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Old 02-28-2010, 10:35 PM   #1
Dread Advocate
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Ex Tenebris Lux

PROLOGUE
CHEWING ON STARS


SOMEWHERE IN EASTERN TURLOK, 2556 HOURS, 6/20/08 A.U.

The chill of the wind in the night didn't bother Demos. He preferred the cold. It reminded him of how he often felt: alone. But whatever he felt didn't matter. What did matter was that he actually was alone. Demos' only two friends in the world, had vanished a few days before.

Demos stood up on a cliff, observing the country of Turlok. The landscape was even more beautiful at night when lit up by Laesché's three moons Raash, Braem, and Neivk. To his right and in front of him, Demos could see the western end of Turlok and the mountains to the north. To his left was his home, Soranthel, the nearest town, Ynand... and the area where he last saw Galen and Thais.

The only sounds that echoed through the night were the songs and cries of nocturnal creatures. The clear sky was full of stars. Were they really what the scientists said they were; burning balls of gas billions of miles away? Or were they unseen, benevolent beings that watched over everyone and everything on Laesché?


If they really are kind things, why aren't they watching over me?

Solitude was often a place where one could chew on things. Demos often chewed on the thoughts of the unknown, what happened to Galen and Thais and why he left Soranthel.

Demos had been up the past week and needed rest, but he couldn't sleep. All he could do was go over the events of the past few weeks and wallow is self-pity. If there really were benevolent beings out beyond sight, and if they really were watching over Demos, they must have different plans for him. He succumbed to sleep and dreamed of something he hadn't dreamed about for what felt like an eternity.

Last edited by Dread Advocate; 11-01-2010 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 03-01-2010, 05:04 PM   #2
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INTERTWINING OF FATES

SORANTHEL, TURLOK, TIME UNKNOWN, 7/04/04 A.U.

The birds flying through the sky were beautiful. But they seemed... wrong. They would disappear behind a building and reappear from behind another building on the opposite side of the street. It could have been a rather large flock, but the birds all looked exactly the same. If they were natural birds, shouldn't they have different markings?

A sharp pain his Demos' gut, brought his attention away from the birds. He fell to the ground, clutching his gut, when a flash and a sickening crunch brought him an odd warmth in his face, and unimaginable pain. He coughed as he struggled for air, and ended up spitting out three teeth and warm, red fluid.

As he lay on the hard ground, gasping for air, drops of cold fell on his back. A crackle of thunder and, as if the heavens knew exactly how Demos felt, the sky cried for Demos. The muggers took off, complaining about getting their clothes wet, and left Demos moping on the ground in a small puddle of his own blood mixed with water from the sky.


Thais always came prepared. The weather man said that it would be a bright, sunny day, and her mother scolded her for taking an umbrella in such beautiful weather, but she didn't care. She just had this feeling deep down somewhere that today was a rainy day. And she was right.

Thais was halfway home from her errands when she stumbled over a... something in the middle of the street. She regained her balance and looked at where she tripped. It was a lump. A closer examination revealed that it was actually a body. The body appeared to be alive; its arms moved slowly and it shuddered every now and then.

Thais began to walk away. Whoever it was, it wasn't her problem. But a feeling in her heart told her that that wasn't the right thing to do. She turned around and walked back toward the body.

"Are you okay?" Thais felt dumb when she asked. She knew the answer.

"Why do you care?" The body struggled to say.

Stunned, Thais thought of a reason as to why she actually cared. As she began to answer, the body looked up. It was a young man, about the same age as her. He was bloodied and ragged, as if he had fought a bear and lived to tell the tale... barely. He was covered head to toe in mud, making his dark hair seem darker. Fresh blood oozed from his broken nose and mouth, he was missing three teeth, his flesh was bruised, and his clothes were stained with blood.

"Because it's the right thing to do," She replied calmly. "What's your name?"

"Demos Colonomos." He replied as Thais helped him up.

"Where do you live? I'll help you get home."

"Two blocks west."

"Then come on. We've got quite a walk in this pitiful weather," Thais said as she helped Demos limp through the rain. "What happened to you?"
"I was jumped."

"By whom?"

"By jackasses at school," Demos' voice filled with anger as he spoke. "Of all the people to pick on and treat like a beast that doesn't deserve to even be thought about, they target me."

"Did you ever do anything to them?"

"No," Tears began to form in his dark eyes. "I didn't even look at them, and they began to jump me."

There was silence for the next few moments. The rain eventually came to a halt as the two approached a small neighborhood of a dozen houses.
"Which house is yours?"

"Third one on the right," Demos was shivering. He had to get home quickly. "You can let go now. I think I can make it."

"No. You have hypothermia. You can barely stand up because you lack the strength. We have to get you inside soon."

"Let go," He slipped out of her arms and began to take several wary steps forward. "See? I ca-" His eyes rolled up into the back of his head as his legs gave way. He collapsed and hit the ground with a thud.

"Demos!" Thais ran over to Demos' crumpled form and put her head against his filthy chest. She could barely feel a heartbeat. He wasn't dead... yet.

She sprinted over to the third house on the right. After she calmed herself down, she knocked on the door. A few precious moments passed by before the door opened and middle aged woman stood before Thais.

"I'm not buying any cookies." She said with a rather rude tone and slammed the door shut.

"Ma'am. It's Demos." The door opened slowly and the woman glared down at Thais.

"What about him?"

"He's passed out in the middle of the road."

"What? Where?"

"At the gates."

The woman grabbed the keys to her car and started it up. She drove over to where Demos lay, now shivering, as if he was seizing. Thais and Mrs. Colonomos heaved Demos into the back of the car and drove off to the hospital.

"Here, put this jacket over him," Demos' mother grabbed a jacket from the passenger seat and handed it back. "What happened to him?"

"I was walking home from some errands and I found him covered in mud and blood," Thais explained. "He wasn't even able to crawl. I felt that it was the right thing to do to help him home."

"How did he get covered in blood?"

"He said that he was jumped."

"By whom?"

"People from his school, wherever that is."

"That's the only high school in the town," Mrs. Colonomos sounded suspicious. "There aren't many students there. Don't you go there?"

"No, ma'am. I'm home schooled."

"Demos always said that he was treated like garbage. His father and I never listened, we always told him that it was just a phase and that he'll be okay. I guess we were wrong."

The car pulled into the emergency room drive way, and Thais went to get a doctor. The doctor, a rather small man, came rushing out with a gurney. Despite the man's stature, he lifted Demos up with hardly any effort and gently placed him on the gurney.

"How long has he been like this?"

"I don't know," Thais spoke up. "I found him like this on my way home. It only took me half an hour to get him to his neighborhood before he collapsed."

Inside, the doctor pushed the gurney to a random, empty room and placed Demos on the bed. He grabbed a clipboard and began writing things down, muttering to himself. Thais picked up the phrases "fractured nose," "multiple contusions," "moderate concussion," and "missing teeth."

"Here," Demos' mother handed Thais a small strip of paper. "Call and ask for Galen Kokinos and tell him Demos' condition." Mrs. Colonomos left the small room and went to go speak with the doctor.

Thais looked at the paper and read the numbers. Above the numbers was the Regia Hotel, a famous hotel in Rejyr, on the other side of Turlok. The Regia was also notorious for being extremely pricy and annoyingly "uppity."

Thais grabbed the bedside phone and called the hotel, waited for what felt like hours, listening to annoying waiting music, and finally got a hold of Galen. She explained the whole situation to him, to which he replied that he would be there as soon as possible.

As Thais put the phone down, the doctor came in and began treatment. He ushered Thais out of the room, mention that Demos will need immediate treatment. Thais found her way to the waiting room and sat down next to Mrs. Colonomos.

After a long silence, Mrs. Colonomos finally spoke up. "What you did today was a very kind thing. You know, young lady, not many people would do what you did. The war may be over, but people are still untrusting of each other."

At the mention of the Chain Wars, Thais flinched, as if it were a touchy subject.

"Are you alright?" Mrs. Colonomos asked.

"I'm fine," Thais tried to hold back the tears, but couldn't, and she began crying a river of saline. "It's just, my two older brothers disappeared during the war. Icarus was a pilot, and Lysander was a marine. Near the end of the war, Lysander's squad was being transported in Icarus' gunship, when the gunship disappeared, with all personnel aboard labeled as MIA."

"I'm terribly sorry," Mrs. Colonomos reached over and hugged Thais. "I didn't realize that..."

"No, no. It's okay. I just miss them, despite the short time I knew them."

"Listen, when Galen arrives, and Demos gets better, the three of you should hang out more often. You can teach each other some lessons. Demos and Galen both need more friends, Demos needs to be happier more often, Galen needs to learn to control his attitude, and you need some brotherly love."


Thais awoke the next morning in a chair in Demos' room. Demos was asleep connected to various machines that monitored his status. His mother sat next to him, holding his hand like a mother does when her children need comforting. Demos' face was bandaged up and the bruises up and down his arms had lessened.

An hour or so later, a young man walked in. His dark hair looked unkempt, and his face showed that he had just flown halfway across the world. His emerald green eyes were bloodshot, as if he hadn't slept in days. Various scars across his arms and face said that he'd been in too many fights.

"Hey, Mrs. C." He said, sounding exhausted.

"Hello, Galen," Mrs. Colonomos said with a sigh of relief. "He just got out of the OR, so he'll be out for a few more minutes. But the doctors say that he's going to be fine."

"You must be Demos' rescuer," Galen turned toward Thais and held out his hand in a friendly gesture. "Thanks for saving my bud's life."

"I am." Thais took his hand and shook it.

Mrs. Colonomos left the room to go to the cafeteria several minutes after Galen's arrival. When she left, gurgling sounds come from Demos as he struggled to get up. With Galen's help, he managed to sit himself upright.

"Hey buddy," Galen grabbed Demos' hand in a brotherly manner. "How're you feeling?"

"I never thought I'd wake up to your ugly face in my life," Demos managed a smile that revealed the doctors had regrown his teeth in the OR. Modern medicine was a marvelous thing. "How was Rejyr?"

"Hot and sandy, like it is every year," Galen chuckled. "So I presume Obelix is getting more bold?"

"Yeah. And he has new buddies in his gang," Demos looked behind Galen. "I assume that you are the one that saved me. Thank you."

"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time." Thais said with a friendly smile.

"When I get better, I promise I'll give you a proper thank you. I don't believe I got your name."

"You don't have to do that," Thais said, feeling hot as she blushed. "But my name is Thais Xylander."

"Thank you again, Thais. Listen, why don't we hang out more often, the three of us?"

"I think I can do that." Thais smiled and walked over to Demos' bed to sit next to him and Galen.

Last edited by Dread Advocate; 08-13-2010 at 04:06 PM.
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Old 03-02-2010, 02:50 PM   #3
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ANASTASIUS

COLONOMOS RESIDENCE BASEMENT, SORANTHEL, TURLOK, 1246 HOURS 5/07/7 A.U.

"Read it again, Thais." Galen said.

"'On Saturday, May 7th at 1330 hours, during the seventh year After the Unification of Mankind, all students at Soranthel Comprehensive High School are to attend an assembly in the auditorium. The assembly will be mandatory. Any student who refuses to attend will be punished severely. Students are required to bring a notebook and a writing utensil for notes.'"

"What do you think this assembly's about?" Demos wondered aloud.

"I don't know, the birds and the bees?"

"Nah. They gave us that speech a long time ago," He chuckled. "Perhaps it's a long, boring speech about the future, and how our generation is the most important part of it, like they've given us each and every year."

"But what would explain why the assembly is on a Saturday?"

"I have no idea." Galen and Demos continued to argue for several minutes.

"Boys, let's start getting ready," Thais said with a tone of authority. "The assembly starts in twenty six minutes."

"Yes, mother." Galen snapped. Thais glared at him, to which he backed down.

The three left Demos' house, made quick stops at Galen's and Thais' house, and left for Soranthel High. They talked about various subjects along the way, laughing as they went. When they were less than a kilometer to the school, they encountered Obelix, also called the Oppressor, packing up boxes outside of his house.

"Hey, Colonomos," Obelix pointed at Demos. "Thanks."

"What for?"

"For ruining my friggin' life! Because of you, you little turd, I have to move to the other side of the friggin' country!" A massive fist flew and hit Demos in the gut.

Demos felt a surge of anger swell up in him. His face turned red with rage, and he balled his hands into fists. Thais put her hand on his arm to hold him back.

"Sure," Galen said. "He ruined your life, after you thought it'd be the best idea in the world to mug him. Now, I don't know how well your gray matter works seeing as you're the star player on the school's crash ball team, but it sounds to me like you ruined your own life."

"He didn't have to friggin' squeal!"

"Oh get over it. Be glad he finally stood up for himself."

"He friggin' sued me and placed a friggin' restraining order on me!"

"And you friggin' assaulted him. How about we settle this peacefully? We can begin by buying you a tighter shirt."

"How about we settle this now, like men? And we can begin by me shoving my foot up your ass sideways and then make the little turd lick it clean."

"Really? What size shoe do you wear?"

"GALEN!" Thais shouted and slapped Galen across the face.

"You ought to put these dogs on a leash." Obelix said. Thais marched over to him and kicked him in the groin.

"Shut up!" Thais shouted. "Hurry up and pack your bags before you get hurt anymore."

"I'll get you, all of you," Obelix struggled to get up and then ran into his house. "You just won't friggin' know when."

Thais turned around and walked towards Galen and Demos. She grabbed them by their ears and drug them onwards. Their cries of pain eventually became pleas of release. When they had reached the school, she let go of them.

"Demos, you need to learn to shrug things off. You know he's just holding a grudge because you finally took action against him," Thais said in a kind tone with a face of equal kindness. When she turned toward Galen, her face became a mask of disappointment, her azure eyes glaring into his emerald eyes with a raging fire. She put her finger in Galen's face and said with a voice likened to a furious mother. "And you? You need to control that mouth of yours. You could have started a big fight, which could have led to more legal problems for Demos' parents, your parents, and Obelix's aunt. The next time you decide you respond with a smart mouth response, think, first, about the consequences. And also, the next time you look into the mirror, look at those scars and think about how many of those scars were results from your mouth. Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes."

"Yes what?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good. Now get inside and find us a seat."


The auditorium of Soranthel High School was a very basic chamber. It was filled with approximately one thousand seats due to the town's low population. The stage had gone through multiple renovations over the decades. A recent addition after the end of the Chain Wars was a chandelier of crystal that took on the appearance of glittering stars as soon as the stage lights dimmed and the chandelier itself was raised up into the ceiling.

Up on the stage stood the school's pricipal, Coalan Tristram, trying to quiet the room full of teenagers. Sweat beaded on his bald head from the stage lights. His portly body appeared as if it could barely stand. The room finally settled down when he pulled out an air horn and held the button until the horn died.

"Now that I have your attentions," He said as he wiped the sweat off of his brow with a handkerchief. "I know you're all wondering why we held this assembly today. We have two special guests today. If one of them will kindly come out, he'll pick up from here..."

A tall man walked onto the stage from backstage. The man was middle aged, with a thick, bushy moustache. His hair was thinning, wiry and unkempt. A pair of horn-rimmed bifocals rested on the end of his button nose. His gait spoke of a man who had been mistreated during childhood or just had back problems, but his posture demanded utmost respect.

"Good afternoon," He spoke with a slightly nasally voice. "How many of you know who I am?" Nobody in the auditorium raised a hand. "I thought so. I am Doctor Salamo Hoffman. Who wants to take an educated guess at what my profession is?"

"You check peoples' temperatures?" A freshman in the front row shouted, to which everyone in the auditorium laughed.

"No," Hoffman chuckled. "Thank you for trying, though. Anyone else? No? I am the head researcher of the creatures that appeared during the war, the creatures that the Church insists on calling Saiken," The mass of bodies shifted, listening more intently. "Ah, I knew that would grab your attentions.

"Now, who here would like to take a guess at the origin of these creatures, these Saiken?" Nobody spoke up. Many of the students gave Hoffman blank stares. "No guesses? Oh well, we scientists don't know either. They could be anything from aliens, to weapons of war created by the Peoples Republic of Centulix, to mutated moles. All that we do know is that they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and possess unexplained, possibly naturally impossible abilities."

He walked over to a table set up in the center of the stage. Upon the table lay a projector of an old design, dating around the middle of the war. Hoffman pulled a remote out of his hand and clicked a button. A beam of light projected a screen filled with various texts and figures.

"In the middle of the Chain Wars, approximately forty-seven years Before the Unification, the creatures just appeared. I know that's not an educated or logical explanation for the origin of these creatures, but that's just what happened. One possible-"

Two loud crack, like a clap of thunder in Demos' ear, went off, followed by a scream of pain. Everyone in the auditorium looked to the back to see a security guard stumble in. He was holding his right arm and hopping on his left foot. His entire right side was covered in blood. A hooded figure stalked behind him. The figure raised its arm and swiftly brought its hand down upon the guard's neck. A quiet crack put the guard down on the ground.

The figure walked out into the light and raised its right arm. The long sleeve of its hood came down to reveal a rail pistol. Another loud crack and a blue flash from the barrel of the pistol sent the auditorium into a screaming panic. Hoffman ducked behind curtains of the stage while Mr. Tristram pulled a small door at the base of the stage out and crawled his wide frame beneath the stage.

Demos saw a door next to the stage, tapped on Thais' and Galen's shoulders and told them to make for the door. Demos craned his neck above the seats and saw the figure observing the room carefully, as if it were looking for something... or someone. Demos urged Galen and Thais to get ready to head toward the door. He sprinted for the door, and Galen and Thais followed closely. He opened the door and let them go in first. He took one last glance at the figure. He could have swore that it looked directly at him.

The three ran for their lives. They tried to open each door that they came across, but each one was locked. They reached the southern end of the school and finally opened a set of double doors. They hurried inside the doors, which led to the gymnasium. They ran to the eastern end of the gym and hid under the bleachers.

Thais tried to contain her fear, struggling so hard to not scream and cry. Demos and Galen had never seen her cry. She grabbed them by their shirts and pulled them in. She began to tremble and the three huddled closely, embracing each other, knowing that they could die today at the hands of cold-hearted murderer.

The sound of doors creaking open echoed throughout the gym. Footsteps vibrated through the floor. A moment of silence, then a gunshot pierced the silence. Then a masculine voice shouted, slightly distorted, as if it was trying to hide its identity.

"WHERE ARE THEY, OLD MAN?" Old man? Demos didn't see anybody as they rushed into the gym.

"Who, young man?" A gentle voice said calmly.

"JUST TELL ME WHERE THEY'RE HIDING!"

"Ah. They're in here," A pang of terror surged through Demos' heart. How could this old man just simply give away where he was hiding with Thais and Galen? "But I won't let you harm them."

"WHAT? I"LL JUST WASTE YOU, TOO!" A gunshot boomed through the air. "WHAT THE-"

A clang of metal echoed through the gym. Demos looked through a crack in the bleachers to see the old man standing in the center of the gym, what he assumed to be a bullet lay at the man's feet, still steaming from being fired. More shots went off, and all the bullets met the same fate as the first one at the man's feet.

The gunman continued to fire until the magazine went dry. He then threw down the pistol and drew out a knife, its blade jagged and razor. It hurt Demos' eyes just to look at how sharp it was.

The gunman screamed and charged at the old man. He was mere meters from the old man when the man dropped his staff, and with a graceful twist, pushed both of his hands forward. An invisible force sent the gunman flying through the air, crashing into the gym's concrete wall, and the floor splintered in a path from the man's hands to the wall.

"IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?" The gunman rose, stumbled for a moment, and searched for the knife. He found the knife at the foot of the bleachers under which Demos, Thais and Galen were hiding. He sprinted for the knife. The old man flicked his right wrist and the gunman dropped.

The gunman's hood came off, revealing Obelix's face covered in paint. Blood slowly oozed out of his nose. A goose egg began to form on his forehead, where he collided with the wall.

"You may come out now, younglings," The old man was looking directly at where the three were hiding, his wrinkled face a kind expression of assurance. Galen came out first and walked over to Obelix's body, muttering a string of curses as he inspected the body. "He's not dead. I simply rendered him unconscious."

"Who are you, sir?" Demos walked out cautiously. The first thing he noticed about the man was a rather large scar across his chest, most of it hidden behind a blue sash. and another scar, smaller albeit still large, across his face. He had no hair on his head other than silver sideburns that stopped halfway down his face and a waist length goatee.

"I am just a foolish old man."

"Foolish? You just saved our lives."

"So I did," The man walked over to where his staff was and picked it up. Despite how old he appeared, he was surprisingly fit. "My name is Anastasius. And you are?"

"I'm Demos, sir. He's Galen..." Demos pointed over Galen, still inspecting Obelix's body. Thais walked over to Demos and the man called Anastasius.

"And I'm Thais." She said, her voice shaky with adrenaline and fear. Galen finally walked over to the center of the gym. Galen opened his mouth to speak, but a quick glare from Anastasius shut his mouth.

The group of four was quiet for several moments. Anastasius had his eyes closed and moved his lips silently, as if he were quietly chanting to himself. He eventually opened his eyes, inhaled and smiled.

"I must leave now. I hope to see you three some other day." He turned and walked out of the gym.

As he opened the doors, Mr. Tristram, knees shaking and body covered in sweat, and several police and medics rushed in. Hoffman was with the group, speaking to Anastasius. The medics checked on Obelix, woke him up, and then let the police put him in handcuffs and take him away. The shouts of curses and threats echoed throughout the school. Hoffman walked in, and approached Demos, Thais and Galen. He observed them carefully, scratching his chin.

"Anastasius tells me you three are the cause of the events of today," His voice was stern, a voice that could make any man cower at his feet. "Did he say anything to you?"

"He said that he hoped to see us again some other day." Galen spoke up.

"When do you three graduate?"

"Next year. Why?"

"Because the day after you graduate, I would like to speak with you three," Hoffman pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. He scribbled something on it, then handed it to Thais. "You look like the responsible one. I'll see you then." He walked off and spoke with Mr. Tristram. Demos and Galen looked at the paper with Thais. Hoffman had written 'Soranthel High School auditorium @ noon, 5/31/8 A.U.' in a very difficult to decipher handwriting.

They walked out of the school in silence. The sun had begun to set. When they were outside, they avoided interviewers and cameras. Whenever one did approach, Galen or Demos would shove them aside. If the interviewer or camera continued to be a nuisance, they would break the interviewers' microphone or recording device, or the cameramens' cameras.

The news crews had finally backed off when they had approached Demos' house. Shouts of thankfulness from parents and tears of joy were the last things Demos could remember of that night.

Last edited by Dread Advocate; 08-13-2010 at 04:24 PM.
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Old 03-03-2010, 12:06 PM   #4
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Read


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 03-03-2010, 07:34 PM   #5
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This is incredibly interesting, and I'm impressed with your writing style! Brava!
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:19 PM   #6
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SINE NOMINE

SORANTHEL HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM, TURLOK, 1115 HOURS, 5/31/8 AU

Today was the first day Demos had been in the auditorium since Obelix attempted to take his life along with Thais and Galen. The memories haunted him on a nightly basis. He may have gotten out alive, but the guard had bled out before the medics could get to him. Since then, the auditorium has become more of a hall of lamentations than a room where people would enjoy plays put on by dedicated students.

The auditorium wasn't the only thing that haunted Demos; the people became more suspicious of him. Everywhere he went, he received stares, or would watch as people cower in fear at him and flee. He often wondered why people feared him now. He never did anything to make people afraid of him. People used to actually pay attention to Demos, but in a way that no human wants to have. Now, people try to avoid him completely. Demos often thought that he was going insane because of this.

Demos and Galen had been sitting in the auditorium for nearly half an hour in total silence when Thais walked in. Even though Demos was Obelix's intended target, all three of them bore the guilt of the guard's murder on their shoulders. Alone, they couldn't handle the feeling, in pairs, they could barely hold on. But when all three of them were together, they would catch each other when they fell.

Noon came and passed with no sign of Hoffman. Galen had offered to go to a local restaurant to purchase whatever was within the budget when Hoffman finally entered. He appeared stressed out, with bags under his bloodshot eyes and his already thin hair thinner that it was a year ago. He placed his bag on a table at the base of the stage and pulled out an assortment of objects.

"I'm terribly sorry I'm late. I thought you three might like lunch, so I stopped at a deli and bought sandwiches," He whipped out a dozen sandwiches, each one labeled on a sticker what was on the buns, from everything to just ham and cheese. "After we've eaten, we'll get down to business."

They each grabbed a sandwich with greedy hands. Galen devoured his as fast as possible, nearly choked, and lunged for another. Demos ate quietly and slowly. Hoffman started off a conversation about the past year, how the government threatened to stop funding for the Saiken Research Department unless the scientists working under it could produce results on the origin of the creatures in a short amount of time. He then moved on to a rant about how the country's economy would be the death of him, which evolved into another rant about the corruption in the government. Before Hoffman could continue into another rant, Demos, Galen and Thais finished their sandwiches.

"You've had a year to ponder, and now you receive answers," Hoffman said as he put most of the objects back into his bag. "As I recall, Anastasius is the gentleman that saved your lives, correct?"

"Yes, sir." Galen said, his mouth sounded dry from the four sandwiches he consumed.

"Do any of you know who Anastasius is?" Demos gave Hoffman a blank stare, while Galen was more focused on drinking water as soon as possible. Thais looked as if she tried to remember what Anastasius even looked like. "He is one of the three Grand Masters of the Church. He told me that you three are to meet with him in the Temple of Saiken, located in Rimthwei."

Galen actually began to choke at the mention of Rimthwei. Rimthwei was known across Laesché as Hate Central. Uncontrollable gang wars, poverty, and drug abuse plagued the city like a flea-infested stray dog. The thought of the Temple being located in such a mad and depressing location was almost unbearable.

"Of all the places in the world to set up a rendezvous, why Rimthwei?" Demos asked.

"I didn't decide where to put the Temple-"

"Wait, that's the only Temple?"

"Yes. The world governments may have listened to the Grand Masters that the Saiken were essential to world peace, but they never agreed to fund the Church. So the past eight years, the Church has been gathering followers and slowly constructing the Temple in Rimthwei."

"How do they keep safe from all the violence?"

"How should I know? I am agnostic. I don't pay attention to everything there. The Grand Masters are merely contacts, to me. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to stay on topic," Hoffman said sternly. "Where was I? Ah yes. Anastasius has summoned you three to the Temple, strangely located in Rimthwei. But he said that you three may come only on two conditions. The first condition is that none of you take a vehicle."

"What?! Why?" Galen shouted.

"He gave me two reasons for that: it's for your own safety, and it's good for you," Hoffman said calmly. "The other condition is that you accept these gifts."

A brief moment of silence passed as Hoffman pulled out three small objects, each one heptagonal in shape. The objects possessed what appeared seven buttons, six on the sides and one large one in the center. Closer examination of the six outer buttons revealed them to be mere decoration. The center burned with a soft glow, each one a different color; red, blue, or green. On the side that bore no button or decor was one small hole. It was square-shaped and appeared to travel deep into the inner workings of devices. On the underside was an adjustable strap, as if it were made to be worn on the wrist, and 'HoffKen Products' was stamped into the material.

"What are those?" Thais inquired.

"These are devices that the Grand Masters and I invented. We couldn't think of a really good name for these, so we just called them Braces."

"What do they do?"

"Watch," He pressed the glowing, center button on each Brace and stood back. A soft humming sound emanated from the Braces as a blinding light lit up the auditorium. Three figures, each one from a single Brace, began to form. Demos opened his eyes as the light faded. ""The Braces are designed to store the Saiken creatures. A single creature resides in a single Brace. And the Church requires that you 'bond' with one and one only. Any more results in becoming an attention magnet."

"What do you mean by 'attention magnet?'" Demos asked.

"Nothing," Hoffman snapped. "Now, back on subject, the three specific Saiken you see before you are extremely rare. The Grand Masters may have given us the location of where to find these fine specimens, but it took nearly a year to get there, capture them, and return."

Hoffman pointed to the three small creatures, each one slightly under two feet tall. The shortest one was a toad-like monster that bore three horns upon its forehead. Its leathery skin was grass green in color. Small tusks protruded from its lower jaw. A pod-like growth pulsated on its back. The middle creature was a small, otter-like mammal. Soft, chocolate colored fur covered every part of its body except its belly, which was snow white with a light blue stripe across the midsection. Its paws were webbed with very small claws, barely sharp enough to penetrate skin. The tallest creature was an anole-like lizard. Its scales were orange-red, speckled with black spots. Its neck-crest flared to show a magnificent array of shades of red. Above its black eyes were flames that glowed softly, yet burned furiously.

"These three particular Saiken do not have names, scientific or common. They are what the Grand Masters call "sine nomine." They say it means ”nameless," and they save it for special cases. You have the honor of not only naming them, but keeping the one that you name. But I do ask that when you name it, don't make it too outrageous."

Galen stepped over to the creatures and examined them closely. After several moments of contemplation he pointed at the fiery lizard. It stepped forward and examined him with calm eyes.

"Lavole. That's what it is." He said.

"Odd. But not outrageous." Hoffman said as he scribbled something on a clipboard.

Thais took one step forward when the green toad-thing marched over to her and sat down. It stared deep into her eyes, as if it was analyzing her soul, and began to rub its head on her leg.

"It... it's Slirnic." She said slowly.

"I said not outrageous..." Hoffman trailed off and scribbled again. "But that leaves you with the last one, Demos. Go ahead and name it."

Demos walked towards the otter and crouched. It walked toward him and held out its hands, as if it were asking something. Demos picked it up and shuddered at the softness of its fur; an indescribable sensation at his fingertips. It sniffed his face curiously before playfully licking his cheek.

"Lustream," Demos said as he wiped drool off his face. "You're Lustream."

"Again, odd," Hoffman scribbled one last thing on the clipboard, and looked up. "I'll be sure that this information gets to my colleagues and the Grand Masters. Here are the Braces and the instructions to them." Hoffman handed the trio each a Brace and a medium sized book titled Saiken for Imbeciles.

"Why does this feel rather cliché?" Galen sneered.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Hoffman snapped. "You have your orders. It's a long journey to Rimthwei. Now off you go, while we're still young."

Galen left as soon as Hoffman finished speaking. Demos and Thais stayed behind to give thanks and say goodbye to Hoffman, much to the man's dismay.

Galen was outside waiting. Even though he was carefully examining every aspect of Lavole, he tapped his foot impatiently. The burning lizard eyed him, licking the air. When Demos and Thais had approached, it turned its attention towards them, showing no signs of fear.

"We make for Rimthwei tomorrow." Galen said, looking up.

"When did you become Prime Minister?" Demos asked.

"Collect only what you need to survive." Galen ignored Demos. "Money, food, clothes..." He trailed off.

"We're not leaving tomorrow," Thais stepped in. "In three days, we'll leave. By then, we'll have prepared enough."

A long moment of silence filled the air. The Saiken were halfway asleep. The silence was finally broken by a reluctant sigh from Galen.

"Fine. I still feel like this is rather cliché."

Last edited by Dread Advocate; 08-13-2010 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 07-19-2010, 01:10 PM   #7
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WHISPERS OF A SHADOW

COLONOMOS RESIDENCE KITCHEN, SORANTHEL, TURLOK, 1332 HOURS, 6/3/8 AU


Demos had nearly finished packing for the journey from Soranthel to Rimthwei. Galen suspected it was a good four weeks walk. Demos eventually pulled out his life savings and reluctantly added his ninety-eight credits to his wallet.

The night of the meeting with Hoffman, Demos walked into his house and sat down in his chair in the basement. The Saiken creature he was partnered with quickly jumped in his lap and fell asleep. Mrs. Colonomos eventually walked into the basement, and shrieked at the sight of Lustream. She calmed down after an hour or so. When Demos told what Hoffman had said, she immediately rejected the thought. It took her husband's words of wisdom and a day and a half of thought to change her mind.

Demos was waiting for Thais or Galen to call for the time to leave. Nothing was on the television except for soap operas. One particularly new soap opera had just begun its world premier when it was interrupted by a special news report.

"This is a Turlok New Network Breaking News Report," The announcer said. "Now, here's your host: Angela Kolbe."

"Good afternoon, I'm Angela Kolbe," The middle aged news reporter said. "We received word an hour ago that the Turlok Correctional Facility and Mental Institution was attacked. We sent a crew to the isolated facility for confirmation. The citizen who reported the news, who wishes to remain anonymous, is apparently a security guard who checked in for his shift. Beware, as the images you are about to see may be disturbing."

The screen faded to reveal the exterior of a morose building with towers at each corner, and ten meter high walls covered in barbed wire. A quick change of pictures revealed a hallway that was practically empty, except for the occasional corpse lying flat, the faces censored, and all cell doors open.

"The Turlok Correctional Facility and Mental Institution, home to over five hundred inmates and patients, once stood as a monument for the justice system of Turlok. It has now become the site of a horrific crime. All guards within the facility were found dead, the blood drained from their bodies, and a strange insignia carved into their foreheads."

The screen flashed to a photo of an anonymous guard's waxy forehead. True to what Kolbe had said, a strange mark was carved into his flesh. It was very spider-like in appearance; what looked like legs surrounded the edges. At the top, separate from the rest of the symbol, was what appeared o be a heart, split into four parts, three of which bore a slight resemblance to the number six. The center of the mark featured what appeared to be a jagged X above an upside down W with a dot in the center. Mentally, the mark screamed of power that could strike fear into the heart of the bravest, and hypnotize the mind of metal.

"Also, all security footage has disappeared, along with every inmate and patient," The screen began to show mug shots of various inmates. One of the inmates shown bore a striking similarity to Obelix, albeit grizzled and ragged. "We'll bring you more information as it comes. All updates will be displayed on the bar at the bottom of the screen, and on our netsite: tnn.com."

"We now return to our regularly scheduled programming." The announcer closed up the special report, and the television returned to new soap opera, which was just concluding its first episode.

A knock at the door brought Demos' attention away from the television screen he had turned off after the soap opera had ended. Demos rose from the chair and began to open the door. As soon as he put his hand on the doorknob and twisted it, it flung open, sending Demos back several paces, where he collapsed. He looked up to see Thais and Galen glaring at him with impatient looks. Behind them hovered a Mule-class "dumb" bot, a robot-like machine with a single purpose: to carry baggage. Thais must've received it from her uncle, a traveling man who retired several years ago.

"It's 1400 hours," Thais said quickly. "We were supposed to leave at noon, but somebody," She turned to face Galen and raised her voice. "Didn't wake up until an hour ago."

"Are you ready?" Galen yawned.

"Yeah, let me go get my stuff. I'll be back in a few minutes." Demos said and took off to his room. He quickly grabbed his bag and his wallet, and beckoned Lustream to follow. He closed his bedroom door and turned around, only to be greeted by both of his parents. A few moments of silence passed before both adults lunged forward and embraced their son.

"We're going to miss you so much, Demos," Mrs. Colonomos began to sob. "I wish we could be there with you, every step of the way. Just yesterday you were my little boy who always came to me when you needed me. Now, you're a handsome young man who can make his own choices. And you have friends who will be there for you."

"We're proud of you, son," Mr. Colonomos said as the family began to end the hug. "Never forget that. Take care," He held out his hand and shook Demos'. Demos noted how his father's hand was trembling. "Now, go. You're friends are waiting, and so are the Grand Masters."

After a few more moments of farewells, Demos walked out the door and loaded his bag onto the bot. Before the three could exit the neighborhood, Mrs. Colonomos stopped them one last time and gave each of them a paper bag, filled to the brim with various foods. With the final farewells long gone, Demos, Thais, and Galen approached the open gates of Soranthel and began their journey to the Temple of Saiken.


The sun had set an hour before the group had stopped for the night. A small fire was blazing in the fire pit, while the Saiken were sleeping several feet away from the fire. An hour of silence was eventually penetrated by the first cries of nocturnal creatures.

"Did either of you hear about the prison break?" Demos finally spoke up.

"No," Thais said. "Which prison?"

" Turlok Correctional Facility and Mental Institution."

"Wow. I thought that place was impossible to escape from."

"So did I, but it happened."

"Do you know any more details?"

"All prisoners and patients are missing. All personnel, too," Demos lied. He shouldn't worry them about the true fate of the guards. "I think this has to do with Centulix."

Galen was silent for a few moments, until he drew his gaze from the fire. "Huh? Oh," Galen recollected his thoughts. "I don't know. Wasn't that the prison where the Oppressor was placed in?"

"Yes, it was," Thais gasped. "That can't be good."

"How is that not good?" Demos asked. "I know it's bad he's on the loose, but TCFMI is on the other end of the country, and he doesn't know that we've left Soranthel."

"Demos, no matter what, he's going to try to find and kill you. And he'll start by taking those you're closest to. Didn't you ever read comics?"

"No."

"When the villain is unable to bring the hero out, he uses the hero's only true weakness: family and friends. It's cliché, but it's also logic."

"Mom, Dad..." Demos whispered. He was too shocked to think about what would happen to them if Obelix did get back to Soranthel. What kind of person would do such unspeakable acts? Then he remembered what happened to the guards at the asylum. Monsters still did exist, even though the Chain Wars ended eight years ago. "I have to go back home and warn my parents."

"No," Galen said. "You can't. If you go, we'll lose a whole day's worth of walking, and the more time we spend out here, the more impatient the Grand Masters grow."

"Then don't come with me. Keep going on, and wait for me in Ynand."

"One more comic-life connection: this is what Obelix would want you to do. He'll do either one of two things: attempt to kill you when you arrive at your parents', or he'll ta-"

"That's enough!" Thais shouted, ending the songs of the nocturnal animals for several seconds. "Seeing as we can't come to an agreement, let's do something I really don't wanna do." She looked at the Mule bot.

"You're insane! Let's do it" Galen smiled.

After unloading their bags and other paraphernalia off of the bot, Thais began to reprogram it. All the while, Demos scribbled down the situation on a sheet of paper. When both of them were done, Demos placed the note in the Mule bot's cargo box. The bot began to float towards Soranthel.

"There's only one flaw in this plan." Galen said.

"Way to rain on our parade," Thais said. "But, yes. I am aware of the fact that we won't get it back."

"Because?" Demos was never as tech savvy as his friends.

"Because it can be programmed to go somewhere, or follow someone. It can follow anyone, so long as the person it's following is in view."

"Why don't we send of the Saiken with it?"

"Because they're not tall enough for it to see."

With a sigh, Demos went over to his belongings and laid down. The moons had yet to come out, but he still enjoyed watching the stars. Taking a deep breath, Demos forgot about the news of the prison break, and waited for a shooting star. He never found one that night.

Last edited by Dread Advocate; 08-09-2010 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 11-01-2010, 11:53 PM   #8
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Just a quick comment before you read this chapter, this will be the last chapter of Ex Tenebris Luxus (I did my research and found out there was a slight grammatical error in the title) that I post up online. It's entirely privacy reasons. I am actually very proud of the amount of attention this story received. I never would've thought it would get any attention at all. I would like to thank everyone who has read this, and a special thanks to machievelli for critiquing the first few chapters. Do not think that this is the end of the story completely, I would never pull a Halo and end a story abruptly. I intend to continue writing this, and make a career out of writing fiction. So without further ado, Chapter 5 of Ex Tenebris Luxus. Please, enjoy, and benedicat.



SPELUNKING

LAKE KALLISTEI, 22 KILOMETERS NORTH OF SORANTHEL, TURLOK, 1211 HOURS 6/7/08 AU

The few days since departing from Soranthel, despite how progressive they had been, were torturous. While not as rugged as most mountains, the foothills of the Aei Mountains, which spanned most of eastern Turlok, were still rough on many who traversed them on foot.

Galen felt that the trio had made good progress on the trek to Rimthwei, and so decided a day off at Lake Kallistei was needed. The fairly large lake was a favored camping spot by many across Turlok before the Chain Wars. A great battle had taken place on the northeastern shore of the lake early in the war, with the Turlok Army standing victorious. Before the battle, the waters were crystal clear, but since it has been a massive, muddy puddle. The Turlok government had attempted to restore the lake to its former glory some time after the battle, giving up after a mere three years of purification. While the lake was clearer than it had been in many ages, it was still dark and stagnant.

Galen stood on the shore skipping rocks, Thais sat under a fir tree, drawing the scenery in her sketchbook, the Saiken napped in the sun, and Demos sat on a boulder, worrying about his parents. He still couldn't grasp why anyone would even think about taking another human's life.

"Your parents will be fine," A calming, masculine voice in Demos' head said. "The Composer is with them. No harm shall come to them. The Composer has made it so."

Demos looked around for the source of the voice. He found only his friends and two of the Saiken eating lunch under the fir Thais sat under. He looked down at his side and found Lustream staring at him. It soon broke eye contact and began rubbing its head against Demos' arm, its soft fur calming his nerves.

Demos cradled Lustream in his arms as he walked over to the fir. Galen and Thais offered him lunch, to which he accepted. They sat there under the tree the rest of the day. Demos never mentioned the voice to his friends.


Galen woke at the crack of dawn and began packing to continue the journey. Demos and Thais joined him soon after. They ate breakfast, were fully packed, and ready to depart within the hour.

The three waded across the frigid water of the Kallistei River, and shivered to the northwestern shore of the lake before turning west into the thickets. Several hundred meters into the woods, shouting could be heard. Several more hundred meters revealed the shouting to be a group of six people arguing in front a cavern, accompanied by a Mule bot. One looked up and gathered the attention of Thais.

A young man with almond-shaped eyes approached Thais, bowed, and said, "Excuse me, young lady, do you happen to know where we are?"

Thais hesitated. The man appeared to be from Centulix, probably a spy to Turlok, or a saboteur plotting to restart the Chain Wars. After a brief moment of silence, Thais answered. "West of Lake Kallistei."

"I told you Azrael," He turned his attention to the only bearded man in the group. "The site is in a cavern west of the lake."

"Okay, okay. You were right," Azrael spoke in a thick accent, Syrkhrali Demos thought. He had very tan skin, with large black eyes, thick black hair, and a large beard. A pair of reading glasses fit loosely on his rather large nose. "Where are my manners. Allow me to introduce us. The women are Amana and Bina," He pointed to two petit, Syrkhrali women, both of whom wore shawls to cover their faces. "You've met Akira. Yes, I am aware that he is Centulese. But he's no threat to you, or me, or my associates. Over there is Kazimir," He glanced over at a tall, pale, middle-aged man. Long, blonde, poorly groomed hair covered his face. He looked up and pushed back his hair to reveal a rosy nose and cheeks covering a gaunt face. His icy eyes glared at the Saiken with fear. He was dressed in very thick fur clothing, despite the summer heat. "Here is my brother, Abbadon," He slapped a man who bore a passive resemblance to him on the back. "And as you know, I'm Azreal."

"What are you doing all the way out here?" Galen asked after a brief moment of introducing himself, Thais and Demos.

"We are archaeologists sent by the alliance of our countries, Centulix, Syrkhrael, and Slavikaine, to investigate rumored ruins in the vicinity. The only issue is we can't find the ruins."

"Why would the Communists Allied want to investigate ruins in Turlok? Isn't that the Turlok Government's job, to fund research in our country?"

"Your nation's corrupt political body is more concerned with taking money from the its citizens and spending that money away on the useless materials of the world."

"Ouch," Galen grimaced. "Does our government know about this?"

"Yes. Turlok and the Communists Allied are in a mutual agreement and have been since the Unification."

"Would you and your comrades care to join us on our trek to these ruins?" Kazimir asked in a deep, nasally, booming voice. The other archaeologists fell silent.

"Are you sure, Kazimir?" Amana said. "They're just children, they know nothing of what we are doing." The Slavikainian said nothing. Amana turned to the teens. "Kazimir rarely talks. He is a no-nonsense person. So when he does speak, he means business."

"You are welcome to come with us, if you please," Abbadon said. "Just stay out of the way if you do."

With that said, the archaeologists ventured into the cavern. Galen and Demos immediately followed them, eager to see these ruins. Thais and the Saiken hesitated. The Saiken seemed to distrust either the fact that they were about to travel underground, or something else. Thais urged Demos and Galen to keep back several meters.


The six scientists pulled out hard hats and flashlights, apologizing for not having extras. Galen commented that they didn't need a flashlight; the flames on Lavole's head produced enough light to make one feel safe.

After what felt like hours, the group came upon a massive chamber, with a ceiling too high for the flashlights to see. Demos couldn't believe that they were that deep into the Aei Mountains. To either side was a tunnel, both heading opposite ways.

Azrael opened his mouth to speak when a rumble was felt within the stone floor. Pebbles began to fall from the ceiling, and the tunnel behind them collapsed. Boulders the size of houses plummeted and shattered. The group panicked, splitting up in the frenzy. The scientists ran to the left, and Demos, Thais, Galen, and the Saiken took off to the right. Within seconds, the quake came to a halt.

But everything was black for Demos.


A loud, painful throbbing in his head was the first thing Demos noticed as he returned to the land of the living. He realized two more things within seconds; he was cold, and his limbs were dangling. A quick moan and he found himself on a freezing, stone floor. He heard voices off to his left, two to be exact, echoing off stone walls. A soft warmth began crawling over him.

Demos opened his eyes only to find himself in pitch blackness. He glanced to his left and a saw a fire hovering in the air. Something cold and shaky grabbed his face, and his vision cleared with a jolt. The floating fire was simply the flames above Lavole's charcoal eyes. Looking straight ahead, Demos saw Thais' face, half lit by Lavole's inferno.

"Demos," Thais heaved. "Are you okay?"

"What happened?" Demos struggled to speak.

"You were his in the head by a fist sized rock. You're lucky to be alive."

"How long have I been out?"

"About three hours. We need to get out, but the only entrance was the way we came in."

"This tunnel could go on for kilometers, throughout the entire Aeis," Galen opened his mouth to continue a thought, but held back the words.

"What?" Demos asked.

"Galen thinks he's going insane." Thais said.

"I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head, saying 'Everything will be okay. The Composer will guide you out.'"

Demos remembered the voice he heard by Lake Kallestei the day before. Could Galen be hearing the same voice? Or could he be hearing a different voice?

"Who's the Composer?"

"I don't know," Galen paused. "We should keep going, the sooner we get out, the better."

The group trudged on through the darkness for what felt like hours. Water dripped from stalactites every now and then. Bats chittered, here and there. They eventually stopped for what was possibly the night. Demos couldn't help but wonder if they would every get out alive.


When Demos awoke with a jolt. A thunderous boom echoed throughout the cave. Screams of terror quickly followed, and ended with a series of more booms. As the final sound waves finished resonating off the cave walls, Galen stood up and cautiously crept through the tunnel. Lavole hesitantly followed, along with the other Demos, Thais, Slirnic, and Lustream.

An hour past before a dim light was seen from ahead. The silhouettes cast by the light showed a tunnel like a gaping maw, with stalactites and stalagmites appearing as bared fangs. Stepping into the lit chamber revealed stone ruins with a menacing appearance to them. Massive steps led up to what looked like an altar. Spikes protruded out in asymmetrical patterns all over an archway that led to nowhere. Fearsome looking runes and pictographs were spread all over columns as high as the cavern ceiling.

The group climbed to the top of the steps and crouched behind the altar. The altar was decorated like a madman's dream. Skulls and bones lined the corners. Carvings of bloodshed and horrific creatures were spread all over its surface. At the base of the altar, just to its right side, a dozen brass shells lay scattered. On the other side of the altar, a heavy breathing was heard.

Demos peered over the altar. "OH S-" Galen covered Demos' mouth, pulled him down to the granite floor, and ended his cacophony with a sharp, "Shh!"

The heavy breathing stopped. Footsteps edged their way over to the altar. A man's foot appeared at the corner. The three looked up to see Kazimir the Slavikainian glaring at them, a bloodstained knife in his right hand. A fire of malice burned behind his cold eyes.

Kazimir raised his knife for the kill when the Saiken tackled him from behind. As he rolled down the steps, the small creatures lined up at the top. A blazing inferno erupted from Lavole's mouth, engulfing the Slavikainian in flame. Lustream sprayed a jet of azure water, drenching the flames. The smell of cherry blossoms and honey filled the chamber. Shrubberies began sprouting out of the rock. As Kazimir came to a halt at the bottom of the steps, vines burst from the floor and entangled him. As soon as the flora appeared in the cavern, thick thorns sprang from the vines, digging themselves through the man's thick clothing and deep into his flesh. The last thing Slirnic did was fire a glowing, green beam that smelled of freshly cut grass that hit Kazimir's head, leaving dozens of tiny cuts across his face.

Kazimir's shouts filled the cavern, hurting Demos' ears. He didn't struggle to escape the vines, he only sat there, screaming. In his gut was the knife he had used for his heinous act. Demos realized that what he thought were screams of agony were actually fits of giddiness. The man had gone completely mad.

"Who are you, really?" Galen demanded.

"Rezak." The Slavikainian chuckled. "Ignorant fool. Your universe shall perish. The Obmanshchik shall rise. And even your Composer cannot survive this."

"Give me a straight answer!" Galen raised his fist, ready to strike, but there was no answer. The man's hysteria had come to a close. He lay there motionless, pale and waxy.

Thais stood at the altar shuddering, her back to Galen. Demos looked over at the archway. In a circle lie the other five archeologists. They matched the same fate as the guards at Turlok Correctional Facility and Mental Institution; a menacing mark was carved into the flesh of their foreheads.

A rumble deep in the earth began to shake the cavern. Galen beckoned for Demos and Thais to follow him as he began to run into a tunnel. They obeyed, darting into the dark tunnel as boulders blocked the way that they came. The earth continued to quake, and the group of six kept running. Demos soon lost sight of Lavole's flames, along with the his friends. He felt Lustream leap onto his back as he kept going and darkness swallowed him.

The tunnel began to ascend, and light began to filter through an opening at the end. The air became fresh and dry. Demos stepped out into sunlight, feeling secure again. The rumbling stopped and the tunnel collapsed. The beautiful scenery of Aei Mountains filled Demos' eyes as he adjusted to the light he hadn't seen in an eternity.

But Demos and Lustream were alone.
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