CRYSTAL KIN by Paln
The young girls eyes bulged one last time and then glazed over as her soul finally slipped away into the Netherworld. Milon gave her neck one final squeeze just to make sure the job was completely done before dropping the still corpse to the floor. The heavily robed creature looked about at his work with satisfaction; four fresh bodies were ready to be converted to his legion of the undead. He waved a hand to the waiting ghast who stood patiently beside him.
"Gather the flesh," he rasped to the rotting, blank face. "Take them back to Zot and clean them. I will be there shortly to perform the rites." The undead demon moaned softly in acknowledgment and shuffled over to the dead peasants. He watched briefly with great satisfaction. It was by his hand alone that the undead now walked on this accursed surface once again. The ghast was one of his oldest creations, made in ages past before Zemus had awoken. But now in the humans service, Milon had the means to acquire many more souls, many more zombies.
He touched the great cloak that covered his twisted form with contempt. Like his brethren, Milon was once a Lunarian who traveled through space to find a new home after his home planet was destroyed. But the power of the crystals had twisted his form, burned and dug into his flesh until he resembled nothing of any world. He alone of the Fiends felt resentment for the transformation, for he had once been hailed and praised for his handsome features, his strong body. Now he was something even he could not bear to look at, and so he kept himself concealed in shrouds. But the payoffs were delicious. Drawing from the powers of the Earth crystal and its dark counterpart, he now had complete power over life and death itself. Who cared if those days of respect were now gone? Who was a god to reflect on such trivial matters?
The grimy shuffling that so resembled a crocodile marked the entrance of Cagnazzo. The Fiend of Water gazed distastefully around.
"Such a lack of finesse would you ever try to be subtle in your attacks, Milon?"
Milon turned with a hiss, more in a reflexive attempt to intimidate his rival then in irritation, and regarded the creature. Cagnazzo retained the head of a man, but it had grown feral and monstrous, with protruding teeth and pure, white eyes that gazed menacingly at everything. The rest of him was even worse; the body was enormous, well over three times the length of a man, and encased in a thick blue shell like that of a turtle. Stumpy legs finished off his figure, an obvious testimony that Cagnazzo was made to live in the water, not on land. And yet despite it all he could manipulate his form into that of any creature. Even that of a human. A beautiful human. Milon quickly brushed away this jealous thought and flipped the hood of his robe off, revealing his hideous face.
"Much more effective then snooping around a dank castle all day, posing as a mere mortal, Cagnazzo. Thanks to my children we have taken Eblan in a day," he retorted.
Cagnazzo paused to regard his kin disdainfully. Milon was by far the weakest link of their little "family." The Fiend of Earth was only useful as a grunt soldier, nothing more. But Cagnazzo was practical, and knew better then to goad this pathetic creature any further. Instead, he flashed a bright, gator smile back and patiently explained to him the finer arts of war. Not that Milon would understand any of it, of course.
"We cannot destroy Baron because we require their Red Wings to retrieve the Crystals. Eblan was expendable because it did not house a crystal and would only prove to be a nuisance in the long run. Furthermore, it is isolated from the rest of the world and no one will know about its destruction until it is too late. My dear Milon, if we attacked Baron, we would destroy it with your undead, I am certain but then we shall bring the wrath of the entire world upon us!"
Milon snorted. "You doubt our combined strength could overcome these humans? Surely you underestimate our Lord Zemus!"
Not your strength, sneered Cagnazzo, but he continued pleasantly. "The humans would easily be crushed, but not before they effectively hid the crystals. As I pose as King Baron, I control its air force, and with them we shall be able to quickly strike and retrieve them! We already possess the Water Crystal, and Master Golbez and I shall acquire the Fire Crystal soon. This is how we shall fight this war, my dear brother."
"Fire eh? Rubicant will be pleased to hear that," muttered Milon. "I suppose youre saving mine for last?"
"Patience, Milon. The nation of Troia is our last target not to demean you, but because it is the most complicated to invade." Cagnazzo felt his own patience wearing thin, counseling Milon as if he was a spoiled child. He is a child, the Fiend thought silently to himself. The wretched thing before him, whose face now resembled his own zombie beasts, is too attached to his previous life. "Let us leave now. The night carries on." He would have to have a word with Master Golbez.
The Tower of Zot, so cleverly hidden near Baron, was the base of operations for Golbez and the Four Fiends. Like an ominous idol it simply appeared one day, risen with the magic of the moon, and yet positioned carefully so that no casual observer would ever find it. On the highest level of the tower, Rubicant paced nervously. It had been two days since he participated in the destruction of Eblan, when he single-handedly slew the entire royal family except for that blasted prince. Rubicant knew that was a grave error on his part to allow any drop of royal blood to remain in a kingdom meant that the kingdom was not yet destroyed.
Over the long years since he drew on the power of the Fire Crystals, Rubicant had managed to retain his humanity. Unlike the others, who believed themselves to be superior then humankind, Rubicant was well aware of the power that humans possessed, especially in times of adversity. It was when humans were most desperate, in their greatest time of need, when they proved to be the most dangerous. The Fire Fiend had every reason to believe that Lord Zemus plan would work, and yet that nagging doubt remained. With Golbez permission, Rubicant would return to Eblan to hunt this last doubt out.
A rap on his door, and Cagnazzo and Dr. Lugae entered. The good doctor was a Lunarian as well, although recently awakened by Zemus, unlike himself. His role in this play would be to annihilate the underground creatures entirely and thus make the task of acquiring the dark crystals a simple collection job. As for Cagnazzo Rubicant frowned.
"Shouldnt you be in Baron posing as their king? Golbez has informed me that you are to invade Damcyan next." Rubicant trembled, as he felt the Fire Crystal pulse softly in the distance. Unlike Milon, who was obsessed with the undead, unlike Cagnazzo who desired to rule humans, or Valvalis who simply wished to conquer this planet, Rubicant solely desired the power of the crystals. His crystals, to be more specific. The two that reflected his element, the fire crystals. For Rubicant alone knew the close link that tied the Fiends with the crystals. They were not simply the link from Lunar to Earth they were his parents.
Cagnazzo noticed the distant look in Rubicants eyes, but took it as merely a foppish quality to the Fiend of Fire. While Rubicant was the most powerful of the Fiends, and thus most deserving of respect, Cagnazzo noticed his careless attitude. It was carelessness that allowed one member of the Eblan royal family to escape, and it will be carelessness that would be his downfull. This Cagnazzo was sure of.
"It hardly matters. With the Dragoon Captain under our control, and the former Red Wings Captain gone, nobody is there to supervise the king. I just tell those pitiful humans that Im going to inspect the airships." He chuckled softly. "Golbez has orders for you while we prepare the invasion."
Lugae stepped forward. A small, wirey man, the Lunarian formally known as LanSoPah had defected to Zemus when he realized that he had no future among the "legitimate" Lunarians. His creation Balnab, made long before the Lunarians went to sleep, was proof of that. "You are to supervise the construction of the cannon in Babel, Rubicant. Will you come along?"
Rubicant sighed softly. It would seem that the reunion with his "parents" would have to wait. He nodded, frustrated that he would be confined to work with this shriveled figure. The day would come, Rubicant vowed, when he would hold the Fire Crystals in his hand and from their power learn the true nature of his existence. For in the end, that was all he really cared to know.
Milon watched Rubicant leave the tower from his own laboratory on the ninth floor of Zot. Curses, he thought everyone had a mission to do but him. Why wasnt Golbez using him for anything? He turned and irritably smashed one of the ghasts who were his door guards. The creature moaned slightly and toppled to the floor. He stared at the crumpled body in distaste, for himself and for everything. Milon felt completely and utterly useless.
On the twelve floor of Zot, a voluptuous woman in yellow garbed was lecturing in front of three young girls. Valvalis was a teacher in her former life, and despite all that had happened she had not lost her love of lecturing.
"So it came to past, that the Lunarians required a new planet to live on. Under the supervision of FuSoYa and KluYa, thousands and thousands of them put themselves under a deep sleep, and drifted across the galaxy. They found sanctuary on one of the moons of this very planet that we are on."
"But," piped up Mindy, "The Lunarians were cruel and unjust in their pickings."
"Correct," smiled Valvalis, as she did a thousand times before. "KluYa and FuSoYa decided that only a few should ever awaken from their sleep, and these elite few they would select as their loyal dogs."
"It was the Crystals that saved us all," smirked Mandy, the hefty one. "They awoke those that were not picked, mainly us."
"Yes, it was the Crystals that proved to have justice. In their unfaltering light they chose Lord Zemus, and myself, and others such as the other Fiends, Master Golbez, Doctor Lugae, and you three." Valvalis smiled. "But what happened next?"
"KluYa sealed us away!" squeaked Mindy angrily. She was the youngest of the three, and the smallest. "He ambushed Lord Zemus and locked him up in the center of the moon. Then he went to the Earth and taught the natives things they should have never known."
"Like airships and guns and magic," murmured Sandy. The tall, leggy one looked at her mistress with complete adoration. "So it is our destiny to acquire the Crystals and conquer the planet as the Lunarians were rightfully intended to do!"
Valvalis nodded. They had learned well. Every day now, she recited the same worlds to these three young girls, and they recited them back to her. They were her greatest achievement, the pinnacle of her lifes work. These three students would serve to carry on the great work of Lord Zemus, and finally colonize this planet with Lunarians as originally intended.
The tall blond woman was the Fiend of Air, and Golbez closest bodyguard. It would not be long before she would no longer be confined to this tiny tower, but would ride with the wind that spread so generously across this fair land. Soon the world will return to the Lunarians.
Cagnazzo watched the eerie ceremony repeat itself for as many times as since this tower was built. Valvalis would waste her hours repeating the same lecture to her three brats, and they would smile adoringly at her. He shuddered as he turned to go. Sometimes he wondered if he was the only sane Fiend left. As he moved, his slow lumbering form shifted and reformed into that of a kingly, regal man. It was time to give an inspirational speech to the lambs of the Red Wings as they left to bombard Damcyan.
"Yes, you fools," he whispered to himself as he teleported himself back to the throne room of Baron. "It will not be long until the entire world knows of the Four Fiends!"