Karl-Anthony was first to reach the plateau. At its far end, there was indeed a fire burning in a pit, but now he could see that there was also a small wooden residence built along the one of the plateau’s sides. The full midday sun exposed its every detail even at this far distance. He waited for Ricky and Kevin to appear next to him.
“Is the wizard here? Now?” Karl-Anthony asked Kevin.
Kevin, whose previous tiredness had been supplanted by wide-eyed anticipation, nodded and whispered “yes”.
Karl-Anthony continued forward. “Let us meet him, then.” They got halfway towards the simple little house when its door opened and a tall, dark man stepped out of it. He was wearing a magnificent purple robe, but did not carry with him any of the objects that Karl-Anthony associated with the wizards in his kingdom.
Ricky instinctively stopped his approach when he saw the man step out, but Karl-Anthony boldly went on, his spirit still buoyed by the sandstorm’s disappearance. The wizard stood in place, waiting for them.
Finally, they were within speaking distance. “Where are your acolytes, pretender?” Karl-Anthony asked, fearing an ambush.
“I have none,” the wizard answered. “The mountains are my only companion.”
“And what should your name be?”
“My name is Gorgui Dieng,” the wizard answered. “Do not bother to introduce yourselves, however. I have known who you are for some time now.”
“Be careful, my lord,” Ricky intoned lowly. “We do not know what other areas of sorcery he may be skilled in. His talk could deceive you.”
Karl-Anthony nodded and returned his attention to the wizard. “Gorgui Dieng. You are the evil sorcerer who cursed my kingdom, are you not?”
Gorgui laughed. “You are a fool. I am indeed the one who took winter away from your kingdom, but your understanding of winter’s nature is naive. Winter did not always assault Minnesota in the way you are accustomed. Winter is, in fact, a curse placed upon Minnesota by the gods for past transgressions. I merely reversed that curse.”
Stunned, Karl-Anthony could not respond. Seeing his king’s dumbfounded expression, Ricky defiantly shouted, “No! You lie!”
Gorgui gave Ricky a sharp glance. “It is not your place, idiot, to interrupt a meeting between kings.”
These words released Karl-Anthony from his stupor. “There is only one king in this land, and it is me,” he snarled. “I see you are a great deceiver, Gorgui. But your deception will soon come to an end.” He unsheathed his sword, its handle set with emeralds, and prepared to do battle.
Gorgui smirked at this show of bravado. “Put away that toy. A simple metal blade has no hope against my mastery of all things magical.”
Kevin and Ricky had backed away, sensing that they had no place in the fight that was to come. Karl-Anthony took one menacing step towards the wizard, trying to get close enough to do combat.
Raising his hands, Gorgui seemed to focus his energy into a glowing red orb that formed between his fingers. Karl-Anthony knew he had little time before this orb was released to destroy him. He charged at the wizard with a roar, but encountered an invisible barrier that prevented him from getting any closer.
Without thinking, he held up his sword with two hands and pointed it at his enemy. His thoughts were singularly focused on the raging power of winter. Suddenly, a stream of spiraling blue light emanated from the end of his sword and collided with the red orb in Gorgui’s hands, causing a terrific burst of color and noise. Gorgui was knocked to the ground, but Karl-Anthony stood upright, gazing with disbelief at his sword.
“Now!” Ricky shouted from behind.
Karl-Anthony again ran towards Gorgui, but this time, there was no unseen force preventing him from his goal. He stood over the vanquished wizard, ready to end the man’s life and break the curse.
“You are a wizard as well, Karl-Anthony. Join me and we can rule as never before,” Gorgui said, a small amount of pleading in his voice. “If you spare me, I will even allow you to have your precious winter back.”
“I have no great desire for power,” Karl-Anthony answered, raising his sword. “Only for the natural order of things to be restored.” Before Gorgui could speak again, he brought down his blade and skewered the wizard directly through the heart. Gorgui croaked once; then, his eyes glazed over with the unmistakable onset of death.
His task completed, Karl-Anthony sheathed his weapon and returned to his companions. “The wizard is dead. The curse is broken.” He drew his cloak closer to him as grey clouds obscured the warmth of the sun. “Now we must-”
“My king! Look!” Ricky interrupted gleefully, pointing into the sky.
Karl-Anthony looked up and smiled happily. Snow had begun to fall.