The chains disappeared from around Blinky, Tobias, and AAARRRGGHH!!!’s bodies as Claire tackled Morgana into the Shadow Realm.
For a torturously long moment, all was silent aside from the whirling of the vortex. No one dared move.
Then a dark sliver appeared in the thin air that Claire had disappeared into. A clawed hand forced itself through, and then a second one did. Purple claws gripped the edge of reality and ripped it open.
“Break the staff!” Claire shouted, grabbing it from where it was slung across her back and throwing it towards her friends. Golden chains reached for the staff, but they wrapped around Claire’s abdomen instead. Blinky grabbed Claire’s arms as a second chain wrapped around her torso. He wouldn’t let the witch drag Claire away. He had lost one of the children he had come to care about, he wouldn’t let himself lose another.
Three more golden chains wrapped themselves around Claire. One chain wrapped itself around her ankles. That one wouldn’t do as much harm as the others, since Claire wasn’t kicking at Morgana in her attempt at escape. One chain wrapped itself around her upper arms and chest, ripping her arms away from Blinky’s. The last chain wrapped itself around her neck. It hovered around it, loose, more like a waiting noose than a chokehold.
Tobias brought his Warhammer down upon the Shadow Staff, and Blinky made one last desperate attempt to grab Claire. Her fingers slipped through hers, but still he grabbed for her as the portal closed and she was dragged away.
Blinky lost his upper right hand as the portal closed. Claire’s distressed expression would stay with him longer than the loss.
“No,” Tobias said. His armor clanked on the concrete. Blinky looked over his shoulder. Tobias was on his trying to sift through the rubble that the Shadow Staff had left behind, to figure out just how to salvage it. “No, no, there’s gotta be a way to bring Claire back.”
“Destroyed.” AAARRRGGHH!!! said, and Blinky couldn’t be sure if his husband was talking about Claire’s weapon or Claire herself.
“I don’t have the skill to create a portal to bring her back, Tobias,” Blinky said. “But if I did, I assure you we would not abandon Claire.”
But would you? A traitorous voice crept into Blinky’s head. You abandoned your brother to the Darklands. Would you risk your husband’s life for her? What about Tobias’s? You’ve already lost two of the children you’ve come to care about.
From the side of the bridge there came a cough.
Only one of them was lost.
“Jimbo!” Tobias cried, abandoning his task in favor of his more reachable, more obviously still living friend. Blinky ran towards his son, AAARRRGGHH!!! following.
Jim coughed again as his best friend cradled him in his arms. “Is she, is she gone?”
Tobias’s smile froze on his face as the light once again disappeared from his eyes.
Jim looked around. “Blinky, what happened to your hand? Where’s Claire?”
No one wanted to tell him.
“What happened,” Jim demanded, looking around frantically.
Blinky put his upper left hand on his son’s shoulder. “After Morgana knocked you out, Claire tackled her into the Shadow Realm. She had Tobias and AAARRRGGHH!!! destroy the staff. Master Jim, I tried to pull her out, but…” he stared at his own stump before meeting his son’s eyes again. “The portal closed before I could.”
Jim’s facial expression was so similar to the ones he had had when he encountered the deaths of Vendel and Draal.
The vortex lit up green, and Blinky looked away from his son to notice that Merlin survived and held the Staff of Avalon. He would gladly give up his other three hands to get Claire back, but sacrificing the annoyingly surviving wizard would be preferable.
“Glora Azuzth!” the wizard called, ending the Eternal Night. So, he had his magic back now. Somehow, the idea that Claire had done the impossible and killed Morgana felt like too much to hope for.
So much for killing the witch being the only way for the wizard to regain his magic.
“Hey, Merlin? You got your magic back, could you put it to some good and remake the Shadow Staff so we can get Claire back? Because I’m pretty sure it was because of her, her sacrifice that you’ve got your magic again,” Tobias pleaded, still holding onto Jim.
“How… noble of her,” Merlin said, a faraway look in his eyes. It quickly disappeared into the usual look of disdain he had for everyone other than himself. “She must have known what she was doing, and I’m not going to risk Morgana coming back.”
Right, because his magic was worth risking the world for, but not a young girl who was probably the reason why he had his magic back in the first place.
Merlin set his levitating form on the bridge and began to walk away. “I can sense another Heartstone on the other end of the continent. We should start the preparations to leave and should leave soon.”
Blinky stared after him, as he walked through the last place Claire had stood. Then he helped Jim to his feet. “Let’s go, we need to take care of your injuries and get out of the sun.”
As the walked away, Blinky thought he saw a human dart towards the Bridge. Perhaps they were trying to find out if it was safe, now that the sky was returning to normal. Perhaps they were trying to see what they could scavenge from the wreckage of the battle.
It wasn’t an honorable thing to do, but Blinky would let the human scavenge the pieces of the Shadow Staff. Claire’s situation was hopeless no matter what.
But in the words of his traitorous brother, even the word hopeless wasn’t void of hope. All Blinky could do for Claire was hope that her necked snapped from the chain wrapped around it. All he could do was hope that she died quickly and would endure no torture as the sole subject of Morgana’s ire.