Upend

A beach in North Norfolk, England. 18th May 1945.

Banks of thick black clouds rolled overhead, lighting up occasionally as sheet lighting flashed across the sky. At the top of a cliff, Dominik Schulze stood alone, watching in a solitary vigil across the tumultuous North Sea. Victory in Europe had been declared eleven days earlier, but this was a fight that had been building his whole life. The bitter sea mist that splashed across his face, carried on the winds from the crashing waves below, did not even phase him as he steeled himself.

“We have your brother confirmed for heading on this course, Dominik.” The voice coming through the other end of the radio was grave. “We believe he is heading towards-“

“Runton. We vacationed there as children, before the wars” Dominik replied. “Thank you, Captain. Please advise the Navy to keep out of this. I would rather spare the men Dieter’s wrath. My team shall handle him.”

“Understood, Dominik. Godspeed, and… good luck.” The Captain said before the radio fizzled.

Slipping his great-coat off, Dominik began to remove his jacket and waistcoat. He did not even have to lay eyes on him to be aware of his brother’s approach. The magical energy his brother was outputting to cross the North Sea was immense, darkly staining reality and causing the malevolent storms to form.

Dominik stood at just under six-foot in  height, his jaw line chiselled and cleanly shaved. A well-kept man, his blond hair had been cropped short, and the crows feet that had started to form around his blue eyes had in no way diminished his attractiveness, a jubilant woman had informed him several nights before. It was hard to imagine him as being someone closer to sixty years of age than fifty.

Watching the rising crest of wave draw closer to the coastline, Herr Schulze withdrew a small vial from his pocket and removed the stopper before downing the contents in one, flinching a little at the taste.

“I can’t risk any of you in a direct fight with Dieter.” Dominik told the Silver Shield, Great Britain’s elite force of wizards, witches and others versed in the supernatural. “He’ll be desperate, and tired. And this will just serve to make him dangerous.”

“We can’t help you directly, agreed.” Doris Marshall nodded, the witch’s face grave. “But indirectly… I can brew up something that should help keep your strength up during the battle.”

“And with the help of everyone, I think we should be able to cast a spell to conceal this fight from the wider world. They’ve seen enough of the mundane horrors of this war, let us not permit them to witness this last battle.” Agatha Gardener smiled, the sorceress looking about the circle of her fellow warriors. “Let us take care of the rest. You have enough to worry about.”

“DOMINIK!” Dieter’s voice cried out, the boom of thunder accompanying it trying its hardest to rattle the allied spellcaster. As he drew in towards land, his raised hands sent forth whirling tunnels of water at the cliff.

“DIETER!” His brother called in return, channeling forth the face of the cliff beneath him. Tendrils of whirling rock and earth collided with the oncoming storm of water funnels, bogging them down into a slick mess that just slopped across the beach. “SUBMIT AND LEAVE. THE WAR IS OVER. WE DO NOT HAVE TO FIGHT!”

“COWARD!” The roaring reply came back, followed by several bolts of lightning that fell from the sky to arc towards the blond soldier.

With a simple raise of his hand, a sheet of fire seared the sky, causing the superheated air to block the bolts in their path. As the light cleared, Dieter Schulze stood in front of his brother, hair drenched with seawater and brow furrowed in pure hatred. He had a few inches in height on his brother, but was more wiry in frame. From the dark brown hair to noticeable gulfs in their features, their status as half-brothers were apparent.

“I do not want to have to do this, Dieter. You could be so much more with us… with me. The war is over.” Dominik offered a hand out. “We could sequester ourselves away from the world, with all the research we’ve gathered. We could learn so much on the arcane. You just have to take my hand.”

It was slapped away with a burst of pure force. “No! You betrayed the Furher, and me, in the past. I’d be stupid to think you’d not turn traitor again. The war might be over, but this…” Dieter began to roll up the sleeves on his uniform, levitating himself in the air as he stared deep into the eyes of his relative. “You were always the golden boy. I was second fiddle to you in -his- eyes.”

“The past is just that! The past, Dieter! Think of the future we could make together, for the world. Or even just for us… Would you at least let me try to make amends, before you persist on this course of self-destruction?” Dominik pleaded.

“You think your victory so certain?!” Dieter spat.

“If not by me, then by those behind me. You can’t fight an army, not in your current state.” The eldest Schulze sibling let out a sigh. “You look soaked through, cold, hungry. That little restaurant you used to like is still nearby. I could get you something?” The look he got in return told Dominik all he needed to know. Stepping forwards off the cliff, he hung in mid-air as he drew on his internal reserves of willpower. “Shall we at least bow?”

“I can be civil enough to bow, at least.” Dieter replied, moving away from his brother before giving a deep bow. As soon as Dominik’s head was down, he begun his attack. A rapid onslaught of fire bolts sizzled from his hand, engulfing the other man.

From the burst of flame, the British Wizard surged forwards, drawing streams of sand up to whirl around in a maelstrom of abrasion. A torrent of howling wind disrupted that, and the pair were upon each other. Above the coastline they crashed together, warping the very fabric of reality and bending the matter around them as they saw fit. Lightning met fire. Ice was blocked by chunks of stone. Howling winds met pillars of earth and the sand below was superheated to glass, before being sent up in razor-tipped shards.

Rioting across the sky, Schulze clashed with Schulze. Dieter’s attacks were full of fury, driving the full force of his hatred behind his manipulations of the aether. Dominik kept his temper in check, unleashing tactical levels of spellpower to counter the frenzied assault as best he could. Tactics and finesse could not fully compensate for an all-out leveling of destructive force, but he was holding his own.

From East Runton the battle in the skies pushed North, edging past West Runton as they made their way up the coast. Just beyond their field of battle, the sky shimmered with iridescent fire as the Silver Shield worked to obscure the conflict from the populous below. As they made for Beeston Regis, both were starting to tire. Even with the potion Doris had brewed up for him, Dominik could feel his limbs growing heavy, and cold sweat soaked his clothing. Dieter’s attacks were also becoming laboured, the man sucking down air in huge lungfuls between attacks.

As he plunged his hand through a field of darkest shadow, Dominik caught his brother by the neck and drove him down towards the ruins of St Mary’s Priory. As they crashed between the skeletal remains of the holy site, their battle of magic turned to one of fists and brawling as they rolled across the wet grass and weeds.

“You-” Dieter punctuated his words with a blow from his fist. “Ruined-” Another blow came, catching Dominik in the chin. “My-” He drove his elbow into his brother’s chest. “LIFE!” With his fist raised to the sky, he called down a storm of lightning.

It was then that Dominik knew his brother would not last that night. Lashing his hands up, he drove his brother’s hand against the side of his head before propelling himself back, scrunching his eyes closed as the blast hit. Even as the charnel smell hit his nose, he bolted forth to catch his sibling. There was no sign of outwards emotion as he pressed his twitching brother to the sodden ground. With fingers digging into the soil, he upended a chunk with a feat of strength. Hauling the slab over, he slammed the soil back into the ground and begun to chant a ritual of sealing.

The simple words of Old Norse began to empower the stones, infusing the ground with pure eldritch might. As the words tumbled out of his mouth, he felt his body grow weak, struggling to hold himself up before the final word of power was uttered. The area grew still. The black clouds soon began to break up above him, letting in the moonlight above the ruins, nestled away from the fields of poppies. And the muffled moans and cries that Dominik had heard beneath the soil during the chanting had finally been muted.

With a soft sob, Dominik Schulze fell back onto the ground and curled up, biting into his lip to muffle his cries.

They had trekked far from the hotel they were staying at, free to wander the countryside. Finding themselves at one of their favourite places, one of the brothers had nestled himself away in an archway, a slightly tattered book to hand while the younger brother climbed to find a place to perch and watch the trees.

“You be careful up there.” The elder spoke in heavily accented English.

“Of course…” Came the reply, followed by several minutes of silence. “You know… I like this place. Better than our town.”

“Really?”

“Yep. I could see myself living here… maybe even dying here when I’m all old and wrinkled, like grandfather.”

“Don’t talk like that. I don’t ever want to have to see you buried, Dieter.”

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