“I cannot allow this opportunity to go to waste. I shan't allow myself to submit to the will of another as father did. By the time he will say anything against me, I will already have the strength to retaliate and bend him to his knee. The Dominion no longer has need of a servant of gods as their king; it needs a man who has the power to oppose them.”
- - Kragh Virios, 2811
By the opening of the 29th century. Crispy's revolution had proved catastrophic for the Brood of War. The freedom from tyranny the mysterious Zazane had promised fractured the Broodinto a hundred fiefdoms, the now unending series of skirmishes and power grabs bestowed the region it once occupied with the name of Frenzy Space. But while the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene struggled to restore order within the sector, eyes from beyond the universe turned their gaze to the competing Zazane realms.
Beyond the universal brane, in the trackless realm of the Draconizane Dominion, minds both ancient and powerful drew their attention to the Onuris Universe. Their eternal emperor and metaphorical father of both nation and kind, the mighty Kordan Rex had retreated into recluse following the events of the daring rescue attempt of his most prized trophy, the late lord-councillor Tyraz Breek. While for a being of his great age a decade of introspection was merely a brief period of thought, the armies of his endless empire grew restless, most of all his most violent and ambitious of sons. As the eternal emperor retreated from the public eye, his dynasty looked outward with greedy eyes on a collapsing region; a perfect opportunity for a foothold into a new extension of the expanding interuniversal empire.
Without Zr'An'Kar to give them a united goal, the holy Draconizane Dominion now wrestled with itself to build a purpose. The eastward wings of Segmentum Crepusculum was to become the arena.
Two large doors opened. Beyond them was a large courtyard, surrounded by a circular collonade. The central features of this strange place, illuminated by the midday sun, were twofold: Flowers of all kinds were decoratively arranged in orderly beds, colours of every possible spectrum from worlds thoughout Andromeda and far beyond. Their presence and their perfumes created a psychadelic aroma beyond description in its allure.
The other feature of this garden, stood all around: Statues and plinths, all surrounding a giant obsidian-coloured slab of some strange material. Carved into the glassy black rock was the amalgamation of Dracid and Zan'tai that was the script of the Draconizane. The words were organised into a list, with each one marked by a unique glyph to its right. Above them all the strange script read "In memoriam to our emperor's children. May each one live eternally by Zr'An'Kar's side for their valor in our physical realm.
Striding into this garden, the seven metre tall monster of the very emperor the memorial spoke of. Kordan Rex, his heart heavy from recent events had retreated here today to immerse himself in memory. Striding up to the slab he took a moment to study each name, before reaching a single, large hand to press his flesh against the cold material. He almost froze as his hand brushed the material, entranced in this activity he became momentarily oblivious to the smells of the garden and the gentle buzzing of insects, or perhaps in his trance he felt them even more, losing himself in the companion reality that was the realm of sound and smell.
Appearing from the distance, behind the descended emperor, was a figure of a similar size that walked quietly towards his right side. His appearance was intederminate - not like anything anyone had seen before - but it was slender in appearance, coloured in gloss of black and red, and a lengthy tail that curled around his legs as he walked. The aura surrounding the entity was peculiar - there was no aura there, though it felt like the energies of the garden was drawn towards it.
Spending a moment in his trance, Kordan then slowly opeed his eyes and returned his senses to the realm of vision. But he did not turn his head to accept the presence of the entity. Instead he stood as he was, his hand on the memorial, yet he was not pleased nor welcome of the entity's presence. Unaware of what it was, he wondered to himself, but the draining aura that he could feel helped him to form an opinion.
- Kordan - You come to a place of life and memory spectre, yet your presence feels like something unwelcome in this place's purpose.
- Spectre - My very existence was designed to bring destruction to all that exists. But I do not wish to.
Kordan removed his hand, but still focused his attention on the memorial.
- Kordan - Then for what reason do you grace my garden of memories?
- Spectre - To speak to you, of course.
- Kordan - Of what, spectre.
The entity looked around the garden, walking further towards Kordan as he analysed the beauty of the surroundings.
- Spectre - How many children have you lost, Kordan?
- Kordan - I count forty-seven each time. But even if it were only one I would feel the same.
- Spectre - I am not a father. Not in these years have I existed to father a child. Forty-seven children will not be the end of it if these conquests continue.
Kordan clenched his fists as the spectre spoke. As he did, the midday light that illuminated the garden was suddenly obscured by dark clouds, plunging the courtyard into a dim light.
- Kordan - Zr'An'Kar told me of my destiny spectre. Are you suggesting I deny what he has promised me for the sake of my scions?
- Spectre - What he promised you...what did he promise you? That the universe you invade will bow down to you?
- Kordan - The universe you speak of is no special territory. If you must know, every landmark step I have made in expanding further, Zr'An'Kar has come to me promising that I am destined for greater domains. And so far he has not been wrong.
- Spectre - Zr'An'Kar may have been right, but has not been honest...I can feel a question growing in your mind. I would not ignore that.
Kordan now turned to look fully at the spectre that haunted his garden with its presence, his golden-white eyes flickering in the dim light of the cloudy day.
- Kordan - You come to my gardens, you question my devotion to the Lord of All, and now you tell me I myself am doubtful. Who are you. For what reason are you here besides to parlay?
- Spectre - My name, to some, is Maktanshatinaknatazán. And my reason to be here is to persuade you to not continue with your conquests. There is nothing but bloodshed and genocide awaiting you in the universe you invade.
- Kordan - "Blood shed and genocide?" You seem oblivious to the millennia I and my scions have already endured.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - I am not oblivious. What awaits you there is a degree of bloodshed and genocide that has ended that universe many times over. In a flash of light.
- Kordan - So they are resilient as well as defiant. However I simply cannot overlook the slights their inhabitants have committed.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - ...Not inhabitants, emperor. Tell me, what has Zr'An'Kar told you of that universe?
Kordan turned his head sideward, to look at the memorial, the statues and his garden.
- Kordan - That it has proven an irritance to him. The Great Apostate, a Zazane filth named "Tyraz Breek" seems to be a hero of theirs despite his blasphemy towards the Lord of All. For when he was absconded for punishment, Draconis of all creatures were part of the host to reacquire him.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - Tyraz Breek. I know of Tyraz Breek...and I have fought him and alongside him in the past.
- Kordan - Then for what reason should I consider your words when you have fought by his side?
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - For the very reason that you and I, at a point in time, were very similar.
The entity known as Maktanshatinaknatazán turned away from the emperor, looking at the statues that filled the garden, and then to the skies of the world, dimmed by Kordan's anger.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - Many years ago, perhaps nearing four hundred and fifty thousand now, did I decide that the masters I served only had one purpose. I abandoned them and I realised that my decision was true. Since then I have existed among to those who live in that universe to protect it from a threat that has existed since before the universe even began.
- Kordan - You think Zr'An'Kar is no different to your old masters?
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - I cannot say. Should he appear to you again, you should ask him of the name 'Xhodocto'. I can see now that there are things he has not told you, and that the doubt I believe that is in your mind is linked to Zr'An'Kar's anger. I once served the powers that Zr'An'Kar is a part of. I was once a part of that same power myself.
Kordan was momentarily silent, suddenly recalling Zr'An'Kar's mention of allies. He looked at Maktanshatinaknatazán furtiely, suspicious of his words. His hands opened however, but something else began to emerge, several smaller Draconizane spirits lingered in this place, but Maktanshatinaknatazán could see they were linked to Kordan himself.
- Kordan - You may be mistaken. Zr'An'Kar did not promise me bloodshed or death with the destinies he gave me. He wanted me to control, to guide, not destroy.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - What I say of destruction is not of your hand. The destruction will come to you. I came to you to convince you, because I know of your position. You would do much better in finding your own path in this place in time. But the destruction that awaits you there. It comes in two forms.
- Kordan - ...The genocide you speak of...would be my kin? You see what my domain has created, spectre. If you know of the wars my kind have endured you would know that it would take much to topple it. However...I recall one of those Draconis-- they somehow displayed a power that could somehow match that of my Lord-Taskmaster.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - There are powers in that universe that stretch far beyond the imagination. Any of those powers could prove to be your downfall. And yes, I know of the wars of your kind. The death of Zagdala Breek. That you drank his blood. Those same powers exist there as well.
Maktanshatinaknatazán turned to face Kordan, his face somewhat stern.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - There are two forms of destruction that may befall you if you continue that conquest. The destruction of your glory at the hands of Tyraz Breek and his allies, or the destruction of your will and power at the hands of Zr'An'Kar and the powers that he is a part of. I do not seek to plant suspicions in your mind. But you walk down a treacherous path that splits two ways. I would ask you to turn back.
- Kordan - You assume Zr'An'Kar would betray me when the time comes?
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - Zr'An'Kar's faith in those who he watches over is limited. The faith of those who watch with Zr'An'Kar does not exist.
- Kordan - After my failure to punish The Great Apostate...He informed me that he was no longer isnterested in what path I took.
Kordan looked back at the memorial, the skies began to clear and light returned to the garden once more.
- Kordan - Perhaps...He has already forsaken us.
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - If he has forsaken you, then you are free of a chain around your neck. I do not frequent and convince others to turn away, but you would risk three universes if you wished to prove your worth to him once more. As one who protects, I could not allow that to happen.
- Kordan - You considered my loyalty to him a slave's chain?
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - As I knew that my loyalty was exactly the same. I cannot and will not reveal what truly awaits you there. If you really wish to seek peace of mind, then you would find out for yourself. I know that what is there is not what you desire. There is no conquest there. No victory nor salvation. There is only a will to annihilate all that exists.
- Kordan - And my greatest children would join the fallen...
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - Everyone will join the fallen. My kind joined them. There is a blind loyalty there, but only because the truth is a horror beyond reckoning.
- Kordan - You offer a dark truth, Maktanshatinaknatazán. However I shall consider it. I had previously spent hundreds of millennia watching as my realm was carved with blood and death. Two hundred years ago I had hoped that would all come to an end and that my domain could for once see prosperity and not war. You have my gratitude.
Maktanshatinaknatazán nodded as he stepped further away from the Draconizane Emperor, but before he disappeared completely, he said:
- Maktanshatinaknatazán - I leave you with a question. If you believe Zr'An'Kar has forsaken you and you still live...what mercy will you find there should you provoke the powers that be?
And with that, Maktanshatinaknatazán vanished in a vacuum of blackness, dissipating from view.
Blood and Conspiracy
Blood splattered across the flat floor of the arena, each tile of reinforced, synthetic glass reflecting the dark sky above and the thrilling combat that was occuring beneath it; eight combatants, organized into four teams of two, were present within the ring, equipped with gauntlets fitted with micro-thrusters so as to increase the capacity for damage and blunt force trauma dealt with each blow. Some were Draconizane, tall and built like monsters who fought with equal ferocity, while others were, surprisingly, Zazane - individuals chosen from birth to be reforged from the pitiful state that the enslaved race had been abused into over the course of many millennia and moulded into capable and mighty warriors through genetic therapy and augmentation, the lost genes carrying the secrets of their innate rage once again regained, unlocked, and enhanced by imperial science. The crowd, consisting of politicians, soldiers, and valored soldiers alongside their relatives, cheered with excitement as they watched the spectacle of the gladiators battering one another into submission with the use of modified ultra-caestii.
Watching from above in a compartment fitted with luxuries, including a view of the entire stage, serfs who waited upon his every whim with food and drink, and a throne built according to his liking, the Red Archon watched with a faint smile upon his lips; Kragh Virios had accumulated a vast amount of wealth from the cost of not only supplying a diverse range of brutal and violent entertainment both private and public, but also from the vast industrial capacity of the kingdom he governed and how often he exchanged goods such as custom weaponry, armour, and ships with his neighbours. He was the second richest of the Archons of the Dominion, contesting with his sibling Vetarion for assurance of that standing in the economic hierarchy, while the Red Archon's twin sister, the Grand Chessmistress Yarda, had long since secured her place as the richest authority of the empire behind their father. And yet, despite his earnings and his position as the lord of an entire realm, there was nothing that satisfied him more than observing the exchange of strength and power in the most primal and brutal fashion - the sight of opposing equals pummeling one another into defeat, the spectacle of armies mercilessly tearing one another apart, and the view of warriors savouring their victories while doused in blood was more than enough to satisfy Kragh's bloodthirst beyond his own involvement.
As the Red Archon observed the bloodbath below, taking joy from the primal engagement occuring below upon his throne, a churning fog emerged from the floor, forming into a large clawed hand that immediately reached for a prepared glass of drink that was being served, lifting it from a serf's tray without so much as a 'thank you' from the limb's host. Emerging from the cloud itself, which formed into a Draconizane form a little smaller than the Red Archon's own, were the tails of a long compound velvet coat that shimmered from the lights illuminating Kragh's private booth. The figure walked softly, swirling the glass in their palm as they stepped towards the throne Kragh rested within. As they came closer to see the Red Archon perched upon his throne, they could see that he had, rather unfortunately, decided to watch and enjoy this tournament in the absence of dress and attire as he recklessly downed yet another cup of undistilled alcohol, its purity enough to outright kill those that did not stand upon equal, demigodlike footing - he had decided that he would allow his less seen assets to breath this afternoon.
- Vetarion - Embracing your super-mortal nature this afternoon I see, brother.
- Kragh - As are you, it would appear. You forgot, once again, to knock.
- Vetarion - Would you have let me in if I did though?
- Kragh - Hmph. Not while I was trying to enjoy the show. Can an Archon not enjoy the simple pleasures in life without having his family intrude on him whenever they like? I never stroll into your accomodations whenever I feel like it. ... Or at least, I have not done it for a while.
- Vetarion - I wanted to watch. Besides - Vetarion held out an arm to gesture to the audience in the auditorium - It's not like you wanted to be completely private with all these guests watching with you.
- Kragh - Are you implying that I, a god with the loyalty of a thousand warlords in each palm and an industrial ultra-powerhouse of an empire at my back, do not have the liberty to stroll nude as I please?
- Vetarion - Why would I? Do I look like our sister or our father? Besides, I thought you might be interested in a little tidbit I came across recently.
- Kragh - ... Allow me to get dressed first. I would not wish for my company to leave me with you while naked as I am. I would not wish them to think I am yet another of your incestuous boy-lovers you call companions.
Standing to his full height, the Red Archon stretched his wings to ease the stiffness from his joints and snapped his fingers; a group of female serfs, each scantily-clad in fine robes and unnaturally attractive to the eyes of a normal Draconizane mortal, emerged with clothes for Kragh to adorn upon himself - synthetic hide and augmented leather which was complimented by the fur of great beasts from exotic, arctic worlds. It was somewhat casual wear for Kragh, whose tastes for clothing had been routed in the attire of the ancient bike-riders from before the propogation of extraterrestrial settlements and the development of more efficient yet less fashionable clothing. An emblem of his realm notably resided on the rear of his large jacket, which was fitted with reinforced metallic pauldrons that were decorated with sharp, barbaric spikes. Vetarion raised a brow and smirked.
- Vetarion - I always admired your interesting choices of clothing brother. What is more appropriate for a god such as yourself than dressing in an outlaw's leather.jacket emblazoned with your personal insignia.
- Kragh - I may not be an intellectual like Yarda or yourself, that much credit I shall lend to you. But I have always had a keen and thorough interest in the warriors of our history. ... I feel far more comfortable in their clothes than I do in fanciful robes and dresses.
- Vetarion - You could always wear some imposing light armour. Or something that shows off that impressive torso of yours. Is that not why you decided to sit naked waited on by two dozen servants?
- Kragh - Such is true, but I would rather not have my musculature exposed to you within our privacy. You would be a fool to think that I am not aware of how you or your cohorts tend to admire me without my notice. ... I shan't ever forgive you for that time you had a breastplate crafted based upon my torso without my consent and then had one of your models wear it in my presence.
- Vetarion - And here I thought you admired your body. Anyway, this is what I wanted to show you.
Vetarion reached inside his coat and removed a smal datapad that he handed to Kragh - it was an intelligence report, written in the twisted combination of Dracid and Zan'tai that these hybrids spoke. One picture in particular however, stood out - a scene of Zazane warriors fighting in a war-torn city, accompanying this article - referring to destabilising influences in former Brood territory - were others, including an article on Crispy - who had since disappeared - and what appeared to be a rally, with Uriel surrounded by gigantic Draconis and followers on one knee. This one mentioning the growing influence of Paragavatus Divinum in Andromeda. Kragh observed the datapad curiously and his smile widened, his scarred lips exposing his jagged teeth that resided within his maw as he proceeded to take the device from his brother's hands in excitement.
- Kragh - ... The Taskmaster networks in that untamed universe have served well once again. It looks as if our enemies are becoming riddled with strife.
- 'Vetarion - Oh very much so. Without the Apostate, these Zazane are regressing.
- Kragh - Look at them, brother; these Zazane retain the strength to fight without need of genetic enhancement or any form of therapy. They value the purity of their bodies - their strength is innate to them. It is almost... sickening what we have done to deprive these hounds of their native power. What I would not exchange in order to lead entire legions of them...
- Vetarion - Well why don't you? Father's been in recluse since the last time Zr'An'Kar visited us.
- Kragh - Hmph, father would disapprove. He would have them subjugated and ripped of their strength, just as he had done with the ancestors of our pitiful and sickly slaves. ... He follows the word of a god.
- Vetarion - Wait, weren't you always calling him a dinosaur to step down or something?
- Kragh - I still stand by my word! Father's decisions to follow Zr'An'Kar in such a submissive way has deprived the Dominion of many opportunities; he may have founded this eternal kingdom, yet his reign should have ended long ago. ... I am no bootlick to anyone and I fear neither man or god, but I've not the strength to disobey father's command.
- Vetarion - Yarda did. She could be scheming to get this 'Crispy' being right now.
- Kragh - ... And father has yet to monitor her activities?
- Vetarion - Well she has the lord-taskmaster for a consort.
- Kragh - I cannot allow this opportunity to go to waste. I shan't allow myself to submit to the will of another as father did. By the time he will say anything against me, I will already have the strength amassed to...
Kragh thought for a moment, taken by silence as the realization struck him; with an entire unified state under his reign and a firm establishment in this alternate universe, the realm of the Red Archon would be significantly expanded and the industrial and military potential would escalate to allow him to become not only the richest of the four Archons, but also the most well-equipped to challenge Kordan's claim to the throne and control of the Dominion. A reclusive lord would bring concern and uncertainty among Kordan's kingdom, yet a prince with strength, will, and confidence that of the current Emperor would surely be deemed a national boon and a more fitting ruler under the present circumstances.
- Kragh - ... I will already have the strength to retaliate and bend him to his knee. The Dominion no longer has need of a servant of gods as their king; it needs a man who has the power to oppose them.
- Vetarion - Mind if I tag along with your ambition? What this 'Uriel' is doing...interests me.
- Kragh - Hmph. And here I thought you would stand to accuse me of being an absolute madman and a traitor.
- Vetarion - Well maybe, you talk about it so much I might actually be screening out all that "I will overthrow my father" stuff...
- Kragh - I never thought I would once ask you of this, but if you wish to accompany my conquest into Andromeda, I wish for the assistance of your own kingdom. Your legions and your generals. ... I've a feeling that it shan't merely be the Zazane that will oppose my agenda, for Yarda would have inevitably foreseen the same possibilities as we have. I cannot allow her to steal this from me, or nothing shall ever change.
- Vetarion - Sure...But I won't do it out of the kindness of my own heart or anything. I want recognition.
- Kragh - Krann dung. What else would you have? Recognition is nearly never enough for you. Treasure, riches, spoils, women, land?
- Vetarion - Well I am helping you become the next eternal emperor.
- Kragh - Fine. I will allow you a third of the spoils I obtain from this campaign and I will allow your name to be sang and praised for eons to come after the old bastard's demise, with you having a seat at my side. ... I would simply wish that you stir the public opinion to convince them that our father is weak and no longer fit for rule. In spite of your sickeningly large ego, your charisma and your way with words overcomes my own.
- Vetarion - I'm sold.
Vetarion held out his hand to his brother, smirking as he did so. To his chagrin, Kragh proceeded to spit into his own firm and massive palm before shaking hands with his brother, bellowing a laugh at the same time as the crowd beyond the booth cheered. If Vetarion was not an immortal as his brother was, he would have felt his older sibling's saliva acidizing and burning the flesh of his palm. Vetarion grinned as he shook his brother's hand.
- Vetarion - Don't worry, brother, I'll see what I can do about glorifying your name...
- Kragh - When I am done with conquering the Zazane in Andromeda, it shall already be too late for the fossil king to say or do anything against it. ... You've come a long way, brother. Now is your chance to prove you are worth something to me other than a punching bag.
- Vetarrion - Right...though mind if I watch the rest of the tournament alongside you?
- Kragh - Don't push your luck, you little snot. ... Ah, I am pulling your leg. I shall have a seat brought to accomodate you. And we have much blood and drink to get through before the sun sets.
Reeling his hand back from his brother's grasp, Kragh proceeded to playfully, if somewhat a little too roughly, punch Vetarion upon the shoulder before he turned and returned to his throne; already, gladiators were laying dead or crippled with their blood splattered across the cracked glass that they fought on. More cheers were drawn from the ground as Kragh came back into their view from his booth and he took his seat, slouching to his side grasping another drink from a tray carried by a nearby serf. Although he was invested in the show, the excitement of finally being able to oppose the greatest burden in his life was beginning to detract his attention, his imagination of a stronger and greater Dominion running wild.
Quest Of Faith
Something felt disturbingly quiet wih the Draconizane universe. Kordan Rex, the great eternal emperor had descended into contemplation, wondering of his place after Zr'an'kar's last words with him. To discover an asnwer, Kordan journeyed into the dark sanctum in which he had historically met with his master, deep underneath his great palace of the Dominion's version of Alcanti. In this dark hall was where Kordan, and normally his witnesses would meet with Zr'An'Kar, who sat on the gerat throne at the end of the chamber.
Kordan lowered his head as he approached the altar, the throne was currently empty, absent of its owner and the emperor's master. This was troubling to Kordan, had Zr'an'kar truly abandoned the Draconizane as he had hinted? Kordan, loyal i nfaith that he was, lowered himself to stand on his knees, taking glances to the holy murals that adorned the walls before looking up to the throne itself, his eyes gazing where his master's head should have been.
- Kordan - It has been many years since you depearted, my master. And I come seeking answers. For millennia you promised me greater and greater prizes...what was your ultimate desire? What drove you? Was my very existence merely to spite this 'Tyraz Breek', a being who until now I had thought a heretic and a defiler, regretted where I stood. He wished that had you not touched me with your great light, that we may have been allies.
Kordan lowered his head, moving forward ot rest his hands on the altar.
- Kordan - Why would a man who is such an anathema to you respect me in such a way. I was your greatest servant and he let me live, he has not troubled me and now I hear he has finally passed. - he tilted his head ot look slightly up - Was this my kind's purpose? To spite him alone? Did we conquer a universe for you as a demosntration of how weak and reviled he is?
Kordan clenched his hands into fists on the altar, digging into the stone, his confusion turning into anger.
- Kordan - I know you can hear me great Zr'an'kar. And right now I ask for the truth. Was I made in some..petty act of mockery. To spite a man I never knew and had never once touched me or my kin. I want to know...
With a greaat roar, Kordan made sure he was heard in the chamber, his tone reverberating thoughout the chamber and though the doors.
- Kordan - ANSWER ME!
Kordan's voice shattered the throne like crystal glass, shards of metal exploded from the throne's form, suspended just inches form where they left. As Kordan screamed the standing columns that lined the central aisle exploded in a similar fashion, the murals on the walls twsited and blackened as they were scorched with an undetectable heat. Bursting from Kordan's back, two wing-like jets of Shidium plazma extended to illuminate the dark chamber in a reddish-purple light. His scream echoed for several minutes, the room contorting as it bucked under his rage. Eventually, the emperor's rage subsided, but the transformations remained
- Kordan - You knew me for so long...great Zr'an'kar. I cannot believe...I knew so little of you!
- ??? - The answer is yes.
A voice finally replied back to Kordan, but it was definitely not Zr'An'Kar's. It was much softer and feminine in tone, and from behind the emperor emerged a lean, almost featureless figure whose body let out a warm golden light. Thea'Nhirara. Kordan kept his position. He felt the angelic figure as it emerged behind him. Rather than welcoming, he growled as his memory of the Ungruggysul, their divine champions in particular, was renwed.
- Kordan - What spectre approaches me now. Whose presence licks at my scales like the arcing arms of a star.
- Thea'Nhirara - A messenger. I have seen you ask for Zr'An'Kar's answers. You shout to dead ears.
- Kordan - He is eternal, and beyond death. What proof do you bear of this claim that he is no more.
- Thea'Nhirara - You would ignore any proof if I had any. But facts are facts. Zr'An'Kar has been destroyed by the man he created you to fight... He was not even the greatest of his own race.
- Kordan - The 'Apostate' yes...he was nothing compared to Zagdala himself.
- Thea'Nhirara - I speak of Zr'An'Kar. He was not the greatest of the Vyro'Ralza. Though I doubt he would have wanted you to know that.
Kordan's fiery wings subsided and the shards began ot settle into their old positions.
- Kordan - I was once approached by an entity who claimed similar, that greater forces existed beyond the universal brane.
- Thea'Nhirara - As for your questions... The answer is yes. You and your people were created for the sole purpose of spiting Tyraz Breek. A product of Zr'An'Kar's egotistic tendencies... You are not even the only one of his experiments. You are just one of many.
- Kordan - And you. Why approch me, to whom do you belong? For what reason do you bring me this information.
- Thea'Nhirara - To try and reason with you. The hatred you feel for the races of my universe are fueled by the selfish desires of a demon who once shackled you, raised you for the sake of getting the better on his enemy. But you are free now. Free to lead your people to your own future.
Kordan stood from where he knelt, the influence of the remnants of the Unifier's Edge had changed him, now standing eight metres in height. He turned around, withregal grace despite his size, to look at the spirit that had visited him.
- Kordan - To the people of this dominion, Zr'An'Kar was the lord of all. Timeless, ageless, and I was his herald. There were no others before him. With his passing, I stand as the pinnacle of the pantheon that my dominion places its faith in. No longer constrained to his whims...The voice from which direction is given for everything we have built.
- Thea'Nhirara - And if I recall, he left you to your own devices when you ascended to the stars... You do not need him to lead your people. Under him, you were weapons. Nothing more.
- Kordan - Weapons, tools, a symbol only he and his petty feuds understood. Then no more.
Kordan looked t othe throne as it reassembled itself, glaring at it.
- Kordan - We no longer need his guidance, his wisdom, that is now of my domain. For a hundred thousand years we were shackled. A collective leash shared by numbers beyond count...No more.
- Thea'Nhirara - So you understand what I mean. You now have the chance to create your own destiny.
- 'Kordan - Yes...
Kordan looked at the throne again, the metal was blanding ,the throne reforming into a new shape, one better suited to the Eternal EMperor's tastes. As he watched, Kordan's voice now displayed relief, he felt as though a heavy burden had been lifted form his shoulders and released form aroudn his neck.
- Kordan - I thank you spirit, you have shown me a purpose I thought lost. I wish to ask; to what am I to call you?
- Thea'Nhirara - I am know by many names. One of them being 'Destiny Bringer'. I believe it appropriate for this occasion.
- Kordan - Approrpriate indeed, Destiny Bringer. I shall no longer bear ill-will towards the universe that Tyraz Breek called his home. The chain that bound me to do so now broken.
- Thea'Nhirara - I am pleased to hear so. But yet, you are just one of so many of your people. Not all of you would agree to this decision so quickly.
- Kordan - My scions might have other reasons, their own motives for turning their gaze upon that universe. The people themselves however...they shall only know the Great Apostate is dead, and that Zr'An'Kar frees them from his wishes; That we are free to shape our fate however we desire.
- Thea'Nhirara - I will leave that to you. I came to you for you are the guiding hand of your people.
- Kordan - Of course. Thank you once again, Destiny Bringer, for you have released me form a great burden.
Thea'Nhirara bowed her head to Kordan before levitating back, vanishing in the darkness of the room as quickly and silently as she had arrived. Once she left, Kordan moved up to the reformed throne, caressing a hand over it. As he did so, a grin spread across his face.
- Kordan - My children do not deserve to be bound. WHat they desire for that universe. I shall leave that to them alone to figure out.
Digging Out Secrets
Fire burned above the skyline of the city; the local defense fleet of this world that sat at the edge of Frenzy Space was becoming swiftly overwhelmed by the assault of an enemy armada consisting of thousands of warships, each built with a peculiar hybridisation of Draconid and Zazane features that exchanged laser and Shidium volleys with the planet's defensive vessels and installations. Infantry and mobilized forces sought to push back the invaders that had set foot upon their world, using technology either improvised or since outdated as of the current decade - equipment and vehicles that had not been officially modified or updated since the end of the rise of the Golden Movement prior to the onset of the 2800s. There was no hope to be had in repelling the oncoming foe, for the technology they sported outmatched their own by a significant margin, although they could wish to stall for time. Time to allow the leaders and valuable individuals of importance to find a means to escape the battlefield, although their chances became increasingly slim as enemy aerial and orbital forces occupied the skies and proceeded to decimate any civilian or military craft that sought to departure from this hell.
It was not merely foreign invaders that pressured the local defensive forces. Firing alongside them were dissatisfied civilians, those who held contempt for the leadership of the local warlord and used the opportunity to take the planet for themselves. Neighbor had turned against neighbor as these dissidents threw away their previous loyalties to fight for one they called The Chessmistress. Such was not an uncommon occurence within Frenzy Space; for a decade or so, the remnants of Zazane society following the actions of the Golden Movement and the fall of the Brood of War had become increasingly violently divided - with no central government, generals, commanders, and system-governors had struck out realms and kingdoms to call their own, either in hopes of surviving the catastrophic era of anarchy that they were now subject to, or for replacing the old order with the exclusive, individual political agendas now wielded by the vast number of warlords and pirate-kings that now dominated this sector of Andromedan space. The meritocratic philosophies of the Brood of War had now been reverted back to the ways of more than a hundred or so primitive, primarily individualist kratocracies and oligarchies.
Signs of the old ways however still breathed in these dying streets, as former citizens of the Brood turned on each other a symbol of the instigator of this dream fight to survive the chaos, backed by their supporters a former agent under the Golden Movement's banner crossed damaged and war-torn streets, their party working desperately to avoid the armoured warriors that now patrolled the streets, the most dreaded being rumours of Zazane who bore the heritage of legends, who stood above their contemporary counterparts but had pledged themselves to fight for the invaders. Out of all of the warriors that assaulted this city, they were the most feared; the Zazane's own genetic history returning as if to destroy or subjugate what their kind had become. Former Major-Lieutenant Xhalth Pharakan was this veteran operative of the Golden Movement, now serving under the employ of the warlord Tarathan Malovar as his military consultant, advisor, and current general over his terrestrial armies - a man who had been born beneath the flag of the Third Sovereign Domain and had since served a promising career beneath the Brood of War before his allegiance turned to that of the Golden Movement in the initial stages of its rise to prominence. He had even served as a military consultant of the one known as Crispy while his presence was still visible in Andromeda; a fact that made his image controversial within the lands owned by the lord he now served and his head valuable for the array of information that was kept firmly locked within the confines of his mind and memory. This however may have been his downfall, as he travelled through the city there were reports the abberant Zazane were moving in his direction, checking spots where he and his entourage had been before they had to move. Somoene was after him, an additional operation alongside the more general assault on the city.
Armed with a vibrosword in one hand and a high-power pistol in the other, crafted and modified to fire augmented armor-piercing rounds, Xhalth furiously marched towards the dedicated evacuation zone where his personal transport craft would be awaiting him. At his sides and his back was a retinue consisting of several snipers, various melee combatants armed with either two-handed vibroblades or a pair of vibroaxes, a couple of heavy weapons specialists, and a frontline medic equipped with a standard, yet somewhat old, morph rifle that currently sported the form of a shotgun. Xhalth was no stranger to being hunted down by his enemies, although it no less brought him frustration and irritated anger whenever he found himself in such situations, which in turn afflicted his perception and rationale. At his elderly age - he disclosed that he was somewhere within his late 80s when he came under his lord's employ - his fuse was naturally shorter than most of his younger companions and underlings and the situation only brought him rage rather than fear.
- Xhalth - Yet again I find myself drawn into a game of Koda and prey... I've no time for this. Shyrak-eating bastards always wish to waste my time under the impression that I'll give them the satisfaction of an entertaining hunt. If they don't hurry up and kill me, I may as well do it my own damned self...!
As the group reached the evacuation zone, some of them spotted something hurtling through the air approaching their position. Getting a better view the group realised it was one of these such Zazane, a goliath of rage and muscle that proceeded to land between them and the transport, flaring its nostrils as it drew a rather high-calibre looking cannon. Releasing a rumbling growl as the figure stared down at Xhalth and his soldiers, causing most of the retinue to hesitate and panic, while the old Major-Lieutenant sneered and narrowed his eyes in the direction of this enhanced fiend.
- Xhalth - Hmph, you think you scare me? Before me I witness a coward who hides his abominable self behind a damnable cannon instead of engaging me like a warrior should!
- Warrior - We are not here to kill you.
There was a scream behind him, the warrior turned out to be not alone and two more like him stood on the rooftops, holding Xhalth's snipers up as if they were sacks of meat. Xhalth snarled as he witnessed himself being surrounded, his hope of leaving this battlefield dashed as his retinue was becoming picked off by the enemy, although it did not deter him from continuing to try; he charged the cannon-wielding soldier ahead of him, his movements surprisingly agile for a venerable officer, and aimed for the Zazane's throat with his vibroblade held in a masterful hand.
- Xhalth - Then I've no reason to fear you at all as I bleed you dry! You're little more than a waste of my time!
The warrior responded by shifting to the right and launching his foot in Xhalth's direction, aiming to slam the power of a freight train into the defiant veteren's body. Instead of being kicked backwards, however, the grizzled old Zazane clasped the beast's leg in a hold with his gun-bearing arm before he made short work of the soldier's thigh, waist, and lower torso, mercilessly cutting away with the skill and speed of a swordmaster and the aggressive ruthlessness of an impatient elder. The warrior screamed and bent forward ,throwing a large fist in Xhalth's direction while his companions finished off the snipers before launching themselves at the rest of the group armed with vibroblades. The Major-Lieutenant's retinue retaliated, guns blazing and vibroswords swinging as they attempted to at least the survive the coming onslaught, while Xhalth backed away, spitting a glob of blood and saliva at the ground before he glared back up at his opposition. He twirled the vibroblade in his hand, a grim scowl written across his aged, scarred face.
- Xhalth - You won't kill me. That's the entire reason your filthy lot is here, is it not? Hmph.
- Warrior - No. I will not kill because She demands you alive.
- Xhalth - Ah, I see it clearly now... Your mistress wants my head because of the info I have on the Golden Movement. On... Crispy. She's not the first.
He raised his sword arm up to point at the Zazane ahead of him, while his other arm lifted so that he may bring his pistol up to his crest and hold it mere inches away from his cranium, a bold smirk making its way across his face as he stepped towards his enemy. His finger was centimetres from the trigger, with no sign of reluctance in the Major-Lieutenant's movements while he stared down the mutated foe he was faced with. As the Liutenant Major approached, the warrior lowered his head while the fight behind him grew quieter. As he focused on his adversary another figure had arrived, clad in shimmering armour underneath a large military coat. And despite the figure's size her footsteps were soft, keeping silent as the entity gazed upon Xhalth losing himself in a sense of satisfaction that he had won.
- Xhalth - I shan't grant it to you. Why? Because the knowledge I keep would compromise everyone. Each and every soul in this damned hellhole of a sector. I've no loyalty to spare for Crispy anymore, so do not think that my heart holds him of any high regard; it is merely my responsibility to keep this info from prying hands such as your shyrak-eating mistress and, should the occasion call for it, put it to rest. ... There is no soul in this sector I consider worthy enough to wield this info. So I'll do my duty and make sure it shall never be wielded again.
The entinty crouched and slowly moved their snout to Xhalth's side, a sly smile creeping across her face as the figure made themselves known.
- Yarda - Touching, little soldier. Your dedication to keeping dark secrets is truly admirable.
- Xhalth - ... I do not fear you. There is nothing I fear more than what outcomes may arise from this knowledge being exploited. And you would be a fool to think that you could convince me otherwise, you manipulative scum.
- Yarda - You think I need you to speak to tell me these secrets.
- Xhalth - Not at all. I think you merely need a brain which retains the memory of this info - a functional, intact organ. I am not ignorant to the existence of such methods.
- Yarda - A brain...such as yours.
WIth a swift motion Yarda moved her hand to press against Xhalth's torso, pushing him to lie on the floor. Upon her touching his body armour, Xhalth motioned for his finger to press upon the trigger of his pistol, expecting for a shidium round to burst through the casing of his crest and devastate his skull and grey matter into an irreparable mess that would be of no use to anyone in such a ruined, tattered mess - an expectation that did not come, for as he fell to the ground, he noticed that his hand was no longer grasping a pistol. It was as if he had never been holding it in the first place, yet he knew he had been holding it inches away from his head just moments prior. Yarda leaned over him, with one hand on his chest while the other had clutched the pistol. She gave a devious smile as she clenched her fist, crushing the pistol into scrap metal as if it were made of paper.
- Xhalth - How... Hmph! It matters not! I still have the upper hand, you wretched maggot!
- Yarda - Because of the secrets you hold in that stubbourn mind of yours.
- Xhalth - Guess again.
With the Draconizane leaned over his person, Xhalth swiftly motioned his sword-bearing arm ahead of himself, aiming to slash the abomination across her mutated, abhorrent face with the heated edge of his vibroblade, or at least make an attempt at the joints of the arm which held him to the ground. Yarda's face was knocked by the cut of the blade which created a gash across her crest. A cauterised gash however that started closing up soon after it had been opened. This only made Yarda irritated and she applied a small amount of extra pressure on Xhalth's chest.
- Yarda - Stubborn, aggressive, but you may still be useful...
- Xhalth - Flattery shan't get you anwhere, witch.
- Yarda - A shame.
Yarda moved her other hand to stroke Xhalth on the side of his snout, tilting her head as if to fein sympathy.
- Yarda - But now I have what I need from that stubborn head of yours, my flattery was only for comfort. Please don't be alarmed by what comes next, it can make things so much worse.
- Xhalth - What comes next... is my foot driving itself up your arse and out of your damned shyrak-spewing mouth! Get on with it and kill me now that you're finished with your business here!
- Yarda - I never said I would kill you after I gained what I needed.
As she caressed his cheek, she tapped her index finger three times. Xhalth felt a rush of oxygen flow ot his head, as if the very tap induced a volatile dizzyness, but when his senses returned to him the concrete beneath his body felt different. Gone was its uniform profile, replaced by what almsot felt like a contorted bed of rough metal. But the first thing he still saw was Yarda's devilish grin as she stared down at him, her head dominaitng much of his vision. The world moved around him, as if he was being pulled into the air on this strange platform, which upon further discovery was in fact Yarda's own palm. The Zazane furrored his brow in confusion, analyzing the situation as clenched his fists tightly; through some method of arcane manipulation over the forces of the laws of physics, his mass and size had been reduced to that of a mere verminous rodent. His scarred face twisted into a seething, wrathful scowl that Yarda responded to with a look of endearment.
- Xhalth - What matter of trickery is this...?!
- Yarda - No trick, Major-lieutenant. You exist a fraction of what you were. It makes keeping you around so much easier to manage.
- Xhalth - You saw it not enough to pry my mind of its content... You needed the satisfaction of granting me utter humiliation, did you? You are truly despicable.
- Yarda - This way you can retain your life and the secrets you bear will remain safe...relatively at least.
Reaching for her belt, Yarda unclipped a canister. Flicking a latch on the lid of the canister, the container opened up and she lifted it up to rest underneath her palm. She tilted her hand so that Xhalth would slide from where he lay and fall into the canister. There was a small bout of resistance from the miniscule Zazane, although there was no such significance to his struggle as there was naught he could do but fall into his new, rather bizarre prison. As he landed inside, Yarda flicked the latch again and closed the lid. As she clipped the canister back to her belt she looked to the remaining members of Xhalth's squad, who had lay subdued by her Zazane warriors. She took a moment to look at each of them, determining where their loyalties lay. Disappointment arose in her voice as she looked at each of them, then turning to her soldiers.
- Yarda - To those who remain true to their commanders. Finish them.
After the Zazane warriors executed those that she found to still be loyal to Xhalth, the group left the scene to move towards the capitol. Unaware however, that as they left, another figure, also interested in Crispy had arrived at the scene. A visor obscured the upper half of their face, although there was no doubt from their physique and physiology this figure was a member of the Zazane race; hi-tech armour, equipment, and weaponry were sported upon their person, standing tall as they approached the scene to bear witness to the Draconizane and her subordinates departing from the area, with the personal transport for the Major-Lieutenant still in comparatively one piece. Their outfit and gear were definitely PAE-tier, even sharing some design and sleek aesthetic qualities, although their colours were unlike those worn by operatives of any PAE-funded organisation, for they were a combination of obsidian black and deep blue.
The figure approached the scene out in the open, wielding an augmented and seemingly illegally enhanced rifle in their hands. They analyzed their surroundings, taking note of the blood and bodies left on the ground before turning their head towards the pathway taken by Yarda and her soldiers in order to make their exit. In a somewhat cold and emotionless voice and tone, the individual spoke into a communicator attached to a part of their visor. From her full lips, which a scar ran down the side of, and her higher and softer pitch, it could be easily assumed that this figure was a woman, even if her curves and figure were hidden beneath her armour.
- ??? - ... The GM operative is not present. There is no sign of their body, although I have found their personal carrier craft and the remains of their assigned retinue. ... I am preparing to pursue a possible lead on their location who may also have additional knowledge regarding his whereabouts. I will provide a means to track our new lead once I have infiltrated their transport.
As she walked, her armour and equipment appeared to begin to lose their physical presence, for they seemed to almost fade out of existence; an advanced means of stealth and invisibility, enhanced by her armour's on board anti-detection hardware. She became a ghost as she walked across the battlefield, her rifle primed in preparation for combat, and from her visor extended a reinforced guard to cover her mouth and the rest of the lower half of her face. When she spoke next, all traces of her femininity had vanished, replaced instead by a distorted, robotic voice that masked any audible hint of her identity. She held her rifle close to her chest, narrowing her eyes beneath her visor before she picked up her pace upon the trail left by her new target and began to sprint.
- ??? - ... Undertaking comms silence. Commander out.
The unknown Zazane kept close to the Draconizane and her retinue. She watched as the demigoddess presented Tarathan Malovar to a chanting crowd. When he spat in her face ,an act of defiance perhaps, the woman watched as with but gestures, the Draconizane telekinetically tore Tarathan's heart from his chest, the warlord dying as his blood tricked and the organ was suspended in the air and with his last breaths she compressed the heart with but a thought. The late warlord collapsing to a cheering crowd.
The Zazane woman followed further, stowing away on a transport that took her to the ships above. The woman had watched as Yarda and her retinue had simply vanished into smoke, but her destination was certain. Discreetly the Zazane agent was able to move to the armada's flagship, a gargantuan construct that appeared to very vaguely resemble a Warlord-class titan. There were a number of differences beside the paintwork, from its side were great thick wings like those found on Brood-era dreadnoughts, great plates of decorated gold extended over like gilded webbing across the hull. Strangest of all, simply looking at this vessel made the agent feel uneasy. It wasn't the sheer size - the Gigaquadrant boasted larger vessels - it wasn't the potential firepower it held - technology had come a long way since the Great Andromeda War and Xonexian Schism - Something about the ship itself beyond the more standard features tempted for submission with its very visage.
The hybridisation of philosophies were the agent's best guess. Although data on these ships had been leaked from the operation to rescue Tyraz Breek back near the end of the twenty-eight century, that information was mainly applicable to cruisers, freighters or command ships. These dreadnoughts were a very different experience, fortunately a few of the philosophies seen were continued. Surmising that the command and control would be in the core of the ship, she kept to the less busy always to avoid drawing attention.It was exploring this part of the ship that the agent spotted her target in full view: A giant of a woman, some five metres in height with great flowing horns extending from her crest, it was Yarda Virios, fitting descriptions from the rescue team. Even discounting this titan was twice the Zazane in height, her build was more stout in proportion, a feminine figure but possessing much more muscle on her bones. Following the giant, the Zazane was led out of the central command rooms and towards a residence of sorts, much more lavishly decorated and designed for comfort. Three quarters of the way, the Zazane ducked behind a corner as Yarda stopped and took a glance behind her, the interruption lasting less than a minute as she walked on.
The agent's target did not immediately enter the room she stood in front of. Instead another of these hybrids crossed her path. It was hard to see, as Yarda's position made it difficult to see past her, but the way the two talked suggested some sort of affection between the two. Yarda gave this individual a large canister clipped to her belt, telling him to be careful and put it inside the room. The other entity grumbled but a caress across their cheek placated them. "I'll be back later" the titaness said in a soft voice and left. There weer but a brief few seconds where the door was open and the agent took her chance, slipping in as the door closed itself behind the room's new occupant.
The agent was careful to check the room was clear. Using sophisticated software built into her helmet, she could see the occupant, a rather large and freakish looking Zazane laying on a large soft bed of some variety. With the door to this other room closed her opportunity was clear, and she moved to the desk opposite the door, surely the most logical place to put this canister. She was not mistaken, arrayed in a line were seven canisters, each one half as tall as one of her arms were long. Unlike the rest of the room her equipment could not see inside but the warm hand-prints of its previous holder picked out the canister she needed, second on the right. With a final check on the other room, she gently picked up the canister, it was but a latch, she thought. There was a "handle with care" label but nothing to suggest the contents were hazardous or unstable. So with the switch flipped she opened the top and gently tipped out the contents.
She had expected a variety of things - documents, holodisks, a dossier, maybe some kind of data-matrix, she dropped the canister on the desk when a Zazane no larger than a large rodent but with the proportions of a full adult fell out and rolled across the table. To her surprise, this canister contained Xalith himself. She was momentarily silent, surprised as this was soemthign she didn't expect.
- Xalith - This is an illusion! A trick, I'm not seeing this! Who are you. Who-- Wait... it can't be?
- Keldar - Xalith Pharakan?
- Xalith - What little of my pride remains, yes.
- Keldar - We don't have long. I'm here to extract you
- Xalith - Do what you like. The Abzane hag took everything so saving me will not change anything.
Keldar had already presumed that Xalith's current state was the result of Essence. As she moved to let out an exasperated grunt she found her feet could not move. Looking down she found er feet had been surrounded by a large pool of syrup that a moment ago wasn't there. She looked about, darting her head form side to side while struggling to pull her leg out. Through her equipment she noticed the aberrant in the next room was gone. There was a strange cry from the ceiling and she could only get a brief look when a large shadow fell and tackled her to the ground, she was only able to pull out a knife and as they fell plunged it into its side, a vain attempt as the blade crumpled against what looked like chitin plating. Even with modifications in her armour to enhance her strength, her arms were pinned by the aberrant's own efforts. He had landed on her legs, rendering her immobile but releasing her from the syrup as it shattered.
The monster leaned in, revealing a large pair of mandibles on the sides of his jaw and two pairs of vestigial eyes that sat on his brow above the two black glossy spheres that were presumably his primary eyes. Despite the extra eyes, the chitin plating and later the thick tail ending in a bulbous tip, this creature was still vaguely Zazane, albeit sporting similar physiological differences to what the other hybrids had. Xalith backed away to hide behind the canister while the monster's tail playfully switched from left to right, as if the 'head' was trying to peek over its host's shoulder.
- ??? - I could smell you the moment you tresspassed. Little mortal girl.
- Yarda - Do you mind?
- ??? - You walked in hear, you touched Mother's things. I'm not going to let you--
- Yarda - Oh my boy Aracheon, that's no way to treat our visitor is it?
- ??? - But--
Yarda was standing at the door with her arms folded. She took graceful strides over to the aberrant and caressed his shoulder. She took a cold glance at Xalith who hid behind his canister shaking his head.
- Keldar - Dear boy?
- yarda - One of my darling sons. Bit of a mischievous one but he just needs to control himself.
Yarda snapped her fingers and Arachaeon was lifted off the floor to a standing position. Arcane forces however continued to pin Keldar to the ground, no matter how much she struggled.
- Yarda - You were after one of my trophies, weren't you. Tut tut.
Keldar simply glared through her helmet. Despite being opaque, Yarda could tell and with a twist of her wrist, Keldar was thrown upright but still frozen. Yarda walked over to the desk and with both hands she scooped Xalith up, despite his struggle and slipped him back into his confinement. Finishing, she looked Keldar up and down.
- Yarda - Hmm..."Mother of soldiers", a former High Emissary, a close connection to the Great Apostate. Yes...Your fellow is but a trinket, something o nthe way to a greater prize.
Yarda grinned, displaying a forest of savage teeth.
- Yarda - But you...While not as connected to me as Crispy, I always enjoy adding living legends to my collection. You could take his place if you wanted to.
- Keldar - I am not negotiating. My mission is paramount.
- Yarda - Your mission. I presume "Find Xalith, extract him." Who sent you!
Keldar only scowled. Yarda moved closer, evidently trying to dig through the Zazane's thoughts. When she was close enough however, Keldar made her move. She was able to secretly prime a Yrsalimarus grenade, a tool against the dark natures Yarda and her associate commanded. With a flash of light, both of them screamed as a burning sensation swept over them. Distracted the forces holding Keldar in place dissipated and she regained her ability to move. using this opportunity, and hoping that Xalith was protected inside his container, she grabbed the canister and bolted for the door. Yarda and Arachaeon were indisposed only for a moment, and by the time they had recovered from the sting against their skin Keldar was gone, but not far. Rather furious, Yarda gave a glare to her son and he vanished in a blur, chasing Keldar down the corridors and moving at great speed despite her head-start. Yarda stayed in her room, a growl reverberating through the halls.
Keldar used the maps her armour had generated as she explored the ship to look for the hanger bay. After the first few corridors however, things started to become confusing as where there were once empty corridors were either dead ends or a door she did not recognise. Unknown to her, the entire ship's interior was morphing to confuse her and reap her. She could hear Arachaeon grunting as he bounded off walls and made great bounds at the blink of an eye. Despie his size and his heavy plating, he was fast and agile, and for every corner Keldar had to adjust her escape route, he got closer.
She was but inches form a large door when she was thrown backward, Arachaeon had grabbed her tail land yanked her backwards, sending her sliding down the other direction while Xalith tumbled about inside the canister on her back. She stopped when she hit a wall she swore was not there before, land lay catching her breath as Arachaeon landed on the floor with the echo of a great mass impacting heavy metal, each step rang as if he was much more massive than his armoured figure suggested. But Keldar was no fresh recruit, it did not take long for her to stand back up and reach for her combat knife - realising just then that the one she reached for had crumpled upon one of Aracheon's body plates. She reached for another knife, drawing it and bracing herself as Aracheon's stomping march became a dash, black claws of a razor's edge extended from his fingers, Keldar had only a brief moment to tumble out of the way, the monster slamming into the metal wall and leaving an enormous imprint, half buried in the metal. She used the opportunity to approach him from behind and push her knife between some of his plates. An initial impact did not last long as Araheons' tail coiled around her hip and yanked her away, the knife as a result was twisted within his flesh, becoming stained with the nanoscale material that flaked off the edge and infected his bloodstream.
She was cast against the wall, once more the vile bulb on the end of his tail danced in front of her - he was playing, she knew it - she was able to dodge an impalement. Grabbing the bulk of the tail and devoting extra pressure to the synthetic muscle fibres that enhanced her armour's strength, she pulled Arachaeon backward towards her. With a great swing of her leg, his tumble forward saw his skull crash against her foot, the opposing momenta of her foot and his head sent Arachaeon crashing to the ground.
Either he was not as used to the strain of battle or the Yrsalmarus material in the knife's edge was draining him, for he did not stand up as quickly as she did. She had the opportunity to yank the knife out, a fierce stomp on his arm kept him down as she twisted the knife in her hand to deliver a coup de grace. Before she could, a shadow appeared in front of her, blocking her from the whimpering mutant lying sprawled on the floor. In the brief seconds to register who this shadow was, a large hand slammed against Keldar's chest, sending her backwards, rather than hitting the far wall she vanished right before the precise moment her back made the collision.
The shadow revealed itself to the broken Arachaeon, whose bones and flesh were trying to knit themselves back together.
- Arachaeon - M-mother!
Yarda was silent, her brow furrowed and her upper lip curled quietly.
- Yarda - You must never show vulnerability. Do not undersetimate them Arachaeon,
- Arachaeon - She was--
- Yarda - Aided by machines. If you're too proud they won't need such assistance to finish you.
Arachaeon lowered his head in shame. Yarda's stern expression relented and she crouched to caress her son.
- Yarda - She's gone.
- Arachaeon - B-but...she stole your trophy, Mother!
- Yarda - A small cost for a larger prize. They will lead us to Crispy better than probing the Skyrak's mind.
- Aracheon - They will?
- Yarda - She seeks what I do. When we find her, I will make prize trophies of both of them!
- Xalith - No, absolutely not!
Xalith folded his arms. He was out of his canister and stood arms folded and scowling in an attempt to appear assertive despite his diminutive size. Keldar was sitting on the floor in front of him, a little exasperated.
- Keldar - You told me she knows everything you do. You were valiant in holding the knowledge for as long as you have. But if I can't get to Crispy, she will reach him unopposed.
- Xalith - I failed him the moment she dug her claws through my mind.
- Keldar - Then please, help me to repair your failing.
Xalith kept his arms folded, he was not pleased and made sure Keldar could see that in his eyes.
- Xalith - Lift this witchcraft on me and I will consider it.
- Keldar - Whatever curse she placed on you, a cleasning capsule would not flush it out. Whatever she did it's no simple trick... I have never seen anything like it.
- Xalith - Then Crispy is to die as I have done.
A thought came to Keldar: It was obvious that Yarda had placed this hex on him, so it would stand to reason that she could remove it.
- Keldar - Help me find Crispy and we might encounter her again. When we do, we can convince her to lift her curse.
Xalith was momentarily silent once again, his eyes darted as he sank deep into thought on the matter. His brow furrowed as he sank into deeper contemplation, glances up he could see that Keldar was being sincere and, form her face at least, wanted to fix what had happened. Begrudgingly accepting her offer, eh responded with a growl.
- Xalith - Grrrgh fine. Deal. But you had better have a more solid strategy than the last time you encountered her.
- Keldar - Next time, I will be prepared.
The courts of the Draconid Imperium were always a complex and byzantine affair. It was said that nothing could get done without a favour for a favour or a bargain for a promise, convoluted and impenetrable, courts had to be appeased. For this neverending game, work and play are intertwined among the wealthy and powerful.
Attending as guest of honour to the dinner party of a local plutocrat of the Eisenar Republic, Alessa Ultanos danced between crowds of Eisenar tycoons and Draconid aristocrats, giving her best wishes and congratulating for accomplishments. Soft music filled the air as she mingled in the early evening, when the local sun still took a peek over the horizon, perhaps it was as fascinated at the evening's festivities as its guests were. Alessa however, had more than the primary guests on her mind. After the initial hour, her host ushered her into the back rooms of his summer mansion. The night was largely a clear one, but taking a peek out of the window she noticed a few dark clouds gathering in the distance. The day's weather report had never indicated rain, but the weather control network comforted that it was likely going to stay far away.
Sitting in a large padded chair in one of the drawing rooms was a large Zazane of brilliant dark ruby scales, an artisan-crafted combination of alloy breastplate and spauulders over a dark red tunic and trousers of coarse fabric. When Alessa entered the room, Kervon Daktis; the warlord of a Zazane nation built with the blessing of his former autarch rather than from rebellion. Alessa took a graceful bow to the warlord, who in return bowed his head and slammed a fist against his right pectorals.
- Kervon - My lady Alessa, So good to see you.
- Alessa - And you, lord Kervon. You inform me there has been developments?
- Kervon - Yes, your grace.
Setting a projector unit on the end table, Kervon keyed in a code to project a map of the eastern regions of Segmentum Crepusculum. Staining the map were reddish regions, while blue specks were scattered across the map.
- Kervon - Our plans to unify the Zazane using the Ecumene as out banner have run into...complications.
- Alessa - Are the local Zazane being stubbourn? Defiant? It cannot be easy to surrender sovereignty.
- Kervon - You will find plenty of warlords who understood Lord-Councillor Breek's vision, even if they resented him. And the legends of the Godsbane has been pivotal in convincing them that the Realm of the Kodathargo is in safe hands. But to answer your question, no. It is not the local warlords wh oare a complication.
- Alessa - Then what is.
- Kervon - These smears, these...blights that are growing. Some outer power, calling themselves the "Holy Dominion" have been spreading. Worse they use--
- Alessa - Dark powers to enforce loyalty?
- Kervon - ...And blighted forms of ancestral Zazane. How did you--?
Alessa struggled to speak, Kervon could see the unease in her eyes.
- Alessa - Father mentioned beings like them. Masquerading as demigods, claiming it is Manifest Destiny that our universe surrenders to them.
- Kervon - H-how long?
- Alessa - Tyraz' disappearance all those years ago, it was their doing.
- Kervon - ...And ow they cross the veil to conquer and consume. The more I know of them, the more I want their suffering to be painful.
- Alessa - They have yet to attack the Ecumene directly, Lord Daktis. But...war looks inevitable.
- Kervon - All the more reason to secure as many states as we can. I have spoken to a number of warlords, most of them swear fealty either for the sake of the old Brood's legacy, or their confidence in the Godsbane as a unifier
- Alessa - And since you work on behalf of both.
- Kervon - Some would rather I march for one or the other, the Godsbane more than others due to Lord Breek's...sordid history. But I have found plenty who would prefer the Ecumene's backing over fighting to survive the madness created by Crispy's twisted vision.
Alessa looked over the map again, there were other smears; scattered across there were purple marks, kingdoms - she presumed - that supported Tyraz's ife, the Clericarch Iovera as a master for her connection through the rules of inheritance to Tyraz. But the Divinarium's proselytism was of secondary importance to the expanding orders of the Holy Draconizane Dominion, that appeared to be spreading across the region like a contagion
- Alessa - I must get back to my guests, will leave you to plan further Lord Daktis.
Kervon looked over from his map to deliver a nod and a confirming smirk.
Returnign to the terrace, the festivities had changed to murmuring; the clouds Alessa had seen on the horizon had now gathered in the skies not far from the palace grounds. Flashes of storm lightning illuminated portions, the booming crack of thunder drawing attention from the trivialities of high society to murmurs of worry. Comments of "is weather control having problems?", "they never said there would be rain" bounced between the anxious patrons as the clouds slowly drew closer and the thunder boomed louder.
As the storm clouds gathered over the palace, much to the worry of the attending patricians, calls to the sky emerged as something appeared to descend for mthe clouds. Flashes of lightning struck it and shot to the ground underneath it as it descended, drawing attention to its location. The closer it got, the more it came to resemble a humanoid figure, closer inspection deformed the figure as two great bat-like wings spread themselves outward, drawing the lightning while clearly not harming the being falling slowly to the surface and a curling tail coiled and swayed about. Four great horns curled around each other from the back of the sauroid creature's head. But that most intimidating of features, seen long before the features could be discerned were two eyes white as fresh ice and bright like two overcharged halogen lights.
After hovering fora moment, the being planted their talon-like feet softly on the patio, eyes still burning like stars. Measuring four and a half metres in height, the entity stood over even the older Draconis in attendance. The Eisinar notaries also attending looked up in intimidation as whoever this was, they stood taller even than the Republic's new patrons. With a daggered smile, the being spoke with an echo.With the help of her bodyguard, Alessa pushed her way into the middle of the crowd, eyes wide as she recongised the being's form; one of the creatures she had just recently talked to Kervon about.
- Vetarion - Such a grand banquet and you forgot to invite me? I feel offended!
- Patrician - Just who in the void's name are you?
The prince looked shocked, eyes wide and stepping back.
- Vetarion - Why, do none do you know the name Vetarion Virios? Archon of Vetaris, prince of desire and Elder born scion of the Eternal Emperor? I feel shocked. And you do not?
- Patrician - Your name means--
Everyone stood back as a great arc of lightning formed between Vetarion's fingertip and the patrician's snout. The aristocrat was thrown backwards as if hit by a blast of crest force, his scales were blackened, smoking from the sheer force delivered, his mouth opened to reveal his tongue shriveled and black and his eyes thankfully closed. shut, but was this a blessing as the energy that had coursed though him had fused the lids together. Clothes frayed and charred, the Draconis smoked in a manner not too different form an overcooked roast.
- Vetarion - You didn't answer my question with words, but no matter.
- Alessa - What in all things is wrong with you!?
Vetarion turned to the voice,it was subtle but something inspiring sparked within his mind. With a gleeful smile and a gentlemanly lean, he softened his voice.
- Vetarion - He was being impolite. And frankly rather rude.
- Alessa - He was a guest of this evening, not of your pawns to abuse.
- Vetarion - Are you... telling me what I can and cannot do?
The crowd parted as Vetarion strutted forward, the swaying tail nearly missing a few, others caught the small gusts of wind that followed in its wage. Alessa however, stood her ground. Her bodyguards, large Blood Dragons surrounded her and stood to block the demigod as he approached. With one, Vetarion rested a palm on the Dragon's helmet and pushed him sideways to the floor with little effort, standing dangerously close to Alessa as he learned down towards her.
- Vetarion - What authority do you have to say what I can do?
- Alessa - I am here as an honoured guest of Charras Veruvin, Chairman of Vialya Heavy Engineering.
- Vetarion - The mortal speaking on behalf of the mortal to inform the divine.
- Alessa - Excuse me--
Alessa was silenced when a large finger was pressed against her lips. There was something sinister about the man, the more he talked the more his voice became harmonious, his gaze - those large fiery golden eyes - became mesmerizing. With a whip of his tail, he was able to knock back a pair of Blood Dragons, the bat of the muscular tendril sent them flying back several metres as he opened his wings around her.
- Vetarion - But you don't have to be...You could be divine, a queen of galaxies.
- Alessa - I'm already spoken for--
- Vetarion - To a mere man A...prince, an inferior in majesty.
- Alessa - And you seriously underestimate him
Vetarion now gripped her arms, drawing her closer and revealing the glistening white army of fangs that dwelled within his maw. Alessa, feeling intimidated, struggled against his grip. She did her best to maintain a civil composure as she felt Vetarion's very gaze assault her senses. The more she looked at him and the more his whispered crawled within her ears, the more compelled she became. She did her best to shit out the promises, the offered gifts, the talks of grandeur, the elevated status; over and over it was clear something about her drew him in. Around him, his own escort - hulking Draconis warriors equipped with the alien rifles and armour of their realm - surrounded him. For Vetarion however, there was some sensation that not too far away was something else, something different.
In a moment of fanning his wings in a display of peacock-like arrogance that was when it hit. With a wet splat, cream and pastry bread was smeared all over his right shoulder. The projectile bounced off as if Vetarion's body were a solid wall, but it was enough for Vetarion to break his concentration and look up from what he was doing. That dangerous grin he once possessed was now a vicious and irritated scowl.
- Vetarion - Who threw that!
Some of the crowd, who had watched the bun sail though the air, turned towards the buffet table, but there was no one entirely visible. A few of the attending guests moved out of the way as Vetarion's gaze turned to the table. Obscured by the reptiles that had once surrounded the table, was a short but lithe figure, with luscious blue fur covering every inch of their body, topping the crown were two large floppy ears that extended down to the waist, and in one hand was a luxurious pastry, the soft cream that topped it slowly sagged down, touching the fingers of this other strange guest. While others were nervous of the titan dominating the terrace, this figure - the legendary warrior Hachiman Hin-sha was smirking confidently. His other hand held the scabbard of a katana as he sized up the demonic figure with golden eyes of his own.
- Vatarion - You dare ruin this coat? Doi you have any idea how much it cost me!?
- Hachi - Hundreds of sapient lives, knowing someone like you.
- Vetarion - Oh what do you truly know of me?
- Hachi - I know mosnters like you would tread on a million mortal skulls to get what you want.
- Vetarion - And what is so wrong with that when their lives are so brief?
Hachi gently placed the bun back on the buffet table, not giving the hybrid demigod his full attention by the direction he was looking.
- Hachi - Her majesty spoke repeatedly that she's already in love with another. - in his right hand, a simple gesture summoned a ball of coursing light - So back off.
- Vetarion - I would rather not.
- Hachi - Alright... perhaps we fight for her?
- Alessa - Hachi there's no need, I can handle this
Although Alessa protested, Vetarion did appear to give it some thought. After but a moment he smiled at his angelic opponent.
- Vetarion - Very well
With a snap of his fingers, the landscape around the three of them flashed into the endless tracts of an empty selene world. Twisting her around like a ballet dancer Vetarion moved her off him and, with a gesture in the air, summoned a bubble of coalescing plasma around her, much to her surprise.
- Hachi - You didn't need to bring her!
- Vetarion - Oh but if I didn't she might run, I want her to watch.
- Hachi - Seriously?
- Alessa - You. Are. Twisted!
- Vetairion - Keep talking darling. - he turned his attention back to Hachiman - So.
- Hachi - One on one, no summoned entities, we fight until submission. If I win, you leave her alone forever and never set foot back in this universe.
- Vetarion - But if I win, I keep her. She comes home with me and you stop your little chess game with Deicide.
- Alessa - Deicide?
- Hachi - Long story. How about, I promise to not set foot in Vetaris.
- Vetarion - Eh, close enough, if my siblings complain you can deal with them. Fine.
- Alessa - Hachiman I can handle myself.
- Hachi - I've been to their Dominion. I know what they're capable of. Now, are you ready good sir?
- Vetarion - Are you?
With a flick of his wrist, Vetarion summoned a flowing chain of coursing lightning. With a great sweeping motion, the arc of electricity reached for Hachi, who with a fluid leap ascended to avoid the current. As he descended, a swift motion of the hand summoned a dozen needles of Dream Energy which he though at Vetarion. Some of these needles were deflected by the arc and pierced the wings Vetarion lifted to shield himself, which stung the membrane like hot irons.
Following the opening salvos, the two clashed in earnest. Dream Energy and Descension energy alike, manifesting in daggers, arcs, bolts and flurries as the two performed a fluid dance. That Vetarion was twice the size of his opponent gave him little beyond a reach advantage as Hachi danced and weaved between his swings. As most nimble of his siblings his strikes were quick and successive. As Hachi closed in he dispelled the whip and instead summoned a fencing rapier, prompting the warrior to draw his own Katana. Clashes and clangs ran out though the barren air as dust was kicked up. Alessa could only watch from her prison as the two struck like currents of crashing water, moving at speeds that would exhaust a normal man.
- Vetarion - You're keen on her. I like that...Gives your strength a vigor to it!
- Hachi - I fight. Because I care.
- Vetarion - Is that so?
The fighting was paused when a concussive blast radiated from Vetarion, sending Hachi backwards. The warrior landed on his feet, glaring at his opponent, whose chest was spread out and his arms were wide.
- Vetarion - She's mortal. She'd wither and one day die while you stay strong.
- Hachi - Is that how you see them?
- Vetarion - I've seen it happen. They grow weak, get ugly, frail and die.
- Hachi - There's no one?
- Vetarion - No one mortal, no. Well...maybe I blessed a few exceptional people, I'm not heartless, you know.
With a kick boosted from his well-structured thighs, Hachi bounded back towards Vetarion with a scowl. He delivered several more blows that Vatarion either dodged or clashed with his own rapier. Vetarion however could see where this battle was going; while they both dueled, neither were gaining the upper hand. He could easily deflect the strikes, or dodge them with a blink-of-an-eye step to the right. But he could not afford to battle Hachiman forever. With a stomp that shattered the rock beneath his foot, Vetarion ascended high into the air like a rocket reaching to escape the planet's bonds. Seeing him ascend to but a dot, Hachi followed him with a bouncing leap of his own.
Two kilometres, three, five, ten, twenty, high and higher the two of them went, when in a burst of light Vetarion unfolded his wings to their fullest. Within the great flash, Vetarion shone with a burning white brilliance, his wings double in proportion, and from the membrane smooth crystal-like spines covered them, his coat fused with his body to create a great flowing feathered tail and the tail itself lashed as it curled around like a whip. Gone was the finery Vetarion war, the fins and tails of his outfit becoming part of his from, every generous muscle now fully exposed glittered like the surface of a shaped diamond.
As Hachi reached close to him, he was sent downwards with a kick to the chest form this new Vetarion. As Hachi fell, his opponent followed like a missile, the two of them collided with the ground, one soon after the other like small meteors ending their billion-mile journeys though the void. In the crater they created, Hachi flipped and twisted to right himself, his eyes locking on to Vetarions' baleful form.
- Hachi - What's up with you?
- Vetarion - You think they worship us in the holy dominion for a few magic tricks?
- Hachi - Even if it was beyond that...you wouldn't deserve it.
With a roar, Vetarion fired a beam of light form his mouth. Hachi attempted to shield himself by holding his hand up, creating a barrier in which the laser assailed against. As Vetarion roared and as the beam continued, Hachi could feel his feet rubbing against the ground. Closing his eyes and focusing, Hachi attempted to call more dream energy to pump though his veins. There was more to the laser than simple light, he could feel something burn against his hand, but as his strain reached its peak, the laser stopped and Vetarion was kneeling.
- Vetarion - My brother...He's going to like you!?
- Hachi - E...Excuse me?
- Vetarion - My brother. Do you know how dull it is when the best the universe can throw at you for the past few centuries can be ground underfoot?
- Hachi - What?
- Vetarion - I don't mind, more time for the finer things in life. My brute of a brother though, can't stand not drowning himself in the rush of battle once a month.
- Hachi - Is that all this is to you? Entertainment?
Vetarion rolled his shoulders back as he stood up, a dirty smile was spread across his face. His voice had gained a baritone crackle to it, and echoed in the wind. Whatever event transformed him must have blessed him an extra two head-heights over his opponent. The open, crystalline wings glittered vibrantly in the sunlight as he rolled his head in some emotion-driven sense of ecstasy.
- Vetarion - This? Oh no, I only dabble in violence if it strikes my fancy. It's my brother who would love this kind of spectacle.
Slamming the ground with his fist, Vetarion sent a current of lighting towards Hachiman's feet, the Ta warrior bounded out of the way, and with great speed danced around his opponent, throwing shards of Dream Energy into the transformed giant. Vetarion responded with blasts of light form his hands, knocking the shards off their trajectory or nearly burning part of Hachi's body with a searing, likely Descension-charged light. When beams did not hurt the warrior, the prince summoned the whip again, this time condensed into a flowing tendril of brightly shining Shidium plasma with which Vetarion flailed about the crater, charring the rock it hit or singing Hachi with its close proximity.
With calculated moves, Hachi was able to get close, with a strong leap, Hachi sent a foot towards Vetarion's skull, knocking the prince back in a stagger. Channeling more though his veins, Hachi delivered several more slams of his feet and fists, cracking Vetarion's skin around the head, in the chest and on the arms, all while Vatarion failed to successfully grab him until one swing of his arm knocked Hachi on the chin.
"Is that the best you've got!" Vetarion shouted in his daze. Hachi delivered a kick to his stomach, narrowly avoiding Vetarion's fist and a swing from those blades on Vetarion's wings. My brother's hit harder. Hit me. Hit me with everything you've got! he screamed as Hachi took a step back.
Hachi gave a smirk as within his legs Dream Energy flowed. Giving a small run, Hachi delivered a horse-like kick that buried itself deep in Vetarion's stomach before sending him flying upward faster than he did before to the resonating sound of what must have been scores of bones breaking throughout Vetarion's body. As he watched Vetarion ascend until he was not even a speck in the sly, Hachi let out a deep exhalation. He walekd up to the dome that was Alessa's prison but something wasn't right. He had expelled the demigod prince from the arena, that would have meant he had won and the dome would dissipate. He saw Vetarion create it.
That was when something caught the corner of his eye. He then remembered they were fighting until one of them submitted, but even as Vetarion was launched into the sky, he didn't recall any submission over the crack of bone. Ascending to the upper edges of the planet's atmosphere, Hachi wasn't sure where he had kicked the Prince of Desire. At that moment his eye caught something, imperceptible to most but there was a distinct paranormal darkness within the star.
Manifesting himself within the star's atmosphere, Hachi's feet gently touched the pulsing surface. Surrounded by light so bright not mortal could see anything but pure white, Hachi was able to see beyond, and observed the arches that ascended to the pattern of magnetic fields from the surface, the streams of hydrogen plasma that ascended thousands of kilometres into the void above him, that's when he sensed a darkness from below. He caught a glimpse of it looking down, a whale-sized humanoid swimming within the soup of the universe's lightest and most bountiful element. Extending in great fans sideways the structures were unmistakable.
As he came to realise what this shadow was, it burst from below, dived towards him and pulled him into the material of the star itself. The heat was searing and the light was blinding but none of it bothered Hachiman, and apparently it didn't bother the entity that dragged him down. Coming to his senses he saw then entity within the behemoth.
- Hachi - Is this why you wanted me to kick you?
- Vetarion - On the surface, in space and on planets I am but a demigod. When immersed in the light of the universe, I am divinity itself.
Hachi's head ached at the baleful voice. It all made sense now that Vetarion was a parasite, and by kicking him skyward he had sent Vetarion to the place he could be limitless.
- Hachi - Are you showing off again?
- Vetarion - Perhaps. Among my older siblings I am the weakest. Here' deep within the forges of the universe, I am untouchable. The forges themselves become mine to command.
- Hachi - So you revel in being a parasite
- Vetarion - Is that not what mortal beings are? Leeching off starstuff and the soil to sustain themselves so they can live their petty momentary lives.
- Hachi - You think that gives you the right to dominate them?
- Vetarion - Why not? they all do it with beings less intelligent than them. We're one step beyond.
- Hachi - We? You're including me in this?
- Vetarion - Oh, that's right you're all soft for Deicide.
- Hachi - Our immortality is something beneficial. But we're better of guiding and advising, not ruling over
- Vetarion - Pah!
With a curl of his finger, Vetarion directed a channel of plasma to hit Hachiman. He kicked backwards out of the way, understanding the battlefield to be this soup of solar plasma.
- Vetarion - What authority do you have in deciding what immortals should do. Deicide talk nobly but they use you, old Taskamsters and my sister's son as their weapons for their war. They just don't want us ruling them!
- Hachi - Well maybe they're right!
Vetarion fired another blast from his mouth at Hachi before moving like a torpedo towards him. Swimming in this radioactive sea, Vetarion had transformed again, now moving fluidly though the liquid like a cetacean in water. The battle resumed, both the prince and the warrior throwing energy at and around each other in a long battle for supremacy. The very magnitude of their battle caused the sun to convulse over where they fought, both sides drawing more energy from their respective sources. The more quickly and fluidly Vetarion moved though this liquid battlefield by absorbing the energy of the star, the more Hachi drew energy from the Realm of Dreams to keep up with him.
As the two swung blows that would have shattered bone and vapourised flesh, they continued to draw more and more, becoming stronger and delivering harder. As he dodged and weaved, Hachi began to notice that Vetarion's greed was not flawless, as he became more and more like the substance that surrounded him, his body began to convulse and churn, his frantic charged movements suggested he was working to ignore the strain. In a moment of distraction, a heavy impact hit Hachi in the back, a beam of energy sent Hachi further towards the star's core, with Vetarion - now moving more like a current of fluid than an aquatic animal - chased after him, his body twitching and convulsing.
Drawing more, Hachi danced and dodged Vetarion's movements, no longer focusing on hitting him but outperforming him in this competition of strength. The two of them so engorged on the energies that strengthened them that two bright lights occupied the heart of the star. At this point, above the twisting core of the star, Hachi could see that Vetarion was so overwhelmed with energy that his body was breaking apart. At the right moment, Hachi threw a concussive blast of Dream Energy that hit Vetarion back, causing him to scream as the energy seeped into his openings.
- Hachi - You can't keep going prince. Any more energy and you're going to tear yourself apart.
- Vetarion - I am the blood of the Eternal Emperor! God among all mortals and breaker of worlds! What do you know of my power!
- Hachi - Enough to see that your body is holding too much. Give it up, I can keep doing this for an eternity. The fight was until submission, not until death.
- Vetarion - I will not be defeated! I will not let that shame happen!
- Hachi - Who is going to remind you? The star?. Give it up before you explode.
Vetarion seethed within his mass. But relented. controlled eruptions of energy escaped his body as he released the excess back into the star.
- Hachi - Our deal was to fight until submission, not until death.
- Vetarion - I'll be dead if my brother Kragh finds out. And when he does he's going to burn your miserable galaxy for mocking us!
- Hachi - This universe isn't yours. Whoever told you it was is a liar tricking you to do their bidding.
- Vetarion - Fine! Keep the wretched hag. This is too much effort for her possession anyway.
- Hachi - Let her out of her barrier and never return to this universe. That was our agreement.
- Vetarion - I give you my word I'll go. She'll be waiting for you on the planet...
- Hachi - Thank you.
Hachi landed on rocky ground with gentle steps. As he touched down he saw Alessa run for him, she wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly.
- Alessa - I don't know what would have happened to me. Thank you.
With a smile, Hachi snapped his fingers and the tw oof them were back on the terrace. He stepped back slowly, holding Alessa as several Blood Dragons jogged to her, surrounding her protectively with Kervon Daktis joining them.
- Kervon - Your highness are you hurt?
- Alessa - I'm-- I'm fine, he didn't really touch me.
- Kervon - So that's what we're up against with these...mutants.
- Alessa - Not him specifically, he made a promise to Hin-sha, who protected me, that he is to never return.
- Kervon - Hin Sha...?
Kervon looked up and out of the barrier of Blood Dragons. Hachi had vanished, but Kervon trusted Alessa to know she wouldn't lie or act delirious.
- Alessa - The Ecumene must know. Worse is to come.
- Kervon - His esteemed majesty will be informed. You had better rest, your highness.
- Vetarion - Kragh is going to flay me for this!
Vetarion was pacing around in the foyer of the private apartment aboard his personal flagship, the Prince's Grace. He held his head as he grimaced with worry, circling the room as three Draconizane women dressed in thin translucent silks of vibrant colours stretched themselves out on great loungers.
- Concubine - Maybe he will understand, my prince? He is your brother.
Vetarion stopped his pacing to laugh, an ounce of panic was evident in his chuckles and his face screwed up with fear. After the initial burst he looked over to the girls.
- Vetarion - I will reward you with extra, that was hilarious. My brother understanding. Oh how beautiful a thought that is.
With a graceful curl of his fingers, Vetarion called one of the girls over. He took her hand gently, and with a snap of the fingers on his other hand, started up a record player that filled the room with beautiful music. Vetarion led her in a dance around the room, slow, graceful, guiding her around as if commanding her body like the flow of water.
- Vetarion - I've never known my brother to be sentimental, or kind, or caring. I've seen him cripple or kill those who fail him. For millennia he was harsh to me, I was weak, naive...stupid. I predict it now, that I will be the target of his rage. No man whether he be mortal or god has survived his fury over incompetence. I've failed him, dear girl. I've failed as an accomplice, perhaps as a brother...my one chance to prove to him that I am not some stupid boy.
- Concubine - But you have, my prince. How many kingdoms have you promised him?
- Vetarion - That's true, Father still does not know of what he has been doing, and my agents have sown the seeds of discord among the tribes that brought him flocking to our banner.
Vetarion pulled his concubine closer, locking gazes the woman was mesmerised by his brilliant purple eyes, unique jewels in the cosmos that twinkled like stars.
- Vetarion - He won't outright end me, oh no. But I can picture his abuse now. His taunts will sting me again as they have done so many times.
- Concubine - Bring down his guard, soothe him first.
- Vetarion - I could but how do--
There was a crash as the chamber's doors were thrown open, the concubine in Vetarion's arms was startled and a quick movement of Vetarion's hand stopped the music. Standing in the doorway, arms out as evidence that he had pushed the heavy doors open by himself, was the titan that was the Lord of Ruin. Armour stained with dirt fresh from the battle, charred and perhaps even marked with blood. To normal eyes it was impossible to tell what the colossal demigod was furious about the matter at hand, hard to tell from the near-permanent scowl he had on his snout. The fierce eyes however were locked on to Vetarion.
- Kragh - Well what is it. I hope you did not call me all the way over to your den to show me you're no soldier lover.
- Vetarion - Brother! Erm--
He loosened his hold on the woman close to him, he made silent gestures for everyone to leave the room. It was all the call they needed as they moved deeper into the apartments, up a stairway and into the bedrooms down an adjoining hall.
- Kragh - You said it was important a and I find you dancing with whores. It had better. Be good.
- Vetarion - Well-- - Vetarion let out a big sigh, his face betrayed the expectation of pain that would be delivered to him for what he was about to say, i nan instant it came to him - Ah yes! A great prize. I learned thatYarda is following a lead, here in this region. I can give you a few of my agents to follow her.
- Kragh - ...And lead me to a symbol and an I con I can crush the old fossil!
- Vetarion - Exactly!
- Kragh - It's perfect... - Kragh slapped Vetarion on the shoulder as he grinned, but as the two shared the excitement he pulled Vetarion closer - There's something else, isn't there?
- Vetarion - Well...maybe.
- Kragh - This little "gift" isn't all there is.
- Vetarion - Not...really no.
- Kragh - Then what.
Kragh's grin had collapsed into a scowl as he tightened his grip on Vetarion's shoulder. With a gulp and a brave stare into Kragh's eyes, he let out a gasp and tried pushing Kragh's hand away before spouting what he wanted to say.
- Vetarion - I can't keep going, brother. I've done my best for you but I've gotten in over my head and I-- I think I'm best off returning to Vetaris.
- Kragh - Wh-what?
- Vetarion - I appreciate our bonding but maybe I was a little headstrong crossing the threshold.
Far from being furious, Kragh was surprised. But something caught his attention, he moved around his brother and tugged at the wings, noticing the marks still bearing their Dream Energy scars.
- Kragh - These markings...who did this!
- Vetarion - Some alien. I thought he would be an easy target, the alien who has been helping Deicide, who our agents had seen with their leaders. The one with the large ears.
- Kragh - And you let him win.
- Vetarion - I did everything I could, I pulled him deep to the heart of a star, I drew all the strength I could muster but every time I did he got even stronger and faster. I couldn't keep up
- Kragh - Impossible!
- Vetarion - Do my scars look impossible to you? He pushed me to my limits, I drew all the strength I could and it wasn't enough.
Kragh was silent. He stood in front of Vetarion once again and rested a large hand on Vetarion's shoulder, pulling him close. It was not quick like the many times he had done before, but slow.
- Kragh - Vetarion, I am no idiot. You had one defeat. We may be surrounded by enemies here but without you I... I might not even have half of what we have claimed together. You deserve your spoils.
- Vetarion - You're...you're not going to hit me?
- Kragh - You were an idiot. But... while I did not expect you to last this long before running back to your pleasure gardens, you're standing in front of me today. You called me and told me straight that you felt out of your depth. You made mistakes, that's more than you've done in centuries past.
- Vetarion - Wait...you're saying...
- Kragh - This sector couldn't stop us. You gave your word, I landed outside cities where I had warlords professing to me that they had seen of my coming. I've got provincial capitals chanting in respect to me. I would have preferred to spill some more blood to get it all but I know your handiwork. I'm not going to chase you for pulling out now because you earned it.
Vetarion let out a gasp of relief, a smile crept on his face as he looked up to his brother. Although he could see that while it was difficult for him to bring up the courage, Kragh was also outside his zone of comfort. Experience and the expressions the Lord of Ruin gave were sign that both of them,
- Vetarion - You're not holding it against me?
- Kragh - You've done a lot. Not just here but centuries before. I'm not blind, brother. You're not a warrior but you were brave enough to say this to me without weeping like an infant or denying your weakness. You have courage. At least I know it exists.
- Vetarion - I... I can accept that. I won't forget this.
In excitement, Kragh gave Vetarion a hard slap on the shoulder, bearing his teeth in an eager grin. His brother gave hi ma polite nod and turned to leave the foyer and prepare himself in one of the apartment bedrooms. In the foyer, the thoughts of what to do next were slowly pushed aside by thoughts on holding the Unifier's Edge. Eager thoughts trickled and then flowed about the weapon, what it promised and what it was reputed to do. But if nothing else, it would be the perfect symbol to end his father's reign violently, and an appropriate tool to steal his father's crown. The challenge before that however, was to outwit his sister in order to get the glaive first.