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Dark Force Rising
by Mike Jedlowski

The creature stirred. In it's dark prison. It's torment. All it could do now was wait. This time it would not, could not fail. They had all failed. All it's attempts to finally be free, were for not.

Lashiec had failed. He was weak. The pathetic fool. Too easily seduced, by the darkness. The Creators had failed. And with them The Mother Brain. They promised they would succeed. Lies.

Two millennia, and still it had to suffer. This last time however, was not a complete waste. With the help of those foolish "earth men", it was able to destroy part of the seal. This would be it's advantage the next time.

It then turned his thoughts to the future. This time it would work. Perhaps Laschic could be exploited again. If so or if not it would find others. These creatures were so weak.

It's mind began to wander, slowly drifting into sleep. This time it would unleash it's vengeance upon the galaxy. At last his time would come. At the end, of the millennium.

While the darkness dreamt it's dark dreams, life in Algol continued. There was much to be done by those who were left in the "Great Collapse" as it would come to be known. Time went on. People had to preserver. It could have been worse much worse. There had been too many sacrifices to just give up. He knew this. Rolf snapped out of his reverie. He had too much to do. The restoration process was coming along slowly but surely. Besides work kept his mind off Nei. It had been ten years to the day. Yet the pain still lingered. This was one wound the time could not mend.

She would hate to see him like this. She would want him to live his life. Not brood over her all day. With this thought he turned back to the task at hand.

All the while dark laughter echoed. These humans were too easy to fool. The human's anguish, hatred, and despair. All this feed its power. For now it could feed on twice the negative emotions as before. The anguish of those in the collapse had done well to give it the strength it desired. The plan had worked despite his defeat in Algol, but he would be back. And this time failure was not an option.

The demon awoke; to a world far different than the one he left a millennia ago. Motavia once referred to as Algol's "shinning jewel", had now reverted to the desert it was two thousand years prior. Still it was in better care now, after all some of the green remained, creating dozens of oases.

The ancient being took a moment to survey what was left of this world. Now it had to find a worthy apprentice, as he had planned. It reached out, quickly scanning the populace of all Algol. Then he felt it, yes, this one would make a fine pupil.

He resided on Motavia in a small town, Kadary, yes that was it. Just like the others he brooding dark thoughts, dark desires. He had always been treated cruelly, and he burned for vengeance. This young man would be easy to tap thought the creature. All that needed to be done was to promise him his vengeance, and the angry young man would follow.

The young man sat his back to the wall, his rage burning. He had always been an outcast.(Because of his deformity.) Pushed away, ignored, and tormented. He wished he had power, and then he would show them. He would show them what true fear was. "Zio.", a dark voice called. "Do you truly want that much power?" Zio stood. He did not fear this dark presence. He felt a strange... kinship with this being. At last he said, "Yes, I want power, I would do any thing for this gift." A dark wind suddenly rushed over him in moments, he absorbed the will of Dark Force. He stood and felt strong for the first time in his life. He noticed his entire left arm was deformed, small price to pay for the power he now possessed.

Zio received another gift from the darkness. New clothing all black. His favorite color. He put on his new clothing, and headed out the door.

It was mid-day; the hot sun burned slightly a minor irritant. Aron, one of the many people who often tormented Zio appeared. All the insults all the torment came rushing back into Zio's mind. Zio stared at him and let out an evil laugh that would have given a lunatic chills. Zio's eyes became blood red, as he said for all to hear, "You shall be the first!" He raised his "good" arm, and began to incant a spell; the populace could do not but watch the display. From his palm a reddish light shot forth, it hit Aron; the blast knocked him back, killing him instantly. Then a dark miasma enveloped the town. A demonic thunderclap sounded, as the back of the town exploded.

Zio then calmly walked to the now destroyed area, in seconds a large church was erected. In a booming voice he proclaimed, "The age of man is at an end, now darkness will reign!"

Night had fallen on Landale, a small village just west of Kadary. (So named for the Landale's Alis and Rolf.) All slept save for one boy, whom went to work this night. Chaz Ashley crept along the roof of the village's mayor's large home. He had specific instructions. To break in. And steal a jeweled staff, of great value. Chaz was fourteen years old, the youngest thief employed by "The One". A master thief whom no one knew his true identity. He ran the order of thieves all over Motavia.

Chaz was also one of the best. And he knew it. Chaz had grown up on the streets, never knowing of his parents. He was taken in by "The One". When he was only seven. He quickly learned the "trade". From pickpocket to thief. The boy thief looked down the east side of the building, saw his entry and went for it. A short jump off the side and he landed on a ledge, that would lead to an easy entry through the window.

The boy was small even for one his age. He turned this to his advantage, whenever possible. Whether for thieving, or brawls, as his size lead to those around him to often underestimating him.

Chaz shimmed across the ledge. And to the window. It was closed but not locked. This was too easy the boy thought. Peering in the large room he saw it was empty. It was the butler's room and he had the night off. He quietly slid the window open and slipped inside. Thinking of the map he made himself, memorize, he crept silently to the door. Opened it slightly looked up and down the hall, when he saw it was clear he went down it.

At last he entered the display room. Inside all sorts of rare and expensive items covered the walls and in the display cases. The staff was at the far end. The case containing it was locked. This however presented no problem for Chaz. He took out his lock picks and went to work. In moments the lock clicked open. He then opened the case and took the staff. It was about four feet long, made of ebony, on it blood red rubies shone. The "Staff of Destiny" it was called. And strange writings that Chaz could not read. He thought he heard a whisper. He stopped and listened. Nothing. He shook his head, and exited the manor the same way he entered.

Chaz returned home. To "The Laconian Pot". A tavern that was just a front for the thieves' guild. He handed the staff over to the quartermaster, a middle aged man named Jak. "The One will be pleased with this young Ashley." "Rest for now." Chaz went to his "bed" that consisted of two chairs and a blanket, in the bar's taproom. Sleep came quickly for Chaz.

In a pitch-black room a voice called, our"Zio, I have orders you must destroy and town called Landale. It is named after two humans I loathe. And it will show humanity our power."  Zio replied, "I live to serve you master."

Chaz tossed and turned, in his dream he saw Landale burning. While a man in black walked unharmed amongst the inferno. The populace was running in terror, while some ran in flames. Then a dark voice whispered. "Kill them, all of them." Then he awoke was it just a dream? It seemed so real. It was near dawn Chaz stood up, and walked to the window. He opened it and took a breath of fresh air that seemed to calm his nerves. He thought again of the eerie feeling the staff gave him. And shuddered at the strange felling it gave him.

Hours later after meeting with "The One" and receiving his personal job well done. Chaz went for a walk. He brought along his sword. Which had been given to him by his fellow thieves. He was not sure why he had brought it along. He just felt it would be needed. Besides, many citizens wore blades at their sides on Motavia. So he didn't feel too out of place.

His walk took him to the outskirts of town, all the while Chaz's mind wandered from one topic to the next.

Now he had wondered farther than he intended. It was about two o'clock and Chaz turned around and began home again.

When Landale was finally in sight again, he shuddered at the horror. Just as in his dream the town was a flames. "I have to do something!" Chaz said running towards the village. It was too late for the citizens of Landale. Chaz fought back tears, as he saw his hometown in ashes. People he knew, dead on the ground. "Well, what do we have?" a cold voice said. Chaz turned the face him. It was the man in black from his nightmare! "You did this!" Chaz yelled drawing his sword. The man laughed a sick sound to Chaz's ears. "So what if I did! I must do as my master bids! What could you possibly do about it anyway?" Chaz his anger building took an attack stance. "You can't be serious boy?" Before he could get another word out Chaz rushed forward and slashed out with all his strength. The man stood unharmed. Chaz was stunned. Zio raised his hand and a powerful gust pushed him back, he slumped to the ground unconscious.

Zio approached the boy. He began to incant a spell then suddenly stopped. "He is not worth my energy to dispose of."

Chaz awoke to see a beautiful woman standing over him. She had long brown hair, and deep blue eyes. And she wore a red-dress, with plate-mail that could be seen under her blouse. At last she spoke "What is your name?" His head rang and his memory was clouded he shook it off and said "Chaz. Chaz Ashley." She smiled at him and said, "I'm Alys Brangwin. Is that your sword, Chaz?" He only managed a nod, to the positive.

Chaz saw many other hunters as he and Alys walked the vicinity of the town. As well as people he remembered from town. So others had survived, he felt relived. The hunters and survivors helped bury the dead, and care for the wounded. They would all go to Aiedo a city to the north of so Chaz had heard. "Where are your parents Chaz?" "I don't have any." Alys could hardly believe it. She too had never known her parents, but at lest she had a foster father who raised her. After along silence Alys spoke up, "How would you like to become a Hunter like me? I could train you." Chaz thought about his old life, that was something he did not want to return to. Being a hunter he could finally lead a strait life. "I would like that very much." He said.

Little over a year had passed since that day. His training was not easy but at least he had a place to stay, it was better than thieving any day. Often since he had been asked about the destruction of Landale. His memory was still fuzzy and the last thing he could recall was seeing the town on fire, nothing else, when he tried to remember anything else his head hurt. Strange.

Zio watched his followers kneel in submission. They once turned their backs on him now the worshiped him. He finally had power, but this was only the beginning he would find more followers no matter the cost, and perhaps he would construct a castle, one suited to his greatness. Occasionally he thought of that boy he had spared in Landale. He knew why he did it now, because that boy had reminded Zio of himself at that age. The boy would never remember of course Zio saw to that. Then his thoughts returned to his master's plan, and plan that was well on its way to fruition. He couldn't help but smile at the thought.

She had taut him how to fight. Took him into her home. She was the first true person to care about him as a person. Not just as a skillful thief. Images of her raced in his head. And the sight of her as she breathed her last breath, haunted him. His lust for vengeance burned deep inside. "Chaz! Snap out of it! You can not let your anger blind you!" Rika said as she put her hand on his shoulder. That was the way he had been acting all day. In and out of sessions of dark brooding. Chaz looked her in the eyes, "Sorry, I don't even realize it comes over me like that." The party knew the signs well. He would quietly walk along, not speaking, with a tint of hatred in his eyes.

Rika looks out for me just like Alys did. I'm glad someone does.  Chaz had only known a few women in his short life. Yet he had never met anyone quite like Rika. From her exotic beauty. To her child like innocence. A quality Chaz had been robbed of early on. His feelings for her were confused at best. Was it love he felt? He had never known it in this capacity, so he was unsure.

The moonlight shone down on them. Making Rika's pink hair appear purple. And basking the Motavian landscape in a white glow. "Tomorrow we face Zio. Don't let your anger posses you. I want to avenge Alys just as much as you do. And not lose you in the process."  Chaz knew she was right. Rika took his hand, and gave him a comforting smile. Neither of them spoke for sometime.

Zio's castle looked foreboding in the early morning light. Last time he was here they had to escape. This time Zio would die. Chaz could see it in his mind's eye. As he stood, triumphant over Zio's lifeless form. Then perhaps Alys' soul could rest in peace. Chaz, Rune, Rika, Gryz and Demi entered the maw of the beast-like castle.

Zio stood in front of the control center of Nurvus. The mammoth CPU buzzed and hummed as it ran the ecosystem of all Motavia. He stared at the monitor showing Chaz's party enter. "So they have come back to finish me? Excellent as it saves me the trouble of hunting them down." Darkforce bellowed in Zio's mind Beware of the one who was once called Lutz. He has foiled us before.  "This time he will not!"

The five of them ventured deeper into the labyrinth. Fighting off Zio's guards as necessary. After sometime they reached him. The dark sorcerer turned to face them. "At last, you have arrived. Now you will die!" Chaz spoke next, "No! Zio your terror ends here!"

Zio summoned the horrible visage of his lord, and cast his barrier spell. Weapons were drawn, and the battle was on. Zio's barrier was broken with the Psycho-Wand. Chaz leapt forward at slashed out. His blade tore into Zio's flesh, as his blood ran down the silver blade. Rune unleashed bright red ball of magic, it hit Zio dead on knocking him back. As he stood stunned from the blast Gryz attacked. He seemed like a blue blur as he gave Zio the axe. Demi fired. While Rika attacked with all the ferocity of a primal beast.

The battle went on. At last in a flash of light, Zio cried out, "Why do you abandon me Dark Force? I can't die!!!"  Stumbling back Zio fell, deep in to the chasm that was to the side. Silently Chaz said, "At last you can rest in peace Alys."

In the nothingness between time and space, The Profound Darkness stirred. So Zio had failed. No matter. Those humans would never defeat him. Not once he returned to Algol and that time was just on the horizon.

Their quest was finally ending. Chaz thought as they entered the miasma. The Profound Darkness loomed. It did not try to speak it just attacked. With all the courage they could muster Protectors attacked. And the battle for Algol began in earnest.

The battle dragged on. Now the Darkness had taken a new form. It was in mock form of a woman. Its green hair flowed with a neon glow; it gave off an eerie gaze from its eyes. Yet it said nothing, just as before. With renewed strength, the Protectors attacked. At last, the beast was pushed back; it's physical body deteriorating.

No! Not like this! How can these weak creatures destroy me? It's entire existence flashed in its mind. It had battled its brother, in space over three millennia ago. Its hatred grew with its imprisonment. It plotted. Yet again and again it failed. Every time victory was so close, just to be taken away. Now it was going to die; never again to return. Yet it felt almost relived.  Strange how death changes perspective.

Algol's light beckoned a new day. The Darkness was gone. Algol's terrible curse finally lifted. But does evil every truly die? They would have to remain vigil against the day. The day, that a new terror threatens their world. This time they would ready. Ready for anything.

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