But Dragoneyes was not a bastard plucked from the Little Lands. He was the most powerful man since the time of the Shapers. His powers meant that those around him looked to the young mage for wisdom and guidance. And when they looked, they needed to see something more impressive than a flashy child in the robes of a student.
With the True Name of cloth, Dragoneyes created an elaborate robe of red and gold. With the True Name of iron, he forged a suit of armor that no arrow could pierce, no fire could burn, and- most critically- no spell could penetrate. At least, no simple spell.
Dragoneyes wanted to be with Cassinder one last time. To gaze upon her, to touch her, even if she could not return the gestures. But Dragoneyes had a purpose. And he would better serve that purpose if his mind was clear. So he suppressed his desires. How much more satisfying it would be, he told himself, when he next saw Cassinder. He would heal her with a word, and they could be together once more. Each of them set apart from mankind by power and Sight. Each of them drawn toward the other by the same.
Koteph glowered in his tent. Terix was dead, the Etorans had abandoned him. His more impressive monsters were all but extinguished.
But Koteph had no need for company. No interest in companionship. It was for the weak. Only by focusing on oneself could one achieve greatness.
So Koteph sat, adding another layer to the protective spells upon his body. With each bit of magic, his form became a bit less human. He didn't care. Humans had always been a weak and pitiful afterthought by the Shapers of the World. Koteph would never be an afterthought. If he lived.
Koteph knew that each day bore a significant risk. He knew that Dragoneyes grew stronger every day. He should have eliminated the mage earlier. Same with the Caesorium boy. But they had both grown powerful, and both been formidable enemies.
It was easy for Dragoneyes to locate his enemy. Not concealment could hide Koteph's power from the mage's prying eyes. He strode toward his enemy slowly and confidently. Any who dared challenge Dragoneyes found themselves burnt or sliced in half. Eviscerating a giant was child's play.
The two enemies struck at almost the same time. Dragoneyes emitted a great belch of flame, Koteph a searing blast of mystical energy. They were upon each other, summoning boulders from the ether and knocking them aside. Outshining the sun with brilliant blazes of hard light and heat. Jets of water hit walls of magic, colliding with sounds that made thunder seem timid in comparison. And, all the while, Dragoneyes gained the upper hand.
At first, it was evident only to the combatants. Felt only in the balances of brief pauses between counterattacks. Then, it became evident to the scholarly sorcerers watching from a distance. That the balance of the fight was shifting toward the side of self-proclaimed good. Finally, the battle devolved to Dragoneyes striking one powerful blow after another, and Koteph struggling to hide or shield himself from the attack.
Dragoneyes stood above the shriveled man in tattered robes. "It did not have to end this way. We could have been allies. There could have been a place for you in the world that I will create."
"Save the morality lesson for the people who are going to live," Koteph gasped. "I have no interest in hearing you lecture me."
Dragoneyes spoke the True Name of fire, and walked away from the corpse of his greatest enemy. Nobody disturbed him on the way back.