Chapter 10: Hurricane

Dark Man Rising

 

PRELUDE: Assault

 

The Dark Man watched. He sat in front of a computer cluster, cobbled together with loose wiring. Some monitors sizzled with static, and others barely showed color. Each focused on an image of Zadie’s “team” attacking his compound.

 

Zadie, Samuel, Ryan and Eiji managed to track the Dark Man into the snow covered mountains. They attacked his armies of Hand Ninja and Rinshi, as his true task force, the Marauders, moved to intercept.

 

The scene barely interested him.

 

Instead, he tuned into a scene of Simon, following Shirogane down a rural road.

 

“Finally…” the Dark Man said as he sat back. “After all my planning, all the pieces are in play.”

 

At last he would break the cycle. And not the Rangers, or the Forsaken, could stop his plans in motion.

 

***

 

PART ONE: Dragon Knights

 

Before Time and Space

 

The war between the Dark One and Creator intensified. The armies of Morticon grew into legions, bolstered by the support of the two Forsaken: Moridyn and Aginor.

 

A Priest of the One Power, Long, sought to aid the fight against the darkness by creating an army. He developed a magical fighting technique called Genki Juken, which specialized in mimicking mystical creatures. Through Genki Juken, warriors harnessed their Life Force into powerful energy called Genki.

 

The Genki Fists fought their first battle on Vanaheim. Armies of goblins, trolls, giants and mangled creatures rushed across the grassy landscape. Some looked half-dead and rotted, abominations stitched together by Aginor.

 

Dozens of Genki warriors charged towards the enemy. The soldiers wore golden armor over black cloth. The armor looked styled after the various mystical creatures of the cosmic realms.

 

The lead solider leapt through the air towards a giant’s chest.

 

GenJuken Cetus-Fist!” he shouted. Goraishin!

 

His body vibrated with a thundering boom and shot through the giant’s chest. The creature howled with pain, collapsed to his knees, and crashed to the ground, crushing several groups of goblins.

 

Another warrior leapt at the second giant.

 

GenJuken Minotaur-Fist!” he shouted. Tenshinhan!

 

His reflection split into a dozen duplicates that surrounded the giant. The duplicates flared with golden Genki and shot through the giant like arrows, tearing the creature to shreds.

 

The giant’s broken body collapsed with a shockwave that shook the ground.

 

A Genki warrior leapt onto the massive corpse, dashed across its spine, and jumped towards a groups of mangled creatures.

 

GenJuken Afanc-Fist!” he shouted. Biribiri!

 

He thrust his hand with bursts of lightning that ripped through the enemy ranks, scattering flesh and bone.

 

He landed and bashed through the creatures with punches and kicks, breaking bone and smashing flesh. Energy surged through his muscles with each powerful strike.

 

In the distance, Long stood alongside a fellow Priest of the One Power and watched. He wore a robe of plain gold, which matched the color of his shining blonde hair. 

 

“I’ve always admired the mystical creatures of the cosmos.  There’s something about the way they fight that’s beautiful. Primal,” Long said with a glimmer of insanity in his eyes. He rolled his right hand into a fist. “They pounce at their prey and tear with their claws, ripping flesh into shreds. I knew if we could mimic that power….we could become as strong as Titans.”

 

His fellow priest, Siuan, narrowed her eyes with concern. She wore a plain blue cloak embroidered with gold, and a golden pin held her brown hair in a bun. “Watch yourself. You’re starting to sound like a Forsaken.”

 

“I am merely taking pride in my work,” Long said. “I have managed to turn the body itself into the ultimate weapon.”

 

“That’s nothing that should give you pride,” Siuan said. “We are Priests. Not warriors. We should take no delight in this…slaughter.”

 

“Of course, of course,” Long said, without a hint of sincerity. “Forgive me, dear sister.”

 

Siuan lifted her hand towards the battlefield. She twisted her wrist and formed a massive tornado of power that swept across the enemy’s formation. The vortex thrashed the enemy to pieces, hurled bodies through the air, and tore giants into scraps of meat.

 

Broken and scattered, the enemy tried to regroup, but the Genki warriors pounced with punches and kicks that bashed them backward, keeping them separated.

 

Long smirked. “Perhaps you should lead with that move next time, yes?”

 

***

 

The Priests of the One Power gathered in the Crystal Palace of the Moon Kingdom. Their fellow Priest, Beryl, was absent, but they proceeded without her.

 

The Priestess Elaida lifted her hand and projected swirling images of the cosmos, sparkling red and blue stars, mystical worlds and realms — all spread around them like a three-dimensional map. 

 

“More and more worlds have plunged into darkness,” Elaida said. “The armies of evil continue to spread…”

 

“Where is the Creator and his Pantheon?” Ishar asked. “They haven’t been seen or heard from.”

 

Telemon waved his hand dismissively. “They trust us to handle this war.”

 

Elaida twisted her hand. The images shifted to show the armies that invaded Vanaheim. “Look at these monstrosities,” she said. “Creations of Aginor, I am sure.”

 

Telemon nodded. “This fighting art you developed, Long — this Genki — worked well against them.”

 

Long smirked and inclined his head. “Of course. I have only begun to tap into the potential of the body itself.” He arced an eyebrow at Rahvin. “I may one day make your precious weapons irrelevant, brother.”

 

Rahvin scowled. A master crafter, he forged some of the finest weapons used in the battles against the Dark One’s armies.

 

“Watch yourself,” Rahvin said. “Watch yourself…carefully.”

 

The priest named Theryn ignored the exchange. He looked at the images of the races and creatures aligned with the Dark One.

 

“They outnumber us,” he said. “It seems every flesh-and-blood race capable of war has aligned with the Dark One…or been destroyed by his power.”

 

Telemon nodded. “We need more men.”

 

“Warriors,” Theryn said. “Who can wield power like the Heavenly Saints, and fight as well as Long’s GenJuken.”

 

“What do you propose?” Siuan asked impatiently. “Do you mean to create a new race? A warrior race? We have no such power.”

 

“No…” Theryn said thoughtfully. “But perhaps we can bestow that power upon one of the flesh-and-blood races still free of the Dark One.”

 

“Who would be worthy?” Siuan asked.

 

“We need look no further than here, to the Moon Kingdom and Earth Kingdom below,” Theryn said. “To mann.”

 

Mesaana scoffed. Mannkind? Those mortals?”

 

Long shook his head. “They are the weakest of the Creator’s races…frail imitations of our perfection.”

 

“Although they are nice to look at,” Graendal said. “Like little walking ornaments…”

 

“Enough,” Telemon said with a wave of his hand. “Theryn…what you’re proposing…can it be done?”

 

“I believe so, yes,” he said. “But it will require a tremendous amount of strength. We may be able to create no greater than five…perhaps six…of these warriors.”

 

“Out of mann,” Mesaana said skeptically.

 

“They may surprise you,” Theryn said. “They were made in our image, after all.”

 

“Yes…” Graendal said. “And I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that you bed one of them, quite frequently.”

 

“Enough!” Telemon shouted. “We will not fight amongst ourselves. The Dark One has already turned Moridyn and Aginor against us. I will not allow us to turn against one another with this…prattle.”

 

“It’s called banter, brother,” Graendal said.

 

Graendal, you will silence yourself…” Telemon said. “Theryn and Elaida, leave the palace…and gather the finest candidates of mannkind.”

 

“It will be done…” Theryn said with a bow of his head.

 

***

 

Theryn returned to the Earth Kingdom, within the great city of Elysion. The immortal entered his private chambers, within a towering building of gold and white marble. There, he met Tenshianna, of the race of mannkind.

 

Like all of mann, Tenshianna worked as a servant, to maintain the Earth and Moon realms the Creator called home. She looked stunning for a servant, with crystal white hair, blue eyes, and tan skin.

 

Theryn embraced her. “It is done…”

 

“Are you certain?” she asked.

 

Theryn nodded. “The first step towards militarizing our home. The Dark One continues to spread…and when he arrives here…your people will not be defenseless. You will be safe…you will be powerful…as will our son.”

 

Tenshianna looked out her window to a yard of golden grass, where her son Akuma played.

 

***

 

Tenshianna stood alongside four others within the Crystal Palace. The five servants knelt before a silver dais, where Beryl stood. A Priest, Beryl possessed the finest mastery over The Power’s many currents.

 

Her fellow Priests stood alongside her as she spoke. “The Power is more than magick. More than energy. It is a force of change. Of transformation.”

 

She slit her palm and let the blood drip onto the dais. “We, the Priests of the One Power, bestow this force of change upon you.”

 

Her blood glowed with multiple colors that washed across the dais and flowed towards the chosen warriors of mannkind.

 

Each of the warriors — Tenshianna and four young men — slit their own palms and let the blood drip onto the floor.

 

Beryl stepped closer to the warriors. “Like the elemental dragons of Valeryia, you will become an unstoppable force of nature.”

 

Her fellow Priests channeled their energy into Beryl. She focused that power and let it flow through the five warriors. She separated the many currents of power, letting each warrior draw strength from one only. The frame of mann could not support the heightened strength of multiple weaves.

 

One-by-one, she touched their foreheads, ignited their Life Fore, and let their spiritual energy drink from The Power.

 

She touched the first young man on the forehead. “To you I channel fire, as the Red Dragon Knight.”

 

She moved to the next warrior. “To you I channel earth, as the Black Dragon Knight.”

 

“To you I channel lightning, as the Yellow Dragon Knight.”

 

“To you I channel water, as the Blue Dragon Knight.”

 

She touched Tenshianna’s forehead. “To you I channel wind, as the Pink Dragon Knight.”

 

Their auras flared — red, black, blue, yellow, pink — and then died down. Silence filled the chambers.

 

Graendal arced an eyebrow. “Is that it?”

 

Mesaana scoffed with disappointment. “Mann…”

 

“We’re not quite finished…” Beryl said.

 

Rahvin passed out bladeless sword handles to the five warriors. “These swords will ignite your power, and turn you into the armored Dragon Knights…”

 

He hesitated before he handed a blade to the Red Dragon Knight. “To you, I give the greatest sword of all, forged from the heat of the First Star, the Heaven Fire Star of the North: Ryuuseikin. The entire cosmos could collapse, and this sword would survive.”

 

The Red Dragon Knight grasped the golden handle, its hilt shaped like the head of the dragon.

 

Graendal crossed her arms over her chest. “Toy swords…” she said, unimpressed. “Surely the Dark One will tremble in his all-powerful boots.”

 

Elaida waved her hand and summoned an image of the cosmos. “We may have a chance to test their power now. Aginor has released one of his experiments in the realm of Orulon. Ghouls, the types of creatures he calls Phantoms.”

 

Telemon nodded. “Theryn, you are with me. We will lead the Dragon Knights to Orulon and test their mettle…”

 

***

 

Ghouls led the charge through Orulon. They leapt across floating islands and bashed through castles and palaces of glass.

 

Aginor released more of his experiments to follow. Bulky, winged monsters carried lupine creatures and dropped them into the cities. The sinewy creatures landed on bridges of glass and tore through the translucent beings that populated Orulon.

 

Three natives ran across a bridge that connected two floating islands. A pack of lupine creatures followed. They ran on all fours and snarled while snapping their teeth.

 

As one, the beasts pounced.

 

Suddenly, a beam of pale light stabbed over the bridge and burnt the creatures from the air. 

 

Telemon and Theryn landed on the bridge. Telemon’s hand still glowed with white energy from the attack.

 

“What are these beasts…?” he whispered.

 

“I recognize them,” Theryn said. “They were Misty Hounds of the prairie realms…”

 

“Pups…” Telemon said. “He would use even pups as weapons in the Dark One’s army. Damn you, Aginor, and your black sciences…”

 

The five Dragon Knights ran across the bridge and regrouped with Telemon and Theryn. Subtlety, Theryn reached out and gave Tenshianna’s hand a gentle squeeze.

 

Telemon aimed his blade towards the distance, where winged creatures dropped more of the lupine hounds into floating palaces and islands connected by glass bridges.

 

“They attack without mercy,” Telemon said. “We will do the same. Theryn, you and I will take those winged monstrosities out of the skies. Knights…unleash your power. Purge this world of Aginor’s abominations…”

 

The knights pulled out their hilts. They flicked their weapons’ switches, unsheathing their slender blades with bursts of power.

 

“Dragons, Roar!” they shouted with flares of energy.

 

Slender armor wrapped around their bodies like scales. Each Knight wore scales of their own color — red, black, blue, yellow and pink. White tabards formed over their armor. Golden trimming edged the tabards, each emblazoned with the golden symbol of the dragon on the chest. Helmets formed around their heads, with open, narrow, T-shaped visors. The visors covered their faces with shadow, and their eyes burned with their signature color.

 

The Red Dragon Knight leapt off the bridge and aimed his descent towards a floating island below. He somersaulted and smashed his feet against a flying creature, knocking the beast from the sky.

 

“Inferno wave!” The Knight landed and stabbed his sword against the ground. The impact sparked a fiery shockwave that hurled Phantoms and lupine creatures through the air.

 

Above, Telemon and Theryn leapt into the air. They thrust their hands and channeled currents of power, using air to whip flying creatures off course, fire and lightning to scorch the beasts from the skies and waves of hail to scatter the enemy. Their combined attack raged like a storm that tore across the realm.

 

Below, the Black Dragon Knight and Blue Dragon Knight faced a wave of the lupine creatures. The beasts snarled and leapt towards the two warriors.

 

The Black Dragon Knight stabbed the ground and swung upward. “Rock Crusher!”

 

The slash sent a line of energy tearing through the ground; it erupted beneath the creatures, hurling them aside.

 

The Blue Dragon Knight turned to face a wave of creatures that leapt at them from behind.

 

“Wave smasher!” He swung his blade through a wide arc that hurled a blade of water. The rushing wave ripped the creature to shreds, scattering their flesh and bone into the wind.

 

On another island, the Yellow Dragon Knight and Pink Dragon Knight stood back-to-back and slashed Ghouls with bursts of spark.

 

Suddenly, streaks of energy shot from above and exploded around the two Knights, hurling them through the air. The explosions took shape to form winged creatures of various shapes and sizes, all clawed and spiked. They looked like beings of pure energy.

 

The Yellow Dragon Knight stepped back. “What are they…?”

 

“Enchantments…” the Pink Dragon Knight said as she reached out with her senses. “In physical form.”

 

The enchantments surged forward and bashed the two Knights, hurling them backward. A creature clawed the Yellow Dragon Knight with a burst of spark, whipping him to the ground.

 

The Pink Dragon Knight lunged at an enchantment. But the creature thrust his palm and clawed through her chest. She screamed as the hand phased through her body.

 

“No!” a voice shouted from above.

 

Theryn dropped from the skies while carrying two lances. He charged one lance with silver energy and the other with gold.

 

The Priest landed while stabbing through the enchantment’s head with a burst of golden energy. He spun and swung his other lance through a streak of silver energy, slashing the creature in half. Its two halves dissipated into scraps of energy and faded.

 

Theryn kneeled next to the Pink Dragon Knight and lifted her into his arms. “Tenshianna…”

 

“I…” she gasped. “I will be all right. The attack was not a physical one. Those creatures, Theryn…they were living spells.”

 

Moridyn and Aginor are capable of no such thing…” Theryn said.

 

“Then who…?” the Pink Dragon Knight asked. “Who?”

 

***

 

INTERLUDE: Forsaken

 

Long crouched on a mountaintop and smiled. His Genki Fists battled an army of Phantom Ghouls led by a twisted beast cooked up in one of Aginor’s labs. The beast looked like a black and gold lion, covered in armor modeled after different animals: A buffalo for a breastplate, falcon for a right shoulder guard and wing, dolphin for a left shoulder guard and wing and chameleon for a tail.

 

Aginor named the creature Beast Chimera, a Phantom.

 

Long’s Genki warriors surrounded the creature with kicks and punches that burst with golden light.

 

The Priest leaned forward and smiled. “Take the beast alive. He may prove…useful.”

 

These forces of destruction amused him more than he ever thought possible. The violence, the chaos — they made Long feel alive. 

 

A Genki warrior kneed Beast Chimera upside the head.

 

The creature roared and snapped its wings to fly. But another Genki warrior bashed the monster from the air.

 

Long smiled. “That’s it…tame the beast…”

 

The warriors formed spears of pure Genki and stabbed through the Phantom, pinning it in place. The spears glowed with golden power and suspended the creature to the ground.

 

Long faded with golden light and reappeared beside his warriors.

 

“Very good, my Genki Fists…” he said. He slid his hand across the Phantom Beast. “Very good indeed.”

 

Long sighed at the sight of the captured creature. He felt joy at the sight of every battle. But at the battle’s end, he felt nothing but…boredom. He feared even the battles themselves started to become repetitive, in a sense.

 

“There must be a way to make things even more interesting…” he said.

 

He thought of Moridyn.

 

***

 

The Priests of the One Power armed mann following the success of the Dragon Knights. The armies of mann launched assaults from their homes on the Earth Kingdom and Moon Kingdom. But they often suffered heavy casualties.

 

Injured menn dotted the landscape of Les Aquisera, an ocean realm covered with islands and mountains of coral.

 

Mesaana walked among the injured with her staff in hand. Her black staff and cloak contrasted the white sands beneath her feet, and the glistening armor of the fallen warriors.

 

The Earth Kingdom called on the Priests to help heal soldiers injured during a recent campaign. Mesaana answered the call. She possessed the greatest skill with healing the sick and wounded.

 

The Priest kneeled next to a mann who groaned with agony.

 

Mesaana placed her hand over his forehead. “Yes, yes…I’m sure it hurts,” she said with false sympathy. “Just hush…”

 

Her hand glowed with white light. The power spread through his body and knitted his torn flesh and broken bones.

 

Relief spread through the soldier’s body as the pain subsided. His groans turned into sighs as his body relaxed.

 

Mesaana smirked. “You’re all such frail things.”

 

She tightened her hand. As she so often did, she sent a wave of agony flowing through the soldier following his healing. He screamed so loudly, his throat tore raw, as agony stabbed through every aspect of his being.

 

Mesaana smiled and removed her hand. “An after-effect of the healing,” she lied. “It will pass...at some point.”

 

She moved to the next injured soldier.

 

***

 

Rahvin walked through the dungeons of the Crystal Palace. He stopped when he noticed the Phantom Beast Chimera confined within a chamber.

 

The Priest narrowed his eyes. He knew Long’s Genki Fists captured the creature. The words of his fellow Priest still stung: “I have only begun to tap into the potential of the body itself. I may one day make your precious weapons irrelevant, brother.”

 

“No…” Rahvin whispered. What if he could create armor and weapons to equip a soldier more powerful than the Genki Fists? And what if he could harness the power of the Dark One’s creatures, like this Phantom Beast, to do it?

 

Long captured this Chimera Phantom. And in doing so, he unintentionally gave Rahvin what he needed to craft the ultimate weapon for the ultimate warrior.

 

The Genki Fists mimicked beasts. His greatest weapon would become a beast. 

 

***

 

PART TWO: Strike Back

 

The Dragon Knights and Heavenly Saints continued their campaign against the Dark One’s forces. Together with the Genki Fists, they halted the armies of Morticon and the Forsaken.

 

The tide of war seemed to turn in their favor. So the Priests of the One Power decided to take the offensive.

 

They traveled to the realm of Terrokar, a rolling forest covered with purple and green trees, and shining silver bushes, which stretched across rolling landscapes. Twisted vines covered the trees and flowed with veins of golden sap.

 

The Dark One’s forces had decimated half the realm. They burnt most of the forest to ash and made a base camp for the Hades Beasts, as well as the creations of Aginor, such as the Ghouls and other monstrous hybrids. Goblins, orcs, trolls and other flesh-and-blood races loyal to the Dark One fleshed out the enemy ranks.

 

In his armor, the Red Dragon Knight crouched on a forested hill and looked down upon the barren landscape below. He studied the enemy formation and gave his orders.

 

“When we see the signal, we fight our way through the goblins and focus our attack on the Hades Beasts,” he said. “They’re the backbone of the Dark One’s army…and what better way to crush a foe, than by breaking his back.”

 

“Do you see Moridyn or Aginor?” the Black Dragon Knight asked.

 

“No,” the Red Dragon Knight said. “And I cannot feel their spiritual pressure. They wouldn’t dare show themselves on the battlefield. Cowards…”

 

The Blue Dragon Knight tightened his grip on his blade, eager to attack. “What is our signal?”

 

“We will know when we see,” the Red Dragon Knight said.

 

Suddenly, storm clouds swirled above the enemy camp. Before the villains could react, the clouds spat bolts of lightning and showers of fiery hail. The lightning and hail exploded through the enemy camp, tossing Phantoms and hybrids through the air. 

 

Telemon and Theryn stood on the other side of the encampment. The two Priests of the One Power worked together to channel the storm and hurl its fury at the creatures below. Their eyes and hands glowed with energy as they channeled the currents of The Power and unleashed its destruction against the Dark One’s army.

 

Menn — loyal to the Priests and armed with weapons forged by Rahvin — charged down the hillside and attacked the enemy’s flank.

 

The Red Dragon Knight smirked at the sight. “Now.”

 

The Knights started to jump. But before they could, vines lashed from the ground, wrapped around their ankles, and flipped them through the air.

 

Several creatures rose from the ground with explosions of dirt and debris. Each several meters tall, the creatures looked different than the other monsters of the Dark One’s armies.

 

The lead creature looked like a mass of seaweed, with glossy black eyes and tendrils for hands. Aginor named the beast Tendril.

 

The second beast had the body of a humanoid and head of a snake. It looked skinless, only muscle, with an exposed ribcage. Aginor called the creature D’Compose.

 

The lead creature looked muscular, with rock-like skin and blood-red eyes. Aginor named this beast Metlar.

 

Metlar spat bolts of lava that exploded around the Knights with bursts of fire, hurling them through the air. The flames ignited the Yellow Dragon Knight’s legs, and he flailed to the ground.

 

The Knight crashed, skid across the dirt, and rolled onto his back. He looked up just as Tendril swung its tentacles towards him.

 

The Yellow Dragon Knight thrust his hands with bursts of lightning. The blasts exploded against the tendrils with bursts of spark, whipping them backward.

 

The Black Dragon Knight and Blue Dragon Knight leapt to their teammate’s defense.

 

Metlar grabbed the Black Dragon Knight and tossed him aside. Then the monster swung the back of his fist, swatting the Blue Dragon Knight through the air.

 

The Red Dragon Knight leapt onto Metlar’s back while driving his sword between the creature’s shoulder blades. The monster stumbled backward and howled with pain; the Red Dragon Knight twisted his blade with a burst of red light that tore through the monster’s insides.

 

Metlar exploded into magma and rock that blasted across the landscape.

 

The Red Dragon Knight landed and turned his attention to D’Compose. But Tendril whipped the Knight off his feet.

 

The Red Dragon Knight twisted through the air, landed against the side of a tree, and pushed off. He shot towards Tendril through a streak of red energy.

 

But a bolt of white light blasted the Red Dragon Knight from the air. The Knight crashed and skid across the dirt. He rolled onto his back and looked to see Moridyn standing on the remains of Metlar.

 

The Forsaken wore all black, with an armored chest plate of silver coins. He wore a dark cloak with the hood pulled back.

 

Moridyn arced an eyebrow at the Red Dragon Knight. “Making warriors of mannMy brothers and sisters must be desperate.”

 

The Red Dragon Knight used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet. “Moridyn…the traitor…”

 

Moridyn wiped his hand against his cloak. “My reputation precedes me,” he said. “As does yours. You Dragon Knights have caused quite the stir. The Dark One wanted me to deal with you. Personally…”

 

The Red Dragon Knight said nothing. He charged his sword with fiery energy and dashed to attack. Moridyn lifted his hand with an invisible energy blast that smashed the Knight backward. The Red Dragon Knight smashed through tree after tree before crashing onto a mound of rock.

 

The Blue Dragon Knight and Pink Dragon Knight leapt at Moridyn from opposite sides.

 

The Forsaken lifted his hand, slowly, and sent waves of psionic energy stabbing through their minds. The two Knights crashed and writhed with agony.

 

D’Compose took notice. The monster reached out and plucked the Pink Dragon Knight from the dirt. He opened his ribcage, stuffed the Knight inside, and clamped his ribs shut.

 

His insides dripped onto the Pink Dragon Knight and ate through her armor like acid.

 

Moridyn smirked at the sight. “A fitting end. What did you mortals hope to accomplish?”

 

The villain lifted his hand, which glowed with white hot power.

 

“No!” a voice shouted.

 

Suddenly, Telemon and Theryn leapt to the scene.

 

Theryn pounced at Moridyn and swung a two-handed axe. The Forsaken adjusted his foot and summoned a wall of earth, which smashed against the Priest and knocked him backward.

 

Telemon thrust his hand with bolts of lightning that blasted the wall into debris and struck Moridyn’s chest, hurling him off his feet.  

 

Slowly, Theryn climbed to his feet. He heard the cries of the Pink Dragon Knight as D’Compose digested her.

 

Theryn!” she shouted with agony. “THERYN!”

 

Tenshianna!”

 

Theryn leapt at D’Compose and swung his axe. The blade sliced off the creature’s head with bursts of slime and ichor.

 

The headless creature staggered and collapsed onto its back.

 

Theryn leapt onto its chest, pried open its ribs, and pulled the Pink Dragon Knight from its insides. Her damaged armor looked more black than pink, singed. 

 

He leapt aside, landed in a crouch, and cradled the Pink Dragon Knight in his arms. “Tenshianna…you’re all right…”

 

Her armor powered down with a whimper of pink light. She smiled, despite her pain, and reached up to touch her lover’s face.

 

Theryn…” she whispered. “Tell our son. Tell him…”

 

Her eyes glazed. Her body went limp, and she breathed her final breath.

 

“No…” Theryn said as his body trembled. “No!”

 

Nearby, Moridyn climbed to his feet. He looked to see Telemon stalk towards him. “Ever the strong one, brother.”

 

“I am not your brother. You are nothing to me, creature. You are-”

 

“Forsaken,” Moridyn said with a smug grin. “A title I embrace.”

 

“You led us here to a trap,” Telemon said. He charged his fists with energy that shimmered from red to white and then blue.

 

“Very much so,” Moridyn said. “And you’ve yet to see the best part.”

 

Suddenly, darkness swept across the realm. Waves of heat and cold blew through the wind, as creature of pure evil rose from the surface.

 

The creatures looked humanoid, with patches of skin, as if stitched together. Their eyes stared ahead with pure white fervor, and they wore scrap metal armor. Each carried blades and axes of twisted metal.

 

Moridyn smiled at the look of horror on Telemon’s face.

 

“Do you recognize them?” Moridyn asked. “The flesh-and-blood races slaughtered by the Dark One…Our brother Aginor has taken them and made them into something…terrifying. Given them new life…or unlife. Undeath. So you see, the more you fight, the more you send your armies to die, the more you strengthen the Dark One’s forces.”

 

Telemon glared with rage. “You are a bastard, Moridyn.”

 

“Perhaps,” Moridyn said. “I, after all, gave meaning to the word, as I did to so many concepts and phrases you still struggle to comprehend. Let me teach you one final lesson, brother. A lesson of ultimate betrayal.”

 

Moridyn lifted his hand, and the undead charged to attack. They surged like a wave of destruction that tore through trees, bushes and hills.

 

Telemon slipped into a defensive stance as the horde charged towards him. The Priest armed two blades of light and slashed through the undead, hacking their limbs, heads and weapons. Even with their limbs severed, the undead attacked relentlessly, like mindless beasts.

 

Theryn formed a bubble of energy to protect himself and the Pink Dragon Knight’s body.

 

Telemon!” he shouted to his fellow Priest. “We must take the Knights and leave! It’s Tenshianna! She…”

 

Telemon stabbed the ground with a shockwave of arcane power that incinerated several dozen undead. The Priest grunted with reluctance.

 

“Very well…” he whispered. “Fall back…fall back!”

 

The two Priests, Dragon Knights and surviving menn fled the realm as Moridyn watched the Dark One’s armies consume it.

 

***

 

INTERLUDE: Beryl

 

Beryl kneeled on the floor of her chambers. The Dark One appeared to her as a surging wall of black flames. He spoke with emotion and thought that stabbed into the Priest’s mind.

 

She winced with pain and answered her lord. “Yes, Dark One. The trap succeeded. We have stopped the Dragon Knights’ advance and pushed them back. We-”

 

Anger stabbed through her head like white hot needles. The Dark One’s voice rubbed across her mind like sandpaper. His force of will nearly crushed her to the floor.

 

Beryl struggled to breath against the sheer strength of her master. “We…” she rasped. “We will show ourselves soon. We who hide within the ranks of the Priests. But…but for our plan to succeed…we need a weapon…a tool…”

 

The Dark One’s mind screamed. An image twirled within the flames: Akuma, the first son of a Priest. The first son of a mortal and immortal.

 

Beryl smiled. “It will be done.”

 

***

 

PART THREE: Revenge

 

Now a young man, Akuma stared out the window of his home within the Earth Kingdom. Guards, menn, patrolled the streets. Their armor and weapons glistened in the sunlight and hummed with the energy of the One Power.

 

Akuma looked upon them with no sense of wonder. No sense of anything, really. He just looked, through his dark eyes that matched the color of his black hair, cut short.

 

He learned of his mother’s death and wept, a strange sensation. Now he felt nothing. Nothing but contempt.

 

The door opened, and Theryn stepped into the room. “Akuma…”

 

The young man narrowed his eyes and said nothing. He kept his back to the Priest.

 

Theryn stepped forward. “Akuma, please speak with me…”

 

“Speak?” Akuma asked. “You turned my mother into a weapon. And then you let her die. You manipulated her. You have manipulated all of mann…”

 

Theryn shook his head. “Perhaps you are too young to understand…”

 

“Young?” Akuma rolled his hands into fists. “Youth is a concept forced upon us. By your…Pantheon.”

 

“The Pantheon gave us life.”

 

“And where are they now? Why do they leave the races to fight their battles? The menn and womenn of the Earth and Moon? You and your Priests have turned all mortals into weapons.”

 

“We are at war.”

 

“And for what?” Akuma asked. “Was your war worth the life of my mother? Was she?!”

 

Akuma thrust his hand with a burst of Ki that blasted Theryn off his feet. He smashed through the wall, flailed through the air, and crashed on the crystal streets outside.

 

Akuma leapt through the opening and landed in the yard near Theryn. He charged his fists with arcane energy and hurled bolts of power.

 

Theryn flipped aside as the blasts exploded around him, scattering dirt and shards of road.

 

Akuma narrowed his eyes. “You are not my father…I am not your son. Not your pawn!”

 

He thrust his hand and fired streams of arcane missiles that blasted Theryn’s chest. The Priest stood his ground as the blasts forced him backward, heels skidding across the ground.

 

Theryn gritted his teeth. “Akuma, calm down! You’ve barely learned to channel!”

 

Guards dashed into the courtyard. The menn carried spears tipped with golden energy. They hurled the spears at the young warrior. The weapons stabbed the ground around him and discharged bolts of power.

 

The blasts thrashed Akuma with enough strength to force him to his knees.

 

Akuma gritted his teeth and started to rise. But the spears discharged more energy, blasting Akuma with intense power that knocked him to all fours.

 

Theryn…” he growled. “I will not forget this…”

 

The blasts intensified and knocked Akuma from consciousness.

 

***

 

Guards tossed Akuma onto the floor of the Crystal Palace on the moon. He climbed to his feet and looked up to see two Priests of the One Power: Beryl and Rahvin.

 

“Akuma…” Beryl said. “I heard of your mother’s death. My heart grieves for you…but this is no excuse for your actions.”

 

“My father…that immortal…he manipulated my mother,” Akuma said.

 

“But he did not kill her,” Beryl said. “No…that was a minion of the Dark One. If you want to place blame? Blame the forces of evil. You have power, Akuma. The blood of a Priest flows through your veins. Use that power to war against the forces of darkness. Don’t you wish to avenge your mother?”

 

Akuma waved his hand dismissively. “Do not seek to use me. I am no-one’s servant.”

 

“I am not asking you to serve,” she said. “I am asking you to lead. This war will devour everything, everyone, in the cosmos. And for what? For what purpose?”

 

“Madness,” Akuma said.

 

“Then lead your people and end the madness,” she said.

 

Rahvin stayed silent, but extended a bladeless hilt. The hilt looked identical to Ryuuseikin, but silver.

 

“I forged this weapon from the cold heart of a dying star,” Rahvin said. “A fusion of darkness and light. Heat and Frost. Life and death. The Kuroryuukin.”

 

Akuma stared at the blade and rolled his hands into fists. “I will not be a Dragon Knight…I will not be a pawn of my father.”

 

“Then be the game master,” Beryl said. “Take the sword, Akuma. Become a Dragon Knight. Help bring justice to all the realms. For your mother…”

 

Akuma narrowed his eyes. Slowly, he reached out and grabbed the sword.

 

To be continued…Chapter 11