Enduras had been making his way up the tower for some time, and marveled at the tasteful beauty of the place. Dark, brooding music was ever playing throughout the grand halls, and the carvings inlaid into the ceilings and walls and pillars was masterful, surpassing the works of Michelangelo. And the people inside genuinely surprised Enduras! Yes, the place bristled with Imperial guards, but running around all over the place were great intellectual men and women, burdened with great stacks of scrolls and parchments of either historical, magical, or philosophical importance. It was a hub of learning and scholarly advancements. Clearly, the Emperor was not all about brute force, and had his nuances and refined tastes.
So comfortable was Enduras around in this new environment, and they around him, that he pulled off his hood and let his waist-length hair fall freely. He had no fear of attack here, for his face was unknown to the Empire, and these people had no interest in him. He just weaved his way through the intricate citadel, making his way up to the top in a spiraling fashion. He failed to notice the men and women hiding their selves in the shadowy corners, adorned in intricate armor similar to that of Galbradi in that it was light, ornate, black, and had swirling patterns of arcane importance. They bore no cloaks though, and their armor was all of the same stock, whereas Galbradi had borne a truly unique carapace. Further, the patterns that adorned their armor were almost as imperceptible as they were. These men and women watched Enduras make his progress up the citadel, seen by no one, not even the scholars who were admittedly too busy to take notice or the ever vigilant guard, which says much about their stealth.
This changed when Enduras came upon great double doors of stone with intricate carvings depicting ancient heroes fighting off terrible demons in a great display of grandeur. Atop the arch above them was a single Roman Numeral: “L”. This clearly showed the area beyond to be of the fiftieth floor. Already, as Enduras approached the great doors, the music in the back of his mind began to grow more ominous and urgent with each step.
Finally, he opened the great doors, and as he did so, a great chill buffeted him from within. He ignored both this and the music as he stepped into a much darker chamber adorned with carvings of large, black roses in the wall. Some torches in the shape of roses provided some meager lighting. Enduras strode in warily, searching for signs of movement.
It came as a great surprise to him when the doors he had just passed through shut behind him with no warning. He whirled around to see the great stone doors block his exit menacingly, and he was now worried about what was going on here. He was even more surprised and worried when he heard a smooth voice from behind him.
“Welcome, traveler.” The speaker said eloquently. Enduras again whirled around to see a man in a black cloak/coat-garment identical to the Dean. This man was of slightly stockier build though, and when he waved his hands through the air as he spoke, they gave the impression of being as fluid as water. “You have come a long way to see the High Lord. It might disappoint you to know that you will go no further.”
“Who says I’ll go no further?” Enduras shot back.
The man let out a low chuckle at this statement before removing his concealing hood. Upon doing so, black, translucent rose petals fell from around his head, accentuating his jet black, spiky, shoulder-length hair. “I do. You go no further, ‘hero,’ because you now face Stylix!” As he said this, he whirled his arm behind him and in a showy flash of more petals a heavy, ebony scythe appeared in his hand. He held it in his right hand behind him lazily, as if it were a heavy weight.
Enduras let out a heavy sigh before taking up the Guilt half of the Judgement Wheel replica from his pack. “You asked for it, ‘Lord.’”
With that, the furious battle began between the two. Stylix brought his scythe, the black blade glowing dully, to carve through the air horizontally. It cut through the air, sending an ebony shockwave at Enduras, with translucent obsidian rose petals trailing along. The hero leapt above it, bringing his own scythe bearing down upon Stylix’s neck from behind, so as to decapitate him.
The man saw this coming though, and gracefully moved his scythe upward and flipped it around in his fingers, letting the snaiths of both scythes come together with a loud smack. And there Stylix kept the Wheel back with his strength, the curved, crescent-moon-like blade inches from the nape of his neck.
There was a moment of struggle between the two, each trying to press the other back whilst moving closer to a fatal blow. At some points, Enduras could feel his breath fall upon Stylix’s fell scythe, and at others, Stylix could feel his hair grazed by Enduras’ Wheel. However, Enduras knew he couldn’t endure this struggle for much longer. He had learned some time ago that the Lords were superhuman(at a cost), and that they had the edge in terms of endurance. So he took his scythe and made a motion to whip it back towards him.
Enduras had failed to realize what predicament this would cause though. With a snick, the blade of the Wheel snagged itself against the blade of Stylix’s scythe, entangling both weapons. For a few moments, the two combatants began to try to disengage whilst trying to pull the opponent’s weapon out of their grasp. There was much pulling and tugging upon the snaiths, and the moment was a tad awkward. They paid no mind though.
Stylix grew tired of the game, and suddenly whipped his right leg out from under his coat, striking Enduras in his armored side with all his strength. The hero was knocked to the ground, and his Wheel replica fell from his hands and clattered onto the floor. The Lord was quick to place his foot over it, so as to prevent Enduras from reclaiming it. Thus, the Doom Knight brought his face up from the ground to behold a grim sight; Stylix standing firmly upon the Wheel, his own weapon handing in his right hand ominously and lazily.
“See how your life ends here, ‘hero?’” Stylix sneered. “You are weaponless. Even if you were to get past me-and you won’t-, you’d be powerless before the Emperor. You are lower than lower than dirt! He has many plans into motion before even Lore had existed. You have no chance. Beg for mercy, and maybe Galbradi will merely execute you on the spot as a criminal, instead of subjecting you to the Emperor’s sadistic will.”
“Or maybe I’ll destroy your dark Master, Stylix!” Enduras spat out with confidence.
At this, the Lord scoffed. “Have you been told nothing?!” he exclaimed. “’Dark Master,’ indeed! You know nothing of the true Empire! Now beg, like the dog you are!”
“Never! So long as I still breathe, I will never stop!”
“So be it…” Stylix said with a malicious grin on his fair face. He raised his gloved left hand up to the roof, and between his fingers was a black spark. Suddenly, there was a storm of dark intent in the entire chamber as a powerful gale brought forth black petals, blinding Enduras but not the Lord.
“You coward!” Enduras cried out into the gale. The only response was a flash of Stylix’s scythe passing right over Enduras’s head. It was a do-or-die situation for Enduras, and in this gale, he was forced to call upon some of his higher ninjitsu training from Thyton.
”This is one of our most advanced techniques, Enduras.” Thyton had said to him. “You will be the first outsider to have learned this secret. I am going to blindfold you now, and you will spar with me.”
“But master!” Enduras cried out(he had been much younger and less disciplined then) as Thtyon took a black cloth and wrapped it around his eyes. “How am I to see you if I am blind?”
“You will not try to see me with your eyes, but with your mind, my student. Your senses can be easily cheated, and there will be times when you will be unable to see. I will not send you out without this most useful tool. How will you find the Darkness Orb in your travels? I am sure you will have to seek out the dark places of this world. Now, open your mind, and feelthe world around you. You can feel the mana all around you in this world as it flows through everything. Focus on that mana, and form the shapes it takes in your mind. Strike me!”
Enduras, eager to please his teacher, made a wild attempt at striking the ninja, only to be quickly countered and feel a fist strike him in the gut, and send him to the ground, gasping for air. “Tsk, tsk, tsk.” The ninjitsu master clucked. “You didn’t even try that time! This is a critical skill for you to master! Once mastered, you will even be able to detect my presence if I had chosen to hide from you. Please, take this seriously and try. Now… Again!” And so the two went on like that for hours at a time every day over many weeks. Eventually, Enduras did master the skill, and he was now glad he had, for it saved his life that day.
The young man tapped into the power of his mind, and was able to “see” the mana in everything around him, un-obscured by the petals and gale. And there was Stylix’s aura, with his fell scythe, bringing his weapon down for the kill. Enduras quickly rolled off to the side, narrowly avoiding death. He then sprung up, and even as the gale buffeted him and tried to knock him back down, he called upon the armor’s dark powers, and unleashed them in a large blast from his body. There was a gruntand a dull thud as something or someone was thrown against the wall.
Enduras was quick to stoop down and feel around wildly in search of his own scythe, and found it just as he heard Stylix bring himself up to his feet. “You do have some tricks up your sleeve, then, ‘hero.’” Stylix sneered from within the blackening gale. “But I tire of this.” This said, the storm of petals parted down the middle, creating a long, wide corridor, with Enduras at one end and Stylix at another. The gale then grew furious, and to step into it would probably mean having the flesh stripped from one’s very bones as they yet lived. “This ends here and now, Lorian.”
The Terran slave took his sable scythe in one hand and rushed at Enduras, a look of pure contempt upon his face, contorting its fair features. With an animal-like snarl, he brought the blade of his scythe down upon Enduras’ head. There was a clash of metal on metal as Enduras raised his own scythe to intercept the devastating blow.
Again, the two were interlocked in a struggle, but Stylix clearly had the upper-hand now. His strength was pushing the Lorian across the floor, where he would be backed up against the wall and slowly crushed to death under the shadow of a man’s inhuman strength. Already, Enduras could feel his heel come up against the wall. Even if it offered extra support of the wall, and the strength his armor lent him, he could not stand up to the Lord’s strength. It was then that Enduras took a risky move. It would require giving up a bit of his own life force, but it might give hum the burst of strength necessary to fend off the cloaked man…
Even as Stylix pressed forwards, Enduras made the pact with his armor. He could feel the life drain out of his as the armor doubled his strength in a burst of dark power. With a savage roar, Enduras pushed back his foe as Darkness came about him, and hurled the unprepared Stylix towards the other end of their battleground.
Bewilderment and hatred in his eyes, the man clad in black renewed his assault on a prepared Enduras. He let out a savage diagonal slash at the Doom Knight, which was easily evaded with a duck. As he came up, Enduras, still with strength empowered by his life force, abandoned his own weapon and quickly jabbed his opponent in the ribs. The grip on the ebony scythe was loosened, and with a kick, Enduras took it from Stylix’s weakening grasp and claimed it for himself. With great dexterity he beat Stylix back with the snaith over to the wall once again, leaving the ShadowScythe Lord defenseless. Before he could react to this reversal, Enduras lost himself in his blood-lust, and flung the scythe over to its owner.
The weapon spun almost gracefully in the air. Time seemed to slow down as it carved through the air towards its master with deadly accuracy, and a blade pointed at his torso. There was a disheartening squelch noise as the blade sank into the man’s heart and embedded itself into the stone wall. Almost immediately, the petals in the air vanished, and the gale died down, to be replaced with gasping and gulping noises as the once mighty now struggled to extract his own weapon from his chest.
Enduras stood there, horrified at what he had done under the influence of the armor. While he would have probably killed the Lord anyways, he would have tried to offer redemption. And he recalled how mercilessly he had offed the previous Lord as well without a second though. He could already hear the armor whispering into his heart, and he had given in twice already.
While Enduras was shell-shocked, Stylix managed, with great pain, to extricate the blade from his torso. There was a little blood, but it had grown dark and sluggish in his years of toil, and flowed slowly through his veins. He was doubled over in pain as he took his bloodied weapon in hand, still intent to slay his target.
“You…” he hissed at Enduras as he pointed at him. Enduras was brought out of his reverie, for he had thought Stylix dead. “So long as his will sustains me, I will fight you…”
At this, the room grew ever darker, as if another presence of power had made itself known. Suddenly, a ring of blue fire, with fiery runes of arcanic nature within, burst forth on the ground before Stylix, casting his twisted face in a horrible, eerie blue light. Endures could then perceive a dark figure in the center of the ring, whispering dark words to the fallen Lord. What Enduras saw was a figure clad in similar fashion as Stylix, with a hood over his head. What Stylix saw, though…
Before him was his Master, Mordred, clad in his battle armor, with his hair and cloak flowing in the air as if some invisible, imperceptible played with them. His face was set into a stern expression of disappointment, and his eyes glittered like some infernal fire. His arms hung loosely by his sides as he spoke to his servant.
“Thou hath carried out thy faithful service, Stylix. Now, my servant, thy need has come to an end. I dost possess no further need of thee; thou hath been a stepping stone for Enduras, as I hadst planned all along. Thus, I release thee from thy service and mine will, and leave thee to Death of this world.”
“No, please Master!” Stylix cried out, his eyes filled with terror. “Do not leave me to this sorry fate! You promised me my heart and soul! I am Forsaken, and Death has hunted for me for millennia! Now, you will cast me out from your protection?!”
“Yes, for that is thy fate. Thou art the last of the eleven I created in this form, and Death stands beside us now, even as I relinquish thee to him. Go now, and suffer thy fate!”
Stylix let out a silent cry of terror even as his body began to fade into Darkness; the Darkness from where Death had set aside solely for him, to wallow in forever without body or soul. And so ended Stylix’s cursed life on Terra.
Even Enduras watched this spectacle take place, the figure within the circle faded from his sight, as if he had never been there. Now alone, Enduras made his way for the doors leading ever upwards this tower. He strode forth, and pushed open the doors, to find himself on the outside of the citadel’s imposing wall.
There on the platform, as if waiting for him, was a man clad in pure white robes, with a white cloak upon his back. He was an elf, with silver hair that came down to his shoulders. Upon his hip was a golden sword with a blade that was curved this way and that, as if the edges were meant to be the ripples of a wave. The guard was in the form of a sun. He was watching the goings on below from the banister of the platform, but turned upon hearing the doors be cast open.
“Hail and well me-“ the figure began, but stopped as he recognized the man before him. He recognized his pupil, Enduras, and yet also saw in him a man he wished never to see. “Enduras, is that really you, here?”
“Er, yes.” Enduras said, caught off guard by the stranger. “But you are?”
“Oh, right, you haven’t ever really seen me.” The stranger mused to himself. “You knew me as the Old Man of the Mountain, but in this form and life, I was known as Mortimer. But pay no mind to that. What brings you here?”
“The Lords saw fit to bring me here to stop the ShadowScythe, of course.” Enduras said, as if it were common knowledge.
“How can you fight them like this? You’ll be ripped to shreds. I see you bear a cursed armor. Please, let me just look into your mind, and see what damage there is that I could possibly undo.”
Without really waiting for an invitation, Mortimer cast his consciousness into Enduras’, and searched around for festering evil. He found none, but he found something that disturbed him. Placed within the young man’s mind was a barrier that cut him off from the deeper recesses of his mind, placed long ago through magiscience of some sort. When he came upon this, he found it prevented Enduras from attaining his full potential, and thus, broke it down.
“There was no evil within you, thankfully.” Mortimer said, breathing a sigh of relief. He made no mention of the barrier, however. “But what folly is this, to send such an innocent man into my own fruit of folly?” he murmured to himself as he bowed his head in shame.
“You have grown much, my student.” Mortimer said to Enduras slowly. “But I see you are no less haughty than ever. Arrogance will be your downfall. Please, come with me, so as we make work together to cast down this citadel and undo the wrongs of this man. For your sake, at the very least, accept my help.”
“I will accept it gladly.” Enduras said has he began up the stairs leading upwards. “Just keep up with me, old man.”
Inwardly, Mortimer cursed at the Lords for choosing Enduras. He saw no good tidings in it…
The two had been making their way up the tower in silence, for Enduras was not one for companions, and Mortimer was pondering deeply over the barriers in Enduras’ mind, why the Lords had chosen him of all people(despite being a renowned hero, he seemed far too arrogant for the task), and how his own foolishness had spiraled out of control into this situation.
They had reached the seventy-seventh floor before anything eventful occurred. Again, they found their selves on the outside of the spire, and the view allowed them to see the Imperial capital in all its glory. The two stood at the edge, overlooking the peace and prosperity the ShadowScythe had brought to these people. There were children playing as if all was well, and men and women conducted their business as they would any other day, and got along quite wonderfully with the troops.
“Y’know…” Enduras began wistfully to his companion. “It’s times like this when I wonder whether we’re doing the right thing.”
“What nonsense is this?” Mortimer said with horror in his voice.
Meanwhile, Mordred, too, was overlooking his subjects, but from much farther above. He felt that something was… amiss.
“That presence…” the usurper mused to himself. “Where hadst I felt it before? Could it be-?” with that glimmer of a thought, he then disappeared in a flash of bright light to confront this unbidden guest.
“Well, just look down there.” Enduras continued. “They all look so… happy. Happier than the people of Falconreach ever did.”
“Happiness is not the issue here, Enduras.” The old elf responded coldly. “It is that their lord and master has deprived them of their free will. This community is an affront to all of Lorithia’s design. They are powerless to commit any crimes, or speak out against the Empire, or even quarrel with their neighbor. Such is what they envision for this universe.”
There was cold laughter at this remark from a figure behind them. The two heroes turned suddenly to face this new arrival. They beheld on the stairs a little ways away the cloaked Master of this citadel. “My, my, if it isn’t Mortimer the Wise.”
At the name and title, the white-clad elf took his blade from his hip in hand and put himself between the figure and Enduras, and his twisted blade between himself and the entity. “Mordred Tumultu…” the old one breathed, as if it pained him.
“I’m surprised that thou hath called upon me by name. Dost the boy know of our kinship?” Hearing this, Enduras let out a gasp in shock. This seemed to please the hooded figure to no end, and brought forth more heartless mirth from his hidden lips. “Of course thou hadst not! Even now, thou doth not dare tell anyone that I am thy son! And even now, I am so much more… See how the blood doth drain from thy face! This mayst be my ultimate triumph; Mortimer Tumultu, powerless before his own son! Surpassed in age, power, and wisdom!”
Enduras could do little but stare agape in shock. That the kindly Old Man in the Mountain should have spawned the entity that had ruined countless lives throughout its life… “I have long since denounced you as my son…” Mortimer said with a voice that sounded as heavy as lead. “As for the title ‘the Wise,’ I have abandoned that, too. I was a fool to not see what was coming over you.”
Hearing this, the figure removed his hood, showing his pale, fair face to Enduras for the first time and letting his long black hair flow freely once more. “Not, thou art a fool for not seeing what came over thy own Order!” he spat out with great vehemence. “Dost thou even now deny what was going on all those long years passed?!”
“Long for thee, maybe…” Mortimer countered. “But for me, it was little more than a thousand years since the old Order, once grand, was destroyed by your own hands. Since then, I’ve toiled endlessly to restore it, as the Earth Lord appointed me to.”
“So, then that is how thou doth yet live… I hath been done a great favor, for it gives me the pleasure of slaying thee again.”
“You’re a monster…” Enduras cut in with conviction in his voice.
Again, Mordred let out laughter. “So I am, according to thee, am I? I do not recall calling upon thee for thy take on the matter, tool. I must admit, thou doth feel… changed… since we last met. No matter, I digress. Yet thou hath wondered why thou doth fight me if I bring such joy to my subjects! Already, I canst tell thou doth wish to join me. And yet, thou doth know naught of what I’m actually accomplishing. Thy companion hath cast it in such a bad light, really, that thou canst not take his opinion seriously. ”
“He’s shed the Light on your Darkness, and I’ll fight by him ‘till the end!” the hero cried out defiantly, taking a golden nodachi from his pack.
“Thou shalt, shall thee? Thou doth truly know naught.” Saying this, the fallen one took his gloved hand, now glowing brightly with the power of Light, and let out a solid beam directly at Enduras. In the blinding flash, the hero was sent backwards and over the railing. Even as he was hit, his armor sent out a terrible shriek in his mind at the contact of the Light, disorienting him so much he almost didn’t grab a hold of the railing. But grab it he did.
Mortimer was quick to drop his blade and reach for Enduras, and pulled him back up over the rail. By the time he was safe, Mordred had vanished. “How did he use Light magic?!” the young hero demanded the old man. “The ShadowScythe have only used Darkness! They can’t use Light!”
“Oh, curse the Elemental Lords!” Mortimer cried out as he fell to the floor and beat his fists on the cold stone. “You have no idea what they’ve put you into! You don’t even know what you’re up against, and they don’t give a damn, so long as they’re safe on their lofty thrones! Sometimes, I do think Mordred is right to challenge them! Damn them; curse them in all their folly!”
Enduras, moved by compassion and sympathy, came down to the old elf and helped him up, and the two pressed on once more in silence.
As they pressed on further, the number of guards and scholars decreased, until by floor eighty-seven there were none to be seen.
“It’s strange, this is.” Mortimer murmured to himself. “It’s quiet. Almost too quiet.”
“It matters little.” Enduras replied nonchalantly. “It just means we’re drawing close to evil.”
Sepulchure was pacing idly on the ninety-eighth floor, tapping the Necrotic Blade of Doom against the hard floor anxiously. “Where is he?” the Doom Lord muttered angrily. “He should have been here by now!”
“Calm thyself, Sepulchure.” a cold voice rang out hollowly from behind the servant of doom’s back. Sepulchure whirled around to face Mordred, whose face was still unhidden. “He shalt arrive quite shortly. I’ve seen to it that none bar his passage now.”
“Then Stylix has been felled?”
“Indubitably. Regardless, thou shouldst know that there is another with Enduras. Thou must take moste exquisite caution, and do not directly challenge his companion. He hails from an older time of Lore, when the Elders of the DragonLords held greater power than thou dost hold even now. Unfortunately for thee, he is one such Elder, and wouldst surely best thee.” And with that, the robed form of Tumultu faded.
When the emperor had taken his leave, the servant smiled grimly from under his helmet. I’m sure he knows that I know he intends to cast me aside, but the plans are all in order… the twisted man thought to himself. I will not die this day, or any other. With these thoughts in mind, he resumed pacing and tapping as he had before.
Enduras and Mortimer finally found their selves at the top of the second highest spire of the citadel. It had risen to the ninety-eighth floor, before the side opened up to a great, wide bridge that connected itself to the tallest spire. The railings along the sides were sturdy, and the wind up here was not so forceful as to pose a threat, possibly due to magic.
They slowly strode across this bridge, feeling and sensing danger nearby. Mortimer took out his twisted blade, named Solesol, and Enduras his golden nodachi. When they were about halfway across, there was a red gleam from the other end, and then the sound of metal dragging along stone. Enduras was able to see a familiar red form before quickly raising his weapon in defense.
There was a clash of metal against metal as the red figure made a savage uppercut with his sturdy blade. The blow sent Enduras reeling back, and the figure was about to end his life right there with a vertical slash from above. But there was another clash of metal on metal as Mortimer’s blade intercepted the evil blade. With a small amount of effort, the elf shrugged the assailant aside, showing he was stronger than his seemingly frail form let on.
The attacker, still in control of the situation, merely stood there, and let Enduras recover from the assault. He bore armor identical to Enduras’, but no cloak was clasped ‘round his neck, and he hid his face under a helmet shaped like a dragon’s skull, which was of the same dried-blood red. In his right hand was a single-edged broadsword with a skull upon the hilt, which was a humerus forming the crossguard and a radius and ulna, complete with carpal and phalanges, forming the handle.
When Enduras had sufficiently recovered, he was able to get a decent look at his opponent. “Sepulchure…” he seethed, his voice filled with hatred.
“Enduras, you seem to be alive and well.” The Doom Lord said nonchalantly as he pretended to check the joints the armor on his fingers. “Who would have thought you would? Good security is so hard to get around here on Terra.”
“Tell me about it,” the hero replied. “They just let me practically walk right in here!”
Sepulchure then dropped the charade, and glared sharply at the young man. “Fool! Haven’t you thought of why that is?”
“Errr, no?” Hearing this, Mortimer clenched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finder.
Sepulchure’s response was to laugh cruelly, his armor heaving and creaking as he sent forth harsh mirth. “It seems I might have nothing to fear of Tumultu’s machinations. You’ll never be a suitable tool.”
“Wait, wha-“ Enduras never got to finish his indication of confusion, for he was rocked backwards by a blast of power from Sepulchure’s free hand that cast him into total Darkness, caught in a swirling cloud. Before he knew it, Sepulchure was up in the air, and came down for a savage hack at the befuddled figure within. There was a clash of metal and a flash of golden light, and the sphere of Darkness around the two withdrew. The two had blades interlocked, and Sepulchure was clearly going to overpower the normal being before him, and let his blade taste flesh once more. However, he saw something out of the corner of his eye, and leap back from Mortimer’s blade, which barely missed Sepulchure’s chin. Enduras was thus freed from his predicament, and went to aid Mortimer.
The old elf was easily besieging the Doom Knight with powerful blows that hammered down faster than human eyes could see and defend against. Yet Sepulchure, no longer being human, was able to fend off all his strikes, but was being backed up against the railing by Mortimer’s onslaught.
Just as Enduras was about to aide Mortimer and attempt to take Sepulchure’s life, the two were hurled back by a powerful blow that had been imbued with a bit of Sepulchure’s own lifeforce. Sepulchure then surged forward, dragging his blade against the ground in his traditional fashion, and struck Enduras with a mighty blow with the flat of his blade, sending his target high up into the air. In an instant, both Sepulchure and Mortimer leapt up, both with different intentions.
Enduras could barely comprehend what was happened, but he was able to see his dreaded foe begin to make the final stroke that would end his life. But again, there was a clash of metal, and a great burst of Light and Darkness energies, and Enduras could dimly see that Mortimer had again saved him.
With their blades interlocked in midair, Sepulchure could do little save grunt from exertion. Mortimer, however, was able to stave off the Necrotic Blade’s bite with a single hand. His free hand glowed brightly, and with a clenched fist, the elf punched Sepulchure’s helm with all his elven strength. There was a loud crack as Sepulchure fell to the ground.
Sepulchure and Enduras both fell heavily onto the floor, and Mortimer as lightly on his feet as if he were a cat. Mortimer and Enduras were now on the side of the bridge that was closer to the taller spire, and Sepulchure on the end closer to the shorter spire. Mortimer had just helped Enduras back up onto his feet when the two heard the sound of metal. They turned to see Sepulchure propping himself up with his sword. His helmet was cracked open on his left side, and would have shown part of his face if he did not keep his head down low so they couldn’t see his face.
“This is the legendary Mortimer the Wise?” the Doom Lord boasted. “He who sired Mordred Tumultu, the Hero? Pathetic!” This said, he then dragged himself up, still hiding his face. “You truly are a foolish old man. If you had let me take Enduras’ life just now, I would have saved the universe! But no! You were far too foolhardy to see how Tumultu draws you on, and uses everyone as his puppets! But not me! I, alone, have broken free from his will!”
“Sepulchure, stop right there.” Enduras said groggily. “If you were really trying to save the universe, you could join us, and together, we could stop him!”
This was met with cold laughter of a similar nature to before, only Sepulchure stopped when he began to cough up some green ooze. “Oh, no, it’s not that easy anymore, Enduras! Even if I failed at my last attempt to retain me self-worth and dignity, and finally see to the end of your life, I will have the pleasure of seeing you struggle to survive as you are used like the tool you so are! You will be twisted into a new man, Enduras, and by the end of your journey, you will come to hate yourself! Suffering and Pain and Strife will be your only allies, and I will try my very best to laugh and watch all the while!” As he spoke, his muscles tensed, and he ever so slowly began to bend his legs, as if to make a jump.
All the while, Mortimer remained silent as thoughts of Sepulchure’s words struck deep into his heart. Would slaying this braggart really save all of the universe? Could it all be that easy? he thought to himself. And would I be willing to lay down one life for countless lives?
“You may be a tool of the gods, Enduras,” Sepulchure continued, ”but I won’t!” This said, he leapt once more into the air. His form seemed to eclipse the sun straight above as he came down, bearing upon the very center of the bridge. There was a burst of red light upon impact, and Mortimer and Enduras were thrown back into the tallest spire. As soon as the building stopped shaking, the two rushed out to see what became of Sepulchure, but he was no longer there, and neither was the bridge. He had brought it down with him, and he had escaped his use as a tool through Death…
Enduras and Mortimer dismissed Sepulchure’s plunge as a throe of madness, and continued. They ascended a short flight of spiraling stairs to find their selves in the room formally known as Where Darkness Gathers. There was no illumination, and the glass walls were so dark it was next to impossible to see out of them. The chairs and small table within the center of the room were barely distinguishable from the shadows of the room, which seemed to move about, and give off unadulterated malevolence at their presence.
Enduras thought little of Sepulchure’s words. He thought them to be of pure lunacy. Even if they were true, why should it matter to him that the Lords were using him as a tool? They’re gods; they can do that, so long as the tool has some free will.
Mortimer’s thoughts were much deeper and darker. Still, he wondered why anyone would have blocked off Enduras’ potential, and further still, what was behind the barrier. Enduras had access to what most other humans did. But it was but a tiny portion of his mind. The rest that had been blocked off was decidedly inhuman. Almost elven, but far more developed than that. Like some higher race of old. Not only that, but he lingered on Sepulchure’s words, and whether it would be best to kill Enduras and save the universe.
Enduras was pacing the room, searching for anything that would lead upwards, to the final level, where he would confront Mordred and overthrow his Empire. If I were a staircase… he thought to himself as he approached the table, where would I hide? The obvious answer, of course, is that staircases don’t hide, but that’s beside the point.
At his approach, there was a sound of stone grating against stone, and the table, and a good area around it, began to rise up towards the ceiling that towered above them. Even as that happened, a hole opened itself up in the ceiling, as if a gaping mouth were waiting to devour its prey. As the stone rose up, a portion of it would stop rising, and a small section would do this regularly until there was a spiral staircase leading up into the hole to the top of the spire.
“Hey, cool.” Enduras said out loud, disturbing Mortimer from his thoughts.
The Doom Knight was already a quarter way up the stairs by the time Mortimer could assess what happened. “Enduras, can’t you see it’s a trap?”
Enduras stopped in mid-stride as he gazed back down to the elf. “Nope.”
“…” Mortimer’s silence was followed with a facepalm that felt heavy inside the chamber. “Do you REALLY think he’d let you walk up there without having prepared himself.”
“Why yes. Yes I do.”
“… Sometimes, you can be the most asinine imbecile I’ve ever seen or heard of. And I’ve seen or heard of some pretty asinine imbeciles.”
“I’m going to pretend you never told me that.” This said rather hotly, Enduras began to bound up the rest of the stairs.
“Why him?!” the Elder shouted upwards in vain before taking his blade in hand and following Enduras.
Despite his head lead, Enduras soon found the wise elf upon his heels, and the two had reached the top at almost the same time. They found their selves within some sort of chamber with a gaping hole, and upon leaving the chamber, they found their selves on a wide open platform of stone, with a great spire supported above their heads only by eight pillars on each corner of the octagonal tower and a large pillar in the center, which they had just exited from. Even as they passed into the open, the opening closed behind them to be an ornate wall of obsidian inlaid with gold embellishments. Straight ahead of them, they saw Mordred’s back turned on them, facing the mountains towards the west. His long hair flowed in the breeze, almost distractingly. His arms were folded behind his back, and he seemingly took no notice of the intruders.
“I see that thou hath also ended Sepulchure’s life.” He said rather nonchalantly, without turning to face them. “I thought as much.”
“Mordred Tumultu, your reign of terror ends here!” Enduras said sternly. “As the 301st Elite Knight of Swordhaven, I hereby put you under arrest in the name of the Good King Alteon the Balanced! Will you come with me to Lore, to await trial for your crimes against all of Lore?”
“Crimes, Enduras Son-of-None?” the robed figure questioned, raising an eyebrow as he did, even know Enduras could not see it. “I hath ever vigilantly served Lore. My agents may hadst slain many under my Empire’s name, but that is no fault of mine. I hold the entire universe’s safety and ultimate Order as my responsibility. I am guilty of no crimes against thee or thy king.”
“Very well, then.” Enduras said coldly. “If you will not come with me willingly, then I will take you by force.”
“Take me by force?” Mordred asked, as if the very notion amused him to great delight. “Thou doth know naught of force, mortal. I already know of thy feeble plan, Enduras. Over there, behind those mountains, lies the Terran Fleet.” As he mentioned the mountains, he pointed over to them with great disinterest. As the words fell from his lips, he turned his hand over, and looked as if he were about to snap his fingers. “I wonder what wouldst happen if thy entire plan came crashing around thy ears…” Upon the end of this utterance, he snapped his fingers, and there was a great rumbling in the earth below the flying citadel, and the mountains towards the west were engulfed in a torrent of water that had burst forth from underneath them. There was a terrible noise as the earth itself was rent open, and rock and mountain torn up and apart and sent flying all about. Such a force had not been seen in the entire history of Terra. A whole ridge of mountains was gone in that burst of water. The mountains thus removed, the entire Terran Fleet was laid bare for all to see. Beyond them, a great storm could be seen brewing and approaching them.
With another snap of his fingers, the air all around them seemed to grow hazy as a magical illusion was dispelled. There was a great loud hum of machinery as the skies were filled with massive behemoth’s of metal floating in the sky. Made of black and gold metal, they were massive airships, bristling with cannons and accompanied by a buzzing swarm of smaller frigates and fighters, also of the same livery. The ShadowScythe Armada was fully amassed, and no other military power on this side of the universe could have possible matched them singlehandedly.
Meanwhile, on the Terran Fleet’s flagship, General O’Connel was sitting in the command center, waiting for Enduras’ signal when the earth below began to rumble. Then, all hell had broken loose, and the glass he was looking through was suddenly obscured by water and earth and rock, and all around his men and women were gazing around incredulously. When all had settled down, they found that the cover of the mountains was suddenly gone, leaving them exposed to hostile eyes.
“Damnit!!” O’Connel shouted loudly, wondering what in the name of America had just happened.
“Sir, multiple hostile targets have shown up on our sensors!” a man over by some whirring control panel shouted.
“And how the hell did that happen?!” the general shouted. He took a quick glance out the glass of the command module, and his heart sank to his toes. Before his very eyes, he beheld thousands of hostile airships and fighters shed their illusions like snake-skin. He stood before the might of the entire ShadowScythe Armada.
“Commander Galbradi, what are our orders for when the rebels are exposed?” an Imperial officer, bent over some readings of their enemies, questioned.
Galbradi, clad in his intricate armor from his toes to the crown of his head, was standing proudly up in the pedestal-like commander’s bridge of the command module of the Dragoon, the ShadowScythe Armada’s flagship. With a crew of over 50,000, 20,000 turrets, a near-impenetrable hull, and a force-field of the latest shielding technology Terra had to offer, the Rank S-Destroyer Class flagship was a symbol of the Empire’s might. And commanding the whole of this testament of power was the Judge Magister himself. No one knew what his importance was, but the Emperor had personally appointed him in charge.
“Our orders are to stand by until the rebel forces make the first move.” His voice rattled harshly from under his helmet. “Today, we take no prisoners. We crush the rebellion here and now. This is our day, men. The beginning of a new order of peace and prosperity.” This proclamation was met with several cheers and whoops.
It was at that moment that there was a deep rumbling in the earth, and the Terran Fleet’s cover was eliminated. “Begin preparations now.” Galbradi said as he motioned towards an Imperial officer. Said officer began pushing a series of buttons, all of which sent commands either to the crew or to the command modules of other ships.
“Weapon systems prepped and loaded, sir.” One officer said dutifully from one end of the line of officers manning the controls.
“Thrusters are all set, sir.”
“Shields are up and fully operational, sir.”
“Fighters formed in attack and defense positions, sir.”
“All hands on deck are prepared, sir.”
“The Dragoon is awaiting further orders, sir.”
“The Hunter is awaiting further orders, sir.”
“The Carabineer is awaiting further orders, sir.”
“The Empyreal Cloud is awaiting further orders, sir.”
And so the officers issued forth similar messages from all the other Destroyer Class ships, even as their illusions dissipated. “All Armada ships are to standby and await my orders.” Galbradi said sternly as his image and voice were projected to all other ships, from the Destroyer Classships to the lowest Swarmer Class fighter ships. In every single ship, his voice and demon-like visage were met with approval in the form of cheering or whooping or some other form of noise.
“Doth thou see it, Enduras?” Mordred continued, still turned from them. “Doth thou see the plight thy allies art in, and realize how it was thee who hath put them there? All thou couldst think of was victory, instead of the flaws in thy plan. And now, the entire rebel forces of Terra shalt be quashed like the scum they art.”
Enduras could take no more of this. He took his nodachi in hand and rushed at Mordred’s back, murderous intent in his eyes. “No, Enduras!” Mortimer called out, but too slowly. The Doom Knight made a swing for the robed elf-like being, but swished through air. Just as the blade would taste his flesh, Mordred had simply vanished without warning. Even as the blade continued its course, Enduras’ face was suddenly impacted by a fist that came from his left side.
The human was sent sprawling to the floor, with a great pain in his left cheek. He looked up to see Mordred standing there, with his arm standing out straight from the punch.
“How did you-?” he was unable to finish, for even as he gazed up at Mordred, he felt someone kick him in the side. Again, when he recovered, he saw it was Mordred.
“Please, child.” He chided “Thou doth know naught of the power thou art contending with.” Enduras got up from his sprawled position on the floor, only to feel a sharp pain in his neck, even as he was eyeing Mordred, who had not vanished. He fell to the floor, his body limp, and was able to see that Mordred was looming over him. A long blade of black metal, with angelic black wings at the hilt and lined with eerie blue flames, was in his gloved hand, poised for a fatal strike.
As the cold, sable blade came down, Enduras rolled to his left, only to fall off the edge of the spire. He managed to grab a hold of the edge with his hands, but his position was far from safe. Once more, Mordred loomed over him, raising one foot over Enduras’ fingers, before coming down with crushing force. With a yell, he was forced to pull back his fingers. Enduras gazed up to that pallid face, devoid of compassion, as he realized he was doomed. He closed his eyes and winced even as Mordred raised his boot from under the coat-tail-like robes.
Prepared for impact, Enduras wrenched his eyes open as he heard a whooshing noise. He beheld Mordred’s form flying off the tower, his sword knocked out of his hand as he was blown off by a blast of Void energy from Mortimer. Enduras glanced back to see Mordred right himself in his descent, and begin to form tendrils of fire in his hands. He turned away from the sight, and reached for Mortimer’s outstretched hand. Just as he was about to grab the hand of support, one of the two tendrils of fire latched itself on Mortimer’s hand and yanked him down to follow his son. Even as Enduras tried to comprehend what had happened to the elf, he felt a searing pain in his shin, and was dragged down as well. And he was falling, falling, falling…
“The rebel forces are moving in, sir.” An officer said to Galbradi. “Do we order our forces in?”
“I want all airships to surround their forces and open fire.” Galbradi ordered with great calmness, his voice and image still projected to all of the Armada. With that, the once stationary Amrada surged forth like a sea of metal, spreading out to surround the feeble Terran forces. This was very quickly achieved without much trouble, and within seconds of the command, they began to unload a barrage of their weapon-fire upon their atrociously prepared quarry.
The rebel forces were outgunned and outmaneuvered, and they were quickly taking casualties from all sides. There were bursts of fire in the air as their fighters were downed, and their frigates could only withstand the onslaught for an ten minutes at best before their shields gave out.
Galbradi, who was able to oversee the whole operation in complete and total safety, was not one to sit by idly while there was work to be done. He could see that while the Armada clearly surpassed the Terran Fleet, but that they could hammer down on their flagship for hours before their shields gave out. While an EMP blast would take them down momentarily, the defense mechanisms would restore power and defend against future EMP technology. “Lieutenant Sark.” He called out to a decorated officer sitting by his side.
“Yes, Commander Galbradi?” the officer said in a hopeful voice as he leaped up from his chair.
“I’m placing you in command of the Dragoon until my return.” The elf said, leaving Sark speechless. With that, Galbradi strode over to the doors with purpose.
“But sir, where are you going?” Sark questioned his commander. As the doors opened automatically for Galbradi’s passage, he turned his head back to Sark and said matter-of-factly:
“I’m off to win this battle for Lord Tumultu.”
He then left all of the officers in the module speechless as he headed down to the fighter prepared for him. As he strode in the corridors of the massive airship, he was secretly joined by men wearing armor similar to that the Judge Magister bore, only less ornate. They were his lesser Judges; men loyal to him and only him who worked as a secretive special forces of the Empire. Trained in the arts of secrecy, assassination, and higher forms of open combat, they were a deadly force to be reckoned with. These men would be accompanying Galbradi on his “bombing run.”
They then made their way to the hangar, where there were several of the highest-class fighters available just for them. The Judges had to their selves several Rank-A Adroit Assault-Craft Class fighters, which were sleek fighters with pointed noses, long, narrow wings, large thrusters, and loaded with hidden weapons. Galbradi’s, on the other hand, was a rather large, aerodynamic thing with heavy armor and some of the heaviest weaponry available on Terra. Being a Rank-S Deity’s Wrath Class fighter, it alone could fight off several enemy fighters.
The ensemble silently slipped into their ships, and took flight. Once outside of the Dragoon, they were thrust into a tumultuous warzone. All around them, Terran ships fell like flies, with the occasional loss of an Imperial fighter here and there. The group of seven fighters rode out on the waves of destruction, destroying all Terran air-ships in their path with weapons that nothing could possibly stand up to, save divine intervention.
And so they came upon the Terran flagship; the Alpha. They circled around the airship once before they located the hangars, which was under the shield. “Alright, men,” the Judge Magister began, his voice projected to the rest of his squad. “We’ll fire one EMP blast. That will give us, at best, five seconds to get into the hangar before the shields come up again. We’ll go down towards the hangar first before firing. Chekhov,”
“Yes, Judge Magister?” a heavy Russian accented voice said over the communication link.
“You’ll fire the EMP blast.”
“Now, let’s move!” This said, they swooped down upon the flagship. A blue burst of energy came forth from the airship on the far left. Upon impact with the shield, which was a translucent blue film around the flagship’s hull, there was a small span of time were the entire flagship went dead. Thrusters stopped, lights and computers and the shield were down, and the entire ship began to slowly descend. Even as it fell, the seven ships pulled out of their swooping dive and slid gracefully into the hangar. Just as they passed into it, power was restored, and the flagship was defended against further EMP weaponry.
As soon as their fighters alighted in the hangar, their pilots leap out, brandishing various weapons. Galbradi bore two gunblades of a strange fashion. They appeared to be backswords of black metal with gold décor, styled like gladii, but running parallel to their backs were four barrels of the gun-part. They were bundled up together, and could either be all fired off at once for spread damage or revolve and act like a miniature minigun. Galbradi’s fellow Judges bore more traditional weapons. One bore a great maul, another a shotgun of some sort, a third a great-axe with mirrored edges, Chekhov two blaster pistols, the fifth judge a rapid-firing crossbow(aided with Terran technology, they could fire off poisoned bolts as quickly as a pistol can shoot bullets), and the last a metal staff for channeling powerful magics. With their weapons and skill, they quickly decimated the Terrans within the hangar, and moved on towards the command module with murderous intent.
With great efficiency and speed, they passed like a deadly plague through the corridors of the Alpha, silently taking out what sentries they found. With a series of hand motions, Galbradi silently ordered his six companions to sabotage the airship while he went for the command module. They went off dutifully, bowed over in their haste.
Galbradi continued alone, knowing the module was near. As he began to take steps towards his target, loud alarms began to sound off. “ALERT; INTRUDERS ON DECK. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. ALERT; INTRUDERS ON DECK,” a robotic voice said in a monotone. Almost immediately, the Judge Magister heard the footsteps of a large amount of enemies running at him from up ahead. The elf steeled himself, and holding the points of his blades straight ahead, prepared to fire off at the first sign of movement.
The footsteps approached closer and closer, and eventually, Galbradi could make out officers in green uniforms with blaster rifles in hand running towards him. His targets sighted, he pulled on both of his triggers, unleashing a salvo of golden-colored blaster-fire. Droves of men fell before him, singed or dismembered, never to rise again. There had been about twenty troops coming for him, but none were able to do so much as see him.
His enemies thus disposed of, Galbradi ran ahead, on blade poised over his head and another held sideways in backhanded fashion ahead of him. The corpses littering the floor were obstructing him, so he leapt to the side of the corridor, where he first ran a bit up the wall, and then turned to his left, running along the wall towards the module.
In moving in such an unorthodox fashion, he caught all his foes off guard, and quickly dispatched them and continued, occasionally leaping from wall to wall. In this way, he eventually made it to a great door of solid titanium, about three feet thick and airlocked so as to be nigh impenetrable. This posed of little annoyance to the Judge Magister, who had with him some small explosives. Reaching for his belt, he pulled out a small bomb which would latch onto surfaces and explode in a small area with a force equivalent to being rammed by a small three ton fighter traveling at over 200 miles per hour. Such force in a concentrated area would crack open near any door built by human hands alone. This was latched onto the great sealed door, and Galbradi stood back a little so as to be out of range.
There was a great explosion of fire, and the thick metal of the door caved and crumpled inwards like paper. The Magister waded through the heavy smoke, blades in hand. Inside the module, there were shouts of confusion and anger. As he strode in confidentally, he announced “Everyone in this airship has been charged of trying to usurp the throne and found guilty! All have been sentenced to death!” As he said this, he fired of several burst rounds, killing a few of the officers operating the flagship. With his presence thus known, several of the men in the module pulled out their own weapons and began to send volleys of blaster fight back at him. Most prominent of the rebels was General O’Connel, who was firing at Galbradi with a large cannon of some sort. In his left hand, he bore a sword of gold.
The elf was nimble and quick on his feet, and dashed through the enemy’s ranks, shooting and hacking his way to O’Connel. No one could get a bead on him; there would be a glint of metal and a flash of his trailing cloak, but he moved too fast for human eyes and hands. In this fashion Galbradi cleaved his way towards the general, who stowed away his cannon and took up his blade in his right hand, prepared to fight off the strange enemy.
Without warning, the burly officer standing right in front of O’Connel was shoved aside and replaced with Galbradi’s visage, blades glinting in the light. There was a clash of metal as the two began their duel, blades flashing as Galbradi dealt heavy blows the human could hardly withstand. The two fought for a while, even as the Alpha was slowly advancing across the field of battle at a snail’s pace without any pilots, each intent to strike a fatal blow.
Meanwhile, the six Judges had successfully made their way to the power grid. The Judge with the crossbow fired a few bolts into the vulnerable machines side. There was a flash of lightning, and a billowing cloud of smoke as the grid died, and power was lost. This ship lurched as power was cut from its thrusters, and it began to slowly descend, and was rocked by fire from the Armada’s fighters. It was then that O’Connel stumbled upon the un-sturdy ground. Caught off guard, now was Galbradi’s chance to strike. The elf leapt over O’Connel’s head, and as he flipped through the air, his blades began to glow a bright white as he cried “You die by my blade!” He landed on his feet and spun around, hacking through the air with his two blades. Each one emitted a bright shockwave of energy as they arced through the air, which then merged into one larger shockwave. O’Connel spun around awkwardly, trying to intercept it with his blade. But the shockwave cleaved through his blade and through his waist.
There was a moment where O’Connel seemed perfectly fine. This quickly passed as he began to gargle, and his upper half fell onto the floor. Galbradi wasted no time to gloat, though. He took his leave even as the ship lurched and rocked, and made his way back to the hangar, where the six Judges were waiting. Together, they took their leave of the doomed ship to sow destruction elsewhere.
Enduras awoke to find himself within a crater, his body sore all over.
“Ugh, what happened?” he mumbled through the insistent throbbing in his head.
“Ah, thou hath awoken,” a voice to his left said. Enduras glanced over sharply to see Mordred sitting idly on a boulder with a disinterested glaze in his eyes. “Odd, is it not, that thou doth hath me to thank for thy continued life?”
“Because we art far from done from finishing our game. Oh no, thou doth not get to escape so easily.”
Enduras began to hear a groaning from behind him. He turned to see Mortimer rising from his own crater, clutching at his head while using his sword to prop himself up. It was when Enduras saw Mortimer’s blade that he remembered his own, and began to search for it frantically. He was scrabbling in the dust for it when again Mordred drew his attention with his voice.
“Looking for this?” The hero gazed upwards to see the robed elf offering the handle of his golden nodachi to him. Enduras took the handle in his hands and let Mordred lower his own before making his move. On a sudden impulse, he tried to lunge forward and plunge the nodachi into Mordred’s torso. While an incorrect use of the weapon, it could have succeeded. But just before making impact, Mordred disappeared, and at the same time, Enduras felt a boot pressing down on his head.
“Tsk, tsk,” Mordred chided, before pressing down his boot and knocking Enduras into the dirt. “Is that any way for thee to repay my kindness?” This said, he lifted his boot off of Enduras, who then crawled his way over to Mortimer. “It amuses me to no end to see thee crawl in the dirt like the cretin thou art.”
Hearing this, the Doom Knight leaped up and spun around, his hand reaching out as if to grasp something. But along the ground sprout forth great spikes of Darkness in Mordred’s direction, who again disappeared. Enduras prepared to feel yet another physical blow from the mysterious elf, but instead felt nothing. He looked behind him to see that Mortimer had intercepted a punch from Mordred, holding back his black gloved fist within his grasp. Yet even as Enduras watched, he saw the skin of Mortimer’s hand begin to blacken, as if burned, and the old elf withdrew, crying out in pain.
“Let that be a lesson to thee in regards to meddling in affairs that art not thy own, fool,” Mordred said cruelly, without a shred of remorse within his red cat-like eyes.
“This is my affair!” Mortimer cried out emphatically as he lunged at his son, blade poised over his head to lop off his head. But from Mordred’s hand was a burst of black energy, and within his hand was once more that cruel blade from before, and there was a clash of metal against metal as Mortimer’s blow was intercepted.
“Thou truly art a fool, Mortimer,” Mordred jeered. “I slew thee all those years ago when I was but a mere elf, and thou dare to challenge me when I hath grown infinitely stronger? Not even The’Galin could match me! What chance doth thou posses of besting me?”
“It’s not about prevailing,” Mortimer said through gritted teeth. “It’s about standing up for the free-will of all sentient life!”
“Merely standing up for it will achieve naught,” Mordred countered. “The greatest tool for eliminating free-will stands up for it.”
“Lie? I hath only told the truth since I was born. This is no lie. Enduras will rise to great power, and when I crush him at his strongest, all the hope the universe has left will die with him then.”
“No!” Enduras cried out as he rushed at Mordred, nodachi poised for a strike. His blade came down upon Mordred’s head, only to be intercepted by another of the impossible long blades, identical to the first. With a savage grin of amusement upon his face, Mordred whirled himself around, pushing back his two attacks.
“Mortimer, you don’t really believe him do you?” Enduras questioned Mortimer, who had a grim look upon his face.
“Unfortunately… I do,” the elf said solemnly. “I now know what I must do… Please, forgive me, Lords, for what I am about to do.” He slowly raised his blade up, pointed against Enduras.
“Whoa, a little hasty there, buddy,” Enduras said hurriedly, a worried and anxious tone in his voice.
“It’s the only way. Prepare yourself Enduras, for I wield power greater than you can imagine.” This said, the elf raised his blade up, intending to kill Enduras then and there.
Mordred, who saw these proceedings, nearly went ballistic. His eye twitched as he realized that all of his meticulous planning was put at risk. He was quick to react, though. There was a tearing noise from the back of his robes as great raven wings began to push their way through the cloth from his shoulders. Even as this happened, the earth began to rumble under Mortimer’s feet. There was a great crack as the rock he stood upon began to speedily rise upwards, with him on it. Within seconds, he was hundreds of feet up in the air. The spire of rock came to a stop so suddenly that Mortimer continued to rise in the air, and it was at this moment that Mordred darted into the air upon his raven wings. He was right up with Mortimer within seconds, and with twin blades in hand, dashed passed his, rending flesh and bone apart. Yet even as the cold, fiery blades tore through his body, his wounds were immediately healed. Mordred wished to inflict as much torture upon Mortimer as possible before killing him. And so the elf was suspended in the air, torn apart and rebuilt by Mordred, suspended between life and death as much as earth and heaven.
Eventually though, the barrage of swordplay came to an end. Mordred rose high above Mortimer, who was magically suspended in midair and completely unmarred. Enduras watched in horror as Mordred’s bird-like shadow fell upon him, before the dark clouds passed over the sun and hid Mordred’s own shadow. The strange being of power’s twin blades were gone now from his hands as he raised them up to the sun as they charged up with a great blue light. He then thrust his hands downward, and from them came pure Ice energy in the form of a great spike of ice. This fell down with great force down upon Mortimer, impaling him as it fell. It then crashed down into the pillar of rock, and continued its path, boring right through the pillar, which cracked and groaned as it was attacked. There was a hollow WHUMP! sound as it came to a stop at the bottom of the pillar, which then began to crumble away, giving Enduras access to Mortimer’s body.
Enduras ran over to the great spike of ice, leaping over boulders as he went. He came upon Mortimer’s frail-looking body, and knelt down beside him, gripping his limp hand tightly. “Mortimer? Mortimer, can you hear me?”
The old elf opened his eyes at Enduras’ voice. They were welled up with tears, and were filled with such sorrow and grief that Enduras couldn’t help but cry himself. “Enduras…” he called out weakly, his voice broken and his face deathly pale.
“I’m here, Mortimer,” Enduras said between sobs. “I’m here.”
“I-I’m… sorry… This w-was all my fault. My foolishness made m-me blind to the d-darkness in my son’s heart. Now, he is lost t-to me… P-please forgive me for trying to kill you. It was the on-ly way I could think of stopping him.”
“Of course, Mortimer. I c-couldn’t have chosen a-any differently.”
“I just ask o-one thing.” At this, Mortimer began to cough up blood. “Would you say that I died a h-hero?”
“I’d have to be crazy to think otherwise.” Enduras chuckled half-heartedly a little, but it was devoid of mirth.
“Hmph. It seems you don’t know me as well as I s-should like, then.” The elf’s eyes glazed over, and his hand fell out of Enduras’. He had passed into Death’s grip once more.
Enduras bowed his head in reverence, but was interrupted by the sound of an explosion. He turned over to gaze at the battlefield to see the Terran flagship’s wreckage upon the ground, and the last of the rebel forces fight in vain. Even as Enduras began to cry harder, the heavy clouds overhead also seemed to mourn Mortimer’s death, and a heavy rain began to fall.
High overhead, Mordred Tumultu was beyond caring. “Enduras, Son-of-None!” he called out in an amplified voice. Not only did Enduras gaze upon his winged form, but so too did all those within the citadel and within the Armada’s airships. “I am done playing with thee for today! The time hath come for Limbo to be reopened!” This said, he raised his hand up to the clouds even as the rain poured down from above. The clouds began to swirl and swirl, until they seemed to be sucked upwards in a funnel. At the center of the funnel was a bright pinpoint of blue light that steadily grew larger and larger. Eventually, it was a bright mirror of blue light that illuminated the entire battlefield. Within it, one could see swirling dark forms of another world; Limbo.
“I take my leave now, Enduras!” the Lord of the ShadowScythe called down. “Thou art free to follow me!” As he gloated over his victory, a dark shape above began to loom larger and larger, casting a shadow upon Mordred, and there was a tiny pinprick or golden light from under Mordred’s robes…
It was not until he cast his head upwards that the emperor noticed the great looming shadow and the golden light from under his robes, which was growing steadily brighter. He reached for something under his robes, and pulled out his blackened Dragon Amulet, which was now burning brightly. He looked up once more, only to see some massive white creature burst forth from the portal, and crash into him. There was a cloud of dust and rock as the creature barreled through Mordred and made impact with the earth, shaking the mountains to the core. Enduras, still kneeling beside Mortimer’s body, was engulfed in the cloud. At first, he couldn’t see anything, but he could then make out shapes within the dust as his eyes transformed without him even knowing. They became cat-like as his pupils became slits, and his vision was greatly sharpened, as if he had the eyes of an elf.
When the dust cleared, he could much more easily see what lay before him. Rising out of a great crater was a large, white serpent of some kind. Its head was pointed, with a sharp blue spike protruding from under a helmet-like carapace atop is head. Leering from under this were two sets of yellow pupil-less eyes, one atop the other. Its flesh was black and leathers, and once might make out scales along it. It had a great maw of teeth, showing the creature to take great delight in flesh. Running down its serpentine body was a great carapace, segmented so as to allow mobility for the creature. About only a quarter way down from its head was a pair of great white feathery wings, with a wingspan that rivaled that of the dracolich the citadel was perched atop. The serpent reared back its head and spread its wings, and bellowed out a great and terrible roar and belched out a plume of flame. It was a dull white in color, and flashes of grey lightning burst forth from it, showing it to be of the Void.
When the creature had finished, it bowed its head and began to growl and snarl in its native tongue, which was translated for Enduras and Mordred, who both bore Dragon Amulets. “At last,” the dragon rumbled in a satisfied and triumphant tone, its voice itself brimming with power. “I am free! Free from my prison! Curse that dog, Krag’Triskeroth; for all my years spent in that demon stink-hole, I couldst not find him and repay him for his deed!” The dragon then began to sniff its surroundings. “Now, where hath I found myself? Certainly not Lore!” It was then that its eyes widened, as if it recognized a scent. “Yet he is here with me!” The dragon lowered its head to the ground, sniffing out a scent, until it came before Enduras and Mortimer. Its breath was upon them, and Enduras nearly swooned, for it was rank with the scent of demons. The dragon could have easily swallowed him whole, for Enduras was scarcely taller than one of its four great eyes.
“Thou doth smell moste familiar, human!” the dragon bellowed, nearly knocking over Enduras with only the ensuing movement of air. “I can see thou art not him, yet thou doth smell almost exactly like him! And thy eyes; thou doth have his eyes! Thou doth seem to be of a similar build, and thy face structure is impeccably like his…”
“Excuse me?” Enduras rasped in draconic.
“Nevermind. Thou clearly art not him.”
The dragon ignored his question, though, as it noticed Mortimer’s body. “Mortimer, too? And yet he doth lie dead! Who is responsible for this crime?”
It was at that time that there was a hazy blur in the distance as Mordred appeared, adorned in his battle armor and twin blades in hand. His face was hidden under the shadow cast by his helmet, but his eyes leered out like flames. As he gazed upon the dragon, recognition crossed his hidden face. He breathed a single name under his breath; “Arthur…” Even as the dragon turned to gaze upon him, he saw a vision of a figure clad in platinum and gold armor who stared back crossly from under his own helmet. Just as quickly, the vision was gone.
“Hail and well met, Arthur!” Mordred called out to the dragon, who leered at him, distrusting the strange warrior.
“How dots thou know of me?” the dragon called out.
“How couldst I forget my old companion?”
The dragon’s eyes widened as it dawned on him who this was. “Mordred!”
“Aye, ‘t’is me, my old friend. How fare thee?”
“I’ve only spent countless eons wandering the Void, until thou didst free me. What of thyself?”
“I doth aim to throw down Chaos from his lofty throne, and bring all of life under my rule.” Arthur was taken aback by this, and seemed to cringe. “The Order was destroyed by mine own hands, and twice, now, hath I slain my father. Such is the fate of all that shalt oppose my will.”
“I cannot let thee do this…” Arthur said with a heavy voice and heart. “I can feel that thou art no longer the man thou once wert, my friend.”
Mordred sent forth great mirth at this, although it sounded hollow. “This is true,” said he. “For I am no longer merely a man! ‘T’is not out of folly that I shalt challenge the gods! And if thou shalt oppose me… Then I must dispense of thee myself.” He suddenly dashed forward, his cloak and hair trailing behind him in his wake, and his blades dragging along the rock.
Arthur saw this, and opened his great maw wide, belching out flames once more. Mordred was nimble, though, and leapt above the flames. He came crashing down upon Arthur’s head with a great force, sending the dragon into a frenzy. There was another flash of fire, and a flutter of wings as he thrashed about, trying to wound Mordred, who darted to and fro, plunging his blade into nicks in the carapace.
Meanwhile, Enduras fled for safety, for he would surely be caught and slain in the fray. He took refuge further up the mountain to watch in safety. Mordred was once more standing before the great dragon, who was glaring furiously from above. He whipped his tail up and brought it down upon Mordred, attempting to crush him. But the ex-DragonLord merely dropped one of his blades and raised a hand as if to say halt. The tail made impact, but amazingly, Mordred bore all of its weight and force easily, as if it were nothing. The dragon was straining to force its tail further, but the best result it got was the earth Mordred stood upon began to cave under his strength.
The great warrior then threw up his arm and the tail, and leapt up high, catching the end of the tail with his free hand. He then pulled himself up onto the tail, and began to dash up along Arthur’s back, sometimes hacking at the carapace as he went, sending great cracks running into it, as if they threatened to break away. When he came upon the great wings, he hewed one completely off, eliciting a roar of anguish from the dragon. He then snapped the fingers of his free hand, setting the other wing alight in eerie blue flames. Being of the Void, the dragon could hardly stand exposure to elemental magic. Mordred then came upon Arthur’s head, and leap down from the end of his horn, to confront the dragon on ground.
The dragon, now wingless, collapsed to the floor, writing in agony. “I offer thee one last chance, Arthur!” Mordred called out, holding his blade behind his back and his free hand’s palm outwards towards Arthur. “Join me, and once more we couldst fight side by side, to destroy Chaos and remove free-will!”
Arthur glared at Mordred with disgust. “Never!” the dragon bellowed. “I’ll never fight with thee to take away Lorithia’s gift! I’d rather die trying to stop thee!” This said, Arthur belched out another jet of Void-flame at his old friend.
The being clad in black armor was completely engulfed. After five minutes of such exposure to Void energy, surely anyone would have been obliterated. And yet, when Arthur’s jet of flame came to an end, there Mordred stood, unchanged. While Arthur was blinking in confusion, Mordred’s free hand formed a claw, and from it came a barrage of blue lightning. The arcs of lightning covered a large swath, and struck at Arthur without remorse. The serpentine dragon writhed as it began to smoke and his muscles contracted, and cried out mangled snarls as his Void-aligned body could not handle such Energy energies. When the lightning came to a stop, Arthur’s head lolled about for a bit before crashing down on the mountainside beside Enduras, barely missing him.
Enduras ran up beside the majestic creature’s face, fearing that he would witness the death of a second hero that day. As he came up to him, Arthur’s eyes opened up groggily, as if he were fighting off a great sleep. “Child…” Arthur called out weakly. “Please, stop him at any cost.”
“But me?” Enduras cried out. “But I could never best him! It’s all but over. He called me his tool! Why should I let him guide my actions further in my attempts to stop him?”
“Thou must, little one. Thou mayst feel weak now, but I feel power within thee. A vestige of greatness. I know naught of why, but thou doth feel like a DragonLord of old. If thou doth not stand up for the universe, no one will! Please; for the sake of the universe, fight on our behalf! Thou canst not let the life or Mortimer or myself be lain aside in vain! Go forth on this path, despite the odds!”
“… Yes…” Enduras said reluctantly. “I may not see the end of this journey, but walk it I must. I was chosen for this for a reason! I must stand before Tumultu, or die trying.”
“Thou doth lighten the burden upon mine heart, little one. Please, tell me thy name, so that I mayst inquire those of the Underworld of thee…”
“I am… Enduras Son-of-None, Arthur.”
“Then goodbye, Enduras. Think well of me, and know that so long as there is a will, there is a way. Keep that will alive!” With these final words, the dragon closed its eyes once more and fell asleep, never to awaken again.
Meanwhile, Mordred had been taking slow strides up the mountain, taking off his helmet as he did so. Unknowingly, he shed a single tear at Arthur’s passing. When he felt its weight upon his cheek, he flicked it away in disgust upon the sheer rock of the mountain. It is said that to this day, a beautiful flower lies upon that very spot, and that if one were to crush it and brew it into tea and drink it, that one would be overcome by so much sadness that they would never be happy again. So it is said. Mordred would have drawn closer to his old friend’s body, but when he tried making another step, he was confronted again by that figure with the platinum and gold armor. Tumultu turned suddenly and leapt up into the air, borne upon his wings once more. He silently passed into Limbo, and the portal closed behind him, leaving Enduras to find his own way.
< Message edited by Mordred -- 10/2/2011 20:21:40 >