Legends of TFF

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by I. R. Shogun, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 9: Double Impact

    Before Shogun and Met got a chance to attack again Trove rushed forward, tackling them through the back doors and back into the room where met had battled Cutligula. The body of Met’s foe was gone, but there was no time for the meaning of that to fully sink in. Trove grabbed them both, slammed them together, and then tossed them effortlessly away several yards in either direction. Met and Shogun both got back to their feet quickly and then moved in, Shogun having a small lead on Met.

    Trove laughed that insane laughter as his leg smashed through a support beam and found its mark hard against the stomach of Shogun, sending him staggering back. Met dashed forward and slammed his shoulder into Trove’s support leg, taking him off of his feet, but the governor was hardly beaten. “Impressive that you two have lasted this long, though it is a shame that none shall know of your skill after today!” said Trove as he immediately kipped up back to his feet.

    Shogun and Met both rolled away to regroup, Trove was stronger than they’d thought, but they could still beat him, they just had to stay focused. “You ready for this hot shot?” growled Met.

    “Whenever you are, just make sure you watch where you’re swinging,” said Shogun.

    “And make sure you’re not getting in my way,” said Met as they both rushed forward once again. As they rushed forward Trove dropped slightly, bracing himself for an impact. Both of them threw themselves into their part, Met attacking high, Shogun attacking low. Trove managed to block a powerful jumping kick from Shogun, but Meteorain found his way into the guard of the villain and landed a powerful elbow directly to the solar plexus. Trove growled with pain but as the two attempted to follow up he deflected them both with a mighty double snapping of his foot, two kicks for two opponents. The two bounced but quickly regained a vertical base and began to form a new plan.

    “So, he’s a little tougher than we expected,” said Shogun.

    “Getting nervous? Go ahead and back out now, I don’t need help for this guy,” said Met.

    “Enough talk!” growled Trove. “Come at me, both of you!”

    There was finality in his voice that beckoned them to attack. Met and Shogun shot each other a pair of looks, they knew that the only way to win was to pull out their last trump cards. Shogun had used his recently, against Red Death, but it was still unknown to Trove, just as Met’s was to everyone. They nodded and took their stances, one last charge; they had to end it in just one last charge. They ran forward, each mentally preparing for the attacks they would summon forward, Trove laughing all the while.

    Shogun charged in, the air around his wind beginning to swirl wildly, Met leapt off of Shogun’s back, intent on stealing all the glory as his hands began to glow. Met struck Trove again and again, his fists leaving thunderous impacts against the body of Trove as he entered the Fusion State. Trove staggered, at first his muscled form was able to repel the attack, but the sheer force of Met’s blows rapidly became too much, and he felt the pain. This effect was made more powerful as Shogun struck him with the fury of the Gale Palm, Trove began to stagger, and finally fell hard onto his back after a brutal kick to the jaw from Met, knocking him unconscious.

    Just like that, a single desperate charge ended the clash. Suddenly the doors opened wide and the rebel forces entered, led by Sara Ythlihm, as they viewed the scene they looked amazed. “I, wow, we didn’t think it’d be over like that…” said Sara.

    “And how did you think it’d be over?” asked Met, implying that the demise of the duo was expected.

    “I think she means she didn’t think it’d be over yet,” said Shogun.

    “A little bit of that, and we were expecting you two to be a bit mangled,” said Sara.

    “Bah, I’m Meteorain! I’m invincible! And he was with me, so he was pretty likely to survive!” said Met proudly.

    “Anyway, what’re you going to do with him?” asked Shogun, kicking Trove’s unconscious form.

    “We’re going to hold a trial for all of his crimes, and then see where it goes from there,” said Sara.

    “What happened to the gusto you had earlier for killing him?” asked Met.

    “As much as I’d like to, that would send the wrong message,” said Sara. “I can wait a little while to act as an official executioner.”

    “Sounds like fun…” said Shogun. “Anyway, too bad we won’t be around to see it, I think I need to be getting back home…”

    “Suit yourself, I don’t have any problem collecting a reward,” said Met.

    So pretty shortly after that I headed back to Spamopolis.

    True to his word Shogun split pretty soon after that.

    The Holy Avenger had done his job. I dropped the armor off at a nearby temple where I was sure it would eventually find its way to the next bearer of the title, and then I started out on my way back home. But things there were anything but calm.

    Next time I made it back to Spamopolis things were in cleanup mode, apparently something big started when we left, and didn’t end until around when Shogun got back.

    Seems Mad Jake was happy to take advantage of what happened leading up to me leaving, and having been gone a month I’d missed a good deal of action.

    I hate going out of town.

    Shogun arrived back in Spamopolis several days later. He had a clean slate as far as introductions went, or at least he hoped so. He knew that at least a few within the Defense Force had to have confirmed suspicions of his identity as soon as he’d become the bear. He just had to hope he could make an impression that enabled them to overlook the manhunt that had been set for him not long ago. On the plus side the main force urging for his capture was gone now, although he doubted that the second most potent one, Crusader, was out of the picture.

    Still, he was back in town, he had a fresh suit of armor, one that allowed more freedom than the Avenger suit, and he’d be able to do things a lot more easily as soon as he turned himself in to the defense force. Now all he needed to do was find someone that he could trust among the defenders, luckily that left him with several options. And to add to his luck there was a sound of combat in the distance, meaning that someone had to be nearby.

    Shogun soon arrived at the scene of the fighting, but remained hidden to observe what was going on. There were only two members of the force in the street, and they were fighting what appeared to be a machine, but it was far more powerful than any he’d seen before. The defenders were Crusader and Senekha, judging by how they were fighting they’d met this thing before, and he’d put a bad hurting on them. Which meant there was a good chance that other members of the force had also been injured by it. The fight was over soon as the machine fled, apparently having achieved its ends, leaving Sen and Cru in the streets. Shogun sighed, he’d wanted to avoid Crusader for a while, but it looked like he didn’t get to do any such thing.

    He hit the ground behind the building and quickly made his way out, making it appear as if he’d just arrived, “Jeez are you guys alright?”

    “What the hell are you doing out here? Can’t you see it’s a war zone?” Crusader roared.

    “Cru chill, he’s a friend, and a fighter,” said Sen.

    “Is he now? Well then we could use the help, what’s your name?” Crusader demanded.

    “Don’t you recognize him Cru? You hunted him for months, isn’t that right Holy Avenger?” said Sen with a grin.

    “Well, actually, I’m going by Shogun now,” Shogun replied.

    “Whatever, I can book you or you can join later, right now we need to get to the station,” said Cru as he ran off.

    “Welcome to the team,” said Sen as she and Shogun followed.
     
  2. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Jake’s Holiday
    Chapter 1: Back In Business

    Mad Jake, the most dangerous mind in Spamopolis, had been laying fairly low since returning to Spamopolis. Granted not only was Ray Captain able to track him down, so was Senekha of the Spamopolis Defense Force. Nevertheless so far things had been easy enough. He and his men had knocked over a bank to lure out the Holy Avenger as a courtesy to Sen, and also to bring the witch hunter that was after him into the light. He’d played his part, but then a variable not even he’d considered came up. A member of the defense force, the Herald of Woe, who was now locked in a maximum-security cell below the Library, had unleashed what could be called his inner anguish, leveling a good portion of the city in the process. He’d been overcome by the Avenger being overcome with a similar problem, but regardless the havoc he caused put Jake in a very unique position. The defense force was running themselves ragged trying to repair the city and keep looting to a minimum, it had been a week since he’d lifted a finger and the tedious process of wearing them down was being done for him.

    On this night in particular Jake was planning to throw himself back into the limelight of the city, and to do so in grand fashion. He’d been sitting on a tool particularly well suited to deal with the defenders of the city. A mechanical monster built by some of the finest smiths the flying city had to offer. He had to spend nearly every coin he had at the time but this was easily justified by the pure firepower that the beast he controlled gave him. He’d earn it all back in a matter of days.

    Hiring a new gang had been simple enough, the last lot had turned tail and left him high and dry after the last outing, but fewer hands meant he could afford better ones. Three men, all heavy handed, but they could fight well enough to take some of the lower ranking members of the defense force, meaning that the golem could deal with the harder hitters. The men armed up quietly as Jake went over the final details of his plan, this would be a joyous evening indeed…

    *****************************************

    Sevi sighed as she sat atop the roof of Liv’s Library, the mid-day sun warming her up. It had been a week since anyone had seen the Avenger, since he’d become that monster, and she hadn’t slept since then. Kakashi insisted that the Avenger could take care of himself, and she knew that he could, but she couldn’t help but worry. That hunter, Methias, was he still after him? Where was he now? Would he ever come back? And if he did, what would Crusader do? Cru had been really mad when Sen had called off his manhunt, he’d probably still be mad if he got the chance to bring the Avenger in, she didn’t know what she’d do if that happened.

    “Hey, Sevi, what’re you doing up here?” came the voice of Liv from behind her.

    “Just, thinking,” said Sevi.

    “He’ll be back,” said Liv as she took a spot next to Sevi. “Trust me, it would take a lot more than Cru to scare Holy.”

    “Yeah, maybe, but I just wonder where he is, what he’s doing,” said Sevi.

    “Knowing him having a whole lot of fun without us,” said Liv as she curled her legs up and rested her head on her knees.

    “Maybe, but I’m still worried,” said Sevi.

    “We all are, but you can’t let it get you down,” said Liv. “He wouldn’t want that.”

    “I guess you’re right,” said Sevi with another sigh.

    “Come on back inside, you guys are going to go on patrol soon and Ros wants to make sure everyone’s ready,” said Liv.

    Sevi followed Liv inside and back to the squad. Sevi was part of Rosgwak’s team, which consisted of her, Kakashi, Alchemist, and Dragn9. She wasn’t really sure how the teams were drawn up, but this one seemed to be the most balanced from her understanding of everyone’s abilities, and it had the biggest number of experienced fighters. She felt good being part of this group, they were strong, things would be good.

    “Glad you’re feeling well enough to join us Sevi, it’s always a good morale boost to have a beautiful face in your number,” said Ros, making her blush slightly.

    “If all you want to do is flirt why don’t we hit up the old pub?” said Dragn with a grin.

    “Because alas we have work to do,” said Ros.

    “If that’s what you call it,” said Alchemist. “The last two days nothing’s happened during the light hours, most of the looting has died down.”

    “Nothing stays quiet in Spamopolis long,” said Ros. “And that’s why we need to stay vigilant.”

    “And no one’s seen Mad Jake since the incident with HoW,” said Dragn.

    “True enough,” said Alch. “So where all are we going to hit?”

    “We’ll stick to Route C,” said Ros. “It covers the most diverse amount of the city so we’ll get a feel for everything that’s happening.”

    “Why is it always the longest route with you?” grumbled Dragn jokingly.

    “Well think of it this way, time apart from the mirror will make your heart grow fonder,” said Ros.

    “Coming from you I’m almost insulted,” chuckled Dragn.

    “Do all patrols start like this?” Kakashi asked Alch.

    “Usually, although this is only my third or fourth time patrolling with them, since up until recently the official defense force in the city was much smaller than it is now thanks to you guys,” answered Alchemist.

    Not long after that they began the actual patrol. As Alchemist predicted for a long time nothing happened, but it had never been like Mad Jake to wait too long. Attacking in the day when everything was calm assured no one would detract from his entrance. And a grand entrance is was. As the squad passed along the streets of the city they came to a suspiciously empty one, the very one Jake had selected for his assault. There was a wild boom as the wall of one of the buildings exploded into the streets, scattering the squad.

    “What the hell was that?” groaned Alchemist as he slowly got up.

    “That, was the sound of the latest of my schemes to act as a problem for you delightful defenders,” came the voice of Mad Jake as he walked out from what used to be a building.

    “Jake, what took ya?” grunted Ros, as he quickly regained his footing.

    “Dramatic timing has always been part of my presentation dear Rosgwak,” said Jake.

    “Too bad with all the rioters taken down there’s nothing to stop us from focusing on you,” said Ros as he prepared to attack.

    “Nothing? Really now?” asked Jake as a bolt of power flew from the wrecked building and struck the ground beneath Ros and flung him back several yards.

    “What the hell?” said Dragn, who had long since stood.

    “I think, it’s that,” said Kakashi, pointing to a massive green machine that stepped now into plain view.

    “Lady and gentlemen, may I introduce you to my latest tool, model 3176 MSG, line name Magestone Golem, I call this particular one Orpheus,” said Jake as the machine stood next to him, “Brace yourselves, this one’s gonna hurt…”
     
  3. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 2: Domination

    Jake had hardly finished taunting the TFFers with his mechanized monster before the gears of the behemoth began to whine again. The machine was around eight feet tall, and six feet wide from shoulder to shoulder. Its right arm was a powerful cannon, spiked to make it equally formidable in close combat, meanwhile the other arm tightly clenched a massive clever. Its central piece had to be the head, appearing like two tine cans of separate sizes fashioned into a bizarre monster mask.

    “Now that you’ve all had a chance to choke on the image of the beast, I suppose it’s time we get this little battle thing underway,” said Jake. “Orpheus, attack…”

    The machine rushed forward with blinding speed, Ros managed to block a strike from its deadly clever and rolled back to avoid a follow up blow from the cannon’s sheer force. Dragn fired upon the creature with a volley of deadly fireballs, but to his dismay the machine was wholly unaffected. Alchemist put his hand to the ground, but he had no time to being an incantation as the machine fired a blast that flung him into the air, causing him to receive a rough landing.

    Kakashi and Sevi both moved in, showering the golem with kunai, but the weapons bounced harmlessly off the armor of the machine that fired at them with a series of rapid shots. The ninja dodged, but Kakashi was quickly overtaken with a hard ram by the machine, sending the warrior tumbling through the air. Sevi moved in, but as she landed her first strike she was flung by a clubbing blow from the golem’s cannon arm. Orpheus now fired again, striking Kakashi and Sevi both with low powered blasts, setting them both ablaze for a moment and making them crumble.

    Dragn quickly set about protective magics on the downed duo, but in the process left himself wide open for the golem to assault. Dragn roared with pain as the clever cut through his chest, not deep enough for a fatality, but deep enough to take him out of the fight. Alchemist and Ros were the last two left in the fight. Alchemist put his hand to the ground, managing to cast an incantation that pulled a massive fist of earth from the ground, but Orpheus was too swift, dodging the blow and firing at Alchemist with deadly accuracy, the shot roasting a thin lair of his flesh before he was able to put it out, only to pass out swiftly thereafter.

    Ros was undeterred by the machine’s seeming superiority. He dashed forward, weaving carefully between blasts before getting close enough to strike. His blades met the metal of the machine, Orpheus roared, in pain or otherwise Ros couldn’t tell, but he did know for certain that the machine was in defensive mode and struck a brutal blow against the hero, sending him flying through the air, then shooting him out of it, causing him to make a hard crash landing against the wall of a nearby thread. And just like that the five heroes were beaten by one machine.

    “I’m a bit disappointed, I was hoping you’d all put up a bit more of a fight, oh well, perhaps next time… Orpheus, come along, that will be enough for today,” said Jake as he and his machine left the street and returned to their hideaway, leaving the defenders highly vulnerable.

    Luckily for them the fighting had caught the attention of another hero who’d only recently returned to the city. Ender hurriedly checked the vitals of everyone, they were alright, but they needed medics. “Good thing I stocked up on these for a rainy day,” he muttered as he fired a flair into the sky. Within minutes the next squad in rotation, the squad led by Extremus, arrived.

    “What the hell happened here?” demanded the elven leader of the squad as he signaled what he wanted everyone to do.

    “I can’t say, I just got back into town and I heard a commotion, by the time I got here it was long over,” said Ender.

    “Damn, get them to the library, we need to know what did this if we’re going to prevent a repeat incident,” said Extremus. Luckily for his team the fighters who’d been beaten were, for the most part, easily transported back to the library by his squad’s particular makeup, and because of Liadan’s ability to devise simple machines to make things all the easier.

    “What the hell happened to them?!” cried Liv as soon as the team was dragged into her library.

    “That’s what I want to know,” replied Extremus. “Are the medical chambers open?”

    “Always,” said Liv as she opened the pathway to the medical wing of the library. Hooking the victims of the attack up to the machinery was easy enough, unfortunately they were all some length away from waking up, that left the force down a squad and the heroes with a great deal more to think about than even the standard patrol concerns. Squads each assigned a member or two to watch their friends, while others chose to continue to do this even while not assigned to it. Whatever had caused the damage didn’t strike for the next two days after this, Crusader didn’t like it, and neither did Extremus.

    “I put in a request to the general for a special interim task force,” said Extremus.

    “Do you think he’ll be likely to grant us one?” asked Cru.

    “The General and I don’t get along, but anything that could take a third of any defense force is cause for concern enough for him to take action, they won’t be as good as the fighters we’re down at the moment, but they’ll make the job a little less stressful for us,” said Extremus.

    “And how do you think things will go once we’re in a position to ask them to leave?” asked Crusader.

    “That is the question,” said Extremus.

    “That kind of oversight is dangerous old timer, it could give Savage a distinct advantage,” said Cru.

    “Savage already has the advantage, he has all the resources of the entire land under his control, I have to make due with what we have and every once in a while jump when he tells me to,” said Extremus.

    “Well mark my words, if it comes down to necessity, I’ll be happy to stamp you both out,” said Crusader.

    “Was that a threat Cru? You’ve come a long way from simply being annoyed at my methods,” said Extremus.

    “Sometimes time leads to understanding, in this case it hasn’t. I don’t like how you run things, I don’t like how he runs things, and I’ll do whatever I have to to get things working the way that they should,” said Cru.

    “And you’ll damn sure have a hell of a time accomplishing that,” said Extremus. “For now at least, I’m still the best fighter in this city.”

    “For now,” said Crusader. “Nothing lasts forever, and that longevity of yours won’t be enough to simply ride anything involving me out.”

    “I suppose we’ll just have to see about that,” said Extremus.

    “Regardless, I guess we need to focus on finding out whatever it was that did that to Ros and his team,” said Cru.

    “And the task force we’re going to be sent,” said Extremus.

    “I’m more worried about the immediate threat, the one that deliberately attacked our team. No witnesses have come forward willingly, and no one from the area of the attack was able to tell us anything when we went out there for questioning. They were set up,” said Cru.

    “You think this was Jake?” asked Extremus.

    “I can’t think of anyone else capable of setting something like this up,” said Cru.

    “It doesn’t seem like Jake’s style though, an actual confrontation with us isn’t something he ever even seems to consider,” said Extremus.

    “Maybe Jake’s got some new muscle, and it’s able to do things his old resources never could,” said Cru.

    “Like beating a full squad?” asked Extremus.

    “Like punching a massive hole right through the Defense Force of this city, one that’s going to keep getting bigger if we don’t find him and take the fight right to him,” said Cru.
     
  4. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 3: Revelation

    Two days passed without sight or sound of Mad Jake. Crusader’s unit had taken up full time patrol of the city; the town guards were on maximum alert, something that seemed to be increasingly common. Still, despite Spamopolis being on lockdown no one complained. The people of the city weren’t eager to be hit by whatever it was that was capable of taking out a full squad of defenders. Not to mention Mad Jake was involved, and while he always started out small Jake’s schemes always ended out being big.

    “We’re going to run ourselves ragged at this rate,” said LoS as she and Kel hit the middle point on their patrol route.

    “Ah come on, soldier up!” said Kelmourne cheerfully. “With shifts like this we’ve got a good chance of being the ones that take on Jake first! And that means I get to test my metal against a real warrior!”

    “I don’t think I’ll ever understand what goes on in the heads of guys like you,” said Los.

    “Born on the battlefield baby,” said Kel with a wide grin.

    “I think this squad is just the bloodthirsty one,” said Los. “You’re almost as bad as Sen.”

    “You say bloodthirsty like it’s a bad thing,” said Kel.

    As they walked neither of them noticed a stalking form in the shadows. The machine was quiet, nearly silent, a feat made all the more impressive by its massive size and considerable speed. Orpheus lurked, waiting for the optimum time to strike. The master had given him permission to kill one of them, but only one; he had to choose which he wanted carefully. The pretty little elf girl, or the human warrior. He was programmed to hate elves, but he always had more of a challenge against warriors. Finally he decided he’d choose in the heat of the moment, for now it was time…

    “Besides, Dragn’s squad was taken by surprise, we know we’re looking for something really…” Kel’s words were drowned out by a massive blast from the alley that blasted him into a nearby building.

    “Kel!” shouted Los as the golem barreled out of the alley and rammer her into the building after her partner.

    Kel quickly got to his feet and drew his axe and sword. The machine whirred a sound that almost seemed like laughter as it crashed through the wall and swung a massive arc. Kel blocked the strike, but not without being flung by the impact and crashing over a table. Los attempted to hit the golem with a powerful magic missile, but the golem shrugged off the spell like it was nothing. Kel got up again, swinging with all his might, but this time as he clashed with the golem’s cleaver shattered. The machine looked at it in disappointment, then swung at Kel again, cracking him against the head and sending him flying through the air again.

    “Kel?” Los yelled, out of concern and fear for herself as the machine slowly stalked up to her. She whimpered slightly as the machine cocked its arm back as if for a punch, letting out that laugh like sound again, when suddenly a massive armored form crashed into the machine and plowed it into the wall. Los looked on in surprise until she realized that the other half of her squad had arrived, and Crusader was going toe to toe with the machine.

    “Sen!” Cru yelled.

    “Yeah yeah I know,” said Senekha as she appeared and pulled Kel out to the street, Los followed.

    “You guys sure have strange timing,” said Los as her hands lit up and began to pour healing energy into Kel.

    “Hey you’re alive aren’t you?” asked Sen.

    “Another minute and I wouldn’t be,” said Los.

    “Well, dramatic entrances can be good,” said Sen as she ran into the fray with Cru.

    This was no good. Orpheus was strong, but this was the overall most powerful squad on the defense force. His resistance to magic wouldn’t come into play, he had to even the field a bit, it looked like the elf would be the one. He burst through the thread wall again and fired a massive blast at the priestess, flinging her into the air, and limply to the ground. One blast was never enough; the next one would do it. The machine ran forward, Sen got in its way.

    “What’s a matter? You afraid of little old me?” asked Sen with a wild grin. Orpheus responded by feeding Sen a face full of fire. Sen dropped to one knee with a yelp, but as Orpheus charged forward he was hit by a shockwave that forced him to stop. Crusader’s Shatter technique was effective in that it stopped the charge, but it was problematic to repeat when the machine blasted Cru as well, then stepped back, making that laughing sound again as its cannon shifted, and from it came a massive lightning bolt that jumped through the defenders, causing massive damage to all of them. Orpheus stalked forward, one more blow would kill the healer, but he was stopped by the voice of his master.

    Orpheus, that’s enough, the girl is out of the picture for now, and I want the others to be able to report what they saw. Just make sure the Viking is out of the picture for now too, but no killing, I changed my mind.

    Orpheus was disappointed and saddened that the master deprived him of his chance, but such was the life of a machine. He quickly headed back to the lair, knowing that no doubt Extremus and his team would be in shortly, and that he didn’t want to fight the entire defense force at once. The master had big plans for him, and they were one step closer to coming to fruition. And so with one more blast to the Viking he was off.

    In a matter of minutes Extremus and his squad arrived, quickly securing the area and moving their comrades to the library. It was easier this time; Cru and Sen quickly regained consciousness, although the message they conveyed wasn’t a pleasant one.

    “I’ve never seen anything like that thing, it was like a machine, but it moved like a human, like a golem but bigger, stronger and faster than any golem I’ve ever come across,” said Cru.

    “It wiped the floor with us before we could think of a real way to hit it,” said Sen. “And it shot lightning and fire from its arm.”

    “Damn it, can you think of anything we’ve faced like it before?” asked Extremus.

    “Nothing,” said Crusader. “It definitely wasn’t from this region.”

    “Not from most regions,” corrected Sen. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere I’ve been.”

    “Damn it I want to know where that thing came from! Liadan, get to the library! Have Liv help you find everything possible on golems! I want to know where this thing came from and how we kill it!” roared Extremus.

    “That won’t be necessary,” said Ender, his eyes wide with horror as he studied the wounds on Los and Kel. “I’ve seen this before.”

    “Where?” demanded Extremus.

    “Back in WK things like this are all over, they’re war golems, designed to be as effective as possible at killing anything and everything that gets in their way, Jake paid top dollar for this thing,” said Ender. “And it’s holding back.”

    “Holding back?” muttered Cru. “About how many kills do these things average?”

    “Let’s put it this way, there’s a damn good reason the flying city had control of the majority of the land for centuries,” said Ender. “They’re state of the art, and they’re almost as smart as an average person.”

    “So Jake’s got a walking cannon?” asked Extremus.

    “No, he’s got a walking tank,” said Ender. “Whatever he’s gunning for, it’s big.”
     
  5. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 4: Motives and Ambushes

    Crusader sat with alone in the library with a scowl on his face. None of this made sense, Jake had a weapon powerful enough to take on an entire squad of the defense force, and not only wasn’t he using it to help in his typical robberies, he wasn’t taking any of the defenders out for good. None of this seemed like Jake’s style, which meant that there was a good chance that there could have been someone else involved that they weren’t aware of, and Crusader didn’t like not being able to see all the players.

    “It’s amazing, you always wear that mask and yet it’s still easy to tell what your face looks like, and how grumpy you are,” said Olivia the Lamb as she appeared with a tray with tea and cookies.

    “Maybe you just know me too well,” said Crusader with a sigh.

    “Well as much as I’d like to believe that, if I did I think you’d tell me what was wrong, more than just getting a little banged up is all I can tell,” said Liv.

    “Well then you know more than the others do,” said Crusader. “Most of them just think I’m a sore loser.”

    “Well you are,” said Liv. “But I can tell that’s not all.”

    “Oh? And how’s that?” asked Crusader.

    “Because when you’re just mad because you lost you spend a week straight doing nothing but training,” said Liv. “All you’ve done since that thing beat you is sitting around.”

    “I see,” said Cru. “Well, I’ve been thinking.”

    “A novel concept,” said Liv sarcastically.

    “Ha, but in all seriousness, I think there’s more going on than just Jake,” said Crusader.

    “Why’s that?” asked Liv.

    “When’s the last time Jake’s been in town this long without performing at least a few small time jobs?” said Cru. “I think he’s being financed, for what reason I don’t know.”

    “Who would have enough money to keep Jake interested?” asked Liv.

    “No idea, but whoever they are they want to hurt us, and hurt us bad before they make their move,” said Cru.

    “Do we have any big enemies that aren’t fresh in our minds?” asked Liv.

    “Not that I’m aware of,” said Cru. “But it may not even be us, it could be the city, and we just stand in the way of that.”

    “So then let me guess, you want me to do some research?” asked Liv.

    “Not just you, everyone who isn’t combat ready,” said Cru. “We need as many eyes on this case as possible.”

    “So then is that an order?” asked Liv with a grin.

    “Well you’re not on the force, so I can’t order you,” said Crusader. “But to everyone else, yes, it’s an order.”

    “Well I guess I’ll help then, as long as you know you can’t give me orders,” said Liv.

    “That’s all I ask,” said Cru. “For now…”

    *****************************************

    Later……

    Extremus was getting tired of this entire ordeal. Two squads had been injured, and most of the members of each were out of fighting form. The only two that would be able to fight again any time soon would be Crusader and Senekha, Jake was after something big, and he wanted to cripple the force before he went for it. If and when this new toy of his came after the last squad, they were going to have to hit it with everything that they had all at once.

    “Captain, any idea of a pattern coming up yet?” asked Ka’al.

    “If he had a pattern he wouldn’t be Mad Jake,” said Extremus. “But I’m assuming he’s going to wait a few days until we’re tired before he makes his next move.”

    “Even though Crusader and Sen will both be back in action pretty soon?” said Ender.

    “Jake’s got something in mind to deal with that,” said Extremus. “He always does.”

    “Well, if my theory about this machine being from WK is right, he’ll want to attack us soon, even if he doesn’t bench us he’d want everyone possible to be weakened as soon as…” Ender was cut off as the wall of a nearby thread exploded, as was the new calling card of this machine called Orpheus.

    Kenshin was the first to get up after the explosion, Orpheus fired at him with a blast of flame, but the young swordsman managed to cut right through the attack. This didn’t deter the machine which ran forward while he was distracted and rammed Kenshin, throwing him through the air and allowing Orpheus to shoot his defenseless form several times as he fell to the ground.

    Extremus ran forward, exploding into a wild flurry of attacks. Orpheus was stunned momentarily, but quickly answered the assault with a powerful blast to the chest, causing the mighty elf to drop to a knee in pain as he absorbed several hundred thousand volts through his body. Extremus went down for a moment, but Ka’al stepped up to make the save. He unloaded punches and kicks against the machine, but unfortunately this just made it shift its attention over to him.

    “Ah shit…” muttered Ka’al as he received a brutal clubbing blow to the head that sent him flying through the air, catching several fireballs with his body as he did.

    “Hey ugly,” shouted Ender as the machine prepared to run after Ka’al. Orpheus turned to face him. “So I was right, you are Atlantean, well then that’s going to make me enjoy taking you apart that much more!”

    Ender drove forward, the wind seeming to bend around him as he did, allowing him to drive his spear into the machine with wild force. Orpheus slid back, and then was toppled when Extremus rose and struck it against its main frame. Orpheus slowly got back up to a vertical base, and then assessed its situation. Ender and Extremus were the strongest members of this squad, and what’s more, Ender recognized its place of origin, meaning he could very well know how to beat him. He had to act fast if he wanted to continue to live.

    Orpheus showered the two in blasts, mixing fire and lightning, then rushed forward, landing a brutal blow to the stomach of Extremus before he managed to raise his sword. Orpheus then stepped out around Extremus just as Ender moved to face him, the machine kept the older elf as a shield before Ender got close enough to absorb its chain lightning. Ender growled in pain as Extremus went down, then ate a ball of flame himself, sending the last of this squad crumbling to the ground.

    Orpheus looked upon its work only briefly before leaving again. The town guards arrived minutes later, stunned that the last squad of the defense force had been taken out so easily. The entire team was injured, and judging by the severity of the wounds, now only a small fraction of the overall team would be able to function as defenders of the city. This was bad, Mad Jake had the entire city in his front pocket, and he was just getting started.
     
  6. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 5: Lackluster Return

    Crusader winced slightly as he tested the extent of the damage his body still had. He was sore everywhere, but he’d still be more than the vast majority of threats could handle. Unfortunately it only made it more likely that if Jake decided to attack today he’d be more than Cru could handle. Of the entire team not many of the fighters were in good enough condition to handle the rigors of combat. At this point it was down to himself, Sen, Kakashi, Sevi, Extremus, and Ender. Everyone else was currently in the library searching desperately for some kind of clues to beat this model of Golem, their search narrowed only by its Atlantean origin.

    Jake had been under the radar for over a week now, a rare move for Jake allowing his enemies to recover. He was clearly up to something, but the duties of the defense force meant that they had to continue patrols even in their current battered state. Luckily there was some activity that immediately caught their attention. There was a robbery going on at a well-known jewel shop, a more traditional act from Jake than what they’d been seeing from his random assaults this last month.

    Sen and Cru immediately went to go face the problem, knowing that the other four had to serve as reserves under present circumstances. They didn’t speak as they rushed to the scene atop the backs of their horses; they were focused on forming their own game plans on how they planned to face this machine. As expected they arrived and were greeted by Orpheus alone, with a massive sack of gems on his back.

    The horses fled as soon as they dismounted, not a bad idea as Cru and Sen drew their weapons and tried to brace themselves for combat. The pair drew their weapons and slowly came forward, Orpheus let out a sound like laughter before shooting a blast of lightning at them. The pair immediately separated to avoid both being fried, and each got out of the area of effect as a result. They closed in easily and each came in for an attack on the machine.

    Orpheus dashed to the side; pummeling Cru as he did then blasted Sen with a massive ball of flame. Orpheus then rushed in and kicked the downed Sen in the chest. Cru rose and rammed his shoulder into the back of the golem, causing it to stumble. “You alright?” he asked.

    “I’ve been a lot better,” muttered Sen as she got up.

    The machine seemed to get bored with the conflict at this point and opened up a wall of flames to keep the pair at bay before fleeing, easily able to outrun the pair with the gems still in toe. Crusader and Sen watched the machine as it left them; looks of depression and exhaustion marked their face. Jake was running them ragged with just one machine, the entire team was injured, and the machine was still in perfect condition; they were in trouble.

    “Jeez are you guys alright?” came a voice of a young human with a headband and light armor. Sen grinned as he appeared; Sen had seen him a few weeks earlier around the first time Orpheus struck. He’d been the one riding with Met, he’d called himself The Dack, but she knew better, she’d recognized him without that stupid mask.

    “What the hell are you doing out here? Can’t you see it’s a war zone?” Crusader roared.

    “Cru chill, he’s a friend, and a fighter,” said Sen.

    “Is he now? Well then we could use the help, what’s your name?” Crusader demanded.

    “Don’t you recognize him Cru? You hunted him for months, isn’t that right Holy Avenger?” said Sen with a grin.

    “Well, actually, I’m going by Shogun now,” Shogun replied.

    “Whatever, I can book you or you can join later, right now we need to get to the station,” said Cru as he ran off.

    “Welcome to the team,” said Sen as she and Shogun followed.

    “Looks like I missed a lot in the last month,” said Shogun, taking one last glance back to survey the damage from the brief encounter.

    “You have no idea,” said Sen. “That thing’s been kicking our asses every time it’s showed up, most of the team is out of fighting shape.”

    “How many are left?” asked Shogun.

    “Six,” said Sen. “But I guess seven with you here now.”

    “Sounds like fun,” said Shogun. After that they didn’t speak much until they reached the library, where Extremus was waiting to greet them.

    “How’d it go?” asked the old elf.

    “How’s it been going?” growled Cru.

    “I see, who’s the new guy?” asked Extremus.

    “He was the Avenger,” said Sen.

    “He’s going to be joining the team if he knows what’s good for him,” said Cru.

    “Is that so?” said Extremus. “Well Avenger, what’ll it be?”

    “I’m in I guess, I got what I needed to do done,” said Shogun. “And by the way, the name’s I. R. Shogun, no need to hide my face anymore.”

    “So you were a Shogun after all,” said Extremus stroking his beard. “Well, if you live up to the family reputation you’ll be a welcome addition to the team. Once things are back to normal you’ll be on Cru’s squad. For now you’ll be teaming with Ender Zero.”

    “Sounds good to me,” said Shogun. “Where’s he at?”

    “Everyone’s in here,” said Extremus as he led them inside. The team was all assembled and in various degrees of bandages. “Team say hello to our newest member, I. R. Shogun.”

    “I. R., about time you showed up,” said Ender, immediately moving to shake his friend’s hand. “Things are getting to remind me of the old days in a bad way.”

    “Something bad about the old days eh? Well I guess that’s bound to happen when you’re reminded of a full time war,” said Shogun.

    “By the way, you can stop wondering about the Avenger, you’re looking at him now,” said Crusader.

    “He’s?” said Sevi in a stunned voice, no one contradicted Cru, and so in a flash she ran up and tackled Shogun to the ground with a tight hug. “Avenger!”

    “Heh, Hi Sev…” said Shogun, returning her hug though with less zeal.

    Sevi suddenly reared back and slapped him across the face, “Don’t ever make me worry like that again!”

    Everyone stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, but Shogun couldn’t help but smile. “Dually noted,” he said after a moment of silence in the room.

    “It’s about time you got rid of that silly outfit I. R.,” said Liv. “I was getting tired of calling you Holy.”

    “I find that hard to believe Liv, everyone loves a superhero,” said Shogun as he and Sevi sat up.

    “I wouldn’t say everyone,” said Ender. “Unless you include me, I am pretty fantastic.”

    “Not the word I’d use, but then again I dunno about super for this one either,” said Sen with a grin.

    “Be easy on them Sen, not everyone can be as perfect as me,” said Dragn.

    “Maybe not, but I’ll be you can’t whoop me,” said Shogun as he stood and helped Sevi up. Everyone shared a small laugh, Shogun’s presence seeming to lighten the mood after all of the defeats they’d endured recently.
     
  7. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 6: Jake Strikes

    Shogun and Ender sat atop the high bell tower of the first church of LotRinism. They were the team on patrol, but on the advice of Crusader all teams were on full alert, and ready to move from the library once a signal was sent out. Shogun and Ender weren’t bothering to patrol, the only crimes that had been committed that were worthy of Defense Force attention since the Orpheus appeared had been perpetrated by the golem, and they had a feeling that until Jake’s toy was put away it would remain that way.

    “Kind of reminds me of the old days,” said Shogun. “Waiting for patrols from enemy armies when there were rumors of Siege Golems around.”

    “This thing doesn’t have the same kick to it as a siege golem, but it’s a hell of a lot faster,” said Ender. “Trying to keep up with it was like trying to keep track of a cavalier that knew how to handle their steed damn well.”

    “So it was a new model then?” asked Shogun.

    “Yeah, as far as I know we never came across anything like it back in the old days, it’s fast, hard hitting, and it’s smarter than any golem I’ve ever come across,” said Ender.

    “Well let’s think, there’s got to be something about it that it couldn’t cope with,” said Shogun. “It doesn’t hit like a siege golem, and it’s a lot faster, so it’s safe to assume it’s not as sturdy. Maybe you guys just haven’t been hitting it hard enough.”

    “It would help if it held still long enough for us to hit it in general,” said Ender.

    “Hmm, it doesn’t have to stop moving to fire then?” said Shogun.

    “Nah, it’s like the opposite of a Siege Golem, you could get up and fight the Siege Golems and pick them apart by keeping out of its line of site, this thing’s too fast for that,” said Ender. “It’s always moving.”

    “Then that’s got to be it, we have to force it to hold still, or just cut off the number of ways it can move,” said Shogun.

    “Easier said than done,” said Ender.

    “If it was easy anyone could do it, there’s a reason we’re on the Defense Force, we can do the impossible,” said Shogun.

    “Ever the optimist,” said Ender with a sarcastic chuckle.

    “When you’re a Shogun it’s easy,” said Shogun with a grin. Suddenly the ground rumbled and smoke became quickly visible from the library.

    “Looks like we didn’t need the flares after all,” said Ender.

    “Good, I was kind of hoping to be the one to make the save anyway,” said Shogun.

    “Is that cowardice I’m sensing?” asked Ender as they both leapt from the rooftop and began to make their way back.

    “Not that so much as the desire to make an entrance,” said Shogun.

    “Ah, my mistake then,” said Ender.

    “Well duh, it couldn’t be mine after all,” said Shogun.

    “Of coarse,” said Ender, both of them sharing a laugh as they continued toward the library.

    Their arrival confirmed their initial thoughts; it was Jake and his machine, which was now engaged in a heavy crossfire with the Defense Force. Ender and Shogun quickly jumped into the fray, leaving Jake and his three personal guards free to do as they pleased. The explosion had been caused by a set of charges that he’d planted at the base of one wall, effectively causing it to cease to exist in a matter of seconds. Jake spent only a moment watching his machine battle against the defenders, by now it had served its purpose for the most part.

    Jake entered the library, knowing that only one obstacle stood in his way now, the librarian, Olivia the Lamb. “Well Liv, what a wonderful surprise, you’re looking lovely as ever,” said Jake.

    “Is there a reason you’ve lost the will to keep on living Jake? Or did you just get bored with it?” asked Liv.

    “So harsh, but you do speak a bit of truth, I would have to be a fool to attack the library without a plan to counteract your strength within this place in place, luckily…” said Jake as another set of charges went off, revealing in the distance something faintly visible hanging from a rooftop a few blocks away.

    “What the hell?” said Liv before the realization of what it was sank in. Liadan, who hadn’t made it to the morning’s meeting, hung from a thin cord high above Murder Row, her life literally hanging by a thread. “You bastard…” she said, her hand tightening into a fist.

    “Ah ah, immediate action is necessary, by my calculations if you leave now and move as quickly as you are able, you’ll be able to save her, or you could stay here and trounce me, knowing that her blood is on your hands,” Jake didn’t wait for her response. There weren’t many people that Liv would leave the library unguarded for; Liadan was on that short list. Jake didn’t have to worry about Liv putting this place before the life of a friend, at least not in this case. With Liv gone the rest of the warriors in the library were still too injured to face his henchmen, meaning he had free reign. “Now, you know what we’re here for, let’s get to it.”

    Outside the fight wasn’t looking much better for the defenders than it had in the past. It was hard for them to get close enough to take a swing at the machine, let alone one that could do any substantial damage. The machine kept them all at bay, making extensive use of its cannon, but it knew that in these numbers they would eventually overwhelm it, meaning it had to start taking the team apart.

    It first selected the ninja, Sevi and Kakashi. As far as it could tell they were the only ones with reliable long-range capabilities, meaning that at the moment they were the greatest threat. When they passed near Sen the opportunity only became that much sweeter. They didn’t have time to react as the barrel of the cannon let out a high pitched whine, then fired a blast of lightning that struck the three of them, bouncing between the trio even as each was initially hit with a single stream. The force of the blast was more intense than any they’d felt it fire before, they fell.

    “Sen? SEN!” shouted Crusader as he quickly went to the side of the warrior woman. She was out like a light, and her pulse was fading. “Captain, you and those two idiots get her and the ninja out of here, I’m taking care of this myself!” he shouted, then without waiting for a reply rushed the machine head on.

    “Is he insane?” said Ender as he rolled to evade a blast of flame from the machine.

    “No, he’s mad,” said Extremus. “He’s likely to get himself into trouble, stay here, I’ll take care of these three…” Extremus took the three onto his shoulders and quickly vanished from sight.

    “Well, piss,” said Shogun, watching as Crusader struggled in a battle of strength against the machine, one that he was quickly losing, but in that struggle Shogun noticed something very important. “Get its attention as soon as the grapple breaks, I’ve got a plan…”

    “That’s a new one,” said Ender as his weight shifted, getting ready to move.

    “Yeah well, new city, new start,” said Shogun.

    “For your sake you damn well better hope that this idea will work,” said Ender.

    “You too, because I’d say it’s got about a fifty-fifty shot,” said Shogun.

    “Well, it’s been fun,” said Ender.

    “Here’s to many more in the next life,” said Shogun.

    “And the many after that,” said Ender as a smile came across both of their faces.
     
  8. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 7: Golem Down, Vengeance Born

    “You ready?” asked Shogun as the grapple between Crusader and the machine now rapidly approached its end.

    “As I’m gonna get,” said Ender as the golem managed to push Crusader back, then blasted him several feet away with a quick burst of its cannon.

    “Go!” said Shogun as he rapidly untied his headband and held back, waiting for Ender to rush forward.

    Ender’s blade staff whirled as he engaged the golem. He didn’t dare try to match its strength, the machine was far too powerful for the young elf, but he had something better in mind. The machine was fast, but Ender could make himself fast enough to adapt. He focused as he closed in; all at once the world around him seemed to take on many shades of gray, slowing its pace as it did. Ender’s body moved no faster than it had, but his mind, his mind was racing at speeds that were beyond that of a normal brain. This was the first irreplaceable technique of the temple he studied at in his youth, Supreme Clarity.

    The golem swung its massive arm, moving fast even for this state of mind, but not fast enough to bother Ender. The elf was able to react well in advance, ducking under the blow and driving a blade into the machine’s chest. Orpheus roared its anger and swung its fist down, but Ender knew what it planned even before it had planned it. He pulled his blade staff apart into two weapons and side stepped the crushing blow. His second blade was planted now in its back with enough force to make the hearty warrior grunt, and the machine roar yet again.

    The golem spun now, its body moving faster as the effects of Supreme Clarity wore off, he could only hold it for a few moments; he had to trust his other talents at this point. Orpheus growled and sent a blast of flame Ender’s way. The elf evaded with ease, the cannon still wasn’t at full power yet, and by the fact that it was still standing Shogun needed a little more time, and Ender had just one sure fire way to give him that. Ender spun to evade a swing from the mechanical beast, retrieving a blade as he did, the air growing hotter in the process. Another spin retrieved his other blade as the air grew hotter still, finally a third spin ignited the air around him even as his blades met the steely hide of the machine once more, the force of the overall attack knocking the machine off balance.

    “Red, RED, FIRE SPIN!” Ender growled as the attack came to an end and the flames dissipated.

    Orpheus growled as it stood, aiming its cannon at the elf. The weapon whined loudly as it gathered a powerful shot, but as the time for release came it jammed, unable to sustain the pure power demanded of it now. Suddenly there was a blinding black streak that whirled around the machine, and then tightened, holding it in position to the shock of the golem, and even to the warrior who held one end. “Glad that worked out as well here as it did in my head…” muttered Shogun as he tightened his grip on the headband and wrapped part of it around a sturdy lighting pole in the ground.

    “That was your plan? Tie it up?!” said Ender.

    “It’s working isn’t it?” Shogun shouted back when suddenly Cru reappeared, sword held high.

    “Honor begets justice, the wicked shall be purged!” Crusader yelled as he brought the blade down. The weapon tore through the machine’s armor for a moment before coming to a halt around its center, followed by a wild jolt of electricity that tore through Crusader’s body for a moment before he was able to let go of his dread blade. Orpheus roared in anger, then shifted its weight wildly, and with such force that Shogun lost his footing and flew toward the machine, which freed itself rapidly and kicked him hard through the air.

    Shogun hit the ground with a heavy thud, but Crusader and Ender had no time to worry about it. The machine rushed forward, burying its fist in the chest of Crusader’s armor, denting the plate to the point where he felt the power of its punch go right to his heart. Orpheus shifted and smashed its cannon into the side of Ender, sending him skidding away. The machine roared, but this was cut short by Crusader, who grabbed his sword, still embedded in the golem, lifted the machine up using the weapon, then slammed him to the earth in a modified version of his Ashen Gauntlet.

    Orpheus rumbled against the ground, quickly standing and pummeling Crusader with a series of blows that finally forced him to release his sword and be pushed back. Shogun had gotten back to his feet by now and stood ready. When Crusader was flung away his hands lit up with power as he pushed his energy to his palms, then released it in a powerful Shogun Shot. Orpheus rushed Shogun, easily evading the blast, then took a swing for Shogun. Shogun ducked under the punch, then buried his heel into the ‘chin’ of the machine, even managing to lift it slightly before it recovered and with a back handed swing sent him crashing through a wall.

    Now Ender took the fight to the machine again, coming in at a low angle, forcing all of his weight into a single powerful swing against the machine’s thin leg, managing to break through its armor and bring it crashing to the ground. Orpheus swung on the way down, catching Ender under the chin and sending him tumbling through the air. Crusader returned to the fight now, using his Shatter stomp to fling the golem back a few feet, then catching it in mid flight by the arm, twisting and slamming the machine hard into the ground. Orpheus writhed on the ground before working itself into a position to strike Crusader again, a hard blow to the knee that made him crumble, then the machine grabbed his face and hurled him, away.

    The three fighters gathered just outside of the machine’s range to discuss their strategy from here, “Why doesn’t it use that cannon anymore?” asked Crusader.

    “It’s burned out,” said Ender, “It tried to blast me but the gun just stopped working.”

    “Plus I think when it shocked you all the energy it could afford to shoot with went out,” said Shogun.

    “So then it’s just punching itself out now?” asked Cru.

    “More or less, most golems from the flying city have massive valves to release steam from the engines, and are a lot bigger to allow for easier repairs, looks like this model was designed to be a shock weapon and then get taken out once it ran out of juice,” said Ender.

    “Then why bother to buy it?” asked Shogun.

    “Because Jake must have had something in mind that wouldn’t take too long,” said Crusader with grim realization in his voice. As he began to run into the library he shouted back “You two stay here, make sure it runs out of energy, I have to get inside…”

    Shogun and Ender were about to follow, then decided against it, there was a strange feeling in the air, one that told them that they didn’t have any reason at all to enter the library…

    ****************************************

    In the library…

    It didn’t take long for Jake and his men to find what they were looking for. It was a single volume, contained in a special room, not in the forbidden library, but close enough that one could still feel the chills from that awful place. The book was bound in a type of leather that was not of the earth, but beyond, and its mere touch seemed to scream of malice. Jake’s hands fell upon it with glee, “At last, at long last the time has come…”

    Jake turned and held the book high, “Look upon the fruits of my ultimate conquest!”

    But there was no one there. His men had vanished, but to where? There was certainly something amiss.

    “Where are you, get in here!” Jake demanded.

    Mad Jake, you are hardly in a position to command anyone. Even now your golem is in its last throws, and your men are no more. But I must thank you for awakening me from my long slumber. It is time that I show the world the order that it so needs. And I will start by punishing you for trespassing in this sacred chamber of the library! said a voice that forced its way into his mind, seeming to be made of nothingness, the heart of the void…

    “Who’s there? Show yourself!” Jake demanded as authoritatively as he could. Suddenly the lights went out.

    As you wish… said the voice again before the room was illuminated in green light. From the outside only Jake’s screams of horror could be heard.
     
  9. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 8: The Guardian and the Verse

    Crusader rushed through the halls of the library, there was only one book that he could think of that Jake would be interested in if he’d gone to all of this trouble. If that man got control of the volume he was after it could very well mean the end of TFF as a whole, and eventually perhaps even the entire world. He couldn’t let that happen, he would break Jake and all of his cronies apart if he had to, he would not let evil win. But there was something that stopped him. In the far corner of the library a brilliant green light appeared, then suddenly washed over the entire building. Try as he might Crusader couldn’t hold his ground, and the sheer force of the attack took him off his feet and flung him like a rag doll through the air.

    Crusader’s body crashed through shelf, book and earth as he landed, the force of whatever had happened flinging him like a modest pebble across a lake. He struggled to stand, the attack had managed to disorient him enough to make this an arduous task, but he managed. That was when a voice entered his mind that made even his stony heart skip a beat. Crusader, you are a guardian of this land, and yet you hold all of its people in the grips of contempt. You refuse to accept that the ancient Extremus is your superior despite his proving to the fact. Even now I can see in your heart the desire for calamity. You are a great deceiver, and so you must be punished.

    Crusader instinctively rolled to the side as a being made of fire and steel crashed down next to him, shooting out a wave of power as it did. The creature was almost skeletal in appearance, though it appeared almost like a strange and stylized suit of armor as well. It was held together with a living green flame. The creature twirled and twisted as it rose, almost seeming to dance as it stood. It faced Crusader as if he would be awestruck; instead it found itself on the receiving end of a powerful punch to the face, followed by a knee to the stomach and a mighty throw. The creature stopped itself midair, then raised its hand. Numerous eyes appeared in the air, all glowing green before they began to fire blast after blast at the warrior.

    Crusader hurriedly rolled to the side, cursing himself for not bringing his sword with him, he would have to make due with something else. His hands closed around one of the tables that patrons used for reading before checkouts, it would have to do. Crusader flung the table with all of his might, but before it could strike the creature the things body flared and the table vanished into nothingness. Do not attempt to escape judgment; you will be punished for every treasonous thought. the thing said again within his mind.

    “Better beasts than you have tried to beat me, and none have ever succeeded, what makes you think you’re different?” Cru growled.

    I am judgment, I am vengeance, I am justice. Justice will always triumph, especially when it is powered by the might of the library. the thing answered him as more and more of the eyes appeared.

    “Judgment? Vengeance?! JUSTICE?! I’LL SHOW YOU JUSTICE! I’LL SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE!” Crusader roared as he leapt into the air, tearing through the eyes before crashing into the creature itself and seizing it by the throat, then powering them both down to the library floor. As they hit the ground Crusader smashed his massive fists again and again into the head of the creature, an animal rage seeming to come over him, stunning the creature for but a moment before dozens of the eyes blasted his exposed back again and again, forcing him off of the being who rose and began to trade powerful punches with Crusader. Eventually Cru grew tired of waiting to wear the thing down with punches, and resorted to grabbing it by the back of the head and slamming it again and again into the ground.

    Soon the creature forced itself loose then blasted Crusader back with a tremendous wall of flame. Crusader fell but quickly flung himself back to his feet and charged again. The creature waited for him, then rolled back and used Cru’s own force to hurl him into more bookshelves. Crusader shook off the pain and charged again, but this time as the creature attempted to roll back he grabbed hold of its ankle and through sheer brute force smashed it into the ground behind him.

    The creature rose once more, but it didn’t attack. Something’s wrong… he heard it say in his mind. Mighty though you are, when in the library I am a force of nature… only one being has more strength than me in these walls…

    “And she happens to be a friend of Crusader’s,” came a voice that Cru knew all too well. They both turned to face Liv and Liadan. Liv was visibly furious, though Liadan looked more stunned than anything else. Liv turned to look at the creature, “Who the hell are you and what the hell are you doing here?!”

    The creature bowed low to Liv. I am Sorillon, guardian of this place, put here by your mother to act as a great protector in the age when the library and the land would need it most.

    Liv’s face went from one of anger to one of shock and something else that Crusader couldn’t place. “My mother…” she whispered slightly.

    Cru saw that she needed a moment to recover her composure, he knew how to give it to her, “Shogun, Ender, you can get in here now.” The pair quickly did as requested; both studied the being called Sorillon in wonder before Cru spoke again, “The golem stopped moving right?”

    “Yeah right after you left,” said Ender.

    “Alright, Sorillon, how many pieces did you leave Jake in?” asked Cru.

    Just one. He is still very much alive, but also very much afraid. There will be no need for your men to recover him, he will not go anywhere before the town guards arGRAHHH!!! said Sorillon as it suddenly fell to its knees.

    “What?” Crusader said aloud.

    The book… it’s… no… Sorillon muttered as it slowly fell unconscious.

    “The book?” Shogun said.

    “No…” Crusader said as he and Liv both began a mad dash to the back of the library. Shogun, Ender, and Liadan all wordlessly followed. Soon they arrived at the area where Mad Jake, still muttering incoherently as he rocked himself against the wall, had encountered Sorillon. Upon the pedestal where one particular book was supposed to rest there was nothing.

    “Where is it!?!?!” Cru roared as he lifted Jake high into the air, causing the villain to scream wildly.

    “Cru enough!” Shogun yelled.

    “Do you know what this could mean?!” Cru demanded.

    “Yes,” answered Shogun. “I learned a lot beneath that mask.”

    “Then you know we have to find out where that book is!” Cru insisted.

    “Intimidating a man already in the grip of terror won’t get us any results,” said Shogun.

    Cru slowly lowered Jake, before anyone could do anything Liv stared the villain in the eye and spoke, “Who took the book?”

    “S-s-s-s-s-suuupeerrr…” Jake could only manage this word in a voice that was hardly above a whisper before he collapsed into unconsciousness.

    “You don’t think…” Liadan said.

    “Then it’s true,” said Crusader. “The Count is gone, everyone go ahead and go home. Tomorrow we’ll deal with this, right now I think we all need a rest, and I need to talk with the captain about what we’re doing from here…”

    Everyone slowly did as told, Liadan, Shogun and Ender made their way back to the front of the library when Liadan asked the question on hers and Ender’s mind. “Shogun, you said you knew what was going on, what book was taken?” she asked.

    “It’s called The Verse of the King. It was written by Mageking365, and it’s the first step towards bringing him back to life,” said Shogun.

    “Mageking?” said Ender, unaware of TFF lore.

    “He’s real?” said Liadan, a hint of fear in her voice.

    “Yeah, and if whatever got that book was strong enough to knock out a guardian of this place, then this is going to be trouble,” said Shogun.
     
  10. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 9: Back to Normal

    It had been two days since they’d finally managed to bring down the Orpheus golem. Mad Jake was in Pollsburg prison, the team had a new pseudo member in the spirit Sorillon, who even outside of the library was a potent warrior, it seemed like things were getting back to normal. Normal in that the city was back in general order, unfortunately the Defense Force was hardly able to make such a claim. Most of the team was still injured and wouldn’t be back in fighting form for a few days, even with LoS running herself ragged with healing spells.

    Ender sat atop the roof of Liv’s library, only the librarian herself keeping him company. They hadn’t spoken much in the last month for various reasons. They’d had a bit of a spat not long after Shogun had left the city, though the rift between them was healing well enough. As they sat atop the building Liv sat quietly sewing something, while Ender looked lazily out upon the city. It was moments like this that almost made all the hardship from the fighting seem worth it, when the town was calm, even despite what had happened at the end of that confrontation that had everyone worried. Ender liked moments like this, but he wanted to know more about The Verse of the King, and he was curious as to why Shogun had known about it, it didn’t seem like even a Holy Avenger would happen upon that knowledge by chance.

    “So Liv, I was kind of wondering…” he started.

    “About the book?” asked Liv.

    “Sort of yeah, but more about Shogun, why did you tell him when so few of the people that have been on the force for a while know nothing about it?” asked Ender.

    “I didn’t tell him,” said Liv.

    “Then how does he know about it?” asked Ender.

    “I don’t know honestly, but when he was the Holy Avenger he was always wandering around in the library because it was big and had a lot of places to hide, he might have gotten a little information from doing that, but I think him being a Shogun is more likely the answer,” said Liv.

    “What does him being a Shogun have to do with it?” asked Ender.

    “You’ve never talked to him about his family have you?” Liv said with a smile.

    “Not really no, we were usually always on other topics,” said Ender.

    “Well, the Shogun Clan as a whole are bred to be warriors, and really good ones at that,” said Liv. “And part of them being warriors, is that with rare exceptions they use their skills to defend people from all over the world at all costs. They’ve been doing this for a long time now, since they were freed from the influence of the Devil Bear, that thing he turned into before he left. They started acting as protectors to redeem their clan name. To help with that they teach all of their warrior class about the great evils that have threatened the world over the ages. Shogun learned about the region that he would be tasked with protecting when he came of age, and that was TFF. Mageking being one of our worst villains ever, he learned all about him. I’m not sure how he knew about the book in particular, but he might have read about it in the Shogun library.”

    Ender pondered this for a moment; it reminded him a lot of the temple where he trained for so much of his life. But it seemed to him that the temple had been a lot more restrictive than the way Liv described the Shogun temple. It amazed him that he knew Shogun for so long but he still didn’t know that much about his family, although he supposed in all honesty Shogun didn’t know much about his family, his deepest secrets, either. “So that brings up another question, why would the Count want to bring back this MageKing guy?” asked Ender.

    “If he’s as evil as he implied before he left then it probably has something to do with MageKing’s power. At his peak he was able to crush a mountain with a snap of his wrist,” said Liv.

    “And that’s what we’ll have to deal with?” asked Ender.

    “He won’t be at that level unless we let him stay around for at least a year,” said Liv. “But he’ll still be plenty of trouble.”

    “Just the way I like it,” said Ender.

    **************************************

    Sevi exited the library with a heavy sigh, the damage from the golem’s attack hadn’t done much to her, Kakashi, and Sen, but it had taken them out of the fight. She wanted to help out in that battle, she’d wanted to help the Avenger… or she guessed he said to call him Shogun now. He’d come to see her almost everyday in the infirmary, she thought he must have done that for almost everyone, they were all his friends after all, but it still meant a lot to her that he’d been there to visit, he was the only one who’d made sure to be there everyday. It seemed like ever since he’d recruited her and Kakashi he’d always been the one helping her, she wanted to return the favor, she swore that next time she would.

    “Sevi, wait up!” called a voice from behind her. She turned, it was Kakashi, he’d just gotten out of the infirmary too, and she didn’t know why she hadn’t waited for him. They were partners for such a long time, she was used to waiting for him, apparently she was more affected by that battle than she’d realized.

    “Oh, sorry,” said Sevi.

    “No need to apologize, I was eager to get out of there too,” said Kakashi with a soft smile. “It sucks that we’re still not going to be cleared to fight for a week though.”

    “Yeah, I want to get back to fighting bad guys,” said Sevi.

    “Me too, but I guess it’s for the best, Crusader said he wouldn’t have let us fight for a while anyway even if we had been cleared,” said Kakashi.

    “Hmm, let’s do it anyway!” said Sevi with a grin finally coming across her face.

    “Wha?” said Kakashi.

    “Yeah, we’re ninja after all, we’re good at being sneaky! We don’t have to fight super badguys, but we can still help the town guards out!” said Sevi.

    “I’m not sure how much I like that idea,” said Kakashi.

    “Me neither,” came a voice from ahead of them. They turned and were met with the sight of Sen who’d gotten out a few minutes before either of them. “If I’m not fighting for a week then neither are you two.”

    “But Seeeeeeeeeeen,” Sevi whined.

    “No buts,” said Sen, turning her head to the side with a wild grin and closed eyes. “But this week doesn’t have to be entirely wasted.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Sevi.

    “Probably something bad…” said Kakashi.

    “Well, Dragn and Ros are the only ones besides us who haven’t been cleared to fight again yet,” said Sen, glancing again at the pair now. “And they’ve both been talking about some special cross training since we can’t go in the field.”

    “Cross training?” asked Kakashi.

    “You know, magic steel and hand to hand,” said Sen. “We’ve all got a few tricks that could help each other out. Just because we can’t fight doesn’t mean we can’t train right?”

    “Yeah!” said Sevi.

    “I guess that makes sense,” said Kakashi.

    “That’s such a cool idea Sen!” said Sevi.

    “Glad to know you guys are in, now come on, we’ve got training to do,” said Sen, quickly turning and going into a run which the other two soon followed.

    ******************************************

    “How is it that you do it?” asked Alchemist as he and Shogun sat in the main room of the Defense Force Headquarters.

    “Do what?” asked Shogun.

    “I watched you fighting when you were still the Avenger, you looked like you enjoyed yourself, and yet your dark side, that thing inside you, you never seem like you have trouble controlling it except for that one time,” said Alchemist.

    “Well, I’m a Shogun, fighting’s in my blood,” answered Shogun. “It’s what we were bread to do, we fight for justice, for the most part at least.”

    “But don’t you ever worry about that thing in you, that it might become too strong?” asked Alchemist.

    “Not really,” said Shogun. “For a while it’ll only be able to get loose under extreme conditions, then I commute home for the purifying ritual to seal it, and things go from there. My whole life has been dedicated to controlling it, and even when I do worry, I know things will be alright.”

    “How?” asked Alchemist.

    “I dunno, I just have this feeling ya know?” said Shogun with a big goofy smile.

    “But Herald, his other is nearly as powerful as yours, and he’s had a lot longer to learn control, but he still struggles with it every day,” said Alchemist.

    “Well, it’s a different type of spirit you see,” said Shogun. “And he’s been learning alone. My clan, most of us at least, has been plagued by this for generations. So there are techniques to control the bear that we’ve learned that maybe wouldn’t work on the Phoenix.”

    “Interesting,” said Alchemist. “Does everyone in your clan like fighting?”

    “Some of us do, some of us don’t,” said Shogun. “That’s true even among the warrior class of the clan.”

    “So you’re not just an army of brawlers?” asked Alchemist.

    “I think we were back when the bear was dominant in our behavior, but we’re a lot different than then,” said Shogun.

    “Hmm, how is it that you still enjoy fighting, knowing what it’s done all through history? The terrible things it’s caused?” asked Alchemist.

    “Well, fighting has done a lot of bad, but could we really get rid of it without fighting in turn?” asked Shogun. “As nice as it sounds peace can never fully quell violence, it’s the nature of all the ‘civilized’ races that you need to have a mix of both to protect the innocent. Personally I like fighting because it lets me find out a lot about myself, and it shows what kind of person the opponent is.”

    “Even if the opponent is in your own head?” asked Alchemist.

    “Especially then” said Shogun. “Now I want to ask you something.”

    “Go ahead,” said Alchemist.

    “When I you in the eye, you always seem so sad,” said Shogun. “Why is that?”
     
  11. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 10: Toughening and Training

    “It shouldn’t have been this hard,” said Crusader leaning close to Extremus’ desk.

    “Of coarse it shouldn’t have, it should never be as hard as it is for the side of good to triumph,” said Extremus.

    “It shouldn’t have taken Shogun coming here for us to win,” said Cru.

    “You think he’s the one that got us the win?” said Extremus.

    “I don’t think, I know,” said Crusader, “If he hadn’t been there that machine would have killed me and Ender when I charged in.”

    “Well, he’s a soldier from the land where that thing was made, and he and Ender have been partners in battle countless times before,” said Extremus.

    “Why don’t you just say it?” snapped Crusader. “He’s a Shogun, he was born and raised to be a warrior, somehow that makes him entitled to be a hero.”

    “I didn’t say that,” said Extremus. “If being a Shogun meant being a hero the world would be a lot safer because of them. He had experience in fighting golems from Atlantis, he was fresh, he wasn’t compelled by his emotions like you.”

    “And why wasn’t he? Kakashi and Sevi are his friends, they were parts of his team when he was the Avenger, I know he cares about them both, so why was he able to stay in control of himself? Why was he able to stay focused?” asked Crusader.

    “Cru, you’ve always been committed to excellence, ever the perfectionist, you’ve strived to stay in control your entire life,” said Extremus. “Shogun isn’t like you, I’ve spoken to Ender about their experiences in the wars in WK, how many friends they lost, the battles they’d fought, but he told me something else, for Shogun the fight has always been the focus, no matter what’s going on, he always fights for the greater good at any cost. You and Sen almost seem to me like a brother and sister, watching her get hurt, it had to be like reliving that night to you. For him, it was like watching other soldiers get injured, if he lost focus, even for a second, there was a chance he’d lose, and then we’d all have been injured and no good would have come of it.”

    “I really wish I was the type of person who could accept that explanation,” said Crusader.

    “I wish you were too, you could do with a little less ambition, strange as that may sound,” said Extremus. “But you need to stop acting upstaged, you and him are more alike than you are different. There’s a difference in methodology, but you two have the strongest senses of justice of anyone I’ve ever met. I’m not going to be leading this team for too many more years, you’re going to take the reigns, and in all likelihood he’s going to become your right hand man. He’s young, virile, and he never gives up.”

    “You’re awful fond of fairytales aren’t you captain?” asked Crusader.

    “When you’ve seen as many as I have you tend to believe in them,” said Extremus.

    “Maybe he and I are similar, but the issue isn’t similarity, it’s trust. For the first months he was here he pretended to be someone else, and then he showed no concern for anyone when that machine was running amok,” said Crusader.

    “Would you have preferred he’d lost his temper and run in blind like you had?” asked Extremus.

    “I’d have preferred if he’d shown a little compassion for his teammates,” said Crusader.

    “And how many of your team mates have you been worried about on the field?” asked Extremus.

    “That’s not the point…” growled Crusader.

    “Because ultimately you don’t care about them anymore than you claim he does,” said Extremus. “Don’t be so quick to condemn him Crusader, I believe that the two of you need each other, to balance the strengths and weaknesses that exist between the two of you.”

    *****************************************

    Kelmourne, the berserker, the Viking, and in his own mind, the loser. That stupid tin can had handed his ass to him without any kind of trouble, sure it had done the same to the whole team, but he didn’t care, it had trampled his body, and more importantly, shattered his pride. Next time he had to show everyone that he was the toughest bastard on this team, he’d show them all right, no matter what it took. As he looked across the ring in the basement of the library he saw another man bound and determined to prove his skills.

    Ka’al, before Shogun’s team had joined the Defense Force he’d been the youngest and least experienced member of the team, although Extremus said he showed the potential to surpass everyone. He’d spent the early years of his life training in the Masan Temple in the Northern region of TFF. He’d learned techniques there that many deemed suicidal, and not without reason. Few saw the logic in allowing yourself to be hit by an enemy just because you had a chance of redirecting his energy, but Ka’al had shown an early gift for it. As it stood he probably couldn’t beat Shogun or Ender or Dragn or some of the others, but he was confident that with time, someday he’d prove he could beat all of them.

    Are the two of you prepared? came the voice of the spirit Sorillon into their heads.

    “Anytime,” said Kel, cracking his knuckles.

    “Certainly,” said Ka’al.

    Very well, begin! said Sor, a bell ringing as he did.

    Ka’al and Kel rushed forward, Kel swung high, but found that Ka’al easily ducked under the blow, then answered by delivering a hard kick to the chest of the Viking. Kel staggered back, then was dealt a powerful spinning back fist by Ka’al. Kel rushed in again, this time managing to catch the smaller fighter, and then hurled him out of the ring entirely. Ka’al quickly rolled back in and the two squared off, glad to finally have a chance to fight after the weeks Orpheus had put them on the shelf.

    ************************************************

    LoS and Liadan sat in the shade of a tall tree watching the young swordsman practicing his form. Considering they were the only members of the defense that didn’t have a combat role it seemed that the two of them had more to worry about during times of trouble than anyone else. Stitching wounds and making plans, that was how the two of them operated, and during the chaos of the combat they’d had to go for days without sleep to keep everyone alive, it had almost been enough to make them wish they were the bulky meat shields like Crusader, almost.

    “What do you think the next big thing that demands defense force attention will be?” asked Los.

    “Well, there was a book stolen from the library, and Shogun and Liv and Cru were all really worried about it, I think it’ll have something to do with that,” said Liadan.

    “Oh yeah, that,” said Los, sounding profoundly disappointed.

    “You want something more exciting?” asked Liadan.

    “Books and tomes are exciting to people like Dragn,” said Los. “I’m a healer, I’d rather not have to worry about summonings.”

    “Yeah, and I’d rather have a supervillain that didn’t invite the end of days on us,” said Liadan.

    “That’s always a plus too,” said Los.

    “Hey you guys!” yelled Kenshin from in the field.

    “What?” they shouted back together.

    “Are you watching or what?” yelled Kenshin.

    “Yes,” they both answered.

    “You better be, you know I don’t like to practice in front of people, and after all the nagging you guys did I’d be pretty mad if you decided not to!” said Kenshin.

    “We are!” yelled Liadan.

    “Okay, just making sure,” said Kenshin, who then went back to practicing.

    “Why is it that warriors are always so self conscious?” asked Liadan.

    “What’s the point of being a tough guy if no one knows you’re tough I guess,” said Los.

    ******************************************

    “Are you sure about this?” asked Sevi.

    “But of coarse, it’s important that you learn how to use full length swords, daggers and thrown weapons are good, and hand to hand combat is vital, but a ninja, the knight of darkness, like any knight, must know how to handle a sword to some degree. Now, come at me, both of you,” said Rosgwak.

    “Well, you asked for it,” said Kakashi, giving a nod to Sevi as they both rushed forward. They were each armed with the standard ninja blade, the ninja-to, Ros on the other hand was armed with only a single rapier and a stiletto style dagger. Kakashi aimed for a low stabbing attack while Sevi aimed for a powerful downward chop. With a twirl of his sword Ros easily disarmed Kakashi and put the tip of his blade to the ninja’s throat, then misguided Sevi’s sword and disarmed her with his dagger.

    “Now you see, typically even without much skill with swords two fighters should have been able to at least make a lone warrior move, you two have become too dependent on other means. What happens to you Kakashi when your opponent is swift enough to force you to fight too close to use your special techniques and his weapons are too strong to be blocked with your dagger skills? Sevi, what happens when you’re forced to fight someone with more strength than you who can focus on you alone? Swords are by no means the perfect weapons, but in learning to use them you learn many important aspects in controlling your skills, and yourself. Mastery of a weapon with as much character as a sword allows you to explore new means of thought that the people of your village are not used to, they will allow you to heap honor on your home village, raising it back to the point of prosperity it once enjoyed,” said Ros.

    “Not to mention Ros thinks the sword is the most poetic of all weapons,” said Dragn from the corner.

    “I dunno about poetic, but it’s more fun than most other weapons,” said Sen.

    “If it is a crime to appreciate the beauty of a blade then I suppose you should ready a cell next to Jake, as I may soon be joining him,” said Ros.

    “Well I dunno about that, you’re too pretty for prison,” said Sen.

    “If you say so,” said Dragn.

    “Don’t worry Dragn, you’re even more so,” said Sen, rolling her eyes.

    “So why can’t we just get better with our main weapons instead of having to master them and new ones?” asked Kakashi.

    “Because, you might run out of daggers and shuriken, and then what does that leave you with?” came a voice down from upstairs as another entered the basement chamber. “Just the swords you carry on your backs and the hands with which you wield them.”

    “Shogun!” said Sevi as she excitedly ran over and embraced the headband-bearing fighter.

    “Well hey there,” said Shogun with a smile as he returned the hug.

    “I thought you said this was supposed to be special secret training?” said Kakashi.

    “Who better to help with secret training than a secret hero?” asked Sen with a smile.

    “Besides, if not for Shogun, I might not have had this idea,” said Dragn boredly checking his nails.

    “Alas, repeating the idea I say louder hardly makes you the one who originally had it,” said Ros.

    “I beg to differ,” said Dragn with a grin. “Plus, who wants to go along with an idea that someone besides me has?”

    “So if you’re going to teach them how to brawl what am I supposed to do again?” asked Sen.

    “Ros teaches technique, Dragn teaches magic, I teach fist fighting, you teach them how to combine it all and advance their special attacks,” said Shogun with Sevi still hanging onto his neck slightly, not that he was doing much to resist.

    “Wait, then you’re going to teach us things too?!” said Sevi excitedly.

    “Why, you not want me to?” asked Shogun.

    “Noooooooo I do want you too!” said Sevi.

    “Why change the only thing we did when you wore the mask?” asked Kakashi jokingly.

    “Glad we got that taken care of,” muttered Dragn.

    “Jealous much?” asked Sen with a grin.

    “With a face like this I couldn’t be jealous of anyone,” replied Dragn with a grin of his own. “I just think we should get to what they came here for.”

    “Can we eat lunch first?” asked Sevi.

    “We ate lunch an hour ago,” said Kakashi.

    “But not with Shogun!” replied Sevi.

    “She’s got you there,” said Sen.

    “Now, now Sevi my dear, it’s true that eating often and well is important to training, but I’m sure Shogun didn’t come here for a meal,” said Ros.

    “He’s right Sev,” said Shogun, looking down at her as she finally let go of his neck, but still stood in front of him him, bending backwards to see the others behind her, holding Shogun’s wrist for support. “I stopped by to check on how you were all doing and to talk to Dragn about a few things I’ve learned recently.”

    “Okay,” said Sevi with a slight sigh.

    “Don’t worry, I won’t leave until you guys do,” said Shogun.

    “I know,” said Sevi.

    “How’s that?” asked Shogun.

    “Because I got this,” said Sevi as she tied Shogun’s headband around her own head, just above the band of the Hotohige village. Shogun looked at her, not realizing that the other three relative veterans in the room wore the same stunned expression as he did. Everyone save Kakashi.

    “Don’t be so surprised, she is a ninja after all,” said Kakashi with a smile while spinning a dagger on his finger.

    ******************************************

    Alchemist entered the library just as Liv and Ender returned to the main chamber from the roof. He’d left a lot out of his explanation to Shogun, but he knew Shogun had understood plenty of what he had said. Shogun was a few years younger than he was, but he’d been a soldier, he knew about fighting, he knew about atrocity, he knew about regret. But Alchemist knew Shogun didn’t know loss like he did. But he knew even before he’d said that to the younger fighter that Shogun understood it perfectly.

    “Alchemist, how’s it going?” asked Ender.

    Alch put on a smile, as much as he hated the things he’d done in the past, the people in his life then made up for it somewhat, “Nice to see you two, and glad to see the library’s back in good condition!”

    “What did you expect, I couldn’t leave a bunch of big ass holes in it could I?” asked Liv.

    “I guess not,” said Alchemist. “So what are you two up to?”

    “Nothing much, just talking about things,” said Ender. “Glad that most of the team is back in fighting form.”

    “All but one team,” remarked Alchemist sarcastically.

    “Well, at the very least you’ll be working with Cru and Shogun until the rest of your team recovers,” said Liv.

    “Yeah, it’ll be nice to have a group as sturdy as that one,” said Ender.

    “I suppose, but this is going to be another team that I have to get used to working with really fast, I didn’t get much of a chance to get used to everyone before Dragn and the others got taken out of commission,” said Alch.

    “Well, you’ll be at an advantage then,” said Ender. “You’ll know how two teams fight for future reference instead of just one.”

    “And you never can tell when things like that will come in handy,” added Liv.
     
  12. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Busy Work
    Chapter 1: Lessons Learned

    Ros twisted and slid along the ground, every movement seeming like a glorious dance as he circled with his opponent. The kunoichi had shown a great deal of improvement since the training had started, Ros was being forced to use steps he’d almost completely forgotten he knew, but that remained the defining factor when it came to these two. Ros knew the steps on an instinctive basis. When in battle his moves required no thought, he’d trained his body to be able to react naturally, gracefully, with ease. These two were not swordsman, he’d rapidly become aware that they’d never used their swords for any real battles until the moment he’d had them draw the weapons on their first day of training. Still, they were improving.

    Sevi leapt high above his regular thrust, spinning and twisting through the air, the speed and intensity of the movement was impressive, a lesser fighter would be struck for sure, but Ros was not a lesser warrior. He shifted one foot to the side, then transferred his weight over, and shifted his other foot back. As Sevi landed her blade struck where just a moment ago he’d been standing, she then froze when he touched his blade just below her chin, signifying that the round was over.

    “A marvelous performance my dear, but you must remember not to over commit to your attacks. Not every opponent will be a forgiving teacher, only perform attacks such as that when you are sure you have them beat and must move in for the finishing blow,” said Ros as he sheathed his blade and gently helped her back to her feet.

    “I don’t think I’m ever going to be very good with this,” said Sevi looking down at her sword.

    “Now now that’s no way to look at it,” said Ros. “You must keep in mind that you haven’t been trying to learn the sword for very long. All things come in time and with practice. Do you think Crusader learned to fight while in his armor in just a week? Certainly not, he dedicated years of intensive hours of training to mastering his style.”

    Sevi sighed, “I don’t want it to take very long.”

    “No one does,” said Ros with a smile. “But that amount of time only makes it that much sweeter when you achieve success.”

    “Hmmm, I guess you’re right, how much longer do you think Kakashi’s lesson will go on?” asked Sevi.

    “Not very,” said Sen as she entered the chamber. “Shogun really doesn’t pull punches.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Sevi.

    “She means he’s not going easy on Kakashi at all,” said Ros.

    “Oh… can we go see?” asked Sevi.

    “I don’t see why not,” said Sen.

    “Then I guess let’s observe,” said Ros as the three of them moved into the room Sen had come from moments before where Shogun was giving Kakashi his day’s lesson in fist fighting.

    When they entered Kakashi was flipping through the air, planning to bring his heel down against Shogun’s head. Unfortunately for Kakashi, Shogun crouched, then did a flip of his own, connecting his foot to Kakashi’s face and flinging him backwards as his body uncurled and his momentum was suddenly reversed. Kakashi narrowly, almost purely instinctively, managed to catch himself and roll away from Shogun enough to get to his feet, but immediately after he was up his face contorted in pain from the strike. Shogun stepped in and grabbed the hand that Kakashi didn’t put to his face from his stance and pulled, immediately flinging Kakashi and putting him on his back again.

    Shogun placed his foot on Kakashi’s chest, “Enough with the acrobatics. Some is good to confuse and opponent and put them off center, but fighting you is like fighting a dancer, you’re more worried about flair than effect. You need to learn to balance the two, otherwise you’d better get used to this position. Magic and weapons are your forte, but at the end of the day if you’re not ready to fight bare knuckle you’re at a distinct disadvantage.”

    “He’s scary when he talks like that,” said Sevi.

    “He’s channeling his uncle,” said Dragn. “When he teaches things he teaches them the way he was taught, and he was taught that no matter how much you enjoy fighting, it’s life or death, and the training should be at least partly unforgiving.”

    “I know the feeling,” said Sen.

    “The Shoguns never have been introduced to the concept of fighting as a sport have they?” asked Ros.

    “They understand sport fights, and they treat them differently, but when Shoguns train they train for war,” said Sen.

    About this point Shogun and Kakashi came onto the same level as the others. “He’s about ready to finish his training in hand to hand, how about Sevi?” asked Shogun to everyone’s surprise.

    “She’s almost ready to stand on her own, but once she’s finished with these lessons she does need to keep up her practicing,” said Ros.

    “No better training than field work,” said Sen.

    “Not to mention the other phases they still have to go through,” said Dragn.

    “Well yeah,” said Sen with a grin, pushing Dragn’s head to the side alittle.

    “Either way I think that’s enough for the day,” said Shogun. “We should all probably be getting home.”

    “Agreed, same time tomorrow,” said Ros.

    While the teachers were discussing Sevi spoke to Kakashi, “You go ahead and get back to the headquarters the normal way.”

    “What about you?” asked Kakashi.

    “Shhhh! I’ll get there,” said Sevi.

    Kakashi smiled and shook his head, “Alright Sevi, see you back there.”

    Sevi waited for a moment for the four trainers to finish their discussion, then approached Shogun. “I was wondering, could you walk me back to headquarters?” she asked without a hint of worry.

    Shogun smiled, “Sure, I’ll be glad to. Although I think you and Kakashi should both look into finding someplace else to stay. The headquarters is nice for long shifts but it’s not much of a home.”

    “Hmm, maybe, Alchemist was talking about helping us find someplace to stay, do you have any ideas?” asked Sevi as they exited the thread where the training had been occurring.

    “There’s a few nice places here and there,” said Shogun.

    “Do you have any extra room at your place?” said Sevi with a smile.

    “Heh, not much, but there is some,” said Shogun with a grin.

    Sevi giggled, “Just kidding, me and Kakashi will probably find someplace to stay once everything back at the village is all taken care of.”

    “If worst comes to worst you could see about staying with Liv, the private chambers of the library are pretty nice,” said Shogun.

    “Really? You think she’d let us?” asked Sevi.

    “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” said Shogun with a smile. Sevi realized what he meant and returned the grin as the two of them ran toward the library.
     
  13. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 2: Pack Life

    Arelin basked in the warmth of the sun atop the cave that the pack called home. In full beast form she was easily the largest member of the pack, but Wolf said she was still just a pup, and so she didn’t get to have a presence in the pack council meetings. This was alright with Arelin, she remembered sitting near one of them, they were boring, and she preferred to be among the non-lycan wolves if given a choice between that and the workings of pack policy.

    Suddenly she detected a hint of motion that was, out of place in the area. There was something nearby that didn’t belong in the forest. She stood; seeming to be the only one that noticed it, that was good, the fewer that reacted the less likely the intruder was to realize that they were found out. She got down off of the cave, retreating into the brush. She knew the invader didn’t notice her vanish, nor did he suspect her approach, it was all perfect, too perfect. She stopped and diverted her coarse, she wouldn’t be trapped that easy.

    In a few moments she located him, alone, young, human, and by the scent of him he was a fighter. She didn’t see any weapons of particular interest on him, a crossbow, a spear, nothing more, an easy kill, she would save the pack and no one would have to know. She crouched low, her muscles tensing, she eased into the ground, creating a foothold with which to spring forward, then launched, her body becoming her in-between state, giving her the strength of a tiger and the agility of a human, but as she moved she realized something, the hunter didn’t care about the normal wolves, just her and the other lycans.

    Arelin’s body was overcome with pain as a massive log smashed into her side and flung her into the middle of the clearing before the mouth of the cave. She writhed for a moment before getting to her feet and being faced with the hunter. He was a young human, no older than a few moons into his teen years, but he had a wild look in his eye that showed no fear. He grinned as he entered the clearing, “So it’s true what they say about the varmints in these parts, they can be people too…”

    Arelin growled, “What’s it to you human?”

    “Well you see I’m coming off a bad loss, and I heard you critters are pretty tough, so I figured you’d be a good warm-up for when I take on the Holy Avenger again,” said the human as he produced a long chain with heavy weights on the ends.

    “I’m no stepping stone, and neither are the wolves,” said Arelin.

    “We’ll see about that,” said the human as he rushed forward.

    Arelin easily ducked under the initial swing of the weapon, then grabbed the human’s hand to prevent a back swing. Unfortunately the boy had power in his fists as well, and with a hard left forced her to take a hard step back. Arelin staggered, but didn’t fall, instead she let herself fall back slightly, and then shot one foot forward and rattled the human’s ribs with a hard kick. The human threw something down, producing a cloud of smoke that forced Arelin to fall back to avoid an ambush. Once the fumes cleared she rushed the human, but found on one step her foot was caught by the chain, then yanked out from under her, making her tumble to the ground. The human rushed forward and unloaded dozens of punches before she was able to claw open his chest to force him back and stand again.

    “She’s losing,” said Overread within the cave as the lycan wolves observed the battle.

    “Ray’s a pup just like she is, but he’s not to be taken lightly,” said Blackness.

    “Why don’t we help her?” asked Running Wolf.

    “Tigers are solitary hunters and warriors,” said Wolf. “Our Arelin may be a member of this pack, but it’s our duty to make her remember what she really is if she’s to be strong. She must learn to stand on her own feet and fight like her people. A tiger that fights like a wolf will never reach her full potential.”

    “Will that matter if that damn human mauls her to death?” growled OR.

    “He won’t,” said Wolf. “Even if he wins Ray won’t kill her, he knows that we’d kill him in an instant for vengeance, and there’s no one that would return the favor for him. The worst he’ll do is beat her and leave satisfied that he’s not as pathetic as recent losses made him look. And it will fuel Arelin’s species’ natural drive to become stronger. If she wins then Ray will flee and they’ll both get stronger knowing he’ll be back, either way Arelin learns the importance of standing on her own.”

    “I’m not sure I share your confidence,” said RW.

    Arelin reeled from a powerful strike from the chain to the side of her head, this human knew how to use this chain, and very well, immediately after this her hands were bound and she was thrown hard into the ground. She got to her feet quickly, but the human rocked her with a hard kick to the side throwing her down again. She growled as she sprung up off of her hands, delivering a hard kick to the human’s chest and throwing him back. Ray easily recovered and began to circle her with his wicked chain spinning.

    “I’m disappointed, I heard you were a lot of tough beasties,” said Ray with a grin.

    “You haven’t seen anything yet,” growled Arelin. She rushed forward, lashing wildly with her claws, Ray managed to dodge each time, but then felt something grab onto his leg, followed by a vicious slash across his chest before he was freed.

    “What?!” Ray said in shock.

    “I have a tail too idiot,” she growled. Arelin’s tail was unique in that it was able to act like that of a monkey, a rare trait in any lycan, let alone a tiger. Ray got back to his feet, but as he did he was floored as Arelin let out a lout roar that blasted him back. He cringed at the ringing that remained in his ears, allowing Arelin to land a powerful dropkick to his chest, knocking him fully onto his back. Ray managed to retaliate by striking her with a bolt of lightning from his palm, but the compounded damage that the tiger was throwing was rapidly changing the tide of the battle.

    Ray stood, only to receive a hard swipe to the head that staggered him, followed by a kick to the ribs, he needed to act fast to save face. He flung a series of fireballs at the tiger, throwing her off balance and allowing him to throw her once again, and then land a powerful kick to her jaw for good measure before quickly dashing back. The two stood a moment, staring each other down, Ray needed to find a good way to end this, he was almost out of mana, and he was losing blood fast, he couldn’t keep fighting.

    “I think that that will be quite enough,” came the voice of Wolf as she suddenly emerged from the cave. “I don’t need you two pups creating a hazard for the pack. Ray, unless you’d like to be on the night’s menu, I suggest you leave now.”

    Ray hated being told to leave, but for now he was glad to have an opportunity to bow out gracefully. He’d beat the tiger next time now that he knew what she could do, it’d be easy. Eventually he’d even beat fluffy and the other wolf elders, but for now, he needed to rest, tracking the pack had been a lot of work, and the fight hadn’t been too easy either…

    “Next time don’t save your roar,” said Wolf to Arelin. “That’s not a rainy day technique, it’ll be vital to staying alive in the future.”

    “Yes elder, I’m sorry for not being strong enough,” said Arelin with her head hanging.

    “What are you talking about? You won without having more than three battles experience against someone who’s always fighting, you did well,” said Wolf.

    “Won? But, he’d been winning the whole time,” said Arelin.

    “Until you got serious,” said Wolf. “And more importantly, you survived, and so did everyone else. Stop using the human definition of victory, more separates us from them than the way we live. Wolf valor is very different from that of men.”

    “Men have valor?” scoffed OR.

    “Not all men, but enough,” said Wolf in a final tone. “But as I said, theirs is much removed from ours.”

    “I see, thank you elder for your wisdom,” said Arelin.

    “Now get some rest, the hunters will be back soon with the night’s meal,” said Wolf before she retreated back into the cave, ending the conversation with presence alone.
     
  14. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    Chapter 3: Shady Dealers

    Kel wandered downtown Spamopolis, he’d call it a patrol but he’d be lying. The purpose of the Defense Force was meant to stop super crime; regular crimes were to be handled only when a defender was a direct witness, otherwise investigations and the like were left to the town guards. Kel didn’t really care, he was bored, and he wanted something that could keep his interest for more than a few minutes. He’d managed to find his way to the docks, and while Shogun had been here often under the guise of the Avenger, Kel had never seen the place before.

    Spamopolis was on a river, which allowed them to experience some seafarers for travel, this proved to be the most popular means to transport goods between cities. He’d heard stories of thieves and gangsters in the area, given the look of people in the area he could handle any he met, and besides, he was itching for a fight. There was a particularly large crowd gathering outside one boat on the harbor, whispers of the names Cyllieth and Firiath continuously popping up.

    “Hey, what’s all of this about?” Kel asked.

    “Haven’t you heard? This is the SuperShip Express, it’s the one Cyllieth and Firiath own,” said the nearest patron.

    “Never heard of them, what’s so special about them?” asked Kel.

    “They’re the top merchants of rare and magnificent wares,” said the man. “Anything you might want they have.”

    “I’ll be the judge of that,” said Kel. He waited patiently in the line until the crowd was thoroughly dispersed, then entered the ship, finding his sea legs more easily than the others who visited due to his own nautical background.

    The interior of the ship had changed greatly since Firiath and Cyllieth had last visited TFF, let alone Spamopolis. The walls were lined with rare vases, books and blades from many lands near and far. Within there were only two people, a pair of women, presumably the ship’s owners. One of them, a halfling, was busy fidgeting with something in a low cabinet, making him unable to discern any of her features. The other however, immediately caused his jaw to gape. She was an elven woman, by the points of her ears in the middle class range, and her beauty rang his memory of many legendary beauties of the old world. She was of a different race of elves than LoS, as the Defense Force healer, while similarly good looking, didn’t have the strange aura that this one did which almost seemed to cast an illusion of greater appeal.

    “How may we help you warrior?” asked the elven woman.

    “I heard you had wares of all types,” said Kel. “I was wondering if you’d have anything that would be handy for a berserker.”

    “I’m not sure, Firiath, do we have any berserker weapons?” asked Cyllieth.

    “I think so, but it depends on the weapon of choice,” said the halfling in an intriguing accent as she backed out of the cabinet. She was not without good looks herself, though she had numerous marks of battle covering her form. Hers was a more wild beauty, and by the hair that she used to cover her face a modest one as well. “Anything you had in mind?”

    “I’m thinking a flaming blade of some sort, or maybe an axe that can disrupt magics,” said Kel.

    “Hmmm, weapons like that are expensive, how will you be paying for these?” asked Firiath.

    “A good question, I’ve been told that you two will accept intriguing offers as payments,” said Kel.

    “That may be true, depending on who you heard it from,” said Cyllieth.

    “Well, last time I heard you two were in town he called himself the Holy Avenger, but now he goes by I. R. Shogun,” said Kel.

    “Shogun told you about the trades?” asked Firiath with a mischievous grin.

    “How much did he tell you?” asked Cyllieth with another that was equally as fiendish.

    “Not much, just that if I could make one that interested you as much as the one you have in mind then I might be able to work out a deal with you,” said Kel.

    “And how much did he tell you about the ones we have in mind?” asked Cyllieth.

    “Nothing,” answered Kel, who was now becoming uncomfortable.

    “Well, Shogun’s deal ended up interesting us even more than what we had in mind,” said Firiath. “So lay an offer down and we’ll see just how much it interests us compared to our base idea.”

    Kel knew he was being set up for something, what it was he didn’t know. He was able to gather from Shogun that the more valuable the thing that you were after the more valuable the thing you offered had to be. The problem was he wasn’t sure just how valuable the items these two were selling were. Even more he didn’t know what Shogun’s offer had been, nor did he know what Shogun had been getting out of the deal. What he did know was that he was a warrior, and a good one at that, which meant that there was only one service that he could guarantee he could offer.

    “Well, should you give me what I’ve requested, I suppose I’ll become a personal bodyguard for the two of you,” said Kel. “When you need some muscle I’ll be at your service.”

    “Hmmm, well, it’s not as interesting as Shogun’s, but I guess what you’re after isn’t either,” said Firiath.

    “However before we do anything we’ll need to learn just how strong a fighter you are,” said Cyllieth.

    “And how do you plan to gauge that?” asked Kel.

    “Take this,” said Cyllieth as she handed him a thin chain with a small vial on the end of it.

    “What is it?” asked Kel.

    “It’s a special device made by our boss,” said Firiath. “The next fight you’re in it’ll read everything you do and let us know how strong you are and how strong you can get.”

    “It’ll also give us a good idea of how strong everyone you’re fighting with on either side is,” said Cyllieth.

    “So that’s it, alittle trinket and you’ll get back to me?” asked Kel.

    “More or less,” said Cyllieth. “Unless you want to speed the process up…”

    “And how might I do that?” asked Kel.

    “Well… there’s a reason we have such a big boat,” said Firiath as she drew a rather large axe seemingly from no where.”

    “I’ll have to fight you?” asked Kel.

    “Not just her,” said Cyllieth as the air around her crackled with mana.

    “I’m not sure I can go along with this way,” said Kel.

    “Awww, afraid to fight girls?” asked Firiath with disappointment clear in her voice.

    “Among other things,” said Kel.

    “Well, we’re not the only ones on board that can work,” said Cyllieth.

    “Oh?” asked Kel.

    “Yes, there’s one more member of this crew,” said Firiath. “And he’ll tell us all we need to know.”

    “Well then… bring him on,” said Kel, not expecting at all what he’d just gotten himself into.
     
  15. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [3]: A.P.B.

    Extremus sat at his desk filling out the week’s reports. There’d been a great deal of trouble caused recently in the Eastern half of the country, something had been attacking towns with reckless abandon, those that survived the assaults were being uprooted and moved all around the kingdom. Savage had ordered the majority of refugees be placed in and around Spamopolis and General Talkville, the two biggest cities in the nation.

    This entire ordeal made Extremus wonder about the book that had been stolen from the library a few weeks earlier towards the end of Mad Jake’s rampage. If these attacks were linked to it at all then there would be a great deal of trouble going on even sooner than they’d guessed. He’d heard stories of the MageKing, and if any of them were true this was soon to become the most difficult trial he’d ever faced, let alone any of the other members of the team. Suddenly he heard a commotion from just outside his office, the doors swung wide and he was greeted with a pair of individuals. One he recognized from here and there, Meteorain he believed his name was, the other he was entirely unfamiliar with, and by his attire he was an outlander.

    “I brought you a present,” said Met.

    “I sincerely hope for your sake that there’s a good reason for this,” said Extremus.

    “Indeed noble warrior there is,” said the outlander, a mage of some sort by the look of him, as he limped forward. “I come to you bearing dark news as it pertains to this great land, and particularly this city.”

    Extremus stood slowly, “I’m listening.”

    “First let me say that my name is Vyral, I am the last of the Avatha of the island of Bion,” said the mage type. “My home recently fell in a horrendous manner to the forces of an ancient and terrible order of beings who have awakened from a deep slumber.”

    Extremus’ mind immediately made the connection between this group and the MageKing problem. If this hunch was correct then this matter demanded immediate action, “Met, leave.”

    “Hey wait a…” Met began to protest.

    “Now,” said Extremus in a final tone that sent Met grumbling out of the room. When the door was closed he turned to Veyral, “I need to know exactly what’s happened.”

    “Not long ago my home isle, a peaceful place that has gone ages without knowing the ravages of war, was attacked by a group of vile creatures that had remained hidden beneath our soil for some time. I know not how they returned to the realm of the living, but they have, and they reap terrible things wherever they step. The land itself is their weapon, and they have a powerful grasp of magics that have not been seen in the land in an age at least,” said Veyral. “And they are heading here.”

    “What makes you think that they’re seeking this city?” asked Extremus.

    “Simply put, they have to. They seek to initiate the resurrection of their ancient lord, and it is on the soil of downtown Spamopolis that they must do that,” said Veyral.

    “Why here?” asked Extremus.

    “It is nothing to do with the city, the required spot was preordained upon the death of their lord,” said Veyral. “It is where he died, and it is where he shall re-enter this world in some form or another.”

    “How long do we have?” asked Extremus.

    “I do not know, but they had a significant lead on me, there is a chance that they are already in the city,” said Veyral. “And if so, then they are sure to continue their campaign of destruction here soon as well.”

    “Well then… looks like me and my people are going to have to work fast,” said Extremus as he stood. “Wait in here, I’ll have someone sent in to take care of you.”

    “I want to help you, I must to avenge my people,” said Veyral.

    “In the shape you’re in there’s not much you’ll be able to do,” said Extremus. “Don’t worry, judging by what we’re dealing with there’ll be more than enough for you to help us out with once you’re back in form.”

    “Get all the teams assembled sir?” asked L0ri, the team’s new secretary, sent on the King’s orders.

    “That won’t be necessary,” said Extremus. “I’ll get them myself, arrange for some transportation for the man in there to be taken to the Library.”

    “Understood,” said L0ri who then quickly went back to her business.

    Extremus nodded, she was better about orders than he’d expect someone sent to more or less baby-sit his team would be. Regardless he had more important things to think about as he exited the base. He knew where Crusader’s team was, but not his own or Rosgwak’s. He was going to have to comb the city to round everyone up; he just hoped that things could stay fairly tame in the time that took.

    ********************************************

    LoS sighed as Crusader barked orders to the new refugees as they set up their section of the camp. This was supposed to be the job of the town guards, but the Captain insisted that for the first month the Defense Force oversaw what was going on in the camps. For the most part this consisted of sitting around making sure no fights broke out, but Crusader had never been one to quietly observe. He barked orders, marked new sections, set up tents and everything else he could do to control the process. At the very least it kept her from having to get too involved.

    “Does he ever get tired?” asked Shogun, who was leaning against a tree not far behind her.

    “Not really no,” answered Sen who was lying on the ground in front of them.

    “Ugh, I’m getting tired just watching him, we really need some real action,” said Shogun as he straightened out, and then sat on the ground.

    “Getting bored?” asked Kel, who sat a few yards away pulling up grass.

    “Don’t act like you’re not,” said Shogun. “I know you’re looking to try those things out.”

    Kel leaned back slightly; as he did both of the new trinkets he’d acquired bumped gently against him, “Heh, you got me there.”

    Suddenly the discussion was interrupted, as a small lithe goblin appeared, a pouch with several parchments smacking against him as he ran to Sen and handed her a parchment, then ran off again. Goblin runners were the preferred method of message transporting within the city. They were fast, reliable, and they always found the right recipient.

    “What’s it say?” asked LoS.

    “The Captain needs us to join up with his unit, Ros’ unit will be teaming with the wolves, there’s something big going down in the city,” said Sen. “Priority level A.”

    “Well, guess it’s about time,” said Shogun as he stood.

    “Does it say whom we’re dealing with?” asked LoS.

    “No, just that all teams need to get to the library ASAP,” said Sen.

    “I’ll get Cru, you guys go on ahead,” said LoS.

    “Will do, see you guys there,” said Sen, for the first time in front of this group letting a degree of uncertainty enter her voice, they’d never had a Priority A before in this city…
     
  16. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [4]: Mobilization

    Extremus looked over the team as they all gathered outside the library. They were strong, every last one of them, and he had incredible faith in the skills that all of them possessed, but this was bigger than them, and anything that any of them had ever encountered. If they were going to make it out of this one they were going to need to stop these dark envoys before they were able to raise their lord, which meant that they were going to need to split into two teams, one that would comb the city, the other that would hunt those that lurked in the forest gathering minions for their cause.

    Naturally the first name that Extremus had thought of when the forests were mentioned was Wolf, she and her pack were a sure fit and would know the woods well. However Veyral had had another name in mind as well. That name being Meteorain, the same nomad that had brought the druid to the city. Extremus had been weary of adding this warrior to the mix, he was crass, rude, and not someone who they knew to be reliable. Unfortunately they needed all the help they could get, and so a runner had been sent to find him as well.

    It took a moment before Extremus spoke; he wanted everyone to be present when he laid down the situation. After a moment the wolves arrived, Meteorain soon following with them. Now everyone was ready for him to tell them why it was that he’d summoned them. “Alright everybody listen up, I know I mentioned in the summons that we were facing a level A threat, that’s a potential world conqueror,” he said.

    “We know that much,” said one of the wolves, a white one.

    Extremus shot the wolf a glance that could freeze whiskey, and then continued, “What we have is a figure of legend being brought back from the dead. It relates directly to the book that was stolen from the library a while ago. We have a potential resurrection of the MageKing.”

    “Why should we care about one tyrant coming up to kill the rest in the realms of men?” asked the white wolf.

    “Because the MageKing will kill us too if he’s brought back,” growled Wolf.

    “Indeed,” said Extremus. “We’re going to split off into two groups, my squad and Crusader’s will cover the city, the pack and Ros’ squad will take to the forest.”

    “Why don’t you refer to the pack by its proper name?” growled the white wolf.

    “Enough Overread,” Wolf snarled, forcing the white wolf to back off. “Learn when the time is to act defiantly and when we need them as much as they need us.”

    The white wolf said no more, but there was someone else who spoke up now, Meteorain. “Alright, so the critters will walk around the woods with the two guys that would rather look in a mirror than fight, a couple of little ninja, and a guy who looks completely unstable in his own head, meanwhile all the guys likely to cause a bunch of collateral damage and the second string group will wander around in the city, cool, whatever, so what does any of this have to do with me?”

    “Should the MageKing be reborn he’ll likely become a problem for you too,” said Extremus. “Which is why I want you with the forest group.”

    “What do I care if some geezer tries to catch me, I’ll just kick his ass plain and simple,” said Met. “And why the hell should I care if you want me to join one of your groups?”

    “If you’re too stupid to take advantage of this opportunity to nip this in the bud then I guess it can’t be helped that you’ll burn like everyone else if the MageKing is able to return,” said Extremus, “No matter, I don’t want imbeciles on my team anyway.”

    “Check a mirror before you go slinging insults old timer,” said Met.

    “And I’ll see staring back at me someone with no patience for foolishness,” said Extremus.

    “Look, you asked me to be here, if you want me to be on one of your little teams I’m going to need a reason,” said Met. “You ain’t exactly been courteous to me since I came around here and if it wasn’t for me then you wouldn’t even know about this MageKing jackass.”

    “I asked you to be here because my people say you’re a decent warrior and we need fighters,” said Extremus. “But make no mistake I have no patience for people who place their own foolish pride before life. If MageKing is resurrected he’ll kill everything, including you. If you don’t just want to be killed unceremoniously by a being with too much power for his own good I’d suggest you help.”

    Met glared at Extremus, and the elf back, neither saying a word, finally it was the rookie of the Defense Force, Shogun, who broke the silence. “Not to mention if you help out there’s a good chance you’ll get to take another crack at that Cutligula guy,” he said.

    “Who?” asked Extremus.

    “I killed him, you remember you were there,” said Met.

    “Not good enough, he’s been around Spamopolis according to my sources around town, and he’s been talking about how he threw the fight because Trove stopped being useful,” said Shogun. “Say’s a little puissant like you could never have the metal to take on a real warrior, and if he’d waited for you to win right you two’d still be fighting, so when it got convenient he just laid down and played dead. Says you’re too much of a prissy little girl for a real fight.”

    “Ah what do I care, he lost and he knows it,” said Met.

    “But no one else does,” said Shogun. “Most people in the city believe him, they say you’re all talk.”

    Met growled for a moment, then looked to Extremus, “Fine, I’m in, but don’t think for a second that I’m going to let you insulting me stand.”

    “Fine,” said Extremus. “Now, for the important part, split into your groups, the day’s still young, we might be able to find some leads.”

    That was always the way it seemed, no rest for the wicked, get up and go. Shogun trudged along with Crusader’s group, Extremus had the city team break off further into their squads to cover more ground, but Crusader was never one to simply accept the ways that worked fastest. As they moved Cru fell back toward Shogun, “What the hell was that back there?”

    “Met wasn’t going to play ball without a reason, I let him know Cutligula wasn’t painting a good picture of him, he figured that was more of an insult than anything,” said Shogun.

    “The Captain didn’t need your help, and if he did, then Meteorain’s not worth the trouble to get on our team,” said Cru.

    “If he had a problem with it I’m sure he would have mentioned something, but he didn’t, so clearly he didn’t mind,” said Shogun.

    “If he’d given a damn about Met being on the team he would have just apologized,” said Cru.

    “If he didn’t he wouldn’t have called Met there in the first place,” said Shogun.

    “We aren’t arguing this right now, shape up or watch out Shogun, I don’t want to have to deal with your bullshit every time out,” said Cru.

    “Then maybe you should request to have me taken off your squad,” said Shogun.

    “No,” said Cru, “Because then I couldn’t have the pleasure of whipping your ass into shape myself.”

    “Careful who you talk about whipping,” said Shogun. “As I recall it last time you had to head for the hills while I took on HoW.”

    “Next time you won’t have time to turn into that bear before I hang you out to dry,” said Crusader.

    “Next time maybe you won’t need a witch hunter to soften me up before we face off,” said Shogun. The two exchanged glares before Cru moved to the front of the group again, leading them into downtown.
     
  17. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [5]: Stakeout

    Ender wasn’t sure what to make of this entire situation. Shogun knew a lot more about this city than a lot of the people that had lived there for years, and this didn’t seem to set well with a lot of them. Kenshin didn’t mind, and of coarse Extremus was just happy that the team was able to work together, but Liadan and Ka’al weren’t too happy about it, especially now that things had gone south. If they’d known that this book could have the potential to bring about the end of days they would have requested to take it into custody, instead now they were hunting a bunch of people they knew nothing about with no leads aside from the fact that they were likely in the city.

    Ender himself wasn’t that concerned about how Shogun knew so much, as the Avenger he’d apparently been in the library quite often, and the fact that Liv had known his real identity before he’d taken off the mask was a good sign that there was a lot of trust there. It wasn’t unlikely that Liv had let Shogun in on some of the more intimate details of TFF’s ancient history. He was more concerned about the status of the team. It was no secret that Crusader hadn’t been thrilled that Shogun had joined the team, and while members who shared that sentiment were fairly low in numbers, they were some of the more indispensable people on the team. He guessed he had to push the thought aside; they had work to do after all.

    “Liadan, any idea where a group of highly powered mages would go inside Spamopolis?” asked Extremus.

    “If they’re not in the library then no,” said Liadan. “We may be the biggest city in TFF, but we’re far from the most magical.”

    “Maybe they’re trying to find a place that has that same hint of magic that we tend to be missing here,” said Ka’al. “They’ve been dormant a long time, they aren’t familiar with the new way things are, and they’ll need information.”

    “Where does a group of fugitives go in Spamopolis when they need information?” asked Kenshin.

    “The same place every criminal in Spamopolis does,” said Liadan. “We need to get to the docks.”

    The squad wasted no time in covering the distance from the base to the docks. There was only one place in the area that was of any interest to anyone, the SuperShip Express, the headquarters of the two better-known information brokers in the city. Firiath and Cyllieth were close associates of a few members of the Defense Force, but they’d only ever even met one member of this squad, that one being Extremus. As the team entered the ship they had only rumors to go by, and those were enough to make most of them nervous.

    Within the elf and the halfling were sitting around looking bored, it had been a slow business day, so much so that the arrival of the defense force members didn’t really seem to even register. “Cici, how much longer are we supposed to be in this city again?” asked Firiath.

    “I think the boss said at least another month, maybe more depending on how we’re needed,” said Cyllieth.

    “Ugh, why does the most boring port in this city have to be the most interesting already?” grumbled Firiath.

    “Two more visits and we’ll be able to move around through out the city,” said Cyllieth. “You know the boss though, we have to establish a base before we can do anything.”

    “We’re already friends with one of the toughest people in the city, that should be plenty!” said Firiath.

    “Yeah, but even he said things look like they’re going to get more hectic really soon,” said Cyllieth.

    “Yeah, and the boss said things are going to be really busy for a long time before chaos becomes a normality here,” said Firiath.

    “And that means what it always does,” said Cyllieth. “More waiting.”

    “Excuse me ladies,” said Extremus. “We’re in need of your help.”

    “Oh, hey there cap,” said Firiath.

    “How can we help you?” asked Cyllieth.

    “First allow me to introduce my team,” said Extremus. “This is Liadan, Ka’al, Kenshin, and Ender Zero.”

    “Alright, now that we know who you guys are what do you need?” asked Firiath, this pair was never the duo for formalities.

    “We’re looking for a group that has associations with the being called MageKing365,” said Extremus. “We have reason to believe that they’d have come to you for information on the city.”

    “Hmmm, don’t remember anyone asking for information today,” said Cyllieth.

    “If you want we could keep an eye out?” suggested Firiath.

    “I’d actually be more comfortable with something that would go against our protocol, and yours,” said Extremus.

    “Such as?” asked both Cyllieth and Firiath at once.

    “I’d like to have one of my team stationed here as an observer,” said Extremus. “No permits, no sanctions, no warrants, they’ll just be hanging around.”

    “Hmmm, that could work, although it’s going to depend on which member of your team we’re talking about,” said Cyllieth.

    “Liadan,” said Extremus bluntly.

    “What?” said a somewhat stunned Liadan.

    “These guys will be powerful, and they’ll be seasoned enough to recognize people that move like fighters,” said Extremus. “I need a non-combatant to be here to observe and then send the word out to us as soon as possible.”

    “That makes sense… I guess,” said Liadan.

    “That might work,” said Cyllieth.

    “But you should tell them the real reason why you chose her,” said Firiath.

    “Am I that obvious?” asked Extremus.

    “Real reason?” asked Liadan.

    “You’d blend in better than anyone on the team,” said Extremus. “It makes more sense to have a group where no two members are the same race than to have two elves and a halfling.”

    “Well couldn’t you have L0ri do it?” asked Liadan.

    “L0ri wouldn’t know how to do much outside of the base,” said Extremus. “Besides, her first instincts are to fight anyway.”

    “How do you know mine aren’t?” asked Liadan.

    “You’re a gnome,” said Cyllieth with a slight grin.

    “So what?” asked Liadan.

    “Gnomes first reaction is always to try and assess the situation, they never just fight,” said Kenshin, recalling a bit of information his sensei taught him long ago.

    “And there you have it,” said Extremus.

    “You guys suck…” muttered Liadan as the inevitability of her stationing dawned on her.
     
  18. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [6]: Face to Face

    The ground seemed strangely less trustworthy than usual to Kel as the squad moved through down town Spamopolis. Things were never normal when on a patrol with Crusader, he had a talent for attracting the most dangerous beings in the city, but this was the first time Kel had ever felt like the earth itself could become a problem to their investigation. Somehow Kel got the nasty feeling that this was somehow a good sign for their search.

    “LoS, anything in the area piquing your interest?” asked Crusader. Magic users always had an inborn sense for one another, and luckily LoS’s was particularly strong.

    “A bit, it’s at least a block away,” said LoS.

    “Sen, take point, Shogun cover her,” said Cru. Crusader hadn’t shied away from letting everyone know he wasn’t happy with Shogun being on his squad, but even he couldn’t deny that Shogun was perhaps a necessary addition to his team. His was the only squad without any covert warriors up until Shogun had arrived, and although it wasn’t what he considered his specialty it was hard to deny that Shogun was the best shadow fighter on the force at the moment.

    They moved further in the direction LoS was feeling a strong magic aura from; she confirmed that they were getting close with each step that they took. Crusader felt that familiar electricity in the air building up, his blood began to flow quicker, he grinned. Cru’s squad was undeniably the most direct in their methods, with the exception of LoS every one of them was a front line warrior, and they all loved to fight. Because of this they were definitely the most feared unit in this city, and they were among the best in all of TFF.

    They moved in quickly, suddenly Sen stopped, only for a second as she drew her blades, “We have visual!”

    Sen was referring to a single, sickly figure in heavy robes that stood in the center of a seldom-used intersection. He appeared to be in a deep trance, shifting his weigh constantly, spinning as he muttered a low chant. Sen rushed toward him but suddenly the ground rumbled as a strange twisted beast pulled itself free. The creature swung a meaty limb, Sen easily dodged under it, getting directly into close conflict with the beast as it continued to attempt to crush her. No others rose to air the first beast, and by the flow of combat Sen would have no difficulty alone, leaving the others to take on the bent old man.

    Cru came upon him first, throwing his mighty fist but finding that, somehow, his fist was unable to strike the being. The air around him crackled as suddenly Cru was forced back, Kel attempted to take advantage of any break in the barrier spell, but despite the might of his magically enhanced weapons he met the same problem as Cru. Unfortunately this wasn’t all; they had the sudden feeling that there were several more people in the area.

    “LoS, tell me I’m not crazy…” said Kel.

    “You’re not,” said LoS, “There are five more.”

    “Well piss,” growled Crusader.

    “Aren’t we perceptive little elf?” came a voice that was scarcely above a harsh whisper. Suddenly the other five appeared, similar to the one caught in the trance that still spun in the center of the intersection. “Now defenders, if you would, step away from our associate.”

    “I don’t know who the hell you are, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’re connected to MageKing,” said Crusader.

    “Don’t you DARE speak our lord’s name,” said the one in the center of the five, their apparent leader. “I’ll take a special pleasure in turning your tongue to ash”

    “You can take your hollow threats and shove them up your ass,” said Cru as he cracked his knuckles. “After I’m done breaking your necks I’ll have a little fun in breaking your master apart, if he somehow manages to return from the land of the dead.”

    “We shall see human,” growled the leader of the apparent mages as they sent out their hands, all firing massive fireballs at the leader of the team. There was a flash, neither Kel nor Sen waited to see the effects on their leader, they rushed forward, but each of their strikes was blocked as the mages sent their hands up, signing with strange finger gestures that radiated magical force.

    “Cru?” said LoS in terror as the smoke settled around where the leader of their squad had been standing. Suddenly the wind picked up and pulled the smoke away, revealing Cru, mostly unharmed. Standing in front of him was Shogun, whose leg was now exposed and smoking, apparently having been used somehow to block the flames.

    “Not bad, for a rookie,” said Cru.

    “Would you have preferred to be cooking inside that heavy metal of yours?” asked Shogun with a grin.

    “I’d prefer not to have you thinking I owe you,” said Cru.

    “Let’s see how this fight goes to see if it keeps,” said Shogun as both he and Cru rushed forward. The squad spread out, surrounding the mages, who formed a circle back-to-back and begun to make more ancient arcane gestures. Suddenly six more of the beasts like Sen had fought appeared, though these were much larger, and appeared sturdier than their predecessor.

    “I get the feeling that’s going to get very old very fast,” said Cru.

    The creatures roared in unison as they charged, one to each of the heroes, two for Cru and Sen. This batch was indeed far tougher than the first. Shogun was knocked back by a single blow from one of the beasts, Kel’s guard was broken, LoS’s initial magical shield wall was shattered by the charge from hers, Cru had to struggle to throw the beasts around, and Sen found herself constantly whirling in order to avoid leaving her back open.

    “Shall we prepare more brother?” asked one of the mages.

    “I think not, he’s almost ready,” said the leader as he watched the spinning member of their order.

    The chants of the first mage the TFFers had seen grew louder now, his spin faster, the air around him now swirled with strange winds, a small podium of earth raised itself, atop it rested a lonely key, seemingly not special at all. The mage who had been spinning stopped and grabbed the item. “The ritual is complete brother, I believe it is time to move to the next step,” he uttered.

    “You are correct,” said the leader as he turned away.

    “Brother, what about them?” asked the mage who had first suggested calling on more beasts.

    The leader looked upon the TFFers as they fought. They were having trouble, but they were rapidly figuring the creatures out. “You stay, see if you can’t make things a tad more difficult for them, but if things look bad get out immediately,” he said.

    “Thank you brother,” said the second as the rest of the group vanished.

    “Well isn’t that a piece?” said Shogun with a grin as he delivered a hard kick to the jaw of the creature he faced.

    “You seem awful broken up,” said Sen as her blades sped up, suddenly allowing her to force the creatures to stay together.

    “Focus people,” said Crusader as he smashed his two together then threw them back. They quickly scrambled to their feet, then in a twisted motion merged into one, becoming larger and far more grotesque. “Well… damn…”

    All of the creatures writhed as they rapidly became larger. They hissed at the heroes, as the battle lines seemed redrawn. The mage who now controlled the creatures had vanished, but was clearly still in the area. The warriors of TFF readied themselves for a brutal fight, but none of them were fully focused on this situation, they knew they had to locate that mage if they were to gain any leads on the case, and they couldn’t afford to lose that chance.
     
  19. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [7]: Aims

    Liadan sat anxiously upon one of the stools within the cabin of the ship. These mages couldn’t be stupid enough to fall into a trap this obvious could they? She had faith in Extremus’ abilities and judgement, but something about this just seemed way too elementary for people as strong as these mages were supposed to be. Still even she could feel the magics that radiated from this place, surely there was a lot of power here, but it seemed a little obvious for a dark and mysterious group. However, it had happened before, once or twice, when she’d been proven wrong.

    “Is this the vessel of the creatures known as Firiath and Cyllieth?” came a raspy aged voice that almost reeked of decay.

    “Yes it is, how can we help you?” asked Cyllieth without a moment’s hesitation. She’d dealt with more vile seeming beings before.

    “Myself and some associates are new in town, and I’m seeking a bit of information about the mages within this city,” said the figure.

    “Have you considered talking to the town mage council?” asked Firi absently.

    “Let’s just say I’d prefer not to deal with mages directly until I’ve found the one I’m looking for,” said the figure.

    “And which one are you looking for?” asked Cyllieth.

    “I need the most skilled magician, and a warrior of old with the most potential,” said the figure. “Though the mage is a more pressing matter.”

    “Might I ask why?” asked Cyllieth.

    “We’re going to undertake a particularly powerful necromantic ritual, and we would like to be certain that there are powerful mages in the area who would be capable of assisting if the need should arise,” said the figure.

    “Would it be safe to assume you’re looking to resurrect this ancient warrior you mentioned?” asked Firiath.

    “In a manner of speaking,” said the figure.

    “Well, as far as I’m aware the most powerful mage around here is called Dragn9,” said Cyllieth. “He’s not on the mage’s council here though.”

    “Any reason?” asked the figure.

    “He’s on the defense force,” said Firiath flatly. These groups had very strict rules as it pertained to conflicts of interest.

    “Interesting,” said the figure. “Now, if I may, who is the strongest warrior buried around this area?”

    “Depends who you talk to,” said Cyllieth. “A lot of people think its Jorad the strong.”

    “Others think that Matula is the strongest that’s ever lived around this city,” said Firiath.

    “Tell me about them,” said the figure.

    “Jorad was a troll, one of the biggest who ever lived, they say he could kill dragons with his bare hands,” said Cyllieth.

    “Matula was more shifty, people said he was strong, but it seemed like the shadows obeyed him too,” said Firiath. “Although I don’t think ressing him would work very well.”

    “Why not?” asked the figure.

    “Magics never seemed to work on him,” said Firi. “It’s like he was just immune to all of them. Every type, good and bad.”

    “I see, you’ve been very helpful, name your reward,” said the figure.

    “Information like this is basic stuff, thirty gold,” said Cyllieth.

    “Easily done,” said the figure as he produced a gold pouch from his robes and set it on the counter, then left.

    “That was, creepy,” said Liadan.

    “You get used to it,” said Firiath.

    “But I think we may be able to call some of their moves in the future now,” said Cyllieth.

    “Well yeah defend the graveyards,” said Liadan, “And we need to figure out what kind of magics disrupt their kind, and if Dragn can use them.”

    “Or if they even still exist,” said Cyllieth.

    “That too,” said Liadan. “You guys have any way I can contact the rest of my squad?”

    “Already on it,” said Firiath.

    “How’s that?” asked Liadan.

    “Our boss has some interesting toys that let us project conversations and stuff to places after they’ve happened,” said Firiath.

    “And you were using them just then?” asked Liadan.

    “Of coarse,” said Cyllieth. “We wouldn’t be helping this investigation much if we weren’t, you know, helping it.”

    “Well that’s useful,” said Liadan.

    “There’s a reason the Broker’s favor is so highly sought after,” said Cyllieth.

    “I can see why,” said Liadan.

    “Anyway they’ll probably get here soon,” said Cyllieth.

    “Then the real fun should start,” said Firiath.

    ***********************************

    Elsewhere…

    “Soon my brothers, soon all shall be right in the world again…” said one of the envoys.

    “Praise be to MageKing365,” said all of the envoys in unison.

    “The earth shall be cloaked in darkness, and our lord shall rule this pathetic sphere with an iron fist!” said another of the envoys.

    “Praise be to MageKing365,” said all of the envoys once again.

    “My brothers,” came the voice of one of their number who had been absent. “I have gathered the information we require to begin.”

    “Excellent,” said another of their number.

    “Now we will initiate the beginning of the end of this pathetic land that would oppose our lord,” said another still.
     
  20. I. R. Shogun

    I. R. Shogun Midnight Demon

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    12 Disciples [8]: The First of Many

    The creature they faced now, the union of the beasts that had existed a moment before was a beast the likes of which none of the warriors had encountered before. It slinked along the ground on four legs, and its body supported three grotesque heads, which spat lightning from their jaws. Things were made the all the more dire by the ability of each head to be used like an arm to batter and fling the heroes with incredible ease.

    “We need a plan to handle this thing,” said Crusader as he slid along the ground after being tossed.

    “There’s a stunner,” said Sen, ducking under a bolt.

    “I got one, you three look for the controller, me and Kel will take this thing,” said Shogun.

    “Don’t be an idiot, two against this thing is asking for a slaughter,” said Crusader as he rose.

    “We don’t have to beat it, we just keep it busy while you three look around,” said Shogun as he took off his band and prepared for a charge.

    “I don’t like the sound of that idea,” said LoS, elves never had been fond of letting humans hold anything at bay.

    “If they want to be meat puppets let them,” said Sen, “He’s got a point.”

    “Fine,” said Crusader. “Just don’t do anything stupid.”

    “Psh, like I could,” said Shogun with a grin as he shot his band out, tying one of the creature’s heads and then lifting it and slamming it into the ground, only to have the favor returned by the beast. “Well, shit…”

    “That all you can handle Shogun? Let me show you how we do this,” said Kel as he drew his flaming blade and rushed forward. The beast threw many bolts his way, but with a strange awareness for a berserker the Viking easily evaded all attacks and came forward, easily driving his blade into the beast. The creature roared with rage, spinning rapidly to force the Viking loose, then blasting him with several bolts. Kel would have faced the full fury of this assault, but to his surprise Shogun appeared before him, and in a blur of motion easily blocked each of the bolts through what seemed to be a modification of his Triple Threat technique.

    “Never seen you do that before,” said Kel as he kipped up.

    “Tell me about it, I was hoping that would work,” said Shogun.

    “How are you alive again?” asked Kel as the two spread out.

    “I’m one lucky son of a bitch,” said Shogun.

    “Alright, you distract it, I’ve got something in mind,” said Kel.

    “I’ll see what I can do,” said Shogun as he began rapidly firing off Shogun shots at the creature, which roared and rushed him through the pain.

    Behind the monster Kel aura began to glow red as the air around him crackled. His eyes went white and he drew his axe, which emitted a chill much like the flaming sword. Both weapons seemed to gain a more intense air as Kel’s aura became more powerful. Finally he rushed forward, covering a space of several meters in the blink of an eye, opening up massive gashes in the back of the beast just before it came into striking distance of Shogun. The creature roared and blasted Kel, but the Viking had entered a state of pure fury, allowing him to ignore all pain and force the thing back. Shogun quickly broke from the combat and watched as Kel matched the thing blow for blow. The nature of the attack meant Kel wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long; Shogun just hoped it was long enough.

    ***********************************

    “Where are you most likely to go if you’re controlling something and don’t want your concentration broken LoS?” asked Crusader.

    “Someplace high and hard to get to,” said LoS. “Obviously.”

    “Sen, you’re up, you’re the only one of us who can move easily through the high spots around the street,” said Cru. “See if you can spot a good place for this.”

    “What a shocker,” said Sen with a grin as she quickly dashed up a wall and onto the rooftops. A quick look around made it seem almost pointless that they’d bothered to break from Shogun and Kel. “Church bell tower, two blocks over!”

    “That was quick,” said Cru.

    “You sound surprised that your second in command can find easy choices,” said LoS.

    “No, it just seems like we should have thought of that before,” said Cru.

    “Coulda shoulda woulda let’s go!” said Sen as she hit the ground and the trio ran for the church.

    It was a matter of seconds before they reached the church and quickly forced their way in. The temple was in full session, creating quite a reaction as Crusader flung the doors open, barreled down the center aisle and moved right for the stairs to the tower. None dared stand in his way, and were it not for a swift silence spell from LoS the clamor of the people moving to avoid Cru and Sen would have alerted the envoy to their arrival, unfortunately they couldn’t afford the time to have handled this more delicately.

    Crusader signaled for Sen to dash up along the walls in order to enter the tower in a more direct route, she did so and quickly found the envoy, then moved to engage him personally. She drove her blades into the mage’s back, hoping to break his spell control; she found no success in this endeavor. The envoy hissed and grabbed her wrist, then sent a massive electrical current through her arm. Sen shrieked as she fell to one knee, releasing her blades. The envoy paid her no mind, thinking her defeated, big mistake.

    Sen quickly set the mage ablaze and forced her blades loose to execute her Fire and Steel technique. The mage managed to block her spinning forward, but found that she had created the perfect distraction as Crusader appeared and rammed him square in the chest, driving both of them through the nearby wall and sending them crashing to the ground below as Crusader pounded his fists against the ancient body of the envoy.

    The mage raised his hand to cast a close range spell, but Crusader grabbed the limb and slammed the mage into the wall of the church, then drove his knee into the villain’s back. Crusader released his grip, preparing to inflict more damage, only to have the envoy pre-empt him with a brutal blast to the face, causing even the mighty Cru to topple backward. “You’re a stronger lot than I expected, but you’re still no match for me!” the envoy hissed.

    “I dunno about all of that,” came Sen’s voice as she dropped down onto the envoy and drove her blades deep into his chest.

    “Insolent whore! Learn your place!” shouted the envoy as he prepared for a blast that was stopped when Cru grabbed hold of his head and began to squeeze it in a vice-like grip.

    “I wanted to take you in for questioning, but I get the feeling it’ll be easier to just hunt you and yours down and…” Cru stopped as his fist suddenly formed, crushing the skull of the envoy, “BREAK YOU!”

    Sen dropped down next to Cru and looked back as she sheathed her blades. “Was that completely necessary?” she asked.

    “He was presenting a serious threat to my officers,” said Cru, almost sounding as if he’d had to say this before.

    “Let’s hope Extremus agrees,” said Sen.

    “I think he’d be more likely to if there was something to bring back,” said Crusader as the body suddenly crumbled into a fine dust.