Time of the Gospel Chapter 5
Lance, are you coming?
The man stared at himself through a mirror. He was dressed in his complete Guard uniform: boots, pants, shirt, coat, shoulder pads, arm bands, all of it one shade of the sand or another. He looked formal. Sitting in a chair he rested his forehead in his palms and faced the floor. Shes dead ~ it. Shes dead. Shes dead. Shes dead. Shes A sea of tears was ready to give way, but his dam of pride held them back. Looking to his side a saw a photograph placed in a frame. It was him and the other elite: him and Kyrin, him and Taran. You ~! Picking up his long lance he hurled it at the picture. The metal spear crashed through it and into the wall. When it hit, shards of glass exploded outward. The elite lay fragmented.
Whoa, glad I knocked. Xolis laughed as he glanced down at the shattered portrait. Come on, well be late for the funeral.
Shes dead. Seein her dead aint gonna change that.
Allys joined the two. Im sure Kyrin wants this to be easy for us. What would you want if it were you?
It isnt me. It should have been though. It shouldnt have been her. Anyone but her. Anyone but By then he was beating his fist against the wall. Pound. Pound. Pound.
Lance Allys came up to him and put her hand on his shoulder. I
Get your hand off of me or Ill remove it myself.
We all have to die sometime! Xolis shouted.
No! Not us! We were different. Nothing could kill us. Nothing . The man sank to the floor. There, he saw the shard of glass that held Taran within. He picked it up and began screaming at it. Nothing except us except your ~ brother! His hand closed down around it, squeezing it, trickling blood down his clenched fist.
That blood isnt going to look very good infront of Guard, or the Fatima Royalty.
~ the royalty.
In the silence, he was able to regain his composure. Slowly, he got to his feet. Come on. Lets get this over with. Quietly, they left. Upon passing through the door Lance dropped the glass that he had been clutching in his fist, spit on it, and then turned away. As the three elite walked down the halls of Guard headquarters, he took out a handkerchief and wiped crimson off of his hand. After a brief ride up an elevator they stood inside a castle. Following a parade of elegantly dressed, they worked their way down several flights of stairs until they stepped out onto a rounded balcony overlooking a courtyard. On the outcropping there were eight chairs, four of which were filled. At the front sat King Fatima, next to him the queen. Behind was the royal chancellor. The remaining seats were reserved for Lance, Xolis, Allys, and the Guard captain.
Stepping to the edge of the balcony, Lance greeted the king, and then gazed down at the courtyard. It was night, but bright lights shining from over the walls illuminated the garden. Lined across both sides of an upper and lower level was a multitude of uniformed Guard soldiers. Filling the ward, situated around a fountain, were normal citizens who somehow felt close to Kyrin. Before them was the casket.
Lance, please take a seat. He turned to see the Guard Captain, nodded his head, and did so.
A hush came over the crowd as a soldier hit a large gong. Standing, the king stepped forward and began his speech: Citizens of Aveh, soldiers of the Royal Guard, today we gather to mourn the loss of one of our own. Kyrin Delgao: last night was killed in combat... Yet in the midst of death, there is a glimmer of hope. Throughout her death, she remained loyal to her mission, to her fellow soldiers, to Aveh. Her loyal, noble, brave spirit has not, and shall not, ever pass away. She lives within us, each of us: joining our ancestors in encouraging us as we go throughout our lives. Within our hearts, we can all hear her cheering us on to continue the fight that she gave her life for.
That fight, against the oppressors of our land, against those within who defile it, against the shadows, against all that is wrong. It is a fight for freedom, for purity, for light, for good, for all that is just. This is the fight that her life was pledged to, the fight that Kyrin was so valiantly willing to sacrifice her life to ensure its victory. Sacrifice: one that shall not go in vain. No. Her sacrifice shall be noticed, and resurrect in each of us as a new courage to press on, not to give in. It is this new courage, this new hope, that makes us believe that
Bull ~. Lance sat upright, the words running through his mind, and being utterly destroyed. He doesnt know what her death is all about. Rambling on about something that somehow makes it worth it!? ~! Kill the fighting spirit instead, if thatll keep her alive. New courage my ~! Id rather be a coward and have her there to comfort me. Who ~ does this guy think he is? The king, oh yeah. I'm sure he thinks it was worth it. She died so he wont have to. Well, Ill fix that. Hell die anyway. ~, well all die. Yeah. Ill kill us all. Then theyll know what its really like. Then well be with Kyrin again then ~!
And now, as we move on, and bury her body in the earth, we preserve her heart within our own. We
Preserve her heart within our own!? What is he talking about? He still has no idea. Theres the queen the queen: the kings wife...
Though Im sure that we still do not comprehend the significant loss that others closer to Kyrin have suffered
Yes, he wants to know what its like. Ill kill her, not him. Then hell realize. He said he would do it, but he could not force himself. No, Kyrin wouldnt want that. She wouldnt want vengeance, she would A deafening explosion interrupted his thoughts, then another. Two levels of armed Guard were offering a gun salute. Then a magic one, as ethereally summoned images of fire and water danced around Kyrins body and subsided.
Snapped from his daze, Lance stood, turned, and entered the palace. On the lower level, ranks of Guard soldiers were marching, carrying a coffin. Through several chambers they came to a large, open garden filled with large, marble monuments that served as headstones. Before one such memorial was an open grave. Gifted soldiers saluted the fallen through majestic music while others lowered her into the grave.
Some stayed and cried, some prayed, but eventually, they all left until only Lance was left. He approached the grave, unburied for now, many pounds of flowers decorating it and the surrounding grass. Kneeling before the hole in the earth: Kyrin, I The dam of pride buckled under the force of waters it held back. Tears streamed down his face and fell onto the dark grass. Im sorry I couldnt do anything. Im sorry I wasnt there when you needed me. Im Here. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small, gold ring with a diamond embedded in it. The crystal caught the light of the moon and reflected it across the garden. He placed it down with the flowers. Looking across he saw a plaque dedicated to her: Kyrin Lyon.
Lance? again he was interrupted. He looked up. It was Allys. Are you ready?
Xolis has gotten us a citizens sand cruiser and were both set. I even got us a few days off duty.
What are you talking about?
That means this isnt an official mission, which means we dont have to follow any of the rules. Come on, were going back to find him.
Lance smiled. Solus prepare yourself, death is not far.
From a canteen Taran splashed some water on his face. It cleansed him of the dirt that had been on the ground as well as the sleep that had claimed him. At first it had been a restless two days. Everything that happened since he left Bledavik: the travel to Blackmoon, Kyrins death, his reunion with Solus, meeting Elly, fighting Jinn and that Pointiff, and his ride on that ~ Gear! They had drained him of energy but at the same time filled him with adrenaline and an unquieted excitement. To occupy himself as he waited to fall to unconsciousness, Taran had counted the stars. In the morning however, he could not remember what number he had reached. And if he had dreamed, it had been forgotten.
Dawn was beautiful. The sun rose up over the eastern mountains and sparkled on the sand. Some grains were even blessed with a rainbow light as the sun bounced off of a few mountains that reached high enough to don a snowcap. Neither Elly, nor Jinn were witness to any of this, for they slept. When they did rise, it was only a few minutes before they were up in the air again.
They crossed the desert northward until they came to a desert valley that connected Aveh and Kislev. Solus turned to head west, passing between the two sets of mountains. Elly confirmed his course change, then settled down in his lap. Whats with me today!? She demanded of herself. This is no way for a Phalanx Lieutenant to act. Why am I sharing a small seat with this man I met just yesterday? Because hes cute? Well, hot would fit better, but still. And sure, Im the commanding officer, and hes the only one that can fly this thing But from what I understand Taran can too, and hes just as good looking, plus hes in a military. But that cant be all, can it? Therve been a lot of cute guys, and Ive never felt this way about any of them? What way? How do I feel? Its not like were doing anything, just sharing a seat. Could I be in love? I cant be! I cant fall in love with someone thats not an officer in Phalanx, much less someone whos not even a Legion citizen. She sighed and got even more comfortable.
And then it all shook. The Gear was rocked back and forth violently. What happened!? Elly demanded.
I dont know. Something hit us Were loosing altitude. I think were gonna crash!
Can you do anything?
Ive got full throttle on the lift rockets Maybe... Take the controls.
Solus touched a button and the cockpit opened wide. He shifted his body and let Elly have the seat as he crawled out of Gabes chest. Give me a hand! he shouted back to Elly. She was confused, and frightened. The left hand! Elly fiddled with the controls. The Gear shook again. Solus held on tightly. Finally, Gabes left hand came directly under Solus. The man dropped down to kneel next to his brother.
Taran! Solus began, Can we do something to get us off this Gear?
Of course. If I just
No! Something else. I was thinking about combining out strength to form some kind of shield or something.
Alright, come on, we dont have any time. Their forms were under continual pressure from the biting wind and turbulence. Together, they formed a tiny glow that continually grew. As it grew, however, it did not loose brightness and only gained solidity. In a few moments, it was a bubble around the Gear. Okay! Taran screamed over the sound of the falling Gear. Someone has to launch it!
Ill do it!
Fine by me! Thisll work out well with Guard!
Dont count me out of the picture yet!
Ill take care of em. Well head up one of the mountains bordering Legends Valley and build a fire. Well wait three nights.
Solus looked down. The sand was a blur, a very close blur. He turned and released his energy. A large sphere of light shot outward from Gabe, carrying Taran, Elly, Mara, and Stealth along with it.
The sphere of light carried them far from the Gear. When they touched down, it was onto a desert bed, and the sphere absorbed the shock, keeping them safe. Soon after contact, it faded away and set the four onto the ground. They turned back towards where they came. Elly placed her hand over her eyes and squinted to the horizon. She could see smoke rising, but nothing more. Wheres Solus?
Im not sure. Taran stuttered.
Well we cant just abandon him. Elly replied. Come on, lets go back and find him.
Hold on a second. Taran protested. I told him that wed head up one of the mountains. That way, if he survived
If he survived! Elly shouted. I cant just leave him and hope hes well enough to find us.
Listen to him. Jinn put in.
Fine. But dont any of you forget that Im in control of this operation. Now, how are we to get up these mountains?
Well use the stairs. The two girls looked at Taran when he spoke. The Guard soldier pointed to a mountain their bubble had just missed. A flight of stairs was carved into the rock, first working this way, then that, always upward. Stairs.
Solus crawled out from under an oversized metal arm. The crawling was difficult, for something was pulling him down as he went. Finally, he reached his own arms around Gabes hand and pulled himself atop. The Gear had taken the crash well. There were a dozen parts or so spread across the sands, but the bulk of it remained in tact. On the other hand, seventy five percent of that was buried under the sand. Solus looked around and realized he was quite lost. His sight turned to a piece of Gabe. Had it been there before? He watched it intently. Sinking! It was sinking! Not just that scrap, but the entire Gear was sinking. Quicksand! He had crashed in a bed of quicksand!
Not knowing where solid ground was, he searched aimlessly for a way out before he too was sucked down.
Youre light enough to stay stable. Now, Enter! Solus looked around for the voice, but could not find its origin.
He stepped out onto the desert and did not fall through. He looked around again. Enter what? Sand began to sift as an iron cylinder raised from underneath. A door opened, revealing a small room. Solus was surprised, but stepped inside and the door slid shut, concealing him in darkness. He felt the floor beneath him lower for a moment or so, and then the door opened again.
He gazed at an overwhelming chamber. It was a giant room completely lined with metal. The floor had several smooth spots, but most was composed of thin grates that fell down into a black abyss, spotlights mounted on the walls not bright enough to illuminate its darkness. Halfway up the walls (30 feet) was a steel platform, with another raised a but a few meters above. They surrounded a large Gear. Its form was massive: a hulk of metal covered with do-it-yourself armor padding also of thick metal strapped on in any way possible at all the most vulnerable sports. Above the added armor it was loaded with an arsenal to make the captain of a battleship envious. The entire one-gear army was painted in earth toned camouflage that blended in to the room. Heavy cords ran from the machine out into the walls. Across from it was another Gear, or what was left of one. More than half of the second was dismantled and its interior workings were exposed and stripped in many places. Further on were several tin crates, overflowing with dirty parts, some of which bore similarity to the broken robot.
Driving a small, old army jeep between the two Gears was an old man. His head was uncapped and unhaired except for a few shoulder-length white strands falling from the sides around. Though his face was wrinkled, his eyes were still young, and though his mouth was missing several teeth, his voice, though also old, was not joined with a cough or crack. Whore you? Two, tiny red dots blinded Solus eyes, shining from a two barreled shot gun, with a few modifications. Solus was sure that two automated guns hanging next to the lights were aimed at him as well.
Look here, I dont care what your NAME is, who are you?
Im escorting my friend home.
Is that so ? I say you aint.
What! Okay? What do you mean okay!? It aint okay! What if I say you were coming to thwart my mission. Then whatd you say? Nothing, cause Id shoot ya! Thats what I did to the last guy who tried lying to his superior But, you didnt lie, did ya? No, you said okay, you admitted it! A true soldier at last! Welcome to Operation: Kick Steam Head! The old man gave a salute. What is your rank?
Whats it matter?
Whats it matter? Ill tell ya whats it matter! It matters because weve got to sees whos the top dog around here. If you rank higher than me, than you give orders. Understand? So, whats your rank?
Well then, in that case, Im High Admiral!
Youre wearing a lieutenants clothes.
The man looked down at an old Aveh military uniform covered with dirt, beaten, and torn, as if the man had grown up in the uniform, stretching and tearing it, then shrunken, shriveled in old age. Yeah, well, Ive been promoted they just havent sent me my new clothes yet so Im the commanding officer here! I give the orders. No slouching, show me your salute!
Not wanting to offend the old man, or disturb the delicate balance of what was left of his mind, Solus complied. Admiral Veritas sir.
Thats better. I am High Admiral Ginlun. What brings you to Operation: Kick Steam Head, Admiral?
Someone shot me down what? oh, Sir.
The High Admiral smiled. I know, that was me. Think of it as another test of your strength. But, you survived. Well fix up your Gear in no time, Admiral. That can wait though. First, we should get ya into proper military clothing, and get ya aquatinted with the facility, and
This is going to be a long day.
What was that!?
This is going to be a long day, sir!
The ascent was quiet, they all had much on their minds, and did not truly know anyone around to share it with.
Taran was now following the Legion forces. But why was he? Elly did not have any force to hold him here. He was more a voluntary prisoner, most likely due to the captor. Why am I following her? What do I hope to gain out of this? He looked back at her, looked her over as she paused on a step. Oh yeah sex. I know shes pretty but is there more to this one? What is it about her that seems so familiar?
Elly herself was having similar thoughts. Do I miss him? How can I, when hes standing right infront of me? But thats not really him? And if I can tell a difference, does that mean Im not just drawn to his body? And if Im not, than am I Taran does look good. Real good. I could get used to him either one
Jinn had a death warrant on her head like no other. Shadow blade and now Ethos: the two most powerful organizations next to the Legion, I bet theyve got me as a high priority to exterminate.
Lost in their own though, they hardly noticed when the climb grew steeper, the stairs taller and farther apart. At least the effort exerted forced a grunt out of Taran, which sparked conversation.
How much higher is it? Elly asked. Taran glanced up to the peak. He could see it now. They had been climbing the stairs for some time now Wheres Solus? Is he alright? He then gazed down at the girl below him. Thought prevailed and he forgot that he was dangling on the side of a cliff. It did not matter. Taran?
Oh. Just thirty meters or so.
At this rate it will take you two all day. Jinn called down from above. She had abandoned the stairways path that zigzagged up the mountain and had taken to climbing the mountain itself. Daringly, she pushed herself away from the rock, fell several feet, and then landed on the steps.
Jinn, you could have gotten somebody killed! Rashell scolded.
If I were clumsy.
Hey, Taran insisted. I saw the video of your raid on Ethos. Your battle with that Acolyte wasnt exactly perfect.
Ignoring his comment, the ninja continued. Were pressed for time. The longer we take the harder it will be to spot Solus. The steps kinda disappear up ahead, so Im gonna go drop a rope. Feel free to use it if you ever make it up there. She reached for a hold above and pulled herself onto a higher step, skipping one halfway between. Just recently she had scaled the wall of the Ethos monastery, so this was comparably easy. Not for long. Again she reached the part she had spoken of. A wide section of the mountain extended outward to create an overhang. Good thing Stealth went looking for Solus back there. I dont know how hed make it over this.
Grabbing and holding tight to a hold under the ledge, she stretched her other hand out and felt for another. Her fingers gripped a small crack and lifted her light, agile body up along with it. Her weaponry, however, doubled her weight. When her right hand pulled on a rock, it broke loose, dropping onto the ledges below. Four fingers kept her from joining it. She kicked her foot high and pushed down on the corner of the overhang. Placing her other foot a little higher, she stopped. Youre getting careless, Mara. Thats the last thing you can do right now. Any minute and youre gonna find Wan, rather, hes gonna find you. Then what? Even if you can escape Ethos for that long, you cant get away from him
Finally, they all came to the top. The summit consisted of wide, almost flat, tundra. Icy grass grew out from a thin soil spread over rock. Jinn, give me your binoculars. Rashell commanded.
How did you know I
Give them to me. The ninja handed over the binoculars and Elly peered through them. It was quiet as she searched the earth below them. She saw no smoke, no signs of any wreckage. Where is he ?
Taran of Guard, Thief of Soul-Stone, I place you under judgement. The three turned around to face Eliab, the Pointiff. His sword was already drawn for battle.
After coming over the shock, Taran blurted out. Im not going!
Very well, your sentence shall be carried out immediately. Young lady, if you would kindly join me. Eliab gestured to Elly.
No, way, these are my
Taran grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him. Elly, go. Youve only known us for two days. No reason wasting your life for us.
Wasting? Hey, I can fight. I
Go. Spinning her around he pushed her toward the Pointiff.
Stay behind me, and you shall remain protected. Now, face your sin! He rushed at Taran, gave a few quick strikes, then rose into the air. Two white feathered wings carried him up, and then dove down, his sword outstretched, coming to chop something in two. Taran fell to the floor. Jinn drew out a pistol, fired a few shots, then charged at the knight. Their swords clashed, Jinn applied an uppercut with her metal gloved fist to set him in the right direction, two high kicks forcing the man once again air born, then leapt into the air, slashing through his side as she came down. The attack however, hurt her toe more than anything else. Just as the knight killed a patch of tundra, Taran unleashed an attack: Koho. He slammed the holy warrior with his forehead, spun around into a blur, then dashed out of it, flinging all his might into his two fists that crashed against the knights armor. Channeling his strength again the Guard slammed his right arm to the ground, blasting the receiver onto his back.
The Ethos champion rested his arm holding his blade on his knee, his teeth squeezed together. When one is weak in spirit, one would assume he is weak in body as well. Such is not the case. I welcome the challenge. What are your names? Mine is Eliab.
If you are going to kill us, just do it quickly. Taran spat blood towards him.
You shall wish you were not so hasty. Dashing forward he cut his sword in a horizontal arc, missing the agile warrior, but gashing the offenders side. Spinning he blocked one of Jinns blades, but vulnerable, was hit by another of Tarans attacks. Showing his anger he turned to face Taran, but toppled over as Jinn too assaulted him from behind. Withdrawing from a tag team, he started anew with a frontal barrage of bright, intense light. It pierced the eyes of both sinners and distorted their vision.
Jinn tried feudally to connect one of her attacks, Taran did the same. Eliab approached them. Elly, quiet until now, rose her arms into the air and summoned a source of energy. A blast of fire flew at the unprepared knight and he staggered to the ground.
With the peace washing over him was a fresh mind and a strengthened courage. Running at the knight he repeated his Koho deathblow, this time launching Eliab across the field of chilled grass. Sure of counter attack, he quickly, yet not hastily, again reached to his inner spirit to heal his outer body.
The attack came. Enraged, the Pointiff charged forward and grabbed hold of Tarans throat with his pureock fist. Tossing him into the air, then drawing his sword, he dashed forward, impaling the falling warriors gut. He placed an open glove against Tarans chest, pushed him forward, and drew his blade back, covering the upper three quarters with crimson and forcing Taran to fall to the ground, crouched in a sideways ball, clutching his stomach. Be thankful that wasnt your heart. It easily could have been. Eliab took from his armor a small white cloth and began to polish his blade. I still, after all, plan on taking you in for judgement. Your retaliation isnt going to help you much Im afraid.
Blood coughed from Tarans mouth stained the tundra as he tried to speak. It came out rough, but the feeling behind it was understood. ~ you
What he said! Turning around, the Pointiffs uncovered face was scarred as a recovered ninja slapped him with a dagger.
You insolence! Dropping his cleaning cloth he used the dirty blade. Jinn instinctively grabbed her shoulder, but then reached back to draw out a katana, then another. She flipped over the knight, struck his hand, then again, then kicked his blade high into the air, towards the edge of the mountain. Unarmed, the Pointiff punched her cloth mask dead on, then again, knocking her out. Heaving her onto his shoulders, then picking up his blade he What are you doing?
Rachell was kneeling by Taran, holding his hand, casting a curing spell. Hes going to die! I have to do something.
He wont die: I stayed away from anything he really needed. He may not be able to digest anything, but hell be fine.
Eliab turned to see a group of four old men standing on a bluff raised above the flat summit. These two are placed under judgement
By what authority? Three blue lightning bolts struck from no clouds, each striking the same spot. The Pointiff, unprepared, fell to the ground, electricity surging through his armor. Twenty seven rock cubes encircled him, then began to crush but he was prepared, and they could not pass an invisible barrier projected a foot from his armor. My faith is stronger than your devils curses. There was no verbal response. Instead, flames began to ignite within. Pure flames, red, orange, bright yellow, igniting outward, cooling to form a molten case around him, then exploding. This broke down his shield of faith, allowing for no cloud to pour down a stream, bouncing back as huge bubbles, watering the already frozen water grass. I dont know who you are, but you shallnt escape the wrath of God. Do you wish to come? Rachell shook her head, and squeezed Tarans hand. Very well, I leave you in the hands of sinners. I pray you stand. Leaving them, he flashed another light to temporarily blind the men, and fled down the mountain.
One man raised his arm and it began to glow, but another put his hand over it. No. We do not need her. Come, let us take them to the village, and see what we can do to help him.
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