Jaisan looked at the young man suspended before him. “Five centuries ago, a being of great cruelty and evil came from the north. His name was Zagor, a practitioner of the blackest arts. His demon hordes swept across this realm, enslaving, destroying, and conquering. The humans gathered against him and so the War of Mages was fought, the magic users of the light banded together to drive Zagor back, and true they did succeed in breaking his power and destroying his armies but they didn’t kill him.”

Jaisan paused. “Zagor simply vanished, many thought him dead, others simply forgot he existed, but he was merely hiding, he had tried to dominate the realm and failed. A century after the war ended, Zagor took two apprentices, my brother, Balthasan and myself. He trained us in his ways and discovered that we would become more powerful than he had ever been. When we learned of this, we killed him and went out into the world. You must understand, I have tried to kill my brother many times but he resists; now it is a race to see who will rule first.”

Jaisan gestured and the column of energy dissipated. “But there is one thing I have access to, the Hellmouth. My brother never learnt of its location but I did, for it was here in this keep that Zagor raised his mighty armies.” The older man looked at Remy. “And now I have you, a sorcerer of unique power, who can destroy with the merest touch.”

Remy smiled, “You t’ink I be a magician, non? Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m only one o’ dem “mere mortals”.”

Jaisan did not smile. “I am a necromancer too, young outlander, I could easily learn your secrets after you are dead. I could raise you to life again and again and torture you for an eternity.”

“No t’anks, hot tub and a good masseuse would be better.” Remy felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising and belatedly wondered if it was a good idea to annoy someone as powerful and ruthless as Jaisan.

The old man simply stared at Remy, and then began to wave his hands in a complex manner. Gambit tensed, expecting another backlash of magic and then noticed that the chamber around him was changing. As he watched, the stone walls became rougher, and the chamber grew larger. The features of the two places merged indistinctly and then suddenly snapped into focus. They were no longer in Jaisan’s throne room. The new chamber was also dimly lit and Remy could smell the stench of sulphur and brimstone in the air. Behind Jaisan was an opening in the ground, a fiery and stagnant gash in the naked stone. Jaisan stepped lightly over and grabbed Remy. The older man was exceptionally strong despite his appearance and Remy could not resist as he was dragged bodily towards the crevice.

“Welcome to the Hellmouth.” Remy looked at his feet and saw the darkness of the void before him. He felt drawn to it and almost unconsciously he started to lean forward. Jaisan’s restraining hand stopped him. “Do not be so eager to throw your life away, at least, until I learn your secrets.”

Remy took a few steps back, trying to clear his head. He felt as if he wasn’t in control of his own body, as if someone was controlling him. What do you want me to do, he thought feverishly, why am I here?

And then, like waking from a dream, something clicked. Remy finally understood what he was being called to do. A presence that wrapped round his body spoke to him, urging him to action. Remy felt the power welling up in him and Jaisan must have sensed it too as he motioned quickly to the demonic guards to restrain Gambit.

The guards exploded as Remy’s red eyes flashed with energy. He had full access to his true potential once again, and there was no limit to the objects he could charge. Jaisan stared wide-eyed at the young man as Remy systematically began to tear the chamber apart. Torches ignited in flashes of flames and burning embers. The very rock of the Hellmouth sizzled with power as Gambit’s kinetic charges destroyed everything he could see, except for Jaisan.

The maelstrom lasted ten seconds and then I was simply Jaisan and Gambit. The chamber was dark now; the only light came from the fiery gash of the Hellmouth and the blood-red glow of Gambit’s eyes. Jaisan conjured a ball of light that illuminated the chamber briefly and discovered that nothing was left, the chamber was silent and empty.

When Jaisan spoke, his voice was wavering, “What sorcery is this?” He asked, fear colouring his voice, “What creature are you, outlander?” Jaisan looked at the twin points of glowing red in front of him.

Remy was still reeling from such extensive use of his expanded powers. He could feel someone or something guiding him but every time he tried to focus on that presence, it faded like smoke. What is happening to me? He thought with a touch of fear, who de hell is in my head? And then the presence caressed him again and he realised, not hell…de other side.

Jaisan attacked, bombarding Remy with magical power. Gambit pushed his kinetic field outside his body, making it act like a shield, absorbing the magical energy. The chamber was filled with flashing light as greens and blues and reds mixed with the magenta signature of Gambit’s own mutant abilities. Jaisan continued, casting charms and curses, throwing raw magic at the outlander that had tried to destroy his schemes. Remy stood in the midst of a glowing corona of energy, and with a thought, Jaisan’s right hand fizzled with kinetic energy and then detonated, leaving the sorcerer with a bloody stump. Jaisan screamed in pain and disbelief.

Remy spoke, “I don’ wan’ ta kill you, but I will if you don’ quit.”

Jaisan replied by intensifying his attack. Remy’s eyes flashed again and Jaisan’s left ear dissolved in a magenta flash. “Stop!” Remy commanded.

“Never!” snarled Jaisan, his voice violent and primal. Remy charged the ground under the sorcerer’s feet and detonated it. Jaisan was thrown to the ground at his feet. Jaisan looked up into Gambit’s eyes, and quickly drew a knife from within his robes, driving the blade deep into Remy’s leg. Remy cried out in pain and then lashed out with his power. Jaisan was thrown about as the very air around him exploded with kinetic energy. Jaisan staggered once and then fell, directly into the Hellmouth. His scream was cut short as he disappeared from sight.

Remy stood panting, his leg twanging with pain. He carefully pulled out the knife and saw the crackle of energy on the skin of his leg as his kinetic powers started healing the wound. He charged the air around his head, creating a slow glow that served to illuminate his surroundings. He was alone, Jaisan was dead or in hell or something and Remy was stuck.

He knew what he had to do next, destroy the fortress and bury the Hellmouth. Remy knew it would also take all of his energy to charge an entire mountain. But he realised that he had no choice, he was being called to help this world and he couldn’t walk away from it. He searched around, trying to find a way of leaving the Hellmouth. He was trapped. Jaisan must have ‘ported de demons upstairs, he thought. Looks like I got ta bring down de house wit’ me in it.

Then he felt that strange compulsion again and he walked over to the Hellmouth. Within the fire and smoke, an image drifted up to him; Rogue, the woman he loved, lying sleeping in an unknown room. Remy felt tears spring to his eyes as he realised he was going to die but a soft voice spoke to him in the back of his mind. Trust…hope…fall…

Remy felt at peace then. He unleashed the full potential of his power, reaching out with his mind, brushing each surface with a kinetic charge. His mind followed the contours of the cave, the walls of the towers and the black stone of the fortress. His eyes grew dim as every erg of energy drained from his body, the kinetic wave flowing around him, up through the mountain and Jaisan’s Keep. Remy released the power and fell to his knees panting, fighting to stay conscious. He felt the voice speaking again. Put your trust in me…fall and I will catch you…

Gambit stood up shakily and then turned to look into the mouth of hell itself. He let his body fall forward and then he was plunging into the dark depths. Falling, he could feel the hot air tearing at his body as he descended through the dimensions to hell and then there was a bright flash and he was gone.

Jaisan’s fortress exploded flinging obsidian rock for miles. The mountains itself seem to sag inwards as the chamber that housed the Hellmouth collapsed. In Greenhaven, Calidorn the ranger stood in one of the lookout towers and saw the great flash of purple energy. A low rumble then passed over the landscape, signalling the end of Jaisan’s depredations. Calidorn offered a silent prayer for the thief who had saved his life. If this is your doing, Gambit, I owe you a greater debt.

Elsewhere, the sorcerer Balthasan felt the disturbance of his brother’s death; the backlash of arcane energy driving him from his seat. Balthasan sat on his knees, his mind and body reeling with shock; he summoned a small ward to heal his body and was shocked to discover his power had fled. His brother’s death had somehow broken his power. Balthasan screamed in rage, the sound echoing through his kingdom.

And Remy LeBeau continued to fall, deeper down into the darkness.

The End

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