Viv smirked as she drove through the gates of Kaven and onto the highway. Katalena was riding shotgun, shaking her head at her friend's expression of mirth. A friend of theirs, Briella Arslan, was sitting in the back, an entire grin covering her face. Once they were about a mile out, Viv spoke. "You two can poke your heads up now." An immediate groan of relief sounded as a teenage girl pulled herself out from under the seats. Kata allowed a smirk to cross her face as Keryn Renner sat up, stretching.
"Bri, if you kick me on the way home, I will stab you." Keryn grumbled and strapped herself to the chair.
"Save the stabbings for three in the morning, then you're tired enough for it to be reasonable." Viv said.
"Where the hell are we going, anyway?" The teenager asked. In response, Kata fished around Viv's bag and pulled out a small ID holocard and gave it to Keryn. Keryn took it and looked down. Viv laughed as a look of bewilderment and shock crossed over the girl's face. "A fake ID, you're shitting me."
"Nope. No offense, sweetie, but your parents don't strike me as the kind to really make your sixteenth a fun time." Viv said. Kata rolled her eyes as Briella and Keryn shared a high five. "We snuck Bri out when she turned sixteen as well. Next target is Skylar's girl. Thinking of dragging her into a male strip show." Viv mused aloud. In spite of herself, Keryn burst out laughing. "If you don't think I can do it, trust me, I can." Viv said. A comm call buzzed on Kata's window, and she answered it.
"What are you idiots doing?" Morrigan Sigurdson's voice said.
"Nothing." Briella and Viv said in unison. Morri sighed.
"Right...anyway, since I can figure out who is in your back seat, let her know to stop watching Mason, he's starting to show signs of his restraint wearing off completely." Morri said.
"Tell him if he fucks her before she's eighteen I'll kill him myself." Kata said.
"Will do. Will see if I can stave off her rampaging father, you're welcome." Morri said and hung up.
"He will try and kill you." Keryn pointed out, earning smirks from both Kata and Viv.
"Keryn, we got this idea from your mom. He won't be killin' either of us." Viv said.
About nine hours later, Katalena carried Keryn over her shoulder into the house she and Viv shared. Viv laughed as she heard Keryn rambling "I saw you eat someone's face, it was amazing..." She pulled the car into the garage and met Kata in the kitchen.
"You were right, she does pass for eighteen." Kata admitted. She had been worried that Keryn's youth would be discovered and get all of them arrested, but the teenager was certainly passable for adulthood.
"Hey, all the little ones grow up sometime." Viv said. "I'm just here to accelerate that process. Also, how'd things go with you and that gothic guy in the heroin room?"
"Just like all of your hookups. Looking for love in all the wrong places." Kata said and made for the stairs.
"Is that your way of saying anal?" Viv asked, earning only silence from Kata.
Clara watched as Keryn worked through her sword-patterns, using her lightsaber to maximum effectiveness. Clara had to admit, her daughter's abilities had grown immensely over the years, probably equaling her own. "Just one thing, honey." Clara said, rising from her seat. Keryn stopped to listen, looking over. "You have it down perfectly with the saber. Summon your sword and try it." Clara instructed. Keryn nodded and deactivated her lightsaber. She held a hand out and her silvery-blue weapon formed in her hand. Keryn began to run each of her patterns, one by one, flawlessly, and at lightning speed. Clara could see no faults. Clara let out a long sigh. "Alright, stop." She said.
Keryn halted mid motion, stopping the blade mid-swing. Clara summoned her own, red weapon. "Spar me. Consider this a final test." Clara said. A devilish grin flashed across Keryn's face as Keryn fell into a defensive stance. Clara didn't bother falling into a stance and waited instead. It didn't take long for Keryn to realize her mother would not initiate any attack, so Keryn began to launch an offense at her mother. Clara was surprised at Keryn's sudden use of Makashi, jabbing and flowing between attacks far lighter than normal. Just as Clara adjusted to this strategy, Keryn shifted into pure Juyo and slashed with both hands at her mother's legs, something Clara blocked and reflected away from her.
Keryn attacked with a powerful overhand strike, which was blocked by her mother easily and their blades locked. This is too easy, every other sparring partner of his, save Merric, has described her as much stronger than thi- Her thoughts were interrupted as Keryn let go of the weapon with both hands, causing it to vanish into thin air as she chain-punched her mother seven times in the ribs before summoning the sword back to her and slashing at her mother's back. Clara gripped her own weapon with both hands and held it behind her back, blocking the strike. Keryn continued the attack, this time much more like Clara had expected. In fact, Clara hadn't faced an opponent this talented since Vythica.
Clara launched her own offensive now, and was pleasantly surprised to notice that Keryn matched every attack and responded with an equal one of her own. They remained in stalemate, neither truly making any ground on the other, when Clara had an idea. She waited for the next power strike to come, and released her sword, causing it to vanish when Keryn's blade was a millimeter from her own. Keryn spun out of control as she missed and Clara jumped on her back, reforming the sword at Keryn's throat. "You're good, Keryn." Clara said, hopping down. "Just watch for things like that."
"Yeah. That was stupid of me, I should have seen it coming."
"It wasn't stupid, dear."
"Yeah, it was. Merric has been using Trispzest a lot lately, I should be used to disappearing weapons by now." Keryn sighed.
"Well...if it is any consolation, I think you're ready." Clara said.
"You do?" Keryn asked, perking up immediately.
"Yes. I'll speak with your father and Vitor tonight. The rest of the day is yours, don't get into trouble." Clara said, smiled and hugged her daughter before returning to the house as Keryn practically sprinted to the garage to jump into her car. Keryn had driven away, probably to go and hang out with Vitor's apprentice, Merric, or one of her other friends. Clara returned to the house and found a note from Caden. We headed over to help Rorii and Loran with their new ship. Both are beyond stumped as to what is wrong with it.
Well, I guess it's just me and Vitor for the meeting. Clara thought. If Caden had taken their son someplace, she imagined it would be best to leave the two alone. Clara grabbed the comm and started to punch in Vitor's number, when she felt a presence behind her. She turned and saw, to her shock, Vythica, standing there, clad in a black robe, katana in hand. "So that's how it'll be then, eh?" Clara asked, surprisingly calm.
"Yes." Vythica replied. And with that, she lunged forward.
Keryn jumped up after Merric and they perched themselves on Vitor's roof, Merric holding a champagne bottle and Keryn two glasses. "Well, congratulations, my friend. You've finally reached your potential." Merric joked.
"Oh, I have more to learn, Merric. Weren't you the one who taught me that?" She asked, grinning. "Besides, this means the crusade Vitor has been planning can go ahead, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Merric said and dug a the opener under the cork of the bottle. He launched the cork so far Keryn thought it might shatter one of the neighbor's windows. She held a glass out, which he filled, and then held the other, which he took and filled for himself. "Well, here's to you and your dreams of war." Merric said, a mischievous grin on his face.
"And to you, for kicking my ass when I thought I was the best in the world." Keryn said and started sipping at her drink. Suddenly, a tremor began to shake the base, and a body was launched into the air. "Who is that?" Keryn asked, standing. The body halted in the dead center of the air above Kaven, and it began to float, like someone being crucified in midair. Keryn activated her Erachi vision and looked up. "Oh my god. Mom." Keryn said, panic filling her voice. Her mother had slashes and burns covering her and it looked like she had been tortured in the short time Keryn had left the house.
A robed woman floated above her mother, hand outstretched. "This, is for you, Keryn." A loud, female voice boomed through the air. A flash of golden light went through the air and her mother began to slowly vanish into thin air. Keryn flew at the robed woman, summoning her soul-sword to her and aiming for a slash at her neck. She was blocked and knocked aside like a toy, flying into the ground and leaving a small crater in Sen and Maya's yard. She jumped to her feet and saw her mother gaze down at her once before vanishing completely.
So, you are a pure Erachi? A voice deep in Keryn's memory sounded. The robed one appeared before her. You needn't worry about me. Keryn charged the woman, but her attacks were deflected with speed that Keryn had heard only Gallifreyians possessed. I do not plan to hurt you. She attacked again, and was knocked to the ground. The robed one kicked her weapon away and caused it to vanish before putting an orange katana to Keryn's throat. Keryn noticed a necklace dangling from the neck of the being under the hood. One day, you will see this pendant again, my darling. When you do... Keryn eyes widened as she realized who the being before her was. Suddenly, the robed one was sent flying away from her. Keryn looked behind her and saw Katalena Akulov running over, hands glowing red with power. The robed one stood up, looked at Keryn, locking eyes with her, and began to vanish into the ground.
Come to me.
"What happened?" Viv asked Morri, who was standing outside the medlabs, arms crossed.
"The Skulblaka, also known as Vythica, absorbed Clara." Morri replied. Viv winced.
"I thought they couldn't absorb each other, because they were both alphas or something?" Viv asked.
"Primes." Katalena's voice said. Viv looked just past Morri and saw Kata sitting on a bench, elbows resting on her knees and her head held up with her hands. "And I thought so too, but if you saw it happen, you would know that it did happen." Kata said.
"So...what happens now?" Viv asked.
"Now, Vitor is mobilizing everyone. We're up. A tracker that Sajin was working on making with Jax to track Erachi souls tracked Vythica to the galaxy we were headed to anyway. We're going after her now." Kata said.
"Who is going?" Viv asked.
"Vitor is getting Caden to stay here." Morri said. Viv nodded, understanding the desire Vitor would feel to not endanger Clara's son as well. "Keryn will be coming with us though. There was quite the...discussion between her and Caden about it, but eventually he agreed."
"She got Caden to agree to stay put? What kind of talent does the girl have?" Kata asked, straightening up, surprised.
"Yeah. We should go pack our bags and get ready for a war." Morri advised. They all nodded and slowly dispersed. Viv and Kata returned to the house they shared and started grabbing anything they had that might be considered useful for a long journey. hyperspace would be next to useless, as they had no coordinates for travel to this galaxy. Once Kata had finished packing any weaponry they had stored in the house and stuffed as much food onto a trolley as she could manage, she waited outside with everything she had gathered. Viv came out with all the clothes and armors they would need, and placed a collection of tiki-lights on the food trolley.
"I thought we were sticking to essentials?" Kata asked.
"Uh, hello? Essentials." Viv said, pointing at the lights. The two quickly began to move their stuff to the landing pad reserved for the Spartacus.
Vythica sat cross-legged, watching the bombs explode, each one killing dozens of Lin Kuei warriors. Why come back now? Clara's voice said inside her head. And why target these people?
Because it'll draw more people to our creators, Clara. We can finally learn where we came from and flourish as we should. We need the Aryoril for that.
Unlike you, I flourished already. Clara shot back. Vythica smirked and stood up. Besides, they don't need me, so why didn't you just kill me instead?
Because they need your girl, and taking you with me is the way to get her to come. Vythica replied and drew a portal to Erachus. Make no mistake, I want you outside my head as much as you do, so I'll let you out once we get there. Then your daughter will come and we can become who we were created to be. Vythica said as she stepped through.
We'll be the gods of this plane and all planes.
Clara watched as Keryn and her friend Merric sparred relentlessly against Loran and Rorii. She was impressed with Keryn's skills, but was even more impressed with Merric's. The boy was a simple Jedi, but was sparring the Marethari Loran to a stalemate. Not only a Marethari, a Githarya. Clara watched curiously for several minutes before they decided to stop. Merric and Keryn left to go elsewhere, and Loran and Rorii walked over to her. "She is definitely your kid." Rorii panted, falling to the ground and lying there, exhausted.
"I think I just fought your future son-in-law." Loran told her.
"You, shut up." Clara ordered. "I don't want to think about that for another ten years."
"Just saying, it would be good to get to know this kid better." Loran advised her. "Also, were you aware she often hangs out with Katalena Akulov?"
"I am. You needn't worry yourself, I can keep Caden from killing them." Clara laughed. "If Katalena marries my daughter we may have an issue, but as of now, I don't think I mind. Kata's a good kid, honestly."
"She's more than a little crazy." Rorii pointed out.
"Insane, but at heart, she isn't a bad person. Caden may want to cut her heart out at every turn, but I think she'll turn out ok." Clara said.
Katalena finished setting her and Viv's room up and sat down on her bed. They had left Earth's orbit about an hour before, and they had begun the journey to the edges of the galaxy. Viv had gone off to find food, leaving Katalena alone to her thoughts. She began changing out of her militaristic attire and into her usual getup when someone knocked. "Who's there?" She called.
"Me." A hauntingly familiar voice sounded. Katalena hurriedly finished changing and answered the door. The door opened and Katalena was met with the adult face of Ileana Dalca. She hadn't changed all that much, save for the fact that she was wearing something that looked like a cross between a nurse and what Kata normally wore. She was also slightly taller than Kata now, something she found mildly upsetting. Kata was wordless, a massive wave of emotion building within her. "Uhm...hi." Ileana said.
"You're taller than me." Kata eventually got out.
"What can I say? I had a growth spurt." Ileana replied.
"Sorry I missed it..." Kata said quietly.
"So...uh...any boyfriends for me to beat up?"
"Not yet." Ileana said, shaking her head. With that, Kata lost control and wrapped Ileana in a hug as tight as a vice, tearing up.
"I missed you, kid..." Kata said.
"Missed you too..." Ileana said, returning the hug.
"Your sister still around?"
"Yeah, she started a mercenary group called the Opacare Ascensor, about a year after we last saw one another. I joined up a few years back. They've got two other hybrids as well."
"She still..." Kata pointed at her head.
"Yeah, but it's been easier to control lately. Turns out our father isn't dead." Ileana said. Kata's eyebrows went up. "Long story short, some Black Ops group found him and turned him into a cyborg supersoldier, and he was freed a few years after the invasion ended. We reunited with him four years after you and Morri sent me that message."
"So...what are you doing here?" Kata asked.
"Jumped aboard along with some other guys from the O-A."
"So you're coming along, then?"
"Yes." Ileana said. The door opened behind her, and she turned to see Viv walk in, holding a plate of food, which was soon set down. There was a moment of silence before Viv spoke.
"Hug me." Viv ordered.
"Twenty three years." Ileana said, hugging Viv. "How have you been?"
"I've been a bad influence on the daughters of the squadran."
"Organized the hookup that stole Briella Arslan's virginity and snuck Keryn Renner into a club illegally." Viv replied. "You?"
"...Joined a mercenary group and improved my abilities..." Ileana said.
"Fun. Cometh, to the bar-eth we shall go-eth." Viv said. Ileana sighed.
"I don't know. With my sister and my father in the same fleet? They're bound to hear about it."
"You're an adult, my darling, it's fine." Viv assured her.
"I know...is it at last a reputable sort of bar?"
"It's a military cruiser. Also, you'll be going with me, Kata, and meeting Morri and Axel there. Only one of bad repute is Mason." Viv went on.
"Sounds like it'd be a reunion of the old group. Sort of. Alright, I'll bite. Have they got any Aldebaran Whiskey?" Ileana asked. Kata's eyebrows went up and Viv started fist pumping before practically shoving Ileana out the door.
"Let's get you hammered!" Viv said excitedly. About a half hour later, the aforementioned group had assembled around a table in the bar. After an emotional reunion with Morri, Ileana sat in the chair across from her and Axel. Viv sat at the head of the table as Kata sat across from Mason, and they seemed to enter a strange mental conversation. The conversation the two were having appeared to intensify as the others watched.
"Ok, what's going on?" Ileana said, pointing at them.
"They're arguing about the morality of him hitting on you now that you're over sixteen." Morri said. Ileana rolled her eyes.
"I still have a semi-psychotic sister who would castrate you if you tried anything, you know." She said to Mason.
"Protective family, good lord..." Mason muttered.
"Not to mention my dad is on board."
"So, both your moms, a dad, an aunt, and your sister are all on ship." Axel said.
"Pretty much. I pity the idiot who tries to off me during this trip." She said. A waitress walked up with a tray of the group's drinks. In the scuffle to get the drinks first, Ileana noticed Kata put something in Mason's drink, causing Kata to wink at her. Ileana decided to not mention it, and within five minutes, Mason was asleep, his head on the table.
"Kata, did you roofie him again?" Morri asked.
"So, this isn't new?" Ileana said.
"Not really." Axel chimed in.
"Alright." Ileana said, perfectly fine with the idea of Mason getting drugged on a regular basis. A loud thud filled their ears as a hulking, armored man entered the bar. Kata looked at his visor, eyebrows raised. She eventually rose as well and walked over to him. He ordered something called bloodwine at the bar.
"Bit hard to drink in that helmet." She pointed out, standing next to him. The visor opened on his helmet. "So you're her father." She said. "Ileana's."
"Ah, yes I am." He said.
"How much has she told you of me?" She asked, trying to move past the strange first name.
"Not much. Enough." He replied.
"Then you know what I feel about her, as strongly as you." She said.
"So please don't get angry if I behave that way." She requested.
"Thank you." She said and returned to the table.
"What'd you talk to him about?" Ileana asked.
"Don't worry, it's fine." Kata assured her.
"So, where's your room?" Kata asked Ileana.
"Beside ours." Morri replied.
"I'm mainly staying on my ship in one of the hangars."
"Our room overlooks that hangar, so, right next to us."
"So, Ileana, you won't be sleeping some nights." Viv said.
"Come on, if your twelve year old self can make an Axel-Morri sex joke, your adult self should understand one!" Viv cried.
"No, I mean, the hull is sound pr-nevermind."
"That won't help." Kata warned her.
"If it doesn't, I'll need a refund." Ileana grumbled.
"The mother side of me is very awkward right now, considering she's old enough to do that herself..." Morri said.
"It's an infiltrator ship." Ileana said, rolling her eyes. "It's designed to keep sound in as well."
"Oh jesus." Morri and Kata said in unison.
"You know what it's for." Ileana said, smacking herself in the face.
"You could seduce any male on this ship by blinking those purple eyes at them." Viv pointed out.
"Not really interested." Ileana said, shrugging.
"Ladies, too." Viv added.
"Not that kind of girl." Ileana glared at Viv.
"Genderless aliens?" Viv suggested.
"My last boyfriend was a Krogan." Kata muttered. Ileana tapped her fingers on the counter and a semi-transparent reddish-purple sword appeared.
"Our Ileana has developed a temper." Morri observed. Another sword appeared.
"Ileana." Kata said simply, quietly, but very firm. "Walk with me?" Ileana sighed and the swords vanished. The two left the bar and found a bench in one of the corridors. "Ileana, that was a big overreaction." Kata sighed. "Viv wasn't making fun of you. She was honestly making suggestions."
"Just found it...I don't know..."
"Well, imagine what Morri would be feeling when you pulled a sword on her." Kata said. "I don't know what you did with that mercenary group, but here, pulling swords on people over jokes in considered dangerous and insane."
"That kind of joke just...upsets me." Ileana said quietly.
"What happened?" Kata asked, crouching down in front of her.
"I was telling the truth about never having a boyfriend...but there was this one mercenary that I...liked..." She said uncertainly.
"What happened to him?" Kata asked gently.
"He was killed on a mission." Ileana said, wiping her eyes. "These jokes upset because my friends would make them when I was crushing on him. Now...the just..."
"I get it." Kata said, taking Ileana's hands. "I'll explain it to them, but you might want to say sorry to Morri. Viv won't care, but Morri will be feeling it for a while."
"Alright." Ileana said, wiping her eyes again.
"Morri will have headed to her room, so you may want to go talk to her there." Kata suggested. "I'll go talk to Viv." She added and hugged Ileana.
"Thanks." Ileana said, and they split up.
In the bar, Viv said down on a bar stool in front of the bartender, a man named Ted. "Hit me with some hooch, T-bag." She requested. All she got was an annoyed look. "T-dog." She tried again. "Please sir, may I have some beverage?" She asked, putting on a British accent. Ted put a bottle of Ryncol on the counter.
"Help yourself. I'm busy." He said and walked away.
"Oh my god it's like christmas!" She whispered excitedly and poured herself a shot glass. When her blackout ended, she was lying in her bed, a headache boring a hole in her skull.
"Well done." Kata's voice said.
"What happened?" She asked.
"Well, after you finished the ryncol and a glass of Creme de menthe, you just about blew up four fighters and unleashed a dragon." Kata said.
"My head is pounding harder than a navyman on shore leave." Viv grumbled. Kata snapped her fingers, and suddenly, her headache was gone. "How did you do that?"
"I've got skills." Kata replied.
"Will you marry me?" Viv asked.
"Nah, you drink too much." Kata's response came.
Keryn stepped through the door of the fighter hangar, where she found Vitor and Merric speaking with a black-clad Nagi, all of which were standing next to a dragon. She approached them from behind, but still Vitor knew she was coming. "Good morning, Keryn." He said. "How did you sleep?"
"Not well." She replied shortly. "Merric, Camos." She said to her friend and to the Nagi. Both nodded to her. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes. Camos has been scouting. You were not aware of this, but when you were four, there was an Aryoril attack on a border world. The Aryoril air and space forces, as we learned, are comprised of dragon riding warriors. Their dragons can fly in space." Vitor said. "We found an egg, and it hatched. Camos volunteered to raise the dragon, and he is now the leader of our air forces, as well as a chief scout." Vitor said.
"What did you find?" She asked the Nagi.
"It will be a week long trek once we leave the galaxy. Once we arrive in their galaxy, we are going to make our way to their home base, where your mother was kidnapped all those years ago. There is a large wall built of a stone that is remarkably like obsidian, and it is a mile high and seventy-two miles long. We're targeting that for our base of operations. The only issue is that we will have to take it by force." Camos explained.
"Very well. Where will you want me during this?" Keryn asked.
"You'll be in the ground forces with myself, Merric, your uncle, and Jagen." Vitor explained. "We will lead the first attack and hopefully take it in once strike."
"Alright. Anything else I should know?" Keryn asked. She was already itching to go be on her own.
"No. You are released." Vitor sighed. Keryn left and made her way to the atrium of the Spartacus. She found a bench overlooking the man-made pond and sat there for several minutes.
"You spend this much time to yourself and people will worry." A voice said. Keryn looked up and saw Briella nearing her .
"Hey." Keryn said quietly. Briella sat down next to her.
"I'll be going with you on that first assault, Keryn." Briella said.
"I didn't ask you too." Keryn said.
"I know. You wouldn't have, either. That's why I'm going. You'll need a sniper down there, or at least a few bullets." Briella said.
"Do you really think bullets will work against these people?"
"We'll sure find out, won't we?" Briella replied, and the two sat in silence until it came time for lunch. That evening, Keryn went to the ship's bar and sat alone at a table, staring into a half-empty glass of bloodwine.
"Nobody should drink alone, you least of all, considering." A voice said. She looked up and saw her Uncle Loran sitting down across from her.
"I really don't need you to protect me out here." She said.
"Well, I need to, or your father will gut me." He said. "How were you able to get him to stay behind?"
"I told him the truth." She said and took a swig of her drink. "She's alive. She can't be wholly absorbed, at least not permanently. Vythica will have to free her eventually." Keryn said.
"I see." Loran said after a moment. "Listen, come our arrival, there is going to be a lot of fighting. This isn't going to be a one day battle, this is going to be a siege. You're trained for duels and one on one combat. What we're getting ourselves into is army clashing against army warfare that could last for days. Spend some time in the holodeck training with multiple opponents, up to twenty. It could well save your life in the coming days. And when the battle comes, don't run off on your own. If you get separated, you'll get killed." He said.
"Alright." She said and finished the glass off. "Any other lessons?"
"Only one." He said. "But you can only learn it on the day of the battle." He said and left her to wonder what he was talking about.
A Knight-Filled SkyEdit
The week of travel through dark space was largely uneventful, though a few of the passengers often expressed concern about what the external environment was like. Their concerns were without reason, as they reached the Aryoril galaxy without any interruption. Moving through Aryoril space was far more difficult, as they needed to avoid inhabited worlds and spacial patrols. It took almost a week to make it to the capital world undetected. Once they arrived, they locked onto their target, something a visual screen showed to Vitor, Loran, Merric, Keryn, Camos, and Jagen.
It was a large, black stone wall, massive in scope. In one of it's corners stood a large castle, large enough the the Spartacus could fit in one of it's courtyards. "We'll move down in gunships." Vitor explained. "Aim for the perimeter of the castle. There is only one gate, but spread your attacks across the walls so their forces aren't concentrated on one gate. Keryn, myself, Merric, and Loran will target the gate, everyone else should draw as much attention away from us as possible."
"Will they have air support?" Keryn asked.
"Doubt it. There isn't any hangars or nests for their dragons in the castle." Vitor replied. After a few more questions, they moved out into the hangars and boarded gunships.
"You ready?" A voice said on Keryn's comm.
"How'd you get this frequency, Bri?"
"I got skills, you know me." Briella replied. "I'll meet up with you down there."
"Fine, just for the love of god, stay out of range if bullets don't work." Keryn pleaded.
"Fine, fine, you win." Briella said and the call ended. The gunships took off and began the descent to the world below. Keryn shifted so she was gazing out a viewport and saw the castle coming into view. She blinked, allowing herself to enter the Erachi state, and she noticed a stick-looking object moving towards them.
"Shit, get down!" She cried and threw herself back. A massive, green-tipped arrow smashed through the cockpit's viewport and impaled both the pilot and the backup pilot as though they were a kebab. They immediately started to spiral downward. Quite calmly, Vitor used the force to open the doors of the ship and he jumped out, followed by Merric. Keryn soared out after them and landed on her feet, surprisingly lightly. She looked around and saw both Vitor and Merric were fine. The rest of the ship's crew was gone. She looked up at the castle, and back to them. Vitor nodded, and the three began to make their way to the castle.
Keryn reached the gate first, and she dodged an arrow shot down at her from a tower. She was grabbed from behind by the force and pulled back into the treeline. Merric caught her and pulled her behind a tree with him. "Keryn, I'll draw their fire, the two of you go over the top, Loran, Rorii, Camos, and Jagen are on their way." Vitor ordered. They nodded and Vitor stepped out of the treeline, purple saber activating. Four or five arrows flew down at him. He easily moved his saber back and forth, melting them before they could touch him. They heard several voices shouting something about how their arrows weren't working.
And with that, Keryn and Merric jumped. They soared up, Merric melting arrows soaring towards him as Keryn altered her flight path to avoid the ones shot at her. Merric landed on the walls, while Keryn completely overshot it and landed in the back of the courtyard. Merric immediately set to work up on the wall, taking out archers. Keryn found herself surrounded by soldiers, all wielding swords or spears of varying color. She raised her right hand and her soul-sword appeared. Immediately, several soldiers exchanged glances of surprise or fear. Then, after several moments of disturbing stillness, save for Merric fighting the soldiers on the wall, they attacked her.
Keryn, easily began moving between strikes and returning slashes of her own. With each swipe of her blade, a soldier fell. She was quite surprised when she realized that she had nearly cleared out the courtyard. She looked around and saw that she was standing in a ring of corpses. She looked up into the sky and saw a gunship fly overhead, accompanied by a dragon in the sky. As the gunship turned so it's door was facing the castle, the dragon pulled up as well. Out of the gunship, a lightsaber-pike wielding man jumped into a window, smashing through it and followed by a trio of blue flashing lightsabers. Off the dragon jumped the Nagi Camos, also through a window.
It didn't take long for the castle to be overtaken at that point. Soon, their forces occupied it and the Spartacus was parked in the massive courtyard. Keryn remained in her small courtyard, sitting on a bench, quietly pondering the day. It had been too easy, taking the castle. If these beings had kidnapped her mother, they should have been much more difficult to kill. As she was thinking it, there was a dull thunk outside the castle. She rose and looked in the direction it came from, then upwards. In the sky, black against the sun, a massive swarm of dragons was coming towards them, their wings flapping like the wings of tiny birds. One dragon stood above them all, it was hulking, absolutely gargantuan. It's shadow alone covered half the sun, blotting it out. Keryn entered her Erachi state and zoomed her vision in on the big dragon. On it's back stood a young man with a stubble beard and with shoulder length brown hair. He raised a hand, and the sky went dark as the dragon riders began to unleash their massive arrows.
The first wave of arrows slammed into the walls and ground as Keryn dove for cover. Several windows were smashed and she heard screams from within. She poked her head up and saw the next volley incoming. She ducked down again, but found that the volley didn't land. Did they miss? She thought, looking up again. They had not missed, their missiles had simply frozen in midair. A figure floated up, facing the dragon army, and clapped their hands. The arrows changed course and flew straight back at the dragons. Just behind them, a dozen or so gunships soared into the sky as the turrets of the Spartacus opened fire. Keryn saw, through her Erachi vision, that her Uncle was jumping out of a gunship and stabbing into the eye of a dragon with his saber pike before rebounding and jumping off towards another. "Crazy idiot." She muttered and flew up into the sky after the gunships.
Vythica stood and watched as the Generals debated what to do with the Erachi she was housing. Incredible, how you put your faith in these bickering nutjobs. I've seen more decisions getting made by the blasted Guardians. Clara's voice said to Vythica.
Oh calm down. When they unify, we'll be fine. Vythica replied.
No, you'll be fine. I'm an indentured prisoner here. Clara shot back.
Relax. I'll let you out soon, just promise to be a good girl. Vythica taunted.
I'll not make threats, but you know what's coming.
A chance to redeem myself from last time? I welcome it. Vythica said and smiled as Xalanth rose to his full height, towering over Thalon. It was incredibly amusing watching the generals bicker.
Katalena floated down from her position in the sky. Dozens of Aryoril and dragon carcasses lined the ground, as did the bodies of their own soldiers and wreckages of gunships. The dragon army had retreated, their leader going with them. She could hear several people screaming for their friends, praying they'd be alive. As time went on, the screams went on into the night, until only one remained.
The scream of Aurora Ferran searching for her missing husband.
Loran struggled against the grip of the great dragon, but found that it was to no avail, the beast was simply too powerful for him. It got particularly boring, staring up at the underbelly of the dragon, despite the beast's fascinating scales and skin. When he was finally released, he hit water and he quickly started to swim up to the surface. Once he reached the surface, he was picked up in a net and flung onto a stony floor. He sat up with an ungodly amount of effort. He looked around the room and saw four wispy beings, like ghosts, looking at him. The great dragon's head poked up and it's rider stepped off.
Loran realized he was in a chamber carved into the side of a cave. "Is it true?" A massive wispy being said.
"Aye. He has come." The rider replied.
"Take him to the tower in the west. Do not fly him, we must keep this under wraps. If word came of the god's treacherous son coming here, mass panic would spread." One said, clad in armor and wielding two blades. The others nodded in assent, and the rider waved his hand. Two guards appeared, grabbed Loran by the shoulders and dragged him out the door and to an unknown fate.
Vitor stood on the wall, looking up at the sky. In their explorations of the castle, they had found a trio of large elevators that led to the top of the wall. He hadn't sent anyone to explore the length of the wall, for fear of losing anyone to traps or stragglers along the wall's edge. But there was no way for any soldiers to sneak up on them without signalling for the elevator, which they controlled. "You're up here early." A voice said. Vitor looked over and saw Merric approaching.
"So are you." Vitor replied and returned his gaze to the sky.
"You think they'll be here already?" Merric asked. His apprentice's question was answered as a cruiser that matched the size of the Spartacus floated down out of the clouds. "Guess so." Merric muttered as the DC Orslade landed in another of the massive courtyards. Vitor and Merric returned to the elevator and went to meet the second wave of Dawn Crusaders. When they reached the courtyard, half their current forces had beaten them there to help move people and supplies from the Orslade. Vitor and Merric walked through the crowd until they reached the commander of the second wave, Sola Kerana, who was standing on a weapons crate and barking orders to the people moving supplies.
"Sola!" Vitor said loudly as they neared her. She turned and spotted them, smiling. Since joining the Crusaders, she had eventually beaten her alcoholism and had returned to her status as one of the finest warriors they had. There was a rejuvenated energy in her that Kira Sigurdson had said she had not seen since Sola's days as an apprentice. Sola jumped down from the weapons crate and walked over.
"Morning." She said, nodding at them both. "What have I missed?"
"We took the castle, Katalena proved the Hybrids are some of our best people against the Aryoril." Vitor said and told her of Katalena's actions during the battle for the castle.
"Took down four dragons by waving her hand at them. This one is something else." Sola said. "But there's something you're not telling me."
"Yes." Vitor said, his tone darkening and becoming more serious. "Loran went missing during the battle, and he has passed beyond my senses."
"Alright, but worried ill. She's constantly sensing for him, but every time she comes close, he vanishes again."
"Damn. I'll speak with her, see if I can help." Sola said. "What about Keryn?"
"Taking to this well, so far." Vitor admitted. "I still want Merric keeping an eye on her, though." He said, casting a gaze on his apprentice, who saluted and bowed deeply.
"Meaning, go watch over her now." Vitor ordered, and his apprentice repeated the bow before leaving. He returned his gaze to his former master.
"It's an impressive wall." Sola said, looking up at the black stone. "What's it for?"
"Good question. Keeping things in, out, intimidation, it's all beyond us." Vitor replied.
"Well, hopefully no forest zombies come for us, eh?" Sola said, clapping him on the shoulder and handing him a box filled with grenades. He took it, glad to help, and she placed a box filled with thermal clips atop it. "I'll meet you in the mess, gonna go find Rorii now." Sola said and left.
Much later, Vitor stood in a room they had decided had belonged to the castle's original commander. He pressed a button on a small holoprojector and a large map appeared. "Alright." He said to the assembled group. "Early scouting missions by Camos, as well as information discovered by Sajin and Jax in this castle have told us a fair bit about the Aryoril military." He began. A red dot appeared on the map, far to the North. "That is us, at this location." He said. A green dot appeared. "From what we can tell, the green dot is the capital, likely where Clara is being held."
"We can't just march in." Keryn said, leaning into view from the shadowed group. "We saw that they do have an army of some form."
"Yes, and I'm surprised we were able to overcome them that easily. They should have put up a far greater fight. This tells me that they anticipated us and were willing to sacrifice this wall." Vitor said. A purple dot appeared. "This, we believe to be the primary base of the air force, down in the center of this part of the world." Vitor said. "It has a lot of mountains and high altitude castles, as well as many dragon sightings."
An orange dot appeared, along the coastline in the east. "This is their naval base. Now some of you may question the true value of a seafaring navy, and I will come to that in a moment." Vitor went on as a yellow dot appeared, in the deserts to the west. "This is where we believe they hone their magical abilities, including, but not limited to Soulweaving." With that, a final, black dot appeared, beyond their red dot to the far north. "That is their base of ground forces." Vitor said. He paused, then turned off the projector.
"By sacrificing this fort, they have us in a strategic position that is very much to their advantage." Vitor said. "The northern coast is only fifty kilometers away, their ground forces are on the other side of the wall, their dragons can fly here easily, and who knows what their magic army can do? All protecting their capital." He sighed. "So, what we're going to do is this. We split our forces and attack each of their headquarters at the same time so they cannot support one another." He waited for questions, but there were none. "Myself and Merric will stay here and command the forces of the wall, and we will tackle any ground forces that try to lay siege. We cannot lose our home base, so I will oversee its protection."
"Sola will lead the naval assault. The naval force will use the Orslade as a seaship to topple their naval fleet." Vitor said and Sola nodded. "The assault on the air forces will be headed by Sajin and Rorii. Take the Spartacus and meet them in the sky." Both nodded at him. He knew Rorii was grateful, considering that was the last known location of Loran. "Keryn will take a force to bring down the magical forces. I'm hoping we can find some more information on Erachi there, and maybe she can learn something useful there."
"What of my people?" Katalena's voice asked from a corner behind him.
"You will give them the choice as to where they wish to help." Vitor said, knowing they would be best used given the chance to choose a favorable environment for their abilities. "We begin preparations tomorrow, so get some rest and spread the word today." Vitor said and dismissed them.
Loran was forcefully shoved forward and he stumbled, falling and hitting a hard floor, something he guessed was stone. They had put him on some form of incredibly fast transport and had drugged him. When he awoke, he was being dragged across a floor he also guessed was made of stone. That led to his current predicament. The blindfold he was wearing was roughly torn off his eyes and he watched the trio of guards retreat through a door. He looked around and saw that the entire right wall was gone. He realized his cell must have been built into the side of a tower. "Cooperate, jump, or starve and freeze." He muttered. "Clever."
He remained quiet through the night, sleeping very uncomfortably on the stone floor. He was awakened by a loud knocking on his door. As he sat up, a man clad in a purple robe and flanked by two of the biggest looking humanoids Loran had ever seen, each wearing heavy armor, stepped through the door. The robed one began babbling about his rights in an upcoming trial. Realizing they were actually going to try him, Loran started listening for any details that may help him, short of breaking out and killing everyone in his path. He didn't have long to sort out a strategy, as he was roughly grabbed and dragged bodily from the cell.
Trial By Combat - Part 1Edit
Vitor walked along the top of the wall, clutching his lightsaber. It was night, and he had decided it would be wisest to search the wall in case of any hiding Aryoril. Merric walked behind him, lightsaber in hand, their weapons serving as torches along the dark wall. After they reached a mile down the wall, they came to a small tower, only two floors high. Wordlessly, Vitor stepped forward and kicked the door in. He was immediately greeted by a trio of the same footsoldiers that had held the castle at the base of the wall. He easily dispatched them. Merric pounced by and clambered up the stairs. Vitor heard sounds of a scuffle, then Merric shouted down "We're clear!"
Vitor stepped out and deactivated his saber, then reactivated, then deactivated again before finally reactivating his weapon and leaving it activated. It was a signal plotted out to let the others know at the castle that they should come to their position. It about fifteen minutes, several squads of former jedi and mercenaries approached. "I need one squad to permanently occupy this tower, everyone else comes with Merric and I in case of any more. We'll spread our forces along the wall. Once the wall is fully under our command, we'll start moving turrets and explosives to each tower. If they're moving to attack the wall soon, we'll be prepared." Vitor said. One squad immediately moved into the tower and Vitor saw each of the basic soldiers' bodies fly off the wall.
"Everyone, on me." He said and led the way down the wall once again.
"If I were to say that a ship like this was built with naval combat in mind, would you believe me?" Sola asked Morri. They were watching as the Orslade adjusted to floating in the oceans.
"No." Morri replied honestly.
"Well, it is. Once it has adjusted, it'll be like a giant, badass cruise ship." Sola said.
"How'd you design that?" Morri asked.
"Painstakingly." Sola replied. "Though I've always had a knack for ship design. Took me and one other maybe a month to design the Spartacus."
"I'm impressed." Axel said. "When should we start boarding?" He asked Sola, who turned to face him and the two thousand at his back.
"Now. If you can force jump over, do so. If you can fly over, do so. If not, jump through one of Morri's portals." Sola ordered. She jumped up and over to the Orslade, landing on top of the ship's bridge. She watched as her people boarded in various ways, some through open hatches, others landing on top of the ship like her, and some teleporting straight into the ship. It took nearly seven hours for everyone to get to their stations, especially those in the underwater section of the ship, and by the time they had left, it was nightfall. Vitor's probably conquered the wall by now. Sola thought to herself. She was still outside on top of the bridge, watching the seas attempt to batter the Orslade into submission, a failed effort.
"A week of this." She muttered to herself, sitting down and cross her legs, leaning against the metal wall. "Then things get fun."
Sajin sat in her quarters, watching their progress on a screen. She had fifteen hundred men aboard the Spartacus, headed for the mountains where the dragons seemed to be bred and trained. Her second in command, Rorii, sat on another chair, reading a report on the first day's activities. "We're doing well. It'll take a day or two to reach their fortress at this speed." Rorii said.
"You do understand why we're going this slowly, right?" Sajin asked.
"Yeah. We need to calibrate the guns, get the fighters ready, I know, trust me." Rorii said in a tone that signified she did not want to talk about it any longer.
"How are the others doing?" Sajin asked.
"Sola's set to hit their naval base in a week's time. Vitor will have the wall prepared by the end of tomorrow. Keryn's force will have arrived at the desert in eight days." Rorii said.
"Any reports on missing people?" Sajin asked hopefully. In the initial assault, several had gone missing, including Rorii's husband, Loran, as well as an assassin friend of Sajin's named Serra Urec.
"No. Nobody's been sighted yet, alive or dead." Rorii replied.
"Alright. You should go get some sleep, Rorii. We have a long couple of days ahead of us." Sajin said, taking off her chain necklaces. Rorii nodded, rose, and left. "How'd you get aboard the Spartacus?" Sajin said aloud once Rorii had left the room. From her bathroom floor materialized a Skulblakan-Hybrid by the name of Xylia Cole.
"Take a guess." She replied.
"You were never actually cleared for duty." Sajin reminded her. "You're lucky I'm not one to complain about one more person."
"I suppose I am. Would you mind if I joined your effort?" Xylia asked.
"I would not mind at all. I'm surprised, though. Your talents would have been better suited for the stealth needed to take on the Magic Forces." Sajin said.
"I know, but I can help here. They've got an Erachi with them, I wouldn't be much help. Besides, they have Katalena." Xylia said.
"Very true. Well, I could use a bodyguard, so if you'll stay here the night, that would be appreciated." Sajin said and flopped herself down on her bed. Xylia nodded and took a seat in one of the chairs.
Loran was shoved into a large, circular room. A blue-haired woman sat on a throne on a platform high above him. Several armor-clad warriors stood along the walls, staring him down. A circular hole was in the middle of the floor, and he was pushed towards it. He looked down the hole and saw that it led straight to a thousand-foot drop to mountains below. "You stand trial for the crimes of treachery to our god," The woman's voice said. He looked up and saw her staring him down. "and promoting yourself as a god. What say you, to these charges?"
"Explain how you believe my father to be a god." Loran shot back.
"That is not the point of this trial." The woman said. "Do you wish to confess, or submit to our judgement?"
"Confess?" Loran asked. "Confess what?" Knowing her didn't stand a chance in a legal battle, he decided to take his chances. "Perhaps...when I was a boy, a meager Jedi Apprentice, I stole an older girl's robes, and she was forced to run out for new ones, naked and in tears. I still see her tits bouncing, even now. At age twelve, I stuffed Luke Skywalker's boots with Pyjak shit. When confronted, I blamed another boy and he was forced to spar the weaponsmaster endlessly for days as I escaped justice. When I was fifteen, I milked my eel into a pot of coffee the masters used. I flogged the one eyed snake, skinned my sausage. I made the bald men cry into the coffee, which I truly hope the masters drank. I had a threesome with my wife and my brother-in-law's girlfriend once. To celebrate my knighthood, I brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel-"
"Enough!" The woman shouted. "You stand accused of false-godhood, and you respond only with petty jokes? Very well. It will be decided by us what your fate shall-"
"No, it won't." He replied, turning serious. "I have the right to demand a trial by combat, so I demand one."
"Very well. Name your champion, should they be here." The woman said.
"I name myself. I have have no need of a champion." Loran replied.
"As you wish. Bring him a weapon." The woman said. A man approached him and removed his chains. He was handed a blade hilt that resembled a lightsaber, but Loran knew better. The blade was of Marethari make. He resolved to figure out where they had obtained it once he was free. He awaited an opponent, and was greeted by a heavily armored warrior wielding a sword that was as long as he was tall, and a shield that was three of him wide. Another man approached the warrior and put a horned helmet on the man. "That weapon you wield, false god, is a holy sword given to us by the true god. It shall decide your innocence, leading you down the correct path."
Loran shrugged and activated the sword. It was jet black with white reflections from the lights on the ceiling and walls. The warrior remained still until the woman yelled "Begin!" and then he charged. Loran jumped back and avoided the massive sword swinging at his head. The next strike came far faster than it should have, aiming for his legs. He jumped over and slashed at his opponent's head, but the blade glanced off the helmet. Damn. They've either made a material that can resist Marethari swords, or this is defunct, or the Aryoril are secretly Gallifreyians. He thought and dove away.
The next slash came soaring down from above, and he had to quickly sidestep to avoid being cleaved in half down the middle. He slammed his own weapon down on the blade, trying to keep it there. The warrior dragged the weapon along the floor, under Loran's weapon and towards his feet. Loran jumped and twirled over the blade, moving out of the weapon's range. "Stand and fight, you coward!" A warrior to the side roared. Loran glanced at him briefly before sprinting forward and slashing quickly at his opponent, moving to the side of a thrust, his blade glancing off the back of the warrior's helmet. Loran danced behind the warrior, who followed him, swinging his sword horizontally towards Loran's waist. Loran dropped, hitting the ground before the blade could make contact, and he slashed at the knee joint of the warrior's armor.
The warrior grunted and stumbled as the blood melted away on Loran's weapon. There was a murmur in the crowd, culminating in a bystander shouting "Enough, finish him!" The warrior attacked again, this time slowed down. Loran easily sidestepped and slashed at the wrist of his opponent's shield arm, inside the shield's range. His weapon met it's mark, and the wrist of his foe was have severed, dissolving away. The shield clattered to the ground with Loran's next attack, severing the straps that held the shield to his opponent's arm.
The warrior still persisted after Loran danced away yet again. Loran slashed once more, taking out his other knee, and the warrior hit the ground. Yet still, he was not defeated, and raised a hand to attack Loran from his knees. With his left hand, Loran caught the warrior's arm. He looked up at the blue haired woman, awaiting a verdict. None came. He raised his weapon. Nothing. Sighing, Loran grimly stabbed his opponent through the eye hole of his helmet before tossing him out the hole in the ground. Silence reigned.
"You do not fight with honor." A warrior to the side said, piercing the quiet.
"I guess not." Loran replied, turning to face him. He pointed to the hole in the floor. "He did." With that, he walked up to the person he believed to be the captain of the guard, and held his hands out. The captain nodded, and soon, Loran's armor and weapons were returned to him. Once he strapped them all on, he also strapped the Marethari sword to his waist. Nobody protested, so he left the room without another word.
Keryn parked the transport in the brush of the forest, and the other two transports followed suit. They only had a hundred and fifty people in their number, so only three transports were needed. They were using modified UNSC Elephants to transport themselves across the land to the desert. It would take them another week to get there, but they were largely unnoticed due to the mountainous terrain on the way to the desert. She turned it off and they quickly started to disguise it with tarps and shrubbery. Once they had completed their task, Keryn slipped inside the elephant, along with Katalena, Ileana, and Mason, as well as a group of force users. Keryn climbed up to the driver's cockpit and activated the comm. "Transport One is in night position, report in." She said.
"Transport Two is in night position, Transport One." the voice of Giyaika, a sith lady who taught the Crusader darksider abilities, said.
"Transport Three is in night position, Transport One." Said Briella, and Keryn could have sworn she heard Sam in the background.
"Ok, use minimal power from here on out. We don't want to be detected in our sleep. We move at oh-seven-hundred tomorrow, sleep well." Keryn said and ended the call. She pressed a button that blacked out the viewport of the cockpit. Keryn opened her bag and unraveled a small, portable mattress that she placed on the floor. She lay down on it, taking off some of her extra armor. Katalena came up and set down her own mattress, followed by Ileana.
"You ok?" Kata whispered to her.
"Yeah. Nervous, worried, angry. Everything I need to make sure we win." Keryn replied.
"Ok. Keryn, listen, your survival is the most important thing right now. When the battle goes down, if things start to look hopeless, you need to leave and escape to Vitor, or Sola, or Sajin. If we all go out, there's still a chance of success. If you die, we lose all hope." Kata said.
"I know." Keryn said sadly. "And I hate it, but I understand."
"Don't worry. I won't let things get that bad." Kata said and lay her head back, drifting off.
"Ileana, can you take first watch? Wake Vesper in a few hours for her turn." Keryn said, getting a nod in return. Keryn leaned her own head back and was asleep in moments.
When she awoke, she ate a quick breakfast before contacting the other transport leaders. Once she knew everyone was ready to go, she began driving the elephant back onto the path through the mountains. After a few minutes, the one called Vesper came up behind her.
"So, if or when we win this, what is the plan?" Vesper asked, even-toned.
"I will look for anything Erachi related that may help us. If nothing is there, we move wait for contact from Vitor about the next phase of the plan." Keryn said.
"Why'd you want to come this way?" Keryn asked her.
"Mostly because Sixtus did. Also because I'm friends with Ileana." Vesper said.
"What do you think of our chances? A hundred and fifty against all of their best magic-users and soulweavers?"
"I've got no clue. Our numbers aren't that small, however. Sixtus can summon an army to him at any point, remember." Vesper said, sounding strangely proud.
"We probably should have left him with Vitor, then." Keryn sighed.
"He prefers a more...offensive approach, and he's prepared for that. You haven't seen him try to defend something, it isn't pretty." Vesper said.
"Are you prepared to see him die?" Keryn asked.
"I am...uncertain." Vesper said, and Keryn noticed a slight crack in her even expression.
"Because there is a good chance that everyone on this campaign will die. You need to be prepared for that." Keryn said.
"That includes yourself." Keryn said, and received only silence. She did notice Vesper mutter something, however. "Missed that."
"Don't make me order you to tell me." Keryn grumbled.
"At least you won't just disappear forever when you die." Vesper replied, and Keryn noticed her teeth were grit.
"Are you aware of what I am?"
"An Unbound Vylohad, yes, but not the details." Keryn said with a sigh.
"Are you aware of what happens to us when we die, at least?" Vesper asked.
"When most beings, even artificially created beings die, they don't disappear forever, they leave a piece behind. My kind doesn't. We were created from shadow, and when we die, it is back to the shadow we go, consumed entirely. Should I die, I disappear forever." Vesper said, and Keryn noticed her wiping a tear away.
"Then don't get killed out there, alright?" Keryn said. "I need you on the gun, Mason's done." Keryn said. Vesper nodded.
"Alright." She said and headed to the modified machine gun, which they had retrofitted to fire explosive covenant needles. Keryn returned her eyes to the road and kept moving towards the first big battle of her life.
What Say We, to Death?Edit
There was coughing. A lot of coughing. A distinct amount of choking, gargling, and even crying out was also there. Hospital? She thought to herself, trying to guess where she was. The Aryoril who had found her after the initial invasion had cast some sort of hex on her, causing her to go blind. She had been strapped to what she guessed was a bed, and had been immobile for several days. There was a screeching of wheels and she started moving. Great, now what? She thought, annoyed.
"Sir, tests have shown this one is most capable as an assassin. Shall I send her to rehabilitation?" A female voice said.
"Yes, please. Using their own against them is a poetic irony, no?" A male voice replied, and she was moving even faster than before. She felt hot sun on her arms and face, and started to breathe fresh air. Ok, I'm outside now. She thought. After a moment, her bed started bumping up and down rapidly Damn, this must be shitty cobblestone or something. After what felt like an exhaustive hour, she felt the ground smooth out and the sun leave her skin. It was also marginally cooler, so she predicted she was indoors. She was wheeled about for another ten minutes before she ground to an abrupt halt.
"Bjak, Se Nes." A voice said and suddenly, unexpectedly, her vision returned. She sat up and found that her bonds were removed. She was in a room with an open exit to a balcony, and a man stood on it, overlooking the view, which she suspected was of an ocean.
"You are awake." He said aloud. He turned and walked towards her. She slipped off the bed and started scanning for exits. He held a hand out and two black and red rapiers appeared in midair and they floated towards her. "Take them." He ordered. Hesitant, though curious, Serra took the weapons. He summoned one of his own. "What is your name, girl?"
"I am...Serra..." She said, highly confused.
"No. Now you are Arilat. Attack me now." He ordered.
"I see you are inquisitive." The man sighed, then lunged at her. She raised her rapiers and caught the blade in between them. "You were an enemy. We captured you. You were spared. Tests showed your abilities as an assassin. Therefore, you are now assigned to me and you shall be my serf. I will rehabilitate you until I deem you worthy of an Aryoril Servant. Or, you can die."
"Is there no third door?" She asked and attacked back, slashing hard at him, but losing control of the weapons. He laughed.
"A fascinating question. Yes, there does lie a third door, as you say, but it will be up to you to create it." He said, easily parrying her wild power strikes.
"Very well...my door will lead to me agreeing to be your serf, for now. I'll be no servant." She said.
"A respectable choice, but we shall see if it comes to fruition." He said and disarmed her with a twirl of his sword.
"Alright. Explain the Arilat thing."
"As part of your training, you will become known as Arilat, the name my daughter would have had were she not stillborn." The man said. "Enough of that. The form of swordplay you study, it reminds me of the legends of those who created our creators. Truly a shameful art. No grace, no elegance, no style, no flair. I will teach you a far finer art of swordplay. We begin now." He said, and so they began.
Loran walked down the paths, headed in the direction he believed to be North, headed for the wall. He had long since given up hope of being stealthy, as he had been ambushed four times by bandits. He whistled a tune he had heard a long time ago, something about rain. As he reached the part about rains, he felt several water drops hit him on the head. Sighing, he put his mask on and kept walking. The rain became a storm very quickly, and he was eventually forced to take refuge under a tree. He sat there for a while, until he noticed a glint in the forestry below.
He looked down and realized that there was a person there, lying immobile. He made his way down and flipped the person over to their back so he could identify them. They sprung up and pinned him to the ground, a dagger at his throat. A large squad of Aryoril Scouts sprung up and surrounded him. "You are coming with us. You are a false god and shall be tried as such." The man said.
"I just went through a trial by combat and was proven innocent." Loran shot back.
"The god himself wants to try you. Consider it an honor and a curse, bind his hands." the man ordered.
"Not again." Loran grumbled.
Kata walked up beside Keryn, who was examining the battlefield before them. It was a tower in the middle of a desert, surrounded by a circular wall with eight smaller towers acting as, what they guessed were sniper towers. "Shall we begin?" Kata asked.
"Yes. Mason is set up on the other side, I'll go complete the triangle." Keryn said and sprinted away faster than Kata could see. Kata waited for the signal, which Ileana was providing with some tendrils just below her. Once she saw it, she held her hands out to her sides, palms up and her hands glowing red. She floated up and forward, well into view. Almost immediately, large, two-meter long arrows started soaring up at her, all stopping seven feet away from her and remaining suspended in midair as she continued to move forward. They continued to fire at her until they were completely out of ammo, and she was directly in front of them.
She clenched her fists and each arrow began to chase after each enemy soldier, hunting them down and spearing them. Once the last of her side had been completed, she watched as dozens of very confusing events happened to her left, causing the soldiers on that side to kill one another until none were left. She looked over at Keryn's side and watched as Keryn simply ran around slashing and shooting beams of white energy at them. Kata watched Keryn working relentlessly, mesmerized by the girl's utter tenacity. Her hair behind her back moved as a small gust of wind, lightning fast, moved by her. She turned and saw a lone Aryoril to her left, clutching his heart and falling, a bullet hole under his hand. She turned the opposite direction.
"Excellent shot, Bri." Kata said, putting a thumb to the air. She guessed that Briella was smiling as she gazed down a sniper scope, almost a mile away. The remainder of their forces stormed in the gates and quickly set up camp in the tower, spreading their defenses out as best as they possible could. Kata accompanied Keryn into the tower, and they quickly climbed in the interior to the top. The last room was a circular chamber with a blue-haired woman sitting on a throne, overlooking a circular hole than dropped down to the ground below. The woman looked up at Keryn and a sad smile crossed over her face.
"Keryn. You've come."
"You know me?" Keryn asked, surprised.
"We met once, long ago, when you were first brought into this world." The woman replied.
"You're Luciana, then." Keryn said.
"Aye. And now I must show you what you will need to win this war." Luciana said. She rose and drew her hands in a circle, revealing a swirling silver portal. "This will take you to Urean, the people who created the Aryoril. They will teach you everything you need to know to win against their creations. It is the only way you can save your mother, Keryn." Luciana said, and shocked both of them by flinging herself through the circle and plummeting down to Earth below.
"Well...fuck, now what?" Kata asked.
"Only thing I can do. I'm going through the portal. Kata, don't bother trying to talk me out of it, it won't work. Lead the others just as planned, I'll be back soon." Keryn said and, without a moment's hesitation, jumped through the portal and vanished from Kata's sight.
Serra ducked under a swing from her trainer's rapier and stabbed at his chest. He parried the strike and sidestepped around her back. Recognizing this, she continued moving with the thrust and rolled forward and away. She turned to deflect a slash coming down at her, but, as she raised her arm to deflect it, she found his blade at her throat. "And now, you are a dead girl."
"I am a fully grown woman, you know."
"Nay, you are a girl. You shall remain a girl until you have mothered a child, only then can you be considered a woman." The man said. "Do you worship, Arilat?"
"Not really, do you?"
"I worship death, the one thing we know to be true. And it allows for me to say to my god: 'not today'." The man said. Serra smiled.
"Another teacher of mine said something quite similar." Serra said.
Clara watched as the thirteen year old Keryn attacked Serra with a ferocity rivaling that of her old foe Neil Kenway, one of the most offensively ferocious fighters Clara had squared off against. However, Clara could see about forty-seven different openings that would expose Keryn in a true battle, and guessed Serra could spot about three on her own through the assault. Sure enough, Serra caught one of the glaring opportunities and slammed her katana-hilt into the stomach of the young girl, knocking her off her feet. "That's enough." Clara called. She got up and walked over, waving a hand for Serra to step away. "You surprised?" She asked Keryn.
"Very." The teen grumbled as she got up.
"Well, you're still learning all the variables of this, don't worry. Getting beat can sometimes be the best thing that happens to you." Clara told her.
"How many variables are there?"
"Too many to count, honey. And that's not including the supernatural ones some believe in." Clara said.
"Do you believe them?" Keryn asked. Clara paused before answering.
"I only believe in one god, darling. His name is death, he who comes for us all. And what do we say to the god of death?" She asked, putting a finger under her daughter's chin and lifting her head up so their eyes met. "Not today."
"I like that." Keryn said.
"Alright, I think that will conclude our lessons for today. Your father and I are going out tonight, so you need to babysit Jace, got it?"
"Ok..." Keryn said.
"No parties, or you're dueling me next." Clara warned.
"Ok, ok!" Keryn said, scampering off to the house.
Keryn lay down on the couch and put her hands behind her head, looking at the ceiling. She glanced at her younger brother, Jace, who was in the chair that had been unofficially designated his. "So. Who'd you invite?" Keryn asked. It was Jace's sixteenth birthday, and their parents had decided to have several friends and family over.
"Ya'know. Family, friends, some of the guys and gals from around the base." He replied.
"Anyone I know?"
"Briella and Merric are coming, I think." Jace said.
"Viv's excited that you're legal now." Keryn said, almost as an afterthought.
"Oh yay, that'll be a blast." Jace said, only half sarcastically.
"Don't worry, she's not coming. She would only come if Kata were to come, and Kata and Dad, well, you know." Keryn said, sitting up.
"C'mon, you know he's cooled off a lot. Granted, not to her, but still, in general." Jace said.
"Key words: not to her." Keryn replied.
"I know, I know."
"Also, what do you have going on tomorrow?" Keryn asked.
"Hangover curing is the only thing I can think of. Why, what do you have planned?" He asked.
"No, you're way ahead of me." She said.
"Always am." Jace smirked. The door bell rang unexpectedly.
"Jeez, they're early." Keryn said. They hadn't been expecting anyone for the next two hours. "Who is it?"
"Let me just turn on my x-ray vision and check." Jace said, giving her a look as he went to the door. He opened it and found Vitor and Merric standing outside. "Hey you two. Glad you could show up." He said.
"Our pleasure." Vitor said, bowing. From the living room, Jace could hear a slight scramble of his sister slipping away to her room.
"The pleasure is mine. Come on in, maybe my sister will decide to join us." Jace said. Vitor sighed, shaking his head as Merric smirked. They entered the living room and sat down as Keryn returned. Jace noticed she looked slightly more, as she would said, presentable than she had before. "And there she is."
"I live here, remember." She reminded him and hugged Merric.
"Whatever you say."
"So, Jace. What are your plans for the future, if any?" Vitor asked him.
"Taking grandpop's spot at the head of the legion would be nice." Jace joked.
"Well, I feel like he's got a few extra swings in his cane, still." Vitor smiled. "Anything more direct?"
As time went on, their parents, Caden and Clara, returned home, and Briella Arslan arrived not long after them. Briella simply let herself in and found her way to the living room by memory. She plopped herself down next to Jace. "God damn you're tall." She said.
"It has its advantages. Also, your point of view may be a tad skewed, shorty." He said. He was immediately given an angry look, followed by a hair pull. "Ow, easy there, Bri." He said, trying vainly to get her off of him. Next to arrive were their aunt and uncle, Loran and Aurora.
"Guys! When do I get cousins to torture?" Keryn barked at them as they entered.
"You inherited your father's tact..." Clara sighed.
"Hey, my tact was able to win you over." Caden shot back.
"Anyway. No cousins, no thank you." Aurora said, shaking her head. Merric, so general confusion, appeared to take money from Briella. He received several curious gazes.
"She bet you were trying." He explained.
"Sorry to make you lose there, but nothing's popping out of here anytime soon." Aurora said. Clara than took money from Keryn, to general surprise. "Christ, how many bets did you make?" In response, Clara mimed zipping her mouth shut. Rorii put her head in her hands and shook it. Loran simply used the force to float a bottle of alcohol over to her. "Thank you." Rorii said and immediately started to down it.
Later, once night had fallen, they noticed many small red pops lighting up the night sky, moving together and appearing to form words. "What's that?" Jace asked. Almost on cue, they formed together, creating the words: "Happy Birthday Jace" in the sky. Jace's jaw slackened briefly as he gazed happily at it. It quickly reformed into a new note, saying: "Now, get down to the gate."
"Well then." He laughed before excusing himself and heading for the main gate. When he arrived, he found the most infamous Skulblakan-Hybrids all standing around a car, Katalena, Morrigan, Axel, Viv, and Mason. Each was holding a wrapped gift. Jace smiled as he neared the group. "I didn't believe you guys would come."
In response, Kata made a smaller firework note, saying "What, you think we'd miss this?"
"Maybe. I'm glad you didn't, though." He said.
"Axel and Morri get to drive this time, I am not doing that again." Viv said.
"Probably a smart move." Jace pointed out.
"I didn't get to go last time." Morri pointed out. With that, Mason warped reality so his box was suddenly in Jace's hands.
"Haha, thanks Mase." Jace said.
"Sixty percent of the time, it works. Every time." Mason told him.
"I think those are good odds." Jace said as Kata floated her present over to him. He opened it and found a fake ID inside. It reminded him of the stories his sister would tell him about her sixteenth birthday. He looked at it, and then up to her. "Yeah?" In response, she opened the car door as Morri climbed in the driver's seat.
"Coming?" Kata asked.
"No reason not to." He said and climbed in the back with her as Viv and Mason took the very back.
Merric stood atop the wall, cloak wrapped tightly around himself. Snow had begun to fall three days earlier, and it hadn't let up at all. He had been told to patrol the area between two walls, and was also under order to fall back to one of them if he heard the signal for battle. As he neared one of them, he decided to stop inside one to warm up for a few minutes. "Cold?" The voice of Jaxon Mormont said. Merric looked up at the sniper commander.
"Take a guess." Merric replied and held his hands near a torch. In an effort to preserve power, than had been resorting to fires to heat the towers.
"Tell me," Jax said, not taking his eyes away from his rifle. "Is it true you popped Keryn?"
"Firstly, you ought to know, you have spies everywhere. Secondly, even if I did, would it be your business?"
"Has that ever stopped me?"
"True." Merric said. They stood in silence for a moment, listening only to the wind. It was a haunting sound. In addition to the high pitched wail wind often produced, there was a low, musical note as well, barely audible, but there. It halted abruptly, then, it was back. "That's the signal." Merric said. "They've begun to march for us." A comm unit set up in the tower buzzed at a hologram of Vitor appeared.
"Merric, Jax, make your way down to the gates down here, myself and Master Jagen will see to the defense of the wall." Vitor said. Nodding, Jax threw a rifle to another tower attendant and they started running for the elevator down to the castle. The jumped on and rode it down. At a full sprint, they ran for the weakest of the gates and climbed up to the bridge that ran across the top of it. They ducked down into cover next to a box full of thermal clips.
"We should be up there, where the fighting is." Merric grumbled. As the sentence escaped his lips, a massive arrow buried itself in the wood support beam of the bridge.
"I have a feeling we'll get our share here." Jax replied.
At the top of the wall, Vitor stood beside the former Jedi Master Jagen Larx, and they watched as their men began to activate the turrets and grenade launchers they'd been setting up. Vitor had also sounded a retreat to the first four towers before the castle, not wanting his forces any more spread out. In the night, it was difficult to see how large the enemy force was, or how far away it was. A light, small and orange, could be seen in the treeline beyond the obsidian wall. Dozens more joined it, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. "Torches." Jagen said.
"Snipers!" Vitor yelled. "Take aim, thin them out before they come into range of the turrets!" Of his force of three-thousand, three hundred and fifty, Vitor had command of two hundred snipers, all armed with Black Widow sniper rifles. He waited until he got the signal of the snipers' readiness, then he activated his purple saber and swung it down in an purple arc, shouting "Fire!" The series of shots that rang out was deafening, and from the snipers' words of encouragement, they must have hit their mark. "Bring me some binoculars!" He barked, and a soldier soon was handing some to him. He put them to his eyes and looked down. A massive, hulking warrior with a shield that looked to be the size of a car and a sword that was as long as three of Vitor tall was standing on a rock, overlooking his forces. There were no men similar to him, so Vitor guessed he was the leader. The warrior raised his weapon and the army of soldiers charged. It was mostly light infantry, no real heavy armor or vehicles, or dragons.
"Sir Vitor!" A soldier called behind him. He turned to the soldier, who was looking panicked. "They're attacking the weakest gate below, all their forces on that one. There's too many to count, and they seem to have slipped around the wall, sir."
"Jagen, go help below." Vitor ordered. "Make sure they don't take over."
"As you say." Jagen said and left for the elevator. Somewhere inside him, Vitor felt worry for his apprentice, but knew that he needed to focus on defending the wall, so that is what he did.
Below, Merric slashed at a grappling hook that had been thrown up over the railing. Jax would poke his head up, fire, then go down again, and Merric would cover him. Merric crouched down, waiting for another hook to come up. He noticed the elevator coming down, and a warrior wielding a green saber stepped off. "Master Jagen is here." Merric commented. He heard Jagen shouting orders and various different lightsabers activated, along with the raising of numerous other weapons.
"If we fall now, then nothing shall stand between this army and the destruction of our friends. Will we allow this to happen?" Jagen was shouting.
"No!" A shout rang our from the soldiers who were around and behind the gate.
"No, we damn well won't! We will cast out these foes and when the morning sun rises, this fortress will stand with our flag flying high!" Jagen shouted, getting a cheer from their forces. Merric heard a loud smashing from below. Shit, they've broken down the damn gate. He thought. "With me, we fight!" Jagen shouted, and Merric watched as the two forces crashed into each other.
"Merric, we should head to the rooftops, I can snipe from there. Cover me." Jax said. Merric nodded, and they headed for the buildings. They headed straight for a ladder that led to the rooftops, but, just as they arrived, four Aryoril basic soldiers jumped in their way. Jax dove between the legs of one and fired into his attacker's back, practically blasting the man in two. Merric's lightsaber was out in a twirling red storm, swinging like a dervish and slashing through each Aryoril, his blade never even meeting their shields or swords.
Jax climbed up the ladder and Merric force jumped up to the roof. They took cover behind the small wall that served as a railing, and Jax jumped up and fired. He ducked down, a look of grim satisfaction on his face. "Got one of their captains."
"Is it over?" Merric asked.
"Uh, no." Jax asked, giving him a look.
"Well then." Merric said and handed him another thermal clip. Jax loaded the rifle, jumped up, took aim, and was flung back, his rifle flying through the air. Merric looked up and saw Jax, nailed through the throat by a massive arrow to the wall grasping at his neck for several, excruciatingly long seconds before going limp. Before Merric could do anything else, several Aryoril jumped up to the roof and surrounded him. He drew his saber and set to work.
"Merric!" Jagen's voice roared as he finished off his opponents. He looked down and saw Jagen surrounded by enemies, cutting through them systematically. "Get Vitor down here, take over on the wall for him!"
"Aye!" Merric yelled back and ran for the elevator, cutting down four or five Aryoril on the way. He jumped into the elevator and activated it, sending it slowly up. He watched as a tall, heavily armored warrior wielding an axe walked through the gates and straight for Jagen. Merric could do nothing as the warrior neared the old master. Jagen turned in time to see a large axe coming straight down on his chest. Merric cried out in anger as the warrior tossed the master's body aside. Once the elevator reached the top, Merric ran straight for Vitor, who was organizing the defense of the wall.
"Master!" Merric cried as he drew near. "Master Jagen has fallen, they need you down there." Vitor nodded, eyes closing for a moment.
"Take over." He said. "You have the wall." and with that, Vitor moved for the elevator and began the journey down. Merric turned to the snipers.
"Take aim and fire at will!"
"Sir, some of them had reached the wall and are starting to scale it!"
"Then set up a turret that aims down, now!" Merric ordered
Vitor stood on the elevator and watched the battle as he went down. The large one. Take out the commander and the rest goes to hell. He thought. Once he was at an acceptable height, he jumped down and rolled. His purple saber flashed out and vivisected an Aryoril before he turned, parried a strike and impaled another. He walked down the steps and joined the fray, headed for the tall one. The tall one locked eyes with him, and it seemed as though the rest of the fighting parted around them. Vitor ducked under a slash of the axe and cut at the fastenings of the armor, causing pieces of it to fall away. The warrior turned, swinging his axe in a wide arc. Vitor ducked under it and stabbed up, aiming for the warrior's chin.
The warrior deflected the attack with an arm-plate and wrestled Vitor's lightsaber away. Vitor did the same and wrenched the axe out of his foe's grasp. The two grappled for a long moment before the warrior physically got the better of Vitor, sending three hard punches into Vitor's ribs. Vitor felt the armor break under the force of the strikes. The warrior slammed Vitor's head down into his knee and threw Vitor across the courtyard and into the blacksmith forge. The warrior followed him in and grabbed him by the neck, lifting him up against the wall and choking him. Vitor struggled, and felt tunnel vision coming on, when suddenly, a white hot poker from the blacksmith's fire stabbed through the back of the warrior's head and Vitor could see it in his open mouth. He dropped with the warrior and shoved him off. A female hand reached down to lift him up.
"Aednat?" He asked, taking it.
"Yes, yes, I stowed away, fuck off." The hybrid grumbled.
"Very well, help me clear them out." Vitor said. She nodded and threw the poker like a javelin and impaled an Aryoril through the throat with it. She picked up the warrior's axe and they charged.
That morning, Everyone was gathered on the wall, watching as the next wave approached. The force was at least three-hundred thousand strong. "What do we do?" Merric asked Vitor.
"Send word to the other forces, make our way to the desert force, they're the most exposed. Start launching the retreat efforts. Merric, go oversee them with Aednat, Hugh, and Lystra. Load up the Elephants and get them moving."
"What about you?"
"I'll organize the defense, send squads down one by one to evacuate. We can't hold against this force, get moving." Vitor ordered. Merric nodded and led the aforementioned group down to the castle. They organized several hundred squads onto elephants and sent them on their way. The elevator moved up and down painfully slow. After what Merric was pretty sure to be four hours, they were nearly finished, with only four squads of ten left to go, as well as Vitor himself. The empty elevator began its ascent, but Merric sensed something was off.
"Binoculars, now." He said, and Aednat handed him some. He looked up and saw Vitor speaking with the squads. It was a lull in the battle. All were wounded heavily, and even as they conversed, one dropped dead. They all nodded, appearing to come to an agreement. Vitor turned and looked down, hauntingly directly at Merric, and with a single swipe of his saber, cut the chains to the elevator. "Dammit!" Merric said. "Do we have any air transports?"
"One, sir!" A soldier said.
"Get it here, now!" He barked. It took an infuriatingly long ten minutes for the gunship to be scrambled to them, and he and Aednat boarded it immediately, ordering the pilot to fly up. As they reached the top, Merric saw Vitor encircled by warriors, fighting still as his men lay dead. A spear was thrust forward and stabbed Vitor through the back of his left shoulder, and another through his right leg. The final spear stabbed through his stomach, just to the left of his spine. Merric let out a roar of anger and jumped from the gunship onto the wall and into the crowd of warriors. He slashed wildly, driving them away from his master, who had crumpled to his knees. The gunship opened fire as it drew nearer. Aednat jumped off and helped Merric lift Vitor onto the ship, breaking the spears off.
They flew away, and Vitor deactivated his lightsaber as Merric strapped him into a seat. A series of explosions went off behind them. Merric looked out and saw that the top of the wall was exploding, but the wall still stood. "You rigged it, good job, master." Merric said to Vitor, kneeling down in front of him as Aednat closed the gunship's doors.
"I...am not your master...anymore..." Vitor got out.
"Don't talk, save your strength. Of course you are." Merric said.
"Merric...do not...let them win..."
"Never." Merric said.
"You know...they will enslave all..."
"They won't, we won't let them." Merric said, grabbing his master's shoulder.
"If they do...I'll have died in vain." Vitor gasped.
"You are not dying, master, stay with me!" Merric said, eyes starting to water. Vitor's arm weakly moved up and grasped Merric's shoulder.
"Do not shed a tear, my friend...for there is no greater victory...than to fall from this world...a free...and proud man..." Vitor said.
The words were his last. Merric reached up and closed his master's eyes. "Aryora will fade and crumble, I promise you. But we will remember you forever." He said, and he and Aednat began to set to work wrapping the body in bandages for a burial.
Vythica stood next to Thalon, watching his magical army move towards the tower. "Their Erachi is missing, you know." Thalon told her "I do not require you here."
"You will. I'll make her come." Vythica said. She raised a hand and white energy filled the air. It took the form of a female human. Vythica leaned down and grabbed Clara by the back of her hair, putting her orange blade to her throat. "She'll come, won't she?" She whispered into Clara's ear. "And when she does, it will be one Erachi left standing, not two, not three. One."
Keryn stepped through the portal and was met with several dozen staffs, tips brimming with electricity, all aimed in her direction. Nearly twenty warriors stood before her. "I mean no harm." She said, praying they would understand. Several more warriors joined their comrades, staffs in hand. "My name is Keryn Renner, I'm an Erachi who is trying to find the secret to defeating the Aryoril." She called. Almost immediately, one stepped forward.
"Enter the state." he said. Keryn, taking a guess, entered the Erachi State. "She is a true Erachi. Lead her to the palace." He barked. Several soldiers surrounded her, and she was led through normal looking streets of a city she guessed was built to be like a castle. She was led to the center, where a large palace had been erected. Guards, civilians, anyone they passed looked at her with supreme interest. She was led into the palace into what appeared to be a throne room. She was escorted further in and her escort abruptly halted, causing her to bump into one of them. They stepped aside, and she found herself facing a tall man who was built like a greek god with long, blond hair.
"So are you the Erachi?" The man asked.
"Yes, that I am."
"And you are here to learn of how to kill the Aryoril?"
"Yes." She said, and the man rose, holding his hands to the air.
"Rejoice, my brothers! The day of vengeance has come." He said, and the entire hall erupted in cheers. "If you would, Erachi, spend this day proving your abilities with us, and we shall do what we can to help you achieve this goal."
"Very well." Keryn agreed. "When do we start?"
She was immediately led into a training ground and practically thrown into a training pit, outside, under a blazing sun, and filled with training warriors. Upon seeing her, they each started to fight one another to try and spar with her first. "Gents, gents, there's plenty of me to go around!" She called, chuckling. "I promise it'll take more than you have to wear me out."
She proved her point to be extremely correct, as after only thirty minutes, she had defeated at least two hundred warriors. Once it was over, she was immediately whisked away to a large bedroom, where six or seven maids grabbed her. The next hour was spent excruciatingly being stuffed into a fancy dress that she guessed was traditional to the beings she was encountering, and, most annoying, they started grabbing at her hair and messing around with it. Once that was done, she was escorted to a open banquet hall, where the people seemed to be feasting. She was taken to a balcony and handed a glass of what looked like wine, and instructed to wait.
Nearly fifteen minutes later, the blonde man she had spoken with before came up to her. "Forgive me, but I don't know what any of this means for helping me." Keryn said.
"What do you know of my people?" The man asked.
"Where I come from, we have a saying: Jack Shit." Keryn replied.
"I will assume you mean nothing. My people are called the Urea. This place is known as Urean. We created the Aryoril, long ago, and attempted to use them to bolster our army. Unfortunately, they believed themselves superior, and rebelled. They were right. Nearly half our species was annihilated, and we fled. The Aryoril would build their empire on the world you came here from. For centuries, they reigned supreme there. Then, they made a mistake." He said.
"Let me finish, and I will tell you." The man said. "They attempted to create life, much the same as we did. They made one being, the Erachi. The Erachi was intended to work as a superweapon against the other powers of existence. It did not wish to be, so it, on its own, annihilated half the Aryoril military before performing two of the greatest acts of magic existence will likely ever see."
"First, the Erachi created Erachus and at its core, created Urean. A world between worlds that only they can permit entry to. At the center of Urea, they created a weapon, the likes of which we know not, one that draws power from all existence."
"The next feat of magic was one of Soulweaving Magic, as the Marethari Orothrim taught Soulweaving to the Aryoril species. The Erachi split their soul into uncountable amounts of smaller souls, which moved through space and time. These souls would eventually be formed into two beings, your mother, Clara Renner, and Vythica, the rampant one. The Aryoril know of this, and wish for peace with the Erachis to create a force more deadly than any army of any plane, so they may enslave all."
"However, something happened they did not foresee. When they created you, the new, pure Erachi, they did not predict a traitor in their midst, the high-priestess, Luciana, in secret, struck down the Aryoril Emperor and freed you and your mother. Realizing they needed you more than any other, they enlisted the aid of Vythica to bring your mother to them, drawing you in. Not know who the traitor was, they allowed Luciana to still serve as high-priestess. When you arrived to her, she opened the Urean portal for you, and now you are here."
"So...I need this weapon?" Keryn asked.
"When the Emperor was struck down, his son, Erelim, took over. Erelim is the strongest Aryoril to ever live, a warrior so powerful it is believed that he would lead the Aryoril to victory even against the Gallifreyians. You will need the weapon to aid in defeating him." The man said.
"Very well. Take me to this weapon." She said.
"Must you take it so urgently?" He asked.
"As you wish. Put on your armor and weapons once again, and prepare to retrieve the weapon." He said. And departed.
"Great, now I have to get out of this stupid outfit..." She grumbled and started searching for the chamber she had been dressed in. When she returned, she spent a solid half hour squeezing herself out of the damn thing. As she stepped out of it and tossed it on the floor, she noticed something pointy in the dress. She slipped her armor on in record time and crouched down to look at it. "Needles." Keryn smirked. "They weren't taking any chances, now were they?"
Kata sat on the roof of the tower, observing all the fortification activities they had been conducting. They were waiting for news of Keryn and the other detachments so they would know whether or not to retreat or press onward. Having Mason around had been a boon. His powers let him do just about anything to the fortress walls. As she pondered this, her comm started buzzing. She clicked on it and a very static filled hologram appeared. "You guys getting this on your end?" A static filled voice said.
"Can you clear this up?" She asked.
"Of course." The voice said. The hologram focused with the voice, and she realized it was Keryn's brother, Jace. "Hey, Kat. Good to see you."
"Hey, how'd you get this through?" Kata asked, bewildered.
"I know how to do a lot of stuff. I'm a smart kid." Jace replied.
"Yes, yes you are. How're things back home?"
"Quiet. I don't like it."
"How's your dad taking things?" Kata asked.
"It could be worse. He's doing everything he can to stay distracted." Jace said.
"You are too, I'd imagine."
"Trying to at least. Doesn't work well for me, sometimes."
"Hang in there, little guy. We'll be home soon, with your mom." Kata said.
"And the rest of my family, if you can." Jace said.
"I'd kill Vythica herself if it meant bringing them all home." Kata promised.
"Thank you. But don't get yourself too hurt out there." Jace said, jokingly.
"Trust me, the only way this one is getting hurt is if I get distracted by fixing someone else's screwups." Kata said.
"Well, better focus then." He told her. Her other comm device, which was reserved for communications with the other groups in the campaign, buzzed.
"One moment." She said and opened it up to check the message, which had been sent via text. Wall lost. Numbers halved. Vitor gone, died mid-evac. Making way to desert force. It was signed from Merric. She sighed and returned her attention to Jace.
"We split our forces to combat the Aryoril at every front. One for their ground forces, one for their sea forces, one for their air force and us for their magical forces. Half the people taking on the ground force are dead. Vitor died mid-evacuation." Kata said.
"Jaysus, it sounds brutal down there."
"And...your Uncle Loran is MIA." Kata said quietly.
"Your aunt and sis are fine, and our best force users haven't sensed his death yet." Kata quickly said.
"I'm glad they're ok for now. If you learn anything else, please let me know."
"If I can contact you, I will." Kata promised. Her other comm buzzed again, this time from a personal message from Merric. Aednat Callaghan with us. "So..." She said, returning her attention to Jace. "We had a stowaway..."
"Shit. That was not who I was expecting." Jace said.
"How has...Rhett been regarding her?"
"I think he has been a little apprehensive of her. I don't ask about her." Jace said.
"Probably smart, knowing what he can do."
"I trust him not to do anything bad." Jace said, something Kata could only make a face at. "Regarding me, I mean."
"Anyway...I'm learning a lot about actual military command right now. I will admit, I get more of an appreciation for Coalition commanders every day."
"That's not something people normally say." Jace pointed out.
"I just keep thinking about the time where Llehctim ordered the death of Zack Sigurdson." Kata said. "Bluntly, I dunno if I could have ordered something like that."
"It would definitely be a hard decision."
"Keryn isn't here right now, so I'm in command. It isn't easy, not at all." Kata said.
"If it was, any bum could do it." Jace pointed out.
"True." Kata said. "I have to stop myself from thinking of home just about every hour, and what I'll do when I get there."
"You'll be home soon enough, don't worry." Jace assured her.
"I think about the food a lot." Kata laughed.
"Haha, I'll cook you up something nice when you get back." He said.
"I didn't know you cooked." Kata said.
"Better start practicing, because I'm gonna hold you to that." She said.
"Alright, alright. No problem." He laughed. A horn sounded in the distance. She looked up and saw a sight that felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach. Hard. Over a thousand Aryoril Battlemages were marching towards them, at their head was a man clad in red, beside him, even from the distance she was at, she could tell, was Vythica, with a woman she knew would be Clara kneeling bound next to them.
"I'm going to have to go now." She said, sounding scarily calm, even to herself.
"Alright. Stay safe out there, Kat." He said. Just after he said it, the Aryoril began to chant, a dark, ominous war chant that sent chills up her spine. "That doesn't sound good."
"I'm not going to lie to you. That's the Aryoril Battlemage force, and Vythica is leading them." Kata said, still calm.
"You'll be ok. Just be smart." Jace told her.
"They have your mom." Kata said. She wasn't sure why she said it, it just slipped out.
"Oh..." Jace said, his expression changing.
"I'm gonna go get her back, Jace." She swore.
"Thank you, Kat." He said.
"Gotta go, I'll contact you soon." She said.
"Alright. Good luck." he said, and the call ended. She stood up and floated a few feet above the ground, her hands glowing brightly, a signal for her comrades to prepare for battle.
"May I ask what was in the needle?" Keryn asked, coming up behind the blonde man. He sighed. She had found him on the roof of the tallest spire in the center of the palace. Spire was an interesting term for it, as it was large enough to have a huge pond and trees.
"It was a fail-safe that would only poison the Aryoril. You are not dead, so we may trust you." The man said.
"Did it have to be a fucking dress?" Keryn asked.
"Dresses cannot...as you say, fuck." The man said, sounding confused.
"You know what I mean."
"It is widely encouraged that one dress adequately for such celebrations among our culture. Is yours very different?"
"Depends on the celebration." Keryn sighed. "So what is this secret you speak of?"
"The pool is a portal to the core of Urea. Hidden in the core is the weapon I spoke to you about. You will recognize it when you see it." The man said.
"And when I have it?"
"Return here, and I will mobilize my people for war."
"You will help us?" Keryn asked.
"Aye. We've waited a long time to bring the Aryoril to justice, and we must make up for our own attempts to play god." The man said sadly.
"Alright. Just dive in?" Keryn asked, looking at the pool. He nodded, and she jumped in. She was sucked down towards the bottom, the water heavy, as though she was swimming in a syrup. She looked down and saw only blackness, and she started to frantically swim towards the surface again, inexplicably crippled by the water and left as weak as a simple human. After several long, excruciating seconds of flailing upwards, she started to gain some traction, and she started moving up. She aimed for the surface with increasing speed in each stroke, until, at long last, she reached air.
She gasped and blindly flailed for the edge, and once she reached it, she hauled herself out and coughed the water out, left on her hands and knees. Once her lungs cleared and she calmed down, she stood up to start yelling at the blonde man. To her general shock, he was not there, nor was the palace at all. Instead, she saw a mountain range that went for miles, and she was standing in a meadow with lush green grass that ranged for miles as well. She spun around, confused, trying to get a feel for where she was. Must be the core. She thought.
As she turned, a faint glow caught her eye. She stopped and looked at it. It was below the grasses not far from her, so she assumed that it was lying on the ground. As she drew near, she stepped in water, and looked down. Marsh. Lovely. She thought. She looked back up, and her eyebrows rose. In front of her was a pool, perfectly still within a circle of grass that surrounded it. The glow came from beneath the water, and it was glowing brighter by the second. Eventually, the water was parted by a sword hilt coming from the pool. As it fully emerged, Keryn's eyes widened. It was a katana, green-bladed, with a grey-brown fabric grip and two red ribbons waving in the wind at the base of the hilt. The cross guard matched the color of the blade, and Keryn could sense its power radiating from the blade.
It floated over to her and shifted its position to a horizontal position, the handle towards her. Nervously, she took the blade, and her mind was immediately greeted by visions, moving through her mind, very similar to how her mother had described her absorption of others' memories. There was a flash of the blade being forged by a strange black being, an ordinary blade. The next was of the blade being dipped in the pool and emerging in its green state. Various more struck her to the point of it being nearly overwhelming, and she dropped to her knees briefly before standing again.
Incredible. She thought to herself. The pool is...like me. Made from a part of every plane and merged into one. And the sword was transformed into something like that, too...made up of everything, the most powerful parts of all planes. She thought. Mine? She asked herself. Something in her said yes, so she returned to the pool from before, sheathing the blade in a sheath she didn't realize she had, and she jumped in, ready to return.
Kata's hands rose, glowing red. The ground caved in around the walls surrounding the tower, creating a massive moat that led straight down into the ground. She turned around to speak to her forces gathered behind her. "I'm going around to take their main force on, buy you as much time as possible, build up some magic defenses of some kind, any kind. If they break through, unleash all hell." Kata ordered. They nodded wordlessly. Kata turned, not wanting to link eyes with Ileana, who was standing there was well. "Start building." She said and floated up into the air.
When she was a good five-hundred meters into the air, she floated quickly towards the army, hands glowing. She waited to cast her hex, reaching out mentally, stealthily touching the minds of as many of their battlemages as she possibly could. She waited, steadily moving forward. She still waited, seeing their spell tomes float up around them and their spells begin to form. Just as they each released their spells, she unleashed her counter-attack. Her powers touched each of their spells, unleashing chaos within them and sending them out of control. Their fireballs, lightning bolts, ice-shards, wind-blades, shadow blast, none of it came anywhere near her, all of them either exploding in their user's hands or flying into their comrades. She continued her forward float, steady and merciless.
In the walls of the fortress, the others waited, praying Kata was safe and doing well. They had put up a magical shield to keep intruders out, and it appeared to be standing up thus far. A loud crack filled the air, like glass having been struck with a blunt object. Similar to cracked glass, the shield shattered and fell to pieces from behind them. They all whirled around and saw a lone woman wielding an orange katana marching towards them. "Vythica." Briella said. Vythica neared them and swiped a hand through the air. Briella and seventy others soared into the walls and fell in crumpled heaps.
The Sith Giyaika charged and was cut down with a single strike, blood flying everywhere. Vesper was thrown up into the air and out of sight. Sixtus summoned a small army of Vylohad forth and launched them at Vythica, only to watch in horror as each was annihilated before Vythica held her blade out. It extended to a hundred sword-lengths and stabbed him in the chest, felling him. It was not long before most of them were either dead or incapacitated. Vythica turned to the last one, Ileana, and smiled. Ileana was holding two Astral blades, standing ready to attack, though Vythica could sense the fear coming from her. "Come, girl. Prove your worth." Vythica said as Ileana attacked her.
Kata stood alone, surrounded by the bodies of the Aryoril magical forces. Only one stood before her, guarding the weak and frail form of a semi-conscious Clara. "You dare attack me?" The Aryoril said. "I am Thalon, lord of magic and the most powerful battlemage existence has ever seen. I will not be insulted by a mewling quim such as youself and-" He was cut off as Kata held a hand out, levitating him in the air. She held her other out and took hold of his massive sword on his back with her own magic. She floated it around in front of him.
"Fool." She sighed and crossed her hands. The blade pierced his stomach and slashed out, cleaving him in two. She shook her head and ran over to Clara. "Clara, are you ok?" Kata asked, kneeling down and helping her up.
"Fortress...Vythica..." Clara stumbled out. "Get me there..." Kata nodded and started to float as fast as possible back to the fortress.
Vythica watched as Ileana fell, bleeding from her side. "I am impressed, girl." Vythica said. "For that, I will grant you a quick death, a soldier's death." Vythica said and raised her blade to finish the girl off. To her shock, she swung her blade in a sideways arc, harmlessly hitting air. She looked around and saw a bleeding and wounded man standing before her, hand raised. The next thing she knew, she was ten feet from Ileana. "You are Mason, the reality-warper." She said. He nodded and snapped his fingers again, and the handle of her sword caught fire. Surprised, she instinctively let go and it vanished into her soul from whence it came.
"You'll not kill another of us." The irishman said. He flicked his fingers many times, and her locations changed with each flick, disorienting her immensely. When she finally remained still, suspended in midair, her arms felt like they were a hundred times heavier than before, and realized the feeling was spreading throughout her body. No, it was her armor, he was increasing the weight of her armor a hundredfold. She looked at him and muttered a lone spell, and he was sent flying back and through a wall. His modifications to reality ceased, and she dropped, free of his meddling. A sound filled her hears, like a body falling to the ground. She turned and saw Clara, just beside the wall, weak, flopped over, and useless. She walked over, sighing.
"You see, Clara, your people are weak. And once you're dead, I'll see to it the rest fall as well." Vythica said and summoned her blade to her once again. She put it to Clara's throat, forcing her enemy to straighten up. "I'll make it fast, though. Your reward for being a worthy adversary." Vythica said. Then, she pulled the blade back and swung.
The blade halted an inch from Clara's neck. Vythica looked down at it, confused, expecting to see the effects of the reality warper. Instead, she small red pops around the sword, holding it in place. Her heart sank. It was a power that was forbidden among her people, one of their most deadly secrets. She turned and saw the one known as Katalena Akulov, standing twenty meters from her, hands extended, glowing red, her eyes a glowing, piercing red as well. "How did you gain this ability, the power of chaos magic?" Vythica asked.
"Simple...the two of you gave it to me." Katalena said. Vythica raised a hand to cast a destruction spell of her own, but Kata switched her spells around, sending her sword-hilt flying into her gut, causing her to lose control of her spell. Vythica launched several destruction spells at Kata, who knocked them aside as though they were nothing. Losing patience, Vythica unleashed a powerful beam of destructive, orange power and shot it at Kata, who did nothing to parry it. Instead, it abruptly changed directions and slammed into Vythica, who stayed standing throughout, but felt something within her break. She looked over to her side and saw the one called Mason holding his hand out, nursing a wound. She turned to Kata again, and saw the woman slam into her, tackling her to the ground. Kata grabbed the sides of Vythica's head.
"You...are not Skulblakan." Kata snarled, and her hands began to glow. "We...are...Skulblakan...now." She hissed, and cast the spell. Vythica's body all but melted beneath her, and a bright white light left her mouth. It was a white, glowing orb that floated over to Clara and into her forehead. Clara glowed a bright white for several moments before the light died away, and she rose, shaky, but she rose.
"Well...done..." Clara said weakly.
"Is she dead?" Mason asked.
"No. Her soul, along with all of her Erachi souls, are one with me now." Clara said. "I am Erachi, one Erachi, like the first. Like my daughter."
All Out WarEdit
"About seven thousand."
"I like the odds." Sola said and turned off the hologram. They had been sailing for the past week, and they were only a few hours from the naval base of the Aryoril. It was an island between them and the capital, and the Aryoril had sent out their first wave of ships towards them. The ships were small, only as large as a gunship, compared to the massive Orslade which was the size of the Spartacus.
"So what do we do?" Axel asked. "We wait until they're right next to us, then we open fire. Some people are gonna get put on top of the Orslade to fend of boarders. I'll be up there, myself. We'll put you and Morri up there to shoot fire all over the place, too."
"I like it, but it seems a little...simple." Axel said.
"I can improvise, don't worry." Sola said. "Find Morri and take her up top, this could start any minute." Sola said. Axel nodded and left. Sola grabbed the comm and spoke into it. "Everyone, battle stations, they're on their way, here we go." She said simply, and made her own way to the elevator. She stepped in and ordered it to go to the roof of the ship. When the door opened, she stepped out and into the evening sunlight. The bright orange sun forced her to squint as she looked out over the sea. She shielded her eyes with her hand and gazed off into the direction of the Aryoril navy.
The metal ships were moving towards them very quickly, far faster than she would have liked. "Seven thousand does look accurate." She muttered and grabbed her comm. "Directly in front of us, save the long range missiles, use the beams once they're in range." She ordered. Once the ships were within a kilometer of the Orslade, fourteen beams of green light shot from the head of the Orslade, each into a ship and moving around, cutting through many others before powering off after fifteen seconds. Several dozen ships went up in flames and sunk far faster than usual. They must be using some kind of magic to force them under. She thought.
A small, purple portal opened in the air above the ships, and a small solar flare burst through it and burned down into the ships below. The flare and the portal vanished, replaced by another somewhere else above the fleet of Aryoril ships. A second flare blasted down and incinerated another several ships before vanishing as well. Before another portal or flare could appear, the ships had closed the distance on the Orslade, and the Aryoril began launching fireballs and blasts of lightning towards the ship. In response, the cannons on the side of the Orslade opened fire, firing laser blasts, short-ranged missiles, and, from underwater, torpedoes.
None of the ships made it close enough to launch boarders. In little under an hour, the ships were gone. Sola jumped over to Morri and Axel, grinning. "If the rest of their fleet is anything like that, we're set."
"Don't be so confident, I'd be willing to bet that was just an advance party." Morri said.
"I wouldn't be surprised, but even then, can their weapons even penetrate the hull? From what we saw today, no."
"Yes, from what we saw today." Axel agreed. "But lord knows what they'll throw at us tomorrow."
"I guess we'll have to wait and see, then." Sola told them and made her way down into the ship. After the post-battle operations were completed, such as scouting for surviving Aryoril and salvaging any supplies from the wrecked enemy fleet, Sola made her way to her quarters, where she lay awake for nearly an hour, a thrill of winning her first battle back in command keeping her awake and excited.
The next morning, she was awakened early by a text-message showing up on her room's computer. She walked over to it and opened it. It read: Vythica defeated, Clara rescued. Keryn found reinforcements from extraplanar location. The Wall has fallen, forces halved. Vitor dead. Remaining Wall forces under Merric's command now. Wall forces regrouping with those in the desert.
Sola leaned back in her chair jaw hanging open. The thoughts of Vythica's defeat, Clara's rescue, and Keryn's newfound allies were cast from her mind by the realization of Vitor's death. Sola, after a long moment, grabbed her commlink and called the entire ship. "Everyone." She said, trying to keep her voice calm. "I've received news that the desert has been secured, and Vythica defeated. Keryn has also secured reinforcements for her people from an extraplanar source." She went on. "However...the wall has fallen. Vitor is dead and his numbers halved, under Merric's command and regrouping in the desert." She stopped talking for a moment, taking several deep breaths. She could practically feel the silence throughout the ship, knowing that nobody was uttering a word.
"So today, we start the forward march. We're moving forward and destroying the Aryoril, for him, and for the people who died alongside him holding that wall." She said and hung up.
That day, two fleets attacked them, each of them ten thousand strong. The Orslade cut through both of them like butter, with her crew only sustaining the occasional minor injury. In the evening, with darkness falling, a lone Aryoril ship approached. Sola, along with Morri and Axel, stood on the roof of the Orslade, watching it approach. "Hold fire. I want to see what they're trying." Sola ordered into her comm. The ship came up alongside them, and they quickly moved to the edge to keep their eyes on it. They looked down and saw a trio of Aryoril, two standard soldiers and a heavily armored, bearded man.
"We wish to speak with the leaders of this vessel." The bearded one declared.
"Open the hangar." Sola muttered into her comm. "Morri, get us in there." Morri nodded, a worried expression on her face, and they stepped through a portal that led into the hangar. It was partially filled with water, up to their ankles, as the Aryoril trio stepped off their ship and into the newly-washed hangar.
"What do you want?" Sola asked.
"I wanted to meet the one who commands such a fine sea vessel." The bearded one said, stepping forward.
"You've met her, then." Sola said, stepping forward as well. "What else do you desire?"
"I wanted to know why, compared to yesterday, you come for my island with such fury. You seemed content to let me throw my men at you beforehand."
"I want to end this sea battle as soon as possible, so we can move on to your emperor." Sola said. "Besides, your people killed plenty of mine in the north, I think equal treatment is fair."
"I would assume someone you knew died up there."
"Yes, a former student." Sola replied bitterly.
"Your quest for vengeance makes you nothing more than a petty murderer." The man said.
"When enough friends have fallen, you cease to care for labels such as that." Sola shot back. "I would have your name, so I know who is leading my enemy in the battle tomorrow."
"My name is Ballaton, naval general of the Aryoril forces."
"Sola Kerana. Acting commander of the Dawn Crusaders." Sola replied. "Be aware, Ballaton, the next we meet, I am going take your life."
"No. You're going to try." Ballaton replied.
"Considering how you want to enslave us all," Sola said. "That's all a free person can do." She told him. And with that, he and his men returned to their ship and left, leaving Sola, Morri, and Axel to prepare for the next day.
After being hauled across an amount of land that he chose to not identify, dragged through a city and pegged with rotten fruit throughout, he had been locked in an underground cell, something Loran was quickly growing tired of. He was sitting alone in his cell, cross-legged in the very center. A lone window was in one of the corners, and when he looked through it, he could see the ocean. He closed his eyes and started meditating, trying to reach out to anyone in the city or beyond. As he scanned through the city's population, he noticed one that stood out. Serra? Here? He thought and began to probe her mind.
Before he could make any headway, he heard the lock on his door open and opened his eyes. His eyebrows went up, mildly surprised. "Shouldn't you be dead?"
"You think some meager Skulblakans would bring about my death?" His father, Orothrim said.
"I suppose not." Loran said, not bothering to ask how his father was alive. "How does it feel being a god?"
"It is a means to an end, nothing more." Orothrim replied.
"Do they even know you're here?"
"Of course not. I simply watch over them and make adjustments when I need to."
"Does that mean you've come to adjust me?"
"No. Your current course is fine the way it is." Orothrim said.
"How disappointing. A false god is what you'd have me be?"
"Then I suppose we haven't got anything more to discuss then, do we?" Loran replied. Nodding, Orothrim swept from the cell, leaving Loran to contemplate what had just happened.
Sola once again stood on the roof of the Orslade, watching as the enemy fleet came into view. The fleet utterly dwarfed the previous fleets, and the ships were larger, closer to small freighters. Behind the fleet Sola could see the naval base, a fortress on the coast. "What are their numbers?" Sola asked.
"Fifty thousand strong at least." Morri said.
"This won't be anywhere near as easy as before." Axel said. "What's the plan?"
"We wade into them and let them board us." Sola said. "You two, same as before, rain fire on them. We'll use long range missiles and mortars to weaken them as much as possible coming in, and when they try to board us, we'll annihilate them as their feet touch the metal." Sola said. She grabbed her comm and spoke into it. "Winona, on me. I need help organizing the defense up here."
Before Winona could reach her, Sola spotted a massive boulder flying from the enemy fleet towards them. "Boulders...really?" Sola sighed. She reached out with the force and took hold of the boulder. Her attempt to slow it down failed miserably, and the longer she tried to hold onto the grip, she noticed her connection to the boulder becoming weaker. By the time she realized what was happening, the boulder was twenty meters from the Orslade. She released her connection as the boulder slammed into the hull of the ship. Sola went down to her knees, cursing. Her connection to the force had been severely weakened.
She looked up at the boulder and watched it shatter into dozens of pieces, Aryoril soldiers jumping out of the wreckage and charging. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the disorientation, and activated her saber. She gripped her weapon in both hands and waited for them to reach her. A sword came down at her neck, and she batted it away from her before slashing back, noting with each counter her opponent's weakest areas and defensive zones. When she was done with the squad, she noticed several more boulders slam into the hull of the Orslade and more squads appear.
"This is bad." A voice said. Sola looked over her shoulder and saw Winona.
"Yeah. If you're still pissed at me, save it for later. Help me keep the deck clear." Sola said. Winona nodded, and they turned to face the oncoming thrall of Aryoril.
Serra followed her trainer into the primary castle in the city. He led her into the throne-room, where they filed into seats that had been set up to either side of the throne. Two stands stood before the throne, surrounded by guards. "Why are we here?" Serra asked.
"Arilat, we are here to bear witness to the trial of a false god." Her trainer said. She rolled her eyes as more people filed in. Once everyone was seated, an armored, helmet-clad man sat on the large throne. "That is our emperor, Arilat." Her trainer said. Serra wanted to point out that she as not bound to that emperor, but deemed it wise to keep her mouth shut.
"We shall begin now." The emperor said. On cue, several dozen guards entered from a side door, hauling out a prisoner in an execution hood. The prisoner was placed on one of the stands and his hood was removed. Serra's eyebrows rose, she didn't dare gasp. The one on trial, bound by chains, was Loran.
"At what point has proof been provided of my guilt?" Loran asked, sounding frustrated. "I even passed a trial by combat on this same matter not long ago."
"The proof, heretic, lies in that I was commanded by our lord Orothrim that you be tried again." The emperor said. "And such, documents proving your guilt shall be brought forth." He waved his hand and a fat, bearded man strode up to the stand opposite Loran's and opened a book.
"The accused possesses fighting capabilities described vividly in our holy texts, matching that of the fallen son of the great Orothrim." The man began to ramble for several minutes on the subject.
Wait, Loran is Marethari, and they worship his father, the Marethari leader, as a god? Serra thought. Orothrim died years ago, this doesn't add up. Serra said and nervously, instinctively, scanned the room. As she scanned the rafters, she noticed a cloaked, hooded man standing on a platform, watching. His identity is concealed well, but...only Orothrim possessed that stance. She thought.
"Also, it is described in the Oron that anywhere the fallen son goes, death and destruction shall follow. After this abomination left the tower in the desert, the high priestess was killed, and the tower taken. An Erachi who allied with us died that day, as well as the great general Thalon and his forces, to some evil, Chaos Witch." The man went on. "What more proof is required?" The man asked.
"None, dismissed." The emperor said. "What say you in your defense, heretic?"
Loran was silent for an excruciatingly long moment. "I wish to confess to your god." Loran eventually said.
"You profess yourself guilty of heresy and false-godhood?" The emperor asked.
"No." Loran said and looked up, directly at the cloaked Orothrim. Serra's eyes widened. "I'm guilty of something far worse in his eyes. I am guilty of being born a human. That is why he cast me out, not something your book says. That is why he does not interfere with your so called trial now." Loran said. He looked down and locked eyes with the Emperor. "I don't trust your so called holiness so let's put me on trial in a way everyone understands. I demand a trial by combat."
"Very well." The emperor said. "You may not represent yourself, you will need to find a champion for you by tomorrow, when you shall be tried." The emperor said and strode from the room, signalling the court's end.
It was night. The Orslade was battered and heavily damaged, but it stayed afloat, and her crew was still fighting. Sola ducked under a sword swipe and slashed her opponent in half before pausing to review the carnage that surrounded her. She had needed to split up with Winona to hold the deck, but she wasn't certain where the other Jedi had gone. A flash of solar fire soared over her head and melted another dozen Aryoril into liquid. She looked behind her and saw Axel approaching, his arms ablaze. "It's a glorious day, with such combat to be had." He said.
"Only one of their lives holds any worth." Sola sighed. She looked over the fleet, which had been halved in size over the day. She could see the flagship, and knew Ballaton would be standing on it. "Hold the deck, I will go and claim it." She said and jumped down onto the Aryoril ships and started running. She sprinted through the fleet, cutting down any in her path, before she reached the deck of the flagship. As she jumped up onto it, she saw seven soldiers charging for her, with Ballaton at the very back of them. She charged forward and caught the spear of one of the soldiers as she slashed down another. She wrenched the spear from the Aryoril's grip and spun, stabbing forward and impaling him with her lightsaber.
She threw the spear like a javelin and killed another before ducking under a sword strike and chopping off another's leg. As she did so, one of their swords light crossed her back, drawing blood. She remained silent and tried to grab him with the force, but found her weakened connection could do nothing to him. Grimly, and parried a strike and punched him in the face before sending her knee flying into his groin and fling him from the deck. The next sword were felled in a single strike, her saber half-severing their heads. With his guard defeated, she turned to Ballaton.
"I promised you, when I next saw you, I would have your life." She said, holding her saber up.
"Come then." He replied, drawing a sword. "And try to claim it." And with that, the two charged one another. Sola immediately gained the upper hand, her blend of Soresu defense and Djem-So offense effectively creating a green bubble around her, preventing him from landing any meaningful strikes. She patiently waited, looking for his opening. When it came, she slashed once and severed three of his fingers on his sword hand. As his weapon clattered to the ground, she rose her weapon to attack. Just as she slashed at him, she was tackled aside. She slammed hard into the deck and realized that the one she had thrown overboard had returned. It didn't take her long to stab him and throw him aside. She stood up to return to the Aryoril leader, and felt something hit her in the center of her chest.
She looked down, confused, and saw a small, almost meaningless crossbow bolt had punctured her skin and entered deep into her. She looked up and saw the smug Ballaton holding an empty crossbow, smiling. With an amount of strength she didn't realize she had, she threw her saber at him. His eyes widened in shock as the green blade cut through him, sending him to the deck as well. Sola attempted to step towards her weapon, but found herself crumpling to the ground. A purple portal opened and Morri stepped out, followed by Winona. "Sola!" Morri cried and ran over. Morri picked Sola up and opened another portal.
"Light...saber..." Sola groaned. Winona held a hand out and Sola's saber came to her. As they stepped through the portal, Winona gave it to Sola, who gripped the weapon like a safety harness. Sola's visioned blurred for a moment, and when it cleared, she was leaning against a part of the Orslade. "Did we...win?" Sola asked, coughing suddenly. She covered her mouth and felt something warm hit her hand. She saw that it was blood. A hand gripped her shoulder and Morri knelt down beside her.
"Sola, we won." Morri said. "Axel's burning the fleet now."
"Good..." Sola grumbled. Morri looked down and saw the blood Sola had coughed up.
"Where's that fucking medic!?" Morri yelled over her shoulder.
"I doubt it'll matter, kid..." Sola said, coughing again.
"You shut up." Morri snarled. Sola held up her lightsaber.
"Give this to Clara...ok?"
"No, you give it to her." Morri insisted as Sola coughed up blood again. Morri took a knife out and cut a hole in Sola's shirt, looking at the wound. The bolt has dissolved over time, leaving an acidic hole in Sola's chest.
"She's my last student...make sure she lives..." Sola said.
"I will." Morri said, unable to move her gaze from the wound, a wound she knew to be fatal. "I promise."
"Thanks..." Sola said and leaned her head back against the Orslade. She closed her eyes and a smile crossed her face. "I'm coming for that-" She coughed again. "for that drink now, Dinaya..." She said and let out a sighing breath, one that proved to be her last.
Loran sat in his cell. It was completely dark, with no sign of light anywhere. I need someone to champion me. Smart fucker, that makes me all but guilty. He thought. Asshole. He swore then that if some mistake caused him to escape with his life, he would immediately find Aurora and never leave her side again. Bad things seemed to happen whenever they were separated.
The sound of his door's lock opening drew all of his senses towards it, and a cloaked woman in a hood stepped in, clutching a torch. "Have you come to kill me?" Loran asked as she set the torch to the wall.
"No, I've not." The woman said and removed her hood.
"Serra?" He asked, surprised.
"Are...are you with them?"
"Only...sort of. I was captured and sent into some sort of rehabilitation. They wanted me to become their assassin." She said sadly.
"So you are here to kill me."
"No. I want answers." Serra said. "How is your father alive?"
"He abandoned us at that final battle with the Skulblakans." Loran said.
"Why does he want you dead?"
"Were you there?" Loran asked.
"Yes...I heard your demands." Serra admitted.
"Then you know why. He's ashamed of me." Loran replied. "Do you know who they want to kill me?"
"Yes. His name is Xalanth. A general of the Aryoril forces." Serra said. "He's the one who ordered Vitor's death."
"Vitor's dead?" Loran asked, shocked. Serra nodded.
"I heard from guards a couple of hours ago." She said sadly. "You know...even if you're somehow acquitted, your father will not stop hunting you down."
"You'll need to run, far and fast." She said, standing up. Loran noticed a pair of rapiers hanging from her hips. "Get yourself to the coast and pray the naval force is victorious." She said and grabbed the torch. "Or make your way to the desert, I hear they were victorious already." She said and walked to the door. She opened it and turned to face him, flipping her hood up again. "I will be your champion." She said and left the room.
Trial By Combat - Part 2Edit
Clara watched fondly as Keryn practically tackle-hugged Merric. It was one of many emotional reunions happening as the survivors from the wall connected with the soldiers who inhabited the desert tower. "They're lucky to still have each other." Kata said behind her. Clara turned to the hybrid, smiling sadly.
"Yes. If only everyone was so lucky." Clara agreed. They had just received word of Sola's fate, causing Clara to take command and double efforts to bolster their forces, hell-bent on taking revenge on the Aryoril. "Katalena, what do you think of our chances going into the next battle?"
"Depends on how the air forces do." Kata said, shrugging.
"True." Clara said. "I must say, the fact you were able to do so well against Vythica really surprised me."
"Your vote of confidence is overwhelming." Kata replied.
"Seriously. That basically means that if Keryn and I are ever not in the universe, comatose, or dead, you may be called upon to defeat the threats everyone else can not." Clara said.
"I know. I've been preparing for that for a long time. Mason as well."
"There are some who still despise hybrids, but please know that the day may come when the Hybrids show themselves as the greatest heroes our plane has ever known." Clara said.
"Forgive me if I don't see that day any time soon." Kata replied.
"We'll see." Clara said and returned her gaze to the reinforcements incoming.
Sajin sat down, panting. "I...hate...dragons..." She grumbled. The past two days had been spent doing battle with the Aryoril air force, and the Spartacus had taken a fair amount of burn and magic damage in the battles. It was only after Aurora had crashed a gunship into the dragon of the Aryoril leader, a man named Michalis, that they had made any headway. Aurora had jumped free and dueled Michalis on the ground, successfully defeating him in single combat as the battle raged in the sky. It still took seven straight hours of battle to reach the mountain fortress, which Decebal had smashed through the walls of to collapse half of it before the Aryoril surrendered. Even then, the Aryoril made seventeen different escape attempts, to the point that Sajin had to suffocate all of the prisoners in her mist form to rid herself of the headache.
She looked at the corpse of the small dragon that had attacked her. It was the size of a small car, small for the species, but it had surprised her, and took off one of her arms. After she'd killed it successfully, she grew her arm back using her mist powers and sat down to rest, drained of the energy it took to grow her limb back. The door opened to the dragon pen and Aurora walked in. "Any sign of him?" She asked. Sajin shook her head, and Aurora left the room. Sajin sighed and hauled herself to her feet, walking after her.
Aurora fervently searched the rooms of the fortress, frantic and panicked. Sajin followed her for what felt like hours before Aurora stopped. "He's not here." Aurora said.
"No, he's not." Sajin agreed.
"We go to the capital now. Link up with the others, and we find him there." Aurora said.
"How do we know he'll be there."
"Because he's alive, I know it, and that's the only place left." Aurora said and left, headed for the Spartacus. Sajin sighed and activated her comm.
"Viv, get everyone onto the ship. We're gonna make for the meet-up point tonight."
"Hooray for travel." Viv's voice said and the call ended. After everyone had returned to the damaged ship, Sajin made her way to the captain's quarters and lay down to rest.
"Only one more battle." Xylia's voice said as the hybrid stepped out of the shadows.
"Yeah. One to go." Sajin replied. "You think we have a chance?"
"Yeah. Yeah I do." Xylia replied. The hologram-comm buzzed, and Sajin bolted for it and answered it. Two holograms, one of Clara and the other of Morri appeared.
"Clara! You're alright!"
"Yeah. Yeah I'm back. Listen, we need to move quickly to take the capital. The military forces from the north are steadily marching down. If we don't take the city soon, they'll be upon us from both ends." Clara said.
"Yes. The Orslade can be at the capital in four hours. Morri said.
"We can be there in six." Sajin said.
"And we can be there in a day. Make your ways to the city and keep them in lockdown, distracted. We'll join you soon. Once we've arrived, Keryn will summon her own reinforcements and we'll commence the attack." Clara replied.
"Very well. I'll see you there." Sajin said, nodding. Morri nodded as well and the transmission cut. Sajin immediately jumped for the bed, Xylia lying down next to her. "We have five hours to sleep." Sajin grumbled and allowed her exhaustion from the day's battles to take her to sleep.
Morri leaned back on the bed, her head resting on Axel's shoulder. "We're almost there." She whispered. "When we get home...I had an idea for a separate HQ for us. Hybrids. We're still shunned by a lot of society, despite the advances, but it'd still be nice to have a place to call our own, wouldn't it?"
"Remember, that's the thinking that started the riots." Axel gently reminded her.
"I know...still, it'd be nice, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, that it would." Axel agreed. Morri turned over so she was facing him and snuggled closer, looking up at him.
"Think about it?" She asked.
"I'll think about it after this is all over." Axel said. "We can't seclude ourselves forever."
"I know." She sighed and closed her eyes, drifting off for a few precious hours, something he soon joined her in.
Loran stood in one spectator box of the arena. Across from him sat the emperor. To his left sat a man he had learned was Serra's swordsmanship instructor. In between the two spectator boxes sat a crowd, gathered to watch the trial. "How much have you trained her?" Loran asked the swordsmanship teacher.
"Enough." the man said. "Victory is well within Arilat's abilities."
"Good to know." Loran said and watched as the gate opened across from him. A massive, gold and blue armored man with a massive sword and a utterly huge shield stepped out. Loran felt a rumbling beneath him, and knew the gate below him was opening as well. Serra walked out, assassin cloak on, two rapiers in hand, and hood up. Once the two reached the middle of the arena, the entire crowd fell silent. For a brief moment, it was utter quiet. Then, the emperor stood.
"Begin." He said.
The man, a warrior known as Xalanth, swung his sword over his head and through the air horizontally towards Serra. The assassin jumped back and out of the blade's range before charging forward and slashing twice at joints and her enemies helmet before prancing away. Xalanth rose his sword and slammed it down towards her. She sidestepped and ran forward. Before he could raise his shield to block her advance, she jumped off the guard of his sword and slammed her knee under his helmet and into his chin before stabbing at her opponent's foot. Her blade missed its mark, and she dove away from the blade of her enemy.
"Be still, insect." Xalanth said and marched forward, swinging his sword with more vigor and speed than before. She dove away from each strike, moving like a dancer, her footwork far faster than Loran was used to seeing from her. Serra ducked and rolled under a strike, towards Xalanth, and stabbed forward with her rapier, piercing through the general's leg armor and into his hamstring. Her blade stuck, she danced away, down to one sword, and fell into a defensive stance, ready to counter whatever attacks he could throw at her. The Aryoril, as though the blade in his leg was a mild inconvenience, marched forward, swinging his sword and shield around him, spinning like a dervish in a wild attempt to catch her with the blade of his weapon.
Serra jumped off the wall of the Arena, over Xalanth's sword, and onto his shield, and grabbed hold of the massive shield and held on for dear life. He swung his shield over his head, trying to shake her off. She let go when the shield moved towards the sky and soared up, then fell down, stabbing the man through the joint of his elbow and causing his shield to fall. Xalanth swung his sword in a wide arc towards her, and she raised both arms to shield herself. Loran hissed in a breath as the blade connected with her forearms, and promptly shattered.
Xalanth looked down at his broken weapon, which gave Serra just enough time to sprint forward and stab him, through openings in his armor, and into his stomach. She wrenched her hands out, blood spilling from the open wounds as Xalanth fell. Loran knew her use of poison weapons would finish the job, but it looked as though she had dealt the Aryoril a fatal blow. Indeed, Xalanth pitched backwards and lay on his back, still. Serra looked up at Loran and panted, nodding at him. Loran breathed out a sigh of relief. He looked up briefly, just in time to see a light, purple mist float down, and into Xalanth's head, behind Serra. Before Loran, or the swordsman instructor, could shout a warning, Xalanth abruptly rose and grabbed Serra's head from behind.
And he spun once, lifting her through the air and slamming her down on her head.
Loran closed his eyes, unable to look at the body of the young assassin, and he heard the crowd break into cheers as their emperor rose and pronounced him guilty, sentencing him to death.
All Men Must DieEdit
Clara embraced Rorii tightly, neither of them saying a word. Rorii and Sajin had flown down from the Spartacus to join a council to discuss what the attack strategy should be. Morri and Axel had arrived an hour earlier, and they were waiting in the command tent with Kata, Keryn, and Merric. After a long moment, they released each other. "Let's go get him back." Clara said. Rorii nodded and the three entered the command tent, where they found the others looking at a hologram of the city, which was built into a cliff on the coast.
"They have a small fleet of ships that shouldn't be difficult to break through." Morri said, pointing at the coast of the city. "Once we've broken through them, we can park the Orslade right in their harbor and start unloading troops or launching mortars over the walls."
"Mortars might not work." Sajin said and drew a circle around the skyline of the city. "They'll have some dragons watching the air, probably the best of the best. Those things are not easy to take down."
"Get me and Mason in the sky and we can make sure they don't pose a threat." Kata said. Sajin nodded, agreeing. "The other hybrids would be best served infiltrating via the gates, walls, or harbor."
"I agree." Clara said. "I would recommend the walls or the harbor, however. Once Keryn is through the gate, she can summon her Urea friends and those forces can help handle the courtyards and streets."
"What about the forces coming from the north?" Merric asked. "If this siege gets drawn out we're going to be caught between two forces and it'll all be over before we know it."
"Then we'll have to make it quick." Rorii replied. "I'm not waiting any longer for-"
The sound of clanking chains interrupted her.
They looked around, confused. "That's coming from the city." Axel said, and they left the tent quickly to look at the capital. "They might be trying to take the fight to us." He remarked. The clanking continued for a few minutes, and they all remained silent. Their own camp had grown quiet to listen as well. A hollow boom filled the air, and was immediately followed by silence. They looked at one another, even the Erachi-enhanced hearing of Clara and Keryn couldn't pick up anything. There was a dull thud, along with a series of sharp clacks. Then another. Another. Another.
"A dragon. Walking on stone." Sajin whispered. "But what dragon is that large...we're over three kilometers away..."
The footsteps ceased, and their camp sprung to life, jumping into vehicles and the elephants to prepare for battle. Then, the dragon leaped up and into the sky. It was a gargantuan beast, and when its wings unfurled, it was like a thousand ship sails on either side. The wingspan was as long as the Spartacus. The wings flapped, and a new wind filled the air like a small hurricane. "How are we supposed to kill that?" Keryn asked, faltering momentarily.
"Quiet." Clara said gently to her daughter. They could not afford fear then. At that moment, a bar of fire as wide as large river sprayed from the white dragon's mouth, filling the air and illuminating everything like a second sun. The group felt the heat sting on their faces, aside from Axel, who didn't flinch at it. When the dragon closed its mouth and the flames evaporated, a smell like sulfur filled the air. The dragon flapped its wings once more, causing more wind, before it returned to the city and settled between the buildings.
"We're going to fight that?" Merric said, shocked.
"We're going to kill that." Katalena said unexpectedly. "When do we attack?"
"Tomorrow, at high noon." Clara replied. They all nodded and left the tent to begin preparations. Clara and Keryn returned to the elephant they had taken refuge in and sat down in the driver's area. "Whatever happens tomorrow, dear, I want you to know that I'm proud of you, and I am proud to call you my daughter."
"Thank you. I am honored to call you my mother." Keryn said. No further words were exchanged between the two that night, they ate quietly and drifted off to sleep, not wanting to waste any of the precious hours for rest they had.
In another elephant, Kata, Morri, Axel, Viv, Mason, and Ileana sat in a circle, chatting absently about anything other than the next day's battle. There was a knock on the door, and Morri opened it, causing the mechanical door to fall shut. To their surprise, in walked Xylia. The group immediately jumped up and ran over to hug her. Morri, as she embraced her old friend, looked over her shoulder and spotted Aednat outside, looking reluctant. "You may as well come in." Morri said. Aednat nodded and slowly stepped inside.
"Hey." She said after a moment of quiet. She had vanished after the riots, and had only visited Kaven once, ten years afterwards. She had then vanished once again, and none of them had really seen her since, save Kata, Mason, and Ileana, who had reunited with her in the desert. It was Morri who stepped forward first to embrace her. "You're forgiven." Morri whispered in Aednat's ear. Tears sprung to the Irish girl's eyes and she hugged Morri back tightly. She remembered how during the siege of Kata's fortress, Morri had been assaulted by numerous soldiers and repeatedly electrocuted with stun-weapons. Morri had had difficulty walking properly for eight years afterwards, and was left with a phobia of electrical powers ever since.
And it had been Aednat's fault, as she had called the soldiers down on them. If Morri could forgive her, nearly anyone could. When Morri stepped back, Axel embraced her next, followed by Mason and then Ileana. She had already reunited with Xylia. Once Ileana released her, she looked briefly at Kata. The two, despite having been reunited in the desert, had not exchanged a single word. They locked eyes for a long moment, and Aednat wasn't sure if Kata had forgiven her at all, though she would not blame her if she didn't. Then, a small smile broke out on Kata's face and the Chaotician held her arms out, and Aednat quickly stepped forward and the two embraced. "All the years hating you were a waste and stupid, old friend." Kata whispered. "Let's start over, shall we?"
"Yeah...yeah..." Aednat said, breaking out into open tears.
After the reunion, they sat in a circle once again, with a small, electric furnace in the center of them all. Morri sat clutching Axel's hand with Kata to her other side. Next to Kata sat Ileana, with Xylia on her other side, followed by Mason, Viv, then Aednat. They were eating chicken from a barbeque that Mason had snuck along with him, as well as some sort of pre-packaged rice that Morri had brought along. It was a surprisingly good meal, that was mostly eaten in a solemn silence. Eventually, Kata sat up straighter, which they all knew meant she was about to say something.
"Guys...we've been through hell, to say the least." She said, getting nods from them all. "We've come a long way from being prisoners in my father's lab and hiding in basements. And no matter how tomorrow goes, I'm glad I went through it all with you guys."
Everyone nodded, some smiling, some not, but all agreed. Morri patted Kata on the leg affectionately as Ileana put an arm around her old mother's shoulders. A few hours later, Axel sat leaning against the wall of the elephant, asleep. Morri lay with her head on his lap, equally asleep. Kata lay asleep with her head resting on Morri's stomach, while Mason was sleeping on a set of spare tires. Ileana was face-first on the floor, with Xylia and Viv to either side of her. Aednat sat leaning against a computer console, smiling at the group that had taken her back in before she too fell asleep, ready for battle the next day.
The next day, Clara stood next to Keryn at the head of their forces. They would lead the assault on the walls and the gate, while Morri and Axel led the attack on the harbor. Air support was covered by Sajin, as Rorii had elected to join Keryn and Clara. The Spartacus' shadow passed over them and floated forward, just enough to signal the Orslade to make its move for the harbor. Aided along by Mason's ability to move them short distances, they started moving forward towards the capital, both on foot and by vehicle.
As they came within shooting distance, a large, orange, transparent wall appeared out of nowhere, seven miles high, blocking their advance. Clara immediately drew her soul-sword and slashed at the wall, but her blade bounced off as though it was made of rubber.
"How interesting to see two Erachi coming to my doorstep." A loud, deep, booming voice said. "The last time an Erachi stood outside my gates, he wished to duel me. As though he was capable of defeating one such as myself."
"And how did that duel go?" Clara asked, getting a look from Keryn, who she shot a reassuring nod to.
"I would love to show you, Erachi." The voice said, and the orange walls suddenly sucked herself and Keryn into them and floated up into the sky. There was a sudden flash of orange light, an an armored man holding two broadswords appeared, helmeted and awe-inspiring. "Come with me, and I will show you now." An orange portal opened, and he shoved them through, and he followed, closing the portal behind him. The orange walls vanished, leaving the now leaderless army waiting for any indication of what to do.
"What the fuck are you waiting for!? Charge!" Mason's Irish accent rang out, followed by the battle cries of all their soldiers, knowing that even without their leader, they still needed to win the battle.
Loran lay in his cell, listening the booms of the battle outside. A key could be heard entering the door to his cell. He sighed, guessing that it was someone coming to make a hasty execution. The door opened and he sighed again. "Get it over, asshole." he grumbled.
"In no world is that how you address a rescuer." A male voice said. Loran sat up and looked over. Serra's sword instructor was striding in, carrying a large bag. He dropped it. "Your armor and weapon." He said. Loran moved over and opened the bag. Indeed, his grey armor sat in the bag, as well as the Marethari sword he had taken from his first trial. "Your other weapons were destroyed on the Emperor's orders." The man said. Loran changed into his armor and took the sword in his right hand, nodding. "You should run, now."
"No. I can't." Loran said and made for the door, leaving his mask behind. He didn't want to hide his face for what was to come. "There's something I need to do."
"Very well. But know that when we next meet, I will be forced to kill you." The man said.
"You are welcome to try." Loran replied and left, running into the halls of the prison and cutting down the door. Outside, it was pandemonium, soldiers were sprinting for the walls and massive knights were grouping together at each of the gates. Loran turned his gaze up to the cathedral where he had been tried and ran for it. It wasn't difficult to make his way there, and once he reached the cathedral, he only needed to kill three guards before opening the door and entering.
Inside, he spotted his father in the rafters, meditating. He jumped up silently and approached him from behind, doing all he possibly could to keep himself concealed with the force. He slipped to Orothrim's left and put the blade under his father's chin. Orothrim's eyes opened and he looked up at Loran.
"I will admit, I am impressed." Orothrim said. "I would have thought your feeble, human heart would have given up by now."
"Stand up." Loran ordered. When Orothrim refused, Loran slashed his father across the shoulder, leaving a light gash. "Now." This time, Orothrim listened and stood up. "You are a traitor who left us to die in that final battle against the Skulblakans." Loran said. "You are also responsible for the deaths of Serra Urec, and as far as I am concerned, the death of Vitor Rogan as well."
"By your logic, I would have killed one Sola Kerana as well." Orothrim said. Loran pressed his sword further, drawing blood slightly from his father's neck. Loran decided he would mourn later.
"Why did you give Xalanth the strength to fight again?" He asked.
"I told you, I made adjustments whenever I wanted something to go differently."
"You wanted me dead." Loran shot back. "What else would Xalanth's victory mean? Nothing." Loran paused before going on. "You are also a coward, running from battle every time it gets going. You ran from the Skulblakans, you ran from me, and you ran from the Gallifreyians."
"I did what needed to be done to survive and act in the best interests of the planar system." Orothrim spat.
"No, you didn't." Loran said, and he lowered the sword to Orothrim's ribs and gently leaned forward, puncturing skin and clothes. It was not a deep enough wound to kill, but Orothrim fell to one knee. "You know what this blade was meant for, yes?" Loran asked. "Designed to remove the powers of those it strikes, cutting their abilities off." Loran shook his head. "You probably wanted to use this against the Gallifreyians, didn't you?" Orothrim nodded. "Of course, then you found out anything that makes them powerful comes from their stupid swords." Loran said. "Works perfectly against Marethari, however."
"Kill me and be done with it, boy." Orothrim said.
"I do not plan to kill you. I am leaving you here, powerless, and utterly human." Loran said and turned to leave. He took four steps before he heard another Marethari sword activating. He spun and turned, catching his father's wrist and stabbing him in the stomach with his own blade. Orothrim looked down at the sword in his stomach and looked back up, burning hatred in his eyes.
"You are no son of mine..." The fallen Marethari leader snarled.
"I am your son." Loran replied quietly, almost catatonic. "I have always been your son." He said, and pressed one of the buttons in the handle. The blade pulsed once, and Orothrim began to dissolve into a black mist, not shimmering, like Sajin or Nymeria had been, but dark and shallow, a mist that dissipated as soon as it formed. The last part of Orothrim to vanish were his eyes, still staring at his son, burning, hating.
Rorii and Merric force jumped to the top of the city's walls, landing and cutting through the initial defense as quickly as they could, trying to clear an area for the ladders and grav lifts. Once the initial defenders were defeated, Rorii immediately started looking for obvious places Loran could be. "You go. I've got this." Merric said. It must have been obvious, her desire to look for her husband.
"Alright, kid. Good luck with these alien bastards." Rorii said.
"Don't need luck, I have a sword." Merric said as Viv flew over his head, launched by a grav lift and her skin resembling steel, and she flung herself into a squad of Aryoril.
"She has you beat, she doesn't even need that." Rorii remarked, causing Merric to start competing with Viv. A purple-rimmed portal opened next to Rorii, and Morri, alongside Aednat, fell through.
"You're not going in alone." Morri grumbled.
"You sure? You'd probably be more useful elsewhere." Rorii pointed out.
"That's why she's going with you." Morri replied and opened a portal, allowing some of their troops to step through and onto the wall before she ran off to do the same elsewhere.
"Whatever you say. Just try to keep up." Rorii said.
"Don't you worry." Aednat replied, slipping around Rorii and, unarmed, sent three Aryoril flying off the wall to either the fields below or the courtyard below.
"Good." Rorii said with a smirk. "Let's get going, then." The two slipped past the main forces and searched all of the obvious prisons and execution stands, but found nothing. After three or four hours of battling their way through the city, searching for Loran, the sounds of battle came to a stop just as they reached a small arena. A lone body lay in the arena, clearly dead. "I don't like this one bit." Rorii said. Before they could do anything else, one of Morri's portals opened and Morri stepped through.
"We took the gate. Why'd things get...so..." Morri trailed off as her gaze passed onto the body in the arena.
"That looks...not good." Rorii said. Morri knelt down next to the body and hung her head.
"Not good." Aednat agreed and jumped down after Morri.
"That can't be..." Rorii started, but as they neared Morri, her suspicions were confirmed.
"You've earned your rest, sister." Morri said shakily, closing Serra's eyes.
"We should take her back, make it proper." Rorii said quietly. Morri picked up the body and opened a portal.
"Kill em all." She said and stepped through.
"They'll all burn." Rorii agreed. Suddenly, Aednat grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to the ground. A massive sword swung over their heads, cutting some of Rorii's hair.
"Jesus christ that is a big man." Aednat said, looking up. Rorii followed her gaze and saw the largest humanoid she'd ever seen standing there, a massive sword and shield in hand.
"Damn straight. Thanks for the save, by the way."
"Thank me later!" Aednat cried as the warrior struck downward at them. Aednat judo-tossed Rorii to her other side, getting her out of the way of the attack.
"Right!" Rorii said and drew her blades, ready for a battle. Before they could attack, a portal opened and the man dropped through it. He stuck his arms out and caught himself from falling all the way through. Aednat could make out Morri's face on the other side, grim and focused, and the portal closed, cutting the man in half.
"Glad I didn't need to-" Aednat cut herself off as she turned around. Rorii heard limping footsteps behind her and turned around. Loran limped forward, breathing heavily.
"Loran!" Rorii cried and sprinted for him, tackling him to the ground.
"You're ok." Loran said, sounding as though he was trying to reassure himself.
"I'm perfectly fine. I'm just happy you're alive." Rorii said.
"Yeah...I'm alive." He said, sounding slightly shocked about that fact. Before she could reply, a deafening bellow of a roar filled the air, and a sudden wind could be felt.
"Oh god...it's coming." Rorii said.
"What?" Loran asked.
"The biggest piece of shit I've ever seen. Dragons. Aren't fun." Rorii replied. As though on cue, the hulking dragon appeared from the center of the city and rose to its full height. "Am I right?" She grumbled. The dragon turned its gaze to them, as though it had heard her. "Shit, um, let's go." Rorii said. The dragon opened its mouth and a massive fire blast soared from the jaws of the beast. Loran raised a single hand and the blast stopped mid-way to them.
"If...I...can handle Vythica...I can handle this..." Loran grunted. With that, he redirected the blast into the sky, and they spotted a lone person, surrounded by red energy, flying around the head of the behemoth.
"Time for Katalena to go to work." Rorii quipped.
"Always thought she was a badass."
"Hey, can we get back to helping out now? You two can reunite later." Aednat called.
"She's right, c'mon."
"Did you hear about Sola?" Loran asked as they ran off to rejoin the now rejuvenated battle.
"Yes. We're all heartbroken, but we don't have time to mourn right now." Rorii said.
"Fuck. I thought he might have been lying." Loran grimaced.
"My father. He's their god. Responsible for Sola, Vitor, and Serra."
"But...he died years ago."
"No, he died four hours ago." Loran replied shortly.
"Yes." Loran said, even shorter, and force pushed her to the other side of the street as the dragon's tail whipped by them, creating an opening like an earthquake down the middle of the street. Rorii shook her head, looking up.
"Too close for me." Rorii said, looking up at the dragon, which was trying to breathe fire on Katalena.
"Fuckin shit!" Aednat yelled, keeling over and grasping her face, which had been cut open by shrapnel.
"Aednat!" Rorii shouted and ran over. "Easy, easy there." Rorii said quickly, but Aednat waved her off.
"Don't waste your energy on me!" Aednat barked angrily. "See if you can help bring that asshole down!" Rorii patted her on the shoulder, nodding.
"No problem." Rorii said and went to fight alongside her husband. When the two fought together, they were a nearly unstoppable force on the battlefield, knowing the others movements better than they knew their own, they cut into the Aryoril forces and chased them to the crater the dragon had been lying in. It took the better part of an hour, but soon, they had all reunited around the crater, defeating the remainder of the Aryoril army.
Up on the wall, Viv deflected a sword strike off her arm and punched an Aryoril soldier in the face, caving his helmet in. He collapsed and she turned around. Her head jerked to the side as a blade slashed across her metal face, leaving no mark whatsoever. She and Merric were working to hold the wall while the other soldiers worked to secure the streets and gates. She looked over at Merric and saw him being choked by a battlemage. She sprinted up behind the battlemage, who turned in time to see her approaching. She ducked under a fireball, grabbing a dagger off the ground. She stabbed upward and caught the battlemage in the groin before planting a kick into his stomach, knocking him off the wall and into the fields outside the city. "Does that one count as two?" She asked.
"No. It very much does not." Merric grumbled and jumped over her head, sword flashing dramatically over his head.
"Pussy." She called after him and felt a spear shatter against her back. "This shirt cost money, you pricks!" She yelled and jumped after the one who had thrown it.
Axel held his hands out and burned down an Aryoril archer-tower. He turned, his sunfire form in full effect, and a crossbow bolt melted harmlessly as it came into contact with him. A portal opened to his left, and he could see the eye of the dragon on the other side. He immediately launched a solar flare through it at the dragon. More portals opened around him. He wasn't sure where they were coming from, but whenever they opened, he knew to throw some fire through it. He trusted Morri enough to give him good, solid targets to melt.
Once the army was defeated, they looked up and watched as the dragon knocked Katalena from the sky, and turned his gaze to them. "This thing needs to die already."
The dragon's maw opened, and a fire blast looked to be coming their way, when a suddenly crack, like a thunderclap, filled the air, and a large hole appeared in the dragon's chest and it fell. Loran quickly reached out with all that was left of his strength, and floated the monster to the ocean, away from their people. Aednat followed the trajectory of the hole and looked over to the main gate. "Main gate, now!" She yelled and started running. Those who could ran after her, not knowing what had happened. When they reached the main gate, they found a small crater with Keryn kneeling on the edge of it, heavily wounded. The Aryoril emperor knelt before a black armored being that glowed with an internal red energy, wielding a seven foot long katana.
Clara was nowhere to be found.
The moment the orange prison released them, Keryn had her katana out and Clara had summoned her soul blade. They looked around quickly as the emperor floated down to the ground. "We're on Erachus." Keryn said, surprised.
"Fitting." Clara replied and gripped her sword tightly. "Don't take him lightly, Keryn."
"Noted." Keryn said, gritting her teeth. The Emperor put his two swords together and they merged into a single broadsword. Keryn and Clara both nodded to one another and lunged forward. Using his left hand alone, the Emperor managed to deflect each strike of their flurries of attacks. Keryn made an attempt to jump over him and swing at the back of his head, but her strike was deflected and sent her careening away. She landed on her feet, the two Erachi now to either side of the Emperor. They watched him carefully, looking for an opening. They spotted it simultaneously and slashed at his torso as he flicked his wrist to once side. He snapped his own weapon up and caught both blades crossed on his own, and he slashed upwards, pushing them both back.
"Your names." the Emperor said.
"What are they to you?" Clara shot back.
"This duel is to the death, it matters not what your wanted secrecy is reasoned by. I am Erelim, Emperor of the Aryoril, and I wish for your names as they carry a weight within our culture you know not."
Clara and Keryn exchanged a glance, and Clara nodded before speaking. "Clara."
"Keryn." Keryn said grudgingly.
"I thank you. Now," the emperor raised a finger and pointed it at Clara. An orange beam lanced from it into her and launched her back hundreds of feet. He turned to Keryn and raised his sword. "Shall we begin?"
"Very well." Keryn replied and put her katana away before summoning her soul blade. Keryn blinked once and her eyes began to glow white, indicating she was in the Erachi state. And with that, she lunged at Erelim, a full out assault of offensive strikes, only blocking to immediately resume her attack. She pressed him back a few dozen meters before slashing overhand and catching his block, creating a crater beneath him. She jumped up into the air, floating upwards. She flew after him, slashing at him with a berserker-like ferocity. He abruptly stopped moving, and she soared over him. She dove back down towards him, missing and turning to see him flying down at her.
It was his turn to attack her with a brutal assault, slashing with wide, powerful, calculated strokes of his blade, never giving her the chance to attack back as they fell down to Earth. One of his more powerful strikes sent Keryn careening further down, still falling. She held her hand up, which began to glow white, and swiped it twice through the air, launching dozens of small, white, energy orbs at Erelim. He avoided them easily, and she reversed their directions so they came down at him. He slashed two or three from the air before being engulfed in white energy. Before she could cause it to explode, he slashed once, and a blue beam of energy lanced from his sword, followed by two others directly behind it. Keryn blocked one and cut the next two apart. She landed on the ground and rolled backwards to her feet. Erelim landed in front of her, across the craters that had been formed by his attack.
He jumped forward, continuing to increase his attack, sending Keryn on the defensive. When Keryn finally saw an opening, she power-slashed at it, but he blocked it deftly with one hand and slashed back, sending her flying. She landed on her back and bounced across the ground like a skipping stone on water. She jumped back to her feet as Erelim landed before her. Her eyes began to glow brighter and her soul blade began to pulse with energy. She and Erelim lunged at one another, and as their blades connected, a massive explosion was triggered.
When the dust cleared, Keryn was on one knee, trying to support herself on her blade. She lost focus and the blade vanished, as well as her use of the Erachi state. "A most entertaining bout." Erelim said. "You fired a blast of your energy upwards as our blades connected, up under my sword. A wise choice. Had you not done so, your sword would have cracked in two and your head would resting on the ground now."
Erelim turned and pointed his sword at Keryn's back. "Now, we shall end this." He said and raised the blade. As he swung downwards, a red sword appeared and caught it. Erelim looked over and saw Clara, covered in scrapes and cuts, but otherwise uninjured, and she pushed him away. "Your persistence surprises me." Erelim said. Clara ignored him and knelt down beside Keryn.
"Can you stand?" She asked.
"No." Keryn said, more angry than pained.
"Ok. When you can, get your strength back before joining the fight." Clara said and rose to face Erelim. She stepped forward. "I'm sorry if you were waiting." She said, and her blade began to pulse and glow with Erachi energy. "I believe you were expecting to see this." She said and the energy engulfed her. She jumped out the top of the bubble of white, which popped outward harmlessly, and her eyes were glowing like twin suns on her face, and she lunged for Erelim. Her sword met his, and she felt his block falter slightly. She pressed onward, and he dove to the side of her. She pivoted and slashed her blade through the air. White Erachi-Energy with a red rim arced out and towards Erelim.
He flew over it and aimed for one of the pillars that dotted Erachus. He reached the top of it and turned to her. She had not followed him, and paced on the ground below, staring up at him. "I am impressed. You managed to crack my blade." He said. He removed his helmet and much of his armor, revealing the frame of a young, blonde man with spiky hair. "But that will not be enough for either of you to win this fight." He said, taking his sword in both hands. His sword began to glow a dark orange, and it changed form into a six-foot tall, one inch wide weapon that Clara guessed would have weighed around eighty pounds to the average swordsman.
"If you still believe yourself capable of defeating me, I welcome you to try." Erelim said. Wordless, Clara responded by soaring up after him, red weapon flashing in a hundred deadly arcs, lancing out the red and white energy she had used before. Erelim didn't even move, but the lances of energy didn't come close to hitting him, dissipating once they were within ten feet of him. "Disappointing." Erelim said. Then, without warning, he vanished, and reappeared beside her. She pivoted as fast as she could and caught the strike he was throwing at her on her blade. She soared backwards over the deserts of Erachus. She plunged her sword into the ground, slowing herself down.
Erelim was visible flying after her. She waited until he was nearing her, then she slashed upwards from the ground, unleashing the most powerful blast she had yet mustered. The most it did was slow Erelim down. "Was that supposed to frighten me." He said and slashed once. The lance of pale blue energy that left his blade shattered her soul sword and knocked her clean out of the Erachi state. Erelim flew forward and grabbed her by the back of the head. He soared over to one of the pillars and slammed Clara's head against it before flying upwards and dragging Clara's face against the stone. Once they reached the top of the pillar, he continued to fly upward, then tossed Clara down into the pillar's roof, forming a crater as Clara struck the stone. He then raised his hand and pointed a finger down at Clara.
Before unleashing the blast, he looked down and saw Keryn struggling to her feet, staring up at him in shock and horror. He smiled once, then fired the blast down upon Clara. The pillar shattered as the beam slammed into Clara and down into the pillar. Erelim floated and waited as the dust settled and the remains of the pillar surrounded his foe. He flew down and landed next to Clara. "By the gods. You yet live." Erelim said. Clara, miraculously, rose slowly, shaking and breathing heavily. "You must have entered the Erachi state just before the blast struck you. Very clever. That would have taken the brunt of the attack."
"I've...taken worse." Clara groaned. To his shock, her soul sword appeared again, and she swung at him. Erelim deftly blocked it and slashed once, across Clara's wrist and causing her to lose grip on the weapon, and it vanished into thin air again. Erelim grabbed her by the neck and jumped up onto a large piece of rubble. Once he landed, he turned to the direction Keryn was approaching from. He turned and released Clara. Keryn watched as he appeared to levitate her high into the sky, lining her up with a swirling silver substance that Keryn recognized to be a lesser plane.
"How an Erachi leveled my father's empire is beyond me." Erelim said. He pointed his sword at Clara. "Watch now, as the one your people hail as a god meets the fate that awaits them, as well." A blast of pale blue energy soared from his blade, lancing forward in a thin spike. It went clean through Clara and soared into the sky, striking the silver swirl. In seconds, the swirl began to vanish in a midst of explosions, bright and powerful against the black sky.
My god...he just wiped out a plane! Keryn thought, eyes widening as she returned her gaze to Erelim and her mother. The sight that beheld her made her jaw drop and a guttural, agonized cry of fury, pain, and anger escaped her. Clara was floating, and the bright light of the explosions behind her shining through the hole in the center of her chest. Erelim dropped her and Clara plummeted down to the ground, bouncing off the ruins of the pillar and vanishing behind the rubble. Keryn sprinted past Erelim, her physical abilities suddenly returning as she went in search of her mother.
She reached her in the middle of the ruined pillar, her lifeless eyes staring up at the black sky. Keryn collapsed to her knees next to her body. Keryn simply stared for several moments, before realizing Erelim was floating down towards them. Keryn noticed that she had begun to be surrounded by a white glow. She blinked, and the familiar Erachi vision signaled she had entered the Erachi state. She turned to Erelim, drawing the Katana that the Urea had given her, and lunged after him, screaming a savage war cry, her voice was amplified strangely, and it sounded possessed, almost demonic.
Erelim stepped backwards, allowing Keryn to open up with all of her attacks. She attacked with wildly, aiming every strike to kill and swinging with all her force each time. Erelim eventually locked blades with her and shoved her away. "Interesting. Reports from my scouts and informants indicated that of all the invading forces, you were with the one I should be worried about. They were wrong, I see now."
"I am the one you should be worried about!" Keryn screamed, the demonic voice still ringing through the air. "Because I am going to kill you!" She said and resumed her attack. Erelim evaded each strike as though a child had swung it, and when he counterattacked, Keryn was only barely able to get her sword up in time to deflect it. The force of the blow sent her flying into one of the other pillars. She cracked through the wall and realized it was hollow. She rose to her feet and looked up to see Erelim standing in the hole her impact had created.
"You lack the experience and power a fully developed Erachi should have." Erelim said. "Had you waited another ten years to invade, you may have been perceived as a threat. However, with your development so limited, your attack speed and power are equally limited."
"I'm just getting started now, monster." Keryn said and raised her hand to fire a blast of Erachi energy at him. Just as she was about to release it, she blinked, and felt a hand gripping her arm. She looked to her left and saw Erelim had moved to her left within the blink of an eye and grabbed her hand. Her break in focus stopped the blast from leaving her hand.
"Was that supposed to frighten me?" Erelim asked. Her eyes widened, and her concentration on the Erachi state shattered. Smiling grimly, Erelim threw her from the pillar. She flipped in the air and landed on her feet. She switched the Katana to her left hand and summoned her soul blade in the other. Re-entering the Erachi state, she charged forward, her furious mind noting her mother's body lying twenty feet from her.
Blackness. That was all there was. She was running, looking for a way out. Screaming in anger and fear. A way out, there had to be a way out. There was a heat at her back. She whirled around and saw a red light. It must have been an exit. She sprinted for it, growing ever closer to the source of light and heat. The closer she got to it, the brighter and hotter it became. Finally, she reached the source of it, and dove for it headfirst. The blackness returned, but only for a brief instant. When her eyes opened, she was standing in a white room, with shadows cast all along the walls and ceiling, yet the light seemed to have no source.
"It would appear my time of hiding is at an end." A woman's voice said. She whirled around and saw a woman standing in the shadows. She was tall, with long, silvery hair that flowed past her waist. She couldn't make out any of the woman's features in detail, but recognized that she was staring at the ground, as though depressed. "You've done well, holding the fort down in my absence."
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"I've hidden myself across the planes, knowing a day would come when my creators would be a threat. It was my hope that they would exhaust themselves moving all across the plane system, maybe even falling to one of the higher planes. I suppose that will occur, somewhat." The woman replied.
"Who are you?" She asked.
"Oh, Clara. Ever the curious, inquisitive one." The woman sighed. "All I am, all I have been, is Erachi. So that is what I will be called."
"You're...the original." Clara whispered.
"Aye, that I am." Erachi said and waved a hand through the air. An image appeared of Keryn, dueling Erelim ferociously. Keryn was using her full power in all its destructive glory. Erelim simply directed the attacks away from him and into the sky, occasionally annihilating or heavily damaging the weaker planes. "She is doing well. At this rate, she will successfully kill Erelim."
"You sound sad about this." Clara said.
"She is not strong enough to win the battle without losing her life in the process, Clara." Erachi sighed.
"Then we need to help her!" Clara exclaimed. The image changed to Keryn on her knees with Erelim standing over her, blade raised.
"She is about to unleash all her power into one, concentrated burst. At her level of control, the explosion will kill her." Erachi said.
"Then what are we doing in here?!" Clara cried.
"This is only one way we can do so." Erachi said. "Give me control. Let me take over your body completely, and I will defeat him. Be warned, Clara. If you agree to this, you will sacrifice your Erachi abilities. They will be lost forever, released into myself, who will once again walk the realm of existence. You will be a simple Jedi once again, no more powerful than your husband or son."
"Do it." Clara said without hesitation. "I would gladly sacrifice that power if it means she lives!"
"Very well." Erachi said. The shadows began to cling to her, forging a black armor around her, complete with a helmet. The eye visor of the helmet glowed red, as did her shoulders and knuckles. A red halo surrounded a strand of black fabric that grew from the top of the helmet.
Clara's vision changed. It was a black sky with planes swirling in it. The edges of her vision changed, a red and black color that reminded her of powers she had seen long ago. She allowed the colors to take over, and soon, her vision blanked completely, as did her mind.
Keryn was blinded by a flash of red light, and lost her focus on her attack. Erelim kicked her back and she rolled away. Both combatants looked over at the source of the flash. Clara's body was gone, replaced by a tall, black armored warrior. Red light glowed from the armor, and the unarmed one gazed at Erelim without pause. "This isn't right." Erelim said. "You cannot be alive."
"Mom...?" Keryn asked.
"Speak, whatever it is you are." Erelim ordered. The being opened its palm and a massive, seven-foot blade appeared. That's a soul blade! Keryn thought, eyes widening. The warrior slashed it once through the air, and Keryn soared backwards, pushed by a sudden, unseen force. When she stopped, she was imprisoned by a translucent, red cage.
"Dammit!" Keryn shouted and attempted to slash open the cage. Nothing happened.
"Do you not understand me?" Erelim asked. In response, the warrior raised their weapon in a salute to Erelim. "I suppose not." Erelim replied and raised a hand. The blue-white energy began to form again, and Keryn knew there was a good chance another plane was about to be annihilated. Then, as the blast was unleashed, the warrior raised a hand, and pure red energy soared forward and slammed into Erelim's blast. A huge explosion of the two colors appeared, and Keryn had to enter her Erachi state to avoid being incinerated. Erelim soared into the sky, eyes wide.
"Impossible. There's no way that you still-" He was interrupted as the warrior appeared behind him, as though they had teleported. "-exist." The warrior slashed once and Erelim fell down to the ground below. Keryn watched as Erelim stumbled to his feet, bleeding profusely.
My god, his arm's off! Clara thought. The warrior flew down and appeared before the Aryoril Emperor. Erelim swung his blade in his other hand, and his arm grew back in its completion.
"I will admit, that was impressive." Erelim said to the warrior. "Almost as impressive as the fact that you still live. I would not have expected that you would be able to return using your surrogate bodies." Erelim held his sword up again. "I don't know how you did so, but on this day I will finish my father's job and I will end you, Erachi."
That's the first! Keryn realized as the two charged one another, energy flowing from their blades like water. The two blasts collided in the sky, and a small nuclear-looking explosion filled the air for miles. Erelim flew back, and held a hand out. A pale blue lance of energy filled his hand, and he launched it at Erachi, who dodged it deftly and continued to press forward, sword flashing forth, unleashing blasts of power of their own. Suddenly, Erachi vanished, and reappeared behind Erelim. For the first time, Keryn saw true fear in the Aryoril emperor's eyes. Erachi slashed once and Erelim went flying.
Erachi chased their enemy down and slashed once. Keryn let out an audible woop of excitement as the blade found its mark, slashing Erelim across the chest. Erachi slipped behind Erelim and blasted him from behind with a beam of red energy. When Erelim landed, he was very near Keryn, only twenty feet away. The Aryoril emperor stumbled to his feet, then looked up at Keryn. Keryn quickly drew her Katana to parry, as she saw him readying an attack. Then, time seemed to slow down. Everything seemed to be-no, everything had slowed down. Keryn glanced up and saw Erachi against the moon for a brief second, and then, Erachi was upon them, stabbing Erelim through the shoulder and crashing into the cage, creating an explosion of light, and Keryn felt the familiar presence of a portal as they passed through it.
Before they hit the ground, they slammed into something hard, but Keryn wasn't paying any attention to it. They slammed into the stone ground and created a large crater. Keryn slowly rose to her knees to see Erachi standing over the wounded Erelim, almost with contempt. Keryn looked around and saw a crowd of onlookers forming, all her friends and family she had left to win the battle. Erachi looked around as well, then stabbed Erelim through the other shoulder and flew off with him.
"Wait here!" Keryn exclaimed and summoned the rest of her strength to fly after them. She caught up to them in a plateau in the mountains. She flew down and landed roughly before continuing to run forward. Her mother could be seen lying on the ground, breathing, but unconscious. Erelim was being held up by the sword in his shoulder, Erachi holding the blade. Shadow's clung to Erachi, obscuring all of Erachi's features. As Keryn ran to Clara and checked on her, she realized that Erachi was definitely female, with silver hair that went just past her waist. She looked around and, to her surprise, saw two people she didn't recognize sitting on a mountain nearby, watching.
Keryn drew her soul blade, just in case, but Erachi shook her head. "That isn't needed." She told her.
"How do you know?"
"One of my powers. I know who and what they are, they're no threat to us."
"Forgive me if I'm skeptical."
"Don't worry. They don't concern you yet." Erachi replied and dropped Erelim to the ground. Shadows clinging to her still, she slashed once, and the throat of Erelim opened. Erelim dropped and dissolved into nothingness. "Return home, Keryn. Prepare for your next great adventure, for I predict it will be an interesting one."
"What will you do?" Keryn asked.
"I will wander. Much has changed and I must understand. There is no boundary or fortress or shield in this existence that can stop me from entering, so I shall go where I wish and do as I wish." Erachi replied. She pointed her sword up to the two unknowns. "You'll see them again, trust me." And with that, Erachi vanished into the shadows. Clara stirred awake and Keryn quickly helped her mother up, draping her mother's arm around her shoulders to support her. Before she turned to leave, she looked up at the two.
"You really seem menacing, up there." She called.
"That's a new impression." One of them said.
"The former emperor is the one who killed those planes, not us." Keryn said.
"We were aware. We watched." The other said.
"How'd you get there?" Keryn asked immediately. If more and more people could make it onto Erachus, there was a good chance she'd have to retreat to Urea to train herself.
"All in due time." The first said.
"You'll forgive me if my patience and obsession with security over my homeworld is tested by that answer."
"We will." One said, and Keryn zoomed her vision on them. Two women, a redhead and a brunette.
"And what do you mean by precursors?" Keryn blurted out as she felt Clara stir awake.
"It is not easy to explain. But you will learn it soon enough." The brunette said. Clara finally snapped back to reality and looked up at them. She looked as though she had some sort of memory of them, tilting her head to the side.
"Redhead...familiar..." Clara mumbled.
"She seems to be coming around." The brunette said. Clara blinked and focused on the redhead.
"Konstantin..." She muttered.
"Wait, what?" Keryn asked, remembering the stories her mother had told her of the man called Konstantin. The redhead smiled for a moment.
"Tell him I say hi." Clara called. The smile on the redhead's face became sad. "Ah." Clara grimaced. "Would I be allowed to know?"
"All in due time."
"Somehow I doubt I'll be needed for anything you'll want." Clara said.
"Things have been set in motion by your actions today. You will be needed." Paige said.
"A simple Jedi. That'll be the day." Clara chuckled.
"Heroes have been born from less." Paige pointed out.
"I've been considered a hero for a long time now." Clara replied. They smiled as they turned to leave.
"Any guess when I'll next see you?" Keryn called.
"A few years of peace, which you earned, then we will see you again, Keryn." One said.
"Somehow I doubt that." Keryn grumbled.
"Peace in our lives doesn't happen often." Clara said. "Any chance I could get your names?"
"For now, you may call us...Harton-Erachi." The brunette said, and they opened a portal of light and vanished.
"Ripoff artists." Keryn grumbled.
Resolution of the DamnedEdit
"Much alcohol. Very wow." Mason said, gazing fondly at the liquor cabinet of the Spartacus bar.
"Don't go digging, we're taking inventory for the funerals when we get back." Viv reminded him.
"I know, I know." Mason replied then looked back at the cabinet. "My guess is around eight hundred various bottles."
"That works." Viv said. She sighed before she spoke again. "New KIA list just came in."
"Xylia." Viv replied. "Got caught in the fires of the dragon, couldn't adapt fast enough."
"Damn..." Mason said.
"Wanna grab one of the bottles?" Viv asked. Knowing what she was getting at, Mason took down a rather light alcohol, considering they still had a lot of inventory to take, and cracked it open as Viv grabbed a set of glasses.
"What's going on?" Another Irish voice said as Aednat walked in. "Oh. You heard." She said and hung her head. Viv grabbed another glass and passed it to Aednat, who winced and rubbed the bandages on her face. Viv poured the bottle into the glasses quickly, and they wordlessly raised them before downing them. Aednat simply nodded before leaving.
As she walked on to her job for the ride back (which was to help repair the shields) she tried to push the memory of Xylia shoving her through a window out of her head. After she had sent Loran and Aurora away, she tried to close the open wounds on her face, and was distracted as the dragon fire barreled down towards her. Xylia had thrown her through the broken window of the building next to them, coming from out of nowhere. Aednat had suffered several second degree burns from the light cover she had. Xylia hadn't had the time to adjust her body to something that could withstand the heat. When Aednat was able to return to her feet, Xylia was simply a pile of dust.
She pushed the thoughts aside and vowed to not mention it to anyone. She didn't want to alienate herself again, so soon after reconciling with the others.
Kata paced in her room, reading a news tablet of what had happened while they had been away. None of the headlines seemed to read anything major, so she kept digging to find something that mattered. She dug around for nearly an hour before finding something worth reading. As she read it, a queasy feeling in her stomach started to intensify. She grabbed her comm after reading it and called Morri down to her room. Morri walked in, holding a bag of frozen peas to her left eye. Kata didn't ask what happened, everyone was injured after the last battle.
"I know that look." Morri sighed. "What happened?"
"A...scientist on Coruscant wants to register our kind." Kata said, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Register? The hell does that mean?"
"Names, addresses, abilities." Kata said and started pacing more quickly. "And they want blood samples from each of us. Morri, if this gets passed..."
"It won't." Morri immediately cut her off. "Kata, I know you're going to panic about this, but think. We've built good standings for our kind now, and we have friends in high places. Very high places." Morri said. "In fact, I have an idea that may shoot this down."
"What do you mean?"
"Give me a few minutes, and I'll be back." Morri said and left the room quickly. When she returned, she had Clara with her. "Ok, I explained everything. Here's what I'm thinking: You know how you and Mason took down Vythica and let Clara absorb her?"
"Yeah." Kata replied.
"Well, Clara absorbing Vythica won't do well to the public. We tell the public you guys killed her, and they'll warm up to us better." Morri said. Clara nodded.
"I like the idea. Keeps the press away from my family a little bit." She said.
"Yes, this should work." Kata said, smiling. "Morri, this is why you're the political figurehead."
"Yes, yes it is." Morri replied.
"I'm gonna go and speak with Keryn about this, she has a record for blurting things out when she shouldn't." Clara said.
"Don't we know it." Morri smirked. "I'll go let the others know." She said and the two left Kata alone in her room. Kata sank down onto her bed and stared at the ceiling for several minutes, contemplating how to go about taking credit for Vythica's death. A buzz sounded from her bedside table, and she grabbed her communications tablet. They had returned to an area where they could contact home. She quickly pressed a few buttons to contact home, knowing exactly who she wanted to speak to. Soon, a hologram of Jace appeared.
"Greetings from dark space." She said.
"Greetings from my bed." Jace said and rubbed his eyes. "Good timing."
"What time is it over there?" She asked.
"Eightish. Early." He replied.
"It is about eleven at night here. So, uh, we won."
"I know. Figured it would be hell around here if you hadn't." Jace said.
"True. Your mom and sis are both alright. Told you I'd bring them home." Kata said.
"Thank you for making sure. They may not have needed it, but thank you."
"No, one needed it. I killed Vythica to save your mom. Me and Mason." She replied.
"What?" Jace asked, sitting up. "How'd you pull that off?"
"I'll explain more when we get home." She paused. "We did lose some people out here."
"Care to tell...?"
"Vitor, Sola, Serra Urec, Xylia, several of the DC commanders." Kata said.
"Jeez..." Jace said and rubbed his face. "That's a lot."
"I know." Kata said, nodding. "How have things been at home?"
"Better. Some dumb regulations are trying to get passed." Jace said.
"I know. I'm...trying to not worry about that." Kata said.
"You'll be good. It isn't gonna get through."
"Just trying to think of what I'm gonna do when I get home."
"I'm always free." Jace said.
"I don't plan on leaving my house for the first few days. So you'll have to come over." Kata said.
"I can do that."
"Viv will be out drinking for the first week, so you won't have to worry about her."
"I suspect most people will."
"Hooray sobriety." Kata joked.
"Hooray for coming back alive."
"Speaking of which, Aednat is coming back." Kata said.
"Yep. She was out here with us, and is coming back." Kata told him.
"That may not be fun for some."
"And we both know who. Did you tell him she was out here?" She asked.
"No, not yet." He said, shaking his head.
"Might want to break it to him before she steps off the ship." She suggested.
"Don't worry, I will."
"Also, tell him..." She paused a moment. "Tell him I forgive him."
"Why the change of heart?"
"Something about seeing her again. It made me feel...I dunno, it just feels like something I should do." She tried to explain.
"Okay, I guess. I'll break all of that to him." Jace said. There was a long moment of quiet.
"So..." She said eventually. "How are you at cooking?"
"Well, I can reheat a damn good pizza." He joked.
"I hope you like that, because that's where my expertise ends as well." Kata said.
"I can live on it."
"I have been for years."
"I see you're the experienced once." He said.
"In more ways that you might think." She replied.
"Oh really." He said, getting a smirk and a wink in response. "Might have to, erm, test that experience."
"Well, someone's forward." She replied.
"Would you prefer me to be timid and sly?" He asked.
"I'm starting to see why Zyana sneaked into your house." She winked.
"Trust me, she brags." Kata said.
"I'm slightly scared now."
"Well, she has a list, see..."
"Wait, the less I know the better, I think." Jace said quickly.
"Probably." She said with a laugh.
"Oh, definitely." He chuckled. Her other comm buzzed and she quickly checked it.
"Shit. I'm on call for medical management tomorrow. Means I need to be up early."
"I gotcha. Duty calls."
"I'll say goodnight now, unless you want to watch me sleep." She said.
"I'll be Zyana for a day." He winked.
"You don't have roofies and a memory wipe." She replied.
"Who says I need them?" He asked.
"Be patient, little one. That comes later." Kata said.
"Okay, okay. Get some rest." he said and she tossed her jacket aside.
"See you in two days." She told him.
"Seeya soon, Kata."
"Night." She said, and, surprising herself, blew a kiss at his hologram. Even through the hologram, she could tell he was blushing. "Night." She repeated and the call ended. She figured he was saying something like "Woah" Back on earth, and smiled as she went to sleep.
Morri watched as Clara spoke to public via video conference. She was summing up her experiences as an Aryoril captive and how they had defeated the Aryoril, taking the time to honor those who fell in the battles. Once her speech was over, very exclusive press members were allowed a limited number of questions. As Morri predicted, the first question asked was "Ma'am, you mentioned briefly how the Skulblaka was destroyed during this conflict. Would you be able to shed light on that in any way?"
"Yes." She replied, nodding. "My rescue took place during one of the battles, one that the Skulblaka herself was participating in. I was rescued by Katalena Akulov, who killed my captors." She said, and there was a definite stir in the press crowd. "We returned to the field of battle and found the Skulblaka dueling with other Hybrids. Upon seeing me, she blasted Katalena away and came very close to killing me. However, a joint effort by Katalena as well as Mason Young caused her to lose control of her powers and weapons, resulting in her death."
"Ma'am, would you say that this would help the Hybrids' arguments against the suggested registration?"
"Does it have to?" Clara asked. "If they want to use it as an argument, they can. But from what I've seen, all the wrongs they've committed after the initial encounters with Dmitri Akulov are our own fault. The Hybrids are like any other race, and are deserving of the same treatment as any other being with a superpower. We've treated everyone else the same thus far, why not them?" Clara said. Very soon after, she wrapped the speech up and ended the conference.
"Think this will end things?" She asked Morri.
"It'll never end." Morri said. "But it won't be as bad." She smiled. "Thanks, you gave this damned race some resolution in our lives." Morri said and hugged Clara.
Caden stood with Jace on the landing platform, surrounded by hundreds of other families and friends of people who had departed to fight the Aryoril. They watched the sky patiently, until the Spartacus and the Orslade came into view. "It's lucky they made it home in one piece." Jace commented.
"Trust me, when you're someone like them, you make your own luck." Caden told his son. The ships landed, and chaos reigned as people rushed to find their loved ones. The two Ferrans were caught in a landslide of people as they looked for their own family.
"This place is so freakin crowded." Jace said.
"Believe me, I wish it was more crowded. That'd be a good thing." He said. The crowd continued to intensify. "Jace, spread out, see if we can find them quicker."
"Alright, no problem." Jace said and they split up to search. As he walked through the crowd, someone far shorter than him slammed into his chest, wrapped their arms around him, and started crying. He looked down and his eyes widened. "Mom!" he exclaimed and hugged her back. Through the crying, she started repeating the phrase; "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" over and over again. He bent down so they were eye-level.
"Don't be, whatever it is, don't be." he said.
"I always will be, son." She said, wiping her eyes.
"Whatever it is, it surely can't be that bad." He tried to reassure her, but she shook her head vehemently.
"No...it's terrible, I failed you..." She choked.
"What are you talking about?" He asked gently.
"All those years...obsessing with making sure Vythica didn't kill your sister...I...I all but ignored you...my son..." She said and started hugging him again.
"All that obsessing made you ready for it. It was justified." Jace said.
"No...no it wasn't." Clara sobbed. "And it never will be."
Meanwhile, Caden was searching the crowd and felt a finger tap his shoulder. He turned and found his smiling daughter, Keryn. "Ker!" He said.
"Hey, Dad." She said and hugged him. He could tell there was something different about her. She was clearly more tired in every possible way than she normally would have been, even after a mission.
"Hey kid, you seem pretty exhausted." He said.
"Yeah...that last duel, it really did a number on me." Keryn admitted.
"I understand. You'll get plenty of rest now, though." Caden assured her.
"Yes, sleep." Keryn said. "Sleep sounds good."
"You did good, child." He said and ruffled her hair. Keryn glanced past him and saw Morri hugging a shocked looking Skylar. With a pang, she remembered Skylar had been very close friends with Serra.
"Not good enough." She sighed.
"It won't ever go perfectly." He told her sadly.
"Yeah..." She sighed as Clara and Jace approached them. Clara practically tackled Caden, leaving the siblings to converse.
"Oh, hey sis." Jace said. She punched him in the arm.
"That's all you open with?" She asked.
"Can't be too mushy." Jace said and they hugged.
"Yeah, yeah, not with me, anyway. There's someone who wants to talk to you a lot more than me right now." She said and pointed over his shoulder. Kata was standing on her own, watching them reunite, a small smile on her face.
"Yeah, okay. I'll catch up with you at home." Jace said.
"I'll be asleep. See you in the morning, use protection." Keryn ordered and headed off. Jace rolled his eyes and headed over to Kata.
"I think you grew." She said.
"Oh really? A bigger me better?" He asked.
"Don't flatter yourself." She replied and stretched up, wrapping her arms around his neck to hug him.
"Yeah, yeah." He replied and hugged her back. At that moment, Viv walked by, noticing them.
"Bow chicka bow wow." She said loudly as as she passed.
"So glad to see things haven't changed much." He said, half joking, half sarcastic. She pulled back, only so that she could look up at him, arms still around his neck.
"So. Your sister is gonna be out like a light, and your parents are gonna want some...privacy. Want to crash at my place tonight?" She asked, smiling.
"I like the thought of that."
"Don't you be presuming anything, sir. I only want company for now." She said.
"Who said I was thinking anything else?"
"The chaos of your mind and your blood flow." She replied with a smirk.
"Yeeeaahh..." Jace said, scratching the back of his neck.
"Come on." She said. "Come say hi to Morri and Axel, Mason's off to the bar already."
"Who would've guessed that?" Jace said, and they found Morri and Axel speaking to a white haired young man who was pacing.
"Jace, meet Quickie." Kata said.
"Um, hello Quickie." Jace said.
"Greetings." Said the man.
"Jace, Quickie was one of the assassins who imprisoned the Original crew. After that, he joined us and has been...keeping tabs on things like the Registry." Morri explained.
"A spy. Interesting." Jace mused.
"I'm actually a reporter." Quickie said.
"Close enough in my book." Jace replied.
"He's just like the tabloids say." Quickie shook his head. "I should be off. I'll return in a few weeks."
"Clint, please be careful this time." Axel said.
"Fine, fine." Quickie said and vanished.
"Tabloids?" Jace asked.
"Don't worry about it." Kata quickly said.
"Well, we're headed home. We'll see you guys later, good to see you again, Jace." Morri said, and Axel clapped Jace on the shoulder as they passed.
"You took, Axel."
"Ok, come, home now." Kata said.
"Ladies first." He said, and she grabbed his hand and led him to her house. Once they arrived, she escorted him to the living room.
"This dress has an unholy amount of Aryoril blood in it, I'm gonna go give it a wash and change." She said.
"Alright, I'll be here."
"Hope so." She said and left the room. She returned a few minutes later, clad in training pants and a tank top.
"Feeling a little better?" He asked, and she sank down into the couch.
"Great." He said and sat next to her. She flicked her hand and a frozen pizza removed itself from the freezer and began to cook itself in the kitchen. "You really are special." He chuckled.
"Did you just notice?" She asked.
"No, but its still great to see it in person." He replied.
"Oh, you." She said and floated a binder over to her and caught it out of the air. "Little known facts about me...big movie fan."
"Oh really? Any type?" He asked.
"Basically any, if done right." She said, flipping through the binder. "My all time favorite is a horror film from 1960." She said and pulled a small disc from the binder. "Would you like to see it?"
"Why not?" He said.
"Alright, few things we'll need." She said and floated over three blankets, a small cooler, and a large box of assorted candies.
"You have this planned out already?" He asked.
"Whenever I watch this film, certain things must happen." She said and dropped the blankets on top of them. "You don't mind sharing, do you?"
"Not at all."
"I've trained you well." She said and turned all the lights off, save the holo-tv.
"Or I just know what I'm doing." He replied, eliciting an eye roll from her. She moved over so she could rest her head on his shoulder, and when the pizza went ding in the kitchen, she floated it over to his lap. He put an arm around her.
"This couldn't get too much better, could it?" He asked. She simply let out a contented sigh. She didn't say another word that night, falling asleep immediately after the film ended. Before he too went to sleep, Viv returned home. The moment she lay eyes on them her jaw opened.
"She did the Psycho viewing with you?" She whispered.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"This serious. I'll fuck off now." Viv said and slipped up the stairs. Jace contained a small laugh before going to sleep himself.
Axel walked down the stairs into the kitchen, where he found Aednat sitting at the table, leaning forward and gazing down into a steaming cup. "You develop a taste for coffee yet?" He asked. She snorted.
"Hell no. I'm a tea girl." Aednat replied.
"Don't let Morri hear that, she might kick you out." He said and sat down across from her. "May I ask you something?"
"I suppose." She replied, amiable, but he sensed a level of apprehension in her.
"Why did you come back?" He asked, and she seemed to breathe out slightly, as though she were relieved.
"I came back because I was alone. Because I was tired of being alone. I didn't feel guilty about leaving, it was something I needed to do at the time. I never meant it to last as long as it did, things just...happened. I always meant to come back when I felt the time was right."
"Alright." Axel said, nodding. "I get that." He paused a moment, then went on. "So, what are your plans for the future, now that you're here?"
"I dunno. I'm gonna start by looking around base, see if anything's changed." Aednat said and finished her drink. She rose and started to walk to the door.
"One more question." Axel called. "What were you doing when you were away?" He asked, and she froze midstep. Without turning, she replied.
"Axel, please understand, that's a question I can't answer just yet. I'll tell you one day. In time." She said. With that, she hurried from the house, leaving him very confused in the kitchen. Morri came down several minutes later.
"Morning." She yawned, kissing him on the ear as she passed. "Where'd Aednat go?"
"Out to see what has changed in the base."
"So, not much." Morri said and opened the cupboard to look for food. She tossed over a small folder to the table.
"What's this?" Axel asked.
"Plans I'm thinking of." Morri said. "I want to wait a few days before pitching this to the rest of the basement crew."
"Basement crew." Axel said, shaking his head as he opened it. He read for a few minutes before returning his gaze to her. "This could be hard to get into effect, but...I'm in."
"We'll have to wait for that registration crap to die down before we even consider pitching this to anyone official." Morri said, pulling down a box of cereal that looked like it was months old. "But I would really like to try."
"Me too. Let me know when you want to grab everyone and we'll convince them."
"I'm not worried about them. Kata will jump all over the idea. Quickie, Mason, Viv, they'll all be in, maybe even Jace."
"Just need to make sure the humans will let us."
"Not a matter of letting us." Morri reminded him. "It's a matter of us doing it legally."
"True. Now you're just exciting me."
"That's my job, isn't it?" She asked, and tossed the cereal box out.
Keryn sat in the forests outside Kaven, cross-legged on a rock by a stream. In her lap, she held the Katana that had been gifted to her by the Urea. She was contemplating the power of the weapon in her possession, possibly one of the most powerful blades in existence. She could actually feel the power radiating from it. Most people of lesser power were oblivious to it, but she figured beings of higher power would be able to sense it once they were near. The power almost felt alive. Curious, she extended her soul to the sword, and felt, to her surprise, a response. "Huh. You're alive, aren't you?"
There was a positive response from the weapon.
"Alright...I can sense your power, and I know it is greater than mine. What I'm thinking is that we share our power for mutual benefit, and you can teach me to grow in power."
Another positive response.
"Talking swords, now?" Her mother's voice said behind her. Keryn turned her head to see her mother approaching.
"Yeah, I guess so." Keryn said, and could have sworn that the sword was offended.
"The Gallifreyians have something similar. Be careful with this thing, it could get messy." Her mother said.
"Yeah, I know."
"Also, something you should be aware of. Erachi is still out there, you know this?"
"Well, in addition to her visible abilities, she possesses one of the most dangerous abilities I've ever heard of. She calls it 'Perfect Attunement'."
"Do I want to know what that means?"
"It means that she becomes the place she sets foot on within existence. From this state, she can know all things within the place she is, predict them, render them all but useless against her, when she is using this at her strongest, I don't think she can be touched."
"I hope she's on our side." Keryn said.
"Having touched her mind, I think we're good for now." Clara said. "But be mindful of that ability if you ever encounter her again. Whatever our so-called predecessors may think, I'm a simple Jedi now, nothing more. I won't be able to help you if you need to fight someone extraplanar like them."
"I understand." Keryn said quietly, nodding.
"I hate to say it, dear, but you're the best protection this plane, these people, hell, a lot of existence in general. I hate that I have to, but I've no choice but to pass that responsibility on to you."
"I know. I figured it would happen once the battles were over." Keryn nodded.
"Word of advice for the next great protector: Stay close to your friends, don't run away like I used to do a lot." Clara said. "They'll be the most valuable asset you have." Keryn was quiet, but seemed to understand. "I'll leave you out here, I suppose. You'll need to mull this over." Clara said.
Keryn thanked her mother and returned her gaze to the screen. "Alright...the next great protector is me." She muttered as her mother left. She looked at the sword. "Swordplay. I only really know the styles of this plane. Care to share the other planes'?"
There was a half-positive response. Keryn sighed and supposed it would take more convincing than that. She spoke with the blade for several hours before returning home. She made a stop by the training area, where she found Merric practicing with her Uncle Loran and Aunt Aurora. She watched for a while until they stopped and called it a draw. Her aunt and uncle left and she walked over to Merric.
"You leave your left shoulder open whenever you fence." She told him. "It's a small window, but it's there."
"Maybe I knew that. Maybe I try to bait people in with it." Merric replied. "What's wrong, Keryn?"
"What makes you think something is wrong?" She replied.
"Pointing out something so rudimentary isn't like you." He answered. She sighed. Bastard knows me too well.
"I'm worried." Keryn said. "I'm worried about how I'm supposed to adapt to the grand protector persona my mom used to have. She was the figurehead for all of the defense of the Coalition space, this whole plane. Now, her powers are gone, and I'm stuck taking up the mantle. How do I do that?"
"Just be you." Merric said. "I know you try to hide under that cocky exterior, but believe it or not, you're a likable person. A likable person with some badass powers and one of the most marketable styles of fighting in the universe. Keryn, you'll do fine."
"Yeah...probably...it's just daunting, you know?" She said.
"I know." He nodded. "Come on, let's go find some food, your family always makes me hungry after I spar them." Merric said. Keryn smiled and they left, passing her parents, who were entering. Clara led Caden into the ring and she tossed her cloak aside.
"I know it's you, but you really want to spar someone on the first day back?" He asked.
"Absolutely." She replied. "I have been dying to know this since I lost my powers." Clara said.
"You still haven't told me what this is." Caden reminded her.
"I want to know who is better. I've had my enhancements in the past, but you've been human the whole time. Now that I'm stuck on your level, let's see how I match up." Clara smiled.
"On my level, huh?" He said. "Alright, then. Whenever you're ready." He drew his two red sabers. A manic grin spread across her face, along with a sparkle in her eyes that he hadn't seen in years. She drew her signature yellow lightsaber, and she dashed at him, grinning the whole way.
Rise of the NineEdit
He looked up at his creation, proud of all the hours and days he had put into the making of the behemoth. He smiled and turned from the room, heading for his meeting. He stepped into the meeting room, a circular room with several chairs in a circle themselves, much like the Jedi Council's Council Chamber. It was empty, which meant his soon-to-arrive comrades would be joining him shortly. He sat down in one of the chairs and rested one ankle on his other knee. He glanced at a clock, and watched as the numbers hit noon, the exact time of the meeting's start.
The lights unexpectedly dimmed, and he smiled. He counted to nine, and the lights came back on, far dimmer than they had been before. Nine cloaked Sith Lords stood before him. Seven were clad in black, while the remaining two, who stepped forward, wore red robes with silver armor. The taller of the two, the group's leader, spoke. "All evidence suggesting the Hybrids were directly responsible for the Skulblaka's death is inconclusive. The only true evidence they have are the word of Renner."
"It's all the really need, I fear." He sighed and shook his head. "As long as the public believes her, all hope for my registration will be lost."
"Smear their image. Her image, the entire Squadran's image, make the public hate them." The shorter red-clad Sith said.
"You speak as though it were a simple thing to do." He snapped. "The most I will be able to do is smear the images of individual hybrids. With Akulov supposedly the killer of the Skulblaka, she will not be an easy target."
"May I suggest Sigurdson?" One of the black clad Sith said.
"Her name alone gives her credibility. She would not be as difficult to target, but it would still remain a challenge."
"Evester is a master of destruction." The short red Sith said. "There is documented evidence of Akulov destroying a city of innocents during the invasion. He can recreate the damages done to cause a stir. From there, we could begin the public smear campaigns."
"Very well. I see no other option." He said. The black-clad Sith who stood at the back of the group, the one known as Evester, remained silent. In all his time working with the Sith, he had never heard Evester say a word. "Before we continue, I would like to inform your group of something." He said. He rose from his seat and snapped his fingers. A hologram appeared, showing the two red clad Sith speaking. Each of the nine froze as the conversation sounded through the room. When the conversation ended, he snapped his fingers again, and the hologram vanished.
"I'm well aware you planned to take over my operation once my usefulness came to an end. You fear the Hybrids, I know that, so you want to use me to prepare yourselves." He smiled as none of them moved. "So I took some precautions." On cue, the nine-foot tall machine dropped from the ceiling and landed behind him. "A part of my plan you are not aware of is the fact that I do not plan to stop at registration. No, I plan to use the blood samples to create a Hybrid hunter, the thing that stands behind me now."
A few of the Sith made moves to draw sabers or fire lighting, and he raised a hand. "I wouldn't do that. The thing that makes the Hybrids dangerous is that each and every one of them is unique. There are no duplicates, so one may not have the same weaknesses as another. That aside, in my research, I found that each and every war that has begun over the past centuries has been caused by superpowered beings. Therefore, I have decided that in a universe without powers, we will all be safer." The machine's red eyes bored into the Sith, scanning them.
"Something I found while researching force users is that they all have a similar DNA makeup. So, I took samples of this makeup and gave them to this machine, here. Now it is adapting to hunt Force Users. I can do the same with Elemental Powers, Psychic powers, and all other powers in the universe. Then, we would not need to worry about powerful beings destroying our homes. We would simply rely on this, and the army it can create, to defend us." He smiled. "So go now, Evester, you begin to destroy cities. The rest of you, bring me blood samples of all power forms, please."
After a long moment, the lights dimmed again, the only light coming from the red light of the machine behind him. When it came back on, the Sith had vanished. "The nine will draw attention from me, and we can begin our work soon." He said. "You need not worry, my friend, you can hunt again, soon."
Strangely, the droid seemed to smile.