Child Of Darkness
Chaz Ashley's mind was on his journey and his goal, but his heart
and soul was left back at Esper Mansion with his wife. Kyra drove the
Icedigger, but she did not know where they were going, nor did she care.
They left many bad memories back at the mansion and one of their numbers,
but they gained one in exchange. The Hunter found himself staring at Nei
several times, but either she was not aware of it or she did not care.
What was she thinking, Chaz thought. He wondered what thoughts a
person dead over a thousand years could possibly have. She was just as
silent as the rest of them were, offering no indication that she had a
possible plan of action. The Numan warned them that she was not a
messenger with otherworldly powers that could bail them out of any
situation. She was a simple mortal like the rest of them. The difference
was that she, for all intents and reasons, should have not been there. It
was through the graces of the Great Light that she was there, an event
that was unprecedented in all of history. Through Esper magic, Rune
possessed the memories of every Lutz before him and never was there a
situation so dire that the Great Light had to physically step in and lend
a hand to its protectors. There had to be a reason it chose to now, not
that he would ever question its graces.
But the Hunter realized that his thoughts were not where they were
supposed to be and he needed to get focused. They were basically
wandering around without a destination, passing time until one of them
came up with an idea. How discouraging it was that between nine minds, no
one had one that was workable. Chaz felt like they were moving in slow
motion and that their movements were as languid as a slug's. He surely
knew how Gryz must have felt all those times when he itched for some
action, but the Motavian's demeanor changed somehow and frankly, he was a
little bit concerned about it. He knew that Rune spoke with him, but
nothing further than that. It was not like Gryz to keep secrets from him,
but he knew better than to pry into things that were none of his business.
If it was a matter of importance, he was sure the Motavian would tell him.
A few hours passed and Kyra might have been driving in circles for all
the good it did anybody. Even Wren seemed to tire of the monotony and she
thought she caught him twiddling his thumbs a few times. Raja sat swaying
side to side like he was aboard some vessel pretending to be in deep
meditation while sporting a moronic smile. The Archbishop thought he
could manage to get a smile or a giggle out of Nei like he used to with
Rika, but she sat stolidly, appearing somewhat annoyed at his incessant
movement. Sighing profoundly, he finally gave up and sat still, dejected.
Chaz did catch two among them conversing once, though their words went
unheard to those around them. Hahn and Demi leaned close to each other
and spoke in furtive whispers, their eyes drifting suspiciously to the new
member in their ranks. The Hunter would have given anything to have been
sitting next to or behind them when those words were exchanged. He
speculated on what could have been said, the doubts or misgivings they
might have had about Nei. He also wondered why they did not just come out
and voice their opinions instead of keeping them from their friends.
Perhaps it was not for the benefit of everyone else. Perhaps they did not
say anything because of him.
Chaz realized that the way he had been watching Nei was not as obscure
as he would have liked. It was probably all too obvious that when he
looked at the Numan, he saw his wife, even though he tried to deny it
himself. Despite all the support they gave him and everything that Rune
did to get him to accept Rika's death, he did not. Nei's arrival may have
been a blessing to their cause, but it was a curse on the Hunter's state
of mind. He could not blame them for their distrust, of either of them.
They were afraid if anything negative was said about Nei, he might fly off
the wall in anger, and the Numan had yet to prove her value in a battle or
otherwise. His friends were not like him, not in this case. They were
not willing to blindly put their faith in her like he was doing. Even
Rune appeared to be a little bit weary of her and he had even more reason
to trust her since he, or at least a part of him, once fought with her.
Everything was blown way out of proportion and nothing was going the way
it was supposed to. They once knew exactly where they were going and how
they were going to do it, but now their vision was merely a blur.
If Nei was even slightly bothered by all the negative feedback she was
getting, she did not let it show. Chaz suddenly felt sympathy for her,
leaving her eternal rest where she was loved and cared for to aid a few
individuals who mistrusted her. She did not just give up chewing on her
fingernails or anything, Nei gave up her salvation and was torn from the
home she knew for over a thousand years, for a little while, anyway. To
him, she was probably the bravest person he ever knew, braver than even
himself and his friends. A flurry of thoughts spun a myriad of webs
within his mind and he became a little angered at everybody. How could
they possibly know what it was like? How could he know what it was like?
Only Nei knew, but it was not something she was going to talk openly
The magic, the power, the mystery -- everything the Great Light stood
for was strengthened by Nei's very presence. Every one of them was aware
of the Great Light's existence and its intentions, but they did not
understand why they were still suspicious of her. She did nothing to make
them mistrust her, but suspicion was a part of the Palman, Motavian, and
Dezorian psyche. It had been for countless eons and would continue to be
until the end of time.
The Icedigger lurched and Chaz nearly fell forward. For one reason or
another, Kyra braked without warning and offered no explanation. Once he
regained his senses, the Hunter went to Kyra's side and looked out. "What
is it?" he asked.
"It's a -- a child," she managed.
Chaz looked out and scanned the area in front of the Icedigger. Far
off in the distance stood a small Child probably no older than three. It
appeared to be a Palman child that may have gotten separated from its
parents, but it did not seem to be frightened and was not signaling them
for help. The thought that maybe it was dead crossed Chaz's mind, which
was entirely feasible especially because of the storm. Its back was
turned toward them and it was curled up in a fetal position. "I think
maybe we should take the body back to Meese," Gryz suggested. "Someone
there might know who the Child is or where to find its parents."
Before anyone could agree with him, they saw it move. It stood up and
faced them, though no one could get a good look at its face. Raising its
arms, the Child launched streams of energy right at the Icedigger. The
passengers braced themselves for the impact, but nothing happened. "What
is it and why is it attacking us?" Hahn asked.
"I don't know," Rune said, "but I can tell you that it is evil --
pure, unadulterated evil."
"Well, thank you for those comforting words, Rune. I think we've all
figured that out."
"I don't understand," Kyra cut in, "it obviously attacked us but I
don't feel any different and none of the Icedigger's controls seem to be
The Child waved its arms in some weird incantation and suddenly
disappeared. Through the diffuse light of Algo which managed to penetrate
the clouds and storm passed two shadows. Chaz and Kyra craned their necks
to look upward, but could not see anything. Whatever passed above them
must have disappeared into the clouds. "What's that?" Demi shrieked.
Two giant tails emerged from above and began descending slowly.
Everyone inside the Icedigger instantly became deathly silent while they
waited to see the rest of whatever was there. Within seconds, four
enormously muscular legs appeared, both covered with scales which
glimmered in a golden-brown radiance. Their feet were massive, pointed
toenails sticking out like daggers. Snow and clouds swirled around like
powerful wings were beating against them. In reality, the things were
descending rapidly, but fear seemed to slow time and each breath Chaz and
his companions took felt like it came with a startled gasp. Now there
were two bodies, chests, and four three-fingered hands with claws. There
were winged and despite their distance from the Icedigger, Chaz could
still hear them pounding, beating against the air. Nei and Rune had an
idea of what the creatures were, but did not want to start a panic until
they knew for sure. When the two heads finally emerged, their fears were
confirmed and they exchanged worried glances.
The creatures had elongated reptilian heads, beady, blood-red eyes set
near the back of the head allowing them to see almost three hundred and
sixty degrees around them. Four oversized, almost tusk-like canine teeth
protruded upward and downward from their mouths, reinforcing the fact that
if they ever met an opponent large enough to battle them, it would suffer
a fatal wound. Their other teeth, though hidden by loose flaps of skin,
were nearly as visible underneath. Nostrils which sat just above their
teeth were sunken and sat below the skin. Although they appeared to be
useless, they could probably pick up the scent of prey from nearly a mile
away. Atop their heads they wore magnificent horns, crowns of bone that
made them look like royalty.
The twin creatures landed with a boom and sent snow flying upward.
Their necks, short enough to not offer an advantage to foes but long
enough to appear serpentine, twisted this way and that, searching for a
target. They found what they were looking for and began to march slowly
toward them. Kyra, Chaz, and the others watched in horror as their chests
expanded and then released two streams of blazing fire. Within moments,
the snow which had accumulated on the ground was vaporized and the ground
was laid bare. "What are they?" Gryz asked.
"Dragons," Rune replied solemnly.
"Dragons?" Chaz asked, confusion in his voice. "There haven't been
dragons anywhere in Algo for over a thousand years."
"Yes," Nei said, "I warned you that shadows from my past would follow
me here. These dragons are not ordinary. Their presence here is enough
evidence for you. These are Archdragons and they are not your average
foe. I remember watching my beloved Rolf battle them; one nearly took
Shir's life. No, these are not your average enemies -- they are far more
"Yes," Rune added, "if my memory serves me correctly, then we have
much to be worried about. These Archdragons are intelligent, possessing
even problem solving intelligence. They are incredibly powerful and never
make take a second thought about killing anything. Their scales are an
effective armor and Techniques are only a little more effective than
blades. I have no doubt that their intentions toward us are anything but
The dragons took a few more steps, causing the ground to shake
violently; Hahn bit as his fingernails in nervous anticipation. Death,
massive and lumbering was approaching and nobody could move an inch to do
anything about it. Even Nei was disturbed by this turn of events and was
just sitting in her seat, speechless. "I don't feel like becoming dragon
food today," said Gryz. "Doesn't this thing have weapons on it?"
"Of course!" Kyra exclaimed. We must have half a brain between all of
us! I'll just use the Icedigger's fusion cannons and we'll make short
work of them!" The Esper Leader's fingers worked at a dizzying pace while
she prepared to use the Icedigger's weapons on the Archdragons. She
flipped a few switches and everyone heard energy build up as the cannons
prepared to discharge. The Archdragons lumbered forward, unaware of their
Suddenly, the cannons powered down and all of the Icedigger's systems
became inactive, leaving them vulnerable. "No! No! No!" Kyra chanted in
rage and fear. "How could this happen?"
"I guess whatever that child hit us with wasn't meant for us," Demi
"Yes," Wren added, "it would seem that our vehicle was the target, not
"But why?" Kyra probed.
"Probably because the Child knew that our chances of surviving would
be lessened without the Icedigger."
"Therefore, forcing us to go outside and battle them ourselves,
"That is about the size of it."
"Well," said Raja, "we have to do something fast or we're going to end
"Raja's right," Nei agreed, "we must stand and fight. The fate of our
entire solar system hangs in the balance."
"Easy for you to say," Hahn told her, "you probably can't die, but
unfortunately we can."
"That is true; I cannot die by conventional means. My death can only
be brought about by someone whose feelings for me mirrors my own." For a
moment, Nei seemed sad, bu it passed quickly and her attention turned back
to the task at hand. She was hesitant, deciding whether or not to lead or
to be led. If the Numan took the initiative and led her companions to
prove to them once and for all that she was on their side, she could also
risk being spurned by them if they fell into misfortune. On the other
hand, she could follow one of them and be merely and observer and
protector, which was her initial goal. Now that Nei had travelled with
them for a little while, felt their pain from losing one of their closest
friends, she understood their passion, and knew that they needed a boost
"Come on," Rune beckoned, "they may be large, but they're not
invincible. Rolf and his friends were able to defeat these beasts, so why
can't we?" Chaz and the others exchanged glances and quickly came to a
decision. They were not about to die sitting down; if they were going to
meet their creator, it would be fighting alongside each other. They had
not made it this far to just give up and knew that Rika would have urged
them on. Nei, in a passive way, was doing the same, she just did not want
to jump into anything without their backing. Her quiet, thoughtful
demeanor was evidence enough of that.
Wren stood up and walked silently toward the door while everything
shook around him. For a moment, it seemed like no one would follow him
except Rune, but then Nei took the incentive to prove her worth and joined
them. Chaz was next and the remaining stood together as a group to
complete their numbers. With a shutter of fear, Rune made the first move
toward egress and stepped out into Dezoris' raging storm.
The ground cleared by their opponents still steamed like a boiler, but
cooled rapidly in sub-zero temperatures. Standing over twenty feet high,
the Archdragons loomed threateningly over Rune and his companions despite
the distance between them. Snow fell off of trees and an unnatural
silence passed over the land. They stopped, taking a few moments to study
their opponents and measure their skill even though they had yet to see
them in action. Both Nei and Rune knew that they did not have to -- they
could sense an opponent's strength and Magical prowess as easily as they
could detect changes in temperature. One raised its head high and roared
forcibly, much to the dismay of everything around it. If they did not
physically kill their enemies, they surely would have literally scared
them to death. A myocardial infarction would have surely been a more
favorable alternative than what these dragons were capable of doing.
Wren was first to attack and it did not take him long to get his
enemies' attention. The bursts from his normally powerful weapon did
little more than annoy them and enrage them further. Seeing them approach
rapidly, Chaz and Rune combined their Nathu and Nafoi Techniques, creating
a Fire Bolt which burned into their scales, but the thick armor offered
superb protection. In the meantime, Dezoris perpetual blizzard raged
around them, giving no indication of abatement. The wind strength had
increased and it bit deeply into their unprotected skin. If Chaz and his
friends did not get burned to death they would be frostbitten and may
freeze to death. It was beginning to seem like they would have to choose
between the lesser of two evils.
"How can we stop them?" Demi shouted over the blizzard's roar.
"With teamwork!" Nei shouted back. "We have to work together because
none of us by ourselves can do it alone!"
"Nei!" Chaz hollered over the wind's howling, "you said that you
possess Rika's skills, correct?"
"Then come with me! Rune, Wren, you two as well!"
Chaz led three of his numbers before the menacing dragons. "You know
Deban, Nei?" The Numan nodded. "Then use it now!" Sure enough, Nei
raised her hand and used her Deban Technique. Immediately afterward, Chaz
used Megid, Wren's shoulder plates opened up and fired the Positron
Bolt-emitter, and Rune cast Legeon, an Esper spell which concentrated all
of nature's energy into devastating explosions. The Deban shield gathered
in their energies and concentrated it into a single eruption of power.
The end result was Destruction, one of their most powerful combined
efforts on the offensive, designed to totally obliterate anything in its
wake. Just before the discharge, however, the Child reappeared before them
and waved a negating hand, then disappeared as quickly as it came. The
physical structure of Deban wavered, then faded, and Destruction was never
brought to fruition. "What happened?" Chaz demanded. "How could it do
"It appears that our enemy is going to stick around to see its
Archdragons stalk and destroy all of us," Rune concluded, "and its going
to help out as much as it can. The Child dogged one of our most powerful
attacks. I don't know how we're going to pull this off, but we have to
"Rune!" Wren hollered, "the dragon is going to --" Before the android
to complete his warning, one of the Archdragons unleashed all of its fiery
breath. Rune concentrated his magical energy and used his body to split
the stream of fire in two directions, averting it from incinerating his
friends. He, however, was not untouched, the exertion of strength
profound and all-consuming. The Reverent Fifth collapsed, his strength
depleted. Chaz and Wren helped him to his feet and returned to the rest
of their group.
Raja worked his mystical powers and replenished some of Rune's
vitality and it was a good thing because the Archdragons attacked again,
barely missing them. Hahn used Nawat and Demi fired the Phonomezer, but
an assault of ice and sound did little to phase them. They felt like
fleeing, running from their pursuers and escaping them forever. There
was, however, a wall of snow and ice on three sides of them and there was
no escape. Like animals being forced into a corner they would have to
stand and fight for their lives and all the other lives in Algo. They
already saw that even their most powerful attack would not work on them,
not as long as the Child kept them within its scrutiny. It was their
protector and would see them through to the end.
Streams of fire burst forth from the Archdragons' mouths, a horrible
roar accompanying the sound of rushing fire like a harmony to a melody.
Hahn acted quickly and used Nawat to counter it, releasing arcs of ice
from his fingertips, but he could not hold them off for long. "Here," a
weak Rune offered, "let me help." The Reverent Fifth stepped next to his
Scholar friend and used his own Nawat Technique to reinforce Hahn's.
Steam rose into the sky and seemed to add to the already thickening
clouds. For a few moments, rain fell instead of snow, the steam melting
the crystalline structure of each snowflake.
Had Rune been at full strength they could have probably outlasted the
dragons, but in his current condition there was no hope of that happening.
Kyra saw what was afoot and knew it was within her power to help. Taking
great care to concentrate on her Esper powers, she cast Tandle, summoning
lightning from the clouds to assail at her opponents. Passing through
both Hahn and Rune's Nawat Techniques, it strengthened and the Archdragons
were assaulted by bolts of Conductive Thunder. Cold and electricity
jolted through their bodies and they simultaneously fell onto their backs,
causing the ground to tremble. Kyra, Rune, and Hahn marveled at their
accomplishment and stood proudly, but their celebration was short-lived.
Both Archdragons were on their feet within seconds after recovering
from the unexpected attack. One brought its foot down with such force
that the ground cracked and opened up. A long crack of opening ground
raced at a high rate of speed toward Rune and the others. Half of them
dove to one side of it, the other half dove to the other. The rapidly
forming chasm sped rapidly away from them and Kyra watched as the
Icedigger was in danger of being swallowed wholly by it. Luckily, the
crack stopped just in time and the vehicle was only swallowed partially,
but it threatened to fall at any time.
"Nothing any of us does seems to affect those beasts in any way!" Gryz
proclaimed from across the newly-formed chasm.
"Yes," Wren agreed, "it does appear that our attacks are ineffectual."
"I think they knew that we are stronger when we are together," said
Raja, "and more easily defeated when we are separated. I fear that by the
time we run back to the Icedigger and rejoin our numbers, we're all going
to be crispy critters."
"Raja," Hahn spoke out of despair, "shut up!"
For what felt like a long time to the oppressed, both sides stared
each other down like they were at a standstill. Chaz and the others --
Wren, Demi, Raja, Kyra, and Nei on one side, Chaz, Gryz, Hahn and Rune on
the other -- were afraid to make the first move for fear of having their
foes charge in and end their lives swiftly. They could not, however, just
wait for the dragons' move for that would prove to be a fatal mistake. No
one moved and they were barely breathing. For all they knew, the
Archdragons were locked onto their movements and would attack the first
person that moved. "We have to make a move or we're going to freeze to
this spot!" Nei whispered fiercely across the chasm. "I already feel my
"My brain is freezing!" Gryz exclaimed.
"Funny," Hahn chuckled, "I bet that didn't take long!"
"This is no time for jokes!" Rune snapped while Raja nearly laughed
out loud. "Nei's right -- we'll have to be the first to move because it's
a sure thing that if they do, we're all going to die!"
The group's humor sobered up and they returned to their somber selves.
They looked into each other's eyes and instantly decided that they would
have to try and reunite because if nothing else, there was safety in
numbers. Unspoken words passed between them; why voice their actions when
they already knew what each other's thoughts were from experience? Chaz
nodded his head at all of them while Kyra and Rune used their Esper powers
to bridge across the chasm and make sure everyone was on the same
wavelength. Taking deep breaths, their muscles tensed as they prepared to
run for their lives. When the Hunter gave the signal, they took off.
Making great strides, Chaz and his friends easily put distance between
themselves and the Archdragons. Demi and Wren, being androids,
outdistanced all of their companions. Once their enemies caught wind of
their actions, they leapt into pursuit using not their legs, but their
wings. Raja peered over his shoulder and saw two gigantic dragon-missiles
speeding toward them and shrieked. His long Dezorian legs sped up and
moved him faster than he ever moved before, passing up first Kyra, then
Nei. Chaz saw the Archbishop's panic and looked behind him, seeing for
himself what Raja had seen. "We're never going to make it!" he shouted
between his rapid breaths.
All of the sudden an explosion erupted ahead of them and Chaz swung
his head around to see where it was coming from. Wren and Demi made it to
the Icedigger and had turned to face their foes to give them a little more
leeway. Both androids' shoulder plates opened up, revealing weapons of
mass destruction. Wren fired his Positron Bolt Emitter, a cannon-like
weapon which was once used to bring down large fortresses or even
satellites and space stations. The anti-electron particles caused a chain
reaction in whatever they touched, resulting in crippling damage or
instant annihilation. Demi used her Phonomezer, sending screeching sound
waves right into the Archdragons. The dragons flew with grace and managed
to avoid most of their attack, but eventually fell victim to them. They
crashed head-first and shook the ground even more, causing the Icedigger
to slip into the chasm even more.
Both Archdragons regained their senses quickly and became enraged at
being kept from their victims. Cold and snow finally began to take their
toll on Chaz and the others, their lungs burning with each inhalation.
All they could do now was lay down and meet their Creator at long last.
Chaz turned to face his fate, saw the fiery streams burst from gaping
mouths, saw his entire life pass before his eyes, felt a burning warmth
begin to consume him . . . and suddenly --
The Hunter closed his eyes and thought it would be over quickly, but
he was wrong. Upon reopening them, he saw what appeared to be a large
magical Wall between him and his friends. Then he heard something close
by, something which sounded similar to a large feline animal roaring.
Another closer, more frightening roar confirmed his suspicions, and the
Archdragons turned their heads upward to glance at what was headed right
A magnificent animal golden in color with wings that matched its
body's brilliance swooped low over them. It had long pointed ears and
sharp, alert blue eyes which probably enabled it to scrutinize even the
smallest living object from a great distance. Enormous razor-like claws
protruded outward from all four of its padded paws as it caught one of the
dragons on the side of its face, inflicting deep wounds. The mysterious
creature carried a shiny metal object in its mouth, a vicious weapon whose
sharpness could be seen from the ground despite their great distance.
In its paws it carried familiar weapons -- a sword, an axe, and
fighting claws. The creature dropped them close to those they were meant
for. Chaz picked up the Guard Sword, a weapon forged from an unknown
metal on the planet of Rykros. Nei slipped on the Guard Claws and tested
them deftly. Gryz retrieved the Defeat Axe, a weapon that had few equals
in terms of sheer power. It used at a crucial moment, it could kill an
Another roar and the Protectors' savior swooped back down and prepared
to attack the other dragon. It swept the weapon in its jaws from side to
side and blood gushed from the second dragon's shoulder. Making a second
pass, the creature slashed through the soft, leathery wings of both
dragons, rendering them flightless. Cursing in the form of roars and
howls, they raised their heads and launched fiery streams at this new
threat, but missed.
"What is it?" Kyra cried out.
"An old friend!" Rune replied whole-heartedly. "Everyone! Meet
Rune's eight companions' glances turned toward the sky where their
savior continued to hold off the attackers. Myau -- a creature who was
among a species that was believed to have gone extinct millennia ago.
Myau -- one of the heros of lore who fought along side the Great Alis
Landale and the Reverent Noah, the most revered Esper of all time. Kyra
remembered the legend of how Alis, Myau, the warrior Odin, and Noah used
their own Icedigger to journey onto the treacherous Altiplano Plato to
retrieve the nuts of the Laerma Tree. It was those nuts that transformed
the Musk Cat into the magnificent beast he was now.
"He's not going to hold them off for long!" Rune announced. "We have
to help him!"
"Oh, I don't know," said Hahn, "he seems to be doing fine for someone
who's over two thousand years-old."
"Rune's right," Chaz cut in, "we have a responsibility that we have to
keep. This is supposed to be our battle, not Myau's. Come on everybody,
let's kick some dragon butt!"
Chaz and Hahn extended their minds and used Nazan while Kyra and Rune
cast Hewn. A cyclone of inestimable proportions arose and its apex shot
up through the clouds far beyond the ordinary eye could see. The Rage
Wind lifted both Archdragons from where they stood and lifted them into
the air as easily as a pile of dead leaves. Within seconds, both
creatures were no longer in sight.
Seemingly triumphant, Chaz and his friends exchanged high-fives and
congratulatory pats on the back, but their celebration was short-lived.
Like before, the Child appeared and negated their spell, reducing the Rage
Wind into nothing more than a dust storm.
"Away with you!" a stentorian voice boomed. All eyes turned to Myau
who was on another pass over them. "As long as I live and breathe, you
will not interfere with what the Protectors are destined to do!" Myau
landed a few hundred feet from the Child and faced it without fear. "By
the power of Light," the Musk Cat said, raising a paw at his foe, "by the
memories of Heroes past, I banish you from this place! Begone, you
devil-spawn of Darkness!"
The Child hissed at spat at the ground, but faded away like a bad
memory. Perhaps it was not strong enough to face such a grave threat,
Chaz thought. Nevertheless, it was gone, there was no sign of the
Archdragons yet, and they had a moment of respite. Myau, with his wings
spread out wide, swooped low and landed skillfully next to those whom he
just saved. "Myau!" Rune exclaimed as he ran to the Musk Cat. "Why have
you left Myst Vale? The magic protected you from the Profound Darkness'
scrutiny, but now that you've left, it will know your presence!"
"And what was I supposed to do?" Myau replied. "I was beckoned by the
Great Light to aid you because it foresaw your demise and there was no one
else to summon. I do not question what it tells me to do. Actually, my
friend, when the Great Light enlightened me to your situation, I
volunteered my services."
"Myau, my friend, although we are forever grateful for your
intervention, I'm afraid you have forfeited your life."
Myau spread his wings and took to the sky. The winged Musk Cat flew
overhead the Icedigger and lifted it from its precarious position.
Setting it down away from danger, he again landed next to Rune and tucked
his wings backward. "Who knows," he said, "maybe my time has come. I
have lived for over two thousand years, longer than even this android," he
raised a paw at Wren. "If my time has come, then I will not fight it."
"Nor should you," Nei spoke as she approached him. "You are a
magnificent creature, Myau, who has devoted all of his life to defending
the Light, but now it is time for you to be defended, for you to rest. I
believe it was the Great Light's intention to make your presence known
because it knows you deserve to rest and end your eternal vigil. Besides,
there are people under the care of the Great Light who miss you. They
have been waiting a long time to see their friend again."
"Alis . . . ." Myau's voice trailed off. "My friends, Odin and Noah
-- it has been such a long time . . . ."
A sound drew the group's attention behind them, but they did not turn
fast enough. The Child, defiant to the very end, reappeared and without
so much as a thought, launched a black energy beam directly at Myau. Had
the Musk Cat been aware, he would have been able to dodge it, but he was
caught in its wake. Then, as if that was not bad enough, the Archdragons
returned, dropping down from the clouds, their leathery wings healed. The
Child ceased its attack and now it was time for its minions to finish.
Mouths agape, the Archdragons spat their fiery breaths. Reacting
instinctively to protect their fallen friend, Hahn and Rune created a
raging Blizzard which negated the dragons' offense. No longer needed, the
Child vanished, confident that its comrades would finish them off.
Both Archdragons landed with a boom and immediately began to advance.
Rune ran to his old friend and beckoned him to return to his feet. "The
Darkness has gripped me," Myau whispered. "I am no use to you in battle.
Take this -- my final gift to you."
Myau spoke words of a language long lost, a dialect of his people that
even they did not remember. His body erupted in a shimmering white light.
The light grew in intensity and eventually enveloped all of those around
him. His words brought tears to Rune's eyes for his memories from Lutz's
past kicked in and he heard them spoken by a Myau of two thousand years
past. The Musk Cat's Help spell increased offensive power tenfold, and
everyone around him could definitely feel its effect.
Chaz raised his hand and used his Nathu Technique. There was a spark
and a beam of energy like he had never seen before sped toward its target.
One Archdragon reared back in pain as it was struck, then fell backward.
"Wow!" the Hunter exclaimed.
"Let me try!" an eager Demi said. The android's shoulder plates
opened up and fired her Phonomezer. Visible shockwaves emanated from her
weapon and travelled toward the Archdragons, cracking the ground the
entire way. The second Archdragon stumbled and fell, unable to maintain
"Looks like we have a chance after all!" said Raja.
Enraged, the dragons returned to their feet and reevaluated their
offensive strategy. Chaz and his friends heard a deep rumbling from
within their chest and knew something major was about to happen. Their
chests expanded and Rune and Hahn prepared to protect everyone from a
fiery blast, but instead of directing their streams at them, they turned
their maws skyward and let loose.
At first, no one could figure out what they were doing, but when the
fire began to shift, began to take the form of something sinister, they
realized that they were dealing with something much more dangerous. A
great bird of flame rose from their combined breaths, like the phoenix of
legend rising from its own ashes, its wingspan seemingly stretching from
horizon to horizon. It shrieked so loud anything within a fifty mile
radius could hear its cry. Raja felt the blood in his veins turn to ice.
"What evil magic is this?" he thought aloud.
"Huh?" Hahn queried.
"I feel it as well," said Nei. "The Archdragons are powerful
creatures, but they do not possess such power. Darkness has reinforced
their strength. We are dealing with something much more that living
"What is that?"
* * * * *
Reinforced by Myau's magic, Chaz, Rune, and the others prepared
themselves for a double-fisted attack from their marauding nemeses. Kyra
was first to attack, sending her Moon Slasher flying up into the sky at
the screeching phoenix creature. Made of flame and sorcery, the Esper's
material weapon passed right through its body and returned to her hand.
Wren fired a few shots but they were just as ineffective.
Heat rose from the phoenix's body in streamers like heat from
Motavia's burning sands. Looking at its enormous body swaying and
shimmering in the air was like looking at something at a distance through
water. When it began to flap its great wings, a burning wind like no
other swept between the Protectors, burning their skin, sucking the air
from their lungs. Kyra, Nei and Raja instantly hovered over their friends
with a combination of magic, Technique, and mysticism. At the same time,
Chaz and Rune raised their hands and summoned a raging Blizzard to
accompany the one that already surrounded them, but it did not have any
effect. "I fear that conventional attacks will not have an effect on the
firebird!" stated Nei. "It burns with a celestial flame formed of evil!"
"Look out!" Gryz hollered.
The Archdragons, thinking that they had been forgotten, charged into
the fray, the ground trembling beneath their feet. Demi prompted the
Hunter to assist her and he leapt into action. Sweeping his Guard sword
from left to right, Chaz executed his Airslash Skill while Demi fired her
Phonomezer. At that point, everyone was witness to a Silent Wave like no
other. Reinforced by Myau's magic, Silent Wave exploded like a
thunderclap, and everything within two hundred yards of them felt the
impact. Trees were cut in half like so many toothpicks, rocks shattered
under the duress, and the Archdragons were propelled backward with so much
force, they slammed into a mountainside and left imprints of their bodies.
Then, unexpectedly, another more fierce rumbling began, but it was not
from the dragons. Snow and ice high atop the mountain felt Silent Wave's
shock and began tumbling down the face, gathering speed and debris on the
way down. "Avalanche!" Raja shrieked. The dragons tried to escape but
were caught in its wake. Snow, ice, and debris continued to speed toward
Chaz and his friends.
"Quickly, Rune!" Wren ordered. "Follow my lead!"
The android's shoulder plates opened up and fired Burst Rockets in
what seemed like hundreds of rounds. The Reverent Fifth's hand ignited
the air with his Nafoi Technique and Shooting Star rained down before
them, melting the ice and snow headed toward them and effectively creating
a barrier between them. As it re-froze, it created a plow-like ice
structure that pushed the avalanche to either side of the party. But, as
they figured out quickly, all great things must fall.
The avalanche continued unabated, fueled by generations of unmelted
ice on the mountain and by several weeks of snow. Compacted snow began
pouring over Wren and Rune's ice structure and cracks appeared in it.
Kyra turned to Chaz who had broken into a sweat despite the cold
temperatures that surrounded all of them. "Chaz," she said calmly, "if we
die now there is no hope for anybody. Darkness will have won." The Esper
Leader slipped her hand into his and felt it tighten.
"Then we must not die," he told her. Calling to his friends to gather
around him and Kyra, he joined hands with the Esper -- his right in her
left and her right in his left. They felt their energies intermingle,
drawing strength from each other. A strong wind began to blow accompanied
by flames. Just as the ice structure shattered and allowed the avalanche
to rush in, everyone took a deep breath and Kyra and Chaz's Techniques
flared to life.
Had they not been strengthened by Myau's magic their efforts would
have been futile. As it was, however, Chaz and Kyra's Fire Storm was
unlike any other. The flames, the intensity of the heat, were directed at
everything surrounding them except those under their protection. Fire
Storm rose straight into the sky and doused any chance that snow and ice
would penetrate from above. Everything frozen instantly sublimated,
changing into steam and rising skyward while everything not frozen was
incinerated. It was over a minute before the flow lessened and came to a
Though their strength should have been sapped, Kyra and Chaz merely
discontinued their Techniques and stopped to survey the devastation which
surrounded them. The first thing they saw was the phoenix creature
hovering above them. Instead of perishing with its creators, it sought
shelter within the Fire Storm and replenished its energy. Like a guided
missile it sped over to where its creators had fallen and began to flap
its great wings. The snow melted almost instantly and within seconds, two
flaming streams of fire shot up into the sky. The Archdragons emerged
unhurt and very irate.
With the help of their creation, the Archdragons effectively cleared
the field of snow and ice which separated them from their targets. "We're
at a standstill," said Gryz. Before he could say anything else, the
phoenix creature dove directly into their camp and scattered them. Seeing
that they were separated, both Archdragons charged.
Shouts and screams echoed through the mountains and valleys while the
dragons scattered all of Chaz's friends, keeping them apart, forcing them
to attack individually instead of combining their attacks. They kept them
corralled like sheep, keeping them confused, panicked, unsure of their
actions. When one of them strayed off his stricken path, the phoenix
creature was there, diving downward and forcing him back into an area
where they were not allowed to leave. The dragons and their creation
could have finished them easily but preferred to scare them to death, to
feed off their fears and have a little fun while doing it.
Gryz, Nei, and Raja managed to regroup and stood apart from the mayhem
for a bit. "We're getting nowhere fast!" the Motavian panted. "Myau
endowed us with a great power and we can't even get a shot at them!"
"Yes," Nei agreed, "it seems that the harder we try to reunite, the
more successful our foes are at keeping us apart. They're just toying
with us right now, but I think they'll soon tire and make us a small
"What are you worried about, Nei? You said that you can't die by
"You know, Gryz, that's really not fair! I am in this with you guys
until the very end! If all of you die I will return to the light with
you! There is not much I can do alone!"
"That's nice and all," Raja interrupted, "but can we get back to
trying to stay alive!" Another dive from the phoenix creature brought them
back from back from their reverie. "That thing is going to get it!" The
Archbishop raised his hands and took aim at his attacker. Gryz quickly
pulled them back down.
"What do you think you're doing?" he questioned. "What do you think
you can do to it?"
"I'm not as helpless as you perceive me to be, my friend. I was
planning to cast Saint Fire and attack it with holy flame!"
"Are you daft or something? You can't hurt something made of fire
with more fire -- wait a second!"
"The old adage, 'fight fire with fire,' comes to mind, doesn't it!"
"I see your reasoning now, Raja!" Nei exclaimed. "The fire that burns
within that creature is not naturally occurring! It is borne of evil
magic and a celestial flame may be able to harm it! Give it your best
The Archbishop prepared himself for another attack from his enemy
while Gryz and Nei stood behind him for protection. It was not long
before it came back to for another pass, but this time Raja was ready.
Concentrating intensely, he felt his powers well up inside him, summoning
the mystical powers of the Eclipse Torch from its sanctuary in Gumbian.
Clouds of fire and smoke rose before the phoenix and engulfed it wholly.
It fell from the sky screeching and fanning its wings so viciously Raja
was blown over on his friends.
Rune saw the phoenix creature fall and decided it was time to strike.
While Raja kept the firebird busy, its attention was not divided between
them. Another quick look in their direction and he saw Nei throwing
herself onto Gryz and the Archbishop, dropping them to the ground just
before the phoenix attacked again. It was at that point when the Reverent
Fifth searched the immediate area and saw Hahn lying flat on his face in
the snow. Reaching him quickly, he picked the Scholar up by his collar
and felt him struggle. Hahn wiped snow from his face and brushed Rune
away. Giving him a stern look, the Scholar returned to his position in
the snow. "Get up!" Rune ordered.
"Why?" was Hahn's muffled response. "We might as well just give up
because we're good as dead anyway."
"No, look! We have a chance to strike now while Raja keeps the
firebird busy! Come on, Hahn, me and you." The Scholar removed his face
from the snow and looked up at Rune. Glancing to his left, he saw that it
was true that Raja found a way to battle the phoenix creature. "We only
have one chance to end this so we have to make this good."
Hahn joined his Esper companion and prepared to use an attack that was
only used in dire circumstances. During the Scholar's sabbatical away
from his friends after Alys died, he discovered that he had many a
Technique at his dispense including a few that were directly related to
living organisms. One of those Techniques was Vol and its more powerful
counterpart, Savol. The Vol Techniques sought out a creature's nervous
system and destroyed it, causing instantaneous death. Rune's Diem spell,
on the other hand, worked on the premise that the spell could instantly
cause a creature's body to cease all function. Rune and Hahn worked in
conjunction, using Holocaust to attack their foes. The combination of
Technique and magic caused excruciating pain in their victims as Savol
forced their nervous systems into inactivity and when Diem took effect,
the pain vanished but unfortunately so did their lives. Holocaust's
effects are said to be so powerful that one can supposedly see a
creature's soul, if it has one, rise briefly from its body in the form of
a black shadow, torn away from its corporeal form so quickly it does not
even have a chance to rejoin it.
Everyone heard the Archdragons cry out in pain then fall silent. Demi
turned to see what had happened and saw the black forms which were
supposedly the dragons' souls rise from their bodies then disappear a
second later. She started to cheer in triumph but then saw that the
phoenix creature was still alive! The android thought that if they could
somehow kill the dragons, the firebird would cease to exist as well. Upon
further thought, she realized that it was not the dragons who were keeping
it alive -- it was the magic! Both Archdragons just supplied it with its
physical form but the magic was not theirs to begin with.
Enraged, the phoenix creature dove at its enemies, a wing grazing Kyra
across an arm inflicting it with third-degree burns so severe she felt her
flesh nearly become molten and melt right off of her bones. Chaz was
caught off guard and was struck though his burns were not as severe. Wren
was thrown backward almost fifty feet on its final pass.
Demi saw the Esper Leader in distress and rushed over to assist her.
Using her Medice Skill, she was able to ease some of Kyra's pain but she
needed a more delicate hand to fully recover from her injuries. The
phoenix seemed to seek them out and hovered. Demi felt something was
afoot and used Barrier to protect herself and Kyra. A second later,
flames burst forth from its maw and would have roasted them if it was not
for Demi's precaution.
Rune ran to where Raja, Gryz, and Nei were gawking at the spectacle
before them. "Come on, Raja!" Rune ordered as he seized the Archbishop's
arm and pulled him toward where chaos threatened to end their friends'
lives. "That thing up there is a product of Darkness and only Light can
"Then we can destroy it!" Raja exclaimed.
"We have to act quickly! I don't know how long Demi can hold it off!"
Being careful not to attract the phoenix's attention, Raja and Rune
worked their way to a position just behind it. Esper and Archbishop
exchanged looks, then prepared themselves for the attack which would
destroy their enemy. Concentrating on the task before him, Rune prepared
to cast Efess, one of the most powerful Esper spells which only a few of
them knew. Through their extraordinary link with everything natural,
Espers could occasionally call on creatures from inner or outer planes of
existence to aid them during combat. Efess was essentially a bridge
between the caster's plane of existence and the inner plane and the
creatures it summoned were as pure as the Light itself.
At the very moment Rune cast Efess, Raja used his mystical powers and
cast Holyword. The Reverent Fifth's spell enveloped the phoenix creature
in a dazzling aura of blue light while the Archbishop's hit its mark like
a ton of lead bricks. Purify Light was the holiest of all attacks at the
group's disposal. The joining of magic and mysticism was enough to purge
the most nefarious of beings from the planet. By working at the spiritual
level, Purify Light physically severed an evil being's link to the
physical dimension. Once that link was cut, the being could no longer
keep itself from dying or simply fading away.
Such was the case with the phoenix creature. Being nothing more than
flame, Purify Light snuffed it out like it was nothing more than a match.
Then, for the first time in a long time, everything was silent and the
only sounds were that of the icy cold wind and of snow falling softly.
They were victorious.
Off in the distance lay the lifeless husks of two Archdragons, already
being covered over by snow. Every member of the group would have happily
lay down and did the same but they knew that was not possible. Bodies
aching with the cold, fingers and toes numb, they gradually made their way
over to where Myau was, Wren and Demi helping them as much as they could.
Kyra noticed that no snow had drifted over him, like some magic was
keeping it from covering his immense body. Then she looked down at her
wound and felt a dull throbbing in it. The pain lessened but it would
leave an unsightly scar. She knew what was ahead, knew that she was about
to watch one of the greatest heroes of Algo pass on. The scar on her arm
would hurt much less than the scar she was about to suffer from within.
Myau was not dead, but his heart beat slowly and his breathing was
labored. Rune fell to his knees next to the Musk Cat's head. Sweat in
his hair had frozen and gave the impression of ornaments hanging off his
head. Wind was blowing more fiercely now and the tears in his eyes
threatened to freeze to his face. None of his companions knew Myau like
he did, but it tore at their hearts to see their friend grieve so
profoundly. Nei stood behind him, stoic, impassive, almost like she had
some devious scheme in mind. In fact, Kyra thought, the way she loomed
over them she looked like Death itself.
"Myau, my friend," Rune spoke softly, but loud enough to be heard over
the wind, "why? Why did you have to make such a sacrifice?"
"Why?" the Musk Cat replied weakly. "Why does a mother bird put
herself in danger for her young ones?" Rune did not answer. "My time
away from the Light grows short. I am happy that I was able to help you
"The Light beckons you, Myau," said Nei. "It has been waiting to
receive you for a very long time. Your friends are there as well. Do not
"I'm not, Nei. For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to pass
on. Rune, when I am gone, you shall receive the nuts of Laerma. You may
yet find use for them. If you do not, return them to my people, to the
Musk Cats. They will protect them until the day comes when they are once
"I have seen much in the past two thousand years -- the good, the bad,
wonderful times of joy and excitement, terrible times of despair. All in
all, I think I have fulfilled my commitment to the Light well. I am old
and tired and although my body has not aged I cannot say the same thing
about my mind. I yearn for the company of familiar friends, not just the
Musk Cats, but the ones I left behind a very long time ago."
"Your commitment to the Light is not over yet, my friend," Nei said
solemnly. "You will join your friends in the Light and will receive its
graces, but you will enter through Elsydeon so that your soul, your
strength, will add to the sword's strength. This way you will always be a
part of the fight against Darkness just as you have tried to be for the
past two thousand years. Already I can hear the voices calling out your
"Yes, I can hear them, too."
"Close your eyes, mighty warrior. Your battles in this physical realm
are over. Rest, be at peace, and join your loved ones in the Light."
Myau's eyes slowly shut and his entire body became limp. Nei hovered
over him, arms spread wide, giving an uneasy impression of godliness over
everybody present. An inner glow inside of the Numan became more
pronounced and soon enveloped her in a dazzling halo. The Musk Cat's body
shrunk to its original size, leaving only a small impression of the
magnificent creature Myau once was. The small Musk Cat body remained only
for a few moments, then slowly faded away into nothingness, as did Nei's
mysterious inner glow. Left in the snow was three oblique spheroidal
objects which glowed with magical power.
"Amazing!" Gryz commented. Two thousand years in Myau's gut and the
nuts of the Laerma tree were never digested."
"Is what you said true?" Rune questioned Nei. "What will become of
"Yes," said Nei, "everything I said was true. Myau is inside me now,
inside Elsydeon. Already I can hear the cries of happiness as he is
reunited with the Ancients. Do not despair, Rune. He is also in here,"
the Numan placed her hand over his heart, "where you will keep alive even
after his passing."
Rune nodded; he understood. During the last three years he had
developed a close friendship with the Old Man and was especially
disheartened to see his passing. Kyra seemed a bit overwhelmed, as did
the rest of Rune's friends. The great Myau, a hero spoken about in
reverence, died before their eyes and they were at a loss for words. Chaz
went over and placed a comforting hand on Rune's shoulder as he bent down
to pick up Myau's final gift.
"I don't know what kind of use we will have for these nuts," the
Reverent Fifth began, "but I promise you I will protect them with my life,
and when we are done with our journey, I will return them to your people.
Thank you, Myau. May you rest in peace."