|The Ancient Prophecy
Pt. 11b: Waltz with the Demon's Pet 2
by Vipers ©
Anna found herself in the same position. She couldn't remember what happened after Ursula had left. She remembered a sharp, intense pain. Then she remembered sharp stings from different part of her skin, probably from the whip. Then she remembered nothing. She was glad that the unconsciousness had rescued her from further ordeal.
But the spell... With the revitalize spell she was not supposed to faint. She took a glance on her body and gasped. Her naked body was decorated with red welts. Her nipples felt sore from the whipping and her throat was parched. She knew she had to have screamed like she never screamed before. Then the picture of the cruel whip came to her mind. The whip should have left bloody mess instead of normal welts. There could be one explanation to this.
She quickly found Sister Rosa standing next to her. "Sister Rosa... you saved me..."
"That's a quick thinking, Adriana." The other priestess replied gloomily. "That's right. I lifted off the flame and revitalize spell so you would faint immediately. Simultaneous pain will overwhelm your brain. I'm quite amazed you're not insane after the terrible torture you've been through."
"And... and the whip..."
Sister Rosa lifted a smaller whip in his hand. "This one will hurt you, but won't kill you. And if you haven't noticed, I've loosened your chains."
Anna still couldn't move, but at least she didn't have to endure the pain of her limbs being pulled out from their sockets. She quickly found the most comfortable state for her aching muscles.
"I... Why did you do that...?" Anna asked slowly.
"Because you won't be of any use if you're insane." The other priestess walked toward the sink at one corner and returned with a glass of pure water. "I will let you drink if you speak."
"Please, Sister Rosa, I'm innocent!"
"Adriana, I won't offer this twice..." She threatened.
"I'm telling the truth... I'm innocent!"
The enraged priestess tossed the glass to the wall. The glass shattered into pieces, making Anna gasped. She stared hungrily at the water pooling on the stone floor. She recalled her parched throat from hours of torment. Her instinct told her to give it up, but she refused to listen. She had a determination to defend and she would defend it to the end.
"Adriana, I don't want to torture you further, but your foolish stance forces me to do so."
"I know the truth, Sister Rosa..." she sighed, "I can reveal this foolishness..."
"I don't want to hear it!" Rosa snapped. "Just confess, and everything will be over!"
"Will it?" Anna questioned. "I'll be damned if the truth I defend is lost."
"You give me no other choice, Adriana. I must torment you further."
"No, please listen to me!" Anna begged. "Have you seen the villages destroyed by the demons?"
The priestess thought for a while. "Three of them, I recall."
"Then you know the massive destruction those demons have caused."
"Then why are you still alive?!"
Sister Rosa frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"Look, if I'm a demonic abomination, you probably have been turned into ashes by now! They're capable of destroying a village in no time, why can't I fry one lowly priestess like you?!"
The priestess thought deeply. "You probably will seduce me to do your bidding!"
"Demons don't seduce people!" Anna shot back. "They kill, not enslave! Look around you! This very dungeon is the actual demonic abomination! Only demons can invent such hideous torture! Only demons can suggest such barbaric execution!"
"How do you know?!" Rosa replied angrily. "You must be one of them!"
"No..." Anna looked away. "I... I've been their prisoner... many times..."
"You... you have...?"
Anna nodded slowly. "I can tell you that the torture they've implement on me is nothing compared to the one you imposed on me just now..."
"So..." Rosa frowned again. "You're referring..."
"Yes, Sister Rosa... There's something wrong in this shrine... That's what I'm trying to find out... Please let me go. I must hunt this demon down!"
"You've told me, Adriana, but you haven't convinced me." Rosa shook her head.
"Perhaps I can help..."
Sister Rosa froze in her place when the tip of cold blade touched her neck. "Wh...what?!"
"Nice dream, Sister Rosa..."
The priestess felt a slight jab on her neck and she suddenly felt really dizzy. She scrambled for her own revitalize spell, but the drug won the match and she went limp before even remembering the spell chant.
"Honey, what are you doing here?!" Anna hissed.
"Oh, you're welcome, dearest." Atrus scowled. "It's hard to get real appreciation these days."
"No, that's not it!" Anna replied. "I was in verge of convincing her into our side!"
"No time to waste. Can you walk?"
"I doubt it. My bones have been turned into jelly."
Atrus expertly cut her chains with his sword and caught her falling body in his arms. She squirmed in pain at the sudden jerk, but relaxed quickly as Atrus held her naked body close, content with the warmth. Her arms struggled to return the embrace, but his coordination hadn't returned completely that Atrus had to help her. She stayed in his embrace for a while, enjoying every moment. Then she knew how much she missed him.
"I thought you'd never come..."
"And let you have the live burial fun for yourself?" Atrus smiled.
"How do you know?" She looked at him, surprised.
"We're all watching you, dearest."
"Watching me...?" Anna asked. "B...but I thought..."
"It's all Maya's plot." Atrus smiled. "She saw you fighting Daemon in the Sacred Sanctuary. She convinced everyone to blame you, so we can uncover all the oddities that's been happening in this shrine."
"S...she did?" She sighed in relief. "I... I'm glad, then... they don't hate me..."
"Hate you?" He grinned. "Maya is now blaming herself for putting you in such hideous torture!"
"I'm happy that you're here, honey." She kissed his cheek. "I thought I'd never see you again."
"As I said, I won't let you have all the fun." His ear twitched. "Someone's coming..."
"Oh no!" She went panic. "There is no other way out but the main door!"
"Unless we make one ourselves." He replied. "Ten more seconds..."
"Ten more seconds...?" Anna frowned.
"Hold on tight..."
She did, or at least tried to tighten her embrace. Atrus lifted her small body in his arms. Precisely ten seconds later, a dimension door sprung open directly before them, and Atrus made a run for it. Anna could still hear the sound of angry priestesses as the dimension portal shut. Atrus carried her for a short run until the space around her exploded in bright light and they returned to normal dimension. They were in the middle of a meadow outside the shrine, and it was nighttime already.
She saw the Fairy into view, and she looked worried. She touched her hand on her forehead and chanted one of her songs Anna hadn't heard before. She could feel her magical power returning to her and every cell in her body refreshed by the songs. She readily chanted the healing spell of her own and was pleased as the spell caressed her body, curing her aches and easing her pain. The spell was not enough to completely heal her, but at least she could stand again on her own.
"I... I'm sorry, Mistress..." Maya approached, her head hung. "I didn't know..."
"Don't worry, Maya." She smiled. "You know what you're doing, right?"
"Of course!" She replied vigorously. "That Ursula fellow spooks me."
Everyone in the party was there, and all of them were happy to see her again. Falstoff was seen walking toward them. He also seemed fine from the last battle. A strip of cloth wrapped his right arm. He nodded slightly at Anna, acknowledging her presence, and turned to Atrus.
"There's an uproar in the shrine." He reported. "They're burning all the torches."
"That's probably for the High Priestess enactment." Anna guessed. "They'll be doing that this afternoon."
"We'll let them worry about that." Atrus said. "Calem?"
"I think I got it." The older man replied. "I might still need Lynn's help to keep the dimension door open, though."
"I can help, too." Falstoff added. "I can't cast magic, but I have the talent."
"Dimension door?" Anna looked at Atrus. "We're going somewhere, honey?"
"Yes." Atrus replied gloomily. "We're going to the Island of Paradise."
The last prisoner cried in mixed pleasure and pain as the tentacle pushed deep inside her vagina and shot its wad inside her. A pair of tentacles around her breasts bit into her flesh and sucked her nipples, making her moan louder. Finally her defiance collapsed and she exploded in a forced climax. Her soul surrendered to the ecstasy and her will was drained from her.
And the big gem at the center of the room glowed brightly. The pure gem now illuminated evil radiance throughout the room.
"Perfect!" Daemon exclaimed. "The Titan Gem is fully powered!"
The tentacles binding the girl vanished and the once-proud priestess collapsed to the ground. A bulky Orc warrior chained the girl's wrists and ankles and linked them together tightly, preventing her from standing. Then he put on a collar around her neck and attached a leash on it. The Orc tugged the leash, forcing the weakened girl to walk on all four like a dog. She was led outside the room toward the barracks, where she would spend the rest of her pathetic life as a demon's pet.
Daemon walked toward the bound goddess and casually stroke her pussy, enjoying her humiliation. "Aren't you excited? Really soon you will be my bride!"
"Please, Daemon..." Gaea pleaded. "Don't do this... You can hurt me... You can have me... but don't hurt my people..."
"Your people?" The demon lord frowned. "Soon they will be nothing but rotten flesh and bones laying around burned rubbles! Those who survive will serve as our slaves!" He leaned toward her. "Don't worry... you're still my favorite pet..."
"The Champion will stop you, Daemon..." The goddess claimed. "And I'll be the witness."
"Dream on, bitch, for you will live your immortal life in nightmare..."
"The sun is almost up." Aurelia reported. "You haven't found him?"
"Eagle's eye is a hard spell to master!" Calem said. "Especially if you want to stretch the distance all the way across the ocean."
Calem, Lynn, and Falstoff were laying their hands on Anna's shoulder while the priestess was concentrating on the spell. With plenty of magical power channeled for her use, her soul could soar high enough toward the direction Aurelia had given her earlier. She had found the thick cluster of clouds where Kastor was presumed hiding inside, but she hadn't found the mythical island. The renowned Northern Ocean was violently windy today. Her magical soul was not affected at all, but she could imagine what would have happened had they decided to use a boat to sail there.
Then she spotted a small patch of land beneath the thick clouds. "I found it!!"
The sudden movement startled everybody and they gathered around her. Nobody talked for a while, afraid to be blamed for her failure.
"Wait a minute... There's something..." Anna frowned. "Something's resisting me..."
The three people pumped more magic into her, but they could also feel the pressure. "It's strong..." Calem noted. "Very strong...even for the four of us..."
"Is it the dragon?" Holgreb asked impatiently.
"No... something else..."
An invisible force suddenly threw the four backwards. A bright light appeared in the air, hovering before them. The light was so bright they had to shield their eyes. Some of them were ready to draw their weapons, but the thundering voice coming out of the light stopped them.
"Who are you?!" The voice yelled. "Why do you bother me?!"
Atrus took the initiative. "My name is Atrus White Lion, and I come with my friends, some of them are the Warriors of the Guardian. We want to go to the Island of Paradise."
"I am the guardian of the Island of Paradise." The voice said. "And my order is clear. Only the true Champion of the Guardian and the loyal Warriors of the Guardian can enter the island to fulfill the prophecy. Do you have them among you?"
"Er..." Atrus thought for a while. "We're short of one warrior. And we're not sure who the real Champion of the Guardian really is."
"Then you're not welcomed here!!" The voice roared again.
"No, please!" Anna quickly said. "We suspect that the right man is among us, but we are not sure. Please let us in! We need your guidance!"
"You don't need any guidance! The prophecy tells it all."
"No, please listen!" She tried again. "The real Champion of the Guardian is presumed lost during his birth. He may have forgotten his true heritage, and the prophecy doesn't help. We need you to tell us where to find him!"
There was silence for a while before the voice answered. "In that case, very well. I will open a dimension door for you to come in."
The light vanished, replaced by a big magical portal hovering in the air. The party wasted no time and entered the portal one by one. During the short journey they felt an invisible wall that gave a nasty jolt, and they perceived that they just went through the magic barrier, probably weakened for their passage. Had they made their own portal, they might have not survived the trip.
The tunnel flashed and they arrived in the Island of Paradise, which was not really worthy of its name. The island was really a small patch of land in the middle of the ocean. There were no trees, bushes, or other amenities. The sky was dark and cloudy, even though the sun was rising. The sky also seemed to be glassy, presumably from the magic barrier. A small shrine made out of rough stone stood proud on the sandy ground. The design was simple, just several stone pillars supporting the high ceiling. The pillars, however, were full with runes and sculptures of symbols unknown to them. The stone seemed to be the strong type found around the riverbanks. The question of how it had gotten here arose.
A tall man with long white beard stood near the shrine and bowed, letting his long white robe hang freely from his feeble body. "Euclid, an old hermit loyal to the Guardian, welcomes you."
"Euclid...?" Anna frowned. "You... it... it can't be...!"
"Indeed, Miss Freesland. I am the one who spoke about the Ancient Prophecy."
"You... you know my name..."
"I know all of your names." The old man smiled. "My affiliation with Lord Guardian grants me this ability."
"But it can't be!" Aurelia added. "The Ancient Prophecy has been around for many years!"
"I can't even remember how old I am."
"Are you an immortal?" Calem asked.
"No." Euclid chuckled. "I'm just an old man sent by Lord Guardian to be the laughing stock of the entire realm because of my words. Then I'm doomed to live until the day my prophecy is fulfilled."
"But no one laughs at you anymore!" Aurelia said again.
"Of course." The man smiled. "Regret always comes after, never before."
"So, Sir Euclid..." Atrus began.
"Euclid." He cut him off. "Or call me old man."
"Er... old man... Do you know anything about the Champion of the Guardian, then?"
"The secret, unfortunately, is also kept well from me."
"Then we're stuck..." Atrus said mournfully. "The time has not come yet."
The poor priestess jerked in her chains as the cruel whip dug painfully to her flesh and made a long cut along her thigh, leaving a long, ugly welt. The chains tugged her weakened limbs painfully in all four directions, threatening to dislocate her joints at any moments by now.
"You've disappointed me, Sister Rosa."
"Please, Sister Ursula, have mercy!" The priestess in chains begged. "It's not my fault! That cursed knight drugged me and put me to sleep!"
"Silence!" Ursula roared. "You've let an important prisoner escape with her petty band of mercenaries. Those people might be dangerous to our existence."
"But why do you make me a subject of this hideous torture?" Rosa pleaded. "Please, Sister, I've had enough... My limbs are on fire, my skins are burning with pain... Please let me go..."
"Not yet..." Ursula sneered while walking toward the chain slot machine. "However, I intend to make you feel more... comfy."
Rosa's eyes were widened with fear and she begged for mercy, but Ursula ignored her and casually turned the wheel two more slots. The chains went taut and stretched the poor girl in all directions. Rosa screamed in pain as her limbs were jerked and extended even further. Her muscles were on fire and she could feel her joints in the verge of dislocating.
"How is it, Sister? Much better, isn't it?"
Sister Rosa looked at her with tears in her eyes. "It... it's true..."
"What's true?" Ursula frowned.
"Adriana's... S...something's... wrong... with... this... shrine..."
"Ah, I see..." Ursula smirked. "So our little priestess has succumbed to that demoness!"
"No, please li... Mmmph!!" Rosa was about to explain more, but Ursula magically gagged the priestess' mouth.
"I will make sure that none of your... demonic influence, affect this shrine again. In fact, in a few hours we'll be having a special moment, my enactment as the High Priestess of this shrine."
Rosa tried to protest, but her jaws were jammed close.
"Furthermore, I suppose I should subject you to the same treatment Adriana received earlier this morning." Ursula said. "In fact, your life is now in her hand. If she doesn't surrender herself by noon after my enactment, I'm afraid you'll be replacing her in the burial casket."
Rosa was now crying freely, knowing her horrible fate. She didn't even attempt to escape, knowing the terrible pain it would inflict to her.
"Now, we've had such a nice chat..." Ursula walked toward her, a wicked-looking bullwhip on her hand. "Where were we...?"
The sight of the renowned Shrine of Lycra looked pretty with the sunrise as the background. Although the clouds looked ugly, the welcome view of the ocean refreshed every soldier, who had been content with the sight of the prairie for the last three days.
Roberto was pleased to find a group of priestesses welcoming their arrival. They all wore suits just like Anna's, only a bit more... sexy. The low-cut dress and the short skirt made him grasp. Hawk, riding beside him, shared the same wonder, staring at the priestesses in disbelief.
"We welcome you to our humble Shrine of Lycra, Prince Roberto of Aragon."
Roberto nodded, but frowned. "Where are Atrus and the rest of the party?"
The priestesses murmured among them for a while before answering, "We're not sure, your majesty. But they are under our suspicion for treason against the shrine codes."
"Treason? That's impossible!" Hawk exclaimed. "Not Atrus!"
"We understand your concern. We are currently investigating the matter."
Roberto looked around and noticed the newly installed fence. "Is everything all right?"
"Oh yes!" She said quickly. "Everything is under con..."
Before the sentence was complete, no less than nine smaller versions of the Gate appeared around the shrine. And in just a few minutes the Shrine of Lycra was surrounded by hundreds of angry Orcs and Goblins.
Suddenly two small Gates appeared over them and six black-furred beasts came out. They faced the two men and snarled and hissed, showing their sharp fangs. This distracted the two knights, as they concentrated to control their agitated horses. The beasts quickly snatched the frightened priestesses and retreated through the holes. The Gates were shut closed before the knights realized what's happening.
"Those monsters just kidnapped the priestesses!" Roberto mused.
"Alliance army!!" Hawk barked. "Defensive posture, execute!!"
Although the soldiers were never trained together, they quickly assumed the standard defensive formation. The Humans stood in front, presenting their long pikes forward. The Dwarves stood among the Humans, offering protection with their shields. The Elven warriors lined up behind them, ready with their longbows, and the knights waited patiently behind, ready to charge the enemy with their horses at the right time.
"Fire!!" Hawk ordered.
The longbows proved their versatility as hundreds of arrows filled the sky and rained the field where the evil folks made their advance. Hawk could see a good number of creatures collapsing already. Each Elf retrieved no less than three arrows for each longbow and armed the weapon again. Another order was issued and multiple arrows blitzed the hellish horde and claimed more lives. The creatures now acknowledged the alliance's presence and marched to attack, leaving the shrine alone.
"Alliance army, slow advance, execute!!"
Then the longbows finally met their match. Instead of arrows, the Orcs began to throw... axes! The two leaders could only watch in horror as several axes were flung toward them. Most of them were deflected using the shields, but several Human pikemen collapsed from the attack. The axes were light and smaller than battle axes. The long handle made them easy to propel, although special training was needed to use them properly. It was clear that they were fighting professional army now.
"Maximum defense, execute!!" Hawk barked.
The Humans quickly abandoned their pikes and armed their shields instead. The Dwarves angled their shields slightly toward the sky, therefor completing a long line of shield wall on the front line. The knights stuck close to the army, using the shield wall as cover. The shield opened occasionally, and waves of arrows soared through the air, running the battlefield with deadly bolts.
"The dragon!!" One Elven scout screamed in horror. "The dragon is coming!!"
Roberto could see the silhouette of a dragon against the dense clouds. For an instant he wished he was seeing Agar, but his hope collapsed when the angry-red color was clearly visible.
"That's the red dragon." He muttered under his breath. "We're doomed..."
"Wrong. The time is near." Euclid said. "All five Warriors of the Guardian are present here."
"Yeah, but... What?!" Atrus exclaimed. "I... I thought we're short of one person!"
"You're wrong." He smiled. "The Champion of the Guardian is indeed near."
"No, it can't be..." Atrus frowned, then looked at Falstoff. "Unless..."
The new guy instantly stepped back. "Now if you're going to ask me again about weird dreams just like Roberto did, my answer remains the same! No, I haven't had any weird dreams!"
"Are you absolutely sure?" Lynn asked.
"Honest!" He said to the Fairy. "You know me! You know how much I love looking at the stars in the night! I have no time to dream away!"
"But you weren't born yesterday!" Holgreb spoke up. "You're what... nineteen, right? How about the dreams when you're small...?"
Falstoff fell silent, but Atrus could notice the sudden flash in his eyes. "What?"
The warrior remained silent, but Holgreb answered for him. "When the royal advisor interviewed him in the castle, I was there. He claimed that he lost his memory somewhere in his childhood. He can't remember anything from the time of his birth until..."
"Enough!!" Falstoff roared, his eyes fiery in anger. "That matter is not for discussion!!"
"Can't you understand, kid?!" The Dwarf persisted. "Your dream might be the final key to the entire prophecy! Your dream might save the realm from those demonic critters!"
"My childhood is my problem!" The warrior shot back. "It's lost, and it's lost forever!"
"I don't care about your childhood!! I care about the final prophecy!!"
Without warning, Falstoff drew his blade and was about to attack the Dwarf when the ground shook. Suddenly the sight of the sky around them turned crystal clear.
"We have a problem..." Euclid muttered gravely. "The magic barrier has just collapsed."
"Cover!!" Hawk barked.
All raised their shields just in time to face the mighty wrath of the red dragon. Kastor flew low and released a stream of flame from his gaping mouth. The flame hit the shield wall with tremendous force. Most of the wall section held and those who got knocked back suffered the consequence of being burnt to ashes. The Dwarves and Humans worked together well in holding the shield wall thanks to the special Dwarven metal alloy for their shields. The Elves, possessing shields made out of wood, had to duck for cover among their fellow races and popped back afterwards to shoot their longbows toward the dragon. Many lucky arrows met their marks, but none seemed to inflict serous effect on the beast.
Roberto frowned at the sight before him.
The demons had opened nine Gates near the shrine courtyard and unless the demons are extremely dumb, the Shrine of Lycra should have been turned into rubbles by now. But the demons seemed to refrain from attacking the shrine. They loosed arrows and throwing axes occasionally, but not intended to cause real damage. It looks more like they're defending the shrine... But the small town of Tymm was already ablaze. Why are they destroying the small town with such a huge army...? If they just want to destroy the small town, why use the dragon...?
"Prince Roberto!" Hawk called. "I can't believe it! Kastor is leaving!"
He was right. The red dragon shrieked in anger and flew toward the east. The lizard soared through the air in great speed and soon disappeared beneath the clouds. Things are getting more weird...
"Let's go, people!!" The prince raised his sword. "We have a village to save!!"
"Warriors of the realm, I present to you, the Sword of Faith, the weapon of the Gods..."
The party gasped at the sight... not for long, though. The sword was jammed into the marble altar located at the center of the small shrine. The legendary sword of the Gods was merely a sword made out of stone. The design of the handle was remarkable, with safety pins at the end, fine and decorative handle, and even blood groove along the slightly revealed blade. The dark color of the sword contrasted with the pure white marble, but the blade seemed welded in one with the altar.
"Um..." Maya tried to break the silence. "Very... original..."
Euclid laughed lightly. "You haven't seen the actual sword. Only the Chosen One can use it."
The Dwarf eyed Falstoff angrily. "We could have known if this hunk had told everything..."
"You can't say that! He might be telling the truth!" Lynn protested.
"Now you're defending him!"
"Stop acting like children!!" Atrus yelled angrily, then turned to the hermit. "Continue."
"As the Warriors of the Guardian, you all must defend this site. I'm sure the dragon will soon return to claim his prize. The weapon of the gods must remain intact until the Chosen One arrives."
"Very well..." Atrus nodded.
"One warning." Euclid produced a small rock, tossed it into the sword and smiled at the party's amazement when the stone was zapped into dust. "Only the Chosen One and the Chosen One only can touch the sword. Anything else will be burnt to dust instantly. Understand?"
It took a while until Atrus could find his voice again. "All right, we'll do this. Holgreb, Falstoff and Aurelia, secure the perimeter. Calem and Lynn, try to erect an emergency magic barrier around the island. Do it, now!"
Everybody spread out to do his or her tasks. Atrus stared weakly at the sword on the altar. They had to protect that thing, he thought. And the odds were against them. For the first time during the time of his travel, he was afraid of losing.
"Honey..." Anna said slowly. "I'm sorry I can't help..."
"It's okay, dearest." Atrus put his arm around her shoulder. "You're still recovering."
"Master Atrus..." Maya came to him. "D...do you think... Prince Roberto is the one...?"
"We are just as clueless as you, Maya." Atrus admitted.
"But if he is, then we should bring him here! He's to arrive today!"
Atrus paused, then looked away. "That makes sense. I should have left someone to tell him."
"Master, I don't blame you!" Maya said quickly. "I...I'm just worried of the outcome..."
"Look at the bright side, Maya." Anna pointed at the altar. "Remember three years ago? We were merely mercenaries looking for money and fame. We just dreamed that we would find the fabled hero bound to save the realm. And now, we are fighting for the realm itself. Now, we are standing before the weapon of the Gods. Now, we are bound to be the witnesses of the salvation."
Maya smiled. "You're right, Mistress... We've gone this far. We can't give up now."
"You're not being yourself." Atrus grinned at her. "That's supposed to be your line."
"Let's just say..." Maya said. "This war has changed us all."
Atrus drew his Rainbow Sword and glanced at the blade. "You're right. Three years ago I'm just a Ranger-in-training, fighting for money and fame and skill to be a full Ranger. Now, I've forgotten all about the fame. After the Chosen One is revealed, my task for the Guardian is done."
"Then what you're going to do, honey?" Anna asked sheepishly.
"I suppose I'll get my Ranger status... then I'll come for the soul-mate of my life..."
"Atrus!!" Aurelia screamed in terror. "K...Kastor...!! He's coming right for us...!!"
"Assuming we survive this fight..." He uttered under his breath. "Get ready!!"
Roberto swung his Kaiser Sword, sweeping the area along the street as far as his horse carried him and slaying any demons foolish enough to be on his path. Captain Hawk followed him close behind, slaying the survivors from the first run. Behind them, the ragtag team of alliance soldiers and refugees worked together to ward off the critters and put down the fire. A dozen Fairies, arriving a little late, carried pails and dumped seawater over the burning houses.
The Army of Darkness, seeing this, threw flame-tipped javelins and spears, hoping to burn the entire village and trapping the alliance army inside the fire, but the high races worked together. The soldiers kept the Orcs and Goblins at bay while the refugees and villagers put down the fire. Another group of Fairies swooped down in the middle of the evil army and spread chaos in their formation. The Elves shot back with their longbows, claiming more lives.
Yet the fight went on and on like this. The Elves couldn't fight forever, and they didn't have unlimited arrows. The Gates, however, kept on spitting new creatures from the Underworld. Their waves, although unorganized, were endless. The foul army was keeping them away from the shrine and pinning them against the Northern Ocean.
"Roberto!" Hawk called. "The villagers claimed that the village is abandoned! Most of the refugees are safe inside the shrine!"
"What?!" His eyes darted toward the empty, burning buildings they were trying to save.
It was a trap. The attack to the village was a decoy.
He quickly noticed a pair of Goblins trying to sneak up from his back. He beheaded the first one with his sword and watched Hawk dispatch its partner.
"We can't keep on fighting like this!" Hawk gasped.
Tell me something I don't know... "Let's hope Atrus knows what he's doing..."
What am I doing?!!
This was the silliest idea, Atrus thought. Calem had erected a magic barrier, not as strong as the original one, but should be enough, at least he claimed. Anna had prepared the magic missile spells, Maya had her throwing knives ready, and Aurelia got her bow prepped. They were determined, but Atrus wasn't sure they would hurt the dragon much. The rest, Holgreb, Falstoff and himself would be sitting ducks, fine targets yet unable to strike back.
Kastor swept low and roared as it hit the invisible barrier. Anna released steady streams of magic missiles, knocking the dragon back. The beast withdrew quickly, evading the arrows and knives. It hovered in the air, glaring at them angrily.
Then he felt the sudden surge of air around him. His instinct screamed at him.
"It's about to breathe fire..." Aurelia confirmed his fear.
Atrus could see the bright flame coming from the dragon's gaping mouth and then there was a blinding light around him, stunning him for a while. The view returned, but his sight flashed madly from the light. A surge of searing hot air swept past him, making him flinch. He could feel a body, probably Maya's, slamming against him, pushed by the blast.
"Maya, are you okay...?"
"I can't see, Master..." She cried while gripping him tightly. "Don't let go of me...!"
He felt a soothing sensation caressing his mind and when he opened his eyes, his sight returned as normal. It was Anna who'd cured his sight. Most of the party were lying on the ground, panting and groaning from the attack. Calem was still up, leaning on his staff, trembling. The dragon was now flying over and around them for another pass.
"Never felt something that hot before!" Holgreb said.
"We're up against an angry dragon!" Falstoff snapped. "Get used to it!"
"If we do, we'll be dead in no time!" Lynn said. "Calem?"
The older man replied weakly, "I don't know how long I can keep the barrier. The fire breath drained my power considerably. If we don't figure something up really soon, we're toast."
Atrus felt the sensation of anger and despair in him and let it flow pass his mind barrier. The sensation exploded in bright flame now covering his body from head to toe, even to the tip of his sword. So far, the flame had provided partial protection against spells and physical impacts. Although he doubted the flame would stop the fire breath, at least he knew he was resisting it rather than being hopeless.
"Cover me." Anna said. "I'll snipe him."
Atrus stood in front of her, facing the dragon. Falstoff anxiously looked at the flame around Atrus' body and decided to keep his distance and cover her flank instead. Holgreb, still glaring at the new guy in annoyance, took the other flank.
"Here it comes..." Calem muttered.
Aurelia released a barrage of arrows toward the advancing dragon. The beast gnarled in pain and anger as the bolts punctured its thick hides, stopping it midway in his flight. It fired back, breathing thick burst of flame from its mouth. The flame, however, was too far from the party and therefor splashed harmlessly against the magic barrier. Anna saw the window of opportunity and released a burst of lightning bolt. The bolt hit the dragon's left eye with absolute accuracy.
"Way to go, girl!" The Elf cheered.
"Don't get excited yet." Lynn warned. "He's coming here, and he's mad..."
The dragon breathed its flame again, this time far stronger. The flame splashed against the barrier in bright explosion, shocking the ground nearby. A painful moan from Calem told Atrus that they were in trouble.
"Out of the way!!" He barked.
The Dwarf jumped for cover while Lynn pushed Falstoff away with her magic. Anna, however, was stunned by the bright explosion. Her body remained rigid on her feet. Atrus could see the flame puncturing the weakened barrier and coming to her way. No one was close enough to save her... but he was. He stepped before her and faced the flame.
"Master!!" Maya screamed in terror.
There was a blinding flash of pain surging through his body. His eyes snapped closed, yet he could see bright flashes before him. His skin screamed from the intense heat. He couldn't even yell. The pain was too much for him. Yet his feet held, resisting the powerful wave of flame from the beast.
Then he could feel Anna's body abandoning his back. For a moment he relaxed, knowing that she was safe. He could feel the flame engulfing his body. The pain was unbearable and he could feel his protective power yielding to the agonizing pain. He could even feel himself yielding to the pain.
His purpose was done. His journey was over and the only girl he loved was safe. If he had to, he'd embrace Death willingly.
And he didn't resist when the flame tossed him off his feet.
Anna felt the tendrils of magical power grabbing her lithe body and drawing her away from the line of fire. She stared in horror as the flame washed through Atrus' body, tossing it backward...
Backward toward the altar and the Sword of Faith...
If mortals touch it, the person will be burnt to dust, she recalled her mother saying yesterday.
NO!! The shock was too great she couldn't scream.
Atrus prone body smashed to the altar. The stone let out a loud crack before shifting slightly from the blow. And the Sword of Faith began to glow brightly. The light soon became unbearably bright that everybody had to shield his or her eyes. Anna turned away and froze as Atrus' earth-shattering scream filled the air.
She finally found the strength to scream back his name...
Roberto reflexively grabbed his horse's reins tightly as the steed shrieked and jerked aggressively. Hawk, who was fighting on his feet, stumbled forward as the ground beneath him shook violently. The entire alliance army instantly lay flat on the hard ground. Around them, the already-deserted town collapsed. The brick houses crumbled to the ground, unable to withstand the sudden and violent earthquake.
"What's happening?!" Hawk cried. "One of the demons' nasty tricks?!"
"I doubt it!" Roberto replied. "The Orcs are affected as well."
It was true. The Army of Darkness was scattered around the field, stumbling over each other. The demons might be fool enough to cast a destructive spell on themselves, but not like this, not when they were so close to victory.
Then the lightning bolts shot from the sky to the earth, striking the ground right among the Orcist horde. The ground exploded, scattering the Orcs all over the battlefield.
"Don't tell me Atrus did this..." Hawk muttered.
"If he did," Roberto replied, "he just enlisted his name on the royal court jester ranks..."
Continuous streams of lighting shot out from the sky and connected to the nine Gates around the shrine. Roberto could hear a strange roar coming from nowhere. Strange bright lights came out from the previously dark holes, and the Gates began to shrink in size, as if the lighting is welding them shut.
And he could see the brand new holes forming among the demon's ranks.
"Alliance Army!!" He raised his Kaiser Sword. "The Heaven is on our side!!"
And the war-weary army regained their lost spirit and shouted a new war cry. The Elves, disheartened without fresh supply of arrows, abandoned their bows and armed their lances. The Dwarves formed a long line of defense, ready with their shields and battle-axes. The last line, the menacing men-on-beasts, raised their swords, ready to charge their horses into the heating battle.
The knights headed the assault, led by the distinguished Captain Hawk himself. The disoriented Army of Darkness was quickly dispatched. The knights delivered a spearhead assault, making a direct path to the shrine, and expanding sideways. Roberto then led the remaining army to invade the shrine main complex. He paced his horse toward the courtyard, determined to know what's going on.
"Hawk, come back here!!" He called his second-in-command. "We'll start asking some basic questions..."
His mind was a mess, but he tried to cope with his surrounding. He recalled the intensely bright light blinding his eyes right after the searing pain from the flame. Then he remembered a loud crash. The pain, however, was gone. He could feel something pressing on his body, but no pain. He tried to open his eyes and was startled with the light around him. Is this Paradise...?
Then he felt something poking his nose. He relaxed his neck, but went panic when he felt the substance creeping inside his nostrils. Reflexively he jerked and found rough surface on top of his body. Slowly he opened his eyes. He reached out for the surface before him and felt it. It was cold, and it had a smooth surface on certain side. Just like marble...
The shrine was made out of marble, he recalled. The loud crash had to be the shrine collapsing, and he had been beneath it. He blinked his eyes and touched the stone. It was so clear he could see the contour. He was buried beneath the stones, yet he didn't have problem seeing his surrounding. He gasped when his own hand passed before his eyes.
It was glowing. As he moved it near the stone, the glow shone upon the surface. He closed her eyes slightly and saw the bright flash he'd seen earlier. Slowly he turned his head and saw that his entire body was also glowing. The light emitted warm and soothing light.
His other hand suddenly felt a touch of cold metal. He froze in fear. It's the Sword of Faith! He recognized the runes carved along the blade. But the curse never came. His hand found the handle and held it tight. The handle felt warm with his touch. Then he felt the surge of power flowing through his right limb and around his body. I feel like I can conquer the entire realm today!
Then Atrus felt sand entering his nostrils, and he sneezed.
He just stared in awe as the stone boulders before him were tossed away toward the sky just like a strand of feather.
"Atrus!!" He heard a faint voice from somewhere outside. "He's alive! Help him!"
His eyes were suddenly blinded by the sunlight as the thick clouds over him were opened. He could hear a series of surprised remarks from his friend, but he couldn't make a word out of them. Blinded and unable to perceive speech, Atrus could only groan in frustration. His discomfort grew as he felt another surge of power coming from his right hand. He struggled.
Then he yanked his feet free. Two more yanks and his arms were free. His first instinct would he to get back on his feet so he did so. He could feel the blinding light leaving his vision. He opened his eyes.
He found himself standing on top of a pile of boulder where the shrine had once stood. The red dragon was nowhere in sight. His friends were around him, staring at him in awe.
"Dear Guardian..." Aurelia mouthed.
Atrus glanced at himself and was surprised to find his body covered with bright aura. His leather armor was a mess from the dragon's fire breath, but his skin was unharmed. The legendary Sword of Faith, illuminated in silvery glow, stayed faithfully in his grip.
He was not turned into dust. He survived the curse. He was...
"The Champion of the Guardian!" Euclid declared. "Now I've seen you with my own eyes! Lord Guardian, now I can rest in peace!"
"A...Atrus..." Aurelia mouthed. Her knees suddenly went weak and she fell on her knees. "Lord Atrus... We have been waiting for you!"
And one by one the Warriors of the Guardian before him. The sky was opened and thousands of seraphs came down upon the party, bathing them with divine light. Soon their bodies were wrapped with the same bright light currently covering Atrus. They just stared in awe as thousand-year-old blessings of the Gods shone down upon them. The blessings crept into their skins and soared through their souls, empowering them from the inside.
And Atrus was anxious. "I... I am the Chosen One...?"
"You are indeed, Lord Atrus." Euclid smiled. "The Guardian's will is unpredictable, isn't it?"
"L...Lord Atrus..." Aurelia was staggered, then she fell on her knees. "A...Aurelia of the Elves of Elom... at your command..."
The Dwarf followed next. "Holgreb of the Dwarves of Seraphim, at your command."
"Lynn of the Fairies of Heaven, at your command." The Fairy saluted gracefully.
"And Old Calem from the Alliance of Wizardry, at your command." The wizard smiled. "If you ask me, I won't be surprised, Lord. You've impressed me too many times."
"I never expected this..." Atrus admitted. "I've been looking for him all these years!"
"And here's what you've found, Lord Atrus." Euclid smiled. "You have found yourself. It's the greatest discovery one can uncover."
"The greatest discovery?" Atrus asked. "What do I discover?!"
"You discover your being, your purpose." Euclid replied. "Understand your destiny."
"B...But this can't be happening... I thought the Champion of the Guardian is only revealed when all the Warriors of the Guardian are..."
He just couldn't believe what he was seeing. The last tendrils of light soared through the air and circled around Anna. Her body instantly glowed brightly with the divine light. She just stood there, staring in horror at her body, then at him. Her body was trembling with fear.
"Anna...?" Atrus mouthed.
"Atrus..." Her voice was quivering. "I... I..."
"You knew it, didn't you." Atrus said slowly. "All those dreams you've been hiding from me are real. They are not merely nightmares. They're the last Prophecy of the Guardian."
"Atrus, you don't understand!"
"You lied to me, Anna!"
"No, please listen to me!" She pleaded. "I have my reason... I can explain..."
"Then explain!!" Atrus roared. "We could have done this sooner! Many have died unnecessary deaths because of your hesitation!"
"Forgive me, Lord Atrus," Calem interrupted, "but we still have a red dragon flying over our head..."
"Occupy him." Atrus ordered. "I will join you shortly."
The Warriors were confused at first, but they quickly went into action when the long-forgotten dragon prepared for another pass. Calem raised his staff and called for his magical power. The red gem on his staff glowed brighter than before. He was quite surprised with the new power he could harness. The divine blessings flowed through his body and into his magical reservoir in the gem, ready to do some serious spells.
Kastor hovered in the air and spitted three huge fireballs at the party. Calem chanted the spells and felt the sudden rush of magical energy being drained from the gem. A large portal popped open in front of the party, covering nearly the entire island with its immerse blackness. The fireballs were sucked into the hole harmlessly. A second later the same three fireballs shot back from the holes toward the dragon. Two of them missed their mark and splashed into the depth of the sea with explosions. The last one, however, exploded right on the dragon's chest. The beast roared in pain with its deafening sound.
While the dragon was paralyzed, Aurelia prepared her bow and armed three arrows. She could feel the blessings flowing through the weapons, strengthening and manipulating them. The bow adjusted itself in her pull and the bowstring remained taut and steady in her aim. As she released the arrows, the bolt tips instantly flared in blue flame. The bolts streaked through the air and hit the dragon squarely on three spots, his belly, his forehead, and his chest, right where his precious heart was.
And the Fairy took her turn. Lynn soared through the air, flapping her wings gracefully. She began singing her newly found song of divine. The seraphs of Paradise answered her rally and flew toward the dragon at her command. They flew around the beast, leaving streaks of magic that hardened upon contact with air. The seraphs instantly flew away, binding the red dragon with their strong magical rope. The dragon struggled, but effectively immobilized.
Holgreb the Dwarf sounded the loudest war cry that was ever sounded. With all his might he slammed his battle-axe to the ground, creating a slight quake to shake the little island. The follow-up was even more destructive. The ocean rippled vigorously from the shock wave. Suddenly a thin strip of rock blasted out from beneath the ocean and rocketed toward the sky. The sharp tip pierced the dragon's hide right on its belly and punctured through his body until it came out from the other side. The dragon was now spitted by a tall tower of rock standing in the middle of the ocean.
"Damn, I don't know I'm that strong..." The Dwarf amused.
"Explain, Anna." Atrus ordered.
The little girl was terrified. There was a battle going on around them, but the world seemed to single both of them out. There were only two of them, Atrus and herself. She looked into his eyes, looking for compassion, and found it. She had lied to him, but she couldn't find hatred in his gaze. Just sadness, utter sadness, from the numerous deaths this war had demanded. That fact made her feel guiltier than ever.
He cares for the world so much, and I only care for my selfish desire...
"It... it's not entirely a lie..." She started. "The nightmares were true... most of the time... But there is something else..."
"Something else?" Atrus asked, not affected by the battle occurring nearby.
"There is another dream... A dream you don't know..."
"Or a dream you don't want me to know." He accused.
"Yes, you're right." She admitted. "But you will... I hope you will understand..."
"Then tell me."
Anna took a deep breath, then began, "I was alone in the middle of nowhere, and darkness is around me. I could hear shouts of war from nowhere as the darkness was too much for my eyes to penetrate. Then just suddenly the shouting stopped completely. Then I saw a vast sea of fire stretching across the horizon, and a small streak of light came from the sky. The light was in form of a human, and it plunged into the sea of fire. Then came another roar, a barbaric roar of victory from nowhere. The roar filled my mind until everything went dark and I was taken back to reality."
Atrus was silent, probably trying to comprehend the last dream. Anna, however, was restless. She'd never thought that she would have to explain it to him.
"I don't understand why you should keep this from me." He finally said.
"Atrus, don't you understand?!" She finally broke in tears. "I... I dreamt of your death!"
"My death?" He was surprised.
"I was in the Underworld, the sea of fire! Then I saw you plunging into the fire and there was a roar of victory from the demons around you!"
"That's why you wouldn't tell me." He said softly.
She looked into her eyes. "Six months ago... you wouldn't tell me that you probably would part with me... H...how could you expect me to tell you the same thing right now?!" She sobbed. "I... I just don't want to lose you..."
To her surprise, she felt his arms wrapping against her body. She felt his warmth comforting her pained heart. Again, just like many years ago when they first met, she cried in his arms. And again, his hands stroke her hair, comforting her from her fear and sorrow.
"That's why you wouldn't tell me." He said. "Because if you wouldn't, you thought it wouldn't happen."
"I'm the selfish one, Atrus..." she continued. "I wouldn't part with you after all these years... And because of my selfishness I nearly send the entire realm into its doom... Then if that's the case... then I am guilty..." She fell silent, waiting for her fate.
"Mention it no more," he said after a long pause. "I understand you."
She looked at him. "You do?"
"Trust me." He beamed at her. "If I were you, I would have done the same thing. But these are the Guardian's prophecies. What must happen will happen."
"I know... I... I'm just being selfish..."
"You're not." Atrus said softly. "If you are, you would have left us, therefor sealing the secrets of the Champion of the Guardian forever. You stay with us all this time, wishing that one day we will know, don't you?"
Her face was brightened. "I... I never thought the Chosen One would be you... but yes... I... I wished it were you who would discover me..."
"What must happen will happen." Atrus nodded. "I'm glad you've decided to be with us."
And Anna knelt before her best friend, her love of her life, and now her lord and master. "Lord Atrus, I, Adriana of the Humans of Aragon, am at your command."
"Rise up, Adriana of Aragon." Atrus ordered. "Prepare to accept your punishment."
She glanced at him with worried look, but found a playful smile forming in the corner of his grin. He pointed at the form of the wounded red dragon spitted upon the spire towering from the sea.
"Our friends have done their part." Atrus said. "Your punishment, Adriana of Aragon, is to deliver the final blow."
A smile blossomed in her face. Her guilt was gone, replaced by happiness. She bowed obediently, then raised her hands toward the sky. A bright light covered her body, brighter than before. She felt a surge of power from nowhere passing through her body and gathering in both her hands. Her heart was calm and her mind was settled. The chanting echoed in her brain as her concentration reached perfection.
Then she felt the power draining from her and leaving her hands. She watched as the spell soared through the air and approached the trapped beast. Then the spell was broken into smaller magical bolts of holy energy. The bolts circled around the dragon and pierced the beast at the same time, drawing a loud roar from the wounded lizard. The holy bolts robbed the dragon off its evil seeds and separating them from the body. Then the bolts soared through the sky toward different parts of the continent and plunged into the earth, sealing the seeds deep inside the ground. With the evil spirits stripped and dispersed, the body was hollow. Kastor, the mighty destroyer, exploded with bright flash reaching even the Human capital of Stromgarde and the Dwarven Castle Hloffeth and a loud blast that could be heard even as far as the Land of Elom. The tall spire collapsed to the ocean floor, destroying the last piece of evidence of the great battle that had just occurred here.
The party watched Kastor' demise in awe and turned to look at Anna in amazement. Anna just smiled to them all and again bowed obediently toward Atrus.
"Your order is done, Lord Atrus." She said.
Atrus beamed at her with pride. "Remember my promise. We will fulfill our destiny. And when we do, I'll be there for you."
Her eyes sparkled with happiness. She could feel, despite her joy, tears falling from her eyes.
"You're very weird." He said. "I accused you and you cried. Now I commend you and you cry. Now tell me what I should do to get the right response from you."
Anna smirked, then caught him with full kiss on the lips, ignoring the cheers and applause from the party. She didn't need to feel ashamed, for her feeling for him was true. She loved him so much. She held the kiss for a while and broke it once Atrus started to escape, probably from the lack of air. His face was red with embarrassment, but he was smiling.
"If I've done something wrong, then I'm ready for another punishment, Lord Atrus." She pouted playfully.
"I don't know, Master..." Maya moved close to him and whispered, "But if I were you, I'll spank her all night..."
"Relax." Atrus said, brushing away his embarrassment. "I'll deal with her later. Now let's all go home."
"Not so fast, Champion of the Guardian!"
Atrus' body quickly tensed at the voice and the entire party spun around to face the new guy.
"I believe..." Falstoff drew his sword, "we have an unfinished business..."
Sister Rosa was a mess. She was hanging spread-eagled, held by chains dangling from the ceiling and anchored to the floor. Her body was as taut as a fully stretched rubber band in the verge of its elasticity. In fact, it probably only took one firm jerk to dislocate one of her joints. Her once-proud costume had been reduced into tatters of linen now hanging from her limp body. Aside from her gloves, boots, and seemingly worthless badge collar, she was stark naked. Her private parts were all exposed, and had been prime targets for the whips. Her body was just like a canvas, now decorated with angry welts and bruises from the last torture session.
And she was in the brink of madness. Her eyes stared blankly into space. Her body twitched uncontrollably from the invisible threat. Her tear-streaked face was quiet, emotionless. She had given up struggling and pleading her case, for she knew it was useless. Her fate had been sealed.
Her brain could not perceive sight or sound. Her brain could not perceive smell or taste. Only pain, and pain alone. There was only a moment of pain and a moment of relief. The latter one, she perceived, could only happen when she expired and descended to the Underworld. Yet her fate would not be like this. She was to die in the casket, the accursed one, and a victim of the terrible life burial.
Her body jerked again as the whip landed near her bruised vagina. Her throat was too parched to produce something humane. Again and again, despite the lack of determination from her brain, her exhausted tendons maintain the losing struggle to keep her joints together.
Somewhere deep inside her mind she made a promise. If she would survive this fight, she swore she would come to Sister Adriana and begged her to kill her. Now she knew Adriana was innocent, framed by her fellow sisters. She had tortured an innocent woman mercilessly, and she would pay for her crime.
Suddenly she heard, between the storms raging in her mind, the accursed woman crying and screaming in frustration. Rosa was prepared to receive the final blow, but it never came. Instead the woman just flung the bullwhip on the floor, marched toward the door and slammed it shut. A loud bang indicated that the door was locked from the outside.
Relief, relief, her mind screamed in celebration. But her body was too weak for her to do anything else. She just prayed silently that the darkness would take her away from this desecrated place. A slight smile was formed in her lips as darkness clouded her mind.
And she remembered nothing.
Ursula ran along the long hallway.
Prince Roberto is here... she thought. How could this be?!
She could hear the echoes of the heated argument happening at the end of the hallway. Her assistants had been handling Roberto while they had also silently contacted her through telepathic message. The young prince, however, was quite stubborn at seeing her.
As she approached, she could see the prince flanked by two axe-wielding battle Dwarves and an Elven warrior carrying a long lance and a short sword. Her two assistants were trying their best to keep the prince from storming inside. While they were quite insistent, they seemed to also be disheartened by the sight of the gigantic Kaiser Sword strapped on the prince's back.
"Now, now, gentlemen..." She announced her arrival. "I'm Priestess Ursula. You are in the sanctuary reserved for Lord Guardian. Please refrain yourself from the use of violence."
"I'm Roberto, the Prince and the Foremost Knight of the Kingdom of Aragon, and I demand some explanation!" The prince exclaimed angrily. "There has been a battle outside and we've been fighting for hours trying to save the town of Tymm, yet we received no help from you! I demand to know your true affiliation in this war!"
"Calm down, Prince Roberto..."
"I cannot calm down!!" He roared. "I lost most of my men trying to defend this place! I lost my second-in-command trying to reach the front door, and if I don't get a sufficient answer I will soon lose my patience!"
"You lost your second-in-command?" Ursula frowned.
"Captain Hawk, the most decorated knight I've served with all my life!" Roberto said while pounding his bare fist against the pillar, drawing blood. "He's my best friend and my best mate! Now I demand a good reason!"
"And you will have one, Prince Roberto." Ursula bowed. "You see, we are having an important ceremony, my enactment as the High Priestess of the Shrine of Lycra, in just a few minutes. Orders have been sent that all priestesses in the shrine to do fasting and be isolated from the rest of the realm since this morning for, let's say, a long moment of prayer for guidance from the Gods. We have erected a large force field around the shrine to keep evil forces away. That's probably why the demons cannot invade us. The same force field has probably kept us from hearing the raging battle outside."
"This isn't fair!" Roberto wailed, then fell on his knees, only to be supported by his followers. "This... just... isn't... fair..."
"Prince Roberto, come..." Ursula said soothingly. "I understand the pain you're feeling for the loss of your best friend... But I assure you that Lord Guardian will keep his soul at rest, for he has fought bravely for your safety. Come, join us in the Sacred Sanctuary. Let the peace of the sanctuary calm your troubled mind. I'm sure your best friend won't want to see you troubled like this, right?"
"Then come with us. We honor you as our guest in our sacred ceremony. But you must leave your weapons and followers behind. Sacred Sanctuary is the most sacred place in the shrine..."
"I want my guards to come along." Roberto suddenly said.
"But only guests are..."
"I insist!" Roberto hissed.
Ursula paused for a moment, then nodded. "Very well, Prince Roberto. Please..."
"Falstoff..." Atrus said. "You're not really Falstoff, right?"
"That's right, brother." The black knight grinned. "That's my human name."
"Brother?" Anna frowned at Atrus. "I don't recall you have a brother."
"He doesn't." Falstoff replied. "But the Champion of the Guardian does."
"Who are you?" Atrus asked.
"Why, brother, we come from the same mother, Goddess Gaea, the protector of the realm."
"What?!" Atrus was shocked. "It... it can't be!!"
"That's right." Falstoff grinned. "My father is no other than Lord Daemon, the supreme commander of the Army of Darkness."
"I can't believe it!" Lynn said. "You... you never told me this!"
"Forgive me, my fair lady." The dark knight bowed slightly. "The secret of my childhood was locked inside of me by my own father and would not be revealed until the secret of the Champion of the Guardian is revealed." He snickered. "And when it does, I'll be there to meet him, and slay him."
Suddenly a large black bubble rose from the ground, trapping the two warriors inside. The surface of the bubble was thin and transparent, allowing people from the outside to see the growing hostility happening inside. Anna and Calem tried to penetrate it using their magic, but their bolts exploded harmlessly against the surface. Lynn tried to smash through the bubble, but the surface zapped her with powerful electrical force, making the little Fairy jerk and scream in pain. Holgreb leaped toward her and snatched her lithe body from the bubble. The two forms fell on the sandy ground.
"Please do not hurt yourself, my fair lady." Falstoff mourned. "You are the least person I want to hurt."
"Then stop this now, Falstoff!" The Fairy cried. "If you hurt Atrus, you will hurt me!"
"As much as I agree with you, I'm afraid I can't submit to your demand." The dark knight replied politely. "The sole purpose for my existence is to slay the Champion of the Guardian."
"No, you can back away!" Lynn hovered near the bubble without being zapped. "You've been with us long enough! You know our cause is right!"
"That I cannot argue, indeed."
"Then join us! Join our cause! Forget your demonic blood! Join us for the survival of our realm!"
Falstoff was silent for a while, thinking of the offer. "Lynn..." He called her by name. "Lynn... you... you don't understand..."
"Of course I do understand!" The Fairy was sobbing. "I've spent some time together with you, and I know you're not a demon! You're a human! You belong with us!"
"I belong with you...?" He frowned.
"You're my friend, remember? We're friends, right? The song that night has blessed our friendship!"
His eyes suddenly met hers as if the gaze pierced through the bubble. "That is exactly the problem. Your songs hurt me."
"You noticed how I felt pain when you sang that night. You noticed how my head hurt in the last battle when you sang in the air. You noticed how the bells back in the shrine harmed my stomach. And I believe that I'm the cause of the collapsing of magic barriers, both here and back in the shrine. My nature has caused Anna to suffer torment and villagers to die."
"M...my songs... hurt you...?" Lynn muttered, deeply horrified.
"Listen, people." Falstoff addressed everyone in the island. "I... I really appreciate the time we've spent together. I've learnt a lot. I've learnt too much. I've learnt what a demonic abomination like me shouldn't have learnt. I've learnt about friendship. I've learnt about teamwork. And most of all, I've learnt about trust." He specifically nodded at Atrus. "I've learnt enough... I've learnt enough to become one of you...
"But something inside of me remains the same. My demonic blood still runs in my veins. You are all creations of the Gods; I'm a demonic abomination. No matter how hard I try, I can never be one of you. I tremendously appreciate the offer, but the time has come for me to fulfill my own destiny. I must serve my purpose, just like all of you."
"No! Don't do this!"
Lynn slammed against the bubble again and screamed as the cruel current flowed through her body. To everyone's surprise, however, it was Falstoff who blasted the Fairy off the surface with his magic. Aurelia caught her just before she hit the dirt. The Fairy tried to struggle, but she was too weak.
"No... please... Falstoff, don't do this... I... I don't want to lose you!!"
The dark knight stared sadly at her, then faced his adversary. "Let's do this, Champion."
"Falstoff, listen to her." Atrus tried. "Join us. Your demonic blood means nothing to us."
"It's useless, and you know it, Champion. You have to kill me to reach my father."
"Your father is a demon!" Atrus exclaimed. "You are not. Demons have no friends. Demons have no dreams. You are not a demon. You are one of us."
"Then if I am, let me fulfill my destiny." Falstoff replied. "And if it really is my destiny, let me die in your hand."
"I cannot, Falstoff!" Atrus yelled in frustration. "You are my friend!"
"Champion, if you honor me as your friend, then kill this demonic body!" He cried. "For you only snuff the body, but the soul remains." He stared at Atrus. "If I stay alive, my father will kill me and put my soul in torment, and I'll be forced to fight you again in the underworld. Kill me now, so I may fulfill my purpose."
"Falstoff..." Atrus looked away. "You know I don't want to do this..."
"I know, and I'm grateful." Falstoff raised his sword, ready for the duel.
There was a silent pause. Aurelia purposely held the Fairy, preventing her from slamming the bubble and hurting herself again. The party was silent, waiting for the duel of the age. Everyone held their breath as Atrus slowly met Falstoff's gaze and lifted the Sword of Faith.
"Lord Guardian, stop me, for I'm about to kill one of my own." He muttered.
Falstoff dashed toward Atrus, his sword blazing with black energy. Atrus mimicked the action and the two warriors drew close with amazing speed. The party held their breath as both warriors raised their swords. Falstoff's sword flared with dark power while Atrus' Sword of Faith with the holy power. The two swords collided, and there was a bright flash that blinded everyone in the island. A thundering clash of the two forces, joined by Lynn's cry of despair, filled the sky.
The help from the Gods never came. What must happen will happen.
And all elements of nature came to mourn.
As the party recovered, they saw Atrus kneeling on one corner of the bubble, leaning on the Sword of Faith for support. Falstoff, however, was still standing erect, his sword remained firm in his hands. The dark knight lifted his head, formed a smile, then closed his eyes. His grip broke open and the sword fell to the ground, broken into two pieces. A long cut broke open on his body, stretching across his chest, and fresh blood gushed out. The body went limp and collapsed to the ground.
And the dark bubble was shattered. Lynn instantly yanked Aurelia's grip and soared toward Falstoff's unmoving body. The party quickly crowded them as well. Lynn desperately rolled his body over and began to call his name.
"Miss Anna, please save his life!" The Fairy pleaded desperately.
Anna quickly took his hand and felt his pulse. She fell silent. She'd seen no one with a life force this weak yet remained alive. Falstoff's soul was weak. His wound was mortal. Her magic wouldn't be able to heal him, let alone save his life.
She shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry, Lynn..."
"No, you must do it!!" Lynn said, nearly crying. "You're a priestess! You can heal everything!"
"But... but..." Anna hesitated. But with this wound he's supposed to die by now, she wanted to say. Then she felt the same jolt of life coming from the body. Falstoff weakly stared into her eyes as if trying to say something to her. There was something inside him, so powerful that it refused to surrender to death. And she knew what it was.
"Lynn..." She started. "Falstoff has... something to say to you..."
The Fairy stared at her in confusion, yet looked at Falstoff, who in turn had turned his gaze to her eyes. A streak of tears fell from his eyes.
"Lynn..." Anna choked. "He... he said he loves you... And... and his love for you... will never die..."
And as she finished her sentence, a weak smile blossomed from his face. He was smiling! With that he slowly closed his eyes. This time, it was for good.
Falstoff was gone.
Lynn cried and shook his body, but even she knew it was useless. The poor Fairy could only cry upon his chest, remembering the good times they had together, and regretting the times they could have had. Calem held the Fairy in his arms, patiently consoling her. Aurelia and Maya stood from afar, their eyes wet with tears. Even Holgreb, the least sensitive member of the party, seemed to be smashed by the loss of their friend.
Indeed, the nature came to mourn, for a fine warrior had been slain.
Anna stood up, although her heart felt heavy yet hollow. Her eyes quickly found Atrus standing far away, staring into the vast ocean. She could feel a greater despair gnawing him from inside. She could understand. It had been his hands that had killed Falstoff. It had been his sword that had made that mortal wound. And the worst of all, it was he who had snuffed a pure love from coming true.
She joined him in deep thought, standing just next to him.
"Why?" The question came raw from his mouth.
Anna knew that she couldn't offer any better answer. "What must happen will happen."
"No, that's not it." He said. "He... he embraced death willingly..."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't tell Lynn." Atrus warned. "He... he met my sword with his... He knew that my sword is the weapon of the Gods... He knew that his sword is not a match for mine... yet he met my sword... He... he committed suicide..."
Anna peeked at the group behind them, making sure Lynn wasn't listening. "But why?"
"He did it for her." Atrus choked. "He wanted to die like a true warrior rather than a fool who fought half-heartedly. He didn't want to disappoint her. He... he wanted her to be proud of him..."
"He... he did that?"
"He is a fine man." Atrus said slowly. "May his soul rest in peace."
And the Fairy opened her mouth and sang the song of love, despair, and hope for the man she loved. The requiem filled the air with unspoken sorrow and reached the Paradise, where the Gods finally let out their comforting hands. The wind around the island died instantly. The clouds were opened and a streak of heavenly light came from the sky and illuminated the small island. And the party felt the warm feeling in their hearts. The Gods had come and consoled their sorrow.
And their prayer had been answered. Falstoff was at peace.
Anna sighed in relief and wiped the tears from her face. She looked at Atrus, but was surprised to find the same sorrow sculptured in his face. And there was something else. Anger.
"Daemon..." He gritted his teeth. "I'll make you pay every single minute of this...!"
"Honey..." Anna held him from behind. "Let's concentrate the matter at hand. Remember, don't let anger hinder your judgement."
She was pleased to find his anger declining slowly. Then she felt his hand firmly gripping hers. He looked at her, smiling.
"Right. And we'll start with your case. We're going back to the shrine."
They walked back to the party. Anna wasn't surprised to find Lynn avoiding their gaze. The Fairy was too drowned in her sadness that it was wise not too push her too far.
"We're going back to the shrine." Atrus announced. "I'm determined to uproot the demonic influence in that shrine. Are you all with me?"
"Of course, Lord Atrus!" Calem said. "You are the Champion. We will go wherever you go!"
"I'll follow you, Lord Atrus." The Elf said humbly.
"No problem here, kid!" Holgreb replied casually. "Uh... I mean, Lord Atrus."
It took a few seconds for Lynn to regain her composure and replied. "Forgive me if I'm still hindered by my despair..." She sobbed for a while. "B...but I will follow you, Lord Atrus..."
"Thank you, Lynn, thank you everybody." Atrus smiled. "We'll make them pay."
Roberto took his seat at the front row of the Sacred Sanctuary, reserved only for guests. His guards were sitting at the back row. Between them also sat nearly two hundred priestesses wearing costumes of various colors, from dark blue to pure white. He was guessing that the color symbolized the rank, although he wasn't really sure.
He felt dwarfed. The Sacred Sanctuary was just like an amphitheater. Each seat row was built higher than the next one, with the main podium and the altar lying on the lowest ground. From his position he could see the entire horde of priestesses, who in the same time were all staring curiously at him. It was understandable, since he's the only one in the room wearing a full set of plate armor and battle gear. Plus, most of the priestesses here probably hadn't seen any males for a long time. He felt dwarfed. He wanted his Kaiser Sword back.
An older lady sat next to him. She had introduced herself as 'former' High Priestess Elizabeth. He liked her. While the entire horde of young women seemed quite threatening to him, the old lady was very friendly. But he was restless. From time to time he looked nervously at the back of the room, making sure everything was save and his guards were there.
"Something is troubling you, young prince." The old lady said.
"Oh, I'm just saddened by the loss of my friend, my lady." Prince Roberto replied.
Priestess Elizabeth nodded, but the grin she was trying to hide made him feel worried. Yet her gesture was not threatening. In this 'hostile' environment, even a 'slightly hostile' figure could be considered a welcome sight.
A young priestess came up before the altar and addressed the audience. "Today we will enact the new High Priestess of the Holy Order of Lycra. May the Gods receive our fasting and prayer, so that they will guide us in this ceremony."
Roberto frowned. Although he hated it, he was expecting a long welcoming speech that last for at least a few hours. Everything seemed a bit... rushed. But he didn't complain.
Then the woman he knew as Priestess Ursula came toward the podium followed by at least seven other followers. She wore the most decorated costume. She wore a high collar made from fine metal and decorated with sun-shaped sculptures. Her snow-white cloak fell to the floor, nearly covering her front. Her gown was made out of soft silk and hugged her body gracefully. She looked around the room and suddenly fixed her gaze to him. Roberto swallowed hard. Despite her wide smile, her gaze was sharp, deadly piercing, seeking to tame him. He wished his metal boots had had laces, so he would have a good reason to tie them up, effectively breaking the eye contact.
"Priestess Ursula had been with us for twenty years." One priestess announced. "She has been serving Lord Guardian along with all of us since she was just a toddler. She is a loyal member of our order. Now, sisters, I am proud to present Priestess Ursula for the position of the High Priestess of the Holy Order of Lycra."
Again, he was expecting a cheer from the fellow priestesses, but the room was dead quiet. The only sound he could hear came from his nervous stomach. In fact, he hadn't eaten since last night.
"Now sisters, let's all pray together for Gods' blessings for our new High Priestess, so she may lead our order, and eventually, all races of the Guardian, along the way of the truth."
One priestess came forward, carrying a tray with a cloth-covered object. The cloth was soon lifted and a golden mace came into view. The mace was made from strong metal and covered with gold plating. The sun-shaped head was filled with beautiful sculptures of sunrays. Roberto knew the mace well. It was the Sun Mace, the holy artifact of the Order of Lycra. A royal gift from the court of Aragon many years ago, the artifact symbolized the loyalty of the order to the kingdom. Inside the order, carried by the High Priestess, the mace also symbolized the power and authority of the wielder. While largely untested in close combat, the enchanted mace was known to amplify the wielder's magical ability.
"And Prince Roberto of the Kingdom of Aragon will personally give the holy mace to our new High Priestess."
Roberto blinked. Nobody had told him that he was supposed to participate in the ceremony. Just suddenly, all eyes were turned toward him. Priestess Elizabeth just touched his arm and motioned him to go forward.
"Please, we will be very honored." She smiled.
Roberto clumsily walked toward the altar and received the offered mace. The artifact looked heavy at first, but was as light as a feather in his hands. He admired the enchanted weapon for a while, then faced Priestess Ursula. She was smiling at him warmly.
"Priestess Ursula," he began. "Uh... I... We're all aware that the Holy Order of Lycra is... I mean... has been a loyal member of our kingdom... And... and so... uh... we really appreciate it..."
Cut it out, his mind scream. He could feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
"And so, with power bestowed upon me by the royal court of Aragon, I..."
Just suddenly a magic portal appeared exactly above the holy altar. Anna popped out first, crashing on top of the altar, head first. Atrus followed later. He was supposed to land nicely on his feet, but with Anna on the way he crashed on her, sending both of them sliding along the altar and into the floor. Lynn flapped her wings as soon as she arrived, yet Maya crashed into her, nearly squishing the Fairy. The Elf landed on the edge of the altar and quickly fell to the floor. The Dwarf landed with a loud crash that Roberto thought that the altar had been broken into two. Finally Calem landed on the altar, got tripped by Holgreb's prone body, and both of them stumbled to the floor.
"... I propose that we deal with the current problem justly and properly." He finished.
"Calem!!" Atrus groaned from behind the altar. "You'll pay for this!!"
"Get off me, Ranger! You're sitting on my head!"
"Who touched my butt?!" The Elf cried hysterically, followed by a sound of a slap. "You perverted Dwarf!!"
"What is the meaning of this?!" Ursula cried out.
Aurelia, who recovered first, stood up only to find two hundred angry priestesses glaring at her. She desperately looked at Roberto for help.
"Halt!" Roberto cried once seeing that some of the priestesses in the front rows had prepared their magic missile spells. "Let them speak!"
"There's nothing to say!" One priestess cried. "Those people have defiled the holy altar!"
"The altar looks fine..." and the stone altar collapsed into two parts, directly where Holgreb had landed earlier, "... a few minutes ago..."
"Sisters, arrest them!!"
"Wait!" Aurelia cried. "Behold, you are facing the Champion of the Guardian!!" She pointed at the empty spot behind the altar. "Uh... Lord Atrus, get over here!" She hissed, then faced the crowds again. "Behold, the Champion of the Guardian!"
Atrus clumsily stood up, using the altar for support. His hair was a mess and his cloak was all over his shoulder. The audience quickly exploded in loud laughter.
"Does it say in the prophecy that I can deliver curses to the people?" Atrus asked Anna.
"Nope... you're a savior, not a witch doctor."
"Sisters, decimate this two devils!" Ursula ordered.
Atrus raised the Sword of Faith. "You can't hurt me! Lord Guardian will protect me!"
Anna shocked him with a little spark, making him jump on his feet.
"What's that for?!" he hissed.
"Just a little test." Anna whispered. "Yes, they can hurt you."
"Sisters, purify them!!"
Instantly hundreds of magic missiles flew from the audience. Anna only had a short time to cast magic barrier on Atrus, although she doubted that it would be sufficient. But the Sword of Faith suddenly flared with blinding light. A larger barrier rose up from the ground, covering both Atrus and Anna. The stream of magic missiles slammed against the barrier, sending sparks all over the podium, but the barrier didn't budge. Once the assault was over, the two occupants remain safe. The priestesses in the room began to mutter with each other.
"Any other comments?" Aurelia addressed the audience.
Roberto ran toward Atrus and hissed. "Are you really the one?"
"I do hope I have the right to choose." Atrus muttered.
"Fellow priestesses!" Calem spoke up. "I understand what you're thinking. What you see here are the same people who came two days ago as commoners. However, I'm sure we all believe that Lord Guardian's miracle can change a person's life instantly. What you're seeing right now is a result of Lord Guardian's generosity to the people."
"I don't believe you!" Ursula cried. "That man has defiled our shrine! That man has released a felon and assaulted one of our sisters!"
"What do you say if I say those are part of Lord Guardian's plan?" Atrus replied. "What must happen will happen."
"So are you saying that Lord Guardian has taken side with a sinner?!"
"The accused must be given a chance to defend herself!" Roberto said. "And we shall hear."
"Of course!" Ursula yelled. "Let us all hear your conviction, so when it's all done, you can rest in peace!"
Anna decided to take the insult. She was there to prove, not accuse.
"If you don't answer, why don't you start from the time when we caught you defiling the holy altar?"
"I didn't do that on purpose!" Anna replied. "I was fighting the demon lord, Daemon! He was holding two sisters hostage!"
"Or you're holding them hostage until Daemon took them away to their doom!"
"I can prove otherwise!" Anna turned toward the crowd. "Sisters, we are all aware of the capability of our magic barrier! It will prevent evil forces from passing through the barrier. Now I ask you this. Why do you think Daemon could have entered this holy shrine unscathed?"
"Because you allow him passage!" One priestess cried, followed by angry curses from the rest.
Roberto raised his hand, calming the crowd again. He hated this crowd, for they were too determined to accuse Anna. He motioned the priestess to continue.
"Sisters, please allow me to give you a short demonstration!" Anna turned at Calem. "You may begin, Calem."
The old wizard raised his staff, which soon emitted bright light. To Roberto's amazement, the entire priestesses in the room twitched from the effect. Since Roberto didn't know anything about magic, he couldn't sense anything, but all was revealed to him pretty soon. A small dimension portal appeared in the air and two large beasts came out from the portal. The beasts hungrily looked around for preys, but was dumbfounded to find nearly two hundred angry priestesses ready with their magic missiles.
"Purify them!" Anna cried.
Hundreds of bolts soared through the air from around the room. The beasts had no chance and were soon burnt to dust. The portal instantly vanished from sight.
"What are you doing?! You just destroy the magic barrier covering our shrine!!" Ursula cried. "Now the Orcs can enter the shrine and slaughter us all!!"
Roberto soon saw his chance. "I can deny that!" He cried. "The Alliance Army has secured the perimeter and now stands ready to battle the demons!"
Ursula stared at him in shock. "What...? I thought..."
"I lied." Roberto grinned. "My army is not defeated. In fact, how did you know that the Orcs have just invaded the shrine? I thought I never mention that before..."
Anna, unwilling to let go her point, faced the bewildered crowd. "Sisters, what you've just seen is a spell called Dispel Magic! And we all know that this high-ranking spell is not available for us lowly Priestesses of Lycra! Therefor I can only conclude two individuals who have the ability of collapsing the magic barrier!"
She pointed at Calem. "The first one is of course Calem the Wizard, who you all know, along with Lynn the Fairy, have been busy securing the village of Tymm and helping the refugees for the last three days! Some of you have worked with him, so if he ever had a chance to cast the spell, you would have known it!"
And finally, with sharp gaze, Anna turned to Ursula. "And the second person is none other than Priestess Ursula, the original caster of the spell! She'd cast the magic barrier, so she also has the power to collapse it anytime she wants!"
And all gazes were quickly turned to Ursula. "What?! This... this is absurd!"
"Ursula has made covenants with the demons!" Anna continued. "She took some of her fellow priestesses along with her and sealed the door. Then she allowed the barrier to collapse and let the demons take the innocent priestesses away. To smoothen her plan, she enlisted the Army of Darkness to cause chaos outside the shrine while the barrier is still open, so that we were all forced to deal with them." Anna's gaze returned to Ursula. "And to cover it up, she enlisted Daemon, the Lord of the Army of Darkness, to occupy me inside this very room, so that she could blame everything on me. Ursula, you are the demoness!!"
"You have no evidence!" Ursula shot back.
"Yes, we have!!" All eyes were turned to the back of the room, where Captain Hawk stood tall, holding the prone body of a girl Anna quickly recognized as Priestess Rosa.
Ursula turned to Roberto. "I thought... I thought..."
"I lied again." Roberto grinned. "Captain Hawk is not dead. I ordered him to sneak inside while I occupied you and your guards, and find proof of your crime and deception to the Kingdom of Aragon and to the Alliance!"
"She might not be able to speak now!" Hawk's voice thundered across the room. "But her wounds speak of her suffering to that wretched woman more than any words can say!"
Ursula slowly stepped back, afraid that her crime had been revealed. She'd never thought that Anna and her gang would be able to put all the pieces together, and she knew that she had underestimated her opponent. And she'd never thought that Daemon would be standing right behind her.
The party gasped as the leader of the Army of Darkness snatched the priestess in his arms. "That's right! What you have heard is true!"
"Lord Daemon, what are you doing?!" Ursula squirmed, but the demon held her tightly.
"Why, you have sold your soul to me. I have come to reclaim my prize."
Ursula's face was soon filled with pure fear. She looked at Anna with her pleading gaze. "Please save me!"
Holgreb ran toward the demon lord, wielding his axe. The demon lord just chuckled and flicked his fingers, and the Dwarf was thrown back off the ground with invisible force. Maya and Aurelia threw their projectiles, but the knives and arrows never touched Daemon due to the protective force field around him. Roberto was ready to take his turn but hesitated, knowing that he was no more than a dedicated pillow-fighter without his Kaiser Sword.
"Enough with this game!" Daemon snarled, then stared at Atrus. "Champion of the Guardian, we shall meet again in the Underworld."
And still carrying the frightened Priestess Rosa with him, Lord Daemon vanished from sight.
The room was dead silent. Roberto could see the weary eyes on the priestesses of Lycra around the room. He could understand. All this time they had been putting their faith on a demoness.
But one priestess, the one Roberto had known, stood up and spoke up. "Sisters, as the enactment of the new High Priestess has failed, I must assume, for this moment, the place as the temporary High Priestess of Lycra. Yet we must not stop here! We must resume our ceremony on choosing the new High Priestess!"
"High Priestess Elizabeth..." One priestess wearily replied. "It's no use! Our holy order has been infiltrated! We even have a demoness in our ranks and we almost enacted her as our new leader! Now how can we trust other if the one we trust most has forsaken us?"
"Well, I haven't lost hope!" High Priestess Elizabeth said. "I'm proud to announce our own Priestess Adriana as the next candidate for the High Priestess position!"
This created uproar among the priestesses of Lycra, and also on Anna. She just looked at her mother in disbelief. The High Priestess, instead of avoiding her gaze, gave her a supportive smile. The other priestesses, however, were not very happy with that.
"But, High Priestess, Adriana is no longer one of us! She has defiled our holy order many years ago, and she just defiled our holy altar! We can't accept her as our leader!"
"You all have been blinded!!" Elizabeth replied angrily. "You all have forgotten the very principle our order is based upon! Tell me, what does Lord Guardian want us to do as his servants?!"
"To serve Lord Guardian and love others in this realm!" The entire crowd chorused together, as of they had practiced the line over and over again.
"Then look at yourselves!" Elizabeth continued, still staring at the crowd. "You have had your oath that you will serve Lord Guardian. Here we have one of his loyal servant, who used to be one of us, who used to serve Lord Guardian together with us, yet you have sent her away for the crime she has not done! She has been defiled by people possessed by the devil, yet she's taken full blame and left the shrine in shame. Now you have served a demoness and let her steer you all to your doom, yet the judgement you gave her is still not half of what Adriana has endured for the past years! You all should be ashamed to call yourselves servants of Lord Guardian!
"And if you call yourselves servants of love, you should be ready to face your judgement, for Adriana is a Human, one of many wonderful creations of Lord Guardian, yet you've treated her like a demon! You all have stayed in this very shrine! You have studied Lord Guardian's codes more than any other creatures of this realm! I tell you now, although you remain in his holy shrine for the rest of your live, Lord Guardian is far away from your pleas!"
And she pointed straight at Anna. "And look at her! She has been in exile for many years! She has faced hard times and temptations of the outside world more than any of us have endured even if we can double our lifetime! Yet look at her! You all have heard the great deeds she has done to the Kingdom of Aragon and to the realm, although all the news you've heard doesn't necessary justify the deeds she has done that remain concealed! You have seen her, and how her friends, even the Champion of the Guardian himself, are ready to lay down their lives for her! I tell you now, for some of you she may not be one of us, but she is truly the servant of love, and Lord Guardian is deeply pleased by her!"
The room was still dead quiet. Roberto was quite amused, just like everybody else in the party. The temporary High Priestess seemed to have made her point, and she'd done that clearly, for the entire ranks of priestesses were deep in their thoughts. Anna was quite restless herself and just stared nervously at her mother.
Finally one priestess stood up from the crowd and said, "Sister Adriana... Please lead us..."
And to everyone's surprise, the crowd murmured in agreement. All eyes were turned toward Anna, who was still dumbfounded.
"But... but I don't know... I'm too young..." Anna said.
"It doesn't matter, Adriana." High Priestess Elizabeth replied. "You possess the wisdom from Lord Guardian himself."
"Yes... but... I don't know if I can do it..."
"Sister Adriana..." Another priestess said. "We know that you may be hurt by your banishment from the shrine years ago... We really apologize... We've been led by the demoness for too long that we've lost guidance... You are pure. We need your guidance. Please forget your past hatred and lead us back to the truth!"
"But you don't understand! I never hate you!" Anna said, then looked at her friends, especially Atrus. "I never feel sorry for my banishment... for because of it I've been able to meet these wonderful friends I've spent most of my time with all these years... Had I not been banished, I probably wouldn't have known my destiny as one of the Warriors of the Guardian. I... I never feel sorry for my banishment... I feel... so fortunate... for my friends, for my wonderful friends, and for my life."
She found Atrus smiling warmly at her, and her heart was flushed with joy. She slowly stared back to the crowd and said, "But I am still a servant of Lord Guardian. If you want me to be your High Priestess, I will accept. But I must tell you that I won't be able to lead you now, for I have had my oath as a Warrior of the Guardian that I will remain loyal to Lord Atrus, the Champion of the Guardian, and follow him wherever he goes."
"Then let the ceremony begin!" High Priestess Elizabeth took the Sun Mace and lifted it up high. "By the power Lord Guardian has bestowed upon me, I enact you, Adriana Freesland, servant of Lord Guardian, the new High Priestess of the Holy Order of Lycra."
Anna knelt before her mother and gracefully received the enchanted weapon in her hands. She held the weapon close, admiring it for a while, then showed it to the crowd. The entire ranks of priestesses bowed their heads in awe and respect for their new leader.
"And the time has come for our holy order to announce our loyalty again to the very Kingdom of Aragon..." Anna looked serenely at Roberto. "And to the Alliance."
Roberto nodded, then cried, "Get me my sword!"
As always, the crowd gasped at the sight of the gigantic sword. Kaiser Sword was so heavy that it took at least three priestesses to carry it along the aisle and to the podium. The crowd murmured in awe as the prince lifted the sword up easily as if he's lifting a pillow. The priestesses became agitated and started clapping when the prince juggled with the sword, until Maya kicked his calf and told him to quit it.
Anna faced the prince and knelt down gracefully, followed by the entire ranks of priestesses around the podium and inside the sanctuary. "Prince Roberto of Aragon, we, the priestesses of the Holy Order of Lycra, announce our loyalty to the Kingdom of Aragon, and also, to the Alliance. May Lord Guardian and the gods in Paradise send blessings to us all."
And as an act of acceptance, Roberto reached out and helped Anna to stand up again. Once she was back on her feet, the crowd began clapping that he thought the entire building would collapse from the sound. Both Roberto and Anna looked at the crowd and were pleased. There was no more hatred in their eyes. Just hope for better future for all of them.
"I never knew you're quite an entertainer." Anna whispered while looking at the sword. "You should play your trick before us all after all this is done."
"Why, Anna, I even think of doing this as a part-time job..."
Lynn the Fairy stood still before the grave. Her eyes were wet with tears. Her body remained unmoved. Her heart was broken. No word could speak of her sorrow.
She was standing before the grave of Falstoff, now an Honorary Knight of Aragon. Roberto had bestowed the title during the funeral, claiming that a great deed of his would not go unnoticed. Anna herself had blessed the grave and the rest of the party had generously poured flower over the earth. A silver sword was jammed to the head of the grave, Atrus' own Rainbow Sword, which he had left there in memory of Falstoff.
And the party had left her alone. She didn't know why. To cry? To grieve? To mourn? She had cried for his death for a while and she knew she could cry for some more. There was so much she could recall even in the short time they had spent together. All those memories, sweet and bitter ones, gnawed her heart and ate away her soul.
In the corner of her eyes she could see Calem standing behind her. She didn't mind his presence. In fact she didn't mind anyone's presence. She just didn't know what to say to them. But Calem was there, patiently waiting for her, ready to console her. And probably everyone in the party was as well. They just knew that Calem had known the Fairy better that they had entrusted him with this task.
"It's not fair..." Her voice trailed off. "It... it's not... fair..."
"That he didn't have enough time to get to know you?" Calem offered.
She suddenly felt a stab of accusation in the reply, although she knew he didn't mean it. "I... I'm just being selfish..."
"No, not at all." The old wizard said quickly. "What you're feeling is absolutely normal."
"If it is, how come it hurts so much?" Lynn asked again.
"You've lived in isolation in Heaven for too long." Calem replied. "So this feeling, grief, might seem very... new to you. I can assure you that everyone the party understands your feeling. Atrus and the rest have lost many of their loved ones in their journey."
"Then how come they seem to be unaffected?"
"The trick is to carry on with your life." He replied. "Sure, you may grieve over Falstoff. We all do. But don't let that grief make you give up your life. Tell me, do you think Falstoff wants to see you crying over his grave forever?"
"You must carry on, for your life doesn't stop at his death. You must live on in the memory of him. And when the time has come... you will be reunited once again... and no one will be able to break you apart anymore..."
Lynn glanced back at the wizard and found weary look in his eyes. She could also feel his sadness. His words had probably brought memories from the past back to haunt him again.
"You've lost someone special, too." Lynn said carefully.
"Many." Calem said. "When the Great Temple of Magi was burnt down, I lost many good friends. All my childhood friends, all my friendship I've established for so many years, were all gone in a blink. When Atrus came to me to plea his kingdom's case, all those memories rushed back at me, begging me to fulfill my revenge."
"But you didn't do it."
"No, that's not what my friends would have wanted. Revenge is what I want, the result of hurt and pain from the loss many years ago. But no, neither of us wanted war. We just want to survive, and we can't do it until the demonic menace is gone from this world. That's my purpose.
"And I should find mine..." Lynn looked back at the grave.
"Yes, but you know that your purpose is not to sit before the grave and grieve for the rest of your life." Calem replied softly. "You must live up his memory. You must live up his dream. As long as you do, Falstoff is not dead. He's alive in your heart, just as he has said."
Lynn stared at the grave for some time. Then, as if finding her strength back, she slowly stood up and walked away from the grave. While she was expecting to feel another deep pain and sorrow, she felt... fulfilled. She knew that Falstoff was not at rest. She knew that his dream would not die. She knew that she would make him proud. She looked back at Calem, who's standing near her, smiling. He wrapped his arms around her and guided her back to the building.
"Thank you..." She whispered. "For bringing me back from the land of the dead..."
"Welcome back to the land of the living." Calem replied. "We all miss you."
The party was gathering in the courtyard once again, but this time they were ready to leave. The soldiers had broken their camps. The morning air was refreshing, although the scent of smoke from the half-burnt village was still in the air.
Everybody gasped and whistled as Anna came to them. Her costume was different, now that she was the High Priestess of Lycra, no longer a renegade priestess. Her satin dress and skirt remained the same, although she had ordered the other priestesses to wear longer skirts rather than their old 'revealing' ones. Her badge collar, however, was different. It was made from fine leather with golden sculpture of sunrays, topped with a large white gemstone acting as the sun. She now wore a pair of armbands across her shoulders, and a golden cloak flowed freely along her slim back. Her belt, gloves, and boots remained the same, except for the sun sculptures carved along the bands. In her hand was the enchanted weapon, the Sun Mace.
With her new costume she looked very... stunning. Atrus just swallowed hard as the priestess approached him casually, threw her arms around his neck, and planted a light kiss on his cheek.
"Anna... you look... gorgeous..."
"That's nice, honey." She smirked, then glanced at her mother. "My mother was a bit worried that you might be attracted too much to me."
"I'll work on it, I promise."
And the last ones to arrive were Calem and Lynn. The Fairy looked much better than yesterday, now that she had washed her tears from her face and looked refreshed. She boldly met Atrus' gaze, although she seemed a bit hesitant.
"Lord Atrus..." She began. "I don't know how to say it..."
"Please do say it." Atrus said.
"I... I must admit that... I have hated you... the moment you killed Falstoff..." She fell on her knees before her. "I... I was so selfish... Forgive me..."
Atrus slowly helped her back up and beamed at her. "We are all saddened by his death. Of course I will."
"And you too, Anna..." She turned to Anna. "I have hated you for not reviving him. I'm sorry. I know you've tried. Again, I was being selfish. Please forgive me."
"Of course, Lynn." Anna replied.
"And for all of you..." Lynn faced the party. "Forgive me if I made you all feel worried. I... I hope you all understand."
Holgreb suddenly snatched the Fairy from Atrus and pinned her head in his armpit. "Well, you still must pay for making us all feel worried, right? Take this!"
Lynn squealed as the Dwarf smacked her butt. In retaliation, she shocked him with her magic, making him jump around his feet. While Atrus thought Holgreb's attempt was silly, it was on the mark. Lynn could now laugh and smile again, and everyone was glad.
Now back to the business...
"Very well, people, this is what we're going to do." Atrus said. "Prince Roberto, Captain Hawk, you are to return to the kingdom and rally the Alliance Army. We all know that the demons are ready to mount a final assault to the realm, although we're not sure where. Nevertheless we must be prepared. Go to my castle and use my army as well. And if you can, go to the southeastern forest near the ruins of Labrador to seek help from my clan, the Rangers. We will need all the help we can get. Take Maya with you as well."
"I hear and heed, Lord Atrus." Prince Roberto said.
"And for all of you..." Atrus looked around the Warriors of the Guardian. "Thank you for being with me. The final battle will undoubtedly be costly. I hope we're all prepared."
"Of course, Lord Atrus! We'll go wherever you go!" Aurelia said.
"Lord Atrus, do you have any idea where to go now?" Lynn asked.
"In fact, yes." Atrus replied while looking back at Anna. "We've discussed about this last night. We're not sure yet, but we know where to start."
"A fine leader always knows what to do." Calem mused.
"Thanks, old man. We should get going now."
Anna looked back at her mother and hugged her tightly. "Thank you for everything, mother."
"Go now, Adriana." Elizabeth said. "You don't know how proud I am for you."
And she looked at Atrus and smirked. "You take care of Adriana, or I'll deal with you later."
Atrus grinned. "She's just like her mother."
Ursula was forced to walk on all four. Heavy manacles circled her wrists and ankles. A thick metal collar hugged her neck, connected to the Orc's hand with a leash. And she was stark naked, except for the chains. Her position allowed the demons to get good view on her private parts.
She just hung her head in shame. She was once a proud priestess of Lycra. Now she was no more than a demon's pet, working against her will to please her demonic master.
Daemon was back on his throne, sitting next to his unwilling lover, Goddess Gaea. Gaea was still strapped on her chair in a humiliating way, with her legs spread open and chained to the wall behind her. Daemon still casually stroked her pussy, adding to her humiliation.
"Ah, what do we have here, honey, a new pet!" Daemon grinned.
But to her surprise, Gaea replied weakly, "Let... her... go..."
Ursula was crushed. She had tortured the goddess mercilessly, but the goddess still fought for her plight. But neither she nor Ursula could fight against the demon lord. They were now hopeless in his grasp.
Gaea gasped as Daemon thrust his fingers deep inside her vagina and slowly ravaged her inside. Ursula tried to break free, yet the Orc simply yanked her collar, choking her and ceasing her struggle. The Orc guided her head with his feet to Daemon's boots. She couldn't understand the Orc's deep grunting, but she knew what she was expected to do. Slowly she began to lick the boot, cleaning it with her saliva. The humiliation was unbearable, yet she had to endure it. After her crime to the Order of Lycra and to Lord Guardian, she was expecting to endure anything, until her savior came.
And for the first time she wished that Lord Atrus, Adriana, and their gang, could arrive as soon as possible and put an end to this mess.
"Don't worry, pet." Daemon casually stroked her hair. "The time will come when both of you will serve me together."
Gaea couldn't do anything but moan from his cruel treatment to her vagina. Ursula could only sob slightly before the Orc kicked her ribs, forcing her to resume licking.
"And as my first reward..." Daemon grinned. "You two will me the witnesses of the demise of Atrus White Lion, the Champion of the Guardian..."
Lord Falagor was just ready to have his breakfast when a large dimension door appeared before him.
And each member of the Warriors of the Guardian popped out from the portal and landed safely on the ground. Aurelia the Elf, Holgreb the Dwarf, Lynn the Fairy, Calem the Wizard, and Adriana the Human, gathered inside the small house. Finally Atrus, the Champion of the Guardian, arrived last as the portal vanished in thin air.
"Well, what a surprise visit..." Falagor mused.
"Hello again, Master Falagor." Atrus bowed gracefully, then smiled. "I have returned."
"Indeed, Champion of the Guardian. The honor is all mine." He looked around the party. "Warriors of the Guardian, welcome."
Atrus just smiled as the party, except Anna, were confused on how the old wizard could quickly recognize them. But his face soon turned serious. "Master Falagor, we need your help."
To Be Continued...
I know, I know, lack of sex scene. I know that I don't find a place in this erotica world anymore.
And for those who are wondering, there's only one more chapter left (Whoopee!!). I'm hoping to finish this blasted story as soon as possible so I'll be free from the obligation. I'm telling you, don't let a hobby enslave you, ever!
Anyway, hope you all like it. And keep the CC&C coming!
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