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Chapter 17: The Blood of Mu

    “What the hell? There was no other way to go in this hallway, how can it end in a dead end?” Tom asked, seeing the wall from the glow of the dying embers that had once been Kadmon’s cape, “You’re sure she’s down here?”
    Kadmon placed his hand one the wall, probing its density with his mind. He could tell it was made of stone, was five feet thick, and was solid. Beyond it, there was lots of open space, and Ombra. “Stand back.” He reached back, putting his full height between his fist and the wall. The sound of the crash could easily have been mistaken for a meteor striking a gas station. The wall never stood a chance, solid though it may have been, it was like dry spaghetti against a determined Muvian construct. What met his eyes set his blood on fire, “Ombra! Put her down!” He growled, summoning Sturm to his hand.
    Ombra looked over at him, holding Sera by the throat in his left hand, Garm in his right, “I don’t really see why I should. My goal is within moments of being achieved. Though, if you can give me a good reason, I might consider it.”
    Kadmon pointed to the hole in the ceiling, “It looks like rain. Her blood will open a portal, that is certain, but it won’t stay open long enough for you to get your infernal airship through!” His eyes stayed on Garm as Ombra looked through the hole.
    “You bastard. You had your friends summon storms!” Ombra’s teeth clenched angrily, “I think I’ll just kill her to make myself feel better!” Garm lifted skyward, steam rising from the blade as its ice cold met the warmth of the room.
    “Now hold on one moment, let’s not be hasty. You need the blood of Mu, specifically, of someone who is well known in the world you’re trying to enter.” Ombra turned to look at his primal Earth self. Sera’s eyes were now fixed on Garm, still hovering in the air above her, “You won’t get any more pure Mu than one of the two of us, and I would say I’m just as well known as she is.” He pulled up his left sleeve and placed Sturm on his forearm, “Here’s the deal, you let her go, I use my blood and open your portal. I expect my blood can probably keep it open indefinitely, so you can go through when the storm passes.”
    “Dude! What are you thinking?” Stampead yelled, “You’re just going to roll over and let him-“ Kadmon’s gaze told Stamp that now wasn’t the time to argue.
    Ombra eyed Kadmon up, considered his offer for a moment, gauged the reaction of the six heroes behind him, and came to a decision. He flipped Garm down in his hand, and stabbed it into the ground, “Alright, lets see some red, Kadmon. You show me, I give you your friend back.”
    Kadmon didn’t even flinch as he sliced open his own arm. His eyes didn’t leave Ombra, who himself winced a bit as he watched. “I’ve kept up my end, now it’s your turn.”
    Prima Ombra hesitated a moment. This was all happening too easily. Still, only a fool passed up an opportunity like the one he was facing, “All right, here, take her.” He tossed the singer, coughing and wheezing from lack of oxygen, into Kadmon’s arms.
    “Why are you so warm?” Sera asked, looking into his eyes, “And what’s that smell?”
    “Don’t worry about it, I was on fire, but I’m just smoldering now.” Kadmon nodded, and Atomic No. 90 teleported her over to the half dozen heroes still in the doorway.
    “Now, lets get that blood of yours where it will be of some use,” Ombra said, gesturing to the altar behind him.
    A grin crossed the hero’s face, “Here, all yours,” He walked over to the altar, turned his self inflicted wound downwards, and let the blood flow. Then it stopped. Against all logic, it reversed itself, in defiance of gravity, and sucked back into the rapidly closing gash, “Oops, looks like you took too long. No blood for you, I guess!”
    “Why you lying sonofa…” The Praetorian swordsman growled. He pointed his hand to the singer, “Well, if you’re going to back up on your end, I’ll just have to take her back!” The air crackled and snapped with his teleportation spell.
    There was a glint of light from the altar. Ombra turned just in time to get something very sharp lodged in his chest. He looked down at it, deduced it to be a knife, then tried to figure out where Kadmon could’ve possibly been hiding it. There was no sheath on his belt, no bandolier on his shoulder, his cape was gone, little more than ashes floating through the air. The only other place was the hat. That had to be it; he was hiding the knife in his hat! With his left hand, Ombra pulled the knife free, and tossed it to the ground.
    “I hope you didn’t seriously think that would stop me,” The black-clad swordsman withdrew his sword from the ground, “I think you’ll be seriously disappointed if that was the whole of your plan.”
    Kadmon chuckled as he summoned the knife back to himself, “That was really just to interrupt you. You may or may not have noticed this, but Sera, Stampead, Aidan, Tom, Missy, Imbalmer, and Smoke Signal have left the room.” With Sturm in one hand, and Knifey in the other, he stared down his opponent, “We’re all alone here now, so lets get on with it!”
 
Chapter 18: The Rune of Blades


    “If you insist on dying here, I’ll happily oblige. Your conceit won’t go unrewarded.” Black energy curled through the ground, surrounding Ombra completely, “Challenging me in the seat of my power, only a madman would think to do that!”
    “Then you have a crazy person on your hands!” He charged, striking sword to sword with his shadowy counterpart. Kadmon quickly noted that, where they were now, Ombra was considerably stronger than before. This was evident from the fact that an attack that would’ve shattered the shadow’s guard in their previous battle barely even budged his blade. Since the one-shot approach turned out to be a colossal failure, Kadmon tried something more in line with what he knew about heroes who could bend shadows to their defense – He attacked his opponent’s balance with a concentrated blast of dark energy. Ombra didn’t budge.
    In retaliation the Praetorian launched into an assault that forced Kadmon back against the wall. There, he narrowly avoided being sliced in half again by Ombra’s sword, and returned the attack with Knifey. The shadows, unfortunately, repulsed the knife, embedding it in the ground far beneath them. With both hands, the hero attempted again to break through his counterpart’s defenses. Ombra’s response was quick and painful, knocking Kadmon to the ground with a strike from the blade’s hilt.
    “Haven’t you figured it out yet?” Ombra laughed, looking down on the fallen construct from his lofty position, “Did you pay no attention to the design of this building?” He dove, blade drawn, to end the battle as quickly as it had started. He hadn’t counted on being struck by a human missile that could fly faster than any bullet had ever been fired at him. Kadmon’s reprisal dragged his dark self through the ceiling and out into the raging storm above. Undaunted by this, but more than a little annoyed, Ombra discarded his cape to the wind.
    Kadmon’s whole body glowed with the ethereal green aura of a regenerator putting himself back together. Now well above the building, he could see what Ombra had meant, “Very clever, raising the hallways in such a way as to create a gigantic power focus point.” A satisfied smile crossed his face, “I think we’ve moved out of its sphere of influence at this altitude.” Sturm flashed up, splitting the rain. Ombra’s confidence appeared to wither at the revelation, and Kadmon took advantage of it. His blade cleaved the wind, striking Prima Ombra fully in the chest. It had little effect.
    The dark warrior smashed the hero back down into the building, and followed him quickly in an attempt to impale him as he reached the floor, “You fool! Did you REALLY believe I’d be so stupid as to make it so easy to remove my power?” Kadmon hit the ground rolling, and very nearly avoided Garm entirely. Blades of ice splintered from the sword as it struck stone, several of which sliced the paladin as they flew past. “A focus this large can provide me power as long as I’m on the same world as it!” He fired the same black wave of energy at Kadmon as his enemy had before.
    Kadmon didn’t budge. Instead, he stood and dusted himself off, “Very interesting. But what happens when I do something like,” His normal grin was in place again, “Oh, I don’t know… This?” A section of wall imploded under the force of Kadmon’s mind, “And what about this?” The room’s back wall exploded into a fine powder, “How does that feel?”
    Ombra stared at him a moment. He was feeling a touch less energetic than a few seconds prior, but otherwise didn’t notice a change, “Was that supposed to de-power me or something?” He asked, aiming to fire another wave. The attack was just as effective at moving the paladin as the previous had been, “Damn your infallible balance! No matter, if you’re done with your ridiculous display, I do believe I have a battle to win.” His right hand shot skyward, “You remember what I did to all those people at that club?” His laugh came between words. He greatly enjoyed the memory of that slaughter, “I was able to shred so many of them so fast because of the rune I found in Oranbega the day I arrived.” Kadmon’s grin was replaced by a distinct look of worry. He believed that he knew exactly which rune he was referring to. “I assure you, I’ll enjoy slicing you to ribbons. Come, my Rune of Blades!” Incorporeal swords of all shapes and forms came into being in the air around Prima Ombra, hovering with an aura of menace around them.

Chapter 19: The Last of Our Kind

    The hero blinked a few times, “Wait a minute, the rune you got just let you summon spirit swords?” He thought on that for a moment. Spirit swords were dangerous, but nowhere near as bad as what he’d expected. “Is that all it was?”
    “What do you mean ‘is that all’?” The blades reacted to the hint of anger in Ombra’s voice, “Do you not realize exactly what kind of trouble you’re in?” Slowly at first, but with a rapidly increasing pace, the spirit sword began rotating around the black-garbed man, “You’ll be hacked to ribbons faster than you can recover, then I’ll be the last of our kind in the entire multiverse!”
    “The last…” Kadmon thought on this. For all of his interdimensional traveling, he’d only ever found any record of two other Kadmons, both deceased. “So, there were only ever four of us across the ENTIRE multiverse?”
    Ombra chuckled and stepped closer, forcing Kadmon to step back to avoid being pureed. “That’s the long and the short of it. Primal Earth, Praetorian Earth, Restless Ghost Earth, and Werewolf Earth, the only four worlds where our kind ever sprang up.” He took two more steps toward his Primal counterpart, “Depressing, isn’t it?”
    Kadmon reared back and laughed, “Getting a bit sentimental, are we?” He was stalling for time now. By his estimate, there was probably about sixty minutes left on the bomb clocks. If he could keep his attention that long, there was a good chance he could bury the last of Mu’s constructs, even if it meant his own death, “So we’re the last, what does that really matter in the scheme of things?” Of course, stalling for time to think up a better plan was preferable to waiting to die, “Y’know, Ombra, I think I just had the greatest idea.”
    “And that would be?” Ombra asked, taking another step closer, his spirit blades rending the air, sending rainwater flying every which way.
    Kadmon’s confident grin returned, just as he vanished in a flash of light, “I’m going to put a great deal of distance between us, then you’re going to try to fly in and shred me. How does that sound?”
    The hero didn’t quite expect what happened next. Ombra looked up at him, standing upside-down on the ceiling, then vanished in a flash of light himself. Instinctively, Kadmon dove away, and not a moment too soon, as the remnants of ceiling where he’d been impersonating a sleeping bat moments earlier were ground to dust.
    “Right, not in the mood for games then.” He racked his brain trying to think of something, anything that he could do to even the playing field. Ombra launched himself down at the pondering hero. An idea crossed his mind, and was quickly put into action. Both hands toward the rocketing whirlwind of swords, Kadmon put all the energy he could behind another Torrent. The blast had more than enough force behind it to catapult back and away. There was a loud crash as Ombra flew through a large number of walls, crumbling it completely as both himself and his spirit blades shredded it.
    With a great deal of haste, Kadmon moved to the altar. By his estimation, it would take his darker self at least a minute to get back after that blast, unless he could teleport back. The paladin couldn’t sense any form of teleportation rune on him, so he quickly deduced that Ombra must have been storing it in a place where its power could reach him, no matter where he was. Sturm clove the stone altar into fourths, revealing a crystalline structure commonly used to house magic runes for storage and transport when there wasn’t a host body to attach to. Housed within it was the Rune of Passages, a rune not unlike his own Rune of Portals. By its appearance, it seemed to be a missing half of his rune.
    Kadmon looked in the direction of the hole he’d created with Ombra. Through the shadows, he could see the whirlwind of blades approaching. In a scant few seconds, he’d be in teleportation range. With due speed, Kadmon removed his left glove and pointed his hand at the rune crystal, taking it for himself. Now that he had a little more breathing space, he considered the best possible way to nullify Ombra’s Rune of Blades. He made himself invisible just as his Praetorian reentered the room, his eyes practically aflame with rage. The whole thing, unfortunately, hadn’t taken anywhere near as long as Kadmon had hoped.
   
    Chapter 20: The Rune of Wrath

    Ombra looked around the room. He knew where his target was, but found it somewhat amusing to let his fellow construct believe that he was truly unseen. When he least expected it, he would teleport right on top of him. Something was wrong though. Something was very, VERY wrong. The Praetorian swordsman looked around again, and saw the problem. His rune was no longer sealed in the altar. Instead, it had become fused with Kadmon’s own Rune of Portals. “You bastard!” He growled, “You thieving bastard! Weren’t you satisfied to keep me from my immediate victory?” His spirit swords lashed out to where Kadmon was hidden, “You had to go and steal my rune as well!” The paladin appeared on the opposite side of them room, not four feet behind his black-clad enemy. The spirit blades faded from existence, having traveled too far from their host.
    “I could grow to enjoy this, Ombra.” Sturm swung at his back, but was blocked by Garm. “You only have yourself to blame. Why would you not bind the rune to yourself? What possible reason would make you leave it where it could be easily stolen?” Kadmon’s foot crashed into his dark counterpart’s head, causing him to stagger back.
    The hero narrowly avoided being split as Ombra’s sword swung out through the air, “I chose not to attach that rune so that I would have room for stronger ones. There is only so much space on our bodies, after all.” Both fighters brought back their arms at the same time, firing torrents of dark energy at each other as they came back. The blasts met, combined, and exploded with enough force to send both flying back to the corners of the chamber, “I’ll happily cut off your arm to get it back, but barring that chance, I’ll allow my minions to do it.” Prima Ombra’s left arm went skyward, and his hand emitted a faint pulse of energy. A dozen of his armored soldiers appeared and began their death march toward their opponent.
    Kadmon looked at the group heading his way. This clenched it, the only way he way he could beat this many would be to lose those troublesome limitations. “Ombra, you remember our last battle, how I told you that you didn’t want to see what would happen if I took this armor off?”
    Ombra looked at him for a moment before nodding, “You said that armor was a limiter. Personally, I still don’t believe you, so lets see how much weaker you become without that amplifier.”
    He shook his head, “You truly are the greatest of fools, Prima Ombra. I’ll be sure to have that written as your epitaph, if there is enough of you left to bury.” His left hand grabbed hold of the limiter. The Rune of Wrath had been uncharacteristically quiet during this fight. Perhaps it knew that its host needed his regenerative power more. More likely, it knew that its time was coming, the time when it could truly shine. Kadmon had to wonder if he was really able to harness such a power himself and retain control. His grip tightened - there was only one way to find out. The black armor slid from his arm in a way it was never meant to from a construct whose runes it was sealing away. “Come, my Rune of Wrath, let’s see the full of what you’re capable of!”


TO PART 6 >





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