Into the Rift

Once more into the Rift . . .
Led by the elf prince, Adros, a group of heroes returns to the Dead Worlds in a last ditch effort to find the living. But instead of survivors, they encounter beings more ancient and evil than even the foulest of Dead Gods.
Meanwhile, the Goddess Alana begins her own quest -- a journey back to the world of her greatest failure, the elven home-world, the land where she left her true love die. There, she must face her greatest fears -- and an enemy more powerful than anything she has ever known.

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17. Kendal

He held the Graelic before him.  An aura of blue radiated from its blood-red tip, sheltering the pair as the mist of acid and darkness closed in.  His slender hand curled around the shaft, feeding it with more power, more life.  Silver streaks marred his golden locks; lines etched his smooth, ageless face. 

To survive the environment, he was feeding years of his life to the Graelic.  But even so, he couldn’t help but wonder, would it be enough?  Even if he abandoned his immortality, would it be enough?

Everything about this world was death; as if it were a child of the Void itself.  In the heavens above, its father watched over, the Dark Star, a swirling pit of emptiness, sucking in the stars around it, consuming the very sky.  As for its child – the world in which they were trapped – so eager for approval, it sought to consume all those who were drawn its way; to melt flesh, dissolve bone, to obliterate every cell until only the simplest elements remained.  Then to take those elements, to scatter them amidst the vast acidic ocean.

Surely this world was hell.  But compared to what they were soon to face, it was almost an afterthought.

Something else was closing in, something darker than the night, something far deadlier than the acidic atmosphere. 

Features grim, determined; Adros’ grey and white eyes scanned the night, knowing all too well what he would find amidst the bleakness.  As much as he dreaded the discovery, he couldn’t bear to look away – no, he didn’t dare.  Even as the acid washed over his eyes, burning the grey and white orbs, he didn’t dare to so much as blink. 

Beside him, Trenton crouched down on a bended knee; his remaining hand locked on the hilt of the sword he had acquired from his fallen cousin; its massive blade resting on his shoulder. 

Threads of blue light swarmed the pair, healing them as fast as the acid ate them away.  Yet the cost . . .  More of his life drained through the black wood – years gone in an instant. 

A mound of melting bone and soggy organs, Ollius’ body was already far into the planet’s reclamation cycle.  His blood flowed over the rippled ground and around Adros’ feet, winding through the rivulets in the stone towards the distant ocean, now hidden in the night. 

It didn’t take long for Ollius’ thin flesh to peel away.  After their enemy drained his power, it was little more than aged parchment.  And once Ollius abandoned the Oneness, it took little effort for the Void to reclaim him; no doubt holding him accountable for the many years of life he stole with the Oneness.

Oddly, Adros was at peace with his death.  He knew this was what his friend wanted, and given the situation, the best he could have hoped for.  Even with his power, and life, taken from him, Ollius managed to make what little was left to him (basically his death) count for more than his enemies could ever bargain for.  In the end, he sacrificed all for Adros, for the future . . . for his friends. 

Their fate was in his Adros’ hands now – literally, the dark shaft of wood he was pouring his essence into.  It was all too familiar territory for the Elf Prince.  How many times had he been here before?  Heir to the greatest weapon of his people, perhaps one of the most powerful weapons in all of the Maker’s creation, he was the salvation for countless souls – their final shred of hope. 

His gut clench as yet another familiar feeling overcame him; to have such power and still stand a failure.  To watch his people die, to fail the woman he loved.  To lead his people – his friends and allies – to death, time and time again. 

Would it ever end?

Judging by the power he gave to the weapon, if it didn’t end here and now, it would end much sooner than before.  His “immortality” had never been more than a prolonged stay of execution.  Adros had enough sense to see the difference; that true immortality was a dream – a fact the Dead Gods could not grasp.  He had put an end to enough of them to prove beyond a doubt that even their “gift” was little more than fool’s gold.

The Graelic had many abilities – and many secrets.  Even after wielding it for all these years it took Ollius to teach him one of its greatest powers. 

If Ollius hadn’t shown him the way, the way to truly be one with the weapon, they would surely have no hope. Ollius gave the last bit of his life, his trust – his very soul – to the weapon so that Adros could see, and thus see them freed. 

But in doing so, what Ollius wanted more than anything was to see his beloved freed from the Virus.  A task he now entrusted Adros to see through.  A task only possible if Adros in turn gave his all to see it to completion. 

Yes, Adros had a feeling it would take everything.  And yes, he would see it done – immortality be damned! 

In life, Kendal’s rage had no bounds, nor did her power.  Adros couldn’t imagine the heights of her fury now, now that it was driven by the Virus and the Hunger.

Unfortunately Kendal wasn’t the only enemy they had to face.  Behind Adros and Trenton, the four remaining giants hovered menacingly.  Adros felt the heat of their gaze on his back, the glow of it stretching their shadows like black waves across the rippled terrain.  As powerful as the giants were, they were the least of his concern.  He knew he could destroy them now, easily.  And more importantly, they knew it too.  Adros was no fool, he wouldn’t have turned his back on them if he thought they were a threat. 

For the moment, the impending appearance of Kendal had left their confrontation a stalemate -- but only for the moment.  Adros was going to destroy them.  By the Maker and his every holy creation, he swore he would destroy them and the cursed masters pulling at their strings!

Very soon . . .

She was close now . . .  Beyond his heightened vision he sensed a swelling pit of darkness and rage that he knew could be none other than the abomination of the great heroin and his dear friend. 

“TAKE HER NOW, ELF LORD, OR THE FEW COMPANIONS YOU HAVE LEFT WILL SUFFER THE UNIMAGINABLE.”

At the words, his grip tightened on the Graelic; the blood-red tip crackled as it erupted in blue flames.  There was no more point pretending, no point playing their games.  If his allies weren’t already dead, he knew they soon would be.  Once they had Kendal, none of them would be long for this world. 

The time has come . . .

“No,” he growled back at them.  “I’m done with your lies.”

“NO LIES,” they bluntly replied, the ground shaking as they strode closer.  “THE HORRORS WE SHALL BRING UPON THEM ARE QUITE REAL.  DO AS YOU ARE TOLD OR WITNESS THE TRUTH OF IT.”

“Soon you shall see the truth . . .” Adros coldly stated.

The Graelic swelled with power, Adros’ power, his very essence, all the hate and anger he had in his soul. 

“And know that there’s no escaping death.”

NOW!

Adros spun, launching at the beings.  Even their mechanical reflexes and speed couldn’t avoid the Graelic as he thrust its fiery tip at the nearest of the metal behemoths.  Like a hot poker through wax, the staff melted through its chest.  The instant it made contact with the power core, a massive explosion shook the night, flinging the other giants into the darkness.  Adros stood his ground, the Graelic embroiled in flames as the burst shook the earth.  A rain of shrapnel fell upon Trenton and him, the metal shards liquefying the instant they contacted his shield.

The fires died, first the cooling chunks of molten metal, then Adros’s swirling blue flames slowed from a tornado to warm glow. 

Several yards away, the surviving giants were slowly regaining their footing.  They rose from the earth, their steel bodies dented and scorched, their eyes burning brighter than ever as they shone down on Adros. 

Adros stepped towards them, matching the fire of their eyes with his own hate-filled orbs.

Enough of this . . .

Adros tightened his grip as the giants thundered his way.

He was about to finish what he started when a prickling sense of dread crept up his spine. 

He turned his back on the charging giants.

Let them come . . .

He saw her; a skeletal figure, her body motionless, frozen at the edge of the night.  Dark energy radiated from her bleached bones, rippling the air around her.  Her eyes, empty pits, fixed directly at him. 

He stared her down for what seemed like an eternity, unable to believe the creature before him was his long-time ally and friend.

Then he blinked . . . and she was suddenly at his side, her skull tipped down; vacant eye sockets now fixated on the liquefying remains of Prince Kalan.  Her jaw opened, issuing a blood-curdling scream; dark energy spilling from her mouth in waves, driving Adros to his knees. 

The Graelic was the only thing keeping him and Trenton from being torn asunder as the dark energy cascaded around them.  As if in slow motion, the giants plodded on, their metal hands reaching out for Kendal while the waves of power tore their metal plating asunder.

She gave one final anguish cry, powerful enough to send the giants airborne and Adros flat on his back, before clamping down on Prince Kalan’s neck. 

His heart had stopped some time ago, and most of his blood was pooling beside him.  But as she tore into his neck, she found enough left in his body to stain her white skeletal face red.

Adros propped himself up to his feet.  He kept his eyes glued on Kendal as he reached down to aid Trenton.  He nudged him back with his staff.  Cautiously he retreated, resisting the urge to end her,.  He couldn’t help but feel he was making a grave mistake, to let Kendal remain.  How easy it would be to end her now, to slam his staff down upon her and end the evil that she had become.  Even if she did destroy the Masters, would the price of her existence be worth it?

It was a chance he had to take.  Eyeing her warily as she tore apart Kalan, he continued to back away.

Amidst the sound of crunching bone, he heard the pounding of metal feet resume behind him.

“You want her,” he whispered to the metal giants approaching at his back.

“Take her yourselves.”

Their eyes shone down upon him as they strode past, their metal fists humming with power.

“COWARD,” they replied as they marched forward.  “WE PROMISE, THE SUFFERING OF THE OTHERS WILL PALE IN COMPARISON TO WHAT WE HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU, ELF LORD.”

 They moved to take her.

Adros didn’t stay to watch the scene unfold.  The flare of sparks and sound of clanging metal said it all. 

This was his chance, what Ollius wanted, what he had given his life for.

“Let’s go save our friends,” he said as he made his way back to the pyramid.

Struggling to keep pace, Trenton let the massive sword fall and followed closely by his side.

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