Requiem of Souls Chapter 18

Heroic Souls

By Artificer Urza

The elder Teepo watched the new stranger as it lurched into his city. This past week had been one wrought with chaos and disorder with all these people travelling through his city. He had enough trouble with his fool of a son courting an outsider. He could not do anything about the people from the Urkan city, due to the peace accord that was being held with the Goddess and he had already expressed his ire to the apparent leader of the last group that came here, the man called Wanderer. This newcomer would not be exempt from his ire. He walked up to the filthy robed creature and the elder could smell death and decay in the air, the pungent scent angered him even further; once this vagrant was gone, order could be returned and he could order all the outsiders to leave, including that wench that Draigan was insistent on marrying. He stood before the ragman, an imperious look in his eyes, his gaze fixed upon this intruder.

"What business do you have in my city?" The elder demanded.

From within the darkened hood the figure looked at the elder and a mocking smile played upon the foul thing's lips.

"The key... my quandary is the Goddess Key, the Sky Key. Where is it?" the cloaked one rasped.

"We have no such thing here, now leave!" The elder glared.

The figures smile widened and the figure shook, laughter emitting from his throat. Moving as fast as lightning, the cloaked one lashed out, his claw-like fingers piercing cloth and flesh, sliding through the spaces between the elder's ribcage, grasping at the elder's heart. The elder cried out in pain, but the figure would not release him. The noise gained the attention of everyone in the square and a chill ran down the spines of Ryu and his companions and they wondered where Bleu and Wanderer were.

"You do not appear to know who you are dealing with; allow me to enlighten you: my name is Shax, formerly Myria's general, currently the hand of the mighty lord Evans. If you tell me where the Sky Key is I'll make sure your death is quick and painless; refuse, and I'll make sure you linger for days, begging for release." Shax said, his fingers digging into the elder's heart even further

"Father!" Draigan cried out, charging towards Shax.

With his free hand, Shax blocked Draigan's fist and knocked the youth back laughing the whole time.

"Do you mind, boy? Your father and I are having a heart to heart conversation." Shax laughed madly, squeezing the elder's aforementioned organ.

Elder Teepo gave a choking noise as blood spurted from the wounds where Shax's fingers pierced his flesh. The elder slumped forward and was still; he was dead, his heart crushed.

"Oops." Shax smirked as he pulled his hand from the elder's corpse. "Looks like his heart gave out."

The body fell to its knees and fell forward. Draigan stared at it in horror; he may not have gotten along with his father, but that didn't mean he didn't care about him. Glowering in fury, Draigan charged Shax, trying to strike the fiend down. Shax easily dodged Draigan's punches, however, one such failed strike did nock back Shax's hood, revealing his face for all to see. The head of this apparent monster was human, but was obviously quite deceased. His head was shaved; the only hair was the remnants of a braded ponytail at the base of his skull and tufts of a goatee on his chin. The flesh was emaciated, pealing in certain places, revealing the bone of his cranium. His eyes appeared to be on the verge of popping out of his head and his left eye was completely red: no iris or pupil visible. The only thing that appeared fresh on that deadhead was a vertical scar across the aforementioned left eye: it started at his forehead and stopped just below his cheekbone, the edges of the scar were burnt black and slightly peeled away; the interior of the scar was clotted and dried blood. That scar was bleeding and Ryu felt another shiver down his spine as though he knew here stood one who desired to end his life, his friends lives and any and all of his family line unto the tenth generation. Draigan stood, immobile with disgust and horror at the undead man's horrid visage. Shax took this lapse as an opportunity to grab Draigan by the throat and he effortlessly lifted the younger man off of his feet.

"First rule of combat: never allow yourself to be distracted." Shax laughed. "Now you WILL tell me where the Sky Key is or I'll kill everyone in this wretched city and force you to watch, and when you are the only one left... I'll kill you torturously, slowAUUUUUHHHHGGGG."

Yua was not about to simply stand by and watch her beloved be killed. She had snuck quickly behind Shax and stabbed him in the back. Shax dropped Draigan and spun on his heels, striking Yua with a backhanded punch. Yua went crashing to the ground, Ryu rushed to her, his sword unsheathed. He helped her up, but she shook him off and wiped blood away from her mouth; she was totally focused on Shax.

For his own part, Shax was struggling, trying to remove the dagger from his back; it was buried to the hilt and thus very difficult for him to remove. He didn't feel any pain, pain being something that held no more meaning for the undead general. With a sickening 'pop', he popped one of his arms out of its sockets so that it could reach the weapon that protruded from his back. He slowly pulled it out and the wound did not bleed red blood, but a black slime oozed from the hole where the dagger once was. Shax's arm popped back into its proper place once more and he examined the dagger, the blade of which was covered in the black slime that his wound excreted. With a single movement, without even looking, he hurled the dagger at Yua and the weapon struck its target, lodging itself in her shoulder. The force of the impact knocked her back into Ryu. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as she tried to remove the dagger from her shoulder. She felt dizzy, faint and almost feverish. Ryu gently laid her down on the ground and picked up his sword, his face was twisted in an expression of rage. With no hesitation or regard for his own life, he charged Shax. A black bile excreted from the palm of his right hand, it solidified and grew into a midnight-black sword and he brought the blade up, just in time to block Ryu's sword stroke. Ryu did not stop his assault, as he struck again with a vertical down-stroke, then side-slash, diagonal upwards slash and diagonal downwards slash, all executed with nigh inhuman speed. However, Shax parried and blocked all of Ryu's attacks effortlessly.

Katt dragged Bow to help Yua and Nina sent Rand and Jean to evacuate the people and Sten to find Bleu and the Wanderer. Katt, Nina and Bow knew this was no ordinary opponent; Katt and Bow knew because their heightened sense of smell picked up the scent of death and decay off Shax, but for Nina, a highly trained and skilled magi, she could feel Shax's violent, malevolent and dominating will; it felt, to her, as though she were naked and a cold, black, fell wind raked across her bare flesh, chilling to the very bone.

Ryu and Shax faced each other from across crossed swords, their faces so close Ryu could smell each and every distinct foul scent of decay on Shax. Shax examined Ryu with his good eye and glared with what appeared to be virtual recognition.

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" He asked.

"Die, you bastard!" Was Ryu's reply.

"Dragon... Boy..." Shax said, his eyes widening in sudden realization.

With a shove on his blade, Shax pushed Ryu away. Shax then attacked with a single, rising, vertical slash. The concussive force of the strike blasted through Ryu's defences, knocking him off his feet, his sword falling to his side.

"Found you, I finally found you after so long oh so very, very long... fuhuhehehehahAHAHAHAHAHA!" Shax laughed.

He grasped his tattered robe and ripped it off. Underneath he wore ancient vest-plate armour, the edge of which was just below his sternum. At the edges of the metal were the threadbare remnants of cloth and chain so his mid-drift was bare. He wore black pants with thigh guards and old metal greaves. His armour was black, so it was difficult to see the rust on the metal. His body appeared skeletal, just skin and bones and even the skin had holes in it. He threw back his head and howled. As though answering to his call a black mist rolled in. One could still see, but the miasma was so potent the sun and sky were obscured.

The black masses that were the floating garden seemed to halt in their flight and the earth trembled. A decayed hand burst forth from the earth and a zombie dug itself out of the ground. Many more zombies and Creon as well followed and from the gates growls and clicking noises could be heard as hell hounds and skeleton warriors entered through the front gates. Many of these fresh zombies were once members of the Urkan caravans, captured and turned undead. The inhabitants of the city panicked and tried to flee, many were cut down by zombie claws, hounds fangs or skeletons swords.

"They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose, nor spake, nor moved their eyes; it had been strange, even in a dream, to have seen those dead men rise." Bleu said as she slithered behind Rand.

"Very nice, but do you honestly think this is the time to quip?" Rand asked, preparing to fight.

Shax looked around at his undead cohorts, who, once they had risen from the cold earth, made no movements, aggressive or otherwise, waiting upon the whim of their master Shax.

"Kill them... ALL of them." Shax commanded.

The ghouls, hounds, Creon and skeletons charged forward as t quickly as though they were still among the living, but Rand, Katt, Nina, Bow, Sten, Jean and Bleu fought back reacting to the threat as they had to any other enemy they had ever faced. They fought, not so much to defend themselves, but to protect the citizens and to secure a route of escape for the innocent bystanders. A claw of flame descended upon the enemy, cast by Bleu, incinerating the enemy that were in its path. Nina summoned a chilling blizzard and an ice wolf, followed by her pups, charged through the enemy ranks freezing them solid. The frozen statues cracked and burst, the differing temperatures between the statues and the air around them sealing their fate. Sten cast flame and a pyramid of fire consumed his opponents, his daggers being useless against zombies. Jean used the edge of his sturdy rapier to slice through the fragile flesh of the necks of his zombie opponents and they fell without a head to direct their movements. Against skeletons, however, he used his considerable girth to crush their bones, as even without their heads they would continue to move. Rand smashed his opponents with his bandaged fists, he had yet to have them fully healed because he had not thought it necessary at the time; a mistake he regretted as his knuckles began to bleed again as zombie guts and brains splattered on his fists. He was doing his best to herd as many people out of the city as he could. Bow muttered under his breath as he shot another zombie in the head, his crossbow bolts were proving inefficient against these foes.

"Zombies..." He muttered, frustrated. "Why did it have to be Zombies? I HATE zombies."

Gaist had materialized his Beast Spear and now fought to protect Jasmine; he could neither advance nor retreat, this fight would be all or nothing for him. Ryu had recovered his sword and was swarmed by zombies; he was trying to fight his way past them to get to Shax. He was not making very much progress, as for every zombie he cut down it seemed two took its place. Katt was doing her best to fight off the hoards of undead, trying to get to Ryu, but with only her staff, she was having a hard time; she knew she would soon need to use her last resort, she only hoped that she would not be so exhausted afterwards that she would die at the hands of the undead hoards.

'One man threatens your lives, Ryu's life in particular.' The Wanderer had told Nina and she could now see why. She was casting spell after spell and it was beginning to take its toll. She could replenish her magical essence with her will, but even that was beginning to wear thin. She knew they were loosing, slowly, but they were loosing.

The square was now devoid of citizens, of innocent bystanders, but it would take a miracle or a sudden burst of great power to extricate them from this battle. Katt gritted her teeth and gathered her strength.

"Lords of thunder and lighting, bring down your hammer on the vile ones. BOLT X." Katt incanted.

One bolt of lightning descended, then another, a third and a fourth and then a stream of electricity descended from the heavens, carving a path through the undead from Katt to Ryu. Katt swooned, stumbled, but was able to support herself with her staff. Blood drizzled from her nose and mouth; it had been an incredible gamble, with her weak magical essence casting such a powerful spell could have killed her outright. Gathering her wits, her courage and her remaining strength she ran to Ryu and took up a combat position standing with her back to his.

"You sure you can do this?" Ryu smiled at her.

"These pus buckets can't keep me down." She smiled fiercely, if wearily.

They brought their weapons up; they were tired and things seemed hopeless, but they were determined to go down fighting.

A loud roar sounded and all save the undead turned in search of the source. A pure white mist rolled in, neutralizing the dark miasma. Skeletons broke apart, collapsing, sent to their eternal rest. The older zombies fell to the ground, those more recently deceased held their ground, but ceased their attacks. From the blackness and stench of the remaining miasma emerged a shimmering figure, surrounded by what looked like a golden dragon silhouette. Only the splattered armour and ichor-stained sword hinted at the unfathomable evil the Wanderer had just laid to waste. Shax looked from the Wanderer to Ryu and frowned. Ryu cut the zombies before him to ribbons and charged Shax, who blocked his attack and pushed Ryu away.

"You're not... TWO dragons? Grrrrr. I see now, you are neither of you are him. Heheheh. But you are LIKE him." Shax said.

The Wanderer calmly approached him, his sword drawn. Shax sidled back a bit, a malevolent smile on his decaying lips.

"Huzzah! Huzzah! O, fighting men! Your battle can't be won, but still you've proven sport beyond most's ken, endeavouring your triumph of the will. But this futile labour you must now sever, against me, though, yes, I'm known the fiend and afford this hellion's duty a measure; for mine's a charge of import most extreme." Shax sang out.

"Will you shut the hell up already?" Ryu asked.

"Your words, they evoke laughter's tonic. I trust the husk was being ironic?" Shax laughed, madness in his eyes.

The Wanderer moved to attack Shax, but the fiend jumped back. He raised his hand, palm towards the Wanderer and an 'X' shaped scar appeared on Shax's palm. The flesh peeled away from the scar, revealing a void behind it.

"BURN!" Shax yelled as a gout of flame streamed forth from his palm.

The Wanderer through up his left arm as though to defend himself and the flame engulfed him. Ryu hacked away at another zombie and stopped gaping in horror as he saw the Wanderer consumed in flame, or so it appeared to him. The flames dissipated and the Wanderer appeared unharmed, not even singed. A shield was now on his left arm, where only a forearm bracer was before. The skin of the shield suddenly began to shrink and retracted into the ruby eye at the centre of the shield revealing the thin spines that had supported the skin of the shield and these too retracted into the ruby eye that was a part of the draconic design on the forearm bracers that the Wanderer wore.

Holding his sword at the ready, he motioned for Shax to come at him, a confident smile playing at his lips. Shax's face contorted in anger and the skin of his face broke and bled in some areas. Shax, lost in his anger and hatred, rushed the Wanderer and their blades clashed. It was like a clash of the titans, the earth seemed to tremble, the very air seemed to scream as the blades cut through it and sparks flew when their swords connected. Blow after blow, neither swordsman relented, until the force of one strike of one sword on the other produced a concussive force repelling the two combatants. The opposing dichotomy of the swords as well as of their very beings could have been said to repel each other rather than their sword blows. Shax raised his sword and screamed a bestial cry and he charged the Wanderer again, determined to kill him in a single sword stroke. The Wanderer closed his eyes and charged Shax, moving so quickly he was almost a blur. Shax's eyes widened and his mouth gaped as the Wanderer's Dragon Sword pierced his armour, flesh and bone, cutting into his black heart.

"Snake eyes, you lose." The Wanderer said opening his eyes, which now had a serpentine appearance.

With what appeared to be little effort, the Wanderer lifted Shax, who was still impaled upon the Dragon Sword. Grasping the handle of the sword with both hands, he heaved Shax, who slid easily off the blade, and into the wall of a house. There was a sickening crack as his neck bent to an impossible angle. The newly created corpse lay still. Bleu and Bow looked up from Yua, who was unconscious and pale. Sten, Jean and Gaist were now routing the undead. Draigan was at Yua's side, holding her hand; he was deeply concerned. It appeared that the fight was over and Nina and Rand approached Shax's corpse, if only to make sure he was truly dead and going to remain that way.

Suddenly the corpse's eyes widened and the body rose, as though on some puppeteer's strings. Nina and Rand froze, shocked by this sudden movement. The deceased man floated above their heads and hovered to rest above the steps to the teleporter building.

"The demon god, DeathEvan, I presume?" The Wanderer inquired.

"Mon dieu... But we defeated him n'est ce pas?" Jean asked.

"Yeah... But he did say he'd be back." Ryu said calmly.

"I was kinda hoping that was just trite villain dialogue." Sten muttered.

MORTAL FOOLS... DO YOU AGAIN DEFY THE RIGHTFUL RULER OF THIS PLANE? DeathEvan' voice uttered not from the corpse's mouth, but from everywhere at once; it sounded like booming thunder with the chill of the grave.

"What ruler would send demons to destroy a kingdom and try to bring its people to utter ruin?" The Wanderer asked with great contempt.

"What?" Nina whispered; she had the feeling she knew what the Wanderer was talking about.

I BELIEVE YOU ARE REFERING TO THAT FALLEN KINGDOM OF WINLAN. THEY WERE WEAK, THE ROYAL LINE BECAME TAINTED. I SOUGHT TO REMOVE THAT TAINT. DeathEvan explained.

"That is the reason you poisoned my wife? Why you had demons destroy the city? Why your agent started that nonsense about a black winged curse? Why you have persecuted my family for what seems forever?" The Wanderer said in a tone of absolute calm.

THEIR BLOODLINE WOULD BE DILUTED… IT WAS DILUTED WITH A MIXEDBLOOD RULER. LOOK UPON THAT FALLEN CREATURE THERE; HER MIXED BLOOD IS OBVIOUS, SHE CANNOT FLY AND CAN NO LONGER CHANGE INTO THE GREAT BIRD. CAN YOU HONESTLY SAY ATTEMPTING TO CLEANSE SUCH AN IMPURITY WAS WRONG? DeathEvan said pointing at Nina.

For her own part, Nina was in shock; everything led back to DeathEvan. He destroyed Winlan, which started the black wing curse, which had made her an outcast; an exile from her home and ultimately it was because of this that Mina became the great bird. She didn't have much magical energy left before, but now, she found a hidden reserve of strength, which stemmed from her emotions, her rage in particular. Muttering arcane words, making barely visible gestures, she cast her spell. The hand of the corpse that was DeathEvan puppet rebounded off of a mystic shield, a circle of runes surrounded him.

WHAT IS THIS? He asked, amused.

"You beast, you're a defiler... you're the source of all my pain." She said through tears of sorrow and anger. "I'm going to make sure you suffer for what you have done. No one gave you the right to treat people this way."

'KILLING' ME ONCE WAS INSUFFICIENT FOR MY PERCIEVED CRIMES? He smirked.

"Dying a thousand times wouldn't be enough to even begin to atone for all the lives you've destroyed... But it would be a start." Nina said.

She began to incant, imitating how Bleu had moved when she had used the strongest spell.

"I call upon HwoShin of Fire,
I call upon ToShin of Earth,
I call upon SheiShin of Water,
I call upon FunShin of Air,
Grant me strength.
Thou of foul name and impure heart, False Apostle, hear now the judgment of heaven:
LADON'S LAW"

A beam of light descended from the heavens, consuming DeathEvan. The light was blinding, some turned away; within the light the silhouette of DeathEvan corpse puppet could be seen dissolving. The light cleared and nothing remained of their opponent but a small pile of ash. Nina fainted and fell backwards into Rand's arms.

"She's okay, she just needs a bit of rest." Rand said.

"Okay, the undead are on the run, or shamble as the case may be and the big bad boss is defeated, again I might add. So... why don't we celebrate, or at least look happier?" Sten asked.

"Because it isn't over." The Wanderer stated.

From the pile of ashes three glowing, golden keys emerged, floating in the air. Ashes and dirt began to swirl about the keys and the sky darkened. Shadows seemed to become tangible and the flowed towards the Keys. Draigan ran over to Yua, ignoring the keys and what was going on around them. Yua had turned pale and was trembling; the knife was not coming out and the poison bile that had laced the blade was doing its work painfully slowly.

"The poison is killing her..." Bleu said.

"Can't you do anything?" Draigan demanded.

"Not until the knife's out." Bow replied.

"THEN TAKE THE DAMN THING OUT!" Draigan yelled.

"Don't you think we've tried?" Bleu said, glaring at him.

"I'm sorry it's just that..." Draigan said.

"Yeah, I know..." Bleu said looking over at Ryu. "Bow, has Yua ever changed into a dragon?"

"Err... I don't know." Bow said confusedly.

"This is important; think, has she ever changed into a dragon." Bleu demanded.

"No, not to my knowledge."

"Good then... this may work." She said placing her hands above the dagger.

Bleu mumbled incantations and electricity danced along her fingers, down through the dagger and into Yua's body. She writhed and screamed as electricity ran through her body, her eyes flew open and her body seemed to glow with a dark power and then it stopped and she lay still, her eyes closed.

"Is she...?" Draigan began, afraid to finish the thought.

"Its up to her now. All we can do is wait and hope." Bleu replied.

Meanwhile DeathEvan' new form was finished: the dust and earth created bones and the darkness created transparent flesh. It was the mockery of a living dragon; a skeleton with solid, transparent shadows for flesh, glowing crimson eyes were in the otherwise empty sockets.

YOU WILL FIND THAT THIS BODY IS NOT SO EASILY DISPOSABLE AS MY HUMAN HOST WAS. DeathEvan laughed.

The Wanderer said nothing as he sheathed his sword. At first Ryu thought that perhaps the Wanderer was giving up but then he felt a tremendous power emanating from the older man. A white light emanated from him and he seemed to vanish from view. A great roar was heard and when the light cleared the dragon, Agni, stood where the Wanderer once did. The lower half of its body was a quadruped with what looked like a scorpion tail; the upper half of his body was humanoid until one looked at his head, draconic, covered with a mane with large spikes running down his back.

EVEN WITH THAT POWER, YOU STILL CANNOT DEFEAT ME. I HAVE ACCESS TO THE POWERS OF THREE GODDESS KEYS AND WITH MY KNOWLEDGE I CAN USE THEM AS NO MORTAL EVER DREAMED. DeathEvan smiled, though with a general lack of flesh it was impossible to see how he could not smile.

"He's right you know." The Dragon God, Ladon said to Ryu, speaking directly to his mind. "By themselves the keys can seal a goddess; in the hands of someone who knows how to use them... well lets just say that just three keys are capable of far more than that."

'So what can I do then? He can't be unbeatable.' Ryu thought.

Something in the way Ryu saw the world changed. He could see an orb within the Agni dragon and within that orb was a single point of light that would trace the symbol of infinity.

"Agni is one half of infinity. The power you hold, Anfini, is the other half. Together my Avatar shall awaken." Ladon said.

Ryu had no idea what to do, however, a stirring of power grew within him. It was the same feeling as the last time he used Anfini to resurrect his friends to fight DeathEvan. Again he unleashed that power and a stream of light traveled from him to Agni. Within that stream Ryu could see an orb that contained a small point of light, which traced infinity. The orb within the stream of light and that which was in Agni joined together; Agni roared and emitted a great golden light. The Agni dragon changed and becae a large version of Ryu's own Grand Dragon transformation save this Kaiser dragon had wings made of rainbow flame and its height was much greater than that of the Grand Dragon. Someone, someone with a deep baritone voice could be heard singing the Hymn of Dragons.

Ye sai no Shei!
Ya yu no Hwo,
Ye sai no Fun!
Ya yu no To
Ya ni hikari
Yo na Yami
Ah sa ne yasare, no wo Ladon.

The final line heralded the coming of Kaiser and for the first time since the beginning of time, the Hymn of Dragons was sung in its entirety. Bleu looked up from Yua and smiled.

"So Kaiser finally makes an appearance? Welcome to the world, Father." She whispered.

AM I SUPPOSED TO BE IMPRESSED? DeathEvan growled.

The bone dragon opened its great maw and unleashed a stream of dark energy at Kaiser. Kaiser folded his wings of flame before him and DeathEvan's attack dissipated.

"Is it my turn now?" Kaiser asked.

YOU WONT ATTACK ME. YOU HAVE YET TO ADAPT YOURSELF TO THE POWER OF THIS BODY. WERE YOU TO ATTACK THERE'S NO TELLING WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE YOU WOULD DO AND YOU WONT RISK THAT... EH?

What distracted DeathEvan was a beam of light coming down from the Sky Garden to the teleportation room. Many people rushed out of the building, trying to get out. DeathEvan cared not for the mere mortals but from where they came from. He looked above and had he flesh he would have smiled.

I NO LONGER HAVE THE DESIRE TO FIGHT YOU. He laughed as his skeletal wings began to flap, carrying him off the ground.

Kaiser followed, engaging DeathEvan in aerial combat. On the ground the fleeing people of the Sky Garden passed out the gates; however, one of them stayed to speak, if a little frantically, with Draigan.

"My lord... There are still the children up there!" The woman said distraughtly.

Draigan looked from the woman, to the Sky Garden and then to Yua.

"Go, get out of the city, I'll deal with it." He said waving the woman off. He turned to Yua and bent down and kissed her. "I'll return, but I have to save them."

Draigan ran off to the teleporter, not even looking back. As he had turned his back, however, Yua's eyes suddenly opened. The dagger slowly pulled itself out of her and the wound it had made closed. She sat up, but did not seem to see Bleu or Bow. The air around her seemed to shimmer and a loud, sluggish heartbeat could be heard.

"I'll be damned... It worked. Stimulating a dragon transformation healed her." Bleu exclaimed.

"You mean you weren't sure?" Bow asked dumbfounded.

Ryu could not let the Wanderer fight alone and he began to change into Grand Dragon, the only dragon power he had left. Wings burst from his back, his muscles thickened and he grew into the dragon form. The Grand Dragon was not as large as Kaiser or the bone dragon that was DeathEvan but it was still powerful. Ryu flew up into the sky to confront DeathEvan. Yua had stood and slowly walked towards where Ryu had stood. She looked to the entrance of the teleporter, but Draigan had already left to the Sky Garden. The dragon power was beginning to take its toll on her; she felt like her entire body was being ripped apart. She had been resisting, fearing the pain she would experience and then she let go. The transformation was painful, her nerves felt like they were on fire and she could feel her entire body: every millimetre of skin, every hair, inside and out. In that moment she felt something else, beyond pain, beyond sensitivity she felt the beginnings of life forming within her; that tryst she had been having had produced something more.

The transformation was over before she realized it and she had become an adult dragon. She spread her wings and flew up to Ryu. The Wanderer and DeathEvan were grappling in mortal combat: fang to fang and claw to claw. Ryu flew into a position where he could easily blast DeathEvan with a breath attack, without harming the Wanderer. He unleashed his attack and multiple white fireballs blasted DeathEvan's back. The great undead monster didn't even flinch. Staring at Ryu out of the corner of his unblinking eye, DeathEvan lashed out with his tail.

INSIGNIFICANT GNAT. He said as he struck Ryu.

Ryu went tumbling from the skies, but was caught by Yua. She struggled to remain aloft as Ryu shook off the hit.

"Quit fooling around, we have to save Draigan." She said when he was able to fly again.

"Uh... who's Draigan?" Ryu asked, completely uninformed of Yua's relationship.

"My boyfriend, you twit! Now move!" She replied flying upwards to the Sky Garden.

Ryu hesitated taken aback, but not for long as he flew upwards, following Yua. DeathEvan, still locked in combat with the Wanderer, watched as Yua and Ryu flew above him. He growled and blasted the Wanderer away from him and began to rise. Due to his sheer power and wing strength, he flew rapidly upwards past Yua and Ryu. Upon the Sky Garden, Draigan had found almost all of the children and was herding them towards the teleporter. DeathEvan landed before the teleporter entrance and was barring Draigan's way. The children screamed in fear of the sudden skeletal apparition. Yua and Ryu attacked DeathEvan, catching him off-guard, pushing him slightly off-balance, but not enough to make him move. DeathEvan retaliated with blasts of dark energy, but did not strike either nimble dragon. The Wanderer descended upon the undead abomination and attacked, preventing the bone dragon from attacking the children. Draigan herded them to the edge of the island where Ryu and Yua beckoned him. The children were far more scared of DeathEvan than they were of Yua and Ryu in their dragon forms and the way Draigan spoke reassured them. Ryu's Grand Dragon form was large enough to carry some children in his claws as well as on his back and Yua carried the rest on her back, between her wings.

"Come on, we have to leave now." She pleaded with Draigan.

"There's still one left. Don't worry about me. I'll catch up. Go now!" He implored.

Yua and Ryu reluctantly left and Draigan scrambled off to find the remaining child. DeathEvan and the Wanderer were locked in mortal combat neither gaining the upper hand; they met each other blow for blow. The Wanderer had accomplished one thing however; he had managed to move DeathEvan away from the entrance to the teleporter, so Draigan would at least have a way to escape. The Wanderer was growing weary, while he had an immense power as Kaiser; he hadn't had the time to learn how to use it efficiently. DeathEvan was not faring any better, at least, for while he knew had to use the power of the Goddess Keys efficiently and effectively, he still had nowhere near the power of Kaiser. All it would take was one slip on either side to determine the outcome of combat and unfortunately, DeathEvan found a hole in the Wanderer's defence. Taking advantage of the moment, DeathEvan managed to strike within the Wanderer's guard, his phantom and bone claws piercing flesh, digging deep in the Wanderer's heart. The Wanderer roared, but then bit down with his fangs onto DeathEvan's neck. Fangs pierced phantasm flesh, but did not touch the bones, held back by phantasmal flesh.

Draigan was running back to the teleportation room, a little girl in his arms. He had found her hiding under some bushes and was now trying to get to safety. Suddenly, DeathEvan pushed Kaiser back and the claws of the light dragon dug into the ground sending gravel and dirt flying back. Draigan tripped and the little girl flew out of his arms landing hard on the ground.

Draigan got up and stopped; there was no sound, nothing was moving around him. He looked around and spotted an elderly man sitting on a broken column, clutching his chest. Blood was pouring over his fingers and he was breathing heavily. Draigan rushed over to him.

"Sir we must leave here..." He began, but the Wanderer cut him off.

"Its too late to save me... DeathEvan has a key that can control the flow of time. I'm currently using it to speak to you, but we don't have much time." The wanderer said.

Draigan looked from the Wanderer back to the Kaiser dragon, still locked in combat with the bone dragon, DeathEvan.

"How is that possible?" He asked.

"How am I speaking to you as a human, when my dragon form is there? I don't know. How did I use the Time Key? The Kaiser is more than just a power, it's a connection to Ladon and he speaks to me through it. I was told how to use the Time Key and I was close enough to do so. That's all." The Wanderer flinched as blood spurted from his wound. "I haven't much time, so when time unfreezes, you must take the child and run to the teleporter. I'm going to unleash Kaiser's full power; the explosion will kill me, but it will also destroy DeathEvan and this garden."

"Sir... you can't..." Draigan began to protest, but the Wanderer interrupted him.

"I've known I was going to die for some time; I'm prepared." He smiled. "But you must take this, you must keep it safe from Myria and DeathEvan until the one who needs it comes for it. You'll know him when you see him... He will be of your blood."

The Wanderer removed his hand from his chest taking the Infinity Gene out of his body, offering it to Draigan. Draigan was confused; how would he know, how could this one be of his blood for he had no children. However, he would not deny a dying man's last request and took the orb and placed it to his chest. The gem sank into him and, suddenly, things seemed to change in Draigan's perception. The Wanderer had vanished and time was beginning to return to normal; the two dragons began to struggle once more. Draigan ran and picked up the girl, taking a brief second to make sure she was all right. He ran for the teleporter and once inside was bathed in blue light.

'Goodbye.' The Wanderer thought as he unleashed his full power.

Gaist had finished off the remaining zombies with his Beast Spear; it had been all too easy. He hadn't even broken a sweat, that is, if he even could sweat with this body. He looked over at Jasmine who had been totally oblivious to the events occurring around her. He had witnessed the dragons and knew them to be the Brood that the priests spoke of. He had not expected to see any so soon. An explosion interrupted his musings. He looked up to see the sky lit up brighter than day. Through the clouds great chunks of rock were falling down upon them. The Sky Garden was breaking apart; fortunately most people had already left, but the rest would be killed. Gaist went quickly over to Jasmine and picked her up in his arms; she still seemed completely unaware as to what transpired around her. A dark shadow loomed above them and Gaist looked up; a large chunk of the Sky Garden was hurtling down on them. Gaist was not fast enough to get out of the way, nor strong enough, as of yet, to destroy it.

'Is this it? Are we going to die here? Like this?' He asked himself.

The rock exploded as Ryu blasted it away with the Grand Dragon's power. He and Yua had deposited their charges outside the city and were doing their best to save any others who remained. Yua was having a harder time because she was yet unused to the dragon form. Gaist looked on in awe at the Grand Dragon before him, the hovering Grand Dragon was a sight to behold.

'This is the Brood? The World destroyers?' He asked himself and he felt doubt, however minute, in his purpose as a Guardian.


Music for this chapter: 'DeathEvan' from Breath of Fire 2 soundtrack.


Chapter 19

Artificer Urza's Fanfiction