The left monster goes for me, the other two go for Hayley. I only just managed to slay one before; how can we possibly hope to defeat three?

"Consider this the final test," the man continues, suddenly no longer beside us and instead watching dispassionately from the foot of the gates. "Whichever of you should succeed will have shown themselves capable of taking up my mantle. Should either of you fail... then the choice of who should replace me is made for us."

I stab wildly at the creature, aiming to weaken it by landing the first strike, but it blocks my blade with a claw and bites at my face. I lean away from the attack, but to my right I can see Hayley pinned to the floor by another.

"They were like you once," the man carries on, "before the Darkness reached them. The one you're struggling with was once a Tanzanian warrior, long before your time. And that one," he gestures at Hayley. "Was a Martian architect. They all turn just the same."

The beast slashes at my stomach, widening the wound its brother dealt on the grey world. I'm falling apart - I'm amazed I've lasted this long. Ignoring the pain and seeing an opening, I attempt to plunge my knife into the gap in the monster's armour I found before, but instead it blurs backwards, out of my reach. I stumble forward, having already committed myself to the strike, and the beast leaps back at me, its jaws wide.

An arrow takes one of its legs out from underneath it and it trips, tumbling past me as I leap away to the right. I turn, amazed Hayley's managed to escape the monsters, but she's still on the ground, holding one back with her bow as a brace. So who...

Another arrow shoots over my shoulder, hitting one of the monsters attacking Hayley in the torso, and I twist to see the shooter, which is –

Also Hayley.

What?

The stricken monster staggers backwards, and the Hayley on the ground lashes out at the other creature while its eyes are on her double. The second Hayley rushes it as the first slips a knife into that weak point in its armour.

I have to turn to fend off my own attacker, but I hear Hayley – one of them – say: "The door in your mind. Open it! It'll work this time!"

When I next glance around, there's only one Hayley, locked in combat with the monster that had taken the arrow.

"Guess you're not so special!" Hayley taunts me. "Time travel – piece of cake!"

"You should be careful with that," the Guardian calls to us, observing passively from afar. "It is good to see you using the power that has already passed from me into you, but crossing your own timeline like that is a terrible idea."

"Well excuse us for trying to survive!" Hayley cries, darting away from her foe and spinning around with her knife.

My monster hisses suddenly, and in my mind I hear a word, and I'm surprised both by the complexity of the concept and the fact that it means me. Abomination.

Its fury bursts like a dam has broken, and it lunges for me, both claws sweeping round like a vice closing on my throat. I duck below the strike, the wound in my belly screaming, and I plunge my blade up into that gap between its armour.

Spasms shake its body, its mouth opening in a silent howl, and as I pull my knife free, it judders backwards and collapses.

Quick as a flash, I move onto Hayley, who I find locked together with the last monster in a desperate struggle. Her nose is broken and blood streams from a gash in her side, but like me, she refuses to give up. It occurs to me that this one's bigger than the other two, and bulkier, with a longer abdomen that stretches behind it, almost like a twisted reflection of a horse...

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