Xenogears:  Prelude to Destruction

Dark Angel

Chapter 25:  Day of Apocalypse

By Nightsong




            All of Riven was in chaos. 


In 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. 


On 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.


In 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 Darrell Shanning.


Many 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.


Such 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. 


As 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. 


Darrell 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.


The 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. 


Another 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. 


Alone, 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. 


This 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, he thought. 


Another 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. 


Darrell 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.


Words poured forth from somewhere deep inside him as Darrell broke off the fruitless atttack and prepared for another.  “Accursed human!  Feel the flames of damnation.  Firaga!”


He 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.


It was a mistake. 


Almost 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.


The 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 out.


After that, there was little pain.  Taloncreed was, after all, dead.



Darrell 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.


And then his gaze fell upon Terra Lyles, still bound to a table in a mostly-untouched corner of the room.


He 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. 


More 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 reorganized?


Ten seconds later, he had vanished from the room, leaving the young woman lying alone.




The 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.


It 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. 


The 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.


“Geez… feels good to breathe fresh air again, doesn’t it?” he asked rhetorically, stretching out to the full length of his 6’7” frame. 


“I 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?”


Cynewulf rolled his eyes.  “Meryl… the power just went out a minute or two ago.  I imagine they’re probably on their way right now.”


“Which 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.”


“What’s up with you?” the large Seeker asked, crossing his arms.  “You don’t usually bitch like this.”


Meryl’s eyes lit up with fury as she looked at Cynewulf.  “Well ex-cuse 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!”


“I 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!”


“YOU 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.”


The 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.”


“Selfish 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!” 


Cynewulf 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. 


“What 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. 


Thankfully, 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.


“I 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.”


Cynewulf cussed.  “What in the hell are you doing, old man?  You’d kill us just because we’re trying to get out?”


The 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.”


Seemingly 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.


“What 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 bit faster.


The 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.”


“Your 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.”


The 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.


“Shut 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 a plan.


“And seriously, Mediator, using a railgun to kill Farilii?  If that’s 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.”


The 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?!”


“Go 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 sex.”


Meryl 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 time…


…What 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.


“I 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?”


The 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.”


Without 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.


When 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.


What they did not expect was to see the emotionless face of a bluish-skinned woman standing before them.


“What the hell?!” Cynewulf exclaimed, backing up a step.  “That’s…”


“Shiva.” 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.”


There was nothing either of them could do as the Mediator proceeded to turn around and leave the room.




Mathiu 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.


It 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.


So 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. 


The 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. 


After 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. 


The 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.


“Consider 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.”


And 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.


Several 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. 


A single thought ran through his mind as it clattered to the ground.


What about Kayla? 


A 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.


And even if there was no chance of survival…


‘I’ll 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.’


A 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 lucentnightsong@hotmail.com, 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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