Korg sat at the end of the long hallway outside Agram's throne room, slumped against the wall. He held one hand over his fiercely blackened eye and moaned softly in the darkness. "I don't think this was such a good plan, Zet," he whimpered as thin tendrils of smoke curled up from his scorched clothing. He tried to dream up a creature, just one little wudge in case something came down the hall, but all that manifested was a large, blackened eye that faded quickly to nothing.
He turned his open eye toward the throne room, where flashes of light flared and the sounds of raw power cracked the air. Dream creatures howled in rage, fear, and triumph. Explosions sent shards of masonry skittering down the flagstone hallway to rest at Korg's feet. He saw shadows moving, great dark nightmare beasts?and other things. For a moment he saw Zet's diminutive form, his topknot dancing as the small razor-toothed Magi spun and cast a spell. Then he saw another Magi silhouetted by an explosion. It looked like Hrada, and an instant later he heard Zet yell, "Got 'em!"
There was a moment of blessed silence... quiet for which Korg was grateful; the overwhelming noise had been making Korg's pounding head feel worse and worse. Then, barely audible through the ringing in his ears, Korg heard a soft, female voice say, "No, my dear, you didn't get them, you got him."
Korg quickly plugged his ears and closed his good eye as the shattering noises filled the halls again. The blasts of sound washed over him time and again, and he tried to scrunch himself up into as small a ball as possible.
At last the noises abruptly stopped, and he hazarded one eye open just in time to see Zet flying through the air with a rather startled expression on his face. The small Magi impacted the wall above Korg's head and a little to the side, and slid down to the floor. "Hey, Zet," said Korg, "I think it's easier if you land on your feet instead of your head."
"Shut up," groaned Zet. He slowly picked himself up, wincing. Once he'd regained his feet, he took a deep breath, then leaned against the wall and looked back at the throne room. A thick cloud of smoke billowed out of the doorway. Zet heaved a sigh of relief.
Then a shadow appeared in the choking, dusty cloud. The shadow became a Shadow Magi. "I'm not through with you yet, shortstuff," she said.
"So, uh, what's the plan, Zet?" asked Korg, with a whine in his voice.
"I'm leaving," hissed Zet. He wiped his lip with the back of his hand as Warrada glided closer, hips swaying, a veritable zoo of nightmare creatures drooling at her heels.
"Yeah, I got a plan..." said Korg.
"I said, Korg, that I'm leaving," said Zet. "Me. Personally. Leaving. Goodbye."
"Great," said Korg, standing up slowly and painfully, "let's go. Then my plan is... uh... it's that we..."
"You want a plan? Here!" snapped Zet, and he pushed Korg hard down the hall toward Warrada. Korg thumped on his backside and tumbled backwards, ending up splayed out on the ground, blocking the hallway. Zet took to his heels and scooted away as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Korg stood up once more, grunting as he worked his bruised muscles and bent his sore joints. He cupped his hands to his mouth. "I don't get it, Zet!" he yelled. "What kind of plan was that? Hey! Come back here and explain it! What kind of plan was that?"
A cold, wet nose sniffing at the back of his neck made Korg pause in his yelling to look over his shoulder. A very large dark furok was sniffing his ear and licking its lips in anticipation. A freakish, one-eyed mutant fird sat on one of the furok's horns and stared eagerly. Suddenly Korg was off and running. "Wait!" he yelled. "I got a plan! My plan is you let me run faster!"
"How many days, how many WEEKS, Korg, has it been that you keep asking that question?" asked Zet with no small amount of exasperation. He held his robes hiked up about his knees in a vain attempt to keep them dry as he waded in the river parallel to the shore.
"Well, you keep not giving me an answer," grumbled the larger Magi. "So what was it about that plan? I didn't get it."
Zet turned and roared, "I HATE YOU! I WANTED YOU TO GET EATEN SO I'D BE FREE OF YOU! WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?!?"
Korg giggled. "You're funny, Zet. You look all kinds of funny when you yell like that."
Zet turned about fiercely and continued stomping upstream, splashing river water all about. With all the furious splashing, he gave up on keeping his robe dry and let the hem fall. It immediately soaked full of river water and stretched, causing Zet to stumble, trip, and splash face-first into the cold water. He surfaced again, spraying water from his mouth in disgust.
"So what was that plan thing, anyway?" asked Korg as Zet cleared the water from his ears.
Zet favored Korg with a weary glance. "I should just drown myself," he muttered. "It'd be easier. It'd be far less painful. And it would be much shorter."
"Yeah," said Korg, "that reminds me, why do I have us walking in the river here instead of up there on the river bank where it's dry?"
"Because we don't want to be found, Korg," said Zet. "They're looking for us, you know. The Dark Twins, Magi from every region, they're all looking for us. If we walk in the river, we don't leave a trail."
"Oh, I get it. So my plan is we sneak away off to... uh, we go to?" said Korg.
"Bograth," said Zet. He turned and continued wading, pulling up the hem of his now-soaked robes so that he wouldn't trip again.
"Why Bograth?" asked Korg, following easily with his long legs.
"Because no one goes there," answered Zet. Then, muttering venomously under his breath, he added, "No one but losers."
Korg and Zet set a more relaxed pace once they entered into Bograth proper. This was due to two reasons. The first was that they were confident that no one was actively pursuing them. The second and more compelling reason was that moving quickly through Bograth meant you would certainly step in something. A stinky pond, a pile of scum, a patch of sinking sand... they were all items to avoid.
After several days of exploring Bograth and seeing nothing but hostile little slimy creatures, Korg was confident that nobody lived in Bograth. Which, of course, made Zet absolutely certain that there were still people in this fetid swamp.
As usual, Zet was right.
He and Korg were slogging along through the swamps, with Zet surreptitiously looking for some feature, some anomaly of the Bograthian landscape that might allow him to ditch Korg at long last. Perhaps thick mud barely strong enough to support Zet's weight but not Korg's, perhaps an area infested with low-growing brambles that Zet could run beneath, leaving Korg to crawl.
Much to his annoyance, nothing of the sort had been found. His energy depleted, Zet plopped down on a rotting stump covered with squishy moss. As the moss settled beneath him, it made an obnoxious noise and oozed out a foul-smelling gas.
"I tell ya, Korg," said Zet, "I don't know how much more of this I can take." He looked at his torn, stained, mud-covered robe. "Just look at me."
Korg did. Zet's topknot was haggard and loose, and it appeared that a large fuzzy bug had built a nest in it. The Magi's razor teeth were stained yellow by the various grotesque things they'd had to eat. All of the little guy's vigor seemed to have left him.
"You look stoopider than usual," said Korg as he settled down on a large, damp, moss-and-fungus-covered boulder.
Needless to say, both Magi were rather startled when the boulder objected. "Hey!" came a deep, guttural voice. "Get off my back!" Korg leaped off the boulder and danced with rather startling grace to stand bravely behind Zet.
The boulder uncurled itself to become an impressively large Magi, built like a balamant with large, powerful arms that ended in hands the size of giant korrits. He had been curled into a ball asleep, but now he stood up to his full eight feet of height and glared down at the two Core Magi with pale, glowing eyes.
"Why for did you disturb my work?" he said.
"Sorry," said Zet, "we didn't see you slee... er, working there."
"I am Brog," said the big Magi. "Who are you puny people that I will crush?"
"Take me to your leader," said Zet.
"We don't really have a leader," answered Brog, "except maybe Olabra, 'cuz she's the bestest elder ever."
"In that case..." said Zet.
"Heyyyy," said Brog with sincere amazement, "you guys is from the Core, aren't you? Waaoooww! I can tell by your eyes!"
Zet wiggled his fingers as he replied, saying, "Well, yeah, but..."
"Shaddup, Zet," interrupted Korg, shoving Zet aside. "Let me talk!"
"Why?" said Zet and Brog simultaneously.
"Well, uh, because, uh," stammered Korg, "because I, uh..."
Suddenly a wide smile spread across Zet's yellowed and sharpened fangs like the dawn of a nightmare. He stepped forward toward Brog and bowed deeply. "If you please, then, great and noble Brog," said Zet, gesturing toward Korg, "we should let him talk, because he is your long-lost leader."
"Of course he is," said Zet smoothly.
"Then why haven't I heard of him?" asked Brog.
"Yeah, Zet!" barked Korg. "That's what I wanna know!"
"Because if you had heard of him, he wouldn't have been lost, now would he?" said Zet reasonably.
"Oh yeah," said Korg and Brog simultaneously.
Zet turned and bowed toward Korg, spreading his arms wide. "Allow me to introduce to you All-High King Korg, Magnificent, Illustrious, Returned Emperor of Great and Mighty Bograth!"
Brog clapped excitedly, a miserable whap-whap sound of greasy palms smacking inexpertly into each other, but to Korg, the applause was as loud as the roaring of the ocean.