A tremendous quake shook the dungeon, fracturing the stalactites hanging from the ceiling causing them to smash into the ground as deadly projectiles. Many yielothax were buried under the falling rocks. Deep furrows appeared in the ground, a threatening aura filled the room. From the crevices an ice-cold, bluish gas escaped, which began to solidify in front of Tibicus. The gas formed into dark grey bones and a skeletal face starred into the cave with its empty eye sockets. Skullfrost had appeared to assist its master in his hour of need. Cloaked in ice and death, it had positioned itself between Tibicus and Fridolin with his Emberwing.
"Tibicus, l..." Fridolin was clearly intimidated. "Look, I'm sorry, I overreacted!" His words sounded honest and were full of regret. Tibicus, however, was furious! That insidious attack had hit him completely unprepared. But not only that, no, what made the whole thing much worse was the fact that it was one of his best friends who had carried it out.
The adrenaline that rushed through his body deafened him to the words of his friend. He was no longer thinking clearly, his anger and disappointment had overcome his sanity. He was enraged and nothing could have calmed him down.
Here they were, now, facing each other. Two longstanding friends, brothers in spirit and in arms, and now fierce opponents. Fridolin saw death in the depths of the skeleton's hollow eyes.
Tibicus drew his sword and the cold aura immediately covered the sharp blade with an icy film. Fridolin knew there was no going back now. Once he had entered the blood rage, Tibicus could not be stopped. He grabbed his bow from his back and made sure that there were enough arrows in his quiver.
In those narrow corridors, he was at a clear disadvantage. They did not offer any cover and with the yielothax breathing down his neck, he had to fight on two fronts at the same time.
The first ice projectiles were shooting at him before he could even think about how to proceed. Tibicus was ready to attack and his Skullfrost had already given Fridolin a foretaste of what was about to happen.
The Emberwing released a hot torrent of blistering fire from his beak. The cavern filled with steam as, hissing, scorching fire met with a blizzard of ice. The collision of the elements restricted both sight and hearing. Tibicus, however, had anticipated this. Under the cover of the fog, he approached his opponent.
The paladin, disoriented, had not moved from where he was standing. Tibicus charged through the dense vapour aiming his sword at the shadowy outline of Fridolin. He erupted from the fog immediately in front of Fridolin, sword raised for the killing blow. His plan had worked.
Fridolin did not realize what had happened. He looked into the eyes of Tibicus and saw madness. He staggered back to put space between him and the deadly blade. Just in time. Tibicus swung with his sword again and Fridolin struggled to avoid the blows of his opponent. He knew that he stood no chance against the knight in close combat.
Agile as he was, he was able to dodge most of the blows, but he was inevitably pushed further and further into the dungeon. If he were to reach a dead end, he could say his last prayer and prepare to meet his maker.
Fortunately, however, he could always rely on his faithful summon. Emberwing was able to spit a sea of flames between Tibicus and Fridolin. The blazing heat caused the knight to fall back, giving the paladin a little distance and time to cast "utamo tempo san" that helped him to retreat deeper into the dungeon.
However, his summon paid dearly for buying its master some time. Skullfrost saw its opportunity and launched a violent sudden death attack. Before Emberwing was able to react, the attack hit its left wing and inexorably swallowed its fire dress. A tortured scream echoed through the caverns, but it was too late. Deprived of its wing, the firebird dropped to the ground, writhing in agony back and forth.
The scream had given both Fridolin and his pursuer pause. Fridolin could feel the suffering of the Emberwing and he knew that he could not run away forever. He had to risk it. He had to bring Tibicus back to his senses and free him from his blood rage. If he failed, however, it would spell the end for him.
He took his courage in both hands, stopped, turned around and shouted: "Tibicus, I'm here!"
It did not take long and Tibicus, accompanied by his summon, rushed around the corner. Breathing heavily, he had foam at his mouth and grunted inarticulately like a rabid animal. Fridolin involuntarily took a step back. He was scared.
"Tibicus, listen to me! This isn't you. I know I screwed up big time, and you have every reason to hate me for it. But please, return to normal!"
Unimpressed by those words, Tibicus continued to approach the paladin.
"I beg you, Tibicus, think of the old days. Of our friendship. Of everything we've been through together!"
But even those words did not get through to him.
"Think of all the time we spent as a team, together with Tabea and Emilio."
Not a chance. Fridolin realised that his words were not enough to cut through the blood rage and that he had just got himself into an extremely dangerous situation.
The paladin had so far held back. His Emberwing's attack on Tibicus had been a kneejerk reaction. Fridolin had never meant to let it get this far and he had no intention of harming his old friend.
But now he had no other choice. If he did not want to die here, he had to resort to more drastic means. Just before the knight was about to swing another heavy blow, Fridolin shouted: "utori san".
A glistening light, stronger and brighter than the two Tibian suns combined, illuminated the dungeon and hit Tibicus completely unprepared. The knight and his Skullfrost were blinded by the light and could not see as Fridolin stormed with the help of "utamo tempo san" past his friend towards the exit.
He heard Tibicus cursing. He knew he had little time before his persecutor would once more be hot on his heels. He ran past numerous yielothax, which had withdrawn fearfully to their holes and finally saw a feeble light at the end of the dungeon.
It was his Emberwing which was desperately trying to get back on its feet. Even though the bird had astonishing self-healing powers and already began to recover, the death attack of Skullfrost had eaten deep into its flesh and would leave a visible scar.
Fridolin made his summon as comfortable as he could. It was almost time for Emberwing to return to its realm of flames where it could fully recover from the battle.
In the meantime, Tibicus had regained his ability to see. The temporary knockout had calmed him down a bit.
Still dazed, he began to order his thoughts. That darned blood rage. Even though this state made him incredibly strong, it made him uncontrollable. The last thing he could remember was that he had caught Fridolin taking valuable items.
With a splitting headache and aching limbs, Tibicus hauled himself towards the exit. In his current condition, he would have been easy prey for the yielothax. Fortunately, Skullfrost kept the creatures at bay.
As he drew closer to the exit, he heard a whimper that grew louder with every step. As he turned the corner, he could see Fridolin kneeling in front of his Emberwing.
"Fridolin!" yelled Tibicus. What had happened? What evil spirit had knocked Fridolin's Emberwing to the ground? He kept dragging himself towards the two of them.
The paladin was terrified when he heard his name. With wide eyes, he watched Tibicus approaching.
At the same time, the firebird slowly began to dissolve. The kingdom of flames demanded back its ruler. Fridolin was relieved that nothing could happen to his Summon anymore, so he took flight.
Tibicus was too weak to catch up with the paladin. He wondered why Fridolin had rushed up the stairs all of a sudden, leaving all the loot bags behind. He was not able to really think about it, however. The headache got worse and worse and his field of vision became more and more cloudy. Next to the dwindling silhouette of the Emberwing, his remaining power left him. His knees gave in and he fell unconscious onto the stone floor.