Raistlin eyed his opponent. There was no competition. The boy had soft brown eyes and white hair like Raistlin's. He was dressed simply and had a sweet sort of chubby look. Caramon stood in front of Raistlin, sword drawn, ready to protect his brother.

Protect me! Raistlin scoffed. This isn't a fight. This child isn't worth my time. Out loud, he called to the boy, "You still have time to walk away."

The boy shook his head. "No. I've challenged you, and I'll not back down until I have fed your soul to the shadows." Even his voice was soft and sweet and the threat fell flat. He was no mage, and no fighter. Caramon was looking at Raistlin, confused. This was the enemy?

"Very well." Raistlin clenched the Staff of Magius and prepared a spell that could easily destroy the insolent upstart before him. "Move aside, my brother." Caramon obeyed.

"Before we start," the boy said pleasantly, "let's move somewhere a bit more comfortable." On the last word, the boy's mouth twisted into a sneer. A golden ring appeared around his neck. Golden spikes hung from the ring and glowed with a sinister light. The boy's eyes narrowed and grew icy cold, while his white hair crackled with magical power. The waves of magic coursing from him were extraordinary.

A darkness fell. It was though the world around them had simply been erased. Strange shadows twisted around the three, and from the darkness, Raistlin could hear insane laughter punctuated by shrieks of pain. It was bitterly cold. At once, Caramon began to shake, and the sword point which he had begun to raise drooped.

Raistlin ignored his brother, glancing around. He could feel the power here, so close, but he could not grasp it. It was dark and evil and cruel. And Raistlin reveled in it. I must have that ring, he thought, that has the power to open the gateway to another world.

"You think to unnerve me with this?" he asked the boy, who was still standing stock still about twenty feet away.

The boy sneered. "I would think you a coward if you were." He raised his hands and a brilliant light shone from them. Raistlin's mind instantly conjured up the words to a defensive shield, but there was no need. The light coalesced, and a huge monster, with the torso of a man and a serpent's head and body as his lower half appeared.

"Diabound," the boy called, his voice harsh and arrogant. "Destroy him."

A blast of energy erupted from the snake's head. Raistlin summoned the words to a counterspell, and the attack fell harmlessly around him. Although Raistlin would not admit it, he was startled by the force of the attack. The shields actually wavered.

To cover his hesitation, Raistlin smirked. "Pathetic. And now it is my turn." He mouthed some words in the magic tongue and flung a fireball towards the boy. The creature moved in between and shrieked in pain. But it was not destroyed.

The boy smiled and shrugged. "I didn't really expect that to work. Not with a magician of your power." Caramon was shaking so hard now that the boy glanced at him with mock concern. "Poor boy. The Shadow Realm is cruel to those without the mental fortitude to withstand it. Let me relieve your misery." He glanced at his monster. "Diabound, kill him."

The Shadow Realm. Good to know. "Then how do you expect to beat me?" Raistlin asked, summoning another spell. Diabound sent a blast of energy at Caramon, who dodged, but barely. Raistlin paid him no heed. He was absorbed in the battle.

The boy looked at him pityingly. "As I have said, the Shadow Realm is cruel. To mind…and body."

Raistlin raised his hands and called upon his power. It responded eagerly. "Die," he whispered, almost gently. The boy staggered, his hand over his heart, his face contorted in pain. But he straightened, the ring around his neck glowing as it repelled the curse.

"It appears you have another soul sharing that body." The boy chuckled. "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours." Diabound was advancing on Caramon, another ball of energy leaping from the serpent's head. It struck Caramon a glancing blow on the shoulder, and he screamed in pain.

"Raist!"

Raistlin ignored him, aware of a dark presence stirring within the boy. Alerted by the battle, Fistandantilus appeared at Raistlin's side, to the mage's utter surprise. The lich glanced contemptuously at Raistlin's opponent, then his eyes widened.

"Zorc," he hissed.

The boy laughed. "You know me then. Or rather, you know him." The shadows dancing around them coalesced into a gigantic mass. A huge winged shape that towered over them all. Its eyes were red fire and its teeth unbearably long. Then it spoke, in a voice that echoed horribly in Raistlin's mind.

FISTANDANTILUS. I SEE THAT YOU HAVE TAKEN A NEW BODY.

Fistandantilus wasted no time in replying. Seizing some of Raistlin's strength, he cast a spell. It impacted against the demon's black armored chest and fizzled out. The demon laughed. It returned the blast, but Fistandantilus summoned a shield to block. Raistlin could feel his strength fading away. He raised his hands to cast another spell. Raistlin spoke the first few words…then his throat seized up as a fit of coughing struck.

No! Not now! The cold was inside his bones, and he could feel his frail body giving way. He couldn't breathe; he couldn't think. His spell died on his tongue. He fought to draw in air, but there was precious little to be had. He reached inside himself for the lich's power, but with Fistandantilus absorbed in his own battle, Raistlin couldn't grasp it. It slipped through his fingers.

"I guess it's too cold in here for you." The boy's voice seemed far away. "Leaves your soul ripe for the taking."

Caramon called to Raistlin again, but his tone had changed into fear for his brother. Diabound was forgotten.

"Raist!"

Raistlin tried to summon his magic, to disappear from the battle, but it wouldn't come. The boy chuckled. "No one leaves the Shadow Realm until the game is complete." Raistlin's vision was growing blurry. His coughs racked his frail body as he bent over double.

He could feel magic hammering at his shields, which were beginning to fail. He pushed more magic into it with a horrendous effort, knowing that if they fell, the boy's magical attacks would destroy him.

And then a knife slid between his ribs. Raistlin gasped with the pain; he had no air to scream. The wound was agonizing. Fistandantilus turned immediately to aid his host, but too slow. Zorc attacked again, and the lich was forced to return to the fight or be destroyed. Raistlin was vaguely aware of Caramon charging at the boy, trying to get to his brother, but Diabound intervened. Caramon was caught directly in the blast. He screamed as he collapsed.

Raistlin had no time or inclination to mourn. He swung the Staff of Magius at the boy's head. The boy dodged nimbly and lashed out with the knife. This time, the blade caught in Raistlin's throat. The last thing Raistlin could recall as he faded into blackness was the boy's triumphant grin and his parting words.

"When you get to Hell, tell them it was Bakura who sent you there."