wandered through the halls of the Dark Fortress, untouched by
tricksters – they were concentrating most of their power to the
main battlefield. He knew they were there, though; he could feel
their eerie, looming presence all around – strongly enough to
persuade him to postpone the carrying out of his penitence to a
later date. Instead, he decided he could help the Caldorian army
on the front lines… if he could ever find them. It was times
like these he wished he hadn’t gambled away the magic faery
sight ring he got while rescuing Princess Irriaptu of the
from the clutches of a powerful trickster lord.
the floor rippled in a series of hazardous waves that knocked him
off his feet. Laying flat on his back, he felt the ground tremble
beneath him. The mercenary quickly scrambled up to avoid the
deadly stalagmite that erupted from the stone, and then zigzagged
between several more that shot forth. He drew his sword and
scanned the chamber warily.
materialized a few feet away, a maniacal grin on his face. “How
does it feel to be the hunted?” he gloated.
eyes now locked on his target, Kadro made a run for the thief,
dodging pelted rocks and jumping over growing spikes on the way.
The boy didn’t even flinch as the warrior hacked the sword
straight through his body, only dissipated in a swarm of giggling
bats. The mercenary waved his weapon about wildly as they flew
past and melted into the walls. Kadro lowered his sword and looked
you are a devil spirit like the stories claim!” Kadro
cackling resounded throughout the room. “Only a weak-willed fool
would mistake an illusion for my physical form!” the thief said
from somewhere within the bricks, his voice coming from all
directions at once.
then come out and fight fair, traitor!” the mercenary demanded.
dare call me a traitor!?” Lowak bellowed. The floor
acquired a growing slope. The walls shook as their bricks
dislodged and rolled along the incline towards the bounty hunter.
“You are the traitor! I know that you conspired against
me with Lakai.”
Kadro asked, doing his best to evade the landslide, “What are
you talking about??”
you think I’m blind?!” Lowak shrieked, slanting the ground so
sharply that it dropped the mercenary flat on his stomach.
watched as the walls around him fell away, revealing the panorama
of night sky as far as the eye could see. He felt himself sliding
along a floor that was quickly becoming vertical and he
frantically pawed for any handholds he could find but they slipped
from his grasp. He landed roughly on a ledge and regained his
footing. No, no longer a
floor, he realized, but a sheer mountainside. Below him were
nothing but clouds, above him was a snow-capped peak upon which
stood a tall, perfectly toned woman leaning upon a quarterstaff.
Her beautiful face was as cold and indomitable as landscape.
gaped at her with recognition, for this was none other than
Sarandi, eldest Princess of the
whom he had tracked all the way to the Valley of the Winds. A
Princess who did not wish to be found, and repaid his efforts by
throwing him off a cliff and leaving him for dead.
minute you’re positively against joining the foreigners,” she
said in Lowak’s voice, “Then Lakai pulls you off to some room
to talk – alone – and you come out eager to join out of the
goodness of your heart? Do you think I got to where I am by being
blinked, trying hard to sort through the dissonance in his head.
“We-we didn’t talk a-abou–” he began.
would hand me over to Germane!” she cut him off, “Do you even
know Germane?! He is a monster! He… well why do I need to
explain? I can show you! I can make you feel a lifetime of pain in
a single second!”
could feel the outcrop giving way under his weight. The only
option he saw before him, however unlikely, was to reach the woman
and somehow undo the illusion. He pushed off with all his might
and climbed up along the frozen surface of the mountain, digging
into the crushed ice for handholds. Already he could feel his
fingers becoming numb, and he gritted his teeth to keep them from
chattering. His blind tenacity was fueled by years of anguish, for
Sarandi was responsible for what he had become. The last and
nearly fatal straw on a pile of broken dreams. Though Kadro
understood her to be a mere projection of his memories, the pain
that festered inside him was very real.
mercenary’s predicament seemed to amuse the false Sarandi and
she even started walking towards him. “I will not bore you with
my fears,” she teased as she drew closer, “Not when your own
are so apparent. Is this what you are afraid of? Being lost,
alone, forgotten in an abandoned gorge?”
Kadro fought for every inch of ground with every bit of strength
he had, skidding and catching himself with every missed grip, the
woman’s strides were as nimble as walking on air. Soon she
towered over his prone form so that his eyes had to trace their
way up the length of her shapely body before they met her face.
is it the sense of betrayal that terrifies you?” she asked, and
kicked him squarely in the face before he could reply, “Of being
punished for your kindness by those you try to help?”
tumbled away several yards, grabbed hold of a rock only to have it
come loose, ripped through a patch of dry roots, and would have
flown right off the edge of a cliff had he not latched onto its
rim in the last second of his descent.
laughter sent tremors through the mountain. “They say that if
you die in your dream you die in the waking,” he called down to
the mercenary, “Do you think that’s true?”
scrambled onto the protrusion and opted to change the subject.
“You betrayed your friends because of–”
have no friends,” the voice told him.
they protected you! They stood up for you! They–”
HAVE NO FRIENDS!!” Lowak shot back, launching ominous streams of
snow trickling down from the mountaintop. He then continued in a
dull, dejected tone, “Whether they were my friends then or not,
I have no friends anymore. THAT IS WHAT I MUST DO TO SURVIVE!!”
can redeem yourself! You can win their trust again!”
am beyond redemption,” Lowak assured him, “Least of all by the
likes of you.” The streams of snow were flowing into rivers
strewn with boulders, swallowing everything in their path. The
puppet that bore Sarandi’s image dissolved to the winds in a
delicate gust of snowflakes.
is a way!” Kadro exclaimed, all too familiar with what came
next, “Hear me out!”
DO YOU CARE ABOUT ME?!” Lowak’s voice boomed and echoed
everywhere at once. Massive sheets of ice broke away from all
sides and shattered as the whole mountain seemed to come apart in
a gigantic avalanche.
right!!” Kadro cried in utter desperation a moment before the
tumultuous wave of snow, ice, and debris swept him away. Inside
was a whitewashed blur that drowned out all sound beyond its
chaotic din. It spun him around, twisting his body, filling his
mouth and nostrils, slamming and battering him against the ground.
And then reality was swirling along with him until he was rudely
discarded onto the equally illusory stone floor of the Dark
tried to get up but fell over from dizziness. He curled into a
fetal position, shivering and struggling to catch his breath.
“You’re absolutely right!” he said between gasps, “I care
nothing about you. I am just a heartless, selfish bastard who sees
others only for what they are worth to my pockets.”
rolled over and lifted himself off the ground. “Much like
you,” he pointedly remarked.
low rumble in the background told him such remarks were unwelcome.
you know what?” Kadro quickly added, “While you’re playing
cat and mouse with me, the only ones that gave a damn about you
are out there getting slaughtered by your pets!”
this boy the mercenary saw an opportunity to atone for his
misdeeds by using the tricksters as a force for good, perhaps even
helping his Caldorian allies at the same time. “You seem to have
a knack for manipulating this castle,” he explained, “You can
use your talents to help out on the battlefield like nobody else
can. You can win their war for them! Who could question where your
loyalties lie after that?”
in it for you?” the boy inquired, his tone dripping with
on their side, remember?” Kadro laughed, “We are here fighting
for our own continent, as well – to free it from Onedia’s
tyrannical rule. Did she not murder your parents?”
in it for you?” Lowak repeated coolly.
implicit accusation hit Kadro like a slap across the face. It was
true, such noble ambitions were but a dim memory to him now. He
made no secret that the corruption of Onedia’s reign had proven
profitable for him. He had no answer to the boy’s question.
Though his thoughts were too tangled to make much sense, he was
too nervous to stop talking and blurted out the first thing that
came to mind.
is looking rather bleak for our side right now, but you can change
that! You could be a hero! Why I bet even all the bounties on you
would be dropped!”
knew he was sounding more unconvincing with each word, knew he was
a sentence away from getting squashed like an insect, and he
simply gave up. “You don’t have to trust anything I say, Lowak.
When it’s all over you can take off! Disappear without a trace!
But please…” he whimpered, downright begged at this point,
“You couldn’t save your sister. I know that and I’m sorry.
But you can save your friends!”
was a long pause that chilled Kadro to the bone and left him
feeling very powerless indeed. Whether out of satisfaction, pity,
guilt, or a genuine desire to help, Lowak finally agreed.
the disembodied voice told him, and the Kadro could hardly believe
have to lead us to the battlefield, of course,” said the
mercenary, a heartfelt smile widening across his face.
walls parted in reply, forming one deep, straight tunnel.
Dinictis followed Aloquin into a vast, domed cavern. It was
murky, since the only light source there was the vortex that
hovered at the center, its corona shimmering with all the colors
of the rainbow. The portal’s pulsations have since accelerated
to a pervading hum that filled the air with an electric quality.
danced into the room and inhaled deeply. “Can you sense that?”
he exclaimed, delighting in how the subtle vibrations of the
vortex felt against his skin, “That is the essence of an Earth
Dragon being born! Isn’t it exhilarating?”
quite,” Dinictis replied, trying to hide her uneasiness,
“Though the prospect of getting rid of you once and for all
excites me more.”
course,” the god smiled enigmatically, “One on one at last!
I’ve been dreaming of this every waking moment of my
goddess flashed him a wry grin.
know the rules,” Aloquin stated, “First to get the other into
the big shiny portal wins. Shall we begin?”
suppose,” she folded her arms in boredom.
on, then,” the wizard teased, “Take your best shot!”
smirked, lifted one of her hands and zapped a fiery arrow in his
stopped it with the palm of his hand and chuckled, “You can do
better than that!”
sorceress rolled her eyes, unfolded her arms and shot a stream of
fire at her twin.
you’re getting the hang of it!” the god clapped, moving out of
the missile’s way, “My turn.” He called on the powers of
storm, feeling them course through his body like a refreshing
breeze and burst from his fingertips as a great gust of wind. It
swept his adversary off her feet and sent her flying into the air.
stabilized herself by casting a levitation spell, brushing away
the half-hearted attack with a wave of her hand.
left the ground, as well, and drifted over to the other side of
the portal. “Are you ready?” he asked, his voice resounding
off the cavernous walls as he spoke.
dusted herself off and floated towards him.
Kadro raced through the corridor that Lowak was actively
shaping out of the Dark Fortress. Soon they stumbled upon the
colossal battlefield. The tricksters were still wreaking havoc on
the Caldorian armies, and though a minority of soldiers gathered
enough courage to combat the illusory assaults, most were overcome
by their own fears.
surveyed the chaotic scene from safely within the walls. “How do
I know which ones to attack?” he inquired of the mercenary.
see the people the tricksters are attacking now?” Kadro pointed
into the fray, “Tell them to attack the other side!” He
expected some kind of response to the blatant sarcasm, but merely
sensed the thief’s presence withdraw from him.
mighty tremor shook the full expanse of the immense battleground.
The tricksters fell silent, their manifestations melting back into
the floor. All fighting stopped as the opposing armies pondered
what to make of this divine intermission. The Caldorian troops
braced themselves for what they believed to be a second, more
devastating wave of attacks, while the Kayintas soldiers murmured
to each other in confusion.
ominous tension was broken by a resurgence of movement. One
Caldorian fighter felt the ground shift beneath her and prepared
for the worst, only to find the nearest foe impaled by a rocky
spire in her stead. A few more surprised enemy soldiers got
crushed by falling boulders, others got sucked screaming into the
floor. Under Lowak’s direction, the tricksters have turned their
powers against Kayintas, assailing the army with all the horrors
they had previously wrought on Dinictis’ troops.
the hint, Kadro dashed into the thick of battle, attacking those
whom the castle was attacking.
had been worried for the dwindling Caldorian armies – their
morale had been exponentially plummeting. But this new development
brought a smile to his face, for he saw the reawakening of hope in
their demeanor. “The Forestside team has proved useful after
all,” the Acora muttered.
who was still being dragged around by the dark elf, had
essentially recovered from his wound. But the tricksters had felt
the power of his regenerative shield, and in their efforts to
dishearten the West Forest army, kept him in a state of perpetual
sleep. Due to their changed priorities, however, the cantrip had
been lifted, and the Chief Commander was starting to stir. His
heavy eyelids cracked open and he peered at the outside world.
“What’s going on?” he asked the Acora in a hoarse whisper.
tide has turned!” the dark elf answered, “It looks like
Acleito blinked several times to clear up his vision. He slid off
Lynn and tried to stand on his own, but felt lightheaded and
dizzy, swooned, and was caught by the Acora. Acleito recuperated
quickly and clutched at his head wound, touching it through layers
of blood-matted locks. “My hair must look like a mess,” he
smiled reassuringly at the concerned dark elf.
tricksters appear to have switched sides,” Lynn told him,
raising him to his feet and holding him steady.
would they do that?” the Chief Commander asked.
not entirely sure,” he slowly, thoughtfully replied.
flashed him a weird look, not yet used to the Acora’s apparent
lack of knowledge.
I’ll find out!” Lynn added with a sly grin. He handed Acleito
back the haste boots, Horn of Telepathy, and faery sight scimitar,
“Will you be alright on your own?”
think so,” the Chief Commander nodded, feeling confident enough
to lean away from the dark elf’s support. He managed to keep his
balance this time, and even succeeded in taking a few tentative
luck, Commander,” Lynn gave Acleito a crisp salute, “If things
stay as they are, you should have no problems – and I’ll make
sure they do!” The Acora winked and ran off, heading for the
inner tunnels through the crowd that scattered out of his way.
watched him leave, then turned his attention to his soldiers. He
could not believe his eyes as he gazed into the ensuing carnage
– the tricksters truly had gone against the Kayintas army.
Picking up his horn, he shouted as loud as he could, “Stop
attacking the tricksters!!”
the castle on their side, and their Chief Commander back in
action, Caldorian morale was soaring.
were not looking good for Kayintas. Kowhani and Ni’Atami were
pressed back to back, fending off a number of opponents at once.
No matter what happened, Kowhani was determined to fight for her
beloved deity. Her faith in the Warrior Spirit’s might was
strong – the God of War was behind them, they could not lose!
She clung to the hope that he would come back and rescue them.
when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, Yugashii thundered
onto the scene, with Raven and Aurora behind him. Kowhani was
overjoyed to see her deity return, but that excitement was
short-lived, transforming into terror when the god ruthlessly tore
through her fellow fighters in an ecstatic dance of death,
shearing them aside like overgrown weeds.
was the last straw. Kowhani was not in this war for Aloquin,
Onedia, political ideals, or even friendship; her loyalties were
to her god and her god alone. Now her god had changed sides, and
she was obliged to follow.
Warrior Spirit has turned against Kayintas,” Kowhani told the
half-goblin, deflecting an overhead slash from one of the Nastran
okay, Aloquin won’t abandon us,” he replied absently, too busy
with his own attackers.
words stung her deeply. Not only were they blasphemous towards
Yugashii, but they also showed that her friend had no intention of
switching sides. ‘Friend,’ what an odd way to refer to her
lifelong partner. The Warrior Spirit taught that in order to gain
his favor, one must renounce all vulnerability. The weak found
safety in numbers, but the strong believed in the power of one,
relying on no one but themselves for the realization of their
attachments inevitably lead to the downfall of their initiator.
Friends in particular were weaknesses waiting to be exploited.
Even if one rid oneself of fear and became self-sufficient,
friends were still sentimental ties that often got in the way of
desired objectives. They could be taken hostage, held for ransom,
skewer set priorities, cause much unnecessary stress, and, of
course, they could betray you. A true warrior could not have
distractions in order to be able to strike without hesitation.
was her enemy. No, more than that. The very fact that she was
hesitating right now proved he was a weakness and a distraction,
and what better way to demonstrate the extent of her enduring
loyalty to her bloodthirsty deity than to sacrifice to Yugashii
that which she cared for most in the whole world. She didn’t
want to kill the half-goblin, and that is precisely why she had
sensed an iron sword cut cleanly through his chest from behind.
Since they were fighting back to back, he knew the attack could
only have come from one place. “Traitor!” the half-goblin
gasped, his lungs filling up with blood.
felt excruciating pain as Kowhani pulled him closer along the
weapon’s edge and drew back his head. “I am no traitor,” the
woman said coldly, “Aloquin lost.” She watched the light go
out from his eyes and let him slide off her blade.
dropped the sword and displayed her empty hands in a gesture of
amity before the shocked Nastran soldiers. “Friends,” she
fighters exchanged surprised glances and cautiously backed off.
picked up Ni’Atami’s faery metal weapons and smeared his blood
onto her face to match Yugashii’s war paint. She watched the
floor swallow up his corpse, burying the last remnants of her
half-elf swung her new blades around, becoming accustomed to the
fluidity of their movements. It seemed as though her entire life
had been working up to this very moment: she had irrevocably
chosen her destiny, dedicating herself completely and utterly to
the God of War. She had passed his test and he had rewarded her
with these marvelous swords. Confident in the deity’s favor, she
set out to try her new toys against the Kayintas fodder.
When Jason finally made it to the great cavern that housed
the vortex, the battle between Dinictis and Aloquin was already in
full force. He cautiously hid behind a prominent rock formation
and gripped Caldor’s Fang tightly, waiting for an opportune time
warmth seared through Dinictis’ being as she called on the
powers of flame. The goddess released the energy, raining a
blazing shower of fire and brimstone on Aloquin.
wizard’s blood ran freezing cold as he invoked the powers of
frost, raising a solid barrier of ice to neutralize the scorching
downpour. He watched the blistering lumps sizzle harmlessly
against the shield before shattering the icy shell into a hundred
jagged pieces. The god then sent the shards whooshing towards his
adversary with a calculated blast of wind.
swiftly erected a wall of earth to stop the bombardment. She
called on the powers of water, feeling them flow through her body
like a revitalizing mountain stream. The liquid gushed out from
the tips of her fingers, crumbling the barricade and washing the
large earthen chunks towards her opponent.
sorceress hoped the current would carry him closer to the portal,
but Aloquin had other ideas. He deftly flew over the rushing river
and riposted the attack by zapping a streak of lightning into the
recoiled from the sting of the electric shock and reflexively
worked to weave together the astral shield that sprung up as an
incandescent barrier of shifting colors all around her. Aloquin
gathered enough energy to shoot a second lightning strike at his
twin, but the electricity merely snaked across the etheric
membrane and fizzled out of existence. Dinictis cast a heal spell
on herself and dismantled her shield, flinging the raw power of
the barrier at the wizard in a blinding flash of light.
brightness did indeed disorient Aloquin, and the goddess used this
chance to launch at him a concentrated tornado that spun him about
and out of the air. He landed roughly on the ground, scowled at
Dinictis, and rolled out of the way of a hurtling fireball the
size of a horse that broke into burning embers upon impact with
the floor. The god was back up and flying in no time.
the two of them were absolute equals, and there was a long way to
go before any decisive victory could be determined.
Onedia sat in the meditation chamber, her essence blending
with that of the Dark Fortress. She focused her attention on the
battlefield, guiding her trickster minions in exterminating the
Caldorian armies. But ever so slowly, somewhere in the back of her
mind, she sensed her power over the castle ebbing away. The
goddess had previously dismissed such trends as natural
fluctuations in the astral plane. However, when her connection to
the battleground was abruptly severed, she knew something had gone
Mistress of Illusions stormed out of the meditation chamber,
stalking through her domain towards the source of the disturbance.
The citadel opened up passageways for the tempestuous goddess
until it led her to a chain of illuminated hallways. Sylvia danced
through them like a black shadow, humming a song of summons that
penetrated every nook and cranny of the castle.
do you think you’re doing?!” Onedia snarled.
girl stopped singing and leisurely turned around. “I am
reclaiming my subjects,” she calmly replied.
subjects?” the goddess asked with a tight-lipped smile.
stared at her unblinkingly.
no, no, you have it all wrong!” Onedia corrected, “You see,
they are my subjects!”
abandoned them,” the girl explained, “When you left the
Enchanted Forest on a whim they waited and waited for years but
you never came back. They were forced to make a new Queen –
someone who would be there for them. I am that Queen. They obey me
was hyperventilating by now. “You… will… are…” she
breathed, “No! Me replaced by an icky, rotting, undead…
thing?? Impossible! I’ll show you who their real Queen is!”
She raised up her hands and called on her minions, “Swirling
mists, gather ’round, from above and from the ground!” Hordes
of trickster lights scurried compliantly to their Mistress.
thick, black as night, gather all around me tight,” Sylvia
chanted. The same tricksters hustled over to her side.
mine!” Onedia growled, drawing the tricksters to herself.
they’re mine!” Sylvia retorted, pulling them back.
entered just in time to catch the brunt of the psychic tug of war.
“Ladies, ladies, can’t we settle this in a civilized
manner?” he chimed in, “Which one of you is the Trickster
AM!!!” Onedia and Sylvia jointly shouted at him.
Lynn rectified the question, “Which one of you is the Queen of
the Forestside Kingdom?”
am!” Onedia answered, straightening out her ruffled hair.
are the Mistress of Illusions?” he asked to be sure.
I am,” she told him proudly, “You dare interrupt me, mortal?
Give me one reason not to strike you down where you stand!”
mean no offense, your highness,” the dark elf apologized, “I
am merely concerned for your well-being.”
raised a suspicious eyebrow.
will not kill me,” Lynn hastily added, “Because I have
information that would interest you.”
really?” the goddess smirked, “Then tell it quickly and make
it worth my time.”
dark elf nodded, trying to think of a way to explain his case
without slighting the deity. “My name is Acora Lynn,” he
introduced himself, “And I know Aloquin personally, which is why
I find it odd that you are allied with him.”
shouldn’t I be?”
figured he must begin at the beginning, “What do you know of the
relationship between Aloquin and Dinictis?”
know that long ago she trapped him between the worlds and claimed
the rulership that was rightfully his.”
a half-truth!” Lynn exclaimed, “She did indeed trap him and
claim the throne, but that is only because through her psychic
foresight she saw that Aloquin would eventually want complete
control of the country and turn it into a dictatorship. He does
not want to share power with anyone, you see.”
am supposed to believe that?” Onedia scoffed, “Even if it did
happen the way you say, it only proves that he didn’t want to
rule with her. He wants to rule with me instead!”
the Acora teased, “And what makes you think that?”
the goddess tried to think of a single instance of affection, but
couldn’t, “Well why else would he promise what he did?!”
exactly did he promise?” Lynn inquired.
promised that when he becomes King of Caldora, he will bathe me in
the sacred waters of the Earth Dragon Caldor, restore my youth,
and we will forever rule all of the Lossi Complex together.”
lie within a lie!” the dark elf laughed.
glared at him.
that was true we would all be immortal!” Lynn explained, “Alas
it is not. The blood of Caldor couldn’t even restore Aloquin or
he wouldn’t have had to get his immortality back from Jason.”
would he lie to me?” she was still not convinced.
me on this,” the Acora smiled knowingly, “It is people’s
nature to think one thing, say another, and do something
completely different!” He realized he needed to think fast,
“Hmm… You said you could age?”
I step out of the Enchanted Forest, I can age, yes,” Onedia
grumbled reluctantly, “What’s your point?”
were the one who cursed the Enchanted Forest,” Lynn frowned. The
Enchanted Forest must have been the heart of Lossi; the dwelling
place of the gods that doubled as an astral fountain from which
life energy spilled onto the rest of the planet. “It’s worse
than I thought,” he mumbled, trying to peak her interest while
an idea of a motive crystallized in his mind.
she demanded, getting aggravated.
you see?” Lynn said with a confident smile, “He is only using
you. He used you to break free of his prison, he used you to build
this magnificent fortress, and he used you to keep the two
continents from coming to each other’s aid.
not all!” the dark elf continued, “Aloquin was not lying when
he said he wants to rule the world. But his ambition is insatiable
– he will not give up until he stamps out every potential
competitor to his throne. He knows that deities cannot be killed
by force, so he used you to curse the Enchanted Forest itself,
thereby weakening the source of the Lossian gods’ power. Without
it they wander the land as pale shadows of their true might, and
would eventually wither away like a forgotten dream.
as for you,” the Acora grinned, “You would die of old age like
a mere mortal, still blindly believing his empty promises.”
saw anger seething in the goddess’ eyes, and chose his words
carefully, “Whom would you rather believe? It was the Caldorian
team who liberated the Enchanted Forest from your curse. You have
the full extent of your powers back now, how would you rather use
was not paying attention to him anymore. Lynn averted his eyes as
she shed her mortal illusion, unfurling the vision of an ethereal
goddess in all her glory. Her eyes were like shining stars, as
dazzling as a multi-faceted opal. Her skin was as dark as the
blackest night, and her hair was akin to delicate strands of spun
silver, framing her visage like a nebulous halo. A waning crescent
glowed softly in the center of her forehead. Her dress, woven with
threads of moonbeams, billowed about her like shimmering mist,
stardust twinkling on the fabric amidst translucent folds of
goddess was in her aspect of Starry-Eyed Onedia, her face
beautiful yet fierce. Her emotions had been toyed with and she
would not stand for it. With a wave of her hand, the walls parted,
and she floated smoothly in the direction of the portal cavern.
Sylvia followed, with a host of trickster lights close behind.
Lynn ran after them; he wouldn’t miss this showdown for the
The battle between Dinictis and Aloquin was becoming quite
tedious. The wizard shot a quick glance to the vortex; it was
nearly time. Getting impatient, he sent a ground-based shockwave
at his adversary. Dinictis swept clear over the spurting rocks and
came back with a jet stream of singing flame. Aloquin conjured up
an arrow of ice and launched it to counter the attack. The two
missiles cancelled each other out in a puff of hot air.
stalling,” Dinictis remarked.
gazed into the portal. It had been pulsating faster and faster, to
the point that the hum of the vibrations had now fused into one
unbroken sound. The corona of the vortex blazed far brighter than
ever before, radiating a steady, brilliant light. Already visible
through the doorway was the parent dragon bulging with birth
spasms as the newborn worked to break free from its bowels. Now it
turned to face his twin, his psychotic grin accentuated by the
eerie illumination. The god closed his eyes and looked inside,
calling on the primordial energies hidden deep within his psyche
to rise up to the surface. His form flared up in an amethyst aura.
understood what he was doing. The wizard was preparing to release
the most potent spell in their arsenal, one invoking the dynamic
forces of creation and destruction. The goddess closed her eyes
and tapped into her own center of power, feeling the energy surge
forth from the depths of her soul. Her body became engulfed in
astral serpent slowly spiraled up Aloquin’s shape, its scales
black as onyx with a violet luster. It erupted from his aura as a
gargantuan serpentine dragon with rows of sharp fangs.
magical snake coiled about Dinictis, as well, its scales a lush
forest green with a lavender sheen. It burst out from her aura as
an enormous ethereal dragon, its teeth gleaming white.
longer was Aloquin himself. He had transferred his consciousness
into the new vessel, and when the dragon opened its eyes, they
crackled like lightning. The Chaos Dragon was awakened and the
walls shook with its infernal roar. It arched back to gain
momentum and lunged at its opponent.
flooded into the Order Dragon and it opened its eyes, which
burned like fiery orbs. The dragon flexed its mighty talons and
lashed in to meet its twin’s charge.
cosmic serpents interlocked in a double helix, wrapped around each
other in death-defying strangleholds, clawed at each other’s
scaly bodies, and bit at each other’s necks. They whipped about
all through the gigantic cavern, leaving massive craters as they
rammed into the ceiling and crashed into the floor. Their blaring
cries echoed throughout the chamber with otherworldly intensity.
could not kill, only injure each other enough to jolt their
respective opponent back into their own body. Their humanoid forms
were no match for their draconian manifestations, and the victor
would easily be able to overpower the loser and push them through
the churning vortex.
was then that Yugashii, Aurora, and Raven rushed into the huge
chamber; they were quick to notice the titanic struggle taking
place. In comparison to the two dragons, the vast cavern didn’t
seem big at all. The humbling apparitions stemmed out from Aloquin
and Dinictis, whose shells floated harmlessly in the air enveloped
by impenetrable flames. Yugashii’s determination to get even
with the wizard was drowned out by the sheer magnitude of this
breathtaking sight. Never before had he witnessed such an awesome
display of power!
Order Dragon and the Chaos Dragon,” Raven gaped in wonderment,
recalling the Overworld prophecy.
put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
and Kentabri, too, ran into the room. The woman took a hurried
look around, glimpsed Aurora, and sprinted towards her, dragging
the tamunid along. She latched onto the skirt of the forest
spirit’s dress and begged through tear-filled eyes, “Please!!
Can you please heal him?!”
gently set Keramis down on the ground, almost afraid he’d fall
to pieces on the spot judging by the depth of the gashes.
did this happen??” Trellion demanded, stepping forward to check
on his friends.
Lianna told him.
looked from the beat-up Lianna to his inert cousin. His face
blanched white when he saw the degree of damage and he instantly
drew his sword. “Where is he?” the half-elf growled, his
lethal gaze directed at Kentabri.
the tamunid said coolly.
Trellion asked, lowering the weapon a little.
killed him,” Lianna replied.
put away his sword and stared back at his cousin in amazement.
Aurora quieted the lot of them and laid her hands on the wounded
elf. Turquoise light spewed forth from her palms, making his body
aglow with curative energy. Keramis’ eyes fluttered open at her
healing touch. The gashes began to slowly close themselves up and
the color returned to his skin. He moved to rise, but Trellia held
him down. “You must rest,” she smiled.
past the glare, Keramis saw only the forest spirit’s luminous
countenance, but as the spell’s light faded, he was able to pick
out an anxious Lianna and a worried Raven huddling behind her. The
moment was disrupted as the floor beneath him trembled from the
battle raging in the background. He cocked his head back and
watched in awe as a string of iridescent scales flashed far above.
going on?” Keramis asked his friends.
appears that the Dragon Twins are living up to their namesake,”
came a voice from the rear.
Trellion, Lianna, Kentabri, Keramis, and Trellia exclaimed in
Lynn,” the Acora affirmed, folding his arms, “Where is
King?” Lianna asked, “We didn’t see him.”
made a sour face as he looked up to the ethereal dragons. “Well
that boy best get here fast,” he grumbled, “This fight will be
Raven asked, entranced by their cosmic dance.
the dark elf nodded, “The Dragon Twins are complete equals, you
see. Only need a slight shift in balance to tip the scales.” His
eyes wandered off to the side, where the Mistress of Illusions was
presently making her entrance.
glided into the cavern swathed in turbulent storm clouds. The
goddess fumed with rage, her ire focused on the one who had
cruelly abused her unfailing loyalty. She lifted an outstretched
ebon hand and clenched it into a dainty fist, flinging an astral
enchantment at the wizard’s body.
his flaming aura guarded against elemental and physical attacks,
it did not deflect assaults to the mind. The Chaos Dragon roared
in pain and recoiled from its double. It flayed about, screeching
several unearthly cries of protest, but in the end could not defy
the undeniable pull of the fragile shell as it sucked the
consciousness back into its body.
amethyst nimbus dissipated, and Aloquin awoke inside his humanoid
form, feeling a heavy weight on his lungs and a crushing sensation
at his throat. He fell to the floor, chocking and gagging and
nearly fainting, but managed to fight off the effects of the spell
with pure willpower. He gasped for air, trying to catch his breath
as he gawked up at the colossal emerald dragon towering over him,
it’s teeth bared in a menacing leer. He expected the serpent to
finish him off there and then, but it didn’t – Dinictis was
waiting for Jason to make his move.
still hidden away behind the concealing rock formation, was too
stunned by the spectacle to act.
perplexed by the dragon’s delay, Aloquin turned to meet gazes
with the Mistress of Illusions. He had never seen her in such a
state before, but he was not about to let her interfere with his
duel. Onedia wasn’t in the mood to talk things over, however.
She did not hesitate to cast another, more powerful astral attack.
Immediately etheric needles stung at the god’s scalp and
piercing shrieks resounded between his ears.
joined in, ordering hordes of tricksters to swarm Aloquin,
barraging his mind with a multitude of disturbing images.
wizard clasped his head and doubled over in mental agony. The
ringing in his ears and pressure to his brain was unbearable. He
gritted his teeth and let out a furious outcry that momentarily
pushed away the astral onslaught.
Sylvia and Onedia were persistent, and came back twice as strong.
They pelted him with bewildering hallucinations and agonizing
Raven, Keramis, and Kentabri looked inquisitively to Trellia.
work with physical flora,” she explained, “I can’t use those
powers on this plane.”
didn’t think twice about adding his own efforts to the combined
offensive. His battle aura flared up in crimson flames and he sent
a petrifying wave of fear at the god.
was the breaking point. Although he put up a valiant resistance,
Aloquin could no longer hold the overwhelming force of their
collective assailment at bay. He slouched to his knees, blinded by
the mosaic of visions that flashed before his eyes, too terrified
to fight back. Perhaps the most mortifying of all was Onedia’s
merciless psychological assault, which made certain to sear the
full extent of his failure directly into his mind. But he clung on
to his pride – the fact that it took several deities to subdue
him was nothing to be ashamed of.
snapped out of his self-induced paralysis. He told himself that
this time he would not freeze up! He would make Dinictis proud,
and he would show everybody that he was worthy of his royal title.
The King narrowed his eyes in resolve, sensing the fresh rush of
courage urging him on.
left the safety of the rock formation and charged straight through
the spectacular light show; luckily the bombardment of spells was
centered on Aloquin’s psyche, and therefore had no effect on
him. The King took the last few confident steps towards the god,
then held Caldor’s Fang up high and plunged it neatly into his
eyes sprung wide open from the surge of sharp pain. He felt the
knife stab deep into his heart, the sacred crystals tugging at
something intricately tied to his own spirit. His immortality was
forcibly untangled from his soul and ripped out of his body,
traveling through the crystalline dagger and into his son. Jason
sensed the divine essence pouring into his being like cool water
down a parched throat. It interlaced with his life energy and
aligned perfectly with the blood that flowed in his veins, making
him feel stronger, healthier, and fearless.
scowled at him in disbelief.
for the immortality,” Jason grinned cynically, “You die
the wizard hissed.
indignation only widened Jason’s vengeful grin as he pressed in
on the weakened god, backing him up to the portal. Aloquin glanced
over his shoulder into the vortex; the newborn dragon had already
broken out of its earthen prison and was now devouring the
leftovers of its parent.
bye, father,” Jason told him, then jerked the dagger out of his
torso and shoved him headlong into the waiting doorway.
found himself drifting in the dead of space. Surveying the scene,
all he could see was an endless sea of stars. A black shadow
slipped by just at the edge of his vision, obscuring pinpoints of
light as it passed. He frantically looked around for any danger,
but it was gone. The form dipped under the wizard and looped in
towards him, its immense jaws unclenching to reveal gleaming white
fangs. Aloquin let out a bloodcurdling scream as its teeth clamped
down on his body.
in the Dark Fortress, those gathered near the portal leaned in to
watch the god be torn apart and gobbled up piece by piece by the
baby Earth Dragon. The serpent circled the area a few more times,
and then settled down among the twinkling stars, indistinguishable
from a large asteroid. The war was now truly and finally over.
roared in triumph and reverted back to her humanoid shape. She ran
up to Jason, wrapping her arms around him in a warm embrace. The
King and Queen engaged in a long and passionate kiss, their
flamboyant display of affection embellished by the brilliant light
of the vortex.
looked on and smiled, his Acora insight was now returned in full.
He glanced over to Raven. Aurora and he were kissing softly in a
darkened corner, away from prying eyes – they were together, and
nothing would come between them again. The dark elf felt an
extraordinary sense of nurturing and trust growing between them,
and it made him happy that his son had found such a wonderful
woman to aid in the healing of his scarred heart.
Lianna sighed in relief and carefully helped Keramis to his feet.
was ready to die, you know,” he told her in all seriousness.
everything is about you!” the woman scolded.
think I could just leave you there like-like that,” she
sniffed, “You are my friend! You can’t expect me to… You
can’t expect me to–”
elf hugged her waist tightly, cutting off the train of thought.
Never had it occurred to him that he was worth more to his friends
alive than dead. Lianna laughed and hugged back, joyful tears
streaming down her cheeks.
had since calmed down and donned a more agreeable appearance.
Yugashii extinguished his aura. Sylvia opened her mouth wide and
sucked the tricksters back into her body.
at last separated from Jason. She took him by the hand and turned
to face the mortals and divinities alike. “Lets go stop this
senseless carnage,” the goddess declared.
The battlefield was drenched in blood. Lowak was still on a
murderous rampage, picking away at the Kayintas army with barrage
after barrage of dreadful trickster pranks. Kadro was not deterred
by the reptilian reflexes of his enemies – his sword and shield
served him well in dispatching any who stood in his way. Kowhani
slaughtered her unsuspecting foes left and right, her fervor
fueled by eagerness to appease her deity. Acleito watched his
armies decimate the Kayintas ranks; he could never have foreseen
such an easy conquest!
a mighty tremor quaked the battlefield and all trickster activity
halted. The Chief Commander gulped down hard, fearing the castle
had switched sides once again. Instead, he saw a magnificent
shining star appear over the heads of his soldiers. It sparkled
like a radiant beacon of hope, instilling peace and tranquility in
all who gazed upon it.
fighting and listen to the words of your Goddess!” Dinictis’
voice sounded from within the light, “I have faced Aloquin for
your sake and have emerged victorious! He is dead and you have
nothing to fear from him anymore! You are all my beloved children,
you are all brothers and sisters! It pains me to see you spilling
each other’s blood. This war is over, drop your weapons and go
home in peace. No one else needs to die!”
tired Kayintas warriors slowly laid down their swords and raised
up their voices in praise of the triumphant Queen. The Caldorian
army responded with rounds of deafening cheers celebrating their
victory. The enemy’s reaction was not all that surprising, for
even the wild residents of the North Forest lived by a shared code
of honor: they admired prowess. Dinictis was shown to be stronger
than Aloquin, and so was worthy of their respect and allegiance.
surrender went by without incident. Onedia opened several exits to
the material plane and everybody got a speedy trip home. It was
strange stepping from the bloodied astral fields onto the spotless
streets of the West Forest, the sun-dappled clearings of the East
Forest, the verdant jungles of the South Forest, the cobblestone
roads of the Forestside Kingdom, or even the stony walls of
Kayintas in the North Forest, but they did. Each went their own
way, and though many a friend and loved one journeyed to the
Overworld this day, those left behind took comfort in the
knowledge that their deaths were not in vain.
all have gone, the Mistress of Illusions dismantled the Dark
Fortress and sent her minions back from whence they came.