Gigas stopped his story, and turned away. Tiva sighed.
“This is where the portal to the Negative Energy Plane opened, and the undead started to appear. Isn’t it,” she guessed.
Gigas didn’t say anything. He just looked at the opposite wall.
“I’m sorry,” said the succubus, with true compassion (an unusual feeling for a succubus, but then, she was an unusual succubus). “It really wasn’t your fault, you know. You couldn’t have known…”
“That’s not how it happened,” Gigas said. “I did let him weaken the barriers between worlds, and that is why the undead started appearing. But… it didn’t happen… like that.”
Confusion showed on the redeemed demon’s beautiful face.
The wind howled in the damaged air around the summoner. There was a low rumble. And then a voice, a horrible, sneering voice, full of malice, boomed into the ears of all nearby. “WHO. HAS. SUMMONED. LORD. LEBRANCHE!!!”
“What… nooooo!” cried Xanathia.
“What? No,” Tiva interrupted, frowning at Gigas. He was still staring at the opposite wall. “That can’t be what really happened. If LeBranche had come to the Material Plane, I and every other demon within a million miles would have known about it. And, if LeBranche had appeared before you, he would’ve killed you and ground your soul into paste.”
“You know that, and I know that,” said Gigas, finally turning back to look at Tiva. He wore a smirk on his face. “But HE didn’t know that.”
“I WALK THE WORLD ONCE MORE!” boomed the voice. “WHERE IS THE MORTAL WHO HAS SUMMONED ME!?!”
“Here!” cried the blind summoner. “Here, your Omnipotence! Your eternal reign begins anew!” As he stopped the chanting, the cracks in the air started to close, leaving a miasma of negative energy in their wake.
“YOUR TASK IS COMPLETE, MORTAL,” the voice said. “KNEEL BEFORE YOUR LORD AND MASTER.”
The human fell to one knee at once, reaching out with his hands to try and see where his master was. He ended all concentration on the summoning ritual. “Where are you, O Mighty One?” exclaimed the human.
The cracks leaking negative energy were closing… just a few more moments…
“I STAND BEFORE YOU,” said the evil voice. The elf, seeing nothing, started to protest, but Zookle the gnome tackled her.
“Truly, your glory is everlasting!” cried the blinded human. “The wretches of this world shall fall before your wrath!”
“YES! MY BURNING FURY SHALL BURN… EVERYONE… FOREVER.” Gigas watched as the last of the otherworldly discharge seeped out, leaving a cloud, as big as a horse, of black, crackling Negative Energy suspended in midair.
“Master, where are you? Let me bask in your infinite power!” pleaded the summoner.
“HANG ON JUST A SEC,” said the evil voice.
The human looked confused. The cracks finally closed. The halfling sorcerer grinned.
“And that’s about it,” Gigas finished.
“That’s it?” said Tiva, incredulous.
“Yep. My sound illusion saved the day.”
“You killed the demon summoner?”
“Zookle blasted him with a fireball, and the paladin got up and cut the man’s head off. So yes.”
She let out a sigh. “So the part about the portal to the Negative Energy Plane, releasing all those zombies…”
“Oh, that was about a month later,” Gigas said, shrugging. He was sad, but it was a sadness he’d made himself feel every single night since then. The weariness showed in his eyes. “Of course, if I hadn’t let him begin the process… if we hadn’t left that black energy there, weakening the barriers between worlds… zombie night wouldn’t have happened at all.”
Tiva walked over to him, and brushed a hand against his cheek. “You don’t know that, Gigas. It might have happened a hundred different ways.”
He shook his head.
“After the micro-rifts closed and the summoner died, I just left the Negative Energy floating in midair. That stuff’s made out of evil, did you know?”
Tiva nodded slowly.
“I researched this,” said Gigas, sadness turning to an angry insistence. “A mass of pure negative energy like that eats away at the planar barriers. Anyone powerful enough could just walk right into our world. It was like… like leaving a welcome mat for the undead horde.” Tiva tried to comfort him again, but he hopped off the bar. He looked up at her. This anger at himself had been there ever since he had met her in the cold north, and now it was starting to come out at last.
“I let that black energy sit there for a whole month. A month,” spat Gigas. “Sure, I might have been unable to clean it up, but I didn’t even try. I didn’t tell anyone. My mother was the most powerful sorceress in town.” He choked a little at the thought of her. “Or I could have gone to the town council. Or asked Bosarius the dragon. But no. I didn’t do anything. I figured it wasn’t my problem. I figured I didn’t have the responsibility. I figured, it would just go away…”
“Yes, and it didn’t,” finished Tiva. “But Gigas, you know you had no idea. You didn’t know what it did. You didn’t know how long it takes for pure negative energy like that to dissipate. Few mortals have experience with such things. You can’t beat yourself up over it.”
“I can, and have,” Gigas said, determined to be angry at himself. “The fact is, I could have saved the town a hundred different ways, and I just did nothing. And that’s why I hate the undead.”
“What,” said Tiva, confused.
“That’s why you brought me back here, isn’t it? You wanted me to confront my hatred of the undead.”
“And to finish your story,” Tiva added. “You’ve told the first parts for a while now, but you never wanted to get to the end. Even your bard friend couldn’t drag it out of you.”
“Yeah, well, there it is,” concluded Gigas. “I hate the undead because, I could have stopped them. I could have saved us. A lot of places in the world need saving. I think I’ve done my best in Magellan… Southumberland… Shoran. But when it came to Hobbitania, my homeland, I didn’t just fail; I didn’t care. And my reward was the undead. That’s why I hate them. …Does that make sense?”
“It does,” she said, understanding his feelings better than he did. She picked him up, a gesture he rarely permitted, and hugged him. He hugged her back, feeling rather low. But he was grateful she was there all the same.
After a minute or two of silence, he spoke again.
“How long does it take?” he wondered
“How long does what take, Gigas?”
“How long does it take for pure negative energy like that to dissipate?”