“I’ve built many things, but my greatest invention was a little trinket which brought my wife to her knees.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
“Then let's assist our fellow crewmen in the attack and give those guys a beating! Whoever they are!” Shade raises a hand and a staff appears in it with a flash of light. The staff is made of blue crystal, which is criss crossed with veins of red chaos energy. The entire scene would have been cool, hadn't one of the operators at the front console spoken up. “I am sorry, my king, but the protocol forbids the high commander from entering the battle without a dire need for it.”
Shade slams his staff into the ground, creating high, ringing sound. “Who thought of this bullshit!? Why am I not allowed to fight my own battles? I am the king!”
Seria steps closer and touches her father, a guilty expression on her face. “I am sorry, Dad. I might be responsible for that rule.”
Shade purses his lips, then he looks around. “Okay. That's solved easily enough. Which one of you minions has the highest rank here?”
There is a short moment of silence until an older looking guy in a sparkling uniform raises his hand. “That would be me, my king.”
“Good, you are in charge of this operation! I demote myself to a bystander who can do whatever the fuck he wants!” And with that Seria's father disappears in a flash of light. He teleported away, just like that.
Seria tugs at my sleeve. “We have to go after him!”
“I am not sure if I want to be caught up in the mayhem he is sure to create. I've seen your father fighting and I don't want to be anywhere near him when he lets loose. Your mother isn't even here to stop him.” And I have still trouble with my spirit form. Jumping right into a fight might not be the best idea.
A memory of the carnal desires and lust for blood flashes through my mind and I shudder. When I fought Zhon, I barely held myself back. No thanks, I first have to get a grip on my spirit form.
Seria huffs and places her fists on her hips. “Well, you may not want to help your father-in-law, but be sure to remember that I am his daughter. If anything happens to him while you stood aside, then I'll never forgive you!” And she teleports, leaving me behind.
I start chewing on my inner cheek and look around, gravely aware of the attention I am getting from the other crewmen. Even the guy who is supposed to coordinate the boarding action is looking at me. If I don't re-establish my authority, people will start talking. “Return to your duties, or I'll poke out your eyes and shove them down your throats! Just because I am an in-law, doesn't mean that I'll tolerate being looked at like that!”
They immediately avert their gazes.
Unfortunately, they are right. I might be perfectly fine with leaving Shade to his own devices, but I can't abandon Seria like that. “Aw, for fucks sake!” I close my eyes and release my aura, concentrating on the link between Seria and me. Absent-mindedly, I reach for the golden ring on my finger and turn it around and around, feeling for the delicate insignia on it. I didn't even bring a weapon.
Sighing, I teleport.
Just to appear right in front of an angry guy, who swings an axe at me! I reach up and grab the handle instinctively, blocking the heavy weapon. We seesaw back and forth, then I abandon the futile attempt at wringing the weapon out of his hands. He has the better grip, so I place a hand on the axehead and push it aside, ensuring that I don't get cut. With the other I punch my opponent straight in the face.
The blow dazes him for a moment and I use the chance to summon a dagger of light, plunging it right into his chest. He gurgles and goes down, falling onto his back as I take his axe from him. Surprisingly, he isn't down for the count. He spins his legs and jumps back to his feet, the dagger still in his chest. And I was so sure that I hit his heart! Luckily I am not out of tricks in this exchange, so I command my dagger to explode, opening his chest cavity from the inside out.
The explosion covers me in blood, gore and pieces of bone; and while I managed to shield my eyes with the axehead, the rest of my black and gold uniform is ruined. At least my opponent dropped back to his knees. Then planted his face in the ground, creating a pitiful, last scene of his corpse with his ass high in the air.
For the first time I get a free second to take in my surroundings. Seria managed to get me right into the middle of a huge battle. I am right in the centre of a huge, rectangle-shaped hall. Our people are fighting their way forward from a big door. At the far end, is another door which is held by the defenders. All of them are clad in black and red uniforms, while our people's uniforms are in black and gold.
Shade is right in the middle of them, single-mindedly advancing on a man who looks very similar to Seria's description of Moonray. I've no idea why he is here, but I guess we will find out once Shade gets his hands on him.
I raise the axe and plant it in the back of an opponent who was fighting one of our men. The soldier nods, and searches for another enemy. Continuing on my way, I advance with the flow until I find Seria right in the middle of things, following her father. It's clear that the battle is going our way, but the enemy commander is still safely behind several rows of his men. Even if Shade manages to break through, all Moonray has to do is to take a step back and close the doors behind him.
The huge blast door behind him looks clumsy, but I have a feeling that it can snap shut in just a moment. “Moonray! Are you too afraid to fight your own battles? Why are you hiding behind your men?” Shade taunts Moonray, blasting apart a soldier who tried to get in his way.
Moonray turns around and I see his mouth moving, as if he is talking with someone who is still hidden out of sight. It looks like he is trying to convince the other person of something. To my astonishment it doesn't look like he is giving orders, but pleading for something. In the end, he turns around and advances on Shade, a furious expression on his face.
Another enemy blocks my path and I trade blows with him so hard that the blade of my battleaxe chips in several places. In the end it's my opponen's sword that breaks and I use the axe to behead him without a second thought.
Looking up again, I find Shade and Moonray trading blows. The other combatants cleared a large circle around them, but I would do that too in this case. Their auras are clashing with each other in a fruitless attempt to overwhelm the other party. Shade's aura is blue and red, while his opponent's is a flaming orange. Moonray wields a much too large, flaming sword while Shade blocks the blows with his staff. Each time sparks and flames rush through the air, singeing everyone who comes too close.
Seria reaches them and carelessly throws one of the enemy soldiers at the two combatants, aiming for Moonray. The unconventional attack doesn't cause any damage, but it causes Moonray to stumble, giving Shade the chance to bury the bladed end of his staff in Moonray's belly.
He screams and for a moment I actually believe that the battle is won, but then Moonray turns to pure flame and starts growing. He changes shape and turns into a phoenix, while Shade takes on his shadow-form. Tentacles of darkness wrap themselves around the firebird and I throw myself to the ground as the bird opens his beak, granting me vision on a boiling hellfire in its throat.
A flaming jet of fire shoots out of it and almost burns away my scalp as it eats through several layers of my protective wards. The last thing I hear and see of Seria is a scream and her falling backwards as the jet of flames rushes over her and incinerates friend and foe alike.
“Seria!” I shout and jump to my feet, all caution forgotten. Seria must be gravely hurt, or worse!
One of the enemies bars my way, swinging a sword and striking my chest. The blow pushes me back, but it barely registers as my vision narrows to a tunnel. My body moves on its own as I step forward, growling. Nobody gets in my way when my woman is hurt!
The man screams as I get a grip on his sword-arm and tear it off. The scream ends as I rake my claws across his throat, delighted by the spraying blood. It shoots out of the artery like out of a spring.
One of our men scrambles on all fours to get out of my way and I tear into the man behind him. I wouldn't have cared less at the moment. All who stand in my way are enemies. I tear off limbs and howl in triumph as the enemies fall before me. My wards protect me from the worst, but each wound I get feels just like an annoying sting. All I see is red.
Then Seria's voice reaches me and I find myself hitting an enemy with an improvised club. His head is already dented, so all I am doing is mutilating a corpse.
Seria is in her spirit form. She shakes my shoulder, smiling and talking with a husky voice. “Do you hear me? It's sexy that you switched to berserker mode for me, but the battle is already over.”
“You are fine? I thought-”
“It's okay. I just tripped when that firejet hit me. We've known about Moonray's flames for a long time, so we prepared ways to counter them. Is that a thigh-bone, what you are holding? Oh, how wicked, you are indeed a fitting addition to the family. I find men without remorse sexy!” She squirms and clenches her hands to her chest.
I try to regain my grip on the situation. The battle is indeed over... so I really freaked out when I thought that Seria is hurt? And as a matter of fact I am holding a thigh-bone. When did I rip that out of someone? And how? “Where is the firebird?”
Seria points at her father who is handcuffing the same man who had this awesome transformation. And oh boy, he is really overdoing it. Moonray is bound by two sets of crystal cuffs for hands and feet, which are then pulled together by a crystal chain. The chain in turn is attached to a collar around Moonray's neck, pulling him into an awkward foetal position with no room to move. “Dad subdued him. He even managed to take him alive.”
I drop the 'club' and get to my feet to hug Seria. “I really thought that you were hurt.”
“Aw, that's so nice of you.” She pats my back. “Maybe we should make out later, but now we've to find out who is behind all this.” She separates from me and points at the big blast door which was closed at some point during the battle. “Moonray didn't talk, but I have a feeling that he isn't the puppeteer this time.”
“He will talk! At the very least when I give him to Doreen! That'll surely loosen his tongue. But for now, we've to get through this door.” Shade finishes his work on Moonray who started whimpering when Doreen was mentioned.
“Doreen?” I ask.
Seria crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Doreen is my great grandma, you haven't met her. But I think I mentioned that she is a fury. And she has more than one issue with Moonray.”
I try to ignore the dark expression on Seria's face and inspect the claws which somehow grew from my knuckles. “Ahem, I didn't have these before.”
Seria raises an eyebrow and shrugs. “I already mentioned that you must have two spirit aspects. Your other half must be some form of shapeshifter. I wouldn't be too worried about it. Simply concentrate on shifting back.”
I do as she suggested and with a little bit of concentration it indeed works. When I get a free second I really have to explore the full extent of this ability. It feels like I am playing with fire. What if I can't change back at some point? Can I also grow in size like Shade?
Seria's father doesn't give me the chance to indulge myself in further speculations. He picks up his staff and points it at the blast doors. A fine energy beam shoots out of the red crystal at the staff's top and starts eating into the blast door, carving a circle into it.
“We will be through in no time.”