Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

In the years long after the cataclysms of fire and ice, embedded deep within the dark histories of the descent of man, when the waning sun still hung dim and bloated in its senility above the shattered horizon, there once stood, defiantly upon the ragged slopes of Mount Agothon, the greatest ale house this side of Armageddon. “The End Inn” had a reputation spanning a thousand light years, drawing many of the galaxy’s greatest champions, who, at least once, would make the long pilgrimage to its venerated drinking halls. It was a place where heroes came to die.

A long standing rule of the proprietor forbade fighting indoors. Grudges were to be left at the threshold. No words of anger were to be spoken, no punches thrown, nor blood spilt as long as one stood beneath the vaulted roof of the inn. However, if a patron came with the burden of revenge weighing heavily upon their heart, or if a pride was wounded so deeply by careless word or deed which could not be forgotten or forgiven after a round on the House, a challenge could be made and resolved in the arena constructed on the Inn’s rooftop.

It was one such challenge which would prove to be the ruin of “The End Inn” and all life within a hundred leagues.

Shadowed by the jagged fangs of Agothon’s twin peaks, a drunken and raucous assembly of both human and inhuman patrons had gathered among the steep-tiered seats of the rooftop amphitheatre to witness Hogarth the Obstreperous duel his arch-nemesis, the mighty Execrable Corlang of Delta V, but as the two champions strode out to their respective ends of the snow-dusted arena a respectful hush fell across the crowd.

Hogarth, more baroque machine than human, towered above the diminutive Corlang, but whether the enigmatic man-thing from Delta V showed concern was anybody’s guess. Whatever hate-filled past linked these two galactic mercenaries would also remain a mystery, for neither spoke a word before Hogarth cast a volley of death-dealing flames from his built-in arsenal.

Corlang sprang deftly aside, easily evading the blue, flesh-searing blazes and, hovering mid-air, countered with a prismatic burst from his ring of Quantum Oblivion. The multi-colored, atom-splitting spray was absorbed easily by a luminous field which now surrounded Hogarth like a rippling dome. The heat of the impact blistered the faces of the crowd. The icy battlefield became a steaming plateau.

Hogarth the Obstreperous barked a mocking laugh. Execrable Corlang, still hovering, gave a sharp-toothed sneer of defiance, then all was silent. The two rivals sized each other up, seeking hidden weakness. An unseen battle raged within their minds. Each imagined thrust was parried, each fatal blow evaded and reposted. No witness dared to move or breathe, lest they miss the inevitable final strike.

Then, all at once, they recommenced their furious battle in a frenzy of unbridled powers. Lancets of Loathsome Lightning ricocheted from shimmering Shields of Righteous Reflection, blasting great chunks of stone from the peaks of Agothon, causing avalanches of rock and snow. Relentlessly, the two enemies rampaged, oblivious to the devastation caused by their mutual hatred.

Darts of Nuclear Damnation disappeared into a Vortex of Nil, Vibrations of Molecular Sundering were quieted by a Zone of Entropic Dissipation and still the damnable fight was fought until, at last, a terrible, soul-devouring darkness, summoned from the Abyss of Gork, swallowed whole the Inn, Mt. Agothon, the gaping, gasping, smoldering crowds, even Hogarth and Corlang, until all that remained was a vast, steaming, concave emptiness inhabited only by cold, uncaring winds.

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