Free {Kingdoms of War}

An outlaw, tuned to kill.
A shifter, transformed from myth to monster.
A prince, denied rightful claim to the throne.
An assassin, adapted to survive and to kill.

Four monsters, and a common enemy to unite them.


20. Chapter Nineteen

Axel followed the tunnel down. He could hear Lux and Skala behind him, both following closely. They emerged in a large cavern, and Axel let out a low whistle. The place was lit entirely by glowstones, giving it a bright, blue hue that illuminated each tiny crevice in the stone walls. Buildings of stone had been constructed below, clustered around one tall, eye-catching tower in the middle of the cavern. It seemed a brilliant hideout. Poorly guarded, admittedly, but an interesting place nonetheless. Axel suspected it had been modelled on the Shade.

For a criminal hideout, it was nothing short of amazing.

"Shall we head down and just fight our way through, or simply destroy everything?" Axel mused. Lux glanced at him, but it was apparent that he wasn't going to reply any time soon. Clearly, the prince preferred to simply follow stronger beings.

"Destruction," Axel decided eventually. "We haven't destroyed anything for quite a while. Lux, I advise you to prepare yourself. Shadow is about to use the full stretch of her abilities. You will now see exactly what we mean by monster."

Lux swallowed, bowing his head before nodding quietly. "Shadow?" Axel asked. Skala shot him a brief smile, before allowing the obsidian flames to snake along her arms. Axel could feel the heat from here.

This wasn't, of course, the full extent of her power, but they were hiding the fact she could turn into a dragon. Any who had seen that form had died or been mentally and physically scarred, excluding him. Axel had no intent to kill Lux afterwards, as stubbornly irritating as he could be.

Lux unsheathed his two blades, and Axel opened his fingers, letting the dark magic spark to life in his palm. He glanced at Skala. And charged.

They ran at the village of criminals below them, feet pounding upon the sloping stone of the cavern. Already, a fiery anticipation of the upcoming fight had started to burn through Axel's veins. Eyes, wide and silver, gleamed with exhilaration, as the warning bells sounded through the cavern, echoing around the walls as Axel lead them forwards, never halting, never ceasing.

They entered the city, and Axel threw himself at the first building, sending a crushing wave of dark magic upon it and crushing it beneath the surge of power. Beside him, Skala seemed to be radiating the black fire, tinted silver and strangely incandescent, reflecting the blue of the glowstones. Flames raged around her as she engulfed buildings within the blaze; heat swept across Axel each time she stepped even a little closer to him.

"There!" Lux called out, nodding to an approaching horde of criminal soldiers. The prince darted past them both, his silver blades glowing in the light as he attacked them head-on, evading each strike and blow they tried to crush him with. He fought like a demon, Axel decided. A small, furious demon with a burning desire to prove itself.

Allowing Lux to finish dealing with them, Axel turned back to the buildings. Another wave of darkness; another volley of screams and grinding rock as he crushed another structure of stone.

The backstabbing traitors deserved no better.

Another swarm of humans approached, seemingly convinced that they could defeat the trio of warriors. They were mere insects - insects that, apparently, were blind to the corpses at the feet of the prince, or the rubble left in the wake of he and Skala.

His friend leapt forwards, fire bursting from her palms and descending upon the humans, preying on them like a spider to flies. Darting in to help, Lux slashed at any who had escaped the flames, his daggers blue bolts of lightning as he ducked between the enemy fighters. Axel turned back to his own task of destroying the home of the criminals. They had tricked him, and they would pay.

A man ran from the building he'd been just about to destroy, and Axel turned to him: the lone, single criminal clasping a knife in his hands. His knuckles were white, but Axel hardly registered his fear. He dared to oppose a monster? The insolent fool would die for that.

A dagger of dark pierced through his heart, and the man choked, spluttering out blood as Axel allowed the fading energy of the knife to reform, expanding rapidly and smashing upon the corpse's building. Stones were smashed beneath the magic, and Axel moved on to the next target for destruction. Ahead, Lux and Skala finished the last of their own foes, and Skala was returning to swallowing the buildings in her dark, menacing flames.

Glancing up, Axel glimpsed the tower, and an idea sparked into life within his mind. A grin stretched across his lips, and he called out to Lux,

"Keep one of them alive, next time!"

The prince frowned for a brief moment, before nodding, then turning back to face the next party of criminals. Standing to watch, Axel observed the skill with which Lux weaved between the five warriors, gracefully evading every strike and darting in for the kill before any of them could react. But how would he capture the last?

As the fourth corpse dropped to the ground, Lux spun around, already running towards the final member of the attacking party. The criminal brought her blade up before her in an attempt to defend herself, but Lux darted to the side, piercing her right arm with a dagger.

A scream of pain.

The woman dropped her sword, and Lux pressed the point of his dagger into her side.

"Silver?" he asked. Axel gave him a brief nod, noticing how the prince's eyes followed him closely. Slowly, he approached the woman, wiping his face clean of emotion.

"Tell me," he ordered. "Does your leader reside at the top of the tower?"

She gulped, and Lux pressed the dagger closer into her skin.

"Yes," she spat eventually. "But you'll never get to him."

Axel sneered down at her. "Of course, you would say that," he scoffed. "But trust me, I'll reach him. And I'll kill him." And then, to the prince, "Let her go."

Lux released the pressure of the dagger, stepping back. Turning, the woman fled, abandoning her fallen sword along with the bodies of her comrades. Pathetic. They all were, all of these humans, scrambling about, forever fighting for their own stupid lives.

"We're going to execute their leader at the top of the tower," Axel decided. "Let a few of them leave, so they can spread the rumour that none should try to trick us."

Lux nodded once more, and Axel realised that he hadn't spoken since they'd first charged. "You've seen what we're really like now, haven't you?"

"Yes," Lux said. "But you're killing people who kill others, so it's more like... Survival. But you've still both got compassion, so I don't fear you." He offered them both a shy smile, and Axel raised a dubious eyebrow.

"You're not terrified?"

"Rubin's not," Lux pointed out.

"Rubin's too stupid to be afraid," Axel said back, and Lux laughed slightly.

"That's a fair point."

"And you're stupid, too," Axel shrugged.

"How so?" Lux didn't seem offended.

"You have childish ideals. They're admirable-"

"You said that they were stupid, earlier," Lux pointed out. A grin had started to take over his face; an almost mocking glint entered his golden eyes.

"-And stupid," Axel finished, already starting to turn away and head towards the tower. Skala followed right behind him, Lux a few paces away. The prince was definitely better than the rest of his miserable race, Axel decided. The thought of calling a human's dreams admirable lingered in his mind, like a haunting sensation, but less hindering. More alien, more strange.

He started running, deciding to leave the buildings. The more to see their leader die, the more catastrophic the results. He didn't particularly like chaos, but he needed to get the message across from the few he allowed survival: the Golden Flame were ruthless. They were not the wisest choice in targets when deciding upon a band of criminals to trick.

Another cluster of the humans attacked them from the side streets, charging at them from the sides. An organised attack, or so it seemed. Any attempts to fight off the three of them would be useless. Two monsters and a prince who fought like one - they would not be defeated by such simple enemies.

Axel took the right, sweeping his arms out before him and commanding the shadows to swallow the foes. Before Lux had so much of a chance to even attack, Skala had destroyed those from the left, and they kept running.

The tower stood before them, and Axel halted, looking up. Jewels - almost certainly stolen - decorated the outside, gleaming in the light of the glowstones, and the door had been made of a pale wood that had been given an almost silvery tinge.

"I'll stay here and fight any who approach," Skala announced. Axel glanced at her, trying to ask her why she would want to remain here.

"It will be more interesting than slaughtering another leader, I think," she told him, and Axel nodded reluctantly.

"Ready?" he asked, to Lux.

"Ready," Lux agreed. Skala gave a short nod, and together, Axel and Lux charged into the building.

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