Prelude to Destruction
25: Day of Apocalypse
of Riven was in chaos.
the underground stronghold of Terisiare, human fought and killed human for the
first time in nearly two decades, and all screamed in terror as darkness fell
over their eyes and their souls.
the surface, a harsh rainstorm lit the night sky. A
torrent of hail and water washed over everything, and electricity blazed a trail
of destruction as it arced from the sky.
the Black Tower, in what was left of a once-proud Hunter capital, the Shi Kari
writhed in terror, split from one consciousness into many under the insanity of
would die this day, from the rains and the darkness… and from Chaos. It was a day that would change the fates of millions.
It was a day of apocalypse.
Blade made of unencountered metal moving at velocity of 125 kph, at a fourty-five degree angle toward neck. Anticipated movement necessary to dodge: two yards back in next .526 milliseconds.
were the thoughts that should have run through Taloncreed’s mind. Such were the thoughts that should have dominated his being.
The analytical, ever-calm voices of the Hive Mind should have been all he
was capable of
thinking. But they were not all
that was within him; they fought for space amongst the panic and the rage and
the terror, and failed to compete very well.
it was, it was but luck that the Doppelganger avoided being decapitated right
then and there, as instincts that he should have lost with his humanity guided
him back a few precious steps. His
amethyst eyes were alight as they had never been, a presence of… life, for
lack of a better word… within them. He
couldn’t think. He couldn’t
formulate a strategy. He could
barely remember to breathe.
Shanning seemed to be having no such problems – if it was indeed Darrell
Shanning that now stood before him. He
had recalled Shanning possessing silver-grey hair, but this new Shanning wore a
fiery mane, and his eyes shone with a light that the hue of his hair could only
have dreamed of holding.
deeply analytical thoughts of the Hive Mind recognized this state, called it the
Id, though there was indeed some confusion as to the fact that this being had an
Id; such things were typically easily revealed.
They urged him to strike forward with questions such as that one,
distracting, useful questions, even as they urged him to form the blade of
chaotic flame that every lavoid born was capable of using.
swing of the blade shattered the hold of those thoughts as though they were but
fine-spun gossamer. The voices of
the Shi Kari were powerless before this being, this en-Tranced, enraged thing.
And thus separated from the Hive Mind, Taloncreed was being forced to do
something he hadn’t had to in years: think.
But it was not the thought he’d had the luxury of as a human, for his
memories, his experience – everything that had made him Talon Creed – had
been taken from him, burned from his mind like useless brush.
the first thought he had was to run. This
didn’t seem correct, though, or even viable.
The room they now stood in, though ruined and steeped in carnage from the
corpse of the polymicite, was far easier to move around in than the narrow,
twisted hallways of most of the rest of the Tower.
thusly ruled out, it seemed obvious that he must find some way to defend
himself. Looking about himself –
both on his person and on the ground about him – he quickly determined that he
carried no sort of weaponry on his person.
There was the vaguest hint that he didn’t need one in the corner of his
mind, from an urging voice he couldn’t quite hear, but that wasn’t
incredibly useful, either. If he
didn’t need a weapon, then surely he shouldn’t be experienceing this fright,
dagger stroke, and another. Taloncreed
had begun to dodge them without even thinking by now, even though it was
becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Feelings
of desperation, alien and unnerving, washed over the doppelganger’s senses.
He felt his legs shake in fear, and for a moment he feared he wouldn’t
be able to move any longer, would be cut down in a heartbeat by the hateful
blade of Shanning’s knife.
brought his blades in at Taloncreed’s neck again, anxious to end the struggle,
anxious to draw the blood of other Shi Kari.
Desperation took on a new meaning within Talon’s twisted heart, and
exploded outward in the form of sheer power and rage.
He watched through anger-blurred eyes as a sword made of magical flame
leapt from his right hand, and held the hateful Ilinumbar at arm’s length –
albeit with quite a bit of effort on Taloncreed’s part.
Suddenly it became clear why he carried no weapon, and despite the fact
that he had no idea who or what he was, he knew that he would not let himself
die, not this day.
poured forth from somewhere deep inside him as Darrell broke off the fruitless
atttack and prepared for another. “Accursed
human! Feel the flames of
spread forth his left, unhampered hand and allowed himself a small smile as
flames even more intense than the ones that made up his chaos blade threw
themselves out at the hateful being before him.
As they hit him they exploded outward, engulfing him entirely.
Taloncreed’s smile grew wider, and he backed up a few steps from the
intense heat to bask in his victory.
was a mistake.
as soon as the doppelganger let down his guard, let the chaos blade fall apart
in his limp hand, he was shocked to see an even more enraged – and seemingly
unscathed – Shanning fly out from the flames like a demon possessed.
expression on his face barely had time to change from smugness to shock before
the first of the Ilinumbar struck him in the neck.
The barest rasp of a scream managed to form before the second pierced his
vocal cords. His stomach had just
enough of a chance to spasm before a booted foot kicked it hard enough to
shatter every rib. His eyes were
allowed the chance to see the glowing eyes of Darrell’s Id narrow before one
of the daggers came back up from the doppelganger’s throat and gouged them
that, there was little pain. Taloncreed
was, after all, dead.
chuckled darkly as he wiped the black blood that covered his blades off on his
jacket, and patted out what few embers of flame had managed to catch his body.
He looked around the room, seemingly pleased at the carnage he had
caused. For the hell of it, he even
stabbed the dead doppelganger at his feet a few more times.
then his gaze fell upon Terra Lyles, still bound to a table in a
mostly-untouched corner of the room.
walked over to her, the mad glee in his eyes subsiding momentarily into
something akin to concern. She
hadn’t been bound quite as tightly as Darrell had, though the metal couplings
that hooked her arms and legs to the testing table certainly looked capable of
holding her. She looked as though
she were in pain… likely the result of the tiny bit of lavoid energy Darrell
could even now feel festering within her.
anger accompanied that. These fools
had tainted the only person in the world that even he,
the darkest side of Shanning, could care for.
Enraged, he quickly took hold of the couplings that bound her hands and
snapped them as though they were nothing more than clay.
Then he took the Ilinumbar and sliced open the bottom ones just as
easily. She was free… but still
unconscious. A moment of indecision
came. Should he revert control to
Darrell, and care for Terra, or continue his killing spree before the Hive Mind
seconds later, he had vanished from the room, leaving the young woman lying
power was out in Terisiare. Even
better, ether energy flowed freely. It
was a happy thought for Cynewulf, who was blissfully ignorant of other
happenings on the planet.
was not such a happy thought for the steel door to his cell, which, while
completely unaware of the chaos in other parts of the facility, had been rather
damaged when a spell cast by the burly Seeker forced it open.
giant peered out into the hallway cautiously, although he fully realized that if
anyone was around, they probably
would have shown themselves when the door burst open, compliments of an Exploder
spell. This assumption proved
correct; all was silent in the darkness. Motioning
to his magicless cellmate – who was still more than a bit impressed with
Cyne’s recent mastery over Ether – he made his way out of the cell.
feels good to breathe fresh air again, doesn’t it?” he asked rhetorically,
stretching out to the full length of his 6’7” frame.
rather doubt this air’s all that fresh, Cyne… we’re still way below
ground.” Meryl returned, glancing about cautiously.
“Where are those damned Hunters?”
rolled his eyes. “Meryl… the
power just went out a minute or two ago. I
imagine they’re probably on their way right now.”
is what I said when you decided to blow up the door.
We were probably
supposed to wait on them, not attract the guards as I’d guess we have.”
up with you?” the
large Seeker asked, crossing his arms. “You
don’t usually bitch like this.”
eyes lit up with fury as she looked at Cynewulf.
me! It’s not every day we get
locked up without our weapons on a planet completely infested
with Lavoid things… and it’s certainly
not every day that the people who locked us up are lavoid hunters themselves!”
realize this. But why do you think
getting pissed of at me’s going to help?!” Cyne asked, starting to get
pissed off himself. “I didn’t
do any of this!”
got me involved in this in the first place!
My life was going just fine
until you stepped in and told me you needed help to track down a lavoid…
nevermind that you still
won’t tell me why.”
large man blinked. “Is that what
this is all about? You’re pissed
off because things aren’t going so great, and you don’t even know why
you’re out here? Damn, Meryl…
that’s selfish of you.”
of me?!” Meryl’s
entire body had joined her eyes in expressing her sense of fury now; her fists
were clenched bone-white, and she had shakes down the length of her body.
“You… you stupid bastard! You’re
the selfish one here, using everyone for your own mysterious purposes, and not
even giving a shit when it gets people killed!”
was silent at that, for a moment. Really,
he seemed to be in thought as to a retort worthy of Meryl’s words.
If he ever thought of it, Meryl never heard it.
At just that moment, something whizzed by the large man’s head and hit
the wall, causing large chunks of its metal surface to explode and shower the
two Seekers with shrapnel. Immediately,
the two dropped to the ground; they were weaponless, after all.
the hell was that?”
Cynewulf whispered frantically. It
was obvious that some sort of projectile weapon had caused it, but Cyne had
never seen a slug-thrower capable of doing that to metal… he entertained for a
moment the thought of what it would have done to his head, but was forced to
suppress it, so horrifying was the vision.
they weren’t kept in suspense for long as to the origin of the shot; as they
cautiously pulled themselves up into a low crouch, an old man walked into view,
carrying some sort of huge rifle-like weapon that was nearly as big as he was.
thought you two might try to escape.” The voice was very familiar; Meryl’s
eyes widened as she recognized the almost-sibilant, dancing sound of the
Mediator. “We knew those two…
traitors were up to something, but didn’t know what.
So I came to see to you personally.”
cussed. “What in the hell are you
doing, old man? You’d kill
us just because we’re trying to get out?”
old leader of the Hunters nodded emphatically.
“It is… necessary. I
should’ve killed that dumb fuck… Talon when he started talking about going
to the Black Tower all those years ago. I
knew it was a bad idea… and lo and behold, Argive went up in smoke.
I won’t allow you to do it all over again.”
in mid-thought, the Mediator squeezed the trigger of his huge weapon again,
causing another bullet to go screaming past.
It was only the fact that Cynewulf had seen the shot coming that had
allowed him to jump out of the way. That
realization didn’t make the little shards of metal that leapt from the wall
behind him after the bullet hit them hurt any less.
in the world is that
thing?” Meryl muttered, all the while desperate to take shelter, but scared to
move, lest the crazy man before them take it into his head to start shooting a
Mediator, despite the fact that he was across the room, heard the young
woman’s words. “Why, you
don’t know what this is? I
suppose they are
rather rare. It is called a railgun…
it uses the principles of magnetism to fire a shard of metal at speeds fast
enough to go through walls. Very
useful for assassinations, beheading farilii, or…” he squeezed off another
shot, this time in Meryl’s general directions.
It went wide, seemingly on purpose, and blew another hole in the wall.
“getting rid of dangers to the organization.”
organization is nothing anymore, old man.” Cynewulf said mockingly, gritting
his teeth as he pulled a shard of metal from his human arm.
“It wouldn’t matter if we did sell out the location of this place to
the Shi Kari… all they’d find here is a nest of rabbits.”
Mediator’s eyes narrowed, and even Meryl had to wonder what the hell her
friend was doing. “Cyne… this
isn’t smart.” She whispered desperately.
up.” Was his reply, but she could see something else in the man’s eyes. He had a plan… God only knew what sort of plan, but he had
seriously, Mediator, using a railgun to kill Farilii?
what it’s for, I don’t see why you’d
need one. You’ve probably never
gone after a lavoid-based being in your life, you stupid coward.”
Mediator’s response was another wild shot with the railgun, though this one
was much closer to the mark. “Shut
the hell up! You don’t understand
anything, you fool. How could you
know what the past two decades have been like?
How could you possibly understand what it’s been like here?!”
to hell, Mediator. How could you
possibly think you’re the only one who’s seen what the lavoids can do?
I lost my parents to one… I’ve lost any chance at a happy life to
their entire race. You can go fuck
yourself if you think I’m going to feel sorry for you on that
account.” His face took on a look of appraisal.
“Actually, from the look of you, you’ve probably taken me up on that
last offer more than once… a face like that doesn’t get closer than that to
almost winced herself at the last comment, and indeed, the Mediator seemed to
take it very personally. He
squeezed off another shot with the railgun, this one aimed dead center at
Cyne’s head. There was no way the caustic man could get out of the way in
the Mediator didn’t count on was that Cyne wouldn’t even try.
As the bullet reached the huge man, a greenish hexagonal shield appeared
and caught it. It didn’t fall to
the floor, but just sat suspended in mid-air, enveloped as it was in the
ethereal green light.
thought you seemed a prideful man.” Cynewulf said as he stood up fully, the
greenish shield and the bullet moving with him.
“Got so wrapped up in what I was saying that you didn’t even notice
me gathering Ether energy. How’d
you get to be a leader in this group?”
Mediator shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve
been told that I’m good at making people think I know less than I do.” He
smirked with the comment. “Oh,
and at doing this.”
warning, or even a bit of movement from the old man before them, a storm of ice
engulfed the room, tearing straight through Cyne’s shield and knocking both he
and Meryl to the ground. It stung,
badly, with each piece of ice seeming every bit as sharp as the shards of metal
that had been cutting into them earlier. From
the look of the cuts that they saw laced their body as soon as things subsided
somewhat, they had probably actually been just as sharp.
they managed to get up, they had expected to see any number of things. Perhaps the Mediator would have that Railgun ready to snipe
them, or maybe he was preparing another spell.
they did not expect was to see the emotionless face of a bluish-skinned woman
standing before them.
the hell?!” Cynewulf exclaimed, backing up a step.
The Mediator nodded. “Your
executioner.” The old man stifled a chuckle as he saw the reaction the two
Seekers gave in response to this. “What,
you didn’t think there were any living mages with the ability to Summon left?
No indeed. Now, then…”
he glanced about himself, as though looking for something.
“I have other business to attend to.
Shiva, kill them.” He
looked at Cynewulf, and grinned viciously.
“And make it as painful as possible.”
was nothing either of them could do as the Mediator proceeded to turn around and
leave the room.
Racnarth was also unaware of other happenings on Riven, but he could have hardly
called his ignorance ‘blissful’. He
probably couldn’t have called it anything at present, actually; he was too
busy trying to stay alive.
had become more and more apparent to him over the past few minutes – had it
really been but minutes? It felt
like it had been hours – that the mace was hardly a weapon suited to turning
aside the pointed edge of a foil. He’d
managed, somehow, to bash Sien Taggart’s weapon aside every time it threatened
to pierce something vital, but it was a much more tiring movement for him to
swing his mace than it was for Sien to thrust with his foil.
And as far as spellcasting went, Matt could forget about it.
He simply wasn’t being given enough time between enemy attacks to
concentrate enough to cast a spell, and he’d never managed to master the art
of the Fast Draw well enough to actually use it in a combat situation.
it went. Thrust, parry, lunge,
disengage, thrust, counter, repost, etc. A
dance of death; truly, this Sien moved with a certain grace, dark though it was.
He was a true fighter, Matt could tell.
The only emotion that this realization brought him, though, was some sort
of mixed awe/disgust. On the one
hand, it was incredible that a man could be so dedicated and skillful at his
craft. On the other, it was the fact that his ‘craft’ was the
ability to kill people, and to basically be a sociopath about it.
It was almost like the man wasn’t even human.
only sound either man could hear, other than their own increasingly labored
breathing and the clash of metal on metal, was the quiet screeching of the
Terisian power generators as they slowly burned to nothing.
an indeterminate amount of time had passed in this manner, something happened.
Sien momentarily lost concentration, as though he were hearing something.
It was barely noticeable; in fact, the only way Matt could tell something
was different was in the fact that he was granted enough time between thrusts of
the rapier to actually think about what
was going on.
break was punctuated with a redoubled pace on Sien’s part; for a moment, the
narrow foil struck at Matt’s mace with enough force to shatter bone.
The old Hunter cursed several times as his attacks failed to put a dent
in Matt’s defense, then backed up a few steps.
Mathiu moved to continue the attack, but a quick thrust of Sien’s blade
convinced him to keep back.
yourself lucky, Racnarth. The
master has other plans for me… for now. But
I will be back for you before you even consider leaving Terisiare, and you will
die.” His angry features twisted into a mockery of a grin, one made almost
spectral in the flickering firelight. “Enjoy
your last minutes of life.”
he was gone. There was no flash of
light customarily associated with a teleportation spell, and neither did he
burst into motion. It was just…
one moment he stood, that smirk on his face, before Matt, the next… all Matt
stood before was thin air.
long moments passed as the young Hunter caught his breath.
He rubbed his eyes with his free hand and sighed deeply as he finally
became convinced that Taggart was truly gone.
“He’s right.” The young man muttered to himself.
“What is the point of even going on?
I’m… dead where I stand.” He started to sink to the ground, letting
the hand that held his mace go slack.
single thought ran through his mind as it clattered to the ground.
single tear ran down Matt’s sweat-drenched face, lit by the dying fires of the
generators like a single shard of crystal.
If he gave up now, dead-man-walking or no, Kayla had no chance of making
it out. She was counting on him,
like those other two Seekers were counting on him.
even if there was no chance of survival…
protect her to my dying breath.’ He
thought grimly, retrieving his mace from the cold metal ground where it lay.
He spun it around once in his hand, letting its magic flow slowly through
him. ‘And if
Taggart, or anyone else, lays one hand on her, they die… even if I have to die
to make it happen.’
moment later, Matt had vanished from the room as well, although it was with a
less arcane method than whatever Sien Taggart had practiced.
His sprint proved no less quick, though.
“War has been called hell… it is worse than that. It is Chaos.” – Sheena Vontex, Eternal.
Author’s Note: Good lord… I do believe that this is the 25th chapter. I've written... 25 chapters! Oh my God! *ahem* Excuse me. While I originally intended to move this one farther along, I realized I’d never get it done if I did that… and I didn’t want to subject anyone to a 20-page chapter. How’s everyone been enjoying the story thus far? Your comments are always appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether they be good or bad. Now behold as I move into the last 15-20 chapters of the story. I think you’ll like where things go.
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