.

He stood for a moment in silence, blood dripping from his sword onto the cracked stone floor.

“Enough of that,” Garland instructed himself. “Chaos, come unto me.”

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