Jump to content
  • Author
  • 9,147 Words
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Spirit of Fire - 24. Ascension

The ending to Spirit of Fire. Warning: it might not quite be what you expect!

The location he teleported to was where the final images of the Gamma team's video had captured before their unfortunate demise at Lautone's hand. It was empty when he arrived, but for the discarded equipment of the murdered Order team, brief scorch and frost marks from whatever resistance had been given, and beyond that, the door into the next reservoir storage, where the lens was.

Where he was.

Araziah opened it and walked through, the bastard sword in hand.

The second room was identical to the first. Most of it was taken up by a long rectangular space in the ground, filled with water. Narrow avenues existed between the wall and pool that allowed foot access along either side. The far end was larger than the first room, with the space normally occupied by a pumping station, but the interior structure had been removed, effectively doubling the area of empty floor.

In the middle of that space was the pedestal, the lens on top of it.

The visibility in the building was poor, the day having turned to early evening, the artificial light inside dim. Araziah could not see anyone present near the pedestal, and he kept his eyes fixed on the gloom of its surroundings, fully expecting some kind of trap. Advancing along the left side at a moderate pace, he closed the distance, a hundred feet becoming eighty, then fifty, then thirty.


He stopped straight away, his senses drawn to the flicker of something shifting. The flicker became a swirl of sinuous activity, and what had formerly been the gloom of shadows clinging to the far wall, turned corporeal. Darkness became scales and the recessed insubstantial shapes that were vagaries of perception solidified. Nothingness spawned an enormous coiled figure, black and scarlet, that stirred from his rest. Only the tip of his snout and yellow eyes were glimpsed emerging into the half-light for a second before the form transmogrified, concentrating inward to a human body.

The man that stepped forward was formidable, and in him were reflected the characteristics of his family, those Araziah already knew. His eyes were Lothian's, withering and inhuman, centuries past any hope of empathy, but a feline chartreuse. His face was Michael's, with the same straight clean lines of handsome masculinity, older by weathering, yet somehow younger, in the strange ageless way that some elders defied the passage of time. His physique was Nero's, but moreso; larger, more muscular, and much taller, a good four inches above even Araziah's height. His hair was a mane, like Mordred's, but black cut with dark red. Two scars ran across his face, one on the left side from his neck across the jaw to the cheekbone, and the other at an angle, from just above the chin, through his lips and curving toward the right ear.

Unarmoured, he wore the robes of the Conclave, which meshed seamlessly with his natural colouring. The same red-black style, but in the simplest fashion, and wrapped efficiently but loosely, like a human warrior-monk's habit. He carried no weapon, and he turned calmly to regard Araziah, who was still several dozen feet away beside the water.

"The prodigal child has come." His voice was deep and smooth, a practiced sermoniser like Darren, but where Darren always seemed to have hints of slyness and diversion, this speaker was so completely sure of himself, so absolutely confident of his own justice, that he seemed to have no care for subterfuge. "I thought my nephew mistaken, until he told me more. Can you imagine my joy when I learned you are as carefree as I? No time for a human guise, you wear your soul with dauntless pride." He walked forward, pacing slowly past the pedestal, though his head stayed angled on Araziah the whole time. "I am Zereth, and I have hunted the heretic for four hundred years. Only once has my duty failed, and soon this will be rectified." He smiled, and it was not malicious, nor meant as a taunt, but a genuine expression of reconciliation that was oddly friendly and paternal. "At the finish, he wins. He always wins."

Step by step, Araziah rounded the end of the reservoir, blade held easy but ready. He continued onto the clear concrete, keeping the same distance between them, two dozen feet apart. Gauging the basic threat of what he was looking at, he began to circle the other dragon and the pedestal, before he spoke.

"Tell me," he demanded, "what you know of my family."

"Three." Now still, Zereth was turning constantly, so he stayed facing the red dragon, his posture loose. "Hear my voice, and know the nature of the only true god in this world. One is the solitary calling of Earth, two is the duality of Air, four is the contrary we do not name, but three -- three is the number of Fire. Three is his promise, three is his expression, and three are his aspects; revelation, authenticity, purity. With three, it begins and ends. From Kitrax, to her, to you."

With a flick of his hand to the left wall, right, and in the rear, three torches flared, one on each wall, the gloom of the room's end bathed in a soft glow emanating from the bracketed lanterns.

Araziah did not take his eyes off Zereth.

"Tell me," he repeated, his grip tightening on the sword, "what you know."

"Light, is first." The paladin continued, not answering the question. His voice was sonorous, reverberant, emphatic, a theosophic expounding on spiritual doctrine. "Before his Light, the darkness flees. Whence it shines, he is known. All is clear, and the vile things of shadow and cold must perish and flee. Behold, the second aspect! From Light comes Truth, and from Truth are the luminous begotten in return. Before his Truth, the shrouded is unveiled, the obscure made manifest, the false unmasked. None serve but the real and the actual; all contrivances collapse before his will, for only the Truth may stand. Thence, the third!"

He held his hands out, palms up, and flames flickered up through the skin, for a moment, before dying away, and he lowered them. "From the others it flows, and they from it. Fire! Fire is radiant, Fire is perfect, Fire is clean. Fire is our essence, and it is HIM!" Zereth's voice rose, his eyes widening. "He gave us life, he gave us purpose, he gave us the power of his sublime heart! He is our god, sacred above all others, and we have no king but the Lord of Flame! Here, now, Araziah, grandson of Kitrax and Ulthara, you are delivered one last chance to recant their sins, to prostrate yourself and beg redemption! Bow down, repent, name him supreme, and your death with be merciful and swift."

"I will not." Araziah whispered, his eyes beginning to flicker with the condensed magic of his fury, his voice vibrating with the cumulative hatred. He stopped moving, now entirely focused on the paladin, all of his being prepared. "Only once more do I ask you: where is my mother?"

"Kitrax gave me this," he brushed the lower scar with his left hand, before trailing to the other, "and she gave me this." Zereth's hand went back to his side again, and he was strangely relaxed, apparently unconcerned about the prospect of approaching conflict. "I might have healed such damage, but ... I wanted the reminder. She fought like a wild one, and even when I bested and restrained her, offering to sanctify her ashes if she would deliver to me her clutch, she refused. She continued to struggle, and each time I granted her another chance at absolution, she spurned it. Each time, I squeezed tighter, until she died, choking on her own blood, and then I gave her a traitor's interment," he paused a moment, and his eyes lit up, bright yellow, lip curling in a smirk, the first sign of any real emotional vindictiveness, "in the Atlantic Ocean."


In water.

An insult greater than any other.

Araziah could not stand another word.

In a beat, he teleported behind Zereth. The blade stabbed forth, intent to run through the paladin's back, but the larger dragon acted precisely as if he knew what was coming. He merely stepped aside, the sword piercing nothing but air, and turning in a quick half-circle, his fist came up. It cuffed Araziah, the light tap enough to nearly daze him, and Zereth grabbed his shirt front and casually tossed him away, sending him flying two dozen feet to hit the right wall.

"Try again, whelp." Unmoving, the paladin stood where he was, hands now squeezing into sizeable fists, thick arms and broad shoulders generating an imposing silhouette against the gentle orange torchlight glow. "The god is with me. You are denied his grace."

Climbing upright, Araziah wiped a droplet of blood from his lip and lifted the blade again.

"Stop," he spat, "TALKING!"

Again, he teleported, the sword swinging in a lightning slash, and again, Zereth anticipated his arrival and simply took a step backward. His right hand came around in a rapid punch that struck the chest, launching Araziah a dozen feet away onto his back in the other direction. Struggling upright, he tried to comprehend how the paladin was so prescient, even as the larger dragon finally began to act.

His arm extended, and from the rear wall, formerly unnoticed, a shape sprang. A weapon flew to Zereth, thunk-ing firmly into his grasp, summoned by some personalised arcane enchantment. It was a lengthy two-handed bludgeon, only suited for warriors of brutish strength, and the paladin lofted it with ease in his right only. The long heavy black-metal haft was connected to a weighty obsidian cuboid head, the maul's end packing a considerable amount of blunt force when swung. It was crowned by fixed three-inch ruby spikes on each of the eight corners, pointing outward.

Then, Zereth charged.

Araziah was both quick and physically strong in combat, and the only dragon he had witnessed who could outdo him for speed was Sebby.

The paladin?

His acceleration was supernatural.

His power was a spectral dash. In the split-second before Zereth himself arrived, a ghost in his likeness, built of red light, sped forth along the intended trajectory. Then came the real thing, crossing the divide with the same inhuman celerity, a blur of brawn and native magic. Araziah teleported away again, back to the opposite side of the chamber, the paladin's almighty swing smashing into the newly-vacated floor so hard that it left an impact crater in the concrete.

Zereth whirled to face him, and without pausing, he was performing a second dash, the red dragon barely with a chance to move at all, before the shoulder barge connected and he was hurtled again into the wall. A follow-up charge was chained on, and the paladin drove forth across the remaining half dozen feet, the maul whipping around in a tight arc to slam into where Araziah's head had been just half a second before.

Rolling, the red dragon teleported halfway through the motion, yet again, to the other wall.

Barely able to breathe and recover his wits, his mind was racing as quickly as he could make it, knowing full well he had less than five seconds before Zereth would repeat it. The larger dragon was already pulling the maul free from the crumpled mess of the wall's impact depression, and Araziah understood his opponent would keep doing this. It would happen over and over and over, until Araziah was out of energy, cornered, unable to evade and run, but still, there was a bigger question remaining.

Zereth had reacted to his teleportation as if he already understood where it would go.

He didn't need to check for the end point, he simply knew.


Araziah delayed his response, waiting until the last second to counter the next incoming attack. The anger that coursed through him was immense, and his instincts to commit brutality and give himself over to a frenzy had never been stronger, but he kept that monumental fury in check. Power used improperly, directed badly, was useless and impotent. It was a lesson he had learned from Sebby's quiet observations, and he had taken it to heart.

So, he used every moment to see it for himself -- the dash attack in action.

Again, Zereth charged.


The red phantom flew his way past the pedestal, the paladin following right behind it like an armoured projectile. He zapped across the width of the chamber in a heartbeat, and Araziah teleported again, to a different spot along the rear wall, but not before the tail end of the maul's swing clipped him. His left shoulder jolted from the hit, and after arriving he knew it was heavily grazed just from the merest glancing of Zereth's blow. One of the spikes had gouged a line up to his neck. He could feel the liquid trailing, the trickle of it over his collarbone, but he did not flinch.

First blood.

It was a wound, more than superficial but not enough to be serious.

But ... in exchange for the risk, he had learned something.

He felt the magic in the paladin's unique power -- and he recognised it. The thrum of it, the way the background field about it pulsed, the interaction of the lens' ambient energy with the unique vibrations of the dash.

It was identical to his own.

Their abilities were both born from the same bubble of arcane chance. It was a compatibility that made the paladin's exclusive strength even stronger against him, specifically. Such a skill was already powerful, but in this particular circumstance, the paladin was wholly suited for opposing what Araziah could do.

So, if he could sense Zereth's spectre, that meant Zereth was sensing the same thing in him.

A phantasm, indicative of the immediate future and the place he would arrive -- by teleportation.

Was that it?

He forced himself to stand straight, the blade keen and sharp in his hand, and stare at the paladin. Past the shell, to the interior, through the flesh.

There had to be something more.

Zereth turned again, flicking the liquid off the solid obsidian head, the droplets sprinkling the floor. He raised it up, still one-handed, the weight of it nothing to his physical stamina. "Come, give your best! I will consecrate this ground with your BLOOD!"

He threw the maul overhand, the hefty bulk of the weapon scything through the air like an oversized throwing axe. Araziah ducked down and left, the maul smashing into the wall at an angle, sending shards flying with a splintering crack, before it was reversing, recalled back to its master's hand. The moment he had it, Zereth leaped, his dash an aerial charge, and instead of teleporting, Araziah simply dipped, wheeling in a low circle under the wide swinging strike. His sword blade sliced Zereth's right calf as he landed, but the paladin reversed the maul's haft in a defensive block that also hit his chest, knocking him aside.

Undeterred, still close, Araziah dodged in, around the larger dragon's body, making the most of the maul's disadvantage at close quarters, to regain his upright balance. The paladin swapped his weapon to the left hand as he whirled on the spot, both vying for supremacy in the combative dance. Araziah made it properly to his feet, and his next blow was high, hoping to land a slice on the shoulder or arm while Zereth got his bearings, but also to reveal something, anything, about what he faced.

To see an opening, an ethereal window.

His swing struck the maul's haft, again used to block, just nicking Zereth's fingers where they wrapped around it, and the paladin struck back swiftly in the opening, punching Araziah in the face with his right fist. The hit was concussive, but the red dragon was steadfast, now properly bracing himself. He shrugged it off, his constitution absorbing the enormous force, and in answer rammed his head forward and upward. Butting into the bridge of Zereth's nose, the paladin recoiled in surprised pain, immediately shoving Araziah backwards off his feet with a hasty sweep of the maul-brandishing arm.

Disengaged, separated for a few seconds, there was a lull. Zereth wiped the blood from around his eyes, and he began to laugh, a deep resounding peal of ... happiness.

Before him, Araziah lay, at first wounded and weakening, but climbing back to his knees, he was in a better place.

Still outmatched, but now ... enlightened.

In the brief moment when their skulls collided, he had felt it, seen it. The spectre of Zereth's power was in potential when not in use, inside the body.

Just as his own was.

Dormant, awaiting the next activation of their power.

It was something he could touch.

All he needed was to disarm the paladin.

Just for a single moment.

"You have her courage, little one." Zereth swapped the maul casually from left back to right, the preferred hand, his biceps bulging under the material as he tilted the weapon in his grasp. "You persevere longer than most, but you cannot run. The great war has brought you here, and it demands you fight me to possess this artifact. Thus will you fail and die, as all your family have before you."

Pushing himself to his feet, Araziah stood defiant.

He did not speak.

Create an opening.

In a flurry of zig-zag strokes, he aggressively jabbed forward at Zereth's left flank. The larger dragon anticipated it, dodging back in time to the thrusting movements, but at the final mark Araziah feinted to the other side of Zereth's body. The attack was reckless, leaving him open to the paladin's counter, which slapped the bastard sword clean from his hand with minimal effort. Zereth followed through with a cuffing, the blow sending Araziah to the ground, prone once more.

Yet, before it was lost, the tip of the bastard sword reached where he aimed it -- a slice into Zereth's left wrist.

The paladin's hand spasmed from the cut. It was small, but enough to weaken his grip and have the loosened maul slip free. The weapon clanked onto the ground, the act of jettison propelling it to slide several feet away on the concrete.

"Child, you do not learn." Shaking his head, almost as if disappointed, Zereth held out his hand, to summon the maul once more, wearing an amused smile and a raised brow. "This is fate. You have no choice."

In the same moment, Araziah reached out, in an ethereal connection. Focusing, he touched the paladin's spectre, pulling it, and at the same time pushed his own to Zereth.

With a mental flourish, he swapped them.

There was the short sharp sound of teleportation, and the two dragons switched places.

The airborne maul landed in Araziah's right hand. Grabbing it with his other also, he swung it over his head two-handed, and brought it down onto Zereth's grounded form with a resounding crunch.

Eyes agog, the paladin could not move, but to stare down at his weapon, embedded a couple of inches through the extraordinary toughness of his draconic plating, into his own chest. His ribs and sternum were shattered, and the red dragon lifted the maul free, the spikes tearing out of the mulched flesh and bone, before tossing it well away from them, across the floor. Coming closer, Araziah knelt, his right hand simultaneously bursting into flame, a wealth of raw magic pouring into it from the bound emerald.

"I do not need a blade." The untamed energy coursed through his hand, his fist tougher than iron, denser than steel, a composition approaching diamond, the internalised wrath multiplying the potency. "My heart is fire, and that is enough."

Araziah struck the paladin's face, the first blow snapping it sideways, knuckles flaying through skin and flesh to the bone where it landed. The second strike broke the jaw in three places, teeth ripping free. He was raising his burning fist to pulverise the head in a final strike, when a sound rang out in his mind.

The voice.

Yes, my child!

Return him to me, and take his place.

Become what you were born for!

Burn him.

The red dragon stared down at the wrecked features of the paladin, mortally wounded and barely conscious, marred past speech and reaction.

He wanted to do just that.

But ... no.

Fate was his to write.

With fingers of adamantium, he grasped Zereth by the neck, his nails piercing through the human-form toughened skin as if it were paper. A dozen feet he dragged his enemy, crippled beyond any ability to resist, to the edge of the water.

There he held him, and leaned close.

"She lives in me," he whispered, his hand clenching, crushing the larger dragon's throat, rivulets of Zereth's blood streaming over his skin, spitting and hissing from the flames, "and I am free."

Araziah released him, and stood, watching as the choking enervated paladin, priest of the mad god, slipped into the water. He let gravity do the work, and Zereth was dragged over the edge and down by his own weight. His yellow eyes stared up in powerless horror, the remaining few seconds of his life fading as he submerged and sank.

He stayed observing until the remains of what had been the elder paladin were dissipating, the natural end stifled by the storage pool's liquid suffocation. Under water, there was nothing but a spreading mess of slickened carbonised slurry, a black cloud of it that separated, spreading like ink in the glassy idle.

With that done, Araziah turned and walked to the pedestal.

He thrust his right hand through the lens' membrane, the flames on it extinguishing at the same time. Plucking the core from within, he withdrew it, not standing on ceremony this time. On the attached panel, the corresponding rune morphed and dimmed, joining the inoperative earth lens, the other parts of the apparatus powering down in synch, the blue lines within it dwindling to specks.

Like the earth core, the water one was a two inch circle of precious stone, but this was a sapphire instead.

It was fully charged, redolent with the tang of gathered magic.


Bonding the sapphire to his left palm, he acclimated himself to the second cache of energy, adjusting his perceptions to place the new repository at his command.

Two were left.

The Conclave's advantage had been neutralised.

Now, he just had to find the avatar -- Michael or Mordred -- and help his friends to win.

But first, one last missing piece of knowledge was required from ... Darren.

Picking up the bastard sword from where it had fallen, and the maul from where he had discarded it, Araziah focused once more on Brookstone, and teleported away.



"I can't believe it. She wants the Conclave to succeed." I let go of the earpiece, Crawley's Beta team too engaged to hear my warning about the Tempest. "And Araziah- ... he's going to attack them."

"Can you see anything more?" Sebby was right next to me, both of us still crouched low behind the outermost circle of seats in the planetarium's amphitheatre. We were speaking very softly, keeping the fire dragons at the dais unaware of our presence. "Do you know how he will fare?"

"I- ... I'm not sure. I think he'll beat them, but, the visions I had before. There was so much fire." I shuddered, and tried to keep my head together. "I'm scared. Not for me, but-"

"Torsten. Hear me." He took my face in his hands and pressed his forehead to mine. "Araziah will be true to us no matter what, and as long as his fire burns, he will strive for our shared future. Yes?"

"Okay," I whispered.

"Be brave, my love. Our task is here and we must complete it. You fought through the Scourge with a skill like my own kin, swift and sharp. It was beautiful." His fingers stroked my ears and his nose touched mine. "I am so proud of you. Now, our team is dealing with the rest, but we must fight like that again, just the two of us. We cannot delay, for there is not much time. Focus on this room. What do your senses tell you?"

This room.

Nothing seemed to come to mind. I tried to trigger a vision, anything to clue me in to what we could expect. Michael's future remained unpredictable and unreadable, and the two dragons with him did not offer me much to go on either. The only thing I could tell was that they were median age, roughly two centuries each, fairly talented melee fighters, and ... mated.

Normally, with a tough mentality, but if one was to be injured ...

"I can't see anything useful about Michael, but, uh, his two guards? They're good at combining fire magic with weapons -- a blade maybe, like a curved short sword, and a whip? -- but they're also mates. I think, um, if we can wound one of them, the other one will become upset and get irrational and careless."

"Then I can probably kill both of them." He nodded, his hair brushing my skin. Even though his reassurance had turned to a tactical discussion, he had not let the embrace go. I didn't want him to either, wanting to stay touching him until we had to stop. "Michael is the biggest problem. His unique strength is to create a magical shield from his fingers. It can be held in place for protection, or projected outward and used to stun and push."

"Uh, can my lightning blade hurt him? Because I- ... I think I can probably dodge whatever he throws at me, but I've only used it on Scourge, not a dragon."

"Yes. You could kill him with it, if you got close enough to land a proper blow." Sebby drew in a breath of apprehension, his thumbs brushing my cheeks. "That is also the danger. Humans are fragile, and dragons are not. If he lays hands on you, he could hurt you even weaponless. I can shield your mind from their psychic control, but I cannot prevent physical injury."

"You won't have to. All we need to do is stop the lens, and if he's really the one, take the Fear. End him, if there's a chance."

"We shall. By her divine starlight and through my love for you, I swear it." He turned his head, kissing me for a second, his lips silky smooth. "The Celestial Mother has not deceived her children, not once in a hundred millennia. She will be with us to the end." He gave one last smile, as coy and flirtatious as ever. "Do not follow me, Torsten. I will distract them. You aim for him."

With that, his hand went onto the back of the seat next to us, and then he was vaulting over it, and down, toward the dais.


He skipped from row to row, the uprights of the seating narrow, but enough for his impeccable balance to manage. When he was at half the distance, perhaps twenty feet from the centre, all three fire dragons turned at once, their recognition piercing through his shroud of anonymity.

The sire said nothing, his glance callously dismissive before he returned his attention to the lens.

This was a job for his guards.

The two subordinates began to move in concert. Imitating Sebby, they crossed over the empty space to the first row, then with an agile jump each alighted onto the seating.

No words were exchanged.

Dancing backward, Sebby reversed course, but on a tangent, going across the planetarium's seating in a clockwise direction. He was moving away from both the access doors to the ballroom and managerial block, and towards the most distant side.

Away from where Torsten was.

They followed, spreading slightly so there was space between them. As he got nearer to the wall, he swung to face them, his pursuers three rows distant. The female stopped, unsheathing a scimitar from her hip with her right hand. Fire bloomed along the scimitar's length, and with a pulling motion from her left hand in the air, the fire bulged from the curve's salient into a duplicate of the weapon, but purely made of flame. Then again, twice more, until there were three floating in front of her.

At the same moment, the male dragon unfurled a whip from his belt. Once in hand, the black material lit up bright, transitioning into a golden red. Giving it a single experimental flex, he raised his arm for the initial attack.

Sebby backflipped, careening along the row as the whip snapped at air, an explosive burst of flame occurring at the point of the crack. The flame weapons darted forward, homing for him, the female following in their wake. Before they reached him, each flying at a different angle and elevation, with an illusory flicker, Sebby multiplied. Where there was one air dragon, there were two. Then two became four, and the mirages were splitting up, going in all directions, the real one indeterminate.

The female sliced through one, two of her flame summons stabbing a couple more, the elemental swords dissolving on contact with each mirage, dispelled. The real Sebby parried the last summon, then with a blast of wind vanquished it into a puff of smoke.

Once, twice, the whip cracked again, the male's aim deadly sure, flicking past his mate's form to where Sebby was, further along the circular seating. A snap landed on his wrist, and another on his shoulder, the explosive blast knocking him off balance, dagger sent tumbling. Scrambling up from between the seats, the female was just steps behind, then the whoosh of her blade swung for him, even as he was rising, weaponless, to evade. The blow smashed through the seats he was just standing on, the whip following through with another concussive snap that struck where he wasn't.

He made some more distance, retreating yet further along the back row, needing to keep away from either of the pair, yet keenly aware of his dagger's location. More than a dozen feet away on the floor, he could not retrieve it, and the female was wrenching her scimitar free from the smashed seating, her left hand moving in a repetition of the summoning, the flame weaponry about to be reborn. At the same time, a few feet directly behind her on the same row, the male was languidly coiling the whip, winding it properly, only moments from raising his arm for another ranged disruption.

Palming a shock orb, Sebby flicked it over the female, the little bundle of lightning bursting precisely in the male's face, stunning him before he could begin the motion. Then, rapidly, Sebby slammed his hands together, calling on the power of the gale, and the second the flame weapons popped into existence, he threw forth a hurricane-strength gust of air. For a second the weapons maintained form, but they collapsed, doused by the rushing wind, the female also buffeted by the strength of it. Losing balance herself, she slipped off her rows, and in the interim, Sebby skipped from seat to seat by her. A silver flash, he snatched up his dagger, and at the last second, purposefully veered to his left, raising his newly reacquired blade to receive the male's incoming attack.

The whip's lashing strike close, aimed as a direct hit to Sebby's body, only for the end to wrap around pure diamond instead.

A burst of electricity shot along the flaming material, zapping the wielder into another momentary enforced torpor, and then Sebby yanked with enhanced force. The whip coiled of its own magical accord, the pressure involuntarily relieved, and the combination of pulling and retraction made the male jerk forward through the air as if propelled. Catching him with the left hand by his shirt front, Sebby stabbed the physically-immobilised male in the abdomen three times, his gleaming blade still wrapped in the whip's fiery tendrils.

"YEEEAAARRRRGH!" She clambered upright, screaming her fury, and he dropped the dying gutted male, tearing his blade free from the whip's coils. Berserk, the female charged, leaping rapidly from row to row straight to him. Her swings were fast, but wide and reckless, and with a mental command, there were two, then four air dragons again. Enraged, her eyes heavy with a glowing red, unable to keep patience for divining what was real, she slashed aggressively and quickly at the mirror images. Curtains of magical fire spraying with each sweep from the scimitar's edge, and wheeling, she cut at them as they tried to advance; one in front, two to the left, a third on another angle. She turned, quick, able, striking at them as they dared her, fuelled by the fell anger that personified flame made flesh, and the wrath of a wounded fire child.

Until, the last clone, the real thing, struck from behind.

Appearing as if from nothing, Sebby was a silver ghost, materialising next to her outstretched sword arm. His blade jabbed in, embedding into her right side to the hilt, before it was out again, then up and through her neck in a blinding dual strike. Slobbering blood, she collapsed forward.

Wiping the glittering dagger, the air dragon turned his attention to the dais.

It was not yet over.


I waited until they were following Sebby before I moved.

Down the aisle, half crouched, I ran.

Rows of seats flashed by, and my pulse was pounding, palms sweaty, my shoulders and legs tense, as I approached where Michael was. A moment before I got close enough for him to see me, he looked up, unconcerned, to glance at where Sebby and his guards had begun to fight, before his notice came to me.

He turned, quizzical, and regarded me as I stepped onto the dais.

Just me and the sire of the Seventh House, the mastermind of the Conclave's war.

"The Wilde boy." He was undeniably handsome, the cut of his suit flattering his physical appearance, and his voice was so much like Theo's, but more mature, richer, deeper. It gave me goosebumps just hearing it, and a part of me wanted to listen to him speak for that reason, but I wasn't there to indulge my emotions. "Is the Order that desperate they send children to war?"

Don't say anything.

Don't be distracted.

Focus on his combat movements.

Nothing else.

I activated the lightning blade, the white light extending around my wrist and past my hand.

"Oh." His voice was soft at the sight of my weapon, and he raised his right hand, a sparkle of red light playing along his fingertips. "You mean business. Then, I shall treat you seriously."

With a flick of his wrist, a red shield shunted forward, and I sidestepped, dodged up the dais toward him. The left arm shot out, and a blast of fire spat from it in a continuous torrent that burst past my shoulder with a fwwoooosh as I approached.

Not fast enough.

I flashed past him, my arm slicing upward in a diagonal. The sire was twisting with me, but the tip of the lightning blade skimmed his ribs, cutting through the suit's material and into flesh.

Eyes wide, pivoting on the spot, I came about, not stopping.

I actually hit him!

The blue silhouette of precognition showed his right hand crossing his body, another defensive shield blistering out where I had just been. I was slashing down as I turned, circling him at the same speed, and the blade bit into his lower back, slicing into muscle and tissue.

Again, the precognition showed him spinning, ultra-quick, to face me, and a beam of fire shooting at my chest from his left hand. Ducking under it, I slid right, the blade following my arm across his body in a trailing gash that tore through the suit and his lower pectorals. Not quite fast enough, I could see the flicker of his other arm's intended grapple as I evaded.

It didn't catch me, but it was too close.

His glancing snatch bumped my arm, and I went off balance for a second, brought to a momentary halt. Lurching, I was left with no space to continue my combination dodging, and his next shield hit me full on, ramming my back into the pedestal.


He stepped in, his left hand extending, coming for my neck.

Kill him FIRST.

I rose, driving into his embrace, and stabbed the blade toward his chest.

His right hand grabbed my forearm, just shy of the bracer's junction, to block the blow. Not fully and not quickly enough, with an electric sizzle, the misaligned jab went right of the mark and instead sank deep into the flesh of his right shoulder.

With a grunt of pain, he yanked my arm and the blade out, and his fist squeezed my forearm, the bone breaking like matchsticks.


He turned me about, pushing me to my knees, and my face mashed against the side of the lens' pedestal as he held me there, now captive.


My right arm hung limp at my side, his hand gripping my neck in a chokehold that could end my life in a second if he chose to tighten it. With my left, I grasped at the rim of the pedestal, clawing onto it for any semblance of sanity and balance within the crippling agony of my fractured limb. All I could see was the ceiling of the planetarium, the backdrop against which was set the lens, a translucent sphere full of spinning rings of white energy, with a perfect sliver of diamond rotating at its heart.

All I could feel was the torment of broken bones.

"A human that moves like one of us. Well, almost." Michael's statement was directed to me, a note of fascination to it that I had managed to somehow evade and hurt him. Through the haze of distress, I could feel the next phrase spoken outward, his attention shifting to a new place. "Their innovations grow ever more inspired, don't you think?"

"Let him go. Unharmed."

Sebby's voice, a distance away. Out of the corner of my eye, restrained as I was, I could just see him, slowly approaching, about twenty feet away down one of the aisles.

He beat the guards.

So long as he's okay, it doesn't matter.

So long as he lives.

"And if I do not?"

"Then there will be no place in this world for you to run." His voice increased in volume as he came closer, and I knew he could not be more than a dozen feet from the dais. "Release him."

Close enough to strike, but not while Michael had me.

He can't. He won't.

"Why would I run now? What leverage do you have, sky child?"

My unfocused vision sharpened, and my eyes landed on what was in front of my face, in exhausted desperation.

The lens, and floating within, the diamond core.


With Michael's attention on Sebby, I slowly crawled my fingers up past the emitters, and plunged my left hand unceremoniously through the sphere's shell, into the lens itself. Ignoring the burning discomfort of the magic within, I snatched the core, tearing my fingers back out. Before he could do more than look down at my sudden movement, I was throwing the pilfered diamond with an awkward sprawling wrist-flick toss.

The air dragon reached out in a single dextrous swipe, and pulled it from the air.

"This." He snarled.

Sebby thrust his left arm to the ceiling.

The planetarium dome exploded, the roof erupting into twisted metal and concrete, a huge hole torn through it. Lightning was leaping earthward from the early evening sky to the diamond he held aloft, already flush with accumulated raw air magic. A cyclone of roiling air burst into the former stillness of the interior from above, drawn by the arcane summons, and Sebby's eyes were gleaming white light, his hair a shifting storm of silver, as he was lit up by the power of his goddess.

Michael shoved me aside, and I half-rolled half-slid along the dais steps to the floor, my injury spasming from the horrendous jostling hurt. His arms were raising to summon two defensive shields, that he held in front and above.

Sebby swung his arm horizontal, electricity crawling over his body in endless waves, and from the outstretched diamond shot a bolt, a continuous stream, that was searing bright. It struck Michael's shield, sparking and sizzling across the surface. The red glow intensified, boldening, and I could see the muscles in his arm tense from the strain as he held it steady. The air dragon began to walk around the dais so the pedestal was no longer in between, closing what was left of the distance. Like an image of Thor or the incarnation of some other pagan god of thunder, he approached the sire of the Seventh House, lightning streaming from him and dancing across and around him, dagger held ready.

"I see you, Erezuur." He stepped onto the dais, his voice as vibrant as what wreathed his form. "I am the Sword of the Heavens. I cannot allow you to live!"

The moment he stepped onto the dais, it was too much, too close, and Michael's defence failed.

The shield broke.

The jagged spire of elemental power slammed into Michael, the explosive shock of it launching him into the seats behind. He crashed through them, the power of it plowing him back three rows. Sebby did not stop, the barrage continuing onto the sire's grounded form, a stream of elemental rage that caused him to writhe on the ground.

Then, at that moment, a vision.

Something that made no sense, at all.


Is it- ... true?

It must be. It has to be.

I can't ignore my instincts, my sight.

Pulling myself up, I lurched to my feet, cradling my broken arm, and despite the fresh jolts of pain making it hard to concentrate, I called out to him.

"Sebby, you- ... you need to s-stop."

He turned his head to look at me, though the lightning stream continued from his hand.

"Stop! Please! You m-must stop!"

With a confused jerk, he pulled back, and the attack cut off.

"Torsten -- he is our enemy. He is their mastermind!

"I know!" I pleaded. "B-but he has to live. For whatever comes next, he has to live!"


More than Nero's attempt, more than Darren's, more than even Araziah, the psychic power that hit Lucy from Mordred was an outright assault on her senses. Each moment was a pounding fist that bashed against her skull, blow after blow in a tattoo that would not relent.

But, she held it back.

Remembering what she had done with Nero, how she knew something changed when she turned his compulsion against him, she fixated on that same sensation, tuning out the clamour of Mordred's attack.

The glove.

Like Nero's mind, she could feel the Grey Prince's psychic presence, the signature of his existence.

Somehow, she turned her hand and gripped the psychic force as if it were an object, sparks bursting around the gauntlet, the studded gems on it glowing brighter.

Then she inverted it with a whim, sending it right back to the source.

Mordred jerked where he stood, pinned, the stun turned on him.

"Get him!" She sputtered, taking all her focus to keep him immobilised. "I can't do this for long!"

Crawley took off running, B5 with him.

Lucy began to walk forward too, briskly, her fingers clenched at air, squeezing with all her might to keep the pin in place.

The other two sprinted down the foundry floor.

Past the crumbling burning remnants of Marcello.

Past the damaged furnaces and crucibles.

To the spirals of molten metallic fire.

The moment before they reached the outer edge, Mordred broke free.

"NO!" He boomed. In fury, the psychic force was redirected into the lens, and like a gasoline onto a bonfire, a nova of mental energy exploded outwards, stunning both closer humans and dropping them to the ground. "You will all BURN!"

He banged a fist onto the pedestal, then yanked like he was pulling upward, his hand opening. All around, a thin curtain of liquid metal rose vertically, climbing fifteen feet in the air. With a circular twist of his hand, it spun and flew outward in all directions, coating everything nearby.

She tried to cancel the magic, the force that pushed and pulled the fire within the metal to make it move. Near Crawley, she succeeded, the spray diverting to the ground, landing in front of him and to the sides.

She could not save B5.

The loyal soldier fell, smothered in it, in seconds burned beyond recognition.

Crawley was rising. He had Poe's bolt launcher, and it was fitted with a projectile. He aimed it, not having the time to pinpoint the shot, and fired at first opportunity. Twice the distance away still, Lucy shot the gauntlet's beam at the Grey Prince. At the same time, Mordred tapped a rune on the pedestal, and a red bubble sprang up around the dais.

The bolt arrived first, impacting into the dragon's ribs. The beam struck the shield, doing nothing.

Grunting, he pulled the bolt out of his flesh, and tossed the bloodied dart angrily to the floor, and turned fully, aligning himself with the lens.

"Your time is UP!" The Grey Prince put his left hand on the lens' surface. With his right, he withdrew an object from his robe's vest pocket, and held it up, in his fingers.

The Fear.

"Through me, he lives again!"

As if in answer, there was the shrieking cacophony of tearing metal, and the rear wall behind Mordred burst open. A great shape rammed through it, horns and head first, forelimbs ripping the gap wide so the rest could follow.

A blue shape.

Looming over the dais, the water dragon Viktor roared his entrance.

I come to redeem the ocean's folly! The war ends, NOW!

Rearing, he exhaled, a massive torrent of arctic cold raining down on the spiral and the fire dragon under the shield. Gouts of steam flew, the air filled with mist as fire and ice collided, but the bubble was not damaged enough, and within it, Mordred stood defiant.

"You are too late. The end has come!"

With that, the Grey Prince turned his focus to the fire lens, and began to chant in an unknown language.


In a blink, he was there, in Brookstone.

Araziah strode up to the captive, and held the bloodied maul in front of his face. Shocked, Darren stared; at his uncle's weapon, at the merest injuries Araziah possessed, at the bound lenses, at the fell mood and aura of seeming limitless magic.

He began to laugh.

The red dragon tossed the maul to the ground, and put the bastard sword to Darren's throat.

"I killed Zereth, I slaughtered Scourge, and I took the ritual's power source. Why," he hissed, "do you laugh at your own defeat?! You have failed to turn me."

"Because," Darren rasped, the edge nearly cutting his skin, "you have played your part perfectly. I could not have hoped for anyone better than you."

"And when," Araziah snarled, "I go to Mirrorvale to kill your brother and cousin, and finish this, will it matter? You are about to lose, Darricus."

"If you go to aid them, your friends will die. All of them -- they will burn in a firestorm of your making." He glared at the red dragon. "I know this."

"Then give that knowledge you promised," the sword pressed in, cutting a tiny nick, a trickle of blood, "and speak quickly."

"Mmmph. It's time." Darren agreed, and he began to talk, but fast, the formal cadence done with, the pressure urging him on. "Took us a while to realise why you think Michael is the one. Eventually, we understood. The human year, 1952; the Order thought it was the season's end, but, it wasn't. Like the tides, ours is a cycle. We celebrate the middle, the zenith, the highest point. The last two hundred years it was waxing, but, since then ... the season is waning."

Araziah knew what this meant.

Their estimation of the time frame was out by two hundred years.

Michael was too old.

"Is that it? The great secret you are withholding from me?" He snorted, in derision and anger, the blade pressing even closer. "We knew that already. Michael is just the sire, and the Grey Prince is the real avatar."

"Yes, we knew it too -- Mordred's role in our future -- until we didn't."


"You know what my power is? What I can do?"

"Telelocation." Araziah answered. "What of it?"

"Yes. Upon touching any bodily fragment, any possession, I gain absolute knowledge of the owner's location. Triskeleth's scale led us to her capture. A fragment of yours is how my cousins attempted their assassination, how Nero knew where to ambush you at the underground base." Darren paused, and took a deep breath, heedless of the trickling blood from the shallow cut in his neck. His eyes gleamed in a faint red glow, and his voice took on a strange dire tone. "And now, finally, we come to what matters. You see, when I held the Fear in my hand, do you know what I saw? What I felt?"


"Live?" Sebby stared at me, then back to Michael, who was slowly sitting up, his body smoking from electrical burns, battered but still breathing. "They are on the verge of losing! They no longer have the catalyst! How can we let him live?"

"I saw it! He needs to survive!"

"I am not your foe, sky child. There is another enemy." The sire croaked his interjection, clambering to his feet. "This boy, this- ... seer-" He paused, his eyes widening, as he realised what I was, his insight piercing the mysterious confusion around my supernatural ability, informing him. "-he understands. He knows what must be done. The price is terrible, but justice -- justice is the only way."

With a fatigued wave of his arm, Michael summoned a fresh shield, bracing it, and with fists clenched, he began to chant in a foreign language.

The counter-incantation.

Right then, I was visited by another vision, triggered by the sound of those words.

A vision that unravelled what was left of the enigma surrounding the ritual and its outcome.

All at once, I saw what had happened.

What I was responsible for.

I fell to my knees, in disbelief.

The truth was overwhelming.


Months earlier, outside Mirrorvale.

Leaning against a cave wall, an exhausted teenager, Torsten Wilde, was falling asleep. Buds in his ears, music playing. Backpack on the cave floor. A box in his lap, open, an array of precious stones in it. A sliver of ruby in his hand, held loosely in his fingers.

His eyes closed, and he slipped into unconsciousness.

His fingers slackened, and the ruby slid out, rolled on the jeans material and fell off the curve of his knee, to the rocky vesicles below.

For a few seconds it lay there, inert.

Then, it began to glow with pulses of warm red light.

A heat was emitting, and at the same time, cracks were forming along the ruby. At first tiny, they spread like a web, the heat and light growing along with the fracture. With a soft metallic tinkle, the ruby shattered, the splinters themselves breaking down further, fragmenting smaller and smaller until it was no more than a fine sparkling crystalline dust, spread over the rock beneath. The magical warmth remained, but it was sinking through the stony crust into the interior.

Within, the divine essence, released from the ninth shard of the Fear, embedded itself.

Within, the latent egg of Kitrax's daughter was kindled, and the fiery spark of life began.


"The Fear was empty, because our god already had you. It was you I saw. YOU." Darren shook his head. "You carry him. You were never meant to be a champion, nor a servant, nor a lord. Everything was a twisting path that always led here. You never had a choice. This is what you are, and now ... now you will kill me, and I die knowing you will become what you swore to defeat. For Thyndorag, that is my revenge."

Araziah did not hesitate.

He pushed the bastard sword forward, and it cut all the way through Darren's neck, decapitating him.

Casting the blade aside, the turned to the office window, emotions absent.

He felt nothing.

Was everything he believed a lie?

He could not go to Mirrorvale.

He could undo nor stop what was seconds away.

Empty of anything else, he could only think of Torsten, and Sebby.

For them, he would conquer this, in whatever way he could.

He had to.

Leaping forward, he smashed through the window, transforming in the air, and rose, wings beating furiously, above Brookstone.


From the ocean's chains, you are unbound.

From the eternal twilight, you are summoned.

Through the walls of night, you return.

The way is open, and you are free.


The fused cores attached to him activated, as he flew up, higher, above the town.

The incantation was done.

The barrier pierced.

His own heat multiplied a thousand-fold, a million times, and the divine essence filled his body, crossing from the shadow realm to the reality of Earth.

From end to end, it empowered him.

He grew, physically, a dozen times over.

What was scores of feet expanded, becoming hundreds, then thousands.

Bone, ruby, flesh, magic, claw and fang, fire; they stretched and bloomed, attaining the stature of a titan returned to true form.

Wings were blotting out the setting sun, a silhouette now obscuring the horizon, and the red dragon drew forth the last of the banished aspect, the full measure of it melding to him.

In that moment, it was completed, the potential becoming real, and the nucleus within flared, the match struck.

A nova of fire exploded outward, the resurrection achieved.

It swept across the entire town, and on, for several miles.

Every living thing in Brookstone was killed, the buildings turned to flaming wreckage.

Above, finally released, in full control of his destiny for the first time, Araziah, the Spirit of Fire and god reborn, roared an earth-shattering roar to the unsuspecting world.

There isn't much left for me to say here apart from: It was always going to end this way ... but this ISN'T really the end.

There is more to come, and all the arcs of this story that are in motion will continue. Just not in this book.

Please turn the page, dear readers! The epilogue awaits.

Copyright © 2017 Stellar; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 11
  • Love 9
  • Wow 3
  • Angry 1
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

Open Club · 42 members · Last active

A fan club for Stellar to chat about his stories

You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

On 12/29/2019 at 4:01 PM, centexhairysub said:

Truly an epic chapter, so many revelations and yet so much left undone.  

Thank you!

Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information?
    Sign Up
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..