Whohooo! Second part of the trilogy! I highly recommend you to read "Once Again" first (The first part, available probably wherever youīve got this one), because I refer a lot to it. Comments are always welcomed:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy it!.-Lord Zero
(There are a couple of expresion which may confuse you. At the end, Iīve added them to help you understand them)
Itīs been awhile, donīt you think? In fact, almost one year. I havenīt knew anything from you, but, alas, I havenīt heard anything about anyone but Duran winning the tournament held at Forcena.
How have you been? I have been trying to keep myself together, and Rolante is finally almost rebuilt. It looks like it looked when I was a kid, and it brings my mother back in my memories. It has been years since any memory with my mother on it has been pleasant. I guess this is what is called a good memory.
Have you been strong? I have tried. But I think I havenīt done it very well.
I miss you, guys. I have been feeling... Bored? That isnīt the proper word,
but itīs a word which would define me pretty well right now. I guess I would
have to go right to hell to kill the Arch-Demon again to regain any kind
of "fun" time. Regardless, why donīt you come here and stay for awhile?
I think you are the only one who would serve me of any good. Kevin wonīt
do me any good if I see him now. I canīt locate Charlotte either. And I
donīt want to keep Angela and Duran right now.
Hawk held the letter on his hand, after reading it several times. A year already. It seemed like a week. It has been indeed a frantic year for him. Not a good one, but a frantic one.
"I guess Iīll see her. Sheīs on the same wavelenght as me on this moment"
A hand gently touched the water of the fountain. When the waves finally got quiet, a face was to see. It was a rather beutiful face, with big eyes, small nose, and somewhat small lips. It showed an scar on the forehead, briefly covered by a blue helmet, which also left some locks of blonde hair fell from it to cover the face.
Riesz was sitting on the fountain, looking at herself, finding it amusing to play with the water which filled it. Behind her, a powerful castle guarded the summit of the mountain. It was a castle which was destroyed a year ago, falling to the simple scheme of the sleeping flowers which grew on the valley. Now, it stood, powerful, untouchable, unreachable. Touching the skies with its towers.
It was an impressive thing to see Rolante rebuilt after a year. Riesz, now the Queen of her kingdom, sought help from Palo, and the Beastmen also helped, though no trace of Kevin was found within their ranks. She knew that Kevin was the one who sent them, but she also knew that he wasnīt going to show himself yet. Probably he wasnīt going to show himself ever again.
She refused to hang her helmet and her spear after she came back. She continued commanding the Amazon army, ready for whatever was coming next. She thought, what the hell, what could be worse than the ArchDemon or the Dragon Emperor. Or worse than herself consumed by hate against Jagan.
"Queen Riesz! Someone has come to see you, dear" informed Alma, who still acted the way she always acted.
"Who might it be?" asked to herself the Star Lancer, before she got up, walking towards the door of the Castle.
She spotted a tall, rather slim figure, which seemed to have a long hair. It moved its head around to reach her with its sight, and finally started walking towards her. It was Hawk, who attended the invitation.
Riesz ran towards him and hopped to hug him, Hawk rounded her with his arm.
"Iīve missed you, Hawk"
"Me too, Queen Riesz"
She tore off and looked at him "Donīt call me Queen- It hurts to hear it from my friends" Then she smiled broadly.
"And so, tell me, how have you been? I didnīt received a response..." She didnīt waited for it, either. She just was waiting for him.
The true of this reunion was to clear her mind. She was tired of Kevin. He never grew up, and that was something that enraged her- she was simply annoyed of waiting for him. She thought that he would, somehow, get a grip and at least send her a letter, or something.
But nothing. She didnīt even knew he was alive for sure.
"I have had a tough year, Riesz. Iīm what you could call messed up" spitted Hawk, crossing his arms on the table and putting his head above them."I broke up with Jessica. Finally."
Riesz face changed to her ussual serious face "Why? I mean, what an idiot, you went thru the whole world to save her life and she broke with you? I canīt believe it..."
A moment of silence "Well... you canīt tie people to you either... but I think you deserved something... What happened?"
Hawk sank himself in the chair and started talking "She simply was tired of me traveling... and she has changed. She isnīt the same girl I knew when we were kids... She became so obssessed with being a princess, that she was keeping me out. I couldnīt stand it. And I think she couldnīt stand me either. After a huge discussion, I said something pretty offensive, and she slapped me.... just like when this started once."
Riesz smirked jokingly "What did you say?"
"That she could take her kingdom and swallow it with her pride... in other words. It sounds pretty poetic that way..." He laughed "Iīm not going to let all my bad words out in front of a Queen, Miss Riesz" and he bowed smiling.
"Shut up, Hawk..."
"And you? What happened with Kevin?" replied the Wanderer.
"Thatīs what I would like to know, Hawk..." She sighed, forcefully, and with a frustrated tone "I canīt wait for him forever... I donīt want to screw him, but I do not think this could be carried around anymore..."
"Kevin wonīt like it. Heīs a kid. But maybe you are right. Heīs had all the time he needed..." Hawk let a hint of jelousy out of his words.
She is beutiful, and she *is* a princess.
But she does not care about it. I canīt believe I let her go like that. Sheīs gonna grow up, happy with her guy, marry him, and have little furry children, and maybe Rolanteīs next king will be a beast.
I... I... I canīt take it anymore.
I think I lost her when she was cursed.
"It sounds strange coming from you lips, wanderer" answered Riesz, loudly, as she noticed how Hawk was getting lost on his mind.
"Yeh... maybe... Two kindred souls teared apart from their loved ones."
They looked at each other, for awhile. Hundred of thoughts zapped thru their heads, obviously harmed by who they thought could be their companions for the rest of our lifes.
"Maybe this wasnīt a good idea, Hawk" said, coherent, Riesz, taking her view apart from him. "We are weak now..."
He is handsome. Not a doubt.
But Kevin is... is ... for me... I donīt what did I saw on him. I canīt let myself fall apart like this... I gotta get away from everyone. I hate to say it, but I have to admit I have lost control of the situation.
This is going to hurt you, Riesz. Get away. Focus on your mission. Your brother is waiting back at home.
Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn...
"You know what Iīm thinking, and I know what are you thinking, and this isnīt going to work, I told you when you kissed me back when we saved Rolante from your friends from Navarre, and I will tell you again, we are not meant to be together... we are... too different..."
The only response was his puzzled face.
"You are a Wanderer. I am a Star Lancer... I-"
Hawk cutted her dry "That means we are not meant for anyone, Riesz!" He was pissed off by her words "When I kissed ya, you didnīt actually complained! Are you going to wait for Kevin forever? I could even think you are still waiting for him just because you donīt want to give yourself to anyone! maybe just ME?!!" he shouted those final three words, and slammed his fist angrily on the table.
Riesz got up, and dissapointed by it, she slapped him. He fell down due to her extra-human force, and got up, mouth bleeding.
She moved her head side to side, then grabbed her head with one hand, and got out of the room, slamming the door.
Maybe he is right.
We are not meant for anyone. We are too much for anyone.
She has been rejecting him since she met him, touched by the fact that she knew that his people killed her father, and, while she tried to treat him like everyone else, there was always that hint of hate, that he reminded her of the Ninjas from Navarre.
Someone knocked the door.
"Go away!" She answered. However, the intruder, ignoring the warning, crossed the doorway. It was Hawk, still bleeding. "Iīm sorry, Riesz. You are right. We are weak now. The pain hasnīt gone away."
He sat on the bed were she was sitting, grabbing her legs, hiding her face on them. She lifted her view "You know how much does it hurts. Why did you did it?"
"Because Iīm as confused as you... My whole world fell apart when this started.
Though I donīt think this changed anything."
"Hawk... Why did you kissed me?" asked, with her eyes wet, the Star Lancer, with the face of a kid who ask about her dead parents.
"Out of impulse. You are what I would want Jessica to be"
Her tone changed to her ussual one "Many people want everyone to be like me. I donīt like that. Hawk, I honestly... I really canīt take anything now... Donīt hurt me. Iīm on the verge of a killing spree to vent out my rage." she ended.
"It doesnīt sounds like you, Riesz"
"I know. And I donīt give a damn about it. I hate to be a teenager, you know?"
"Me too... Someoneīs coming tommorrow, Riesz..."
Her eyes got as bright as the sun "Duran?"
"Yes. He is going to catch a ship today, so tommorrow in the night he will be here"
She caressed his face where she slapped him "Sorry... I think I donīt measure my strength when it comes down to it..."
"Donīt worry. I think itīs just a couple oī broken teeth."
They laughed heartily, then she kept an smile on her face. They looked firmly, but they knew what were they thinking.
She found herself on his eyes, wild as the nature he controlled.
He found himself on her eyes, pure as the stars which gave her name.
They kissed... once again. They embranced their souls, which were weakened by the pain of being forgotten. They forged their feelings in a long kiss, which left Hawk trembling, and Riesz blushing.
But Riesz cutted it, and said, stubborned "This is a mistake, Hawk..." but Hawk took her shoulders, and started to hold her. She offered some resistance, but it wasnīt anything for real. She longed for that contact, and she wanted to know if this time it was a true feeling, and not some sort of obsession with the other.
"If itīs a mistake... then letīs enjoy it..."
It didnīt lasted. Hawk, knowing that Riesz was feeling uneasy, resolved to leave her alone, and went to his room.
Riesz stood in the same position he left her, thinking. She knew how important is a hug when you need it. But she was just in the middle of a huge confusion like she never experienced. Even when her mother died, she wasnīt confused. She was determined. She was only 8 years old, but she took it like she was grown up. Maybe she skipped her childhood.
Again, somebody knocked the door.
"Hey sis!..." Elliot looked at her and noticed the streams marked on her face "Have you been crying? Are you all right, sis?"
The kid looked at his sisterīs eyes, who gave him a motherly look to him, and answered "Itīs ok, Elliot. What did you wanted?".
Riesz took his brother between her arms, and held him tightly. Elliot, however, unsure of what was happening, rounded her and said, with a patriarcal tone "Donīt worry... Iīm here for you!"
Riesz smiled, and brushed Elliotīs hair, and replied "I know, Elliot... Now, isnīt already time for your training?"
Duran arrived the next day, as expected. Riesz celebrated a huge party in honor of Duran and Hawk that night.
However, the young queen stayed silent that night.
"Hey Riesz!! Whaaaaazzzzuuuuppp!!!" Screamed Duran, who was having a seemingly incredible fun conversation with Hawk, Elliot and several guests. Hawk tried to stay his sight out of Rieszīs figure, but everytime he looked at her, he noticed that she was sharply looking at them.
Obviously, they were beyond wasted, totally drunk, and with several drinks already touching their brains.
Alma, smiled benefically at her side, and said " So... are you going to go to Wendel. As your father told you. The priest can help at times like these."
"Yeah..." she answered "but I think that most likely will talk to Heath. Heīs been the one who counseled me..."
"You really apreciate him."
Duran appeared by their side, and looked at her, smiling drunkely "You know, Angela didnīt liked me to come here! Sheīs freaking mad... I think Iīm gonna break up with her... Sheīs too obssessed..."
Riesz shutted him with her hand "Arenīt you tired? I think youīve got enough drinks for tonight, honey. Come with me."
Duran nodded numbed, and rounded her with one arm to keep from falling "But Iīm gonna break with her, and you remind me tommorrow!"
"You are my very best friend in the world! Why arenīt you my girlfriend?"
"Thatīs why I am your best friend... We donīt need to change that."
"Right!" And the Paladin rested his head on her shoulder, and instantly fell asleep. The Star Lancer lead him to his room, and he slept all night long...
Duran woke up with a big headache, and pretty annoyed. He didnīt found Hawk on his room, so he went outside in his boxers.
"Wow, what a man!" exclamed one of the amazon who looked at him outside "Are you looking for someone, sweet heart?"
"Yes..." Duran found it difficult to focus his view on the blond haired woman in front of him. "Iīm looking for Riesz... Queen Riesz, and Hawkeye, who was here last night... I think..."
"Lady Riesz isnīt here, she went to Wendel. Lord Hawkeye is outside the Castle, I think he went to Palo. As for you, Lady Riesz left you a message. Here is it" And the girl handed him a letter.
Sorry for leaving you alone. We spent no time together yesterday, right?
I am having a very difficult time- those times when the Priest of Light
can help us. We both found a good support on him, myself particulary
on Heath. So, on shame, I decided to go with him as soon as possible.
He cannot solve my problems, but he can help me.
"And so... I guess she is, after all, a normal girl." He commented to the amazon, who seemed, at least, interested. "She is only seventeen years old..."
"You are right, but she has big responsabilities, and she is the Queen of our country. I find her as wise as her father and we trust her."
"I donīt know, sheīs starting to worry me... anyway..." The Paladin smiled at the girl, and went to his room.
The landslide on Wendel was a big surprise to Riesz.
Everything was destroyed.
The whole city seemed to be set on fire. Decens of dead bodies laid on the ground, either burned or bashed to dead. Children and grown-up alike, no difference between them.
She coulndīt believe it. She blinked a few times to make sure it wasnīt her imagination. The whole placed was burned without any second thought. It remembered her of the aftermath of the invasion to Astoria, after the Beastmen attacked it... indeed, it seemed the Beastmenīs work.
Riesz heard it, and she looked around frantly to find the source. She found a child, about 12, who was lying under a pile of wood. Part of his face was burned, but at least, he was alive.
Riesz forced the wood to let him free, only to discover that both his legs were almost torn apart, she knelt next to him, and with soft tone she asked "What happened?"
"The beastmen... attacked the villageeee... ugh.. ARGH!" the kid screamed in pain while she tried to move him.
"Shhhh... be quiet..." she hissed while she held him "Youīll be fine".
Riesz took him with Flammie, who lowered her head to help Riesz to find a good place to put the kid. "Stay here for a moment, Iīm going to look for some friends... Flammie will take care of you...".
The kid grabbed Flammieīs head and stood for a moment, then he rested his head on Flammieīs head. "Donīt leave me alone for too much time..."
"Flammie, take him home. Iīll be with you, there they will help you..."
The giant dragon got flying and dissapeared around the valley. Riesz ran to the castle to find the Priest and Heath. She broke the door, still on flames, and ran to the pulpit... Another disgusting surprise awaited her.
The Priest of Light was hanging from a sword, impaled on his chest, and was brutally beaten off, as his whole body showed signals of punishment. The most horrible thing was on the walls, as messages could be read with a little work... if anyone was willing to put effort on reading such a grotesque thing.
Written in blood.
HELP ME THE GODDESS IS DEAD MANA IS DESTROYED YOU CANNOT SAVE IT THE WORLD IS DOOMED THE DESPAIR WILL TAKE CARE OF YOUR SOULS THE FIRE WILL BURN THE HOPE DOWN THIS IS THE BEGGINNING OF THE END THE FATE OF THE HUMAN RACE HAS BEEN SEALED THERE IS NO TURN BACK THERE WAS NEVER ANOTHER WAY WE SHALL REGAIN CONTROL OF THE WORLD WHICH IS OUR DESTINY.
Riesz threw in the floor after reading the word "destiny". She wiped the rests of vomit from her mouth, and remembered the words of Lugar, whose words of "We shall reign once again" gave the blood message a meaning.
The beastmen were responsible, now it was for sure. What the hell was happening? Where in the earth was Kevin when she needed him?
Just where the hell was he? And Charlotte?
Another groan, then an scream. She followed the noise thru the corridor to find Heath, kneeling down on the floor, as he seemed to really need help. He was breathing hard, and he seemed to really had trouble on it.
"Heath? are you OK?, what happened here?" she asked, walking numbed by the nausea.
She put her hand on his shoulders to try and help him, but the priest violently got up and pushed her aside. For a moment, it stood still and looked at Riesz, then it screamed like a crazy animal, then it hitted the floor with his fists.
"What the hell is... Heath! HEATH! Wake up! Snap out of it!" Riesz took her spear just in case he went mad again.
"GET AWAY FROM HERE, RIESZ, I CANīT CONTROL MYSE... ARGH!" the priest shouted hard, and a huge sound was heard. Another flash blinded Riesz, and finally, when the light was out, she spotted a man with an Scythe between her and Heath.
"Who are you now?" asked once again, confused, Riesz.
"You know me, Queen Riesz, donīt act stupid. I am Death Jester, and Iīm coming to give you a message from your friend Kevin, the Death Hand." replied the figure. He looked like an joker, but his madman smile and his yellow eyes gave away a terrifiyng aura which almost threw anyone off and nobody could resist a long gaze from the Death Jester.
"Kevin..." Riesz had a moment of doubt when she heard that name, but she quickly got on her senses and asked "Where is Charlotte?"
"Lady Charlotte is with Lord Kevin, in the Beast Kingdom. He got bored of you, Miss and decided to get on with Carlie, probably..." The Death Jester laughed in an histeria attack. "Lord Kevin says that you, the Paladin, the Wanderer and the Magus should come to the Beast Kingdom if you have any wishes to see Charlotte alive... and if i were you, I wouldnīt reject his invitation..."
"Yeah?, then reply this!" The Star Lancer charged at the Death Jester, who received the kick right on his chest, throwing him to a nearby wall. The Jester, for a moment, smiled and wiped the blood from his mouth, then he got on his feet and commanded to Heath "Get her, Heath!".
The priest got up and replied with a emotionless voice "Yes, master".
Then, Heath sent a powerful wave towards Riesz, who got hit by it, and gone thru the wall, landing on the now burned garden of the castle. Riesz felt like she had broken a rib, and the Jester sent a big laugh to her, and ended the meeting "We wonīt wait for you forever". Then he made a reverence, and they both dissapeared.
Riesz stood on the floor, wondering what the hell was going on.
What is happening? I canīt believe Kevin has allied with the Death Jester... we never knew who was the Master of the Death Jester... Heath catched with us when we were leaving the Dragonīs Hole... And... Itīs all happening again... like last yearīs events... maybe we will never rest again... I guess itīs our work once again... I will pick Angela up at Forcena before going back to Rolante for Duran and Hawk.
Poor Duran... I wonder if he really meant it when he was talking about cutting Angela. Hehe... heīs damn right, that girl is crazy... But she does have a good heart... but that isnīt always enough.
And Hawk... This may very well define our relationship. I never thought of him as my couple, I mean, after we kissed in Rolante the first time, I just was confused... I didnīt gave a damn about myself at the time. I was just trying to save the "Castle that Never Fell". We would have to change our title to "The Castle that only fell once".
Oh yeah, that was funny. Iīm pathetic when it comes to jokes.
Ouch... My rib hurts... I think I broke it. That wonīt be good. Damn it. I should call for Flammie... Damn... I canīt keep my eyes open... I...
"I canīt believe it. This is just too much to take it! BURNED! Everything, EVERYONE was burned! Thatīs just...
Hawk looked once again at Riesz, who laid on the bed, thoughtless, just asleep since they found her at the Wendel Ruins. Angela, who was hanging from Duranīs arm, exclamed "Well, believe it! Youīve seen it with your own eyes...".
"What I simply canīt believe is that the Beastmen did all of this! Whereīs Kevin now?" added Duran, who looked only to Angelaīs Arm, which joined his on an attempt to a strange knot. "I see no reason for him to attack Wendel, or anything to that matters. Wouldnīt you agree? And where the hell are Heath and Carlie?"
"Thatīs what weīre up to find out, Paladin... But I would wait for this one" and Hawk pointed at Riesz "to wake up..."
"Well, I guess, but weīre not diving in time, actually. I suggest we wait until tonight, then tommorrow, we will go to the Beast Kingdom to ask for an explanation." concluded Duran, then he got up, and rounded Angelaīs perfect waist with his arm, and got out of the room. "Are you gonna stay here?"
"Yep. I havenīt anything better to do..."
"Keep me informed... Good night, Hawk"
Riesz woke up in the middle of the night, and found Hawk lying next to her, asleep. He seemed what she would call "tired", so she resolved leaving him sleeping. She didnīt knew exactly how she ended there, but she guessed it was her friends who brought her.
She was on the clothes she used under her armor, which was the ussual Amazon Army costume. She got off the bed, and went out of the room, looking for someone to explain the situation.
She found Angela, who had Duran asleep over her legs, and she was caressing his hair, distracted looking to the window. She was so absorted, that she didnīt even noticed the steps walking towards her.
"Angela?" Asked, softly, Riesz.
Angela lifted her view, and smiled to her, then she forced herself to stop the tears coming from her eyes, and she extended her arms to ask for a hug, which Riesz generously gave as a gift.
She had her face still tight for containing her tears, and she said, slowly, as to avoid losing control "Youīre finally awake... but we havenīt found Carlie, and we know nothing about..." She sobbed "...Kevin... and we find you laying in the middle of a burned village, uncoinsciouss and bleeding... for a moment I thought you were gone for good..." she sobbed again, as to show Riesz that her whining was over for now.
"Please donīt cry, Angela, I have enough with myself. I know where are Charlotte and Kevin." Riesz said, with the hope of giving Angela a new thing to look for. She continued, changing the subject "I hate the fact that this wasnīt the moment I wanted to see you again, honey... so please, donīt make it any harder than what it is. I may sound like Duran, but everything is going to be alright"
Both of them smiled, remembering the ussual tone coming from Duran lips when something happened, and he simply said "Itīs going to be alright!", even if he was being munched by a skeleton-like dragon, or if he was hanging from the unholy horns of a Great Demon. Thatīs how he was. Thatīs why they loved him.
"Where are them? And how do you know it?" asked, innocent, Angela.
"Do you remember the Death Jester?" Answered, coldly, the Star Lancer.
"The 'Death Eater Man'... yes, I recall him... though I wouldnīt want to..." replied Angela. The memories of the maniacal clown whom they found after the Fairy was kidnapped back in the Mana Holy Land were very scary, and she felt a sudden shake on the back of her neck.
"I found him on Wendel, as well as Heath."
"Do you think he regained control of him once again?" Asked again, hopelessly, Angela.
"I donīt think, I know that he has controled him again, as he did attacked me there, thatīs how I fell in the... where there was once a garden." replied Riesz, and she touched her right ribs, as they didnīt seemed broked, but they were painful as if they were.
The two girls looked at each other for a moment, then their sights found their way somewhere else, Angelaīs eyes locked on Duran, who was still sleeping, and Riesz focused her view on the window, which showed the impressive show which was looking from the castle to the sea. There was a pause before anything else surfaced.
"How do you feel, Riesz?"
"Not as good as I would want, but Iīm alive, and still kicking. How about you?"
"Some small problems, a couple of discussions with Mother and, well, with Duran. I donīt think itīs too much of a biggie."
Riesz looked at the Paladin, then she suggested "Letīs get him to his room... you could use some sleep, Angie."
"Yeah, I guess youīre right" Ended the Magus.
The Sunlight teasing their faces woke up each member, though they awoke tired, as tired as if they didnīt rested at all.
Their minds were tired.
The distictive sound of the door opening up violently and then the sound of someone jumping on the top of a bed gave away that something different was happening at Rolante.
It was Angela, like her simple presence ussually did, she was simply filling the whole place with her vitality and teen attitude. It was hard to believe she was the older out of them, as she was the one who would, most likely, to break up with the slow pace of the morning to bring the good morning "in-your-face" to everyone.
Especially, of course, to Duran.
"Wheeeeey!" She screamed as she jumped over Duran, who didnīt had the time to find an escape from Angelaīs morning kiss, which was sometimes too much to deal with it.
"Angie, wait up!" he pleaded, unsuccessful, obviously, and her body collapsed over him, painfully loving. When he recovered from the shock, he turned to find her face, who simply said "Good Morning, honey!"
"Good morning, Angie..." he said slowly.
"Knock, knock! Are we interrupting something?" asked Hawk, who was instatly surprised to find Riesz under his arm, which was up holding the door open. She looked at Duranīs and Angelaīs compromising stance, and softly rested her head into Hawk chest, saying "You guys give an smile even to the darkest hour".
"Yep. Somehow we gotta conserve our youthfulness. Donīt you agree?" replied Angela, still on top of the Paladin.
"Probably you are right. And I donīt want to damage this rare good morning, so we will go and take the breakfast. The Death Jester can wait for awhile."
Everyone on the room except, of course, Riesz, put their face with their "Like... what?" way.
"Iīll wait for you on the dinner room." Riesz went out of the room with those words. Hawk felt pretty strange when she put her head away from his chest.
Iīm feeling it again. I feel stupid when it happens. I ussually donīt give a damn about it, but at these times I feel like a loser. Sheīs like that anyways... so better donīt get your hopes too high...
"Errr... Am I the only one who actually noticed Riesz extremely weird good humour today?" Exclamed Duran, as confused as his two partners.
"I think that we need to take extra care with her now..." proposed Angela.
"Now sheīs the child and weīre the parents. A good change for once in awhile." Finally said the Wanderer, followed by an small collective laughs.
Riesz got her hair on a not-so-well-done tail, which left a few locks of her brilliant hair free, and just about it, her friends entered. She greeted them with a warm smile - just like every smile of her -, and pointed them to the table, so they could get ready.
Though the food was tempting, the group didnīt felt like eating.
There was something they realized, like an electric bolt which passed all over their bodies, which shocked them.
For the first time in a year, they werenīt fighting to save the world.
They were going to the Beast Kingdom to, simply, erradicate the last point of known evil that could haunt the rest of their lives, for once and for all. This battle was for themselves. There was nothing which kept them from going into the Moonlight Forest and probably lose their lives fighting countless of monsters.
Besides, of course, the lives of their friends: Kevin and Charlotte.
Riesz didnīt wanted to see Kevin. But that wasnīt a motive to leave him to his own luck. And Charlotte wasnīt responsible of her teenager problems.
Duran, for himself, was pushed by his thirst of battle, his sense of responsability which followed him like a ball and chain since he changed into a Paladin.
Angela, as painful it was to admit, was going there just to follow her friends. She didnīt wanted to leave them alone. She didnīt wanted them to leave her alone.
Hawk, as well, was just going behind Riesz. He could honestly think that he didnīt cared about anyone else after he was heartbroken by Jessicaīs change. He had became a Wanderer who didnīt trusted many people. Only his allies were his trustful friends. His relationship with nature had changed him for to suit his own frustrations.
"Come on guys, give a word, give just a little sign to know we are going there for our own choice, dammit!" Demanded Riesz, getting up from her chair.
The three people looked at her, and locked eyes on her face.
"Riesz, we have been a year fighting with ourselves. The point that weīre going there is to keep us from falling down any further. We have our own problems. īsides, we donīt know anything else about the Death Jester, asides from the fact that he tried to kill us a couple of times. Everyone we met over the last two years had some sort of relationship. But this guy is simply not connected with anything we know. We have to go there, even if we donīt want to. We canīt let him to move anywhere else. We commited the mistake once with Bigieu and Jagan, and, that is, we had to get on with this giant tree..."
Hawk sighed, as well as anyone else, after his long speech.
"Heīs right. I donīt think there is anything else to add." Concluded the Paladin. This comforted everyone else, as they found out that they havenīt the nescessity of adding anything to the chat. Anything they said would hurt each other feelings. Not that Hawkīs words didnīt threw everything into their faces.
Nobody wanted to eat anymore.
The group climbed on top of Flammie, who like always replied with her ussual growling, and they fly into the skies of the world.
Everything looked so small from up there, that it was funny. Everyone was a Chibikko (Small person), and the whole towns seemed like a part of a toy set left around by a careless boy.
This sort of calmed the souls of the warriors, whose desperation slowly changed into excitation for going, once again, into battle. For a different cause. Everyone decided to forget why there were going there, and just go on, as hopefully, this would be the last time they would have to fight on.
When they reached the sky limits of the Moonlight Forest, everything turned darker. The eternal night forged the legend of the Moonlight Forest, place of continual night, breeding nest and unbreakable castle walls for the Beastmen, who, hunted by the humans, retreated to this place where everything was to their advantage. The endless night gave them complete will over their beastman or their were wolf forms, the maze-like forest made it difficult to reach either the Moonreading tower or their castle, and, finally, the number of beast which populated the whole place made it the place for them to live in peace.
The distrubance on the Mana, however, and the simultaneous attack of Altena, Navarre and the Beast Kingdom in search for the Mana Holy Land, erupted into a heated war on the sacred forest were the Mana Tree slept, and their numbers were decreased greatly.
The rest of the world was thinking that the Beast threat was over, but there was still a problem to solve.
"Ewww... that thing is still there..." said, with a disgusted tone, Hawk.
"Did you expect someone to clean it up?" replied Duran.
The giant dead body of the Moon Mana Beast, the giant Dolan, still laid in the same place it was more than a year ago. It arms were destroyed when Kevin hitted him for the final strike, but the rest of its monstrous being was still there. Almost totally on the bones.
It seemed like a giant gorilla skeleton whom someone with a twisted mind tore its skull and put a wolf skull there, just for fun.
"Dolan. It was damn scary. And it was probably the most powerful Mana Beast. I hated it." commented Riesz, still mounting Flammie.
"Probably. Gravity powers and strenght beyond limits gave it an insane power. Well, itīs enough, itīs finally dead, so let us go: With have a castle to visit" ended the chat Angela, with her ussual spoiled tone, even though her words were right.
The group followed for awhile the Magus through the forest, but eventually she ended behind Duran, who leaded them until they reached the Castle under the Beast King command.
"And... what are we supposed to do? Knock the door" asked Hawk, pointing at the door.
"Let me see..." Said, slowly, as if she was going to examinate the door, Riesz. She walked towards it, but she sent a kick towards it, breaking it apart, leaving a hole big enough for them to go on.
After the silence that followed that fact, everyone looked at them, until Duran said, moving his hands upwards "Nevermind..." and entered the castle.
"You could have knocked the door"
This twisted voice surprised them as soon as Angela, who was the last one to enter, put a feet on the floor inside the castle.
"So you came. I expected it. Your greatness and honor would bring you here. I have a lot of esteem for you, heroes, but I donīt care because you are all going to die anyway, hee, hee..."
"We came, now what?..." demanded Riesz, upset by the words.
Two bright yellow eyes shone through the darkness which impregnated the castle, and a big smile showed big white teeths. A few steps were heard, and then the sound of little bells acompained them.
Angela took an step back when she regconized the face which owned this entrance: The Death Jester. The sheer terrific "sense of humor" which he wielded was as annoying as it was totally senseless. This simply creeped Angela, and she was clearly in the border of freaking out just by his pressence.
"Keep Angela close to you, Duran, thatīs just one of the powers of this joker" warned Riesz with a deep voice, with no care of letting the Death Jester listening her words.
"You are right. Now, how about a walk with me? Youīve come here to see the Death Hand and the Bishop. I suggest you keep the pace with me, heroes" announced the Death Jester, as soon as Riesz finished here warning. Duran was annoyed by the tone he was using, and attacked the monster.
"Where are them, demon? Why should we follow you, instead of going by ourselves? I havenīt the slightest wish to trust you"
"How valiant... donīt be an stupid, sir, I can leave you here and continue the plans of my master, and you would never see the Death Hand, the Bishop, or the Priest - Heath, Duran wondered. He would be the next Priest of Light - again. The Holy City of Wendel is just a demonstration of what can we do if we are pushed, so donīt play with me." said the Death Jester. His tone warned that he wasnīt joking, he was using the same tone he used when he was going to eat some dead body, tradition which gave him his name: The Death Eater Man.
"Letīs go, Death Jester" cutted in Hawk, who wasnīt feeling exactly like home with this conversation. He started walking and stopped just a couple of meters from the evil joker. He threw a quick look at the Wanderer, and then he turned his sight to the three other heroes "Shall we?"
The heroes followed Hawkīs steps, and kept the trace of light which, ironic as it may be, left the dark one with his eyes.
It was about fifteen minutes of tired walking under the complete darkness which fulfilled the castle. Everything seemed wet and covered in dust, as if the Castle has been empty for months, nobody caring for keeping it with any comodities to live with.
Angela, still trembling from the shock The Death Jester induced in her, noticed bats and rats crawling around them, and pushed herself to Duranīs chest, who replied it just holding her tighter.
After awhile, they reached the Throne Room, which was as impossible to handle as the rest of the Castle.
"So, wait here for a moment, as I make the enviroment a little cleared for you eyes only..." The Death Jester pronounced those four words slowly, as to show why was he laughing after saying it.
He lit a few candles to make it suitable for the humanīs vision, though still it was dark enough to donīt get enough like to see what was behind the shadows a few meters far from them.
Hawk saw a silouethe, no, two of them along the throne, one was hanging from the ceiling by its hands, and the other seemed to be chained. The Jester noticed their efforts, and on a sick sense of humor, lit all the candles to make it perfectly clear.
The Chained figure was a crouching beastman, a rather small one, showing it was a young one. He seemed hurt, or at least out of self-control.
The hanged one was an small child, who showed signs of torture, and who seemed beaten off, and was unconsciouss.
"Carlie?!" shouted the Paladin, both in disgust and shock. Her little figure was spining slowly and showed her face, which had several streams of blood falling from her forehead, eyes, mouth and nose. This sadistic show made it leave Angela behind, and walked towards her. The beastman reacted to his steps and growling animalistic and incorporated himself. Duran looked at him, but didnīt seemed surprised, though he got a grip of his sword.
The beast charged at him, leaving Duran unprepared, open for being completely punished for his mistake. The breath of him touched his face, but the chain kept him far enough to leave him out of reach of his hands. The Paladin turned his head out of his sight, locking eyes on the figure who still was an unknown, with desires of not knowing the identity of the half-human for attacked him.
It was an old beastman, with long beards, yellowed by age. It was very big, probably taller than most beastmen, meaning over two meters and thirty centimeters. It was considerably more hairy than most of them, which also showed his longevity. It wielded a jeweled rod, and looking absentminded to the Paladin from Forcena.
"Beastking? Are you ok, your majesty?" asked, with courtesy, though worried by the situation. The Beastking didnīt answered his question. It looked still to the horizont.
Duran felt a pressence behind him, though it didnīt irradiated the evil aura of the Death Jester, which left him calm. It was Riesz, who touched his back to get his attention.
"I donīt think he is able to say anything, Duran. Look at his chest." Riesz pointed to a thing line which crossed the chest of the elder beastman.
It was blood.
Hawk looked at the Death jester, who was silently watching the group, confused as a whole, with a delirant delight. He was armed with his scythe, which had dry blood all over it. Hawk exclamed "You killed him!"
The Jester looked at the blood on his scythe, and hid it behind his back like a child hiding a broken pot which was priced by his parents, and said in an innocent voice "It wasnīt me!"
"Ok, so it was me, I killed him, it was funny. He tried for awhile to defend himself, but what the hell, even the strongest beastman canīt handle three enemies at once. So I took this and *slice!*" The joker threw a swing with his scythe to show the meaning of his words.
Duran go back on his mind and move forward to untie Carlie, but a sudden force kept him back. This force evolved to a physical wall, with grew a face. It had natural features, light purple hair, and was easy to see.
A evil grin then followed, and the air formed into a robed figure, about as tall as Riesz.
The figure resulted to be Heath.
Duran took an step backwards, only to find Rieszīs backside on the way. The Beastman growled bestially, and the priest smiled with evil aura.
When they turned around, they saw Angelaīs troubled face, as she whispered "Itīs-- itīs him! Itīs Kevin!"
Both Duran and Riesz turned to the were-wolf, who once again howled to scare them. Yes it was him. Kevin, the Heir to the Throne and the Death Hand.
Riesz couldnīt talk properly, she felt like the words were escaping her mouth. "What is happening here... Death Jester? Say something!!" she yelled desperated. The Death Jester, however, only began to bow down. Riesz felt something which was affected her hair, and she turned around. Duran followed the move only because of the feeling of Rieszīs back moving violently.
The air was forming into another figure, but this one was bigger than any of the ones already present in the room. The air began to revolt around the two heroes from the Grasslands Country Forcena and The Castle that Never Fell, Rolante, and the Star Lancer had to get a grip to the Paladin to avoid getting thrown around by the wind.
Hawk and Angela werenīt as lucky as them: The violent wind got them and played with them for awhile before sending them against one of the thick wall which formed the castle.
Both lost their senses, and simply stopped being for some minutes.
"Hawk! Angela! This goes better and better... Know, before you try to get us right to Hell, now wonīt you tell us whatīs happening?" Asked, nervous for being outnumbered, Duran, after taking another step back.
The Air stopped forming. The man who came by wasnīt known either by Riesz or Duran. It seemed a really big man, whose body was muscular and with great stamina, and had a red mask covering his face.
"Who the Hell are you? Asked, now, Riesz, who also got to the side of the Paladin, prepared for a hard combat.
"It none of your bussiness, princess, but I will grant you the wish to know who am I. I am the Masked Mage." replied the masked figure.
"Oh, great, thatīs what I always wished to know..." said, annoyed, Duran. The Death Jester growled, bothered by the comment, though Heath and Kevin werenīt affected at all by Duranīs words.
"Show more respect to what is your new king, Paladin. The admiration I might have for you is not an obstacle to slice you into pieces" spat the Death Jester, as his big grin changed into a face that could bring nightmares to the most valiant man in the world.
"I could show him more respect If I knew what is happening..." whispered Riesz, careful to say it low enough to avoid getting attacked by the Death Jester, as she knew it wouldnīt actually be a good idea. The Jester laughed slightly, and got back to his ussual grin, And Heath vaguely turned his view to the pair. The Masked Mage got up, and started talking with his deep voice.
"Months ago, Princess, I came back from where I was banished. I have came back, Priest of Light... I CAME BACK, PRIEST! And your soul will be damned forever... like mine was..."
The Mage grabbed his head, and left his head fall off for a few seconds. A sudden shake came to his body, but he got up, to avoid seeming vulnerable.
"You do not know me, Princess. You donīt need to. Death jester?"
"Yes, master?" replied the evil joker instantly.
"You know what to do with the Wanderer and the Magus. I will stay here with my new pet. Go."
"As you wish, Master!" the Death Jester dissapeared, taking Hawk and Angela with him. Duran tried to stop him, but Heath teleported in fron of him, stopping any rescue attempts. The priest remained silent even to this moment.
"What are you doing, Heath? Have you lost your mind?" whispered between teeths the Paladin. The Priest didnīt replied to his question. The only response he received was Kevinīs animalistic howl.
"Heath, step aside. The Death Hand has work to do." announced the Mage. Heath teleported between him and Carlie, who was still hanging. The Masked Mage sat on the throne, taking out both pieces of the Beastkingīs body, and crossed his legs.
He snapped his fingers, and Kevin was released. Riesz and Duran took their weapons. Kevin, for a moment, seemed surprised for being released. Then his view centered on the two heroes, and he smiled.
The simple sight of blood made him growl in delight.
And he was longing for this moment.
As confused as he felt.
What was this memory?
She pushed him away with one hand. She caressed his face once again, for a last time, and smiled slightly.
"Come to me when you have grown up..."
Hawk awoke at the fierce sound of Angelaīs scream. She threw herself to him, and materialized her Magus Rod on her hand, and warned "Weīre not alone here, Hawk"
But where were there? That was an easy question.
They were in front of a Castle. Everything was dark... It was clear that they were just in front of the Beast Kingdom. The sound of metal attracted their attention.
The scythe was at the Death Jesterīs hands. He smiled openly, and jumped in front of them-- Angela hoped back, but she got grip of her Rod.
"I guess itīs my darkest hour now..." she whispered to Hawk.
"Itīs _our_ darkest hour" he replied.
The Death jester continued wielding his paralizing gaze to the pair, and he started talking, slowly.
"Iīm hungry, kids. And when Iīm hunger... I eat... Kids, Iīve longed for this moment. Iīve waited for this command..." The Jester moved his scyther forward "Because iīve hated you for all this time since we met right here, and you killed Lugar-"
Angela cutted him "We didnīt killed him".
"I donīt care, Magus. WE donīt care..." The Death Jester began to... duplicate? Angela blinked to make sure she wasnīt having another ilussion. But, they were there. Three Death Jester were standing in fron of them.
"Now... now what, enough with the words!" And the first Jester charged at the pair, while the others held their scythes high, and began chanting something.
Hawk hoped forward to block his swing, and Angela threw three quick fireballs blazing against each Death Jester. The Strenght of the attack made Hawk lean back, but, hopefully, the fireball hit each Jester, throwing them back, all of them falling exactly the same.
They wiped the blood on their mouths, eternally grinning, and they said in syncronization "That was a clever move, Heroes... but can you do it again? and how do you know who am I?".
This creeped Hawk, though Angela just took it as a challenge "Letīs go Hawk... I have a Paladin to save now..."
Duran fell back because of the powerful punch sent by Kevin. Riesz tried to hit him with the butt of her spear, but not even the Star Gazer and its starlight could stop the mighty charge of a Death Hand.
Besides, she couldnīt try to hurt him. She was afraid of harming her "past", as she thought of him. She couldnīt use her weapon against someone who shared the same kiss-- someone who cared enough for her to show himself vulnerable, and let her go inside his trembling soul.
Especially when that someone was an spirit as wild and deep as a Death Hand. Known in the past as the Hands of Hel, bringing doom to whoever was unfortunate enough to stand on their paths.
Conquering the heart of someone whose own feelings have been so corrupted was something. It wasnīt just a little flirt. Bringing the darkness which flooded the heart, hands and mind away to its knees, and letting the light behind that shine enough to enlighten the way of his love was a major flaw on the discipline that required a Death Hand.
But it was a major leap on the growth of a man. Because Kevin was becoming a man.
`What are you doing, Riesz...ī She tore him away from Duran, who stopped his kick with his Sacred Shield. Barely.
`Wake up. He isnīt Kevin anymore. Heīs just a toy of this guy...ī
Duran got hit by the infamous "Asura Dream Fist", and was sent to the stairs which leaded to the throne, making the evil mage send a discrete laugh.
`Now, itīs the time, get him!ī
Riesz attacked the beatman with her spear, making a big cut on his back.
`What have I done? bitch, donīt be so rough!ī
Kevin screamed in pain, and fell violently to the floor... He got on his knees, and locked eyes on the Princess of Rolante. He was angry. And when Kevin is angry, Kevin goes berserk.
Kevin charged at Riesz at full speed, not caring anymore for his safety. Not that he cared about it before.
`Oh, shit... Now youīve done it... Duran, where are you when I need you!ī
Kevin was blushing. She smiled, and asked him slowly "Do you think that you did something wrong?"
"I think... errr.... no..."
"Then you shouldnīt have to feel nervous. Look, I canīt help you to feel confident... You have to learn it by yourself... but rest assured that I would wait for you my whole life... as long as you donīt change. I..."
There was a silence... She looked embarrased...
After taking a quick look to Kevinīs jaw-open face, it seemed as his jaw could reach the floor, she looked down and let it go out:
"I like you the way you are..."
Kevin slided about two meters before reaching the girl. He grabbed his head shaking madly, and screamed crazily, out of what was still on his mind. He fell to his knees, and hit his head several times to the floor, growling something similar to words.
"GET OUTTA MY HEAD īCUZ I DONīT NEED THIS-- WHY DIDNīT I SEE THIS?"
He screamed and hit his head once again against the floor, this time even harder than before.
"I SHOULDA KNOW! YOU WERE ALIVE! ARRRRRGHHH!" He hit his head one more time, but this time, he didnīt got up to continue his own punishment. Riesz was concerned- something was happening with the whirlwind inside his head.
`Who was alive?ī she thought, surprised by those words. The Death Jester...
"Masked Mage, now weīre out to get you!" Duran yelled and charged at the masked figure. He didnīt moved. Heath received Duran with the same force field he was using before, but this time, Duran didnīt caught unprepared. He used his shield to avoid getting harmed.
"Let them, Heath, itīs time they face their worst enemies..." requested the mage. He began chanting:
"Shadows of the night- Shadows without a owner"
His voice grew deeper, as his hands cut the air as he moved them.
"Shadows who guard Hel to torment a being"
He got up of the throne, majestic as once the Prince of Darkness was.
"Shadows who hid for ages longing for fulfilling your destiny!"
He yelled some words, and after it, the only thing understable was "Shadow Zero".
"Ice Smash!" The Magus stroke the three Jester with powerful icicles. The Three fell again, and the Wanderer targeted one of them.
"The blood, Hawk!" She screamed, as the Wanderer looked at the one who was actually spurting something red out of his mouth.
-SLASH!- the Death Jester shouted in pain, as the two fake dissapeared. He looked at his chest.
It was blood.
Too much to take it.
The Death Jester was slightly numbed, and he mourned "Youīve proved your worth... You are the heroes we wanted to meet. Too bad you were so late..." And he threw one final slash, Hawk evading it with ease. The weight of the scythe was too much for the joker, and he fell to the ground below the Magus. Angela looked at the body of the one who laid at her feets, and asked "What are you talking about?"
"You donīt know anything about the Masked Mage... and you donīt need to. But keep in mind that 5 years ago you would have saved his soul from being corrupted..." he gasped, out of air to breath.
"From being corrupted? From who or what? Come on, donīt die yet!" she demanded, as if he would be in control of his own last hours. With his last effort, he threw a few words, hard to understand, both because of his number tonge, and for its meaning.
"The Priest of Light is known for curing diseases and giving wise advice to anyone who seeks his help, Magus. He would be nothing if his friend and student wasnīt there: years ago, Heath wasnīt his helper, he was the son of his long-time friend and student, Belgar..."
The Death Jester coughed blood, and smiled, looking up to set sights on his slayer, Angela, and continued:
"Belgar, Heath and the Priest of Light tried to save a child with an uncurable disease, dear, and they failed. With the power of Wisp they would never get any farther than what they have reached, so Belgar began experimenting with black magic..."
Angela felt a sudden shake on the veins behind her head. Black Magic is a serious sin to most religions, the forbidden powers of this kind of magic were sealed centuries ago by the Mana Goddess herself.
"The Priest of Light exiled him. The Black Magic corrupted his soul, mind and body, Magus, and he has no salvation now. Thatīs a difference between him and your previous enemies, and makes him all the more dangerous. His Powers are beyond limits..."
There was a silence before the Death Jesterīs head moved slightly to the side, and his voice faded. Forever.
"Heīs dead, Angela. You canīt get anything else from him now." Hawk said to Angela, who was still expecting more words. She realized it was the first time that she wanted him to say something. Fear makes you different, she thought.
"We got to find Riesz, Duran and Carlie! Thereīs much to fear there!" she told him.
"Why? Whatīs so scary?"
"Isnīt that just `power of shadeī?" he asked, innocent.
"Of course not, silly, the black magic is way beyond my powers, Shade is just an spirit, the Black Magic messes with the powers from Hel!"
"Hel? Isnīt it the `devilī of the Rolante Religion?" he asked, once again, innocent, remembering the words of Riesz when she confronted Bigieu in Rolante.
"Itīs worse than that, come on, donīt stop. I donīt think this place is safe anymore"
Riesz and Duran stood together while the Masked Mage sent a wave of energy which, while didnīt harmed them, moved their insides and bothered them. His voice was a roar as his chanting grew on loudness, and finally, he shouted once again "Shadow Zero", and buried his fist on the floor.
Two droplet, two black droplets came from there. The two droplets formed into two figures similar to the Shape Shifters, but darker, and somewhat bigger. They jumped side to side, then stood before the two heroes.
"What is that thing?" Duran asked, expecting no answer, pointing at the one in front of him
The little things resembled an human figure without face or any special features, they seemed little clay golems. One of them immitated Duranīs movement, and began to grow bigger, as its partner.
The first thing he noticed was that they were improving in shape, resembling closely a man and a woman. Then, something like armor began to appear on their bodies.
The one in front of Duran began to grow long red hair, and his clothes and armor were dark grey. On its hand, a big sword grew, and the clay enemy pointed it at the Paladin.
The one in front of Riesz began to grow long green hair, and her clothes and armor were green. Its hands began to wield a serrated lance, which seemed a big wolf fang. The monster set its sights on the Star Lancer, as to warn her of the battle.
The two beasts were the fabled Shadow Zero...
"Shadow Zero: Rare monster which is supposed to be a shadow of a lost soul to a body which was banished to Helfeim. This monster has never been found on a particular place, though it has been sighted on the Island of Oblivion in early expeditions to this place."
Riesz closed the book and looked at her father, who smiled slighty, and pronounced a more human explanation "These monster, Riesz, are supposed to attain the form of their pursuers. Itīs said that this thing could even follow an adventurer unfortunate enough to find one of these on his or her travels."
"And so, what should I do if I ever find a Shadow Zero, Father?"
"Kill it. Donīt wait for it to doom the rest of your life..."
Riesz awoke of her daydreaming, and recalled that point of her life when she was studying the most powerful beings in the known world. Of course she never did study Dolan, the Arch Demon or anything for that matters.
She looked at Duran. He Drew his sword and drew a little smile on his lips to her.
I donīt think he needs to know more that what he already knows...
The two monsters matched their features exactly, though the colors of their hair and armors were different. It seemed to show different classes than the ones they harbor, though it was difficult for them to know, since it seemed dark classes for both of their enemies, and they had little knowledge on them.
The roar which came from the wind which began to blow outside the castle announced the start of the battle.
Rieszīs copycat threw a quick slice against her chest, but Riesz gracefully jumped out of the way and landed a couple of meters behind, then she began running at her, with the head of her shinning spear pointing at her personal copy.
Duran stopped various powerful strikes from the Shadows Zero. It was somewhat stronger than the Paladin, and it was certainly superior in terms of pure combat- there has to be something where he was weak. But as of now, he was concentrating on defense.
Rieszīs attack was evaded without problems. Riesz slided a couple of meters before turning back, with her reflexes she nearly got hit by the point of her enemyīs spear, a violent, big and imperfect rock lance. It seemed to be probably heavier than the Star Gazer, both in weight and attack power. She turned around again, and she used the stick of her lance to hit her enemy with it in the back of her knees, taking it down, hopefully, for a long enough time to help his friend, who was certainly having trouble.
Duran, by his own side, was basically parrying a rain of sword strikes with an impressive dark sword with the biggest handle he had seen ever. Even his own mana Sword wasnīt big enough to reach the range of his oponentīs weapon.
By this time, he had taken off two hits on the enemy: One on its chest, and another, more profund and deep, on its right arm. However, it seemed unnaffected by its wounds, further more, he seemed like more violent each time he was harmed. By his attittude, which remembered his father way of fighting, he supposed his enemy to be one of the dead cast of the Duelists of Forcena, and group of berserker warriors disbanded by a King about two hundred years ago. This group was known for its bloodthirsty way of battles, and they didnīt cared about who was killed as long as they were the only ones alive on the battleground.
The Duelist sent a powerful overhead strike to the Paladin, who quickly moved his Sacred Shield in order to avoid getting decapitated. He used all his strength to move the enemy sword aside, and sent yet another swing at the Duelist, who only moved far ago to let the Brave Sword take a chunk out of his right arm once again. When the Duelist prepared its next strike, Riesz jumped against it and hit it with all her strenght with her spear, going trhu his chest, and impaling it with a mortal wound.
At least that was what they thought.
Riesz took her spear out, as to let the evil copycat to bleed to death, but the response of the Duelist-Shadow Zero was to smile, and bring its sword above its head. He buried it to the ground, and everything began to shake.
The ground below Riesz began to glow, and, suddenly, two geysers with red and hot lava exploded below Riesz and Duran, who got thrown in the air, several meters above their enemies.
The Masked Mage laughed.
Angela and Hawk looked at each other, and then looked around. It was clear, they were lost.
"Now, how the hell are we getting INSIDE!!" Hawk screamed, out of impatience. He looked at Angela, who began to look somewhere else to avoid his sight.
"Letīs go thru here... I donīt think we can get lost any further..." she sighed. Her voice was nervous, and she was just itching with the thoughts of her boyfriend dying because of some ultra-powerful black spell.
"Damn... Itīs getting hot here... what in the earth is going on..." asked to himself Hawk, though high enough to let Angela hear his words. She looked at him, and he was expecting to hear some brat-like comment about his preference for cold weathers, but she opened her mouth and asked him:
"Hot? Do you feal heat?"
He was about to make some smart-ass comment about Angela being hot, but he held off his thoughts, and felt it. The heat... It was making him sweat, and he nodded with his head.
"Freak IT!!! HAWK, GET OUT OF THERE!" She screamed, as the wall behind him began to glow, and to melt down. Hawk turned around, only to face the exploding wall which flooded lava and molten rocks. He jumped and took Angela to a higher ground to avoid being cooked.
Angela got hit by a rock in her stomach, and she was having trouble breathing. She got on her knees trying to catch it, and Hawk jumped on the rocks floating in the lava to see where was the origin of this river.
It was the Throne Room. Hawk saw Duran in the floor, along with Kevin, who was on quite an weird position. Riesz was the only one standing.
"Riesz! Iīm here!" he screamed. He heard Riesz voice shouting something, but Riesz wasnīt even looking at him. She was slowly walking towards Duran and Kevin. Coming to think about it, that wasnīt Rieszīs armor, and there was something behind her back... something like a wolfīs skin.
`A Fenrir Knight? She got promoted again? Where did she found the power to change once again?ī he asked to himself, and yelled yet again "Riesz? Canīt you hear me?"
"Hawk, look out!" He felt an strong yet soft hand on his back, and then, Riesz threw her spear against him. Thanks to the unknown hand, he evaded it. He turned around to see his saviour, and it was no one else than Riesz.
"Riesz?" he asked, stranged.
"Yes, itīs me, I am Riesz, Hawk!" she answered, impresing her forced breath on his face.
He got away from her, and looked to the woman he thought was Riesz. Who was the real one?
The soft glance coming from Rieszīs eyes showed the real Princess of Rolante, and he quickly knew it "Shadow Zeros!" he exclamed, as he jumped against the imitation, falling into a fast and furious battle against the Fenrir Knight.
"Fenrir Knight: A forbidden legion, casted out of the Army of Rolante about a thousand years ago, when this legion turned against the Castle Which Never Fell, for their preference for the Vanadies Army and the Star Lancers. They claimed that their empire had betrayed them, and attacked the castle, using the infamous monster half human-half serpent, the Lamia Naga, a powerful being which spelt doom for a hundred days, until the Star Lancers were able to summon Marduke, the legendary angel of silence, and his companions, sending them to their exile.
The mythological monster, Fenrir, was from then deleted from the list of bening gods from Rolante, and is associated with evil.
Their path to the victory was bloody and based its strategy for the fear that their Wolf like hides impresed against their enemies. Found a kindred soul in the Dragon Masters, but these ones left them to their destiny after learning the true meaning of their ways, founding them too unruly to make any kind of alliances with them"
"Rolante has quite a weird history, Eagle" said the young thief, Hawk, to his friend, Eagle. Eagle smiled and showed him a little book, which contained the words "History of Navarre".
"Now quit reading that, and study what you have to study, boy"
The sound of the metal clashing kept Hawk alert, for the quickness of his adversary, who proved to be strong, fast and smart, always seeking the point where his knives couldnīt reach easily, as he remembered that old day when he discovered Navarreīs Library.
He threw a quick slash to the Fenrir Knight, who evaded it turning itself around, and stood for a second, giving its back to Hawk. He tried to take advantage of this, but suddenly, the huge wolf head hanging on her back roared to the scared Wandered, and tried to bite him with his giant jaws. The Fenrir Knight turned again, and looked at the Wanderer, throwing a quick smile to him.
Riesz was watching the battle, seeing that Hawk alone couldnīt beat her copy, but there was another problem, it was the lava, which could melt Duran and Kevin, who laid faded away on the floor, dangerously near the stream of lava flowing towards them.
She ran towards the two warriors, and just when Duran woke up from the strike, she took him, and jumped away from the hot liquid. She did the same with Kevin, though he didnīt regained his senses, even when he was put along Duran, far enough from the mortal heat.
`Where is that Duelist? I cannot see himī
She looked around, unable to find the body of the evil warrior. She jumped over a floating rock, then over another. She stood still for a second, throwing a fast glance to the room.
She turned around, and something rising from the lava surprised her. It was quite a big skeleton, who roared some battle cry, and threw a power slice to the body of the Star Lancer, who avoid it crouching. She shivered in pain as little lava droplets fell on her arm, burning her.
It was the Duelist skeleton! She used her spear to move her rock aside the monster, who sent another hit against Riesz with his half-melted sword. Not even being burned to death could stop this bloodthirsty monster.
The Duelist skeleton couldnīt hold himself very well due to his bones starting to be melt by the lava, so the last swing made him lose his balance.
Riesz replied the offense with the whole stick of her lance, throwing the most powerful strike ever done by her. The Star Gazer hit the enemy in his ribs, disintigrating the body of the Shadow Zero, while the rest of the skeleton fell to the lava, joining it back to hell.
On his battle, Hawk was trying to get a grip from each of his tricks. He used his transhape trap to avoid several attack which could have easily ended his short life, but the Fenrir Knight attacked relentlesly the Wanderer, as if her only mission was to kill him.
Duran, who was now in control of his own body, jumped against Rieszīs imitation, only to fall down due to the attack of one the mythological wolf offspring. The beast bit him in his arm, but failed to get a grip from it, then just barked at him, asking for live meat.
The Paladin, frustrated, took a quick decision: decapitated the wolf. The Fenrir Knight turned to him, angry, with the sole intention of killing him, but Hawk used the moment to slash it on its back, making it yell in pain. Duran then impaled his sword on its chest, and the beast dissapeared in a bright light.
Riesz joined them, and the three friends smiled for the first time in various hours. She was really relieve to see them alive.
"Where is Angela?" she asked.
"You are something, kids. Itīs surprising you could beat the Shadow Zeros. Now," The Masked Mage got from his throne, and Heath looked at the team, "I guess I have understimated you, as we always do... I hate to fall for stereotypes, but itīs hard for me to believe you have gotten so strong. So, now, I got a little sacrifice to do, so, if you excuse me, I will leave you in the competent hands of the New Priest of Light, young Heath..." he concluded.
"How can you do that to your own son, Belgar?" demanded Hawk, as he got as near as he could to the edge of the rock they were standing on.
The Masked Mage stopped for a second, and, without bothering to turn and face Hawk, he said "I have not asked for your opinion, Wanderer".
"I donīt think that someone who uses his own son as a killing machine deserves the right to demand such things! Heath is a human being, why are you doing this!" he yelled.
"Because the world didnīt wanted me like I was, so the world didnīt had me. Now itīs me who will regain whatīs mine, Wanderer, I deserved the right to govern the world from the position as the Priest of Light, but that old man knew that I was too powerful for him to control me, and exiled me! Now he faced the consequences, as will the whole planet."
Hawk screamed something, but the voice of the Masked Mage stopped his words "Donīt keep messing with me... Black Magic corrupted me once, and now I am part of it. You donīt want me to use them on you. Heath, they are yours!"
Belgar took the body of the small Bishop, and he teleported away, somewhere else. Heath faced the team, and smiled briefly.
Charlotte awoke in the arms of an strong man, who seemed strangely familiar, like he was holding her with the love of a father. The same love Heath gave to her when he took her to her room to sleep after a day of work.
"Who... are... you..." she whispered. She found it hard to speak, as her mouth hurted, and dried blood was all around it and her nose, making it harder to grasp air. Her arms also where harmed, as if she had been tried to tore her arms away from her body.
All of her body was suffering in pain.
"You donīt need to know who am I, Bishop" the man replied.
"Where are we going?" she asked again, slowly. She noticed the enviroment, it seemed to be a dungeon from a castle, but she had never been there before. They were going down the stairs, a long ladder which seemed to lead to Hell.
Then she noticed the silence of the man. She looked at him, and turned her head to see their destination- but all she saw was more darkness.
Heath seemed to found it amusing to let his three pursuers get close to him, then teleporting away, and sending them to fly with one of his power waves.
`Heath, donīt do me this now!ī Riesz thought wildly as she tried to hit him. It was nearly impossible. Duran and Hawk tried attack him from different places, but it was all in vain, Heath was too fast to get him easily.
Angela entered the room, recovered now from the hit she suffered with the exploding wall. She looked at the place, and it sure seemed like an authentic pandemonium assalted the throne room in the Beast Kingdom.
The lava still was moving, flowing out of a hole in the floor. Without a second thought, she began chanting Ice Blaze.
Heath sent a fierce punch to the Wandererīs confused head, throwing him down, and making his face shake. Hawk fell to the floor, feeling like he was tripping into a world that never seems too far away.
But that never seems to be close enough.
He was dizzy by all the punishment he had received in the last moments. His head was so beaten that he found it difficult to move his eyes without feeling pain. He didnīt wanted to get up again.
"Come, do not stay down. The floor is the most dangerous place you can find in the battleground!"
The sound sounded like it was distorted by the effects of hearing it underwater. He felt like _he was underwater_.
"Who told you that?" Hawk asked, tired, slowly.
"A friend I knew some time ago. Come. You wonīt hear the whole history if we donīt survive." the figure seemed to smiled, and he felt the person to lift him from one arm. The way of holding his arm close to its body remainded him of who was helping him. It was Riesz, whose maternal instinc didnīt left her even in this moments.
Duran was having a hand to hand fight to the Priest. He knew that in the point he felt in danger, Heath would most likely use his magic to cause him severe damage, but he was the only one who could keep in pace with the Priest in physical battle.
"Let us help Duran, Hawk. Do some of your tricks and let me take care of the rest" Riesz told to Hawk. He moved his head, and casted the Transhape trick on the Star Lancer, who quickly moved against Heath. Luckily, this time the Priest didnīt felt her pressence, and received a good slash on his stomach, sending him right to his knees, not without before landing a good fist into Duranīs face.
"YES! Heīs ours!" Hawk yelled, excited by the hit. He knew that such a hit guarateed the death of the enemy, sooner or later. But he then remembered that he wasnīt an enemy...
"HEROES! YOU HAVE EARNED MY WRATH!" Heath screamed with the voice of a thousand souls, as he got up quickly, and emaned a black aura, which shaked the whole castle, and the winds proved to be powerful enough to warn Hawk again to get a grip from somewhere before he kissed the ceiling again.
Duran tried to hit him with the Mana Sword, but the priest moved back, and stood on the lava pool. Duran couldnīt believe that a human being could stay on it without completely burning up, but Heath smiled and assumed his fighting position.
Duran imitated him, not sure of what to expect. His thoughts were interrupted by a gentle humming, like when ice melts down.
"The... The lava! Itīs freezing up!" Hawk said, surprised by it. Heath voice said a few words, and finally he said "Not even the lava could kill me! How can you expect to do so?"
A deep voice was heard then "I can kill whoever and whatever I wish... the powers of Helheim have brought me this gift and have taken my soul as a token. And you will be my last prize..."
Riesz turned around, and saw the young beastman up again. Kevin had regained his senses, and though he was losing more blood than he could afford, he was walking towards the Priest. "For I am the last Death Hand, priest, and I donīt care about what will happen to me now..."
"Kevin... do those mean what I am afraid of?" asked, scared of the answer, Riesz. The Death Hand looked at her- more than enough to reply positively to the question.
"Then back up your words, beastman. Come for me." Challenged Heath, completely out of himself.
Kevin charged against him, hitting him multiple times whence the three heroes pressent could only hit him once. Heath replied with a powerful psychic wave, But Kevin was able to calculate his landing to avoid getting harmed by the lava. Then, the Beastman jumped again to hit him, but the priest teleported away, appeared a couple of meters from his former location.
"It wouldnīt be so easy, Death Hand..."
Kevin smiled, and jumped again against the priest, who moved with his superior speed to evade the attack. Kevin jumped once again, and the Priest evaded the kick in a similiar fashion. But Kevin tried once again...
And this time, he reached his face with his giant glove, the black but shiny Skull Disect, breaking his jaw. Duran, Hawk and Riesz, got surprised by the hit, and their hopes came back.
"What the hell?" exclamed, surprised, Heath.
"Thought you will always escape? Never more, priest. Now, the lava couldnīt beat you, where the ice has taken you." Kevin replied.
"YEAH!! Iīve done it!" Angelaīs voice was heard. "I donīt know what have I done, but Iīve done it!" Angela, with her Ice Blaze, had frozen the whole lava pool, trapping Heath with it, unable to move anywhere else.
"It was you, Magus, who has brought me doom! You will die with me!" sentenced Heath, as he began to glow once again. This time, however, Kevin took his neck and began to choke him, while he whispered "You will have to go over my dead body before you touch a hair of my friends".
"Then I will grant your wish..." He replied.
The priestīs glove began to shine ever more, and it was difficult to see. Heath voice began to multiply, and at the end it seemed like a thousand persons were chanting the spell in some forgotten tongue.
"JORMUNGAND, COME TO MY AID, AND KILL THE ONES WHO BETRAYED YOUR KIND!"
"oops..." Riesz whispered, then screamed, desperate "EVERYONE, GET AWAY FROM THEM! SOMETHING *VERY BIG* IS COMING DOWN!".
Hawk threw himself outta the way, Duran took Angela with him out of the room, and Riesz looked at the couple for a last glance.
A huge roar tore the sky apart, and the ceiling of the castle colapsed, breaking because of a giant rock hitting it with huge velocity. From the rock, a giant snake was rounding it.
The snake roared once again, and began to spit a poisonous purple gas, as the rock began to bounce around the room, breaking everything, and, as a last bounce, fell over Heath and Kevin, before bouncing back to the sky with another growl.
The wind lifted the poison gas quickly, and Duran was the first to venture to the room. What was left of it.
"No... please... donīt tie Carlie again... it hurts..." the girl moaned, almost lifeless, as the Masked Mage tied her to a cable hanging from the ceiling. It was dark enough to only let a healthy eye see the difference between a wall and a passageway.
"Now, Bishop, you will know the purpose of your coming. Ever heard of the Mana Sword, young girl." the mage asked, sadistic.
"Yeah... Carlie recovered it a year ago... but... why are you tying Carlie again... I donīt understand why are you doinī this... the Mana sword died..." She whispered. Her voice was very low, and the mage had to force his ears to fully understand her words.
"No, Bishop, the Mana Sword lives within you" And he touched her stomach, with care, though it was painful to her anyway "and your pure soul is perfect for me as a catalyst to forge a new one."
"But why Carlie? Why did you took me and made me so many mean things?"
"Because I canīt afford your friends screwing my plans once again. So my best bet is to get rid of them as fast as possible, Bishop. Enough of the chat. Itīs time for you to kiss goodbye. Hel will take your soul pleased."
The two fighters laid on the floor, crushed and almost lifeless, beaten by the power of the Midgard Serpent who attended the call of Heath, a call out of thought, without any sense, just for the sake of destruction.
Duran stood beside the two men, and nodded, dissapointed by what the world had became now. Two of the strongest warriors were now, most likely, dead.
The other four heroes joined his act, and no a word was heard until a low complain sounded.
"You can still save her... go ahead..."
It was Heath, who was using his last life force to try to tell them to save the little Bishop. Angela crouched and looked at him.
"Why did you did it, Heath? Whatīs the purpose of this?"she asked, coldly.
"For me, there was no reason, because I was being controled once again. I was easier to get caught again due to my blood line. But for the Masked Mage, there is a much more profund reason, and that is to revive the Sword of Mana."
"Why is your father doing this to you?" demanded Hawk "And why did he chose Carlie and Kevin?"
"Because I am his son, Hawk!"
Duran and Riesz, not aware of this until now, were surprised, and looked at each other like `so... what are we fighting for?ī However, Heath continued:
"Carlie is a Bishop. She is the purest one out of you, yet she has enough power to wield the Sowrd of Mana. She is going to be the new host of the goddess unknown power!
But, Kevin was controled at will. He decided to fall on his own. I do not know his purposes, though Iīm guessing it was for you, Riesz."
Only on that moment, she remembered her fried. She brought her hands to cover his mouth like to stop an scream, then she knelt next to Kevinīs lying body. She grabbed his shoulders and began to shake him "KEVIN, DONīT DO THIS TO ME, YOU ARE A DEATH HAND, YOU ARE THE HEIR TO THE THRONE OF YOUR KINGDOM, YOU DONīT DESERVE THIS, YOU..."
Her screams were drowned by a sob. Something was seen falling on Kevinīs chest. It was a tear. Riesz was crying over his body, holding him tightly, like it could stop his soul from leaving his body.
"Donīt leave us... donīt leave me..." she sobbed once again.
"Riesz... if there is something you taught me... was to live... by myself..."
Riesz opened his eyes widely, and regconized the voice. It was Kevinīs voice, even more forced than Heathīs. "What do you mean, Death Hand?"
He coughed several times before continuing "Your... will always gave you the confidence to go on... even without your father and mother... that was something I never could do... *cough!*"
"Kevin..." Riesz wiped several tears away from her face "Why?... WHY DID YOU DONE THIS TO US? I THOUGHT WE WOULD BE TOGETHER!... always..."
After saying those words, she lost control of herself, and started to cry uncontrolably again.
"It was you, Riesz... The frustration of not being what you wanted from me made me nothing short of a monster. Belgar took advantage of my weakened strength to live, and controled me."
"You are an idiot... I told you I wanted you like you were. I did not wanted you to change..." she said, despective, and hopeless, though waiting an answer.
An answer that never came.
Kevin was dead. Finally. One of them died. There werenīt six heroes anymore.
"You are an idiot, Kevin."
It took a good five minutes for Riesz to leave Kevinīs dead body finally alone. As she felt, even with three of her best friends right next to her. Heath also died, though his death wasnīt as dramatic as Kevinīs.
"It will only make matters worse, Riesz. Carlie is in danger still, remember." said Hawk, and Riesz got up quickly.
"That is right, letīs go... I... uh... I know where is she." she said.
"And where might she be?" asked Duran.
She pointed downwars:"It the basement. Thereīs a dungeon on this castle."
The Group leaded by the Star Lancer advanced deeper and deeper into the now damned castle, with the only light source of a torch, held high by Riesz. It showed the same terrible aspect of the whole castle: Wet, hot, dusty and completely unbeareable.
The group was silent. No one found any word to comfort Riesz, who was still shocked by the death of her "past". She was calm, on the outside, but her lost sight, and the ocassionally lost of balance when she walked down the stairs showed that she was devastated.
She finally felt again alone. Just like a year ago, when her father died, but she found company when she met Duran. All this time, so busy by the rebuilding of her kingdom, the battle at the Mana Holy Land, the Archdemon, and even the stupid royal parties that were held on the now restored hall of the Castle which never Fell kept her occupied enough like to never have time to actually think that she was alone sometime during those days.
Hawk was particulary uneasy- This was the point where he could easily take her in his arms and show her that he cared about her more than anything else, but in his own mind it seemed something cruel to do.
Duran was simply too confused about everything, and when he recalled that his real purpose here was to fucking rescue Carlie. Not to care about Heath, nor to find a way of solving Rieszīs feeling problems. Just to find Carlie, and probably to finally end all of this madness. He hoped that it was the final day when he would have to grab his sword and fight for his life.
Angela was affected by Duranīs indiference. At the moment of this final battle, she knew that this was the time of her life. There wasnīt anything else beyond that darkness. Except more darkness, of course, both in their non-physical and their physical shapes, both scary in their particular ways.
*CRASH* Riesz fell again, this time burying her knees in the ground. Duran tried to held her, but she kept him away with one arm, and whispered forcing herself to avoid crying again "I can take it... I will not be defeated... yet...".
He could only go back, and wait for her to get up again. She would get back to his feet, and start walking again.
When they finally reached the lowest basement, which was probably about 1 or 2 floors underground, they noticed several torches already lit, and this particular place was a bit more organized than the rest of the castle, probably meaning it was much more important to the Masked Mage than the rest of the palace.
"Hey, HEY thatīs Carlie!! Sheīs there!" Duran shouted, then quickly shut his mouth, realizing that Belgar was somewhere in this place. Where was he, no one but himself knew, but he was somewhere near them.
"Stick together, team... donīt move too far..." he whispered, slowly... The whole group followed his instruction, keeping Angela in the center, wielding their weapons, carefully examining their enviroment.
Though it was too damn dark to see _anything_.
The silence was breaking by the sound of an scream, it was Charlotte screaming in pain as a green lightning hit her, and the basic formation held by the heroes broke apart, as Duran directed his run to Carlie, with the hopes of stopping anymore pain to be inflicted upon the girl.
"Heh... do you really expect to save her? I think I overestimated you, but this is the end. And, as a song says: `in the end, it doesnīt really matterī"
The brilliant green light began to be directed from Charlotte to the other side of the room. It was Belgar, who was receiving the lightning, but it didnīt seemed to harm him at all.
Riesz knew that green light. It was the life force of the former Mana Sword. This guy was receiving all the power of the goddess.
"But you came even farther than the end. You pushed so hard for nothing!"
Belgar began to grow even bigger, and at some point, he crushed the ceiling, and opened a gap between the two floors. He looked down at the heroes, and his flesh began to rot, and pieces of skin fell from his arms and face.
Hawk and Duran were totally horrified by the event, but Angela, at this point, felt it was a friendly face. Riesz didnīt saw the show, she runned and took Carlie out of the altar where she was being tied, and suddenly, the link was broken. When she dared to look her enemy, it was something that she never thought it _actually_ existed.
A Lich. A Lich is a mage who traded his own life to amplify his magical powers. Few creatures of the undead can be something more vil than such a henious thing. An instant cold quickly filled the place.
And it was damn sure it was going to be one helluva bitchinī fight they were going to face. The gaze the monster threw to the group was the final break before Riesz left Charlotte in the floor, and before all hell was break loose...
"HOW CAN YOU EXPECT TO FIGHT AN IMORTAL BEING, HUMANS?" The Dark Lich (As he insisted to call himself), seemed to take little to no damage even with Duranīs strength. Riesz was too tired to summon Marduke, and Hawk was simply getting a hand of everything he had only to keep on surviving. Angela tried each one of her spells, and there was nothing that could actually keep it from throwing its claws to the team, and casting odd spells to keep them busy.
"THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO!"
Heīs right, there nothing I can do now to regain my old, little, precious, cliché and stupid royal l-i-f-e.
What is Life anyway? I have seen it come and go so much lately that it doesnīt gets much importance as it seems in the "balance of nature". It seems just a little thing in the whole that is the world. Maybe there IS something after this life. Dying would be a sick waste of time if there wasnīt anything else to look forward to.
He have killed so many creatures and never took a minute to figure out if there was something for them. Is mean to try to think that the death of Kevin means something else than the normal kill of a Poto to extract its oil.
This is just sick.
"Get away from me, freak!" Riesz screamed as she slashed the claw which tried to grab her for whatever purposes. Duran tried to hit the Dark Lich to not avail, and finally, Angela used her most powerful spell, the Ancient.
Ancient was a sealed magic which drawned meteors out of its normal trayectory to strike the desired target. This not only drained Angelaīs energies, as she was considerably weak physically, she could not handle such power with ease, it also had the tendence of hitting whatever it found, not only the target.
Duran only noticed by the particular way of striking her rod in the floor, and he took Riesz and Hawk out of the way. Angelaīs spell broke the rest of the ceiling and hit the monster, who, surprisingly, cried in pain as the first meteor touched his backside.
Everyone looked at each other. Riesz smiled, and said "Roll with it, Angela. I never liked you as much as now" sarcasm included. Angela replied sticking her tongue out, and the three other heroes jumped at the enemy, wielding their weapons with the last remnants of their adrenaline.
Riesz hit the enemy on his head, Duran striked it on one shoulder, Hawk kicked him on his mouth. All attacks, as expected, failed, but they all frowned when they noticed that the monster was chanting something which seemed suspiciously similar to the verses of Ancient.
Angelaīs voice whispered the wicked poem which served as a summoning of her ultimate power.
"Powers of the universe
"Powers which arise from Helheim
Both minds sent with their words a sudden chill to Riesz, Duran and Hawkīs spine, quickly making them stay back to back. Duran asked to his companions "What the hell is he chanting?"
"I havenīt the slightest idea, but, judging from what we have seen, I am sure itīs not good..." replied Hawk.
Angela hit the floor with her Ancient Rod. The distictive roar of her spell catched their attention, but they shake and the espasm shown by the Dark Lich not only kept their attention from now on, but also kept their minds working trying to find something to explain those words.
"NOW FEEL THE POWER OF BLACK MAGIC, HUMANS! THIS IS DEATH ECSTASY!" exclamed the monster. The whole enviroment seemed to go even darker than before, and then this darkness turned into a galaxy of bright stars, and the monster clamed "THIS PLACE WILL BE YOUR TOMB: THE DARK IS A RIGHTFUL GRAVE FOR THIS WORLD LAST HEROES!".
"Think again monster!" replied Angela, who was driving the powerful rain of meteors right to the monsterīs body.
"YOUR PITIFUL MAGIC POWER IS NO MATCH FOR THE PLEASURE OF DEATH"
"I would better say it after this day! For I AM THE MAGUS, THE MOST POWERFUL MAGICIAN IN EARTH! DONīT UNDERSTIMATE ME, OR YOU WILL REPENT!
Sooner or later, Belgar..." said Angela, smiling.
From the body of the Dark Lich, thousands of meteors were drove right to the party. The small size of these made it possible for Duran and Riesz to keep Hawk and Angela out of harm, but they started to find that the weight of them was heavier than any "common" rock they would suppose to be.
One of these rocks hit Hawk on his right arm, which was already touched by being broken a year ago when fighting the Dark Prince. Riesz also received several hits, though her better stamina was helping her to stand still. The galaxy shown on the Dark Lichīs cape was still spiting rocks like there was no tommorrow, each second becoming bigger.
Suddenly, The rocks commanded by the Magus began to fall, and the fight between the Magus and the Lich started. Each one tried to counter the otherīs mass of meteors, now, most of them were being crushed against their counterparts.
"YOU GIVE QUITE A GOOD FIGHT, MAGUS"
"And you havenīt seen anything yet, Dark Lich"
The two magicians began to push further their powers beyond imaginations. Duran held Riesz from falling, and Hawk took them also out of harmīs way, finally, finding a place to hide, along with Charlotte, who was still lacking her senses.
The roar was becoming unbeareable, and bigger rocks were being clashed. Angelaīs face was being torn apart by the fury, and veins were shown on the side of her forehead. The Lich, on his side, showed no sign of tireness, but out of his effort, there had to be something which could be the equivalent of pushing it too far.
Angela got hit by several bits of rocks, but her only reaction was to hit the ground again with her rod, as she recited Ancient over and over again.
"WH-WHAT? WHERE DID ALL OF THIS CAME FROM?"
And the Dark Lich got hit. But not an small rock. But a huge rock hit his face, and his jaw was crushed, falling into piece to the ground. Another hit on his elbown, making his arm fall. Then another one on the head.
"THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE... IīM INMORTAL... THIS CANīT BE... NOOOOOOOOO!!!"
A bright flash exploded, and the sound of rocks was the only sound for the next seconds...
The body of the Magus laid on the arms of her personal Paladin, who held her, looking at her with care, tired, but, finally, accomplished. The last thing they could ever fear was over.
Hawk grabbed the little Carlie, and held her the same way Duran held Angela. Riesz, standing on the middle, sighed hardly, and fell to her knees, exhausted.
Her hands fell heavily, and she smiled, leaving her head back, to look at the sky, finally freed of evil which could defile it.
The price of victory was high, however. This battle took the lifes of many warriors. Indeed, it was VERY high. But the feeling of finally staying without the sensation of having to watch over her shoulder.
"Itīs over! DAMN IT, ITīS OVER!" she screamed, and laughed maniacally, totally out of her mind. "Itīs over..." and she fell down.
She was crying.
Itīs been awhile, uh? Now as much as the last time I wrote this. I remember when you came, and filled my life with happiness for a day. Everything after it was... simply... terrible. This shouldnīt have happened.
Carlie has gone to Diorre, finally. She has nowhere to go now, and she didnīt wanted to stay with me either. I was getting used to have her always smiling face running around the castle, bringing joy to everyone.
I havenīt seen Duran or Angela after Kevinīs funeral. I received a nice letter from them. They plan on getting married next year, and King Richard has finally decided to make him a full time Gold Knight. With a little help from a young queen from a mountain kingdom ^_^.
I think that now Iīve lost him finally. Itīs okay, I guess, as he finally has found his significany other, and, strangely, even when I think she has stolen my best friend, I feel happy for them.
Have you been strong? I have tried. Living without Kevin was harder than what I expected. I even thought it was going to be the same eternal suffering of not having him close to me. But no. I had the hope of him coming to me once again to make me her bride. But that will never happen now. The closest I can get is to visit his tomb, at the foot of the Moon Reading Tower. It hurts to be alone. Because I never felt so lonely.
I have to get over with it. Someday. I canīt stay dying alive the
rest of my life. I have a kingdom to rule. Regardless, why donīt
you come here and stay for awhile?. I am sure you will be the one
to make me any good. Because I need you now more than ever.
PS.: Donīt keep me waiting. I canīt stop what Iīm hearing within warning me."
Itīs fine to hear from you. Always. Why did it all happened this way? it had to be easier than that. There was no need of this. But Iīm glad it has gone away now, and probably, that ended a lot of pain.
So we finally see Duran and Angela dressed in white? That is going to be funny to see. But I admire them: They have stayed together after going thru all this hell and never doubted each otherīs faith. Doesnīt he gets ever annoyed with her? Of course, but the love actually gets them so far as to stand anything.
Wendel has been reconstructed to a big extent. Navarre has been helping around. Itīs quite a surprise to see Altena, Navarre, and Forcena helping each other, back to back. And I thought we were going to be the link between our countries. We never got the chance to get that title. Thatīs up to the princess, kings and queens. Jessicaīs there, and she probably has simply decided to forget me. Iīm pleased about it, I would hate to see her crippled for the rest of her life for my indiference.
Needless is to say I will visit you. Why not? I would never
reject an invitation from the only woman who has brought me the
energy to live on.
PS.: That voice is annoying me too. Interesting kind of link, Lady."