Xenogears: Prelude to Destruction
Chapter 27: Revelations and Rage
I dream a dream a nightmare dream a shadowed curse a twisted lie
Terra woke up dead.
While the wisps of logical thought granted to her contradicted this view, the sensations that assaulted her very being as she awoke cried out death death death. She lay on a hard slab of metal that may well have been a sort of open casket, in a room as silent as death and painted in its tones.
Her eyelids slid open slowly, revealing to unfocused, wary orbs the sights that could be seen in the dimness, lit only by a few unnatural green lights on the ceiling. If she had expected to be reassured of her animation through sight, she was sorely disappointed. The room was a wreck of shattered steel and glass, and something black and viscous was smeared across the ceilings and down the walls. Her eyes followed it in morbid curiousity, until she found the source of the black ichor; the farilii who had been Talon Creed lay dead on the floor, his head several yards away from the rest of his mangled body. Dark, unnatural blood even now poured out almost steadily, oozing onto the floor from the demon’s many wounds. The young woman blanched at that, almost falling off of the edge of her block - which she thankfully now recognized to be more akin to a bed than something belonging in a cairn.
She sat up slowly, noticing as she did the corpse of another lavoid-controlled being; this one one of the bug-like polymicites.
And Darrell was nowhere to be seen.
‘What happened here? …For that matter, how did I end up here?’ she thought, pulling herself to unsteady feet and absently brushing off her clothes.
The blood-blackened walls of the room offered her no answer, and she refused to look on the lavoid-twisted corpses again to see if they could give guidance.
As she began to consider walking out of the room - for it had no door, simply a framed space that led out into the narrow hallways of the Tower - a pain such as she had never known in her life struck at her head like a sledgehammer.
Doom doom separation we have nothing what are we what are we The Hive Mind my GODS the HIVE we have lost it all listen to me LISTEN TO US LISTEN
The screams, garbled and mixed as though a thousand voices spoke the lines but knew not what to say, pierced her mind and drove her first to her knees, oblivious to the black blood and metallic shrapnel that stained her clothing and bit her flesh, and then to the floor entirely. She clutched her head.
FEAR THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH IT IS COME IT IS COME THE FINISH THE FINISH AND WE ARE LEFT NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING
The young woman shrieked along with them, like nothing human.
A war of sorts raged on in Terisiare. The young fought the old, brother fought brother, as all finally gave in to the delirious insanity that they’d all been feeling for so many years. A storm raged outside, the booming voice of its spears of energy somewhat audible even under the earth.
Within the audience chambers of the once-rulers of Terisiare, two men lay dead with their throats torn open, and a third had just fallen along with them, though he bore no visible marks.
And as he watched the man who had been the Mediator clutch at his chest in sudden pain and fall to the floor, lifeless, Sien Taggart turned his thin lips upward and smiled a bitter smile.
“Old fool.” He said simply as he sheathed his foil in his black belt. After a few seconds of shaking his head in amusement, he ventured to kick the old man. “You knew the risk. You knew why a wise summoner only brings his creatures to this world for a few seconds at a time.” He actually chuckled, as he cocked his head and recited from an old book that he and the old one had once read. “‘For the lifeforce of the summoned is bound up in the summoner. If one should perish, the other shall shortly follow.’”
The old Hunter shook his head and took a seat in one of the wooden chairs that had been brought in for the Seekers the council had interrogated that very day, Seekers who had apparently just been victorious against whatever beast the Mediator had summoned to destroy them. He drew out his sword again, and along with it a simple black cloth, which he proceeded to run along the length of the blade, wiping the blood from it and polishing its bright surface.
“Convenient, though. For all I spoke for you, you were a coward when it came to the Hunt as well. You just weren’t as much of one as the type of men you now lie alongside.” He crossed his legs as he continued to polish his foil. “Now, thanks to your actions, I don’t have to answer to any man. The Hunt need never end, and my blade will have but one master guiding its thrusts.”
Several minutes of near silence followed, as Sion efficiently completed his task and replaced sword and cloth to their places at his belt, then settled into deep thought.
As he did, another of his twisted smiles slowly appeared. “My first quarry seems obvious. The two child hunters and their Seeker friends. …But they are no challenge in their current state, if the reports we had on the children are correct, at the least.” He shrugged. “A problem easily enough solved.” His muttering ceased as he drew out a small radio and placed a call to one of the Mediator’s old contacts.
“Dear God… what happened here?”
Mathiu could have cried at the sight, though, truth be told, he felt more like yelling. The entire night had turned Terisiare from a hideout to a hell, and it was all his fault. He’d thankfully been removed from most of the fighting, but it didn’t make him feel much better. Just a few hours before, he’d been holding Kayla’s broken, raped form in his arms, wondering if there was anything in his power that could be done to draw the formidable telepath out of her mind. He’d not been able to do anything that she even seemed to notice. His failure had driven him to such despair he’d completely forgotten his surroundings and his situation and broke down and wept, his tears spilling onto Kayla’s limp shoulder.
And then they’d come. A pair of young Hunters named Kirith Slynt and Eddard Long, apparently out trying to help the wounded get away from the fighting that had engulfed Terisiare. Actually, until then, Matt had been unaware that the entire complex had gone mad.
Apparently, some of the men on the Council had tried to stage a coup against the Mediator, and had sent out members of the Farilii extermination squads to gain names to their cause. It had been a move that prove completely disastrous. Some of the councilors still loyal to the Mediator openly attacked some of those supporting the coup, and the younger Hunters were caught in a crossfire that had them forced to attack both sides. The fighting had, for the most part, not proceeded to the lower levels yet, but it was apparent that danger was all around, and none of the three factions seemed likely to stop any time soon.
“The younger Hunters are starting to whisper we should kick the old ones out of Terisiare once and for all, so that we can actually get back to trying to take out the Shi Kari, like we’ve been wanting to for years.” Eddard had told him as they escorted him and Kayla to a room with enough medical equipment to at least get Kayla’s blood pressure down a bit and let the beleaguered young woman rest.
Mathiu had told him, in turn, that while he agreed that the Shi Kari should have been a top priority, the idea of Hunter killing Hunter appalled him. Thankfully, the helpful pair seemed to agree with him.
It had been only then, with Kayla resting as comfortably as could be expected, and with someone to watch her, that Matt had realized the fact that Cynewulf and Meryl were still down in the dungeon levels. He explained the situation as best he could to Eddard and Kirith, and the former offered to accompany him down to get them while Kirith continued to watch over Kayla.
The two young Hunters were greeted with a scene that seemed to be straight out from one of the old action holofilms. The hall just outside the cell Cyne and Meryl had occupied was covered with patches of frost, and the walls and ceiling were twisted and broken in places. The ceiling had apparently been broken through at some point, as was testified by a fairly large amount of rock and dirt on the floor.
The worst part, however, was the state of the two Seekers. Meryl was leaning against a wall that had been bent out of shape - apparently - by her body. Her head had a large swollen knot atop it that glared an ugly purple. The worst, though, was Cynewulf. He had several stab wounds in his sides and chest that bled freely, and his robotic arm looked to have been torn to shreds. It looked as though he’d suffered a concussion.
“I don’t know what could have happened, Mathiu… but these two need some attention, and fast.” Eddard said, rushing over to burly Cyne and kneeling down to check for a pulse - which thankfully was there, if somewhat weak.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. You have some healing spells in your repertoire, I hope.” Matt didn’t wait for a response as he leaned down next to Meryl and put his hands at her neck. She was still alive.
With barely another thought, the young Hunter was reaching out into the Ether and drawing a healing spell into his body. “Curaga.” He said quietly, evoking the power within him to leave his body and metamorphose. As it poured over Meryl’s body, wreathing her in jade light, her pulse became somewhat more regular, and her breathing quickened.
A brief glance over at Eddard showed him that the young Hunter had done much the same with Cynewulf. Mathiu allowed himself a brief sigh of relief, rubbing his lemon-tinted eyes. He left them shut like that for several seconds, trying to wash the hard facts of reality from his mind.
A firm hand on his shoulder brought them back, and made him glance up to see Eddard looking down on him. The man’s dark eyes stared intensely at them, made sharper as they stood out against his ebon skin. “We need to get them out of here. We’re going to have to go back and get a litter for that large one, though. Even with spells it would take both of us to try to haul him any distance.”
Matt nodded, pulling himself to unsteady feet. “Granted. I’ll stay here with them, then, and you can go back to Kirith to find something.”
The young Hunter shrugged and pushed back a lock of his wirey, thick black hair out of his face. “As you say, Racnarth, though I doubt anyone will be coming down here in the next few hours… not with the fighting raging as it is above.”
If Eddard had expected Mathiu to change his mind, he was sorely disappointed, and after a few moments he turned on his heel, making swiftly back for the upper levels. The fair-haired youth was left in the ruined hall to look down at the unconscious Seekers that, though he didn’t even know them, he had thrown his lot in with.
And he wondered again at his chances of making it out of Terisiare alive. And he again decided they were severely lacking.
“Get up, human.” It was not a suggestion, it was a command. The three words, spoken with a sibilant and unyielding tongue, felt as though they could have rattled bones, boiled blood.
And so Terra Lyles had no choice but to open her eyes, and sit up, though she wasn’t sure where she found the strength to do it. Her head pounded with half-remembered, half-heard words, each attempt at coherent thought exploding through her brain like a twisting knife.
Her eyes, after a long struggle that made her reel where she sat, managed to slip into focus, and she saw that she was in the same room where she’d collapsed gods only knew how long before. But now, she was not alone. Inclining her head slightly back, she saw the vaguely blue-tinted skin, and decaying white hair of none other than Mishra Bishop.
“Stand.” The words were not so much spoken as understood. Despite the pain, she found herself quickly and thoughtlessly complying, pulling herself to shaky feet before the old demon.
Terra opened her mouth to speak, but her tongue felt like lead in her mouth, and the throbbing only intensified with the tug of her jaw. She abruptly closed it again, shutting her eyes as though that would make the creature before her and the stabbing in her mind disappear, but it was to no avail… and it was as though Mishra knew exactly what she’d wanted to say.
“What’s going on, you disgusting little thing?” the doppelganger’s amethyst eyes glittered dangerously, a mixture of glee and pure malice sounding in his dead voice. “Your friend, that Darrellshanning, he’s ripped the Shi Kari apart. We were, and now we are not. I don’t know how in the hell he did it, but he severed our connection to the Hive Mind. The Farilii become thinking beings once again, but their minds are still empty through the ministrations of the Hive. And thus, we perish.” He took a surreptitious glance out at the door to his left. “The other human is making very certain of that.”
After another few moments spent glancing out into darkened hallways, the doppelganger shook his head and chuckled. “But I know what you’re thinking, if the sheer torture in your mind can register thought right now. Why can I think for myself? And the answer lies simply in what the Doppelgangers are. You cannot remove the thoughts of the individual entirely without using so much lavoid energy so as to irrevocably alter the appearance of the subject. But with just a touch…” he shrugged “You can suppress that personality… and twist it.”
She flinched as his hand unexpectedly brushed her cheek, tracing one clammy finger down her face. “There were a few moments of confusion, certainly… it’s a shame my ‘companion’ Talon didn’t have time to recover, or I shouldn’t have needed you around now, my darling.” The pale-skinned thing laughed again, and grinned maliciously. “Of course, you wouldn’t be alive, had that been the case. Whether that’s a good thing or not, you’ll come to decide soon enough.”
Terra’s eyes slowly opened, their gaze incredulous. “You… hold no… power over me.” She rasped, clenching her teeth with each syllable.
Mishra only laughed harder than he had been at that, and shook his head. “How can you doubt it, little humanchild? Don’t you remember what you did to your little friend back in your cell? Don’t you remember how you survived falling several hundred feet?
“All me, human. When I found your broken body among the ruins that day, I inserted just a bit of my own lavoid energy into you. It healed your wounds, and more importantly, made you mine, just like the Hive Mind had made me theirs.”
A malicious smile crept across his face, giving Terra a very fierce desire to screw shut her eyes again. “But when your little friend showed us whatever delusion rests inside his head, he only severed us from the Hive Mind. Little things like you and me, why, our connection was entirely beneath his notice.”
Terra’s fists tightened beneath her gauntlets, as the horror behind it all became clear to her. And surprisingly, it didn’t terrify her as it should have.
It made her more pissed off than she could ever recall having been.
Mishra pressed in close to her, both of his hands pressing against her cheeks now, too hard, adding to cacophony within her mind, and smiled again. “How does it feel to belong to me, little pet? How does it feel to know that that screaming pain within your head will never go away so long as we’re together? How does it feel?”
The grin on the Doppelganger’s face disappeared as Terra’s blue eyes locked with his, colder than ice. “I’ll show you.”
Jade light engulfed Mishra’s vision, as a very unfamiliar sensation rippled out from his chest. As his legs slammed into a table behind him, he realized the sensation was pain. As inertia continued to push him so that he flipped over the table and hit his head hard on the cold floor, he realized that he didn’t like pain very much.
Despite the unfamiliar burning, the doppelganger recovered quickly, pulling himself to his feet with his eyes firmly upon the thing that had hurt him.
Terra’s eyes flared with just a tinge of purple light, and her gauntleted hands still held wisps of green amidst their claws. As she saw him rise, she rushed at him, jumping entirely over the table that had kept Mishra from hitting a wall before, and slashed him low across the waist.
He flinched back as the attack rent both clothing and flesh, causing a blackish stream of blood to ooze out of the wounds. It wasn’t a serious wound - even with only a bit of lavoid energy within him, simple scratches could be healed within minutes - but the pain that accompanied it brought him another sensation that had been alien to him for many years.
Before he had half a chance to bring his own defenses up, Terra had wheeled around on the balls of her feet and launched into a roundhouse kick highlighted with that same green energy signature as before. As the foot slammed into Mishra’s wounded chest, sending him staggering a few steps farther back, it became apparent that her attacks were being amplified with lavoid energy.
The very lavoid energy he’d pushed into her, the very energy that, by all rights, he should have had complete control over.
Shaking his head furiously, the corrupted being made a slashing motion with one arm. As he did, magically-wrought flames exploded from his hand and formed an ethereal blade. “What in the hell have you done, little bitch?”
Terra maintained her calm, falling back into an easy stance with one emerald-shrouded hand out. “Just discovered the flaw in the control system your masters came up with. You see, it relies on fear to keep a person’s will weak.” Her icy blue eyes sparked momentarily with just a hint of the powerful energy. “The moment you stopped frightening me, you lost control.”
Mishra’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll bear that in mind for when the Hive Mind takes back over, if there’s anything still left then. But you, on the other hand, have proven yourself to be entirely useless to me. I can’t keep you around any longer.”
Terra shrugged. “I’ll separate us, then.”
She struck almost faster than the eye could see, and certainly faster than he could slash with his sword. One clawed fist struck him hard in the chest, causing him both to double over and come off of the ground for a moment. The other, a split second later, slammed him square in the back, reversing his motion and knocking him to the floor with the force of a wrecking ball.
A loud crack rang out as he hit, and immediately his face was awash with dark blood pouring from his nose and mouth. The doppelganger started to slowly pull himself to his feet, his rage incredible now, but the heel of Terra’s boot slammed down into one hand, drawing a scream of pain and ending any attempt at movement in that way.
As that same foot came down slowly to rest on the back of his skull, Mishra knew he only had a few moments to make a move if he wanted to stay alive.
“How many people have you killed, Lavoid scum?” Terra asked, her voice shaking with anger. “How many have you had in this same position, how many have you made feel this pain and this fear?”
Mishra swallowed hard, nearly retching as black bile slid back down his throat, and slowly started moving his left, good hand in a position just by his cheek.
“I…..” he muttered, desperately trying to concentrate. “Balus Rod!” As he yelled out the words of the spell, he thrust himself upward with his good hand with all of his remaining power, effectively knocking Terra off-balance and allowing him to flip backwards to his feet. As he did, he waved his left arm in a wide circle, a thin line of light splaying out from it as he did. After a moment, it fell limp in his hand, and it became clear that it was some sort of magically-created whip.
With a single flick of his wrist, Mishra made the unearthly weapon snake out and twist itself around one of Terra’s wrists. Then, with a cruel yank, he wrenched the girl towards him and let the whip dissipate, catching her by the throat as it did.
The blue-skinned man’s eyes shone with malice as he slowly tightened his grip on her windpipe. It was only then that he answered her question. “Dozens. Hundreds. I’ve lost count, to be honest with you. You’ll be the latest, though.”
Mishra wasn’t sure what sort of response he’d expected to that, but it certainly wasn’t what he heard next.
“That’s all I needed to hear.”
Before he had time to snap the wretched girl’s neck, or to move, or anything, Terra had brought one gauntlet up, fingers out, and drove four claws two inches into his throat. Mishra felt something warm spray down onto his chest as his fingers went completely numb and limp, barely cognizant of the fact that Terra had slid out of his grasp. It was with blurry vision that he witnessed one fist, tinged with green fire, slam him between the eyes, knocking his head back so hard that he felt bone break. Though he couldn’t feel it by this point, a follow up slash horizontally across his throat separated head from body entirely.
And thus it was that Mishra Bishop, first of the Doppelgangers, perished.
“Pure power does not discriminate; all power is destined to destroy.”
- Zeikfried, Wild ARMs.
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