• Lucid Dreaming - Dream Views

    Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
    Results 1 to 25 of 32
    Like Tree4Likes

    Thread: Anti-Heroes - The Volumes

    1. #1
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Post Anti-Heroes - The Volumes


      Dramatis Persona

      The Good

      Richmond (The Snake)
      Repus Oge (The Wandering Hero)
      Keaton Leort (The Artist-Scientist)

      The Neutral

      Zerachiel (The False Protagonist)
      Eloa (The Shadow)
      Metatron (The Reluctant Antagonist)
      Umbrion Jade (The Fated Man)
      Castor Angelos (The Byronic Hero)

      The Bad

      Michael (The Arch-Hero)
      Dantalion (The Arch-Villain)

      The Other

      The Anti-Hero (The End)
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 12-07-2007 at 11:02 PM.

    2. #2
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Zerachiel and Metatron, Canterbury

      He smiled slightly as he finished writing, and laid the quill down.
      The black ink looked bright to him, as he watched it dry. Bright little ink-black letters. Neat, ordered. He knew where the letters were going. He had known before he'd started writing.
      He'd always known.
      Zerachiel closed his eyes and leant back, rocking the wooden chair on its legs. He looked young, muscular and well-built. Perfectly sculpted features, without blemish of stubble or grime or pox. A sculptor would have torn out his eyes in frustration, a painter broken his brush in two. He was all too beautiful, all too perfect.
      There were few of his kind left. He knew this, as he knew everything.

      He didn't open his eyes when the oaken door cracked, splinters spraying the stone room as some invisible force tore into the ancient wood. He didn't even open his eyes when the door gave, and the broken remnants were cast aside by some unseen might.
      The room was dark, as it always was, Zerachiel having no need for candles or sunlight. He knew where everything was anyway. Now light streamed in, bright, orange light, glowing and burning fiercely, a sudden spark of anger, rage.

      Metatron stepped inside. One hand burned ablaze, the skin unharmed, a ball of flames erupting from his very flesh.
      His other was not so obvious in its intensity, but Zerachiel knew that it was deadly too, in its own manner. Blue, white, the cold colours of ice glimmered on his other hand.
      Zerachiel did not open his eyes.
      Metatron stepped forward. He ducked slightly to pass the broken doorframe. Immaculate white wings, like those of some giant dove, adorned his back, wings sprouting from his shoulder bones, skin merging with feathers.
      Zerachiel knew him, had always known about him.
      He was the man that was going to kill him.

      Now he rose. Did not turn. Did not open his eyes. He spoke, his voice husky, suddenly old, aged. Weary.
      "Metatron has come. The Church seeks me dead."
      Metatron nodded, bluntly. His tanned face was harsh, deadset. No room for emotion. Not here.
      "I know." Zerachiel smiled. "I know and I forgive you."

      He lifted his arms, spreading them in a bizarre mockery of submission, the smile still broad on his face. An old man humouring a rebellious youth. A teacher, patient and wise, counselling his wayward student.
      "Do it."
      Metatron jerked. His hand rose, blazing flames, and gushed out, the fierce orange fire engulfing the writer in an instant, without cry of mercy. Not without pain.
      The other hand rose. Ice flowed as fluidly as water, crashing in silent waves over the burning body. Freezing it in a final grimace, a final expression of agony.

      Metatron's hands dulled. The glow of power faded. The wings folded, not gone, never utterly gone.
      He picked up the page lying on the desk. It was thick, expensive paper, and was miraculously untouched by the fire still licking the wooden desk, the furnishings of the room burning and smouldering all around Metatron. He didn't pay them any heed.
      There were words on the page, large, neatly inscribed calligraphy. Copperplate handwriting. Three words.

      The Anti-Hero
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 12-08-2007 at 03:15 PM.

    3. #3
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Richmond, Leicester

      "Deputy Richmond."
      Richmond smiled, thinly. The 'deputy' had sounded far louder than the 'Richmond'. A bitter reminder of his failure.
      He fixed the smile and broadened it as he took the podium.
      In the rows of benches before him, he saw the contempt, no longer hidden. Men who before had kept up the charade of political sycophantry now smirked openly, enjoying his defeat.
      His failing.
      "Votes in favour of Deputy Richmond for Consul of the Glorious Republic?"
      No hands were raised. Richmond kept his smile fixed, his eyes glazed over, as he waved and left the podium. It remained on his face as he stepped off the raised stage, and walked off into the wings. Out of the hallowed hall of the Glorious Republic.
      A man waited on the steps beyond. An old man, clothed in the humble cloth of the Church. His neck adorned with the less humble iconography, naturally in golds and expensive jewels, that were also of the Church. The epitomy of the Church's hypocracy.
      Richmond sat on the steps above the man. He sighed.
      A moment's pause, and the man joined him.

      "You still resist us, Richmond." he said it with a smile, the warm, open smile of a clergyman, the smile that a passerby could see and walk on by. The eyes betrayed the cold mind behind.
      "Your puppet did well." Richmond observed, as cheers were heard from beyond the giant doors of the Republic's hall.
      "Naturally." the clergyman smiled. "We supported him."
      Richmond swore. He watched with studied indifference as a patrol walked by. They wore the deep crimson bands of the thought police. A telepath walked among them, blind, guided by an officer.
      He carefully kept his thoughts neutral, safe, comfortable ideas. A practised procedure.
      The clergyman waited until they had gone by, and then patted Richmond's head.
      "Be patient, my child. Prove your fidelity. Then we will make you consul."

      Richmond watched the old man waddle away.
      Then he swore.

      Eloa, York

      There was distortion, and then the shadow solidified. Where there had been the fetid, grimy air of York's undertown, became the poised figure of an assassain.
      Eloa brushed her sleek, raven hair distractedly as she made her way into the alleyway.
      The merchant shivered. He shook the thought from his mind. Something in the corner of his eye...a rat, probably, some trickery of the hazy fog that lingered in the streets.
      York sickened him. It was a dead-end wastrel of a city, polluted with the thick smog of smoke from the countless smithies and foundries that covered the city.
      Men came to York to make money and leave. Quickly, if possible. Those who lived there were presumably too poor to leave.

      The knife came up professionally, running along the throat and slitting it neatly, like gutting a fish. One swift movement and the merchant collapsed, hands clutching at the blood that sprayed from his neck.
      Eloa drove it carefully home just behind his ear. He died instantly. Carefully she freed the blade once more and wiped it clean.
      She dressed simply, tightly bound black tunic and leggings, and a wispy, flowing dark grey cloak. When she disappeared, her clothes remained, and so she took pains to ensure they seemed little more than dark shadow.
      As the blood flow began to slow, she inspected the body, quickly and professionally. A well-rehearsed practise.
      The merchant wasn't carrying anything.
      Eloa frowned. Then she froze.

      The crossbow twanged. Eloa sprang. Her skin rippled, disappearing into invisibility as she moved. Another crossbow bolt zipped by, catching her cheek as it did so. The spray of blood was visible, and the spattered droplets across her face marked her out, but by then it was too late, one hand already swinging her up, onto the low rooftops of the York undertown, unseen footfalls marking her progress across the rooftops.
      She was gone. The trap had failed.

      Eloa breathed, relieved, as she reappeared, leaning heavily on a chimney stack as she caught her breath.
      She'd escaped. Puny watchmen. Bolts were no match for her ability.

      Then the rooftop exploded, and Eloa rolled, a shower of clay tiles crashing down around her. One caught her head with a crack, and she groaned. A bruise was spreading over her temple.
      The figure was on the rooftops with her. He was tall, and thickly-built, his muscles like armour across his chest. A human dreadnaught.
      He was panting, heavily. The guardsmen had hired someone with a power? What was he?
      He grunted and rose. Blood matted his body where he'd crashed through the roof. Unnaturally strong, he tore the remains of a chimney stack and hurled it at her.

      Ah, she thought, moving. Exercise.

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      The man stood quietly, watching as the horse in front walked, balking under its heavy cargo.
      Behind him a troop of ten waited, waiting for his orders.
      Repus shifted in his armour. A mail shirt covered his chest, and a steel helmet enclosed his head.
      A knight. A peculiar, knight, the bizarre metal of the spindle-blade strapped to his saddle glimmering in the sunlight.
      The men behind him were dull in comparison, leathers and furs where Repus wore chain-mail. Woolen hoods where he wore a helm. But their swords and axes attested to their status as soldiers. The harsh scars and weathered faces were their badge of honour, and united them with Repus, whose face was obscured by the leather eyepatch that covered an old war wound.

      They were soldiers of the Republic, Repus the knight of the Baron Dantalion of Eastern Prussia, sent to this bright, grassy knoll that overlooked the vast mountain range beyond.
      Somewhere down in the mountains was Repus' quest. His mission.
      The horse carried the pitch and tinder that would light their way.

      "Garant." Repus nodded to his stocky sergeant.
      The man edged his own horse beside Repus'.
      "We enter the mountains by noon. Have the men ready to ride."
      He watched as the soldiers grunted, remounting horses and finishing their last swigs from their waterskins.
      It was time to work.

      "Sir." Garant warned, but Repus had heard it too.
      "Horsemen." he nodded.
      "Raiders?" Garant guessed.
      Repus didn't answer. He unslung the spindle-blade and ran a finger along one notched edge.
      "Ready the men, now."

      Castor Angelos, The Cornish Coast

      The watchtower stood alone by the sea, watching out to the Gaelic lands to the west. Invasion would not come, the watchman knew, because the war there had been won centuries ago. The war everywhere had been won centuries ago.
      The Republic had sprawled out across Europa, unchallenged by rival powers, centuries before, and now relics of days past like the watchtower were obslete, mere memories. Castor liked the tower. It was lonely, which was how he liked it. Cut off from the world, from the Church, from the Republic.
      He listened to the waves outside.
      It was peaceful, here.

      He closed his eyes, and gently landed on the tower roof once more.

      Umbrion Jade, York

      Umbrion finished reading the letter, and sat back.
      It was short, and it was written in neat, copperplate letters.
      He considered, quietly.
      He knew the house described in the letter. A day's ride, perhaps, if he hurried.
      His hand blurred. He inspected it. A fly lay crushed in his palm. He wiped it on the desk.
      His agility had not let him down. Nor would his strength.
      Eventually he rose from his desk. Below his cold room was the tavern, to which he paid rent. He could find a horseman there, and had both money and force enough to ensure a negotiation could be reached.
      Once more he considered to himself, and reread the letter.

      Downstairs, a door crashed, the sound of splinters showering the room deafening the screams and shouts of the tavern's patrons.
      Umbrion grabbed for his sword. Both hands held it aloft, as he moved to his own door.

      The decision had been reached.

      Keaton Leort, Canterbury

      As the sound of the prayer bell died down, Keaton finished his writing.
      Another tome had been completed. He was quite proud of this one. He carefully tidied his quill and inks away, and left the page to dry.
      "Ah, Keaton. You have finished?"
      "I have, Father Jacobus." Keaton nodded, rising.
      "Very good. I bring word from the Abbot."
      Keaton's eyebrow rose, studiedly.
      "This is unexpected."
      "Indeed." Father Jacobus smiled pleasantly and drew the envelope from his cloak. "It seems you have your first field assignment, Keaton."
      Keaton took the letter reverantly, and bowed. Father Jacobus acknowledged the bow, and left.

      Keaton sat again to read. Around him in the great cathedrale the scratching of hundreds of other scribes' quills echoed dimly. The gentle murmur of their thoughts echoed quietly in Keaton's head also, almost silently, vague whispers.
      He had come to the Church as a child. Too sickly for menial tasks, he had proven adept at writing, and becoming a clerk in the Church had seemed perfectly suited to the quiet youth. It had other advantages. At birth, Keaton's head had been deafening by the roaring of others' thoughts, trivial concerns magnified by his uncontrolled powers of telepathy. He had screamed, unable to sleep, his own mind haunted by those of others around him.
      In the quiet meditation of the Church he had found solitude. People's thoughts were solemn, and came quietly to his mind. He had found he could distinguish his own thoughts from those of others by the age of seven. By eight, he could silence their thoughts entirely.
      He owed the Church that simple debt, in that it had taught him to control his power. Not that they would ever know. He had long since learned that the Church was not to be trusted with matters of powers or telepathy. Father Jacobus knew, and had warned him against revealing it any further.
      Keaton knew what the Church did to those it found with powers. He had heard the cruel, twisted thoughts of Brother Iaman and Simil as they went down to the cathedrale's dark dungeons. Heard their satisfaction as they returned.

      He put the letter into the pocket of his dull, cloth jacket.
      He had no possessions as such, sleeping in a stone cell with the other hundred clerks and scribes of the Canterbury cathedrale, and lived and worked within the grounds. He knew of the outside city, and had been there, under Father Jacobus' supervision, but had been no further.
      He left as the prayer bell began to toll once more.

    4. #4
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER TWO - Metatron's Nimbus

      Castor Angelos, The Cornish Coast

      Castor watched as the storm tore at the sea, thunder crashed about his head and jagged forks of lightning stabbed at the depths.
      He was floating, buffetted by the winds that swirled and clawed at his body, held up by his own powers of levitation, freakish, unnatural.
      Beautiful, too.
      He watched the sea and the storm and the sky and he thought.
      Thought about the day he had seen him.
      The Metatron.
      The day he'd fought the Metatron and lived.
      He shivered, and his pale, lank hair shivered with him. He looked unearthly, suspended in the air above his lonely nest, his pale skin and pale hair and pale cloak blurring into one, gleaming white figure.
      The storm seemed a mere backdrop to the tempest raging in his mind.

      The Metatron was hunting. He had been sent by his Masters. Castor shivered because he knew his time was coming.
      And he had to be ready.

      Umbrion Jade, York

      The man sat by the door looked up from his tankard. The puddle of beer forming on the table-top was beginning to shake. He squinted, perplexed, then raised his red-eyed gaze upwards.
      "Madame Leach..."
      The door burst open. Splinters showered the room, and the man sat by the door screamed, hands drunkenly swatting at the wooden nails embedded in his face, in his hands, through his neck. He rolled aside as the figure stepped in, through the dust.
      The tavern was in uproar. Those who had been by the door when it erupted lay screaming, writhing like macabre pin-cushions. Those at a safer distance now panicked, most rushing to the low doorway at the rear, where the tradesmen came by, hammering at the walls and shouting, roaring, the animal cry of fear and confusion.
      Few stood. A man, knife in hand, darted forward and was hurled aside, sent spinning through the air by some unseen force, crashing into the bar and splitting the oaken surface, glass bottles and metal tankards clattering and smashing, glass shards and twisted metal littering the wooden floor with the debris of a ruined tavern.
      Another man ran. The last held on, the fervent determination of the damned, the fool's courage that makes a man stand his ground with only a small leather club in hand.

      The Metatron tilted his head, almost appreciatively, at the gesture. Then his head turned and the glass shards that littered the floor, greens and blues and murky clear glasses, rose steadily from the ruined debris.
      The man's head turned just in time to see them move. A jagged triangular edge rammed itself through his eye, pressing into the grey matter behind and twisting. Another tore by, cutting his cheek in a long, fluid line, another driving into his throat, another through his forehead. The rest smashed on the stone wall behind, and scattered as the body tumbled.
      The Metatron inhaled. Great white wings unfolded to their full, spreading and fixing, making his tall, lithe, dark-skinned form seem a sharp contrast to the pure, groomed dove-feathers.
      He exhaled and inhaled once more, and closed his eyes.

      "I am Metatron. Servant of the Righteous, obedient to the True Church. I know you are here, Umbrion Jade. I have been sent for the letter you have concerning a...an old friend of the Church." the Metatron's voice, deep and rolling like ominous thunder, seemed to waver. "Zerachiel. Our...old friend."
      He opened his eyes, and snapped his fingers. A wooden table cracked through the middle, and Umbrion winced from where he crouched, in the shadows of the staircase coming down from his room.
      "Run or fight, Umbrion. I want the letter."

      Umbrion risked a look back up the stairs. There was a window in his room. It opened onto the rooftop of a smaller house beneath, the sun-burnt orange tiles of the York cityscape. Could he run fast enough? Or to the tavern's door? Metatron stood in the centre of the tavern, if he went for either tavern door he would be seen.
      Could he fight Metatron? Could strength and agility fight...whatever Metatron was?
      Could he?

      Umbrion had to think fast.

      Keaton Leort, Canterbury

      Keaton straightened his cloak, and waited.
      The low wooden door was barely more than a few cheap planks hammered together, and failed to conceal the hovel that lay beyond. Keaton counted two candle-lights within, illuminating what was apparently the house's only room. Keaton concentrated, and gently probed his mind into the hovel's interior. He felt five minds, wispy, ellusive clouds of thoughts and emotions. Four, young, buzzing with thought of adventure and childhood games. Dreams and hopes and fears crowding together in a mad cauldron of potential. One, slower, older. Thoughts drifting sluggishly, like fish, Keaton thought, sick fish waiting to die, drifting with the ebb and flow of the tide.
      There was a scuffling, and the door swung open. An elderly woman, her face heavy with festering pox sores and deep gouges where skin disease had taken its toll, held it cautiously, ready to force the door shut if need be. Keaton doubted she had the strength to keep him out, let alone a debt collector or...yes...he gently probed her thoughts...her husband. An unwelcome face.

      She saw the letter offered, the scrawling signature of the Abbot, decrepit old man that we was, and opened the door to allow Keaton to duck into the fetid gloom. She couldn't read, naturally, but the flowery iconography that dotted all Church paperwork was suitably impressive. Besides, not one man, woman, child nor crone didn't know what would happen were you to cross the Church.
      Keaton was lead into the cramped, squat room. He tripped over beds, over waif-like infants who drove scraps of bone and rough flint around in the rags, games that sent cascades of childish pleasure rocking through their minds, and which forced Keaton to look aside. Revulsion? Perhaps. Disgust? For them? The Republic's poor? The peasantry that held the Church so high?

      He saw the four youths, the waif-like infants. But that wasn't what the woman was pointing to. He frowned. Deeper into the gloomy hovel, a cradle sat.
      It was of cheap wood, and filled with filthy rags, as he'd expected. It wasn't the poverty that stunned Keaton, the foul home the baby would be brought up to, the wretched slums that would be its life.

      It was the child.

      He couldn't. He...couldn't.

      The baby was dead. The unseen hands that probed the air for thoughts clutching at nothing. No thoughts, no emotions, no memories.
      It was dead.

      The baby, unaware of what was happening around it, smiled happily, and gurgled to itself.

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      "They're raiders." Gerant noted, and Repus nodded.
      They lay, unseen by the horsemen riding down in the valley below. A trail of horsemen, stretching out into the hundreds, riding at the steady, measured pace of men who have marched since dawn.
      "They are headed for Baron Dantalion's castle." Gerant pointed. Repus scanned the trail quickly, his eyes picking out the splashes of colour among the drab, leather-and-fur clad horde. Chieftans. Leaders. Bright flags and gory banners. The occasional chairot paraded by a full retinue of barbarian clansmen.
      "They don't go to do siege." Repus observed, unable to see sign of machinery or disassembled carts. "They would never force the baron to take to the field."
      "If they do not go to war then where do they go?" Gerant wondered, his eyes wide as the procession gradually began to thin.

      "To the glory of the rebellion!"
      Repus had turned before the voice had finished speaking, his spindle-blade twirling in one hand. Garant turned more slowly, his axe quickly hefted in one hand and readied, both soldiers ready to fight the stranger.
      The man was short, and had mottled skin. A bone was driven through his nose, and crude metal rings ran along his face, following the curve of his jaw and cheek. Faded tattoos darkened his brow and eyes, making his gaze seem deep and fearsome.
      He wore little else, but for the shapeless mass of what appeared to be bear-skin. A long, iron sword hung in one hand, unprepared.
      He smiled, raising his hands in mock surrender at the two. From behind him the other soldiers of Repus' party joined them, surrounding him sheepishly, watching for Repus' order.
      "Speak quickly." Gerant intoned, eyeing the sword carefully, his muscles tense, poised.
      The man smiled again.

      "Please, be at peace, friends. I mean you no harm. The Lord Dantalion has called upon our tribe to assemble our forces at his castle, to join there with all the assembled tribes of Eastern Prussia, and from there to march with him westwards, uniting barbarian horde after barbarian horde in our wake. We are your allies, surely, Repus Oge? Are you not, after all, a knight of the Lord Dantalion?"
      The soldiers frowned, confused.
      "Lord Dantalion?" Garant echoed. "Unite the barbarian hordes?"
      "What is this rebellion, barbarian?" Repus warned, keeping his grip on the spindle-blade tight.
      The barbarian spread his arms and laughed. "Why, the rebellion of freedom. Of the People. Already in the citadels of York, Coventry and Leicester and Canterbury itself, rebellion stirs. Lord Dantalion...or, Baron as the Republic once named him...has seen the corruption of the Church and he has come to realise that this is the only way. The way of fire. We must unite the barbarians, men like myself, and drive into England. Purge the land of the tainted Church and reform the Republic for the People. I have spent many years in the halls of the Lord Dantalion, and long has he spoken to me and debated such matters. Now is the time. He is certain."
      Repus frowned. "I have heard nothing of this."
      The barbarian laughed. "Repus Oge, you are part of this nonetheless. Why do you think you have been sent to the mountains? For some old sword from a dusty tomb under the rocks?"
      He leant closer, and Repus tensed. He could smell the sweat on the barbarian's body, the stench of the bear pelt.
      "The sword is old. Very old. It is to be Lord Dantalion's greatest weapon in the fight to reclaim the known world from the Church and its Republic. It is the sword that will defeat the Metatron."

      The barbarian smiled, knowledgeably. Repus frowned, and Gerant swore.
      "Rebellion...this wasn't what I signed up for."
      Repus turned. Gerant shrugged.
      "What he's talking about is serious, Repus. A war with the Republic itself...we'd be crushed. A handful of Prussian wildmen won't stop that. They'll have us hung up on the cathedrales."
      One of the soldiers nodded, warily. His voice was garbled, mangled by an old wound that had left his tongue a viscious black colour, and which made it flail wildly as he spoke, as though fighting to escape.
      "We should move on. Find a new baron to pay our wage. Let Dantalion go to Hell if he pleases."
      Another shook his head. "This is it. The rebellion we have been promised. I say we get Dantalion his sword and go to war. To freedom."

      Repus sighed. The barbarian smiled, politely, an obtuse expression for a barbarian.

      Rebellion? Self-preservation? One little quest into the mountains suddenly seemed far more complex than Repus had first thought.

      Eloa, York

      Without thinking, Eloa dived for the broken mess that the dreadnaught had broken through. She rolled as she fell into the house below, the top floor, a small room. Dark, shadows that Eloa vanished into, the only sign of her the ripple of the black cloak as she darted for the window.
      She tore at the wooden shutters.
      Nothing. Without missing a beat, she drove her knife into the lock and forced it open, throwing it aside and again grabbing at the shutters.
      There was a shudder and a cloud of dust. The dreadnaught had followed her down.
      She coughed, just as the shutters came open. Iron bars. No escape.
      She turned. The dreadnaught stared at her, breathing heavily, a body covered in far too much muscle slick with warm sweat. Nostrils flaring as it saw her.
      She looked down. She was covered in dust. Pale, chalky dust that coated her like a second, very visible, skin. She looked up.
      The hammer blow knocked her over, and sent her crashing into the stone wall. She rose, dazed, just as the next fist came in.
      She ducked it. The knife flashed and drove into the club-like fist, the blade ramming home into flesh and jarring at the bone.
      The dreadnaught roared, drawing back its hand and flailing, knocking her over. The knife seemed tiny, a toy stuck in his oversized thumb.
      She ran, one foot flexing against the wall and then springing her off, catching up the dagger as she sprang over the muscled monstrosity.

      She spun, poised, ready. Ducked low, a fighter's stance. Blood dried steadily on her forehead.
      The man turned to face her. Paused.
      Then toppled over.
      Eloa hesitated, waiting to see if the dreadnaught would move. It exhaled slowly, sending chalky dust spiralling up.

      There was a slow, echoeing clap. Eloa spun again.
      "Very good, very good. My apologies for the inconvinience. You will understand the principle of testing your allies first?"
      The man walked into the room confidently, stepping gently over the sleeping powerhouse. He smiled, warmly. A politician's smile.
      "He can't keep going for long, poor thing. Incredible strength, weak endurance. Not one of nature's finest gifts."
      He paused, an arm's length away.
      "But you...invisibility? I just had to see the invisible assassain for myself. Had to know...I believe we can speak frankly? My name is Richmond. I am a deputy of the Republic. And I have an offer for you."

      "The Republic's deputies meet once again to congratulate the new consul, our leader. The man who leads all the Republic, all the known world. He is little more than a puppet to the Church, as it has always been, as it always will be." Richmond's face darkened, the bitterness evident.
      Then he smiled.
      "I will attend the meeting. If you agree, you will also. You see, your...gift...gives me the perfect opportunity. You can get within the Republic's grand chamber in Leicester. I will be the one politician there with an edge - a weapon. You. With you as my edge, I will effectively control the chamber of the Republic's highest politicians. All the deputies under my grasp. The new consul, too."
      Eloa smiled, slightly. "You would hold it a day, if not less. They wouldn't just sign over power to you because you had an assassain with you and then let you walk free."
      "You're right." Richmond smiled, further. "But they would. An hour, that's all I need. Long enough to use authority to spread the word. To pass the proposal that will end this tyranny and begin a new era, one of peace and freedom and justice."
      Eloa frowned.
      "One proposal." Richmond nodded. "Passed and decreed before anyone can stop us. The proposal that to outlaw all those born with special powers, to name them traitors to nature and the Republic. The one proposal that would split the Republic so utterly...and allow myself to rebuild it. To remake it properly."

      He smiled, slightly, and reached out a hand.

      "So, Eloa...are you in?"

      Keaton Leort, York

      Keaton shook himself. Someone was shouting.
      He didn't run out into the crowded street. He didn't need to. He stretched his mind's invisible fingertips and felt, felt into the mashed conscience of the mob outside.
      "Who is that...he's got wings...he's headed this way...run, we have to run...his hand, it's, burning...have to run...have to get away...he's coming...he's coming for the child.
      Keaton rocked with the force of the last thought. Coming down the street was a winged man, his hand on fire...pyro manipulation, Keaton recognised from the tomes and registers he kept for the Church's dusty records...a man who was coming for the child without thought.

      Keaton looked at the baby, which laughed.

      Things were going to get ugly.

      Dierdro Dayo, York

      Dierdro Dayo felt the rush of air on his face as the figure swooped overhead.
      He watched as the figure swept onwards, great white wings beating steadily, sending giant waves of air down onto the faces on the scared townsfolk rushing about, panicking for panic's sake.
      He looked to his kusara-karna. Then back to the figure.
      Was someone in trouble?

      He started to run.

    5. #5
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER THREE - Angicide

      Keaton Leort and Dierdro Dayo and Michael, York

      The winged figure landed silently, admist the screams and shouts of the crowd in the narrow street. He looked to the hovel before him, and spoke.
      "I have come for the child."
      Dierdro pushed his way to the front of the crowd that now circled the figure, drawn by their own sense of awed fear. He grimaced, blue sparks flickering over his fingertips.
      A child was crying from inside the hovel. The crashing of someone tumbling over rags, tumbling as they scrabbled to protect their children. The figure tilted his head, contemplative. Flawless pale skin and brilliant blond hair almost glowed in the dreary smog that covered the street, his dove-white wings pure, beautiful. Terrifying. Deathly.
      "I am Michael. I come now to claim the child born as the Anti-Hero. To claim it and destroy it."
      As he spoke, he began to stride. The door's cheap wooden planks burst into flame, and he paused to kick down the burnt cinders in one fluid movement.

      Then Dierdro threw the electricity, and all Hell let loose.

      Eloa and Richmond, York

      Eloa smiled, thinly. She wasn't thinking of revolution, of coups and civil war. Memories clung to her thoughts like pale ghosts, and faded as she grasped at them. She had a past to recover. Politics was no concern of an assassain.
      She grasped his hand. He held her eye, firmly.
      "A handshake is just a handshake. I would never trust a deputy blindly." she warned.
      He laughed. "You would be right not to. Guards!"
      Eloa released the hand and sprang, disappearing as she scrabbled out onto the rooftop. Richmond stood and smiled vaguely as the guards burst through the door. He calmly waved a crossbow aside.
      He smiled again as he left. He had been slow. Not to worry, he doubted she would have reason to warn the Republic of his treachery. She knew the game. He laughed when he realised he didn't have the heart to track her down.
      It wouldn't be sporting.

      Eloa rolled on the rooftop, scattering broken tiles as she went. She skirted down the side of the house, reappearing as she did so. She landed in an alley, gently and silently, like a cat. Dusting herself down, she whistled slightly as she stepped out onto the narrow street, the bleak light of the midday smog welcoming her once more.
      Another mark killed, another villain escaped. A good day's work.

      Then the figure crashed into the wall beside her.

      Keaton Leort and Michael, York

      Keaton watched the baby, thoughtful. Outside, the figure landed to the screams and shouts of the crowd. He had to act fast.
      He was vaguely aware of the old crone clutching at his arm.
      "It must be cleansed in the name of the Church. Regardless of the sacrifice."
      He stepped to the cradle. Didn't turn to know that there was an axe. Underneath the bundle of rags in the corner. The husband's. He reached for it.
      "I have come for the child."
      Keaton heard the voice but ignored it. He lifted the axe, felt the roughness, the imperfections in the handle. Saw the notches on the edge. The axe was imperfect. As was the child. It must be purged.
      "This is necessary. I cannot let whatever is outside reach it. It must be cleansed."
      Keaton spoke quietly, and the old woman cried, stumbling and falling as she tried to clutch his arm. One of the children began to wail.

      Keaton looked at the baby in the cradle. It alone seemed unaware of the chaos surrounding it. Blissfully ignorant of the forces at work. The heresy that must be brought to justice.
      He reached a hand into the cradle, and held it down. He raised the axe...and froze. Thoughts, countless, wordless, thoughts were flooding his mind. Images, emotions, vague memories. He was being crushed, trapped, enclosed...floating in a swimming sea of warmth and the unknown. He blinked. Looked down.
      The baby was screaming. Keaton knew the pain it felt. Too many minds open, screaming out to him. Keaton's own mind amplifying the thoughts, the raw emotions the baby felt.
      The child had become a telepath.
      Impossible. Unnatural. Unusual. Had it...he thought. He could still feel the helpless fear of the crone. The puzzled anxiety of the children. The...raw power of the baby. The Child.

      The child had mimicked his ability. Copied it at a simple touch. Now it lay screaming with the uncontrolled force of Keaton's telepathy. Unable to control what Keaton had taken years to refine.
      He shook himself. The voice outside was a deafening roar and a whispered hush all at once.

      "I am Michael. I come now to claim the child born as the Anti-Hero. To claim it and destroy it."

      Cleanse the heresy.

      He brought the axe down.

      Dierdro Dayo and Eloa and Michael, York

      Dierdro watched as the ball of electric sparks and flashes struck Michael.
      The winged figure shuddered. Turned, arm lashing out, like a whip, great orange flames bursting from his fingertips.
      Dierdro rolled. The fire struck a man behind, burning him instantly. His screams rang in Dierdro's ears as he darted forward. The kusara-karna flashed as he lunged, the chain twirling and then striking, like some possessed snake, cutting into Michael's shoulder with a flourish of brilliant red blood.
      There was a silence. Dierdro hesitated, the kusara-karna's head embedded in the winged figure's shoulder, chaining the two together in a bond of blood and steel.
      Michael moved first. Dierdro flew backwards, the kusara-karna ripping from the bone and spinning from his grip. He crashed into a wall, falling forwards into the street's dust.
      He groaned. Eloa watched, wide-eyed.
      The kusara-karna lay metres from his head.

      Michael looked on. The child waited.

      He burst through the doorway.

      Keaton Leort and Michael, York

      Keaton writhed. His body spasmed, wracking him with pain.
      The baby was dead. Keaton Leort had killed the Anti-Hero.
      He inhaled, sharply. His head was splitting. An axe biting into his cranium, carving open his skull in one swift, clean, brutal chop...no, that wasn't him. That was the child. The baby. He'd had the axe.
      He shook. The door was on fire. Michael, the winged figure, stood, crimson blood staining his pure, white skin, his clothes, his wings, profusing from the deep gash in his shoulder.
      One half of his body was blackened, scorched by the lightning charge of Dierdro Dayo.
      His immaculate hair was spiked, thrown up in wild masses by the electrical force.
      He looked angry.

      "What have you done?"
      Keaton smiled, weakly. Fought to control himself as he rose. He found himself again, and the smiled broadened. He was in control. He was Keaton.
      He had done what the Church could not. And he planned to do more.
      "I have cleansed."
      Michael moved first. The hand erupted into flames, and he drew back, snarling. Keaton tripped as he dived for the rough, shuttered window that led to the back-alleyways.
      Michael laughed, wildly. Then gurgled.

      The kusara-karna stuck jaggedly from his spine, the chain wrapped around his chest.
      Eloa and Dierdro Dayo watched as one as he crumpled, blood dribbling in sticky splashes from his mouth as he landed in the fetid rags that littered the hovel.
      Michael was dead.
      Dierdro grimaced, bruises covering his body, a dark bloody stain spreading across his tunic. A random iron nail, jutting from the brick wall, had driven into his side. He winced as he moved.
      Eloa rubbed her eye, which had swollen, and was leaking blood out once more. She had had a rough day.
      The crowd watched, silent.

      And Keaton was gone.

    6. #6
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER FOUR - Back to Genesis

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      Repus patted the horse's flank, slowing it down to a halt. The great cavern underneath the rocky mountain loomed over them, ominous and menacing, and yet at the same time alluring, the promise of adventure and the new world Repus now fought for...a world of revolution.
      The barbarian had 'loaned' them a cart of supplies. Wines and salted venison. Repus caught Garant's eyes. The sergeant spat.
      Revolution. Some had complained. Others cheered. None had left.
      Repus dismounted. There was no place for the horses beneath the mountains, in the rocky lair. They would have to carry their supplies from here.
      "In and out in less than a day?" he guessed. Garant shrugged.
      "I suppose so."
      "Good." Repus brought out his knife. "We can let the horses go. Leaving them would only advertise our position."
      They let the horses go. The soldiers grunted as they swung heavier packs on their backs.
      They were ready to descend. To find the sword in the tomb.
      For Lord Dantalion? For revolution? For Repus?

      They descended, eyes forward, blades ready. Eleven men.

      Down, into the darkness.

      Umbrion Jade, York

      He moved. Fast. Back up the stairs, and out of the window. His cloak billowed behind him as he landed on the clay tiles of the roof beyond.
      He turned. The wall of the tavern exploded. The winged figure of Metatron burst out of it.
      Impossible. He had moved silently, right down to the landing. Umbrion knew this. And yet here Metatron came.
      One hand was ablaze. The other crackled with electricity. His face was blank, the cold detachment of a killer. An angel of Death.
      Umbrion rose. Unnaturally strong muscles flexed. The one gene that set him apart was now going to save him, his greatest defense, that of his power. Superhuman strength. A blessing and a curse.
      Metatron rose, too. Great dove wings beat, slowly, the waves of air hitting Umbrion like a gale-force wind. Yet he stood unmoving.
      Metatron struck. Umbrion moved.

      Keaton Leort, York

      Keaton pulled himself up through the window shutters. They were unlocked, and it had been an easy climb up and into them. He was exhausted.
      He collapsed onto the stone floor, and threw up. Felt the sting of bile in his throat. Retched until there was nothing left to retch.
      He shivered, curled up on the floor, his hair matted in his own vomit. His skin felt like it was on fire, burning with a cold ferocity that made him want to throw up more.
      He didn't. He lay there, twitching, and then subsided. Pushed himself weakly away from the mess. Weakly, like a newborn might. His mind screamed. Telepathy seemed heightened, all the thoughts of York echoing in the confines of his head, colliding with each other, none of them clear, all of them agony.
      He couldn't hear his own thoughts. He was dying.

      He screamed. Fought to control his mind, to drive out the maginified thoughts of others. Fought to drive them out, out of his mind, out out out.
      He inhaled. Big gulps of air. He was winning. He was regaining his mind.
      He shook himself. His head was quiet again, his own thoughts there, shaken, like the victim of a burglary. Like the other thoughts had broken into their home.
      His telepathy was under control again. His skin had cooled to a normal, body temperature. He got up.
      The room was simple. Bare. No candles. One wooden table, ragged beddings on the floor. His bile seemed to disturb the dull monochrome shades of darkness that hung around the room, as did the open shutters. He felt like he had invaded a tomb.
      There was a body. It had fallen into the corner, arms spread wide, face soft, as though utterly at peace in death.
      The body looked fresh. It was sodden with water, which Keaton realised had spread across the whole stone floor. His side was drenched in the stuff, and bits of vomit floated, carefree.
      There were icy remains in the water, too. Keaton frowned.

      There was a knock. Keaton spun. The door, which Keaton now saw had been torn in half, was pushed gently open. A man stepped in, the distaste on his face evident as his rough leather boots splashed in the watery scum.
      He looked up at Keaton with a resigned look on his face. He looked as though he had been forced to come, and as though he was regretting it more and more as the seconds went by.

      "Keaton Leort? Zerachiel sent me."

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      The dark surrounded them. Another flaming torch went out, and Garant swore.
      It was relit.
      The place was a tomb, Repus realised. They had trudged through the dark, rocky tunnel for what felt like days, and suddenly...this.
      The orange torchlight highlighted the great statues that loomed over them, carved deep into the rocky sides of this new cavern.
      It was massive. The darkness hid just how far up the cavern went, how far it went further under the mountains.
      There was some uniformity in the ground now. It felt smooth, flat. Ahead, in what might have been the centre of the cavern, it turned into rough, narrow stairs.
      Stairs that led up in all directions, a miniature mountain within a larger one. A man-made mound deep beneath the ground.
      At the top there was a small dais, on which a stone altar stood. The gleam of a sword blade stuck deep into the altar twinkled in the darkness.

      "What is this place?" Garant wondered, his grudge forgotten, his eyes wide.
      "Who could make a place like this?" a soldier echoed, their voices intrusions on the sacred silence that hung over the cavern.
      Repus frowned. That was the sword. The ancient artifact they had been sent to retrieve. By the shine of the blade it could hardly by a day old. It was impossible to imagine that it had been here hundreds, or even thousands of years.
      It twinkled again, an invitation.

      Repus grunted, and stepped forward.

      Eloa and Dierdro Dayo and Umbrion Jade and Metatron, York

      Metatron caught Umbrion around the waist. Umbrion had moved, his long-sword brought up, held steady and straight by unnaturally strong arms.
      The sword went through Metatron's chest. Drove in and through the back. A bloody length of metal protruded from Metatron, and he twisted. The wings didn't stop. The two figures, bodies entwined in a gory embrace, soared off the rooftop. Stumbled in the air, rolling, wings bent and folded as the sword turned in his chest.
      They crashed into a house, breaking the wall. Slid down, leaving a trail of brilliant scarlet lifeblood.
      Crumpled on the cobbled street.

      Dierdro Dayo's eyes widened. Eloa stared.
      The Metatron rose, shakily. Umbrion swung, his fist connecting with the winged figure's jaw. Metatron's head crunched on the stone wall behind. Umbrion punched again, the broken wings framing him, enclosing him with the Metatron, holding them in a deathly embrace.
      The punch didn't connect. Umbrion frowned, straining, his fist held frozen in the movement. Metatron rose. His wings snapped with bony cracks back into place. Umbrion fell back, his body rigid, frozen, unmoving.
      Metatron looked down. The hilt of the long-sword poked through, lodged between two mangled ribs. He gripped it, and pulled. Pulled until the blade came through, and out. A long-sword slick with his lifeblood, held in his hand. A bloody sword.
      He blinked.
      The long-sword glowed, red-hot. Metal heated by the mere touch of his hand. Without a flicker, Metatron broke the sword. Threw the pieces aside.

      Then he looked at Umbrion.

      His eyes were sad. His expression cold.

      He was the Metatron.

      Keaton Leort, York

      Keaton didn't move. He couldn't think properly. The weakness that killing the child had caused still slowed him, made his head muddled and fuzzy.
      He could read the man's thoughts. He was scared, scared of the damp, bile-stained scribe that blinked before him, and scared of the dead, peaceful form of Zerachiel in the corner.
      "Zerachiel left a message with my great, great, great grandparents. Instructions. He knew you would be here at this time, and that I had to be here to give you his message."
      Keaton frowned. How old was Zerachiel? What did he know?
      The man cleared his throat, uncertain. Keaton nodded.
      "Go on."
      "Zerachiel wanted me to tell you...to tell you about the Anti-Hero."
      Keaton frowned again, but had regained his composure enough not to show it.

      "He says that when the world was created..." the man hesitated. "...when the world was created, the Righteous made humanity. Gave them gifts of...of powers. The power to make fire, to make water...to take an arrow and live. To stop time. To...to fly. Made humanity strong. There were...a few...Seven...who rose. Had more power than the others. Were the best of humanity. They created a utopia, a paradise on earth, one to rival the home of the Righteous, Heaven. Led humanity into a new golden age."
      He floundered. Keaton frowned. He bent his mind into the man's, dragging the memories to the surface. Forcing the confidence needed to tell the tale told to his ancestors all those centuries ago.
      The man's eyelids twitched. His mind adjusted as Keaton pushed it. He spoke again, now without hesitation, without thought.
      "The Seven were betrayed. Betrayed by humanity itself. Some rebelled against the utopia, fighting the perfect order they had helped create. The Righteous had feared this new utopia, and now it was gone. Broken. Humanity began to lose their gifts, to forget their powers. Only a few still carry the light of that golden age. The Seven sleep, or hide in dark places, fearful of the dark new world. Those who rebelled cower, unable to control what they began. Humanity turned on those who had once led it."
      There was a crash, outside. Keaton didn't move.
      "Go on."
      The man frowned, wavered. Keaton's stare intensified. He pushed harder, bending the mind further, twisting the truth from it.

      "The Righteous created the seeds of the Anti-Hero when the Seven ruled in their golden age. The Anti-Hero, a power stronger than all the Seven and all those who rebelled against them, a power that would ultimately end the world and all within. The Righteous could start again. Rebuild a world over which he could rule, without the gifted, without the rebellious. His power had weakened, you see, creating the Anti-Hero was his last struggle, his last throe of power. Once the world ended, he would regain his former power. Could reabsorb the power he had given to humanity, the powers which had turned on him."

      Keaton blinked. He didn't ask aloud. Just pushed the mind for the answer.

      "There will...always be an Anti-Hero. The child was just the first vassal to house its potential. Since you killed it...you have taken his place. You are the Anti-Hero. You will end this world."
      Keaton frowned, again. Pushed. The man's speech slurred, his mind pushed to breaking point.
      "The Anti-Hero has two powers. His first, and uncontrolled, is that to end the world. He will cause it, whether he chooses it or not. When and where I was not told. His second is the one which will protect him, to ensure that the Seven or humanity never found a way to stop him, or control him. The power to take on those of others."

      Keaton released the man's mind. Took away the pressure he had bent onto it. The man gasped, falling to his knees.
      He looked at Zerachiel's body, at rest, saintly in death, a slight smile curved onto his face. Why? He had known that the Anti-Hero...me, Keaton realised...would bring the end? If he had known all this why hadn't he stopped it? Tried to do something himself? Why had he done so much to let Keaton know?
      He looked to the man. Yes, he realised, Zerachiel had planned this well. He probed the man's mind, delicately. There it was. Dormant, the man probably didn't even realise he had the power...the little spark of his gift, the power to create force fields, invisible walls and bubbles, something that might have saved him if he'd known.
      Keaton reached out, without realising how he knew what to do. His hand gripped the man's hand, lightly. He closed his eyes.

      Then he smiled. Looked to the stone floor. Concentrated.
      Invisible strands flowed from his mind. They felt new, exciting. The man gasped, too weary, too drained to notice. The invisible strands wove together in a loose bubble, and Keaton lifted it, without moving. Lifted a bubble formed from force fields up until it bobbed by the ceiling, a little bubble that sloshed as the water and bile and blood all floated around inside it, held in the air, unnatural, beautiful.

      Keaton smiled. Then laughed. He would do it. He could do it.

      Cleanse the Church. Set it right.

      The Anti-Hero laughed. It was time. His time.

      Menos Diatos, Coventry

      Menos Diatos paid for the bottle, and walked on down the cobbled street.
      He was cold. But then, he was always cold. His hair ran over one eye, straight and dark, and he brushed it aside gently as he paused to read a notice nailed up.
      The scars on his cheek burned and he grimaced, before walking on.
      There was a whistle as he turned down into an alleyway. A club swung out, catching his head and opening the old scars. They bled down his face like bloody tears as another thug knocked him to the cobbled ground.
      Four of them. A challenge? Mentos vaguely hoped so.

      The notice had been brief, but dramatic. In roughly scrawled handwriting, it read:

      Citizenes of Coventree! The Moste Majestirial ande Gloriouse Church of the Righteous hath Decreede thate All those Deemed Deviations to the Righteous' Nature, Heretics to thee Church, aree to bee Founde and Burned bye all goode Citizens.
      Those whoe harbour suche Criminals are to bee Burned also.
      Those withe information as too theire Whereabouts who doe Nott reporte them to thee Church wille Also be Burnede.
      Those whoe give birth to suche heresies will Also be burned.

      Thee Churche wille find theese Heretics and Destroy theme. Do your Duty.

      Richmond had failed to count on one thing. That the Church might divide the Republic without his schemes.

      The war was coming.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 12-15-2007 at 06:04 PM.

    7. #7
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      Dramatis Persona - Mid-Volume One Update

      The Good

      Richmond (The Snake)
      Repus Oge (The Wandering Hero)
      Keaton Leort (The Artist-Scientist, Second Anti-Hero)
      Dierdro Dayo (The Unresolved Hero)
      Issam al-Dulyab (The Apothetical Protagonist)
      Balas Ecore Novas (The 英雄)

      The Neutral

      Zerachiel (The False Protagonist)
      Eloa (The Shadow)
      Metatron (The Reluctant Antagonist)
      Umbrion Jade (The Fated Man)
      Castor Angelos (The Byronic Hero)
      Pollux Angelos (The Chronic Hero)
      Isab (The Flawed Hero)
      Menos Diatos (The Avenging Hero)

      The Bad

      Michael (The Arch-Hero)
      Dantalion (The Arch-Villain)
      Evo Scott Charles (The Vice)

      The Other

      The Anti-Hero (The End)

    8. #8
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER FIVE - Chronic Displacement

      Pollux Angelos (aged 25), Nanjing

      Pollux Angelos appeared with a quiet hum, like the creasing of a page or the twisting of a screw.
      He blinked. Pale, blond hair clung to his head in wet, bedraggled strands, framing the bony structure of his face. His once white shirt, now torn and ragged, was a grim, grubby light khaki colour. He shivered.
      With a squelch he wandered off down the street. People passed him by, some curious, others oblivious, all dressed in bright oranges and yellows, silks and pearls, colours he'd never seen before.
      He looked lost. He felt lost.
      "Excuse me..."
      The man walked by, blind. Pollux frowned. He felt overwhelmed.
      "But...but I've done it," he insisted. "I've done it!"
      The crowd moved on. A great, ornate pagoda loped on by. A brilliant jade kite fluttered overhead.
      "I knew I could." Pollux said, quietly. "I knew I could do it."

      He sat down, in the alien street in the alien city. A foreigner. Lost. Alone.
      His triumph seemed hollow here, in this strange city.

      "I did it."

      Issam al-Dulyab and Isab and Pollux Angelos (aged 29), Coventry

      "Where are we?"
      Issam looked around at the low, looming squalour of the houses around. The street stank of sweat and shit, and flea-ridden dogs chased monstrous rats underneath the feet of the pox-ridden citizens.
      "England, I think."
      Isab shrugged. He looked at the young man stood beside him.
      Pollux hadn't changed much since Nanjing. The same smooth pale complexion, the same shine to his eyes, the same straight, wispy blond hair.
      He smiled, dimly, and gestured to a notice nailed up to their right.
      "This is about the time that the Church declares the heresy of our kind. Looks like Coventry to me. Maybe Cambridge. Place isn't crawling with thought police yet, and the darkness has yet to fall, so it must still be early days. I doubt any time at all has passed since we set off from Rome. Very good."
      Isab felt for the dagger tucked neatly under his leather jerkin. It was a reassuring weight. If the Church were hammering down on those with powers, his gift might not be his best option if it came to an alley brawl.
      Pollux smiled again.
      "You need to act fast. Michael is already dead, and I fear Azazel has yet to recognise itself. Dantalion is on the way, though, if memory serves. You need to unite the gifted ones. Revolution is happening, in many different guises, and if there isn't a united force willing to do what is just then all may be lost."

      Issam and Isab heard the faint hum, and the gentle wooshing of air as Pollux slipped out of existence behind them, and headed down the street.

      "Up ahead." Issam nodded.
      "Sounds like a fight." Isab agreed.

      They began to run.

      Balas Ecore Novas and Evo Scott Charles and Pollux Angelos (aged 43), Coventry

      "Look at this."
      Evo cast an eye over the notice. One of his eyebrows raised, slightly.
      "Scared, then?"
      He smiled, thinly. "No. My gift is hardly one that is easily detected. In fact, I'm practically suited to avoiding detection."
      Balas turned his head, a lazy movement, and allowed his gaze to fall onto the katana sheathed safely on his back.
      "Do we do anything?"
      Evo shrugged. "I don't know. Should we?"
      "I heard Richmond was making a public claim of support for those persecuted by the decree."
      They were speaking in level voices, walking at a steady pace down the Coventry street. Avoiding unwelcome attention.
      "He's a fool." Evo sighed. "The Church runs the Republic. They'll remove him from the chambers without much resistance. He'll never make consul."
      "Perhaps..." Balas smiled, thoughtfully.

      There was a shout. Sound of movement. Both the men's heads jerked.

      "A fight."
      "Some street brawl."

      Then they noticed him. Pollux had aged well. Pale skin had tanned and taken on a rougher texture, while his already pale blond hair had simply thinned and faded. Well-toned muscles still kept him nimble, if slower than before, and his eyes still shone with the same quiet brilliance as before.
      He sat awkwardly, perched on a rooftop, nestled between two sooty chimney stacks. He'd watched his younger self send the two off into the street, and then watched as he'd disappeared again, jumping off into time.
      He looked up, and caught Balas' gaze. Caught Evo's glare.
      He smiled, ruefully, and waved.

      Then disappeared.

      Castor Angelos and Pollux Angelos (aged 25 and 43), the Cornish Coast

      Castor watched as his brother appeared, breathless. Pollux was lithe and sweating, clearly worn out, but with a wild smile stretching across his face.
      "I did it! I shifted time!"
      Castor frowned, silently. Pollux waved his arms, vaguely.
      "I jumped back...maybe a few hours ago, but I did it! And I couldn't control where I emerged so I ended up in some city far east...there were dancing monks and great paper dragons, and..." he stumbled, lost for words.
      Castor waited a moment, and then coughed.
      "What are you talking about?"
      Pollux cast about, madly, excitedly. "I was in some city! Nanching or something. Nanjing? Somewhere. And I wanted to get back, but it was too hard to get anything right, so I ended up jumping all over time and space just to get here!"
      Castor coughed again. "When did you get time travelling powers? I thought you didn't have any."
      Pollux frowned, his train of thought momentarily derailed. "Oh...right. Yeah. I think I realised it a few days from now. A week maybe? Yeah...a week sounds about right...it's hard to tell. I'm not so good at this time thing."
      Castor looked at his bedraggled brother with a solemn expression. Then he laughed.
      "Only my brother could get a power so utterly confusing and bewildering as that. You'll be lost by next month. Or last month?"
      Pollux laughed, too. "Don't you see what we can do with this? We can right wrongs, travel all time and make the world right."
      Castor's eyebrow raised. "Kill a murderer before he murders?"
      "Yes!" Pollux agreed.
      "No." Castor shook his head. "You'd be a god, Pollux. Judging who should live and who should die. What should happen and what shouldn't. Which bits of history to correct, which future we should follow. That isn't what we were put here for."
      Pollux frowned. Then stamped his foot. He felt angry.
      He opened his mouth, and then closed it. With a blink he disappeared.

      Castor sat back, thoughtfully. Looked out over the sea.
      There was a clatter from behind him. He didn't turn around.
      "Has he gone?"
      "Yes." Castor began to hover, just slightly, floating gently on the sea breeze. It was a nice day.
      "Good. I was a bastard when I was young, right?"
      "Right." Castor grinned. The older Pollux clambered out from behind the table. He looked old, but not out of shape. He had lost the wilder edge that his younger self suffered for. He looked strangely more like Castor in demeanor, now.
      "He'll give up, soon." the older Pollux assured him. "I remember it. Full of dreams and hopes for a new world, ideas of a utopia."
      He caught Castor's eye.
      "There used to be a utopia, you know." he said, slyly. "I visited."
      "The grass is always greener." Pollux confirmed. Castor smiled.

      They both looked out to the sea. Two brothers, two twins.
      "He'll give up and realise things happen. Trying to change them is like trying to stem the tide. It can be done, yes, but time has a knack for deviating off course every so often. Too many events, too many lives. I couldn't do it all. Couldn't distinguish good from bad near the end. I realised that the best a time traveller can do is observe."
      Castor smiled again, though more to himself now.
      "I know the feeling."
      Pollux shared the smile, understanding. He gripped his brother's hand.
      "I'd best be off. My younger self will be in here any second, claiming to have realised that he can travel in time, and demanding that you witness a demonstration of his abilities."
      Castor thought about this.
      "Ah, so he disappears in a few minutes and then reappears..."
      "You just saw him reappear." Pollux finished. He laughed. "Don't try and understand it. I don't worry about it so much, myself."

      He walked away, slightly, then turned.

      "Goodbye, Castor."
      "Goodbye, Pollux."

      And he disappeared.

    9. #9
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER SIX - Kyrie

      Richmond, Leicester

      "The Church is justified in outlawing these heretics."
      The man smiled, a greasy smile, the smile of a politician. A puppet to the Church. Untouchable.
      Consul of the whole Republic of Europa, too.
      "There have already been numerous incidents reported within England herself involving these...deviants." the consul lifted his files. "Documents of invisible assassains. Of winged freaks tearing up York. Even as we speak a brawl is raging, countless innocents put at risk by these monstrosities. There is talk of that...heretic Dantalion raising an army of Prussians to oppose the Republic and the Church itself. Fellow politicians, your support now is of the utmost importance. Exterminating the deviant threat is of the highest priority."
      He allowed himself a humble smile.
      "The Righteous wills it, gentlemen."

      There was silence. Deputies looked to their neighbours, stern faced and uneasy. It was no secret that the Church had made the consul who he was. Paid his dues for the lies he wove for them. They cast nervous glances at the guardsmen lining the chamber hall. Somber soldiers, pikes and swords unsheathed.
      Barely a concealed threat. A reminder of the Church's authority.
      Richmond smiled. Slowly, he began to clap.
      The consul frowned. Heads turned.

      "Very good, consul. Very good indeed." Richmond rose, standing in a sea of seated deputies, his voice calm, measured, and perfectly audible to every politician in the chamber.
      "Your loyalty is noted, deputy." the consul nodded, off-balance. He cleared his throat, and leant into the podium.
      "I wonder." Richmond interrupted. "I wonder whether we might consider a different approach, however."
      There was a murmur. Men edged their seats away from Richmond as he stood, a pious smile on his face. The consul shifted, eyeing the guardsmen.
      "You speak of extermination." Richmond laughed. "How very crass, don't you think? You speak of heresy. I call it perfection."
      The consul froze. Richmond smiled wider, and twisted the knife.
      "These deviants are the future, gentlemen. The rest of humanity needs them as it claims to need the Righteous."
      "Blasphemy!" the consul shouted, shaking. A pointed finger.
      "The winged figure you speak of is a well known servent to the Church, consul! We all know of Metatron's deal here."

      The consul stepped back. Richmond began to stride. Deputies flung themselves aside to make way.
      "Too long has the Republic been a slave to the Church. To the Righteous. A decadant force that was spent long ago. Too long have we politicians feared reprisal for our policies, for suggestions of reform or justice in the system. Too long, consul."
      Richmond had reached the stage. The guardsmen moved, silently, to the frantic waving of the consul, creating a wall of steel and muscle.
      Richmond reached the line and stopped. An arm's length away from a lowered pike.
      One lunge, and that would be that.
      He smiled.

      "Kill them."

      Umbrion Jade and Dierdro Dayo and Eloa and Metatron, York

      Umbrion stared, frozen, as the Metatron stepped forward. He was untouched. Utterly unharmed. Perfection.
      He stammered through locked teeth.
      "What...do you...want?"
      Metatron's eyes narrowed. He raised his hand. Orange flames burst from his fingertips, and encapsulated his hand, a fiery halo.
      Eloa started running. Skin rippled as it faded into nothingness, hands throwing back the cloak and tunic, discarding them onto the cobbled street. Invisible.
      Metatatron moved. Umbrion gritted his teeth, and pushed. He rolled as the flames hit the floor. An unseen body piled into him and carried him into the shadows.
      He'd escaped. The Metatron turned to follow. Great dove wings rose and came crashing down, lifting his lithe, muscular body.
      Then the kusara-kama struck, the chain lashing like a scythe, the blade striking Metatron in the ribs. He jerked, as a ball of electricity exploded into his hand, sending sparks of fire in bright showers, burning and vanishing on the stone house behind.

      Dierdro Dayo yanked the kusara-kama, bringing it back to his side, still twirling in little loops, flecks of fresh blood colouring the street.
      He spat, and leant into a fighting pose.

      "Hey Metatron."

      He grinned.

      "Fuck you."

      Keaton Leort, Canterbury

      Father Jacobus smiled, surprised, as Keaton closed the cathedrale doors behind him.
      "Our son returns!"
      He grasped Keaton's hand and shook it, the warmth and sincerity of the welcome evident on his face, and deeper, and more truthfully, in his mind.
      "I have a report to write, father." Keaton bowed, signing the Righteous on his chest as he did so.
      Father Jacobus did likewise, and nodded.
      "Of course. Where will you write? The other scribes are working in the hall."
      "I thought I'd work in the library, actually." Keaton admitted. "I feel I might have need of the archives there."
      Father Jacobus nodded, and waved him off down the cathedrale corridor.
      Keaton hoped the shape of the axe under his cloak wasn't too obvious.

      Keaton dusted the book with his sleeve, reverantly, and then opened it. He studied the first few pages, intently, and then lifted it aside.
      He found another. And another. And another.
      Occasionally his finds would be book-marked by scraps of parchment, or with scribbled memos, and from time to time Keaton would sit back and blink, his mind puzzling over a new twist or revelation.
      The day wore on. Keaton bit his lip, thoughtfully, and finished the last curve of ink with his quill. He put the quill down, gently, and read what he'd written.

      There was nothing about the Anti-Hero in the catherdrale's archives. Nothing about the seven, or a past utopia, or a revolution.
      He'd found a woodcut-printing of the Metatron, in one dusty history, a winged figure in the centre of a giant...shape.
      Metatron's Cube. The page described a deal made between Metatron and the Church, and the fixing of Metatron's soul within a cube. The page ended in a singed blur. As though the pages from there on in had been burnt out.

      Keaton sat back. A tool for the Righteous? A mere pawn in a greater god's game with humanity? A weapon, a bomb, a final end to a world the Righteous couldn't manage?
      Keaton repressed swearing. Mutely bit his lip. He put his head down, into his hands. Then looked up.
      A book had fallen open before him. It was open on a woodcut-printing and a block of scrawling, curving inked text.
      Eygpt. Something had happened there, centuries ago. Keaton read on, interested.
      He finished reading, and smiled.

      Then he looked up.

      Father Jacobus was looking into his eyes, wide and afraid. Keaton had read his mind before he could speak.

      "Thought police!"

      Richmond, Leicester

      The sound wave knocked the guardsmen to the floor, metal helmets ringing.
      A deputy jumped up, smiling, and changed, suddenly, now a squat man dressed in black, a sabre in one hand, a hatchet in the other.
      Richmond smiled up at the consul as he stepped over the bodies towards him.
      The chamber was in uproar. Deputies scattered as Richmond's followers appeared among their ranks: a shape-shifter, a teleporting swordsman, a grinning knife-wielder that appeared out of nowhere.
      There was a grunt, and the muscled dreadnaught that had stunned Eloa blocked the doorway.
      Richmond smiled again, as the consul gaped, all control lost, all political savvy gone.

      Richmond drove the knife into his neck, and twisted.
      Behind him a guard, deafened and bewildered, gurgled as a hatchet broke his skull open. A scream as a pike was thrown aside, a sword jabbing into an exposed stomach.
      Slaughter. The deputies watched, unharmed, horrified.

      Richmond cleared his throat, and took to the podium. He stood, almost aloof, as though apart from the bloody murder before him, straightening his white cloak.
      Then he smiled.

      Umbrion and Eloa and Pollux Angelos (aged 33), York

      "Ah, Eloa?"
      Umbrion was dropped, suddenly. The dark gloom of the house had made it seem empty and safe at first, but now it seemed a death-trap.
      "Eloa, are you there? I take this to be...Umbrion? Umbrion Jade?"
      Eloa tensed, reappearing, crouched behind a table. Unable to keep up the invisibilty act. Naked, vulnerable.
      Umbrion groaned, but rose, crouching, ready to fight.
      The speaker stepped forward. Eloa was surprised she hadn't seen him. He was almost entirely white, from his faint blond hair to his grubby white tunic.
      He tried to look nonchalent, and failed.

      "Look, I know you're there. Zerachiel sent me to tell you something. He mentioned having clothes prepared for you, so look for a pile on the floor somewhere. And I'd advise against killing me."

      He paused, and swallowed, excruciatingly loudly in the silent gloom.

      "Killing me could very well destroy the entire fabric of time and space, and thus end the world for us all, possibly in a fiery blast of excruciating pain and torment. So, um, don't do it. Please."

      Dierdro Dayo and Metatron, York

      Dierdro lunged. Electricity flowed through his hand.
      Metatron side-stepped. Dierdro flew past, lifted by invisible, telekinetic forces, and thrown against a house.
      He crunched on the stone wall, and bounced back, bouyed by Metatron's unseen hold. He hung there, dazed, for a moment, and then slammed back into the wall.
      There was a bony crunch and Dierdro fell back, crashing into the cobbled road, a bloody mess left splattered over the wall.
      He got up, oozing blood and brain from the back of his head. Sharp fragments of bleached white skull contrasted sharply with the scarlet mess bursting out around them, before fading as the stain of blood washed over them.
      Dierdro staggered, and lifted the kusara-kama.

      Metatron raised a hand. Dierdro froze.
      Flesh began to come together, skin fusing and smoothing over the torn wounds down Metatron's side. He grimaced, slightly, as the healing stopped. He was unharmed. Whole again.
      Dierdro was not.
      The hand closed. Dierdro screamed. White, blinding pain blinded him as the unseen forces closed on his head, pounding even as the grey matter of his brain slid from the back of his head.
      Agony, blinding, deafening, pain.

      Dierdro's head imploded. Metatron ruffled his wings, and took off again.

      The Church was calling.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 12-18-2007 at 11:46 PM.

    10. #10
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER SEVEN - Sword in the Stone

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      The sword was old. Centuries old. Had to be.
      Repus gripped the hilt. The leather grip had rotted into nothing years ago, but the metal left was as bright and as keen as it had been when it was first forged. He drew in from the stone, slowly, and it came as easily as it would have from its sheath.
      The sword was huge. Impossibly so. It stood as tall as Repus himself, and yet he could swing it with one hand. Too light, as though it were merely an extension of his own hand. A blade so bright, so untarnished by age it was almost white in the ethereal glow of the cavern.
      Repus shook himself. Looked down to where Garant and the others waited for him, at the foot of the stone steps.

      "Let's go."

      The sword had been sleeping for some time now.

      Now it was awake. Now it was hungry.

      Eloa and Umbrion Jade and Pollux Angelos (aged 33 and 29), York

      "My name is Pollux Angelos. I am a...uh...time traveller. From the future, I suppose. I should be around twenty-three about now...maybe twenty-four...though my age is thirty-three."
      Pollux hesitated, and then waved his hands.
      "Forget that. Don't let it bother you, too much. I don't. Anyway, I'm here because Zerachiel told me to be here."
      Eloa pulled the brown tunic over her head. Pollux had picked it up before arriving, and the sack cloth it was made from wouldn't be sewn together for another two years. Not that that mattered.
      "Zerachiel's the one that told me to have clothes ready for you, Eloa, as well as..." he paused as the hiss of water boiling sounded from somewhere among the shadows of the room. "...to have hot water ready for that gash in your forehead."
      He picked the pottery bowl up and laid it out on the floor for Eloa. He fished around in a small knapsack on the table, and pulled out a fluffy white towel.
      He threw it to her.
      "The towel's clean, by the way. I picked it up from Tokyo...maybe three centuries from now? Not sure. Either way, it's clean."

      Umbrion frowned as Pollux sat, cross-legged, on the table. Pollux noticed the look.
      "Ah, right. To business. Tea, Umbrion?"
      Umbrion ignored the cup. Pollux hesitated, and then shrugged.
      "Of course, we don't know each other yet, do we? I do apologise. We've met before...or rather, I've met you before...some time from now. I'm sorry, it does get confusing sometimes."
      Eloa reached a hand to her side. No knife. No grappling hook. She'd abandoned everything in becoming completely invisible. She felt more naked for not having a blade than when she had simply not had clothes on.
      Pollux leant back, slightly.
      "Right. What I am about to tell you I tell you because Zerachiel asked me to. You must understand that it isn't usual of me to interfere with the timeline - though I'll admit I once saw it a different way - as it isn't normal for Zerachiel to interfere, though he does, for whatever reason. What is about to happen will be big, the reactions, cataysts and changes that occurr will shake this world to the core. Major powers are going to come into play, powers you can't even imagine. A battle of the Righteous and his creation. Zerachiel believes...or believed, I suppose...that you two should at least be given the means to try and fight in this coming war."

      Pollux gestured to the door of the house.
      "The being known as Metatron. If you hadn't realised it yet, he's under the control of the Church. What his actual will or motives are I don't know. Some time ago - even I'm not sure when - Metatron contained his soul within a Cube. I don't know how or why, either. Somehow the Church came into possession of that Cube, and with it they are controlling the Metatron's actions. Using him to hunt down the heretics deemed most dangerous to the Church. To that end he has hunted Zerachiel, and killed him, not long ago, because Zerachiel is...was...seen as a threat to the Church, his power of omniscience meant that - had he chosen - he could have toppled the Church and ruled over the world with his power. I know that he did not want that, and I suspect Metatron knew that too. The Church, in its ignorance, saw him only as a threat to be removed. Similarly they have sent Metatron after me, on occasion, a chase we all know to be impossible."
      Pollux smiled, broadly. The smile faded as a memory floated to the surface, a cry from the past...or the future...
      "They sent Metatron after me. It almost killed my brother."

      He shook his head, and the smile came back, though more subdued, now.
      "I cannot help you in what you intend to do next. Or rather, I do not want to help you. As I said, I don't interfere. Much. Anyway, your actions now are your own. You can heed what I said and take the fight into your own hands. Find the Cube, Metatron's Cube, and use him to your own ends. Where the Cube might be I don't know myself, though I expect Canterbury would be a place to start a search. You could, of course, choose to run, and hide as the powers collide - which they will - though then I dare say you'd become mere civilians in the crossfire. The choice is yours."
      Pollux rose. He stood, and arched his back. It cracked, slightly, and he groaned.
      "If you'll excuse me, I've got places to be. Times to see. You know. Or rather, you don't. We'll see each other again, if it helps. I rather suspect we become quite close friends, really. I'll be younger, the next time. Then older, I think."

      He stepped into the shadows once more.
      "Be good, Umbrion. Don't lose your way, the coming battle will have need of your strength, and I'm not just talking about your gift. Eloa..." he grinned. "...you'll see soon enough. Try to look surprised."
      He grinned once more, and then disappeared.

      Umbrion looked to Eloa, who had frozen in the act of wiping away the pus from her forehead. It had swollen, since she last checked. The hot water did it good.
      He shrugged.

      There was a sound, and Pollux reappeared. He looked younger, somehow.
      "Sorry, I just bumped into myself. I told me to give you these."
      He handed Umbrion a longsword. Umbrion inspected it, gingerly. It was good. Very good. The blade was still hot.
      Eloa caught the knife Pollux threw. It was curved, slightly. One of the edges was saw-toothed. She liked it instantly.
      "I'll see you again soon." Pollux grinned, and vanished.

      Umbrion got up. He looked at Eloa.

      The battle of the powers was coming.

      They had to be ready.

      Repus Oge, Eastern Prussia

      Dantalion smiled, slightly, as he poured the wine into the glass.
      It was from Bavaria. A good year, too. A thick, rich red. He let it spin, lazily, around in the glass for a moment, as he contemplated his words.
      He was tall. He stood a head above everyone else in the room, all the more imposing for the immaculate black coat that flowed down from his shoulders.
      Perfectly straight black hair fell over his shoulders, framing a beautifully white face. His eyes were like coals, jet black and yet fiery, as though they were two twin rocks, burning into your very soul.
      He was terrifying. And yet people found it hard to dislike him, somehow. He spoke fluently, without accent or slur, and with an unshakeable certainty that was impossible to oppose. He spoke highly of the sciences, and the cosy room he now lounged in was filled with the remnants of past experiments and interests; globes, atlases, gyroscopes, telescopes, giant tanks of exotic fish, copper wire that hummed gently, a small iron engine that spluttered steam as though it were coughing. Books covered the walls, and Dantalion was known to quote each, word for word, with his cold, quiet certainty.
      He smiled again as Repus entered, nodded in by an aged butler.

      "Ah, Repus. I'm glad you could join us."
      Repus bowed, hesitantly, his eyes scanning the assembled crowd. Dantalion's usual followers were all present: the local knights, all resplendant in their gleaming suits of armour; a number of the courtly ladies that seemed to dog Dantalion's footsteps wherever he went; the academics and librarians of the castle, the learned few that Dantalion kept by him.
      There were others, too, new faces, the men of the revolution that Dantalion promised. Barbarians, mostly, and Repus recognised the grinning face he had met before, not so long ago, chieftans and soothsayers of the local tribes. They looked dignified, here in Dantalion's study, their fur cloaks and wild tattoos almost at home among the books of science.
      They stared as Repus held the sword aloft. Dantalion's smile widened.
      "You brought the sword! I should have expected that of you, Repus. You did well."

      Repus nodded, and sheathed it on his back again. He had had a special scabberd made for the sword, one of leather and steel, that angled the sword so as it could hang on his shoulders without tripping him up. It barely weighed a thing.
      Dantalion hesitated. The room seemed to feel colder, suddenly, and all eyes shifted from Repus to Dantalion, apprehensive, tense.
      They stood like this, two forces met, testing the other.
      Dantalion smiled again.
      "Of course, you must keep the sword, Repus. It would only be right."
      The assembled company breathed out, collectively, though their gazes didn't move from the two.
      "The sword belonged to Michael, once, you know. From a better time." he smiled, almost ruefully. "It will be our greatest weapon in the battle to come. It is the only blade known to harm Metatron."
      There was silence. Repus stood, uncertain, but firm.

      "The revolution is coming, my friends. Logic must prevail over a decadant Church. We represent science, and progress. Revolution will change what once was, make it stronger, better. We will remove all memory of that which was known as the Righteous. Replace it with knowledge, real power. You have all heard of Richmond's coup. Even now he sets up a new command centre for his Republic, in Edinburgh. He goes unopposed by the people because he represents an order that they realise they lacked. He represents the first stand against a Church that nobody wants."
      Dantalion laughed, quietly.
      "He will last a month, perhaps. He lacks what we have. A weapon against Metatron. While the Church control the Metatron, Richmond cannot succeed. We will land on the beaches of Dover by next month, with an army assembled from all Prussia, from the lands of the Republic herself, and march on to Canterbury. Repus will defeat Metatron, he has Michael's sword. We will dismantle the Church and move on to Edinburgh, and Richmond's castle. There we will dismantle the Republic. And so a new empire will begin, one of the future, of progress and science and logic and knowledge. An empire that will bring everything that the Republic has not. An empire, friends, of us. Of the people."

      There was silence. Then a slow, shocked clap. It grew, passing from neighbour to neighbour, until the wooden study was echoing with the applause.
      Two men did not clap.
      One was Dantalion, who stood, smiling slightly, confident, assured, collected.
      The other was Repus.

      Their eyes met.

      Dantalion smiled.

      The Revolution had begun.

      Keaton Leort, Canterbury

      Keaton rose from his desk as the first sounds of footsteps echoed from the stone corridors outside.
      Father Jacobus lingered in the doorway. Keaton met his eyes.
      He nodded, and ran out into the corridor. Shouting.
      Keaton moved quickly, grabbing the ancient tomes and pushing them into his satchel. He turned and ran for the window.
      There was a twanging sound, and Father Jacobus collapsed. A feathered bolt ran through his heart. His eyes rolled back, in time to see Keaton jump out of the open window, out into the grassy courtyard beyond, and down into the city itself. He was escaping.
      He sighed, contentedly, as the thought police ran into the library. Guards in the blood red of the thought police, the Church's most dangerous force after the Metatron himself.
      The telepath was held by chains in the midst of them. A snarling, feral thing. Scarcely human any more. Naked, grubby, beaten. An animal.
      The sergeant nodded to the keeper. He knocked the telepath over with the back of his hand, and grunted.
      There was a silence. And then a scream. Father Jacobus was writhing, his mind aflame as the telepath broke it open, tearing the grey mush of his brain as he sought the thoughts his masters commanded him to find.
      The telepath knew only pain. Its power reflected this.

      The telepath grunted, and pointed. The window. The thought police jumped it and were gone.

      Father Jacobus grimaced, his skull open, bleeding and oozing with gore, as he died on the stone floor of the library.

      He had served the Anti-Hero. Served Keaton.

      Keaton walked out into the city. Cool, calm, collected. He stopped a passerby, politely.

      "Excuse me...would you know where I might find the docks?"

      The Anti-Hero was going to Eygpt.

    11. #11
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER EIGHT - Strange Bed-Fellows

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      "You understand what we have to do?"
      Satanel sighed, and snapped the lock from the door.
      "Yes. You've told me several times, Beelzebub. We get the Cube and get out."
      Satanel shifted his focus back to the door. It opened easily, and quietly. He slipped into the shadows of the stone corridor beyond.
      Canterbury cathedrale. The nerve-centre of the entire Church. Also where Beelzebub promised they would find the Cube.
      He sidled up against the wall, edging further into the cathedrale. Beelzebub followed, his broad wings scraping the edges of the corridor.
      It didn't matter. No-one else could see him.

      Satanel was a thief. He had always been a thief. He had also always had Beelzebub.
      Beelzebub...he was tall. Huge. A head above Satanel, and with shoulders twice as broad. He looked all the more intimidating for the great gossamar wings that erupted from his back. Three pairs, six wings. Those, combined with his mottled skin and heavy black cloak, made him look like a great bottle fly, shuffling about in loping strides.
      Satanel wasn't sure why no-one else could see Beelzebub. He had assumed long ago that invisibility was Beelzebub's power, and that he had become so skilled in it that he could be selective in who saw him. Or perhaps he was a perception manipulator who had managed to decieve everyone but Satanel.
      Why he followed Satanel, Satanel wasn't sure about either. The loping creature just went after him, flying if he tried to escape, always dogging his footsteps.

      He was helpful, in some ways. He would give Satanel hints or clues. But most of the time he just followed.

      Satanel edged on, into the cathedrale. A sunlight courtyard lay up ahead. Shadows faded as the light shone in. Satanel swore.
      There was no-one about. He could dash across, and continue searching the cathedrale. It wouldn't be difficult.
      He stepped forward...
      "Thought police!"
      A figure crashed through an open window that looked out over the courtyard. Satanel froze as the figure darted over the grass and past him, out of the door he had just broken in through.
      "He didn't see you." Beelzebub assured him. Satanel crouched as crashing noises sounded from the window the figure had just sprung through.
      There was a clatter, and three figures jumped out, running in pursuit.
      They went by without seeing Satanel.

      "Thanks, Beelzebub." Satanel managed, rising. He sprinted the courtyard and was back in the cathedrale corridors.
      "Now to find that Cube."

      Richmond, Edinburgh

      "Where better to lead our new Republic than from this castle?" Richmond smiled. "I always thought that quaint Leicester chamber was a little too...diminutive. Here is far better, don't you agree?"
      The shadowy figures nodded. It was dark in the castle's lofty tower. Richmond sat back, a wooden throne at the head of a small, ornate table.
      "I have done away with all the deputies and so forth. From now on the Republic will be ruled from here, by myself, Consul Richmond. You have been chosen worthy of being my advisors."
      There was a murmur of assent. Richmond smiled.
      "To business. We have succeeded in our coup so far because the people are tired. They have little knowledge of the affairs of state and do not want to become involved. None of them will stand for the Church, if it comes to it. The Church itself has failed to oppose us because we control the majority of the Republic's army, thanks to you, general."
      One of the shadowed figures nodded, with a grunt.
      "Dantalion will be on our shores within the month. He is dangerous. His revolution has come too late, and must be crushed by our forces before they reach us here. We will allow Dantalion to destroy the Church, or else ruin them enough that they no longer threaten us, and then we will strike at him. Your forces, general, I take them to be enough?"

      The general sighed, his face still obscured by shadow.
      "Not enough, consul. Dantalion has a good number of Prussian tribesmen with him, while my soldiers are largely still involved with putting down any commanders in England still loyal to the Church. If it came to a pitched battle, we'd lose."
      Richmond nodded, thoughtfully.
      "Then...perhaps...gentleman, I take it you have all heard of this 'Anti-Hero'?"
      There was another assenting murmur.
      "Reports show he appeared in York, not long ago. It seems that is where he attained the power of the Anti-Hero...stealing other's powers." a shadowy figure reported, in cold, calculated terms. "We know this from our informant in the Church, it seems the individual is one Keaton Leort. We suspect Zerachiel is behind the Church learning this."
      Richmond swore, softly. "I often wonder what Zerachiel planned when he sent all those letters...when he...yes...I suppose he has little intention but to interfere with mankind. To stir us, to test us. His omniscience could have made him a god, but instead he just sits, and pushes us...it makes you wonder whether the truth, the ultimate truth...is that in the end it doesn't matter. Nothing does."

      He sat, quietly, for a moment more, and then laced his fingers together. Bridged them under his nose, as he thought.
      "General, you have a telepath on your force, do you not?"
      The general seemed surprised. "Well...yes. Sort of."
      "The gifted are not shunned as they once were, general. This is my new Republic. Those once named heretics are to be welcomed with open arms."
      The general nodded.
      "Then yes, we have such a man. His telepathy is...unusual. He cannot read minds, as such, and would be taken for blind, or deaf, or dumb, on first impressions. But his range is extrodinary, he can project messages to anyone, no matter what the distance. All he needs is their name."
      Richmond smiled, thinly.
      "Good. I suspected as much. Have your telepath contact this...Keaton Leort...this...Anti-Hero."

      There was a ripple of surprise around the table. Richmond's smile broadened.

      "Tell him...tell him I want to make a deal."

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      Satanel reached the end of the corridor. There was a doorway beyond.
      Through it he could make out the shapes of men, about ten...thought police...
      They all carried swords.
      "Is there no other way into this crypt?" he hissed, and Beelzebub shook his head.
      "The only way down is through the door in that room. I wonder why they're guarding it?"
      Satanel wondered that, too. Did the Church suspect someone was coming to steal the Cube?
      And could he fight his way through ten thought police?

      He looked down at his hand. It glowed a faint orange in the shadows.


    12. #12
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER NINE - Epiphanel Heroes

      Castor Angelos and Pollux Angelos (age 33), the Cornish Coast

      Pollux appeared with a faint schlurp from the fabric of time and space.
      Castor didn't look up.
      "Been awhile, brother." Pollux smiled, keeping the smile fixed as he walked into the wachtower's lounge. Castor sat on the floor, a half-empty bottle in one hand.
      All around the small, circular room, bottles floated. Hovering, an unconcious action, just bobbing in the air, inches from the ground.
      "You were here yesterday." Castor said, quietly. "Twenty-three and forty-four, I think."
      "Ah. Right. Whatever." Pollux stepped gingerly into the room. Deliberating over every step, careful not to disturb the drunken chaos.

      Not that Castor was drunk. Pollux didn't want to know how much of the cheap red wine it would take to get Castor drunk. There wasn't enough in the world.
      He stopped, suddenly, when he saw the streak of dark, thick, conealed blood, sprayed across the wall. The watchtower's open door lay beyond, the open sea raging down below, endlessly.
      He looked to Castor. His throat felt dry.
      "Oh, brother. Not again."
      Castor screwed his eyes shut. The floating bottles jerked, jumping higher. He tipped the bottle, finishing it, and threw it aside. It shattered.
      "How many times?" Pollux asked, quietly, crouching by his brother, by his twin. They looked the same age, almost. Castor had always been naturally older. Pollux wrapped his arms around him. Castor began to cry.
      "I thought...I thought she would be different." he choked. Pollux ran a hand through his lanky, faint hair. It was greasy with stale sweat. Salty tears. The ocean spray.
      "I know. It's alright." he whispered, holding him. "It wasn't your fault."
      Castor clung to him, a child after a bad dream. He was supposed to be the oldest. He was supposed to look after Pollux. It was...wrong...so wrong.
      "I thought...she was floating, drifting in the air...I thought...I thought she could fly. Like me." Castor's voice trailed away, sadly. His head slumped into his chest.
      Pollux held him, and they rocked, gently, just sat on the floor.

      After an eternity, the bottles fell from the air. Shattered in brilliant, murky explosions of greens and blues. Castor was asleep.
      It scared Pollux. Terrified him. His brother, always the old one, always the leader, the patient parent to his younger twin. His brother, the one who had always been in control of his power, naturally gifted. Like he had been born to levitate, while Pollux had stumbled over his power, a freakish accident.
      Castor could control his levitation. It was levitating others that he couldn't control.
      Fits of passion, moments of rage, or sorrow or joy, and suddenly you could be lifted, hurled into the air. Like the bottles, Castor didn't mean to do it. Didn't want to do it.
      It happened. It just...happened.
      His brother didn't have many faults. His brother didn't have many faults that Pollux would recognise, anyway.

      Pollux disappeared, as dawn came. It wasn't the first vigil he'd held over his brother. It hurt, just as the others had. Hurt to see his brother so...human.

      Besides, Pollux had an appointment. He had to find clothes, put water to boil.
      And then talk to Umbrion Jade and Eloa, like Zerachiel had asked.
      That would be about a day ago. He had time to spare. To hide the tears.

      He disappeared.

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      "What are you going to do now, Satanel?"
      Beelzebub frowned. Satanel turned and slipped, silently, out into the courtyard again. He darted across the grass, and back out of the stone corridor.
      He was on the streets of Canterbury once more. A fishmonger pushed past him, a grizzled salmon hanging from a hook in one hand. A woman cried across the street from him, as a figure sprinted off, into the crowd, a bag clutched to his chest. Satanel looked around, until he saw what he was looking for.
      A shabby pile of rags blinked as he nudged it with his foot. The waif-like head of a street urchin jutted out, pale, bruised. Satanel smiled, wanly.
      "How would you like this shiny gold coin?"
      The urchin blinked, and nodded, mutely. Satanel held out a hand.
      "Here. Now, I need you to do some shouting for me. Some running, too. Can you do that?"
      The child nodded again, and Satanel dropped the coin into his hand. He caught it and clutched it, his little knuckles going white as they closed around it.
      "Good. Go on."
      Satanel clicked his fingers. A spark of fire briefly lit the child's bony features.
      The child ran.

      Satanel waited. Lurked in the shadows by the door. Beelzebub was there. He had waited for him.
      The urchin was screaming.
      "Sergeant there's a..."
      There was a grunt and a gruff voice adressed the child from inside the room.
      "Shut up, brat. Now, what is it?"
      The urchin gasped, heavy, quick breaths. Satanel had either terrified him, or the child was a better actor than Satanel would have given him credit for. Either way, he was earning his shiny gold coin.
      "Freak...fire...in the street..."
      There was an order. Satanel groaned inwardly. If they had a telepath in there, it could read the child's mind, surely? Maybe even sense Satanel's mind, out in the stone corridor, as it thought hurriedly, racing.
      There was a reply. Pained, like a moan from a beaten dog. A shout. More orders.

      Satanel pressed himself back, against the stone wall. The thought police burst from the room, armoured men moving at a hurried pace, lashed on by the shouts of the sergeant. Seven of them.
      Pikes and swords clattered, echoed down the corridors of the cathedrale.
      Satanel leant back, further into the shadows.
      The thought police were dragging the telepath with them. It was naked, grimy, thin and gangly with neglect. Chains fixed it to the armoured chest-plates of two of the thought police that ran, dragging it along.
      The telepath looked at Satanel as they ran past him, out into the street.
      Eyes wide. The bulge of the unnaturally developed mind visibly pulsing.

      Satanel heard the voice in his head.

      Go, brother. There are three left. Find the Cube. Save the freaks!

      Satanel smiled, and fire burst from one hand.

      Save the freaks. The telepath had saved him.

      The urchin fled the room as Satanel sprang into it. The three guards left jerked, surprised, afraid. Satanel didn't have to have the telepath's gift to see their fear.

      He was on fire today.

      Keaton Leort, Somewhere off the Coast of Cornwall

      The ship lurched. Keaton lurched with it.
      The ship would arrive in Spain, within the month. Or so the captain had promised. From there, it would be a journey over land, to the coast of the inner sea. The Mediterranean. From there, another - smoother, Keaton hoped - voyage into the Nile.
      Keaton had never been to sea before. Never been so far as York until yesterday.
      Now he was going to Eygpt. To find answers.

      He was not going to be some tool of the Righteous. Some pawn in a far larger game.

      He would find the answers. He was Keaton Leort. Anti-Hero.

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      Satanel was in the labyrinth. The giant maze of crypts and tunnels underneath the cathedrale of Canterbury. The catacomb that hid the Cube.
      The thought police guards he had left behind wouldn't follow him. Wouldn't find him, at least.
      Beelzebub hovered behind him, supported by his elongated gossamar wings.
      He was hushed, for now. Awed? Scared?
      Beelzebub would have his own reasons for wanting Satanel - and himself - to reach the Cube. Satanel could make some guesses as to what motives they might be. He would be ready, if it happened. Ready if the betrayl came.

      The tunnel he was in seemed to go on forever. Dark, lit only by the faint glow of Satanel's fingertips.
      There was a rumble, up ahead. The fall of stones, the clatter of foot-falls.

      Something was coming. Something...dangerous.

    13. #13
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER TEN - Penny Dreadful, the Beginning of the End

      Keaton Leort, Beni Suwayf

      Keaton brushed a loose strand of hair from his eyes and stooped.
      His hair was unkempt, too long and too untidy. It itched, as his whole body did, of the sand that whipped up with the winds and stung his eyes.
      He had left the Republic behind across the Mediterranean. Left behind the Church, the Righteous, everything.
      Here in Egypt, in the city of Beni Suwayf, he had questions to answer.
      He nodded to the guide. He hadn't any money, but lately bending people around to his way of thinking had become easier. The simple, menial workers; the captains, the guides, the hillmen, all found themselves in agreement with the pale, tall stranger.
      They were on the outskirts of the city, now. Keaton stooped, one hand brushing the sand, gently.
      The disturbance had happened here. In them middle of nowhere, in the middle of barren sand and scrubs. The only marker...his hand touched metal.
      He dug into the sand. The guide, as though coming from a daze, shook himself, wondering why he had brought the mysterious foreigner so far for so little money.
      Keaton finished digging. He pulled the metal free.

      It was a sword. Long, and curved. Untouched by rust. Brilliantly white metal.
      Keaton turned it in his hand. It must have been his height, and yet it moved perfectly, as though it were little more than air.
      A B A D D O N
      Minute, neat, perfectly engraved letters. The name of the man that saw the disturbance. Saw the vortex that utterly ended belief in the Righteous as the One, the All-Powerful and Unequalled.
      The sword had been left here by the Abaddon to warn others. To act as the marker from which the truth could be learnt.
      It had been left for Keaton.
      Keaton was sure about that. It had to have been. Centuries ago, this Abaddon had witnessed the end of all te Righteous' false providence, and had buried his sword where it happened. He had written the heresy within a book in the library of Canterbury itself, left it there hidden amongst religious nonsense.
      Hidden the truth within lies, and the sword in the exact place that Keaton would choose to dig first, by random choice.

      It was undeniable. Something was behind it. Something...bigger. More powerful.
      Something that wanted Keaton to know the truth of the Righteous. The reality amongst the fabrications of centuries.
      Keaton looked at the sword.
      What would happen next? He wasn't sure. All he knew was that he wasn't going to be the Righteous' pawn. A tool. He had to have some other calling. A divinity beyond that of the Church, the Seven, the past utopia.

      The sand whipped up, suddenly, viciously. Keaton grimaced, raising his hands to shield them as the sun and sand blinded him.

      There was a beat of great wings. As though some giant locust of the desert had landed.

      Abaddon had come.

      Repus Oge, Dover

      Repus nodded to Garant as they stepped off the boat.
      He felt sick. The waves across the Channel had been choppy, and the rain hadn't stopped lashing the ship since they left the mainland.
      But he was here. England. In the south, near Dover. The coast.
      The ten soldiers that he'd taken through the cavern and beyond stood behind him, shivering. England was cold. Very cold.
      Repus looked up. Too cold? The dark sky above couldn't be normal. Something was happening.
      Dantalion stepped off the ship lightly, as though floating to the grim, grainy shore beneath. Chalky sand crumbled under immaculate black leather boots.
      His hair billowed in the breeze, wavy and perfect. He smiled at Repus, and let his gaze fall casually over the sword hung behind Repus' back.
      The sword. Michael's sword. The sword that could kill the Metatron.

      "Repus! The army has come to England!"
      Dantalion's smile was sharp, edged, as he approached. Repus turned and nodded to acknowledge him.
      "No resistance." Repus noted. The great stone towers and castles that looked out to the sea had been silent. Watched the invading host land without reaction. It unnerved Repus.
      "The people down here don't know who they're following." Dantalion waved a hand, dismissively. "The Church's Old Republic or Richmond's New Republic. Some will possibly welcome us, but I expect many will simply sit back and observe. England - the Republic - awaits a victor, Repus. The Church, Richmond...or me. Then, when only one remains, can a new world be created."
      The orange sunlight created dappled waves over Dantalion's sleek black hair. Repus blinked.
      "Perhaps...perhaps I should go on ahead with my team, Dantalion."
      An eyebrow arched. Dantalion looked bemused.
      "Reconaissance. Feel for the people's mood, see who would support us, so on."
      Dantalion smiled. "Support from the local populace would help, Repus. Well thought. But I do not think it would be so wise to send you out alone. Not when you carry our greatest weapon. Perhaps, if you were to leave it behind?"

      Repus exhaled. He shook his head.
      "I thought not, Repus." Dantalion looked down. "Help organise the rest of the landings. I need to investigate our supply lines, if you'll excuse me."
      Repus nodded, and Dantalion left. The air bit at his cheeks. Cold.

      Dantalion smiled, as he walked away.
      England was his. The Church couldn't stop him, and Richmond couldn't stop him.

      He had won.

      Keaton Leort, Beni Suwayf

      Keaton blinked, and wiped a sleeve across his eyes. He rose. Sand fell from him as he did so.
      "Abaddon, I presume?" he smiled, hesitantly. "I've been expecting you."
      Abaddon blinked. He was tall, taller than Keaton, and broad, too. Features perfectly defined, perfectly toned in a light brown, a dusky touch across his skin. He was of Egypt, or wanted to appear to be.
      Giant locust-like wings spread behind his back, out-stretched; four gossamar wings stretching out at angles from a muscular frame.
      He was dressed all in black, the nomadic robes and head-scarf of the desert.
      "I was told you were to come here." Abaddon said, and to Keaton it seemed as though a multitude of voices spoke as one, a host of demonic insects, a hive mind, one body.

      The guide had fled. Keaton was vaguely aware of his screams behind him.
      He and Abaddon faced one another, waiting.
      "The one known as Zerachiel told me to be here. To set the page in the book, to bury the sword in exactly the place you would look first. Zerachiel did this because what happens to the Anti-Hero next is important. Very important."
      The winds whipped up a flurry of sand around them, but neither moved.
      "You came looking for something. A power beyond the Righteous, the one that created what you have become. I have the answers. Mostly. But I require something of you, also."
      Keaton looked down to the sword. Abaddon laughed.
      "The sword is not what I want. In the coming battle, it will take more than a blade to survive. Keep it. I will tell you of what I require later. First, your answers."

      "You have heard the story of how the Righteous created the world. How the Righteous' creation - humanity - ascended into something he did not expect...the Seven, their utopia. Already this proves the Righteous to be less than perfect...less than divine."
      Keaton nodded.
      "The gifts given to humanity were not from the Righteous. They came from another, like the Righteous. A being equal in power. You see, Anti-Hero, there is more than one sphere of existence. The Righteous comes from a world above ours...not physically, I do not know how they are connected, but from a sphere of existence - a shell, if you will - above our own. I have never been. I am not aware of any that have. The Righteous found a way down into the shell below his own, or a way to influence the shell below, at any rate, and created humanity. He is not the only being in the shell above. How many exist like him I do not know. I may never know. But the gifts of telepathy, of force fields and fire, they were not in the Righteous' designs. Rather they were grafted to chosen human genomes, a select few, to stir, to aggravate the rule of the Righteous. Two great beings playing our world, our petty, primitive, lesser existence, as though it were a game between them - a battle of creation, of wits."
      Abaddon paused. The winds around Keaton suddenly sounded louder, more deafening, than before.
      "The utopia was created by the humans gifted the most, the greatest among us. Gabriel, Michael, Raguel, Uriel, Raphael, Remiel and Zerachiel. The Seven. Of them now two are dead, and four have simply closed themselves to the world. They were not alone. There were others, who were there with them at the start of the utopia, fellow architects of perfecting humanity. They were Azazel, Dantalion, Beelzebub, and myself, Abaddon. They were the ones that rejected the utopia they had helped create, the ones that saw that humanity could never be ruled in perfect harmony. Saw that the Seven had become little more than a localised version of the Righteous, whom we detested."

      Abaddon sighed. "The utopia ended after our rebellion. Humanity went on as it goes on today. But you...the Anti-Hero...the seed of humanity's destruction, was sown. The Righteous had lost his game. The being from the shell above had bested him by ruining his world by granting powers to humans. The Anti-Hero will allow the Righteous to begin afresh. To start anew. This, I believe, you have been told already."

      There was silence. Then Keaton spoke.
      "This...other being. Tell me of him."
      Abaddon shrugged. "He has no name. There's no proof he even exists, I only report what Zerachiel has told me. I know little of him - whatever 'him' is - other than that. The shell above is a place we cannot reach, Anti-Hero. A wholly other reality above even the Seven, even those who rebelled, like myself."
      Keaton thought, for a moment. "What's this got to do with me? What can I do?"
      Abaddon shrugged again. "You wanted to know if there was anything more out there. I have told you that yes, yes there is. This, 'Counter-Righteous' being. What you do about that is up to you. Now, I have a requirement of you."
      Keaton shrugged.
      "You have the power within you to end this existence, this shell, this world. I, and others like me, do not want this. There is no escape for anyone in this shell. We will all perish. And the Righteous will have his chance to begin his canvas blank once more. A chance to right what he did wrong. We are all that wrong, Anti-Hero. We do not want to allow him to begin again. I believe you will share these sentiments. I sense you do not want to be the mere tool of a higher being, no?"

      Keaton stared. Abaddon smiled.

      "Here it is. We have to return to England. It will not take long, I have wings, and can carry you. We have to return to England, so that we can prevent you from ending this world. Zerachiel had a plan. He always does. He knew a way to thwart the Righteous and that way is in England, somewhere. Come."

      Abaddon reached out his hand. Keaton stood, still.

      The fate of this world lay in the balance.

      Keaton smiled.

    14. #14
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER ELEVEN - Anticypse Now

      Eloa and Umbrion Jade, York

      "We go to Canterbury. We find the Cube." Eloa said, simply. She fitted the saw-toothed knife into her belt. She looked at Umbrion. He looked back.
      "Umbrion, I believe now we must decide where to go, if we are to stay together at all. I have a strange feeling about that Pollux man coming all the way here...to prepare us. It's like he...relied on us...for something - which he may have made clear. He said he's preparing us for a war, and I myself would trust a time traveler's concerns about the future.
      Metatron is surely a weapon to be sought, since I doubt he's even human anymore. Should we go to Canterbury and look for this.. cube? or, should I ask, are you joining me on my way to Canterbury? I believe I have made my decision."
      Umbrion gritted his teeth. He rose. "For now Eloa, I can't trust anyone that easily. But let's work together for now and see where that takes us."
      She nodded. They turned, and left the house.

      The road to Canterbury lay ahead of them.

      The road to battle.

      Keaton Leort, Beni Suwayf

      Keaton stood, as the sand whipped up around him. Abaddon looked on, blank.
      "What is Zerachiel's plan?"
      He shouted it, over the winds. Abaddon's head tilted slightly.
      Keaton hesitated. "I'll not be your tool, Abaddon."
      "I understand." Abaddon spread his wings, flexing. "Zerachiel knew about the Righteous' intentions, knew that the Anti-Hero was sown, and would rise at the time of Zerachiel's death. He created...an antidote."
      Keaton frowned. "What sort of antidote?"
      Abaddon shrugged. "I don't know. Zerachiel said only that the antidote would come to us, in England, and that it would be the only way to prevent the end of the world - the end of everything in this world we live in - without harming the Anti-Hero. You."

      Keaton hesitated. Without harming the Anti-Hero? Did that meant there was another way. If you killed the Anti-Hero, you simply inherieted his potential. The power to end it all...willingly or not...would still exist, only in a new host body, a new Anti-Hero. Then...
      "What if the Anti-Hero were to kill himself? Where would the potential go then?"
      Abaddon smiled. "Zerachiel doesn't intend for you to die that way, if that's what you suspect. I don't know what would happen. How do you define responsiblity for death, anyway? You could claim that I were indirectly the cause of your suicide, or that the bad will of others had driven you to it. The potential could pass to someone who didn't even know you, who was somehow linked indirectly in responsibilty to your death."
      Keaton looked blank. Abaddon looked thoughtful.
      "I suspect that the Righteous anticipated the thought. It is possible that to commit suicide would be to detonate you."

      Keaton looked down. The grainy gold of the shifting sands stung his eyes.
      "What have you in all this? What do you gain from helping a dead omniscient who plays games with us, lays plans and instructions but who has no motive?"
      There was a silence. Abaddon shifted, uncomfortable.
      "There are those of us in the rebellion who regret what we did. Who wish that we had had Zerachiel's knowledge. I regret what happened in the last throes of our revolution." Abaddon shook his head. "The fate of this world rests with you, Keaton. I have not the power to escape to some other shell, nor do any of us. We cannot sit and watch as the Righteous does. I have to stop you from detonating. That is all there is."
      Keaton looked at Abaddon. Let his mind reach. Felt the firm resistance that it met. Abaddon was a telepath...or a good concealer of his thoughts, at any rate. One touch...one touch and Keaton would share his powers.
      Keaton needed the powers, after all. He would not become some tool.

      Not the Righteous', not Zerachiel's.
      He lent forward. "I think I can trust you, Abaddon."
      He extended a hand. Abaddon looked at it with some bemusement.
      "How...human. I haven't done that in centuries."
      He shook Keaton's hand. The world inverted.

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      Satanel extinguished the flames from his fingertips. Darkness fell over him.
      Beelzebub frowned behind him.
      There was an explosion of dust and light.

      Eloa and Umbrion Jade, Canterbury

      "It's in the cathedrale." Umbrion said, slowly. "That's where the Church would hide it if they had it."
      Eloa frowned. They had travelled fast, stealing horses as they went. Umbrion's superhuman strength had seen to it that they weren't stopped.
      "Are you sure?"
      "It makes sense." Umbrion insisted, hesitating by a paving stone. They were outside the cathedrale, looking up at the tall spire. Eloa frowned again.
      "Maybe. We should keep up observation, though, just to be...what are you doing?"
      Umbrion crouched down. He began hammering at the giant paving slab. Passerbies hurried on, casting the pair sidelong glances. The two thought police officers lounging by the cathedrale gates didn't notice.
      There was a scrape as Umbrion pushed the stone down, pivoting it enough to tilt. He shifted his grip and turned the stone. It fell away. Darkness lay beneath.

      With a shrug, Eloa dropped down. Umbrion followed.

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      The pair landed in the ray of light and dust that shone down from above. A death-defying fall, the hole from which they fell far, far too high up...and yet one landed perfectly, an acrobat's practised ease; the other landing heavily, though with a solidness to him that allowed him to rise, unharmed.
      Satanel frowned.
      The two parties faced one another, each illuminated by the light from above.

      Beelzebub smiled, a grim death mask.

      "Azazel. It has been some time."

      Keaton Leort, Beni Suwayf

      "You...of course." Abaddon released Keaton's hand, staring at his own like it had been scalded, or developed some interesting deformity.
      He looked down on Keaton as he thrashed, his hand burning red.
      "It hurts, doesn't it? Not so neat as simple flying, or making tricks with fire or ice."
      Abaddon sounded pitying. Keaton spasmed, convulsing in the dirty sand. It was hot, and moving on it made it feel like it was grinding, tearing at his flesh, but he didn't care. His hand was...agony.
      Abaddon reached down. He grasped Keaton's hand. Keaton gasped. Abaddon lifted him gently up.
      "Better? Good. You must understand, Anti-Hero, that those individuals who became great in the past utopia...myself, Zerachiel, and the others...we are not so human any more. We have wings. We do not die of age, or suffer from hunger or thirst. And our powers are...so much purer. We were that much closer to how the gifts given to us by the Counter-Righteous were before they became tainted, diluted."
      Keaton gasped, finally, regaining his composure. His hand was pink, slightly pale. Normal again. He examined it, wide-eyed.
      "What power have you taken?" Abaddon asked for him. "You've probably extended your life by a century. But this is probably what you're after."

      Abaddon's hand jerked, suddenly. A wiry rabbit, creeping through a dry tuft of shrubbery, froze. Abaddon twisted his hand over. The rabbit squeaked, and crackled, as the skin began to dry and the colour drained, the rabbit visibly shrinking.
      He stopped. The rabbit fell sideways with a crinkled crack. It looked a pale, parchment-like colour.
      "Draining blood from the bodies of the living. Grimly poetic?" Abaddon grimaced, as though regretful of the rabbit's death.
      "We have to go, Keaton. Time is running out."

      There was a clap, like thunder. They both turned.
      A dark, sleek, tall woman stood in the sunshine a few feet away. Her clothes were plain, and tight-fitting.
      There was a spear in her hand.
      "Keaton Leort?" she asked, after a moment's hesitation. "Richmond sent me. He's tired of waiting for a response."
      "Teleportation." Abaddon smiled. "A neat trick. I expect it took some time jumping around Egypt looking for this one boy, didn't it?"
      The woman scowled, slightly. "Yes. It did. Keaton will be coming with me, now. Come on, Keaton. Give me your hand and we can be in England."
      "Richmond wants to use the Anti-Hero, not prevent him. He needs the antidote."
      "Richmond will do everything in his power to prevent the end of the world. If such a thing is even true."

      There was a silence. Both turned to Keaton.

    15. #15
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER TWELVE - absolutum dominium

      Richmond, Edinburgh

      "The Church is no longer strong enough to stop Dantalion. It won't even slow him down."
      Richmond swore. The shadowed figures at the table watched on.
      "Our telepath has even brought word that the Metatron is at risk. The Anti-Hero has yet to respond and there is even word of his leaving the country. My agent hasn't sent word back as to her search yet. The coup is failing."
      He swore again, and kicked the table. The seated figures jumped.
      There was a faint hiss from the thin veil covering one wall. As one they turned to look.

      "The Anti-Hero can no longer be considered as a weapon, Richmond."
      The distorted voice echoed around the stone room. Richmond glared at the veil.
      "Then what do we do? You said this would work. You said I would rule the Republic."
      "You didn't listen to me. This is your fault, Richmond. You failed to follow orders."
      Richmond glared, but didn't respond. He sat down, slowly.
      There was a silence as they watched the veil.
      "Assemble your forces. Have them move on Canterbury, quickly. Speed is of the essence. You will go there yourself. There will be a battle. You must win it."
      "Dantalion's forces outnumber us." Richmond said, resignedly. There was an irritated buzz from the veil.
      "Dantalion is not the only factor. Whoever controls the Metatron will play a part. Whoever is trying to prevent the Anti-Hero's detonation will play a part. This is what you will use."
      Richmond considered. "How?"
      "You will not engage the Metatron. Make that clear to your subordinates. Whoever controls the Metatron must be made to see Dantalion as the greater threat. If this person can be identified, we can remove him and take the Metatron for our own, but for now a compromise must be reached. The Anti-Hero is another matter. It is clear to me that there are forces at work attempting to prevent his imminent detonation. I suspect Zerachiel's remaining followers. What they are doing is of paramount importance to both them and you - indeed, everyone in your world. They are also of some considerable power. You must force Dantalion into becoming an obstacle to them."
      "Dantalion will be moving on Canterbury soon. It is the nerve point of the Church and vital to ruling England, and by that line, the Republic. Whoever controls the Metatron will be in Canterbury, as that is undoubtedly where the Cube is. When Dantalion takes the city, he will in effect trap the individual controlling the Metatron. This individual will panic, and use the Metatron on Dantalion to escape the city. Dantalion will construe this as an attack by the Church as he cannot know that the Metatron's control is wavering right now. That will turn the forces gathering to defend the Church to face Dantalion, and not us, as well as cause Dantalion to waste valuable time searching the cathedrale and catacombs for the Cube, which should have been removed by then by whoever now controls the Metatron."
      "The forces gathering to defend the Church?" Richmond asked.
      "We...ah...have had reports of such forces, consul." the shadowed general admitted, guiltily. "They're spread thinly across the country, but they do have some numbers now..."
      "And this will focus them in on Dantalion in Canterbury. You will have time to marshall your own forces for an attack on whatever remains in the city afterwards."

      "And...the Anti-Hero?"
      "Zerachiel left an 'antidote' to the Anti-Hero. A counter-measure to the Righteous' final plan. I believe this those attempting to prevent the Anti-Hero's detonation are intending to use this antidote. This implies that they are close to Zerachiel, which implies the Seven, or the Rebels. Possibly a coalition of both."
      There was an intake of breath. Richmond put his head down.
      "We cannot hope to stop them if they have returned."
      "Not so. You may be aware of Michael's death in York not so long ago. It seems their powers are waning. Only Metatron has maintained his former might of those left from the utopia. I believe this, therefore, to be a last attempt by the utopians to defy the Righteous with what strength they have left. We can use this. I have contact with Gabriel. He will confirm my suspicions, no doubt. I will make him an offer of truce between you, Richmond, and this last force of utopians. They will help you defeat Richmond, and you will help them with whatever 'antidote' Zerachiel has planned."

      Richmond nodded. "Good. We'll do that."

      There was silence from the veil. They waited another moment, and then turned back to one another.

      "It's happening in Canterbury." Richmond sighed. "The beginning of a new age...or the end of mine."

      Keaton Leort and Abaddon, Beni Suwayf

      Keaton stared at Abaddon. Then he turned.
      "Let's go."
      He held out his hand. The woman smiled, slightly, and reached out.
      "Wait." Keaton warned. The woman frowned. Keaton gripped her hand. She paled.
      "What are you..."
      "Do you believe in the after-life, I wonder?" Keaton frowned, slightly, as she sank to her knees. She convulsed. Cheeks sallowed, skin went chalk white, hanging from bone and dried muscle. She fell face down, as dry as the grains of sand that enveloped her.
      She twitched. Keaton turned to Abaddon. They stared at each other.
      Abaddon smiled, slowly.

      Keaton nodded. "I'll co-operate for now, Abaddon. but on my own terms, neutrally, and from a distance."
      Abaddon grimaced. "You won't be controlled, Anti-Hero."
      "No." Keaton agreed, and vanished.

      Abaddon waited a moment, and then spread his wings. It was time to move.

      Something was happening in Canterbury.

      Eloa and Umbrion Jade and Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      "Who are you?"
      Satanel ignored the question. Eloa looked past him to the looming figure of Beelzebub. Umbrion watched, frowning.
      "Who are you?" Eloa pressed. Satanel tilted his head, and turned. He looked back to Eloa.
      "You can see him?"
      Eloa looked from one to the other. Umbrion gritted his teeth.
      "See who?"
      "Him." Eloa pointed. Beelzebub gave the pointed digit a bored gaze. Eloa looked to Umbrion. Satanel looked to Umbrion. Umbrion frowned, harder.
      "What's going on?"
      "How can she see you, Beelzebub?" Satanel asked, coldly. Eloa and Umbrion listened, intently.
      Beelzebub leant back, pushing his long arms out against the sides of the cold stone tunnel.

      "Azazel. I didn't expect to see you again."
      "Azazel?" Eloa narrowed her eyes. "Are you talking...to me? About my past? You have to tell me if this is about my past. I have to know."
      Beelzebub grinned, the teeth behind the lips shining in the darkness. He laughed, rasping.
      "Of course. You had Zerachiel wipe your memories. You don't remember, do you?"
      "Remember what, Beelzebub?" Satanel snapped. Beelzebub looked hurt.
      "We used to friends, Azazel. In a way. You were always the stronger, the smarter. I was never quite your equal, was I?"
      "I don't...remember..." Eloa frowned.
      "Allow me to enlighten you." Beelzebub sneered. "Azazel. One of those who founded the utopia on this world. Who helped make humanity great. One of those who choose to rebel, also."
      "Utopia...rebel..." Eloa's eyes flickered.
      "We followed Abaddon, remember? We were the ones who protested against the Seven? Who fought the utopia and broke it. Whose revolution ended mankind's golden age."
      "You were the one who killed Raguel, Azazel. You killed him in the struggle and then fled as everything the Seven...everything we had helped the Seven build was ruined. As everything fell apart into this hollow existence we lead on this world today."
      "You had Zerachiel wipe your memories so you could escape, didn't you? So you could forget what you'd done? The perfection you'd destroyed. While the rest of us dissenters...Abaddon, me, Dantalion...we remembered, Azazel. We remembered and we regret that every day of our lives. You sicken me, Azazel. You're a coward."
      "I..." Eloa was crying. Crying as emotions and distant memories swirled and kaleidoscoped in her mind.
      "Now I lead this one on to take the Cube. That's the only real legacy of our utopia, Azazel. The Metatron. The first of a perfect race, the race we designed. The Metatron was supposed to be the perfection of humanity. Zerachiel didn't want any part in it from the start. We should have listened to him. We all gave him our gifts, remember? The Seven, the ones who were to dissent...we all gave him our gifts? All but Zerachiel, who knew what the Metatron meant for us. That was why we rebelled, in the end, Azazel. Not for our ideals, or philosphies, or dreams. We rebelled because we wanted the Cube, and we wanted control of the Metatron."
      Beelzebub spat. He was frothing, suddenly. "I couldn't hunt for the Cube alone, either, because of what Zerachiel did to me. He wouldn't fight in our rebellion, wouldn't resist like the others of the Seven but he did curse me, Azazel. Cursed me to follow pettier humans, doomed to be a shadow all my life. This is my chance to take the Cube. Through this human I can regain but a shred of what you made me ruin. I can't control the Metatron. Not any more. I'm a shade of what I was. But this one can. Satanel will rule this world and I will be at his side. It's not what I had, it won't ever be what I had, but that's because you...made...me...ruin it!"

      Beelzebub roared. His arms lashed out wildly. They passed through Satanel like a ghost.
      Eloa wept. Her head sunk into her chest. Hair covered her face. Umbrion stared on, bewildered.
      She coughed, spluttered on her tears. Then she looked up.
      Eloa twisted. There was the whoosh of muscles and fibre as they grew, suddenly, impossibly fast, breaking through her shoulder-blades, entwining together, sewing themselves onto new bone; veins, arteries looping and whirling in the air.
      Skin rippled over the great frames of muscle and bone. White feathers pushed their way free, a wave of dove white down and strands and long flight feathers.
      Two great, white wings. She gasped, breathless.
      Beelzebub stared.

      Satanel moved. Fire sprayed out from his fingertips. Eloa felt herself lifted and thrown back, her new wings charred and scorched. She felt their pain.
      Satanel was running. Umbrion yelped as flames licked over his shoulder as he ducked.
      Beelzebub followed, gossamar wings humming like a swarm, echoing about the catacomb.
      Eloa stared at her wings. Burnt feathers would grow back, she knew. Because she did know. She remembered everything.
      She looked up.
      "Let's get that Cube."
      She jumped up, wings spread, and disappeared. Umbrion ran after her.

      Repus Oge, Dover

      Repus slunk around the corner of the alleyway.
      He was betraying Dantalion's orders, he knew. But he had to find out more.
      The coastal town was quiet. The impossibly big sword hung on his back, hidden by a stretched layer of leather.
      He needed to know more about the Church. He knew that. Had to know just what Dantalion had come to oppose.
      He hesitated. The night air suddenly felt...cold. He looked around, and realised that the town square was deserted. Odd. He leant back into the shadows of the alleyway.
      Garant and the men were back with the army. The march into Canterbury would begin at dawn. Hard marching, Dantalion needed to close in on the Church's centre quickly if he wanted to subdue opposition entirely. Already there had been skirmishes against soldiers of the Republic's army still loyal to the Church. Repus had been present when a scouting party from Richmond ran into Dantalion's marching column. His spindle-blade was still notched where it had run into heavy plate armour, before Michael's sword had come through it like butter, into the man's chest and through the heart. It had split the armour effortlessly.

      There was a lull in the wind. Repus felt a chill and supressed it. He looked around. Storm clouds. So sudden?
      Then he heard it. The steady footsteps. He stared.
      Dantalion. Unruffled, composed, walking coolly into the deserted town square. He stopped by the dry fountain that centred it, and waited. Black cloak billowing about him as the wind kicked back, jumping into a gale. Repus ground his teeth to stop them chattering. What was Dantalion doing here? What was he waiting for?
      Repus got the answer soon enough. There was a clatter on the rooftops above him. He almost jumped.
      Dantalion looked up, collected. He smiled.
      "Gabriel. It has been some time. Ah, Remiel. So pleasant. Uriel, Raphael. Abaddon. You surprise me."

      "I have had some time to think, brother."
      The voice was rough, rasping. Repus watched as a figure landed in the square, springing from the roof above his head. A black figure, with great gossamar wings, like those of a locust.
      He embraced Dantalion.
      "The rebellion was some time ago, brother." Dantalion agreed.
      The others landed, softly. Great white wings, perfect, clean, pure. Gabriel, Remiel, Uriel, Raphael, Repus presumed.
      "There are so few of us left..." the tallest said, softly. The voice was high, and light, almost like that of a woman.
      "The Church sent the Metatron to remove Zerachiel." another acknowledged. "Raguel was killed by the traitor Azazel in the heat of the schism."
      "The present traitors don't take objection to the term." Dantalion smiled, coldly. "Azazel knows nothing. She had Zerachiel remove her memories after the schism. She currently works as an assassin by the name of Eloa. Beelzebub...is lost. I do not believe him to be dead. Just...missing."
      Abaddon nodded.

      "You know why we have called this reunion, Dantalion?" Abaddon asked. Dantalion nodded.
      "We need to know that you will be on our side. When the Battle comes." one of the white-winged men spoke. "Our last act of power before we succumb to fading. To deny the Righteous his Anti-Hero. His second chance. To administer the antidote Zerachiel prepared."
      "And what of the Metatron?" Dantalion asked, quietly. There was a silence.
      "You rebels were not the only ones to err, Dantalion. Metatron was our mistake. We should have listened to Zerachiel. Metatron was a power, and with power comes a desire for control. The Metatron's control is passing from the Church. The Republic can breathe again without the reins of the Righteous' puppet in this world."
      "Who will control the Metatron now, then?" Dantalion queried.
      "We do not know." Abaddon admitted. "Some human. No doubt with similar ambitions of power."
      "I see." Dantalion smiled, blankly.

      "You will join our effort, Dantalion? You will help absolve your sin of rebellion by joining us as Abaddon does?"
      Dantalion raised an eyebrow. Then he laughed.
      "Children, you speak as though you were new-born. You still cling to your romantic notions of our past utopia. I think of the future. I think of what were to happen if I were to use what power I have left and rebuilding. Not wallowing in history as you do. Stop the Anti-Hero. That I will not prevent you from doing. But I will not aid you, and I will not side with you. I am a man of ambition, children. I intend to rule this Republic as the Church ruled it once and as Richmond rules it now. Only better. Live long enough to witness my new empire, I pray, dear children, for it will be the mightiest power to ever grace this world."
      The figures froze.
      "Ambition has corrupted you, brother. Join us, prevent the Anti-Hero, and fade with glory."

      Dantalion moved. Great plumes of feathers sprang from his back. Dark, thick, black feathers, a cruel antithesis of the beauty of the white, growing up on skeletal frames. Great, black wings.
      He threw out his hand. Abaddon flew backwards, crashing into a low-down hovel, breaking the wooden struts inwards and crunching on stone.
      Dantalion spun. A white-winged figure was tossed up into the air, spun and hurled aside. Another two were thrown back, crashing into one another as they tried in vain to beat their wings into control.
      Telekinesis. Dantalion's gift. A white-winged figure sprang, a great glacial stream of ice flowing from his out-stretched arm. Dantalion motioned, almost lazily, and the ice broke, snapping into a million razor shards.

      Everyone stopped. The shards hung in the air, silent, deadly.
      Dantalion smiled.
      "Go. Prevent the Anti-Hero's detonation. Then never cross my path again."

      Repus sank further back into the alleyway. There was silence. Tense, brittle silence. They stood there, silently, on the edge of a razor shard.
      Abaddon lifted up into the air. The others followed.

      "Goodbye, Dantalion." Abaddon called, sadly, as they disappeared into the night sky.

      Repus swore, quietly, as Dantalion left the square, wings folding in on themselves and sliding back into his spine.

      Satanel and Beelzebub and Eloa and Umbrion Jade, Canterbury

      Satanel waved his hand. A hooded priest spun, ablaze, screaming. Another went down, his face a mess of molten flesh and blackened skin.
      "The Cube." Beelzebub breathed.
      It stood on a small plinth in the centre of the stone room. Surrounded by the bodies of the priests who had been its keepers. Old, decrepit, ancient. The keepers of the Church's oldest secret, their power over the Republic itself.
      Satanel picked it up. It was heavy, surprisingly. The size of his head, and...dizzying. As though it weren't quite...tangible.
      The shape was clearly a cube. Though it...blurred in the eye. The colour was indescribable, too. More an...evocative feeling that a physical thing.

      Satanel held it, carefully.
      "Don't summon the Metatron here." Beelzebub warned. "If he sees it, he may attempt to break the control and destroy it. The Metatron will always yearn for his freedom, remember. Don't give him the chance."
      "I may have to summon him near, though." Satanel contemplated. "This...Azazel. And her friend. They have us trapped in the catacomb."
      "Azazel can disappear, Satanel. She's dangerous. Her friend...strong. Superhumanly so."
      Satanel nodded. "I need to get this out. Need to hide."
      Beelzebub nodded.
      They turned to the entrance to the stone chamber, back into one of the endless tunnels of the catacomb.
      "You're sure you remember the way out?" Satanel checked.
      "I got you here, didn't I?" Beelzebub chided him. Satanel nodded again.

      Metres away, in another tunnel altogether, water splashed as Eloa reappeared. She was cold. And lost. Umbrion splashed about behind her.
      She looked around.
      And swore.

    16. #16
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      PART I - Embrace the Rising Sun

      Castor Angelos, the Cornish Coast

      Castor finished dressing and stood by the edge of the tower's lofty balcony. Pale strands of hair flicked at his eyes in the wind. The sea below was quiet, peaceful.
      Morning. Dawn. He opened his arms wide, as though embracing the rising sun.
      Then he fell forwards.

      Time to meet his destiny. Time to find the Anti-Hero.

      Repus Oge, the Road to Canterbury

      Repus stood calmly as the sergeant blinked, bleary eyed. His eyes widened as he saw Repus.
      "Repus. You're going."
      Repus nodded. Garant sat, staring for a moment. Then he nodded.
      "I'm coming with you."
      "What?" Repus stepped back. Garant stood, and pulled on his steel breastplate.
      "I'm coming with you. If you desert, I'll be hung up for where you've gone. Especially when you're the one with that."
      Repus looked over his shoulder. The long hilt of Michael's sword stared back at him, guiltily.
      "Besides, I'm not about to let you run off. I know what you're like." Garant grinned, looping a leather cord around his belt. He reached down and slid his sword into its sheath.

      Repus laughed. He felt good, today, strangely. Real good. He was leaving Dantalion. He was going to take his own orders for a change.

      Garant hefted a wine skin over his shoulder. Repus nodded, a vague smile on his face.

      Today Repus was taking charge.

      And the sword of Michael went with him.

      Eloa and Umbrion Jade, Canterbury

      "I guess this is it."
      Umbrion turned. Eloa looked at him, slowly.
      "Fighting the Metatron means death. Hiding is choosing to remain powerless."
      "What will you do?" Umbrion asked.
      "Join Richmond. I fight for a world where people live with freedom, and now that the Church cannot control the government, Richmond is pretty much the best option. I'd also join anyone who fought for the same cause."
      Umbrion nodded. Eloa opened her wings.
      Charred feathers fluttered painfully in the cold breeze that whistled down the catacomb.
      "Goodbye, Umbrion." she said, sadly.
      "Goodbye, Eloa."
      "Stay alive." she smiled, faintly, rising.
      Umbrion watched as she slowly beat her broad wings, disappearing into the darkness.

      "You too." he said, quietly.

      Then he unslung his longsword. Satanel was still in the catacombs. Umbrion guessed that he was closer to the exit. He also guessed he could make it there faster.

      He sure hoped he remembered the way out.

      Dantalion, Canterbury

      Dantalion smiled as the catapult snapped. The twang of rope, of tension and release, heralded the shower of rocks, of debris, of excrement and bodies and everything else that could be loaded into the mouth of the great siege weapon.
      He had missed war, he realised. The thrill of battle, of conflict, of struggle and ultimately, death.
      The walls were coming down. Bit by bit. The wooden gates were buckling as Dantalion's Prussians charged it, the great oak rams splintering wood and shaking the very foundations of the city.
      Drums were being beaten. Men were strapping armour to their chests. Swords were being sharpened, given edges for the bloodthirst to come. Axes handed out, spears passed from hand to hand, man to man, soldier to soldier.
      The barbarians screamed their war-cries as his knights rode their high stallions onto the field.
      A captain caught his eye and saluted.

      Dantalion smiled. Ambition? Ambition was the drive for power. This could only be an asset.
      There was a flicker. Dantalion blinked. He looked down, gingerly.
      Looked at his hands. Did...he frowned. Something had happened. Something...someone...
      He swore. Shook his head. Then he looked up. It was time to move on.

      "Knights to me."
      He didn't shout the order. Didn't need to. Men felt themselves drawn towards him without the need of such effort.
      "Have the barbarians go first. You and your men will surround the city. Don't let anyone escape. If the individual in possession of the Cube is in the city, I want him found. Captain Graltz?"
      "Yessir?" the sober man looked to his lord. Dantalion raised an eyebrow.
      "Where is Repus Oge?"
      The captain didn't know. Dantalion stood for a moment more. Then he shook his head.
      "Oh dear, Captain Graltz. Oh dear."
      He swung. The captain flew from the horse, dragged by some unseen force and skudded into the ground. He squealed as his chain-shirt began to move.
      "Don't worry, Captain Graltz. It doesn't hurt, death. Not as much as you'd expect, anyway."

      Dantalion stared distantly away as the chains, the minute links of metal began to stir and writhe. They were tightening. Graltz wheezed, sweaty hands scrabbling at his collar, at his chest, scrabbling as they darkened.
      He squealed, soundlessly. Then he died.
      The assembled knights watched silently as the body rose, eeirly, deathly, and floated grimly down to the catapult, where it landed softly on the pile.
      The engineers turned, wide-eyed.
      "Fire the catapult, children. I want Canterbury to fall by tonight."
      Dantalion smiled, awkwardly. It was lop-sided, a mask of pleasure.

      "Let's go, children. For the Empire."

      Dantalion began to walk. An arrow froze by his head, and he waved it aside. A stream of dark, cruel tar swerved to avoid him as he stepped up, treading nimbly over the bodies piled against the wooden gates. The tar splashed, flecks catching the barbarian masses as they howled and bayed, screaming as they threw themselves against the stone walls, against the wooden gates.
      Dantalion gestured.
      The gates tore themselves apart. Splinters froze rather than touch Dantalion as he stepped neatly into the Canterbury gateway, an down into the main street.
      The porticullis began to grind. A heavy metal grate, a spray of sparks as it scraped against the stone walls it was closing.
      Dantalion didn't break step. The thick iron strips bent, steadfast pins springing out of place, rivets and bolts and levers and pulleys, showering and distorting around him as he walked serenly over the cobbled street.

      The barbarians came with him. They were tired, and they were far from home, and they had forgotten why they followed the raven-haired man in the first place.

      Now they knew. He was to feed them.

      Keaton Leort, Canterbury

      Keaton appeared on the rooftop, and crouched, catching his breath.
      His head hurt. He felt tired. Weary. But he was following a plan. He had to be ready. He rose.
      Three winged figures stood, watching. Keaton's eyes darted from one to the other.
      "This is all of you?" he asked, hesitantly.
      "No." Abaddon said, gravely. "We did not trust you entirely, Anti-Hero, when you asked us to meet with you. We know of you ability to reap the powers of others. Since you have already taken mine, it seemed naturally I should go."
      "And we choose to risk it because it would not be right that you spoke with a once-traitor and not with at least two of the Seven."
      Keaton stared at the two white-winged figures. Their minds were steady walls as he tenderly attempted to reach out.
      "I see." he said, slowly. "What is your plan?"
      One of the white-winged figures ruffled his wings.

      "We intend to protect you until Castor or Pollux arrive. You see, Zerachiel..."
      "I know of the antidote." Keaton interupted. The figures frowned, almost as one. "I do not require protection. I will find the twins and administer the antidote myself."
      There was a silence. One of the the two white-winged figures turned.
      "I told you we should have all come. This isn't something we alone can decide, Gabriel."
      "Silence, Raphael. We discussed this. It is right."
      Gabriel looked up, and met Keaton's eyes.
      "You realise we cannot put such faith in you, Anti-Hero. The fate of this world rests entirely with you, our last chance to defy the Right..."
      Keaton vanished. There was a blur and they were alone.

      Raphael looked down at his hands. "Gabriel, I..."
      "Yes." Gabriel acknowledged, gravely. "The Anti-Hero has taken our powers."
      Abaddon spat. "He can teleport now. I suppose if he were to move fast enough...but the mental strain to teleport so quickly and take powers all in the blink of an eye..."
      "Yes. He is determined." Gabriel agreed. He opened his wings. "We will fly now. Go in separate directions. Don't fly low. Don't fly anywhere you could be seen. We will rejoin the others where we agreed. Do not let the Anti-Hero follow you, or know your destination. He has already grown too strong."
      The other two rose, and began to fly. Gabriel watched for a moment, and then stepped from the rooftop, his wings catching his fall.

      He soared away, over the cityscape.

      Satanel and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      Satanel closed his eyes and gripped the Cube. He could feel the Metatron's conscious, somewhere in the murky depths, so...tangible, so...he felt his mind grip the Metatron's. The Metatron sensed it. For the briefest of moments, he had been free. He had been uncontrolled, without orders. Now he felt Satanel's lash upon him and was angry.
      "Can you do it?" Beelzebub asked, his voice echoing down the catacombs.
      "Shut up." Satanel hissed, his eyes closed, as he grappled with the Metatron's mind. "That winged bitch can hear you, remember?"
      He fought and won. The Cube meant that the Metatron would never win, not really. He could feel the Metatron's pain. His anguish. He smiled, slightly.
      Then he let go.
      "Come on."
      He hesitated, as he headed down the corridor. Then he turned back, dragging the body of one of the priests.

      His smile flickered in the darkness as it reflected the orange glow of the flames that covered the corpse. He tossed it down, into a side-tunnel.
      "A distraction?" Beelzebub wondered.
      Satanel nodded. They began to move.
      It was a race, really. A race to the exit. And Satanel would win.

      Richmond, the Road to Canterbury

      "Contingent of men-at-arms from Lancaster caught up with us just before dawn."
      Richmond nodded. He finished running the blade around his chin and inspected his face carefully as his aide held up his shield.
      "Mounted men from Yorkshire...no heavy armour, but plenty of good lancers."
      Richmond shook his head. "That's no use if we're to fight in the city."
      The aide frowned. "We're...we're fighting in the city, consul?"
      Richmond nodded. "I thought that would work to our advantage. In the confusion of a city, numbers count for little, yes?"
      The aide bit his lip, but said nothing. Richmond clucked, impatiently.
      "Come on, man. Next."
      "Right. The Welsh longbows aren't coming. They've joined Dantalion."
      "Shit." Richmond sucked at his finger. He blinked at it as blood ran in a slow trick down to his wrist.
      "Careful, consul." the aide added, patiently. "No word from Derby, the Midlands, Leicester...this may be all the men that'll join us."

      Richmond looked around at the tents and pavilions covering the landscape around him.
      "This is not enough?"
      "No. And most of these are Scottish."
      "Ah." Richmond muttered, pensievely.
      "They could well desert us, consul." the aide explained.
      "Are you sure we should try to engage Dantalion in Canterbury, consul?"
      "Mmmm." Richmond nodded. "If we wait much longer he'll have the whole country at his side."
      The aide put the shield down and Richmond strapped it to his saddle, before swinging himself up.
      "Don't fear, Barnaby. We shall be on the verge of Canterbury by midday. A fight to the city, and we'll have Dantalion's head by nightfall."

      He smiled as he kicked into the horse's sides.

      Battle was coming...

      PART II - Battle

      Repus Oge, Canterbury

      Repus ran, rolling as the gate broke.
      The Eastern wall. Dantalion had breached the city to the North. Now Repus ran ahead of Prussian barbarians as they screamed and charged into the city.
      Repus threw himself down as crossbow bolts whistled overhead. There were dull thuds as the barbs found marks, and as bodies were flung back.
      He got up and ran again. Down, into a side-alley. Two men, hastily dressed in rusted chain and battered leather crashed into him. There was a shout and Michael's sword was off his back, swinging. It cut clean through the first man, and drove itself into the other's neck. Repus kicked, sliding the writhing body from the blade.
      Garant skidded into the wall beside him. A feathered bolt protruded from his stomach. Repus swore.
      "They're fighting hard to keep the city, then?" Garant grinned, pulling it free. The smell of acidic juices and bile made him retch for a moment.
      Repus ignored him and pressed a hand into his stomach.

      "Repus, what..."
      There was a twisting, as though of flesh, and Garant grimaced. Repus let go. The skin was unbroken. Perfectly healed.
      "Want to say thanks? Save it." Repus grunted. He wiped the sword clean, carefully. "We need to get out of their way. Let Dantalion take the city. It's the Metatron we're after."
      "The...the Metatron?" Garant frowned. "Why?"
      Repus grinned and started running.

      Satanel and Umbrion Jade and Beelzebub, Canterbury

      Umbrion Jade watched as Eloa flew up, invisibly, out into the open air of Canterbury, up through the great hole he'd broken down outside the cathedrale.
      He vaguely wished he could fly himself, but realised that he was content. He wanted to be here, in the catacombs. He had a duty, now.
      A memory flashed through his mind. Of a street fight, two years ago, in Paris. Heard the screams of men he trusted and had fought beside as they fell, crushed beneath stone and mortar and rubble...
      He'd found out he had superhuman strength that day. It had come suddenly, and he hadn't spent a day since not regretting it. Now he felt thankful, thankful that he had this gift. Not a curse.
      He turned and headed for the exit. He remembered the way. Of course he did, his life was dependant on that.

      Satanel staggered, splashing through water knee-high. Where from? An underground river? The sewer? He decided not to worry about it.
      The Cube was heavy. Far too heavy. He was sweating already as it crashed against his thigh, straining against the leather satchel Satanel had pushed it into.
      Beelzebub drifted along behind him.
      They stopped.
      "This is it." Beelzebub grinned.
      The stone doorway was just lit by the firelight of the rooms above. A spiral staircase and Satanel would be out of the catacombs and into the cathedrale again. Free.
      He grinned.
      "No sign of..."

      The walls crashed down beside him. Solid rock gave way as Umbiron came, fists first, colliding into Satanel.
      The satchel flew from his shoulder, and sank into the murky waters that flooded the tunnel.
      "Hey, Satanel, the water's rising." Beelzebub noted, as the two grappled on the floor. He looked down to them. "Ah. Sorry I can't help. I'm incorporal, remember? Makes life difficult for the both of us."
      Umbrion rose, and punched. It knocked Satanel's head back and broke the jaw. There was a grim crunch as his head hit back against the stone floor.
      Fire burst from his hands. Umbrion grunted as the flames picked him up and hurled him back into the debris he'd caused.
      Liquid fire hissed as it touched murky waters.
      Umbrion started running. Satanel threw himself aside. The human juggernaut charged past, and collided with the tunnel side. The rock splintered.
      "Hey, Satanel, there's..."
      They all turned, slowly. The pressured jet of water struck Umbrion, and then roared, bursting through the rock.

      They both staggered in the water as it swirled, drowning them, clinging to them. Satanel disappeared under the waves. Umbrion roared, spluttering as he stood fast in the torrent. Beelzebub watched him, blinking, as the water passed through him.

      The tunnel fell silent. The stream of water slowed to a trickle and stopped. Whatever sewer they'd broken, whatever underground river they'd tapped, had stopped.

      Satanel and Umbrion were gone.

      Battle, Canterbury

      Eloa burst into the city, unseen and invisibly, and gasped. The city was burning. Houses, shops, towers, walls, burning.
      A gaggle of men, dressed in furs and leathers and rusted mail, jeered as they sauntered down the street, hurling firebrands into shutters and doorways.
      A woman fell through a burning hovel, and was grabbed and absorbed by the masses.
      Eloa retched as the smell of fire and burning flesh reached her. Dantalion's barbarians weren't capturing the city, they were raising it. To her side, the cathedrale began to fall, a great marble parapet tumbling as ropes were pulled, as great wooden machines were wheeled up and fired.
      She stared as the last remnant of the city guard threw down their colours and rushed to join the hordes pouring out of the city.

      She rose, higher. Dantalion. She didn't know who he was, why he had come. It didn't matter. The Republic was in chaos, and there, outside the city walls, waiting the army of the new Empire. Dantalion's Empire. Barbarians, farmers, knights, bowmen, men-at-arms; spears, swords, pikes and bows. A multitude of those fighting for one man's power.
      She turned her head. There, on the horizon, came another force. Smaller, insignificant. She flew. Flew from the city, unseen, and saw Richmond.
      Richmond...the man who had come to her with a proposition of employment, in York, all that time ago. She had refused it then. Now...she wasn't going to hide from this battle. She was going to fight.


      Dantalion watched as The glittering host mounted the ridge. He smiled, sedately.
      "Here comes the honourable Richmond. Not before time, either."
      He signalled to the assembled around him. Battered knights, wearied engineers, singed barbarians.
      "Destroy him. Have the Prussians pull out of the city. I want them to turn on the forces to our other flank."
      "Our...other flank?" an aide frowned.
      There was a call. Dantalion smiled.
      "The Righteous is attempting one last throw of the dice, children. Those loyal to him have been granted visions of paradise, of glory. Their army marches upon us. Have the Prussians meet them."
      There was a cheer. Dantalion laughed.
      "Go, children! For the Empire!"
      "For the Empire!"


      Gabriel landed, softly. He waved a hand. Lightning flashed. Storm clouds swirled about him, wreathing him in darkness.
      Abaddon landed to his side. Remiel and Raphael to his other. Uriel hovered above them.
      "No sides, no allegiances." Gabriel promised. "No honours and no duties. We fight because we have nothing left to fight for."
      Abaddon flung an arm out. A wave flowed through the ranks swarming them, as men dropped, drained.
      Uriel burned red. Flames hurled men aside, smouldering and screaming, even as they fled. Raphael swung his sword, impossibly big and impossibly keen, cleaving masses down in swathes of blood. Remiel struck, electricity flowing fom his hands, lighting the battle with flashes of blue and gold.


      Richmond spat. "The Seven? What are they doing?"
      "Killing people." the aide offered. "Apparently without discrimination. They've cut a swathe through Dantalion's left flank, and then turned on the Church's forces."
      "We should fall back. Let Dantalion destroy himself."
      Richmond turned to his general. "No. We must be recognised as the victors here."
      "We can't do anything while the Seven are out there. And what of the Metatron? He hasn't moved yet. Nor has the Anti-Hero."
      Richmond laughed. "We'll defeat them. Have faith in that, old friend. Assemble the men."
      The general sighed. "Consul..."
      Richmond spun and struck. The general felt his lip. It was bleeding.
      They froze. Slowly, they turned. The veil had been moved, and now covered what seemed to be a small box, thin and rectangular. There was a static hum and then the distorted voice continued.
      "Richmond, you must not engage Dantalion. My predictions were wrong. The individual now in control of the Metatron appears to have been compromised. The Anti-Hero does not appear to wish an active role in the proceedings. The Seven's involvement is a complication. It suggests the Anti-Hero has chosen to neutralise himself. We must assume that neither he, nor the Metatron, will take part any further."
      Richmond glanced to the general. Neither spoke.
      "Allow the Seven to defeat your enemies, Richmond. I doubt they have any motives beyond a glorious end. Let them have it, and then retake Canterbury. Declare yourself the victor, and have Dantalion's body hung up. You don't need to fight this battle."

      There was silence. Then Eloa appeared.
      Richmond swore. Eloa smiled.
      "Richmond. I have come to pledge my services."


      Dantalion raised an eyebrow, slowly. The sky was darkening. Night was coming.
      The Seven were ruining everything. He watched as Uriel slipped, a rope lassoed about his neck, pulled down from the air to the waiting swords. He grimaced slightly as he watched his brother hacked down, his body torn.
      Richmond was coming. His ragged army streaming down from its lofty hilltop to meet Dantalion's own. Fool. He should have waited and watched.
      Dantalion began to stride. Remiel saw him, and sprang from the wall of pikes he faced.
      Dantalion shrugged off his cloak. Broke into a run. Remiel was still rising, arrows missing him, bolts flying past him. Electric sparks flowed crackled in his hands.
      Dantalion twirled, as neatly as a dancer, whipping Remiel from the sky and throwing him, the unseen force flowing through his hands, through his soul.
      Remiel's body twisted in mid-air as the wings beat. There was a sudden spray of crimson, and he slid onto the pike. Dantalion flexed and turned again as Reiel slid slowly, impaled by a mischance. He choked, and spat blood down on the men below.
      He was dead.

      Dantalion kept running. Raphael half-turned as Dantalion struck. The sword bent, and snapped. Raphael gasped as his arms was flung back, pinning and crucified by invisible bonds. A knight thrust, driving his sword into the exposed chest. An arrow thudded home into the stomach, and buried itself there. There was no emotion on Raphael's face as the axe bit into the throat, tearing the skin and cleaving the flesh. It jarred on the bone, but by then it didn't matter.
      Raphael was dead.
      Dantalion didn't care as he turned once more. The battle was chaos. Blood showered him as Gabriel lunged, lightning his sword, and knocked Dantalion down.
      Dantalion rose, blankly. Gabriel stared. It began to rain.


      Repus was running now. He had followed the battle through Canterbury, fighting without reason, searching for...power. Opportunity. He didn't know what he expected to find.
      He was out, again, out on the field. Swinging Michael's blade with the intensity of a reaper. Garant stood behind him, his sword broken and splintered, a lumberjack's axe balanced in his hands.
      They fought into the madness. Into the bloodshed. Without side, without allegiance.
      Repus saw him. Dantalion. Stood, his face gaunt and paled, facing his white-winged foe.
      Repus started running again.


      "You failed Dantalion." Gabriel said, sadly.
      "Everyone failed today." Dantalion whispered. He was blank. Tired.
      Gabriel said nothing. For a moment they stood, silent, the battle ebbing and flowing about them, unnoticed. Then they struck.
      Dantalion raised his hand. The lightning veered aside, and Gabriel piroetted, crouching and striking out with his sword. Dantalion took the cut to his arm and lunged, picking Gabriel up without touching him and throwing him up. Gabriel turned in the air, his wings held out, controlling his flight.
      He dived. Dantalion sprang. Black wings spread. They met in the air.

      Repus stood below, and gritted his teeth. There was a rendering, as unseen hands grasped Gabriel and...tore...
      The body burst. Dantalion fell from the air, exhausted.
      Repus levelled Michael's sword, ready to strike.

      There was a thunderclap.

      Keaton appeared, in mid-air, clutching Dantalion. He gripped him.
      There was an explosion, and Dantalion burst. Keaton vanished.
      Repus roared as the remains splattered the ground, spewing over the grass.


      Richmond gasped. He was bleeding. He looked down. An arrow.
      Eloa stood behind him. She looked down at her knife.
      "I'll be fine." Richmond gaped. "Just...get...someone..."
      Eloa brought her arm back.
      There was a flash, and Keaton appeared. He held a sword. Abaddon's sword.
      For a moment Eloa's eyes met Keaton. Then he swung.

      He was gone before Richmond's head hit the mud.


      "Forward! The Righteous demands it!"
      The man screamed, held aloft by his fellow fanatics, his fellow loyalists to the Church, to the Righteous. The strange winged men were gone. The man in black was gone. The usurper was gone. Victory was in hand.
      "Forward! They're in disorder, we can have them! We can win! For..."
      There was a choking sound as Keaton blurred behind him. A knife protruded from the man's spine. Keaton was gone.


      Abaddon staggered, blinded. His wings were torn and shredded, fine gossamar broken and ruined. He clawed at his eyes, scraping at the mud that burnt them.
      Keaton appeared. He looked almost serene.
      Abaddon blinked. Through the mud and grit and blood, he could almost see...
      His sword cut through his stomach. Abaddon's sword, a sword made in the days of the utopia, cut through with ease. He lurched forward as Keaton vanished.

      He fell down. Spat. Blood caught in his teeth and he began to cry.

      Men were fleeing the battlefield, or else swarming the endless flood of refugees pouring from the burning city, desparate for some reward, plundered and raped.
      The Battle for Canterbury. An old Republic, a new Republic, and an Empire had met. England was leaderless. Europe was leaderless. The last of the utopians...no, Azazel still lived. As did Beelzebub.
      Had they prevented the end? Would the Anti-Hero...would...
      Abaddon exhaled. It seemed to last forever.
      He had done it, though. He had been forgiven. What he did...what he ruined...he had redeemed himself.
      He smiled, slightly.

      Then he looked up. The Metatron tilted his head, childlike. Abaddon laughed.

      "Don't bother, I'm dead already."
      He stopped laughing. The Metatron was crying.
      "You're...you're free?"
      The Metatron nodded.
      "How...you destroyed the Cube?"
      The Metatron shook his head. Abaddon sighed.
      "Someone lost it."
      The Metatron nodded.
      "And they'll find it again?"
      The Metatron nodded again.

      Abaddon sighed. He wasn't going to last much longer. His stomach was opening up, now, spilling out over the muddy bog.
      "Come here, Metatron."
      The Metatron knelt, and nestled against Abaddon's shoulder. Like a child. Abaddon realised he was crying, too.
      "It's going to be lonely for you, now, Metatron. Then again, it's always been lonely for you, hasn't it?"
      The Metatron didn't respond. He looked weak, vulnerable in his arms, Abaddon realised.
      "I wonder whether...killing you now...wouldn't be for the best?"
      The Metatron looked up, sharply. Wide-eyed. Abaddon fell, slowly, onto his back.
      "I don't...have much...strength...left, Metatron. I'm offering you an end to it. Do you..."

      The Metatron stood. His wings straightened. He nodded.
      Abaddon sighed. A hand raised, slowly. Shakily. He closed his eyes.
      Metatron stiffened. Felt the blood slowly...laboriously, drained from him. Felt the blackness loom over him.

      He collapsed. Abaddon closed his eyes.

      The Metatron woke up. The regenerative gift was at work. Abaddon had been too weak.

      The Metatron began to cry, again.

      PART III - Brothers and New Beginnings

      Castor Angelos and Pollux Angelos (aged 31 and 49) and Keaton Leort, Cornwall

      They met silently.
      Keaton looked from one to the other. One young, maybe twenty-odd, the other older, slightly.
      "You're the antidote?" he asked, quietly.
      Castor nodded. "Zerchiel created us as the Righteous created the Anti-Hero. Were one of us to die, the antidote would pass on to our killer. And so on."
      "Why two of you?"
      Castor looked to his brother. Pollux nodded. "Because we would be lonely, otherwise."
      Keaton shrugged. "Can you do it? What happens?"
      "Only one of us does it. One sacrifice" Pollux said, carefully. "Then that's it. You will no longer possess the potential to detonate. To end everything."
      "My powers, will I still have my powers? can I still absorb them?"
      Castor frowned. "Yes. I want you to know we aren't your friends, Keaton."
      "Likewise." Keaton shrugged.

      Pollux turned to Castor.
      "Go. Get out of here."
      Castor frowned. "I'm not letting you do it."
      Pollux grinned, ruefully. Then he embraced his brother. There was a blur and they were gone.
      Pollux reappeared. He looked even older, now. Middle-aged. He smiled.
      "Here we are. Let's do this."
      Keaton stood, still, bracing himself. Pollux pulled a knife from his belt. He gave Keaton a final, pained grin, and drove it through his neck.
      Pollux gripped Keaton's hand and held them to his throat. Keaton felt the blood spray over them as the time-traveller convulsed.
      "Lifeblood...don't you know..." Pollux managed.
      Keaton gripped the man until he stopped. Then he dropped him.

      His hands were glowing. Burning with Pollux's lifeblood. Then they stopped.
      Returned to normal.
      Keaton smiled. Then he vanished again.


      the field was empty now. The Battle for Canterbury was over.
      The Republic was over.
      The last of the stragglers, the refugees and the brigands and thieves, plundered the remains. Armour was stripped, swords were collected.
      A toothless man dug into the mud and pulled at the blackened stub within. He polished it, hoping for some metal trinket to melt down and sell on.
      Gabriel's rib. He threw it away.
      And looked up.
      A tattered veil, trodden into the mud and grass fluttered in the winds.
      Underneath, now uncovered, the remains of a Hewlett Packard 530 jutted from the ground. Two speakers, trodden in and busted open, had been strapped to the sides.

      The open screen flickered, the last dregs of memory throwing up a simple word in simple white letters.


      He ignored it. You couldn't sell witchcraft. Not near Canterbury, anyway.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 01-11-2008 at 05:13 PM.

    17. #17
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Dramatis Persona

      The Good

      Repus Oge (The Wandering Hero)
      Keaton Leort (The Artist-Scientist, Second Anti-Hero)
      Iron Knight (The Unbreakable)
      Nathan Aki (The Opportunist)
      Michiko (The Albine Prodigy)

      The Neutral

      Eloa (The Reborn Azazel)
      Metatron (The Reluctant Antagonist)
      Umbrion Jade (The Fated Man)
      Castor Angelos (The Byronic Hero)
      Pollux Angelos (The Chronic Hero)
      Alice (The Antithesis)
      Solace (The Purge)
      Jeta Morgan (The Thief)
      Jonathan Harker (The Atoned)

      The Bad

      Satanel (The Trickster)
      Beelzebub (The Shadow)
      Alidod (The Counter)
      James Whittle (The Inventor)
      CHAИDEЯ (The Puppeteer)

    18. #18
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      CHAPTER FOURTEEN - New Beginnings, New Apotheosis

      Alice, Anti-Hero Response Team Headquarters

      Alice sat back for a moment and bit her lip. Carefully, with one finger, she traced out a letter on the desk. Then she tilted her head.
      "It is precisely one year ago since the Battle of Canterbury. During the time from then to now, the Republic has dispersed, replaced by squabbling kingdoms and empires on the continent, and anarchy in England. England has failed to recover. This is because the country is ravaged by two..." she etched out another letter. "...individual threats of some significance."
      She leant back and took the parchment offered. She continued to lean back as she read it.
      "One, Solace. So far he has struck in over thirteen different locations, amassing around thirty-six victims. He works alone, and can regenerate. Motives seem to be religious, he seems to be hunting down those with powers for some higher cause, but doesn't stop at civilians in the way, either."
      She flicked the parchment distractedly. The man behind her coughed.

      "I saw him in action over in Yorkshire. He took an axe to the chest and kept going. But I don't see..."
      "Two." Alice continued. "The Anti-Hero. For two months after the Battle of York, he did nothing. His activity started again in force when he began trailing the country, moving rapidly and without obvious direction. He left messages where he killed, which he did frequently. Barons, knights, soldiers, farmers, politicians, tax collectors...apparently at random. These messages - written in blood, theatrically - began what is now estimated to be a nationwide organisation numbering in the hundreds - the Cult of the Anti-Hero. People devoted to the man who claims to be the new god now that the Church is over."
      The man shrugged. "People are tired and confused. They want order, a leader, and the Anti-Hero looks like the strongest contender."
      "He doesn't kill his own." Alice observed, drily. "The people follow him for that. Right now the Cult of the Anti-Hero is the closest thing to government England has."

      She sighed, and blew a length of black hair from her eyes. The man waited, hesitantly, and then coughed again.
      "I still don't see how Solace is a problem. He looks like a reasonably minor serial killer - albeit one with a rather advantageous gift."
      Alice closed her eyes. "Solace is a threat. Right now we need a secure country with a working military presence and the control of the people to deal with the Anti-Hero. We do not have that, and Solace makes it even harder to attain it. It doesn't look like Solace or the Anti-Hero have attempted to communicate. If they do, we could be in further trouble. Also...also I suspect Solace will be important in some way. Soon. Maybe."
      She whistled, distractedly.

      Alice didn't turn her chair. "Try to keep to our agreed codenames, Seraphim."
      The man that strode into the room swore. But softly. He stared into the back of the girl's head.
      "Sorry, Zerachiel. I'll try to remember next time."
      She smiled, and turned her chair. "Good."
      She was short. The man she called Seraphim had thought it weird at first. This short and, if he had to admit it, cute youth of a girl couldn't be over twenty, and yet she sat coolly in her chair and ordered men twice her age around with a blink of her brilliant blue eyes.
      She blinked at him.
      "Seraphim? Your good eye is glazing."
      He shook himself. Shaggy hair that should have been snaking over his face in straggled lines felt unnatural, tied back as it was. He lost focus.
      "Mmm. I followed the Anti-Hero. Lost him in the catacombs."
      "Why'd he go back?" the man wondered, and Alice shushed him.
      "I'm thinking, Hadiel."
      "To try and find the Cube? I heard it was lost somewhere in the catacombs." Seraphim guessed.

      Alice shrugged her tiny shoulders. "Maybe. Did you see his face?"
      Seraphim nodded. "Yeah. Same description as the one Zephyr described up in the Highlands. It's the same person."
      Alice frowned. "That confirms it. The Anti-Hero can teleport."
      Seraphim nodded. "He was throwing ice around when I saw him. Like, from his hands."
      "He's learning more powers." Alice said, slowly. "That he has some way to absorb others' powers is confirmed, then."
      Hadiel swore. Seraphim looked down, blankly.

      "That makes him very dangerous indeed." Alice murmured. She turned back to her desk and stared contemplatively at the letters she'd traced. "This might be challenging, Seraphim."

      S A

      Alidod and Satanel and James Whittle, a Cavern

      Alidod flexed, and groaned, slightly. Shabby brown hair covered shabby green eyes as he woke.
      He stared down at the empty bottle smashed on the cavern floor. He reached around in the gloom for another as Satanel stepped into the candlelight.
      A year later, a year leaner. Satanel had been working out. A scar ran across his face, from one cheek over the bridge of his nose to the other. He scowled, and leant against the solid oak table that stood in the heart of the cavern, surrounded by pin-pricks of orange light. A candlelight haven from the anarchy of England outside.
      Alidod looked up. He spat, and put out a candle. Then he smiled. Satanel ignored it.

      "Find anything?"
      Satanel shrugged. "He can teleport. Following him was hard. Plus I didn't want to be caught."
      Alidod stared down into the new bottle. Murky red sloshed inside. He put it down, slowly.
      "What happened to you, Satanel? In Canterbury?"
      Satanel flinched. "It doesn't matter. I know what I'm doing now."
      "What's that?" Alidod wondered, almost to himself. He was thinking.
      Satanel's eyes narrowed. "I want to find the Anti-Hero. I want to stop him."
      Alidod smiled, vaguely. "Me too."

      Satanel watched as Alidod began to drink again. He sneered and turned, heading for the cavern's low exit.
      Deeper in the cavern, past a succession of twists and turns in the cavern's natural labyrinth, James Whittle worked. He was young, and with dark, brooding Italian features, and looked intent as he hammered at the glowing metal before him.
      He finished his work, and began to assemble it. It took time, and patience, but he managed it.
      Loops of copper wires ran rings around the rocky workshop. A steel cube, a small hand-lever protruding from one side, connected it all. He began to turn it. Slow, careful revolutions. The wires began to whine.

      James began to grin. It was working. It was working!
      He laughed, and turned. Alidod raised an eyebrow.
      James nodded, cautiously. He watched the man with the eyes of paranoia, of a lifetime's fear and suspicion, of guarded genius.
      Alidod smiled. He was drunk, James suspected. Drunk, but able to act sober, for the moment.

      They both watched as the wires hummed. A trap. A great, copper wire trap.

      "It's a cage." James said, carefully. "Anything inside..."
      "...cannot use their powers." Alidod finished. James nodded.

      A trap...a cage...there would be uses for such measures.

      A Stranger, the Moors

      Mists shrouded the landscape as the stranger staggered on. He was panting, heavily, and clutching his side. He turned back, eyes bulging, and staggered into a run again.
      The throwing knife thudded into his flesh behind the left knee. Cold steel dislocating bone.
      He fell, yelping. breath came in sudden, sharp bursts. He was hyperventilating. Sparks crackled from his fingertips and died, pitifully.
      "Don't...just...don't, I'll...I'll leave town, I'll..."
      The hand came out of the fog. It grabbed the stranger by the throat and threw him to the ground. Grass damp from morning dew soaked his back as he struggled.
      An arm rose, a tall scythe glinting in the shrouded sun. It cut through the misty vapours of the moors and sliced cleanly into the stranger's stomach. It jerked, the blade running across the flesh and ripping it open as it went, running an bloody trail like an artist's quill strokes as it clove down and up the stranger.
      He screamed. The scythe rose again, and then fell. Blade pierced into the thin, stretched veil of skin that protected the windpipe, the jugular, the throat. A splurge of crimson and the killer withdrew the bloody implement.

      He was grinning. He knelt over the body. Another dead. How many more heretics to go?

      He was manical. He was dangerous. He was Solace.

      The shout echoed over the moors and made him turn. A shadow was growing in the mists. A man. Big, armoured. A lone knight?
      Solace pulled his throwing knife free. He inspected the blade, happily, the bloody tears running across the polished metal.

      Umbrion Jade, Canterbury

      He was back. After all this time. The year had been eventful.
      The Metatron stood, silent, facing him.
      Canterbury was empty. Ruined. Hollow shells lay where buildings once stood.
      Umbrion gritted his teeth. This wasn't going to be easy...
      His longsword felt light in his hands. The last time this had happened he'd lost his longsword. That wasn't going to happen this time.
      The Metatron looked almost bored. He stood, wingless, solitary.
      Umbrion shouted. The Metatron looked up. Wings unfurled. Flames danced
      from his one hand, ice from the other.

      In Canterbury, after all this time. Interesting.

      Alice, Anti-Hero Response Team Headquarters

      "Where's Kemuel?"
      Alice turned. Seraphim looked up.
      Zephyr shook his head, exhausted. He sank to the floor, and sat, breathing heavily.
      "Solace got to him. Almost...almost got me, too."
      Hadiel gasped. Alice and Seraphin looked blank.
      "He took a beating and fell in the moors. Couldn't...couldn't rescue him."
      Alice nodded. "I believe you, Zephyr. This confirms that Solace is a threat. If he can fight two of our agents at once he evidently possess superior fighting techniques."
      "Are we compromised? Will Kemuel give us away?" Seraphim asked, rising.
      Alice shook her head. "Kemuel doesn't know where we are. He was always blindfolded when he came in or out, and Zephyr flew him so he couldn't retrace his steps. Kemuel wasn't trustworthy, but his work as an engineer was good. I engaged his services to help make the base secure, nothing more."

      Zephyr and Alice shared a glance. They nodded, silently.
      "Solace doesn't know about us, I'm fairly certain of that." Zephyr added. "He killed Kemuel because Kemuel tried to fight him with fire. Solace kills anyone with a gift."
      Seraphim nodded. Alice turned back to her desk. They were returning to work.
      Zephyr waited a beat and rose to talk to Alice. They conferred, quietly, for a moment, bturned and roseefore he , hovering silently.

      The Cult of the Anti-Hero, Somewhere in England

      The man gasped as the hood was pulled back. He was surrounded by robed figures.
      "What...where am I? Who are you?"
      There was silence. He tried turning his head. A rough hand grabbed his hair and held him still. A graveyard? The ruins of some old church, anyway. An open grave lay before him. He shook.
      "The Anti-Hero will hear your confession."
      The voice silenced everything. The man felt his thoughts blank. A song-thrush froze in mid call.
      The figures parted. A youth stepped forward. The man's eyes widened.
      He was young. Mid-length black hair fell to lithe, but muscular shoulders. Brilliant eyes looked back at the man, dazzling with the light of self-confidence, an assured superiority. He radiated power.
      Barely twenty, yet a hulking robed shape crouched, prostrate at his feet.
      The man swallowed.

      "What are you guilty of?" the voice demanded. The man stuttered, words tumbling to escape.
      He found the response. "Melting...I make things melt."
      The Anti-Hero smiled. A hand raised, slowly. The man watched as a gravestone, solid limestone, began to shift, slowly bending in on itself, flopping over as though made of clay. It melted, slowly, and liquid rock ran over the man's hands as they pressed into the ground, forced down by robed followers.
      The Anti-Hero's hand fell. The stone became solid again. The man screamed as his hands became trapped, trapped inside the rock that had flowed over his fingers like honey seconds before. The Anti-Hero allowed the crowd to laugh, while he stood, smiling, and then struck.
      The man's body burst, spraying the assembled with his liquified remains.
      There was a gasp, and a recoil. The Anti-Hero stood, composed and untouched, in the middle of it all.

      He looked around, and then smiled again. The robed figures stood and watched, uncertain.
      The Anti-Hero clicked his fingers. A figure burst into flames, and fell forward into the open grave, a charred corpse. He pointed.
      "A traitor. He did not think the right thoughts."
      There was silence, as people tried hard to think the right thoughts. The Anti-Hero glared for a moment, and then raised his arms.
      The assembled fell, bowing, prostrate.
      He vanished.

      The Anti-Hero was at work, in England.

    19. #19
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Confrontation

      Solace and Iron Knight, the Moors

      The knight was huge. He loomed from the mists like some avenging giant of steel and iron. Pistons whistled as he moved, his expression hidden by his helmet.
      He stopped and stared down at Solace, at least a foot taller, and silent.
      Clockwork whirred behind his visor.
      Solace took this in for a moment and then gestured with his scythe.
      "He's getting away! He...the man...it was..."
      The Iron Knight stood impassively as Solace bit his lip, eyes wide. He pointed again.
      "I saw it all. This man was being chased across the moors. I saw him, and tried to catch up...I wander these moors looking for herbs to cut and bring back for my master in the monastery some way away...and he just fell, like he'd been hit by something. Then a great figure swathed in black appeared, all wreathed in mist and anger, and cut him up with my very scythe, before knocking me down and dropping it."
      Solace gaped, breathless, as the Iron Knight watched on, in his mechanical solemnity. Deceptive eyes, wide with false tears, met the cold glow within the helmet.
      They stood, silent.
      "He ran away, that way." Solace finished, weakly.

      The Iron Knight didn't move.

      Umbrion and the Metatron, Canterbury

      "Round two, Metatron." Umbrion grimaced, and jumped.
      The Metatron sailed underneath, wings outstretched. Umbrion twisted in the air and drove his sword down. It snared on the Metatron's spine as he was caught up in the rush of the Metatron's flight, sent spinning off as the Metatron crashed into the derelict stone walls behind.
      They both rose, dazed. Umbrion started running.
      The Metatron opened his wings again, and raised his hands. Fire and ice burned as Umbrion sprang, shouldering past him and turning, the longsword dragged from the creature's back with one unnaturally muscular motion.
      The Metatron turned to face him. Eyes met, suddenly, sharply. Hatred burned in the Metatron's eyes. Umbrion ignored it.
      The fist came. Umbrion caught it and pushed it back, the snap of the Metatron's arm resounding in the silence of the empty city.

      Umbrion thrust, hard. The longsword met chest, and carried through. Blade plunged into flesh, into muscle, into bone, and out, out into air.
      The Metatron stared down, silent.
      Umbrion pulled, and twisted. He kicked. The Metatron fell back, his head bouncing off a jagged shred of debris.
      Umbrion punched. He punched and broke bone as he did so, each punch raining down on the Metatron even as his body knit together again, even as it healed, the slow and unending process of rebirth.
      Umbrion grabbed the head and pulled. The Metatron struggled, weakly, thrashing against Umbrion as he clutched him.
      The fire and ice had gone. The Metatron looked human, now. All too weak, all too...human.

      Umbrion heard the crack as he wrenched the head up. He let it go, limply. It lolled back on the body, broken, relieved.
      Umbrion stepped back again, breathing hard. He looked down.
      The Metatron's body flickered, and faded, slowly. It was vanishing.

      He spat, a bloodied tooth bouncing to the ground, and collapsed.

      Hard work.

      Solace and Iron Knight and Alice, the Moors

      Zephyr landed, neatly. He lowered Alice down carefully with one hand. With the other he placed Seraphim down. He hovered again, slowly, watching the scene as the actors took their places.
      Solace looked from Alice to Seraphim. He stared up at the man floating gently behind them. The Iron Knight looked to no-one.
      Seraphim blinked. One hand rested on the handle of the giant sword that rested on his back.
      Alice tilted her head, and smiled, slightly. The fog played with her hair for a moment.

      Solace stared at her.

      Jonathan Harker and The Cult of the Anti-Hero, Somewhere in England

      "What was the name?"
      The man stood, looking vaguely flustered, as he dusted down his long coat.
      "It's Harker. Jonathan Harker."
      "You have come to pledge your allegiance to the Anti-Hero?" the man frowned.
      Jonathan Harker smiled, hesitantly. "Yes. I want to worship him as you do."
      The man at the door waited a moment, and then nodded him in. Jonathan Harker stepped in and froze.
      The Anti-Hero was stood above him, shouting to his hooded followers from a balcony.
      The hall was full of his followers.
      The Anti-Hero was a telepath above all else.

      Jonathan Harker was in trouble.

      "You all know what happened to those who assumed authority to take his place at the Battle of Canterbury! You know what happened to the usurper Richmond, the traitor Dantalion! The Righteous smote them down! I am the authority! I have been appointed by the Righteous himself! All England fears and worships me! I am the Anti-Hero!"

    20. #20
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Alidod and Satanel and James Whittle, a Cavern

      "How do we use it?" Satanel asked, leaning against the rocky wall of the workshop. James blinked, and then spun.
      "The wires create a field of negativity - I based alot of my work on you, Alidod, attempting to replicate your ability to negate powers with a mechanism of some kind."
      "Why can't we just use me?" Alidod frowned. Jame clicked his fingers impatiently.
      "This will allow us to neutralise a far larger area. The wire simply needs to run in circuit. Any powers within the circuit are negated."
      Alidod nodded, and eyed the bottle in his hand. Satanel narrowed his eyes as he watched the man lean back and drain it, in a way that had a neatly practised discipline to it.
      James Whittle continued, his eyes wide as he gestured with his hands.
      "With this device we cannot fail to capture the Anti-Hero! Don't you see?"

      Somewhere, Keaton blinked.

      Jonathan Harker and The Cult of the Anti-Hero, Somewhere in England

      Jonathan Harker watched as the youth descended the stairs from the stage. He matched the descriptions from when the Anti-Hero was seen in the Battle of Canterbury, and in the street fight in York.
      Almost tall, mid-length dark hair, of medium build...and with fervent eyes. Eyes that spoke volumes on ambition, passion, drive.
      The youth walked into the crowd. Jonathan watched, carefully trying to hide his fear, as a group fell into step with the Anti-Hero.
      The group...hooded in black, like the rest of the more extreme followers, but always the same group - Jonathan was sure of that. He'd watched the Anti-Hero leaving such a rally in the past, and always this same group had fallen in when he left the stage.
      The same group...when did the Anti-Hero work with others, anyway?

      Jonathan realised how close the Anti-Hero was. Time to move. He started to make his way forward, pushing into the crowd. With every shove he felt a fresh wave of horror at what he was about to do, but he kept going.
      Suddenly, he was done pushing, and stumbled forwards.
      The Anti-Hero flinched. The hooded group that was always there reacted. One moved, sleeves pulled back as flames licked his hands. Another twisted, a glass vase floating in the air above him, a raised weapon. Another vnished, suddenly, and reappeared by Jonathan's side, a knife pressed to his ear.

      They were still. Jonathan cleared his throat, nervously.
      "Anti-Hero...Lord...I humbly offer you my servitude."
      He fell forward, to his knees. A risky move when he was being watched by the group that swarmed him, powers burning like strung bows. The crowd of less-devoted followers was straining to see the source of the commotion, anxious to see what the Anti-Hero would do. Hopeful of reward, fearful of punishment.
      The Anti-Hero stood, silently, for a moment, his composition regained. He looked down at Jonathan in suprised bemusement.
      "Good. Your fervour is to praised. When the time comes, those most devoted unto me will find their place. Those not so devoted..."
      He left, his cloak billowing behind him, the threat left, evident. The group left, following their lord into the night and on, on to the next city or town ready for the rallying call of the Anti-Hero.

      Jonathan stayed still, frozen. A smile began to play over his face. Then he laughed. A hooded man passed and nodded to him, moved by his devotion. The ecstasy of the divine.

      Jonathan kept laughing. He knew.

      Somewhere, Keaton blinked.

      Solace and Iron Knight and Alice, the Moors

      Solace jumped. Seraphim shrugged the massive sword from his back and raised it. Alice darted forward, suddenly. Zephyr drew the sword from his side and lunged from the air.
      The Iron Knight moved. A steel fist caught Seraphim and knocked him to the ground. He rotated, sharply, and swung Zephyr aside. With two strides he caught up to Solace and punched.
      Solace sprawled on the boggy grass, his nose bleeding as he slipped in the mud.
      The Iron Knight turned again, to face Alice. Lifeless eyes bored into her own.
      "The Human Is Not To Be Killed."
      The voice grated, like iron and rust scraping together, and Alice felt the heat of the forge radiate from the steel golem's dark insides as he spoke, like little waves of steam.
      They all listened.
      "The Human Is To Be Imprisoned. It Is Only Just. He Will Be Given The Chance Of Redemption In Due Time. Death Is Not The Answer."

      Alice gritted her teeth. This knight. Who is he? Who does he work for? Why?
      Whatever the answer, he was doing more hinderance than good.
      Solace rose, unsteadily, feeling his nose. It was broken.

      "I Am The Iron Knight, Bringer Of Justice." the goliath rose up even further, looking up to the sky. A steel fist clanged against his chest. "I Will Judge Those Who Do Evil In This Desolate England. All Shall Learn To Honour My Law. I Am Justice! I Am Good! I Am The Iron Knight!"

      Somewhere, Keaton blinked. He was watching. With interest.

    21. #21
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      Alidod and Satanel and James Whittle, a Cavern

      "We can catch the Anti-Hero..." Alidod mused.
      The musing echoed about the workshop. James Whittle nodded, grinning. Satanel stood silent, hidden by shadows as he thought, and then smiled.
      "I can catch the Anti-Hero."
      Alidod frowned. He turned, slowly. Satanel's eyes glinted in the flicker of the candle-light.
      "What..." Alidod gurgled. He began to shiver. His face was darkening. "What are you..."
      James Whittle watched, silent. Satanel twisted his hand. Alidod's spasmed.
      "You blood is boiling. Can you feel it?" Satanel wondered.
      Alidod contorted and screamed. There was an intake of air as his face darkened and hissed, steam rising, as though building up and then...exhale.

      Satanel staggered back. James Whittle fell backwards. Alidod screamed, and clawed at his face. Skin blistered and burst in oozing bubbles.
      Satanel snarled, suddenly, fiercely, and clicked his fingers. He stared as no flames came.
      "I can negate powers, you idiot." Alidod snapped, a hand covering his face, the other scrabbling for the katanas on his back. His hand found one, and pulled. It slid from the sheath with a metallic scraping, slowly, with hissed curses as a blister on Alidod's burnt hand burst.

      Satanel pulled a short sword from his belt. He stood, a slight sneer lingering as he watched the ruined body stagger before him, bright red, skin melted and burst, crisp and oozing.

      James Whittle stared, wide eyed, cowered behind a crate.

      Umbrion and Eloa, Paris

      Umbrion watched the city from his window seat. Paris hadn't changed since he'd worked there. He'd even managed to rent the room he'd once lived in, overlooking the river.
      Eloa paced the confines of the room behind him.
      "What do we do now?" she asked, he wings scraping the stone walls.
      Umbrion shrugged. "I don't know."
      He was content. The memory of the Metatron was fading, gradually, of that fight in Canterbury. Of the fight in York. He felt like he was home.

      Eloa sighed and paced the room again. She felt trapped. Not good.
      "The Anti-Hero is still in England."
      Umbrion closed his eyes. "He isn't coming to France, that's for sure. There's no trace of his cult here."
      "France has certainly done well without the Republic." Eloa noted.
      Umbrion murmured his agreement. Eloa frowned and kept pacing.

      Solace and Iron Knight and Alice, the Moors

      Alice turned. She looked up at Zephyr.
      "Zephyr, get back to the Head-Quarters. Have Hadiel find something on the Iron Knight. Try and rejoin us if you find anything."
      "Be careful, Zerachiel."
      "You too, Zephyr."
      Zephyr nodded, and disappeared into the clouds. Alice watched him go and then looked back to Solace. He stood, a half-smile barely visible on his face. He was mocking her.
      "I Will Take The Human To Be Imprisoned Now." the Iron Knight grated, having witnessed Alice's exchange with uninterest.
      Solace nodded, sincerity blazoned across his face. "Of course. If it will prove my innocence, I will go with you."
      Alice tilted her head. "You must take him then, Iron Knight. We will not inter - Seraphim!"

      The spindle-blade crashed into the Iron Knight's chest and shattered. The Iron Knight didn't move.
      Seraphim was jumping as Alice shouted. Michael's sword lunged with him as he drove it for Solace. Alice watched as Solace's eyes narrowed, and he rolled, the giant blade driving into the soil as Seraphim landed.
      Seraphim drew the blade and swung it. Solace ducked. They faced each other, breathless.


      That is no country for old men. The young
      In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
      —Those dying generations—at their song,
      The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
      Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
      Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
      Caught in that sensual music all neglect
      Monuments of unageing intellect.

      William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium


      Alex Lincoln, New York

      Alex pushed his hands further into the pockets of his jacket as he trudged through the last, dreary remains of snow, wincing inwardly as he grabbed the frozen metal door of the coffee house and swung it open.
      Coffee on the way back from high school. The best part of his day.
      He read the New York Times. He put it down, eventually, and pulled his book from his school satchel. No Country for Old Men. He was enjoying it, though distantly. Everything seemed distant nowadays.
      There was a note, a scrap of lined paper folded where he'd last left off. He'd put it there yesterday.
      Someone had scrawled something on it. He frowned. Had someone gotten it from his bag? Some joker in class, maybe? Braderman might have done something like this...no, he wouldn't have put it back if he had, and he certainly would have said something. Alex would have been fishing soggy paper from the toilet if it had been Braderman.
      He unfolded it and read it. Thick black strokes over crisp, white paper.
      The coffee cup stopped moving, inches from his lips.

      Hello, Alex Lincoln. This is Chaиdeя.
      I have a proposition. Suppose I have the ability to kill anyone, anywhere in this world. Anyone.
      Suppose I were to then offer that ability to you. Write a name on the other side of this paper, and put it back in the book.
      I will kill that person. Interested?
      If you don't write anyone by this time tomorrow, I will choose that person. Watch out for the news, Alex. You'll know when you see it.

      P.S. I hope you enjoy the book. It's one of my favourites.

      Alex examined the note. He frowned, and then put it on the table. Someone had failed to make him laugh. Nothing more.

      Chaиdeя was probably Braderman's brief stint of genius.
      Nothing more.

      Jeta Morgan, New York

      Jeta finished his coffee, and left. It was cold out, and he wished he were wearing the suit folded neatly in his briefcase.
      A man crashed into him in the street. He sprawled, swearing, as the man rose.
      "Watch where you're going." Jeta managed, feeling his nose. It wasn't broken. He'd hit it quite hard on the sidewalk.
      The man who'd come running around the corner wasn't looking at him. He was breathing, heavily. Jeta frowned.
      "What's your problem?"
      The man looked at him. Jeta almost bolted. He was a cop. Jeta could tell, nowadays. He'd fled enough of them.
      The man was about Jeta's height. Stocky, broad shoulders. A rough face. A long leather coat swirled about him. A handgun protruded from under his armpit.
      "Just watch it next time, okay?" Jeta snarled, and began to turn. The man who looked like a cop pointed, wordlessly.
      Jeta looked up.

      It landed in a flurry of blood, skin and wings.
      Before he had a moment to go closer it rose. In front of him. Wings outstretched. A dark grin on it. This thing was no human. But it wasn't a demon...it was...something. It had large dark red wings, outstretched, and a large body, four legs and a long dark snout covered in horns.
      It almost looked like a dog...
      The man who looked like a cop knocked Jeta to the ground again. The creature flew over their heads, screeching. A car horn blared. People started screaming.
      Jeta pushed the man off him and looked up in time to see the creature jump, the bounding lope of a hound, springing over a grimy yellow car and up into the air. It soared, screeching, swooping through the air between the great mirror skyscrapers that loomed to each side. Bystanders stared, pointing, jabbering as it went.

      Jeta turned to the man who looked like a cop. He looked puzzled.
      "I've just realised something." he said, finally.
      "What? What could you have possibly realised? What...what was that thing?"
      The man's face fixed, hard and without compassion. He looked at Jeta.
      "I'm gonna need a bigger gun."
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 01-26-2008 at 08:09 PM.

    22. #22
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - Strawberry Ice Cream

      Jeta Morgan and David Hayter, New York

      "What the fuck was that thing?"
      The man who looked like a cop turned to him. "A demon. Maybe. Possibly. I'm not sure. Something that isn't from this world, that's for sure."
      Jeta considered this, quickly. "You're chasing it?"
      The man shrugged. "Sure. I have time on my hands. Can you hold this?"
      Jeta held the man's coat as he pulled it off. A handgun was tucked snugly underneath his armpit, on a professional-looking leather strap. He wore a plain white shirt, a simple black tie and smart trousers. The coat was leather, and toughened with age. Who was he?
      Jeta looked around, hesitantly. If this guy was a cop, he didn't want to be seen around him too much. Then again...that thing had been pretty fucked up. Jeta didn't care much for mysteries.
      "Shall we go?" he asked, eventually.
      The man who looked like a cop rose, having ensured the gun at his side was loaded.
      "You want to help?" he asked, roughly.
      Jeta shrugged. The man who looked like a cop smiled.
      "It's David Hayter. NY...formerly NYPD. We need to get a cab."
      "Do you know where it's going?" Jeta asked, as the man who looked like a cop flagged down a yellow car, the driver stammering and waving them in, eyes white as he stared at the urban horizon the Hell hound had bounded over moments before.
      "I have an idea." the man hazarded. Jeta waited. The ex-cop fiddled with his belt for a moment. He moved, suddenly, his gun pressed to the driver's head.

      "Follow that demon. Now."

      Alidod and Satanel and James Whittle, a Cavern

      Alidod staggered as he clutched his katanas. Brilliant, cold metal hissed on ragged, burning flesh. Satanel grinned.
      "Don't try anything, James." Satanel called, as Alidod lunged. Satanel sidestepped it. Alidod winced as muscles that had burned seconds before were now pressed into movement. He panted heavily as he resumed his stance.
      James Whittle fell with a clatter as he scrambled around the workshop. He found what he was looking for, a rough, unfinished blade. The beginnings of a sword he'd abadoned in his musings. He looked at it, but didn't touch it.
      "Don't hurt me, Satanel!" he shouted, his voice high-pitched in the confines of his lair. Alidod grunted as he swung his twin katanas into thin air. Satanel laughed as he reached forward, Alidod too tired and weary to resist, and pushed him.
      Alidod fell backwards, his blistering skin bursting as it hit rock.
      "Stay still, James. I'll boil your blood, too, if you don't stay still."
      James licked his lips, nervous. He shouted again, as Satanel stepped back from a feeble slash.
      "I'll help you, Satanel! I'll make machines! I can...I can help you!"
      "Help me trap the Anti-Hero!" Satanel called. James hesitated. Then he raised his head again.

      Satanel stopped, and stood, silent for a moment. He prodded Alidod with his foot.

      "He's dead."

      Cade Nefas, New York

      Cade Nefas. That would be his name. Yes...Cade Nefas. It sounded...older. Mythical. He wasn't from this world, Cade was sure of that. He had always been...different.
      He had been given this gift for a reason. What was it? What calling for him was there in New York? Nothing but the dull monotony of everyday life. Nothing...different.
      Were there others, like him? Others with gifts? Were they more powerful? What did they do with them?
      He'd always been alone. He had won awards for his work. His poems. He never accepted them. Never went out. His skin was sallow in contrast with the sudden dark blue of his eyes.
      The knife struck the board, and bounced. He'd thrown it wrong. He sighed, and collected it. He pulled the other four from the wooden board he'd nailed to his wall. He paced a distance from the board again, and resumed his work.
      He had no calling.
      Not in New York.
      He was alone.

      Solace and Iron Knight and Alice, the Moors

      Seraphim rose, blinking, into the air. He struggled, the Iron Knight's steel gauntlets closed on his body.
      "There Will Be No Interference."
      "Stop, Seraphim! Let him take Solace!" Alice shouted. The Iron Knight threw Seraphim aside as though shrugging away a troublesome insect.
      Seraphim hit the boggy peat and squelched.
      "Alice! We need to get out of here!"
      Alice stared as Seraphim began to run towards her. The Iron Knight began to turn on Solace. Solace was moving, fast.
      The scythe cut Seraphim down the back, splitting spine. Seraphim staggered and fell to his knees, brilliant red and bleached bone bursting from his cloak.
      Solace spun, his scythe whistling through the air. It hit steel and stopped.
      Seraphim had blocked it with his sword. The sword that was impossibly big, impossibly easy in Seraphim's hands.
      Seraphim rose, awkwardly.

      "Repus, no..." Alice said, quietly. Seraphim ignored her.
      "I took this sword from a cavern. It once belonged to Michael." he said, simply. Then he swung.
      Solace ducked. The sword hit the Iron Knight and kept moving.
      There was a metallic scrape and the Iron Knight's arm fell, gradually. Black smoke billowed from where it had been severed. They stared, dumbstruck.
      "There Will Be No Interference." the Iron Knight repeated. He swung, his metal arm moving with uncanny speed, mechanical precision.
      He knocked Seraphim to the ground. He spun and his hand clamped around Solace's neck. Solace wheezed, struggling.
      "I Will Take You To Be Re-Educated In A Proper Imprisonary Institution."

      Alice watched as the Iron Knight left, Solace limp in his steel noose. His scythes clanged ineffectively on the giant's armour shell.
      She looked down at Seraphim, as he bled. Seraphim looked up at her. Repus looked up at her.
      She frowned. "Your spine has been split. You're paralysed."
      She looked back up, at the figures disappearing into the fog.
      "We need to follow them. You create a problem, Seraphim."
      Seraphim grinned, weakly.

      Alice didn't smile.

      Cade Nefas, New York

      There was a crash as the window shattered, showering Cade with shimmering shards of glass. He crouched, and winced as a crude triangle drove itself into his thigh. He pulled it free, and threw it aside.
      His window was gone. The whole wall was gone.
      He stood and stared out, over the street below. Four floors up? Daunting. An urban spider-web sprawled below, dizzying in the daylight, oblivious and excited by the drama raging above.
      His window...his wall had been ruined. He stared.

      A flaming hound crashed into the skyscraper beyond. It hit the mirrored side and sprang, shattering the glass and stone where it crashed, springing to the next building. Cade watched the shapeless...beast...as it hurled itself from wall to wall, flames streaking out behind it in one blink and black shadows wreathing it in the next.
      It was a hound, a dog, of some kind, he was sure of that. But huge, more a tiger than a dog...and angry.
      He watched it as it landed suddenly on the street below. Before he knew it, he was running, flying down the stairs, tripping over screaming tourists as he burst out into the street...there it was.

      Raging, snarling, blazing and roaring on the sidewalk, upright and enraged; Hell incarnate, a demon from another world.

      His calling?

      Jonathan Harker and the Cult of the Anti-Hero, Somewhere in England

      There was a flicker as a hooded figure appeared behind Jonathan. He turned, surprised. There was a slash, a splurge of scarlet, and the hooded figure was gone.
      The assembled stood in shocked silence. A whisper began to echo the hall.

      "The Anti-Hero found him unworthy! The Anti-Hero has judged him! The Anti-Hero was among us! The Anti-Hero watches!"

      And the Anti-Hero did watch, as he flitted in and out of his teleportation, scouring the land.

      He did watch.

      Jeta Morgan and David Hayter and Cade Nefas, New York

      Hayter swung from the cab as it skidded into a halt. The beast was there. It had practically landed on their bonnet.
      Jeta darted from the car. He crouched, defensive, uncertain, the street in chaos around him. What were they doing? This was a job for the military, surely?
      Cade Nefas stood feet away, on the verge of the sidewalk. His long black coat caught the early breeze and billowed about him. The hood cast shadows over his face.
      Jeta cast a frantic gaze to his sudden comrade.
      "What is it? What do we do?"
      Hayter drew his gun, rapidly and professionally. He cocked it and levelled it.

      The demon was upright. A dog, the size of a lion, stood back on its haunches, a mere shape of fire and darkness, distorted flesh and grinning bones. Two giant, skeletal, red wings hung from its back. Horns formed a crown about its head.
      A snout snarled to reveal countless rows of razor teeth, rows upon rows, an impossible amount of jaws.
      It roared. It sounded like a howl and a scream and a dying gasp all at once. Jeta shivered. Cade winced.
      It pointed its paw. Paw morphed into claw and then twisted, a shapeless blade, a jagged spike erupting from his dog-like arm.
      "What do we do?" Jeta echoed.

      Hayter gritted his teeth.

      "We kill it."

    23. #23
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER NINETEEN - Demons and Revelations

      Umbrion and Eloa, Paris

      "Imagine your mind as being like a window. Now try shuttering it."
      Umbrion's brow furrowed slightly as he concentrated. Eloa waited, patiently.
      "Being able to close your mind to telepathy isn't a power, Umbrion. It isn't easy, either. It takes constant discipline and practice until you can master it."
      The concentation was shattered by a knock on the door.
      "I'll get it." Umbrion sighed, rising. Eloa nodded, and vanished. Umbrion noticed the window shutters open and close again.
      Eloa had gone. She'd said she would. He turned his attention back to the door.
      A tall man stood in the dim hallway. He wore plain dusty brown clothes, and sported an axe swinging from his belt. His hair was fiery red, and long, falling over his shoulders like flames burning and cascading downwards.
      He smiled, confidently, and Umbrion let him in.
      They sat to talk.

      Jeta Morgan and Cade Nefas and David Hayter, New York

      Cade Nefas's eyed widened, and then blinked as he spun and hurled himself behind a parked car. The driver collided with him as he scrabbled out of the door, and Cade pressed himself against the blue paintwork as the driver ran, screaming. On the other side of the car, the dog-demon snorted.
      Jeta pulled his handgun free and levelled it. Hayter saw the action and nodded. The dog-demon tilted its head, great snorts of smoke coming gushing from his snout as he breathed, heavily.
      They fired. The dog-demon sprang, one great dog-like bound, a leather brown blur of flames.
      Hayter rolled. Jeta moved, unnaturally fast, as the dog-demon crashed into the road. Tarmac cracked, thin ravines spreading out like a spider-web around the demon. A bullet had hit its chest. It looked down, and blinked. The hole grew, an orange furnace burning inside, and growing, like it the creature's flesh was unravelling, spiralling away into the gaping hole.

      It roared. Hayter crouched, hands gripping his handgun, as it spun. A stub of a tail extended, suddenly, lashing out with a crack like a whip, flesh and fur suddenly more solid and more deadly than steel.
      Jeta blurred, moving at impossible speeds, knocking Hayter to the ground. The tail stabbed the air over their heads, and withdrew, the dog-demon turning to bark at them, with too many teeth from too many jaws snapping and howling.
      Hayter accepted his partner's abnormality with a nod. He raised his arm and fired, the handgun echoing over the screams and shouts of the crowd as they surged to both gawp and flee the scene.
      Cade cowered, hands clamped over his head, whispering the hurried litany of the afraid. I wish I'd never gotten this gift...I wish I'd never gotten this gift...shit, shit, shit, SHIT.
      The car shuddered as the dog-demon's tail pierced the side, shrugging metal aside and stabbing the other side inches from Cade's head.
      Cade screamed.

      "Whoa, is that thing for real?"
      Jeta spun to see an overweight man with a camera hung limply from his neck, a bright red T-shirt straining to encompass the man's obesity. The fat man opened his mouth to gawp, just as the dog-demon sprang.
      The dog-demon's claws tore open the man's torso. Bloody white fat strained and ripped as a blubbery gut spilled out onto the grit of the road. A jaw bit around the man's fleshy neck, as another dove down and buried itself into the open cavatity of his chest. It rose, head matted with thick, dark blood, and shook, a purple ribbon swirling about its head.
      It let go of the ribbon. It landed at Jeta's feet.
      They were intestines. Jeta screwed his face up. He felt sick.
      He looked up. The dog-demon was flailing now, claws and jaws slick with blood and gore as it tore into the crowd that fought to flee it even as newcomers pressed to get a closer look, craning their heads to see as bodies tore and showered them.

      Hayter staggered to Jeta's side, breathing heavily. He pointed his gun.
      "Come on. Let's kill the bastard."
      Jeta nodded and raised the handgun.
      "Go for the heart." Hayter warned. "Best way to kill a demon."
      Jeta adjusted his aim. He was going to kill the bastard.
      The dog-demon spun and jumped. It launched upwards, blood cascading down in a gory trail behind it, as the crowd screamed and bellowed.
      Jeta blinked as he lifted his aim. Sunlight blinded him. Hayter swore.
      The sun darkened, suddenly, obliterated by the shape coming down onto them. The demon.
      Jeta shouted. He fired hurriedly, missing. The dog-demon fell, claw and tooth falling on bullet and man, all too fast. Jeta dived.
      There was a roar, and then a yelp. The shadow jerked from the air, as though yanked back by some unseen leash.
      It skudded into the street, bending a car around it as it shattered the roof.
      Jeta rose, shakily, as Hayter swore, softly.

      A knife protruded from the beast's neck. Blood pumped and splurged from it.
      They turned, wide-eyed.
      Cade Nefas stood, his knives splayed out in his hand. He shook, slightly. He looked at them, slowly, and blinked, before whispering. Jeta shivered. He'd never heard such...determination.
      "My calling."
      He turned to the dog-demon as it lay, body twisted, panting in the wreckage of a car. Glass and metal stabbed into its sides, and a burning orange abyss was growing around the knife. Jeta could see fire within...a furnace.
      "Finish it." Hayter muttered, finding his gun on the ground. "Shoot the heart."

      Jeta looked at his gun. He looked at the dog-demon again. Hell burned in its eyes.
      He raised the gun and squeezed. The demon lurched, and convulsed. It kicked, breaking the car in two and sending it crashing to the tarmac of the road.
      Jeta blinked and it was dead. Flames burst from the open holes growing from its chest, and engulfed it. Within seconds it was gone.
      Hayter walked over, limping slightly. He reached into the wreckage and retrieved a knife. He handed it wordlessly to Cade.

      Cade blacked out.

      Alice and Repus Oge and Eloa, the Moors

      Alice looked up as Eloa appeared, great white wings beating in steady rhythm. Zephyr hovered beside her.
      They landed, neatly.
      "Azazel, get Seraphim back to the Headquarters. Tell Hadiel he needs a healer." Alice ordered, without missing a beat. "Zephyr, you need to lift me. We're following Solace and the Iron Knight."
      Zephyr coughed. "Eloa arrived at the headquarters not long ago. She'd flown from Paris. She wanted to meet with you and I said I'd join her."
      "Very good." Alice agreed, ignoring him. "We need to move. Now."
      Zephyr nodded, and gripped Alice's arms. They rose, together, and flew, following the dark spot in the mist beyond where the Iron Knight marched, Solace in his steely grip.

      Eloa looked down at where Seraphim lay. He moaned, quietly. She shook her head, sadly.
      Seraphim opened his eyes, blearily.
      "I demand to be fed, wench. Tell us a story."
      Eloa looked on sadly as he threw up. She looked up. Alice and Zephyr were gone.

      Jeta Morgan and Cade Nefas and David Hayter, SIA Headquarters in New York

      Light blinded Jeta momentarily as the hood was pulled from his head. He squinted for a moment, and tried to turn his head.
      "The paraylsis will wear off soon."
      He started. Muscles failed him as he tried to rise. Hayter came into view, silhoetted by the bright glare of the light that shined into his face.
      "I'm sorry they had to do that." he said, apologetically. Jeta winced.
      "They? Who are 'they'? Where am I? What...what happened?"
      Hayter stepped back and gestured. The light flickered and turned off. Jeta felt his sight return, slowly. He took in the room.
      White. Sterile. A laboratory, maybe, but crossed with an office and an interogation room and a communications base all in one. Computer lights winked at him all around the room, moniters flickered and shifted, satellite imagery and grey-scale surveillance cameras dotting the screens.
      Hayter stood in his long leather coat watching. To Jeta's other side was Cade from the street. He was bleary eyed like he was, and twitching.

      A group of men in black suits watched from the edges of the room. One smoked, slowly, before breathing out. The smoke spiralled lazily upwards and into the air-conditioning system.
      Jeta looked back to Hayter.
      "They recruited you." he shrugged. "Like they recruited me."
      "They drugged us and hooded us for that?" Jeta demanded, angrily. He felt tired.
      Hayter raised his hands. "They need to keep this base secret. We're still in New York if it helps. They did the same to me a month ago. Besides, our friend there fainted by himself."
      Cade blushed crimson. Jeta ignored it.
      "Who are they? Who are you?"
      Hayter looked serious for a moment. He looked to the suits. The smoker made a gesture.
      "We're SIA. The Sphere Investigation Agency. We moniter and hunt down demons as they pass into our world from another."

      A clock ticked, somewhere. A speaker crackled and spoke, softly, in the background. Jeta ignored it. Cade just sat.
      "Sphere? Another world?"
      Hayter nodded. "It isn't confirmed yet, but it's our top theory right now. It seems our world - our whole universe - is just one 'sphere' of existence. There are others, running parallel to this. We don't know how many. Or what they look like. What we do know is that something is sending these demons through to our world and that we have to stop them."
      Hayter looked serious. Jeta gaped.
      The smoking suit began to walk towards them, slowly. He strode, with a practised ease.
      He stopped by Cade's chair, and put out his cigarette. Jeta's eyes flicked over him.

      Long, flawless dark hair fell to his shoulders. An immaculate pale face observed him back, perfectly defined features and - for a brief second - red eyes.
      A katana hung from his back, casually slung over a crisp black suit.
      He smiled, brilliant white teeth dazzling Jeta. He was incredible.
      "I'm Rainey. I run SIA. Welcome to the team."

      Jeta looked to Hayter, and then to Cade. They both looked back to Rainey.

      "So, you in?"

      The Iron Knight and Solace, York

      The Iron Knight lowered his hand -still clamped around Solace's neck - forcing Solace to sit. The wind whistled around the city streets about them.
      "This Was Where The Anti-Hero Was First Born To This World, One Year Past."
      Solace looked at the hovel. It stank. Some force had ruined it, once, and now it lay in disrepair, untouched. The Iron Knight stood, silent, for a beat, and then raised Solace again.
      They walked into the hovel, through a broken door. The darkness within enveloped them instantly.
      They walked, further than Solace had imagined the hovel to go back, walking in the darkness. It took Solace awhile to realise they were descending, gradually, walking down a steady slope into the darkness.
      The Iron Knight stopped after what seemed an eternity. Solace stopped with him.
      There was a noise as a steel door opened, grating on the stone floor. They advanced, still in darkness.

      Behind them Alice and Zephyr creeped, stepping warily in the darkness, following the sound of the Iron Knight's whirring and ticking.
      The Iron Knight released Solace. Solace gasped, reaching his hands to his throat. It was red, and in agony.
      There was a hum. A glass orb fixed in the ceiling began to glow. Solace stared at it. Blue arcs of lightning flickered and sparked between two steel pins within the glass. Some bizarre magic? Some unusual artifact?
      He looked around at the room as it lit up, slowly.
      It was small. A secret hideaway, made almost entirely of steel, at the end of a stone tunnel that came down from a ruinous abadoned hovel in the slums of York. Great canvases covered the walls, paintings and technical sketches of steel men and great suits of armour, and orbs of light and burning squares.
      Solace frowned. From the doorway, Alice frowned.
      The Iron Knight ignored them, and left the steel door open. He looked unbalanced, with only one arm. The other a metallic stump, sparking with copper wires and clockwork cogs still grinding away.
      He used his hand to lift a metal box delicately onto the only table in the room.

      It was an iron box. Inside Solace could see blue arcs like the ones in the orb flickering. Even deeper inside he could make out scraps of dull metal sheets and shells. A glass screen covered one face of the box. Knobbly extrusions covered another. Solace recognised tiny white letters on the black extrusions...tiny symbols and characters.
      He blinked. They were stuck, irregularly and haphazardly to one side. There were more symbols on more extrusions on another side.
      There was a sheet of dull metal riveted to the corner of the glass side. It read, "Hewlett Packard 530".
      What was this?
      The Iron Knight depressed an extrusion, gently. The box began to whir. A clockwork gear inside began to churn.
      The glass lit up. Alice's eyes watched carefully and studiedly as she read the words on the glass, burned in.


      She shared a look with Zephyr. The glass flickered and changed. A word appeared, momentarily, and was gone.


      The box shuddered. The glass was filled with white. The Iron Knight waited a moment and then depressed another extrusion, again with the same care. He depressed another, and another, until suddenly the glass changed again. Another word flickered on, and stayed there.


      Solace looked around as a voice filled the room. Alice stared intently at the box. The voice was coming from the box.

      "Greetings, Solace. I trust the Iron Knight didn't alarm you. I have brought you here for...re-education. And redemption, too. You may come in, Alice. And bring Zephyr too. I need to speak to you both."

      Solace turned. The Iron Knight did not. Alice and Zephyr rose and walked in, sheepishly.

      "Good. Now, I expect you want an explanation for my methods. Firstly, the Iron Knight is a robotic construct I created using parts salvaged from a machine I retrieved from Richmond's castle in Edinburgh, and from another machine from the Welsh marches. I also used these salvaged remains to contruct much of what you see in this room. I believe this technology to be from another world, where some power hopes to influence events here. It appears they have stopped, for the present. That is One. Secondly, I have been monitering the progress of your force against the Anti-Hero. Most disatisfactory so far. I hope to change this. That is Two. Thirdly, you are a creature of some ability, Solace. You see the need to purge those with powers in this world. You have done so so far with some distinction, though lack of co-ordination or long-term strategem. That is Three."

      Alice, Zephyr and Solace looked from one to another, silently.

      "I'll request you don't try killing each other. The Iron Knight may have been temporarily broken, but he can still crush every one of your heads with one of his steel gauntlets. Don't. I have assembled you because I want to use you, and I feel you will benefit. Alice, you and Zephyr will work from this room from now on. There is a field around it preventing anything teleporting inside or into the street above, as well as preventing all other powers nearby. The Anti-Hero cannot flit by and read your minds here. He would have to teleport into the city and then make his way here without the use of his powers, giving you plenty of time to prepare. I will have the Iron Knight establish contact with your headquarters so you are not isloated utterly from the rest of your team, but I will ask that you refrain from inviting more here. There is a door at the other end of this room that leads to sleeping quarters, a kitchen and the necessary toilet facilities. The Iron Knight will serve as your go-between with the rest of the world, as can Zephyr, but I would appreciate it if you didn't leave without first asking me."

      Alice looked about the room. Steel walls. A steel chair. A steel desk. Comfy.

      "Solace, you will work from here also, but for a different matter. There are creatures entering our world from another that require your...unique killing fervour. Let us call them 'demons'. I will give you a location and image of the demon and you will go out and remove them. You can then return and live here until the next demon arrives. In exchange the Iron Knight will not hunt you any longer, and you will be rewarded for each demon removed. This is fair."

      Solace frowned, and looked away. The Iron Knight stood, impassive, taking in the scene of decision.

      "I will give you a moment to accept. Be aware that not accepting, or accepting and then trying to escape me, will result in the Iron Knight hunting you down. He is good at it. He does not sleep or eat or drink or tire. If I send him, he will catch you."

      Alice, Zephyr and Solace frowned, together. They had to think. Carefully.

      Alex Lincoln, New York

      Alex watched the news, lazily. He spooned another helping of cereal into his mouth.
      He hadn't gone to the coffee house today. The street was closed off, and the police had waved him on when he'd walked up to the thin plastic tape stretched across the road. Home sucked. Mom wouldn't be back until late. The boyfriend of the week kept her busy about the city, mostly. He snared another spoonful of cereal with some force this time, and swallowed it angrily.
      The news blinked. A special report. Alex reached for the remote and hesitated.
      Watch out for the news, Alex. That's what the note had said. You'll know when you see it.

      "We interupt this report on the incident in the city with the surprise death of Tim Butchins, the New York city mayor. Mayor Butchins was found stabbed to death in his office earlier today, the press having been notified moments ago. The mayor was in a high security office alone at the time, and the NYPD are refusing to suggest at how a killer could have entered the room, but stress that it was not a suicide. An apparent message from the killer was left, bearing one word, 'Chander', with two letters in Cyrillic alphabet. The message is apparently written in the mayor's own blood on a torn page from the novel, No Country for Old Men. The NYPD have yet to release a statement from forensics."

      Alex grabbed his bag and pulled out his book. He flipped the pages. The folded lined paper note he'd left as a bookmark was there, marking the torn remains of page 137. He lifted the paper note out, carefully.
      His hands were shaking.

      One word, written in blood, a duplicate of the one being taken apart by forensics in a lab somewhere. One word.


    24. #24
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      CHAPTER TWENTY - Concerto

      Satanel and James Whittle, a Cavern

      "Start inventing, Whittle." Satanel said, coldly. He kicked a steel disk lying on the workshop floor and sent it crashing away into a pile of inventive debris.
      "Inventing...what...Satanel?" James asked, gathering the debris in his arms and looking up, puzzled.
      "A weapon, Whittle. A powerful weapon. One to bring down nations, Whittle. We need the best arsenal possible if we are to take down the Anti-Hero."
      James frowned as Satanel sneered at the body on the floor.
      "Alidod wasn't working with us. He's in league with the Anti-Hero. I've known about it for the past month. That's why we've never made any progress. That's why we've been stuck in a cave all this time while the Anti-Hero remains a constant threat to England. That's why. Don't forget why we're here, Whittle."

      Satanel paused, and kicked the body.
      "Build me a weapon, Whittle. And adjust the device. I don't want anyone but the Anti-Hero to be able to go in there."
      Whittle frowned deeper, and wracked his mind.
      "How am I supposed to do that? And how long until I have it all ready? We need to act now, we need to..."
      "Get to work, Whittle!" Satanel spun. "Get to work or I'll cook you from inside, just like I did with the drunkard. Get to work."

      James stared, fiercely for a moment, and then nodded, meekly.

      Jeta Morgan and Cade Nefas and David Hayter and Rainey, SIA Headquarters in New York

      "I'm in."
      Rainey tilted his head, bemused. "But you don't trust us?"
      "No." Jeta admitted. Rainey shrugged.
      "You're super-fast from what Hayter tells me. That's better than your trust."
      Cade stared hard at the room's floor. Rainey looked up, and met his eyes.
      "I'm thinking about it." Cade said, slowly.
      "There's no rush." Rainey agreed, and turned to the assembled suits. They straightened, and looked expectant. Hayter leant against a desk, watching.
      Rainey relit his cigarette. He gestured to one of the suits. The lights dimmed and a projection hummed into life.
      Rainey pointed to the street map that appeared on the screen.
      "Rift opening in Miami. Looks like the police there aren't onto it yet. Magnitude of the rift suggests maybe two or three demons."
      "Rifts? You know how these demons are getting through?" Cade wondered.
      Rainey turned. "No. We know that there are rifts and that demons are coming through them. We don't know who is creating the rifts and we don't know how they are creating the rifts. What we can do is locate rifts as they open and get there in time to kill the demons that come through."
      "It takes about a day for anything to come through the rift," one of the suits added. "and the rifts aren't visible until the last minute, so no-one but us can tell where they are until then."
      "How can you tell where they are and no-one else can?" Cade wondered. Rainey looked sheepish, and nodded to the blackened window that dominated one wall.
      "Through there."

      This room was smaller, and in darkness, save for the ethereal glow of the purple tubes that snaked across the floor in erratic webs and patterns.
      Cade and Jeta followed the flourescent piping across the floor and up onto the tin pedestal in the centre of the room. They stared, silently.
      An orb sat on the pedestal. The glowing purple tubes went into it, fixed onto its sides with thick tape, fluxing as though they fed from it...
      It was black. Not the black of night, or of letters on a page, but black. Inky black. A blackness you could fall into and never surface. A blackness that could suffocate you, but awe and inspire you all at once.
      It was evil, Cade and Jeta could see that. A higher, idealistic evil. The evil of a mastermind, not sheer brute thuggery or crude hatred.
      Pure evil.
      Rainey waved a hand at it, his face impassive.
      "The Satan Heart. We found it in Nevada. All the rifts seem to be emmanating from it somehow."
      "Then destroy it." Jeta frowned.
      Rainey shook his head, his face withdrawn. "We can't. It isn't of this world. It won't let us destroy it."

      They stared at the orb for a moment. Then Rainey turned to Cade.
      "Have you thought about it?"
      Cade nodded, slowly.
      "Yes...I'll join."
      Rainey smiled. "Excellent. Hayter, we need transport to Miami. Fast."

    25. #25
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      VOLUME Ț̴̡͓͍̗̩̜ͣ͛ͩ̈́̈́͆̔̄͑͋ͤ̈́̿͛̀͢H̸̡̩̼͍̬̪̗͉̤̳͐̅̉̊̽̏̓̊͌̒́̚͢ ̳͔̩͔̼̝̬Ṙ́͛̆̊E̷͋̽̈ͥ̽́̒҉̞̜̺̞̫̜͇̰̰͇̗̲̮̼͙̟ͅE̸̵ͧ͌̓͗̈́̾ͫ͑̒̊̈́̍̎ͦ̐ͭ̒ͮ̂͠ ̤͎͇̜͖̤̼̹ͅ

      In the Deep Darkness where nothing lives three figures swirled and blurred as they drifted listlessly on a breeze that wasn't - and couldn't - be there. Interlopers in the incomprehensible, migrant vagrants in the impossible void of nothingness that ought not exist but does, because somewhere we know there to be a vaccuum to rival all other vaccuums, a deep, dark emptiness that is as unending as it is unbeginning. It is the place we fear as we cloak ourselves in shrouds of religion and ritual, the dark blackness that is without colour (and thus cannot be blackness) and without space or being or canny of reasonable mind. It is the place we delude ourselves with visions of paradise (or even eternal torment pits of fire and ice) for.

      It is the netherland, the hinterland of non-being.

      And yet here three beings are, drifting slow and lazy on impossible currents.

      The one is blood-red, and came first. It is maybe an angel, or some mediaeval knight, or a super-hero or maybe just a swirling mass of frantic idea and need to create. Once, long back, it had form, and was comprehensible. Now it is lost to obscurity in tangents upon tangents, creation added to creation until the skeletal frame could not hold it coherent.
      For a time it struggled to reassert simple (though derivative) structure, being a deserted isle, or a mess of steampunk doggerel. As flimsy constructs each new outer shell it fashioned for itself collapses inwards, only serving to make the thing bleed more fiercely.
      It drifts and is silent, save for the drip drip of dried out spluttering veins that leave crimson snakes twisting as trail marker to where it floats.

      The second is More gaudily clad in colour, and is more mechanical than the first, a thing of numerical statistics and maps and attributes. It is a thing of science fiction, maybe, full of promised back-story never delivered. It is maybe more beautiful than the first, a more coherent thing not given sway to delirium and over-reaching in its tangental webbing.
      But it is bloated now, a decadent and lazy bug of a creation, cocooned inexplicably in silvery grey cobwebs and layered thickly with a bedsheet of dust.
      It drifts and is silent, save for the gentle throbbing of the one gossamar-engorged fat arachnid that scuttles about it, layered on the webs of inactive decay and leaving spiked point prints in the dust.

      The third is shapeless, and all colours. It is not a thing of memory and legacy, as the other two are, but a thing of potential. It is raw, untamed, uncommanded. If it is at fault - for who can fault that which is not yet given shape and meaning - then it is ignored. A blank board without player. A canvas without artist or audience.
      It flickers and spasms and roars and rages and sings songs not yet composed all at once with mouths undefined and limbs unimagined.
      It does not drift silently. It screams without form or fashion or style for creator and for player.

      In the Deep Darkness that cannot be Dark and cannot have content, these three roll on. Unwatched.

    Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast


    Posting Permissions

    • You may not post new threads
    • You may not post replies
    • You may not post attachments
    • You may not edit your posts