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Chapter 8

Sarah stopped humming the ancient battle song and added the words she learned from Occam, speaking the prehistoric language of the dragons. She could feel the Other straining to rise up and swallow her essence in order to keep her safe. Her body jerked with a spasm feeling the it partially break free. The Other did not encompass or control her, something else was taking place within her mind’s eye.

She sensed him, the one who mockingly called himself the Dark Lord Ockham. He was in her mind and the Other confronted god directly, keeping her safe. Sarah remembered Occam warning her if she ever encountered the Saurian god to keep her wits about her for he lied and manipulated the truth. He would make false promises in order to fulfill his desires. The Saurian could not be too long before he realized whom he really confronted. Practicing her breathing, she kept those who targeted her with crossbows, spells, or whatever to continue to see their darkest fears. She could sense her powers expanding; the battle only created more kinetic energy she could use to continue to tilt reality in her favor.

Again she reached out targeting the Dark Lord who stood mesmerized by the Other thinking he faced the true Sarah. She bumped the fabric of space-time and siphoned off the increasing energy patterns feeding them directly into her friends. She continued to sense more minds across the dimensional rift her abilities still growing moment by moment. If she kept using her latent skills, the Other would soon completely overwhelm her. It was then too she realized she was drawing energy off the portal itself feeding on it like a growing storm. From the passage leading them here, she sensed a large group approaching alarmed at the commotion they heard.

*****

Occam eluded the fire blade its heat singeing the hair on his chest. He stabbed his Crey robotic blades into the Envoy’s appendage and spun driving a thrust into its thigh. It screamed in pain and sloppily swung out.

Norman sent forth a blazing aura when he entered the black mist. Suddenly he could barely move his legs, the fog gripping him like the arms the damned desperately clawing their way toward heaven. His minor attack barely hurt the demon, if it did anything at all. He intended to crank up the heat for that is what he truly desired. He had burned-out three lower demons previously in order to acquire the map for his friend, so he believed he could handle one Envoy. The fire danced around his form with the promise of tasting his flesh, but he manipulated it carefully not letting it bite. He focused an intense burst on his hands and struck forth.

Occam again easily dodged the demon’s fire sword and Norman’s blast hit it squarely in the chest. The Envoy actually looked surprised seeing the Protector squaring off with him. Occam swung for the head and clipped the ear. The demon howled and lunged for the swift drake catching only his shadow. Norman created a large fire around his body and watched it dance through the inky black misty merging with it enveloping the Envoy. He smiled and again summoned the most intense heat he could muster and launched out igniting the Envoys leg. The hell spawn kicked out catching the Protector directly in the chest sending him outside the radius of the tar patch mist, the air knocked from his lungs.

The Envoy changed tactics and feinted with a solid attack with its claws. The drake deftly avoided the blow, but the Envoy followed through with its expansive left wing snaring the half-dragon within. Occam cut through the thin membrane and landed on the ground with one leg and slightly off balance. The Envoy grabbed the slowed hero by his left robotic arm and used the eight-foot drake like a club to parry Norman’s leap back into the mist. The Protector had not fully caught his breath from the kick when he collided with the makeshift club and grunted from the impact. He even watched the ground rush up to meet him several feet away.

The Envoy thrilled with its new weapon smashed Occam into the ground and whipped him all around beating the half-dragon into unconsciousness. The demon cracked the limp body like a whip and seemed to release the half-human sending him flying into the alcove wall near his companions. Thauma Guard gasped when Occam’s limp form slammed into the rock wall with a bone-shattering crunch and slid lifelessly to the floor. When the creature threw Occam’s robotic arm at her only then did she realize the horror of the situation. The demon had ripped his left arm from his body. She saw blood and bone gushing from just below the elbow where Razar’s arm used to be. Knowing only a few healing spells she hastily cast them to try to stop the bleeding. Placing her hand under his armpit, she hoped the pressure point of the tall drake was similar enough to human’s to staunch the blood gushing out.

“Brian please help me,” she begged turning toward her panicking teammate seeing the sheer terror in his eyes. Reflected in his eyes Thauma could tell he was reliving the last moments of Aaron, for she too fought off the vision knowing she must be strong.

“Bow,” she gasped looking for help from the elf but saw the lithe form collapse to the ground, five crossbow bolts imbedded into her chest. Blood dripped from her mouth and she lay there eyes open reflecting disbelief.

“Brian please… help me,” Thauma’s eyes meet his and she saw he lost to memories, too afraid to do anything. She witnessed a new large group arriving in the cavern from the same entrance they used to enter. Releasing the pressure point long enough cast another spell creating a shield engulfing her team, then looked up to Occam’s Mind. Thauma could sense the woman’s thoughts on the outer fringes of her own and mentally pleaded for help.

Sarah heard her and sent forth a brilliant psychic flash toward the new combatants temporarily scrambling their synaptic nerves. She also sensed Thauma’s attempt at rousing Brian sensing his self-inflicted turmoil. They needed his help if they were to get out. With Dark Lord still permeating her thoughts, she tried a risky and daring maneuver. Sarah mentally reached into Brian’s mind in attempt to shake him from his trance. She saw what he saw, PhoenixHawk pinned under another Envoy and the deathblow that followed. Brian hovered nearby snapping the scene with his camera. Probing deeper and witnessing the events that brought Brian into Thauma’s tutelage into the ways of magic she realized the source of his woes. Ever so slightly, she brushed Brian’s memory bringing the image of Aura into PhoenixHawk’s death. She focused on the girl Aura, calling Brian by his alter-ego and made him lucid.

*****

Brian Sutter hovered above the death scene watching the few Onami Strike Force members fight the Envoy. PhoenixHawk was pinned under the demon’s leg and he raised his camera to catch the act that would destroy the creature. Through the lens, he saw the image of Aura standing next to the demon calling his name beckoning him to save them. This time Brian dropped the camera.

He stood up from the cave floor still afraid, but not willing to stand by any longer. Casting his first spell, he contacted every mind within the spells range. He sent out a second spell immediately thereafter flashing an intense white pulsing across the entire cavern, those nearest him not being attacked were put into an instant sleep. Those affected could only stand motionless heads slumped low. Brian saw Thauma pleading him to help her and Occam’s Bow collapsed on the ground. He cast the first of several quick healing spells that emanated around him in a green healing light stopping minor wounds and bleeding. Rushing to Bow and helping her to her feet, he realized four of the crossbow bolts had only lodged into her armored tunic. The fifth arrow he believed had penetrated her lung.

Thanking Brian, she tasked him to help Occam. It hurt to inhale, each breath setting her chest afire. With true Elven pride and stoicism she accepted the fact she was not leaving this cavern tonight. One way or another, the Envoy, the Dark Lord, and the business with the Nightcasters must be concluded, even at the cost of her own life. She drew back her bow string weakly and steadied herself grimacing against the pain. Her spirit would not let her fail the dragons in these last days of their waning holy war. The singular thought echoed throughout her gaining momentum. Suffering in pain each time she drew the bow she reinforced her dedication to the idea.

Brian ripped off strips of his trench coat and helped Thauma bandaged Occam’s wound, “We need to get him out of here.” He grabbed Occam’s detached mechanical left hand and placed it in the drakes lap.

Brian nodded and looked back at their only exit and the crowd blocking it. He activated the drake’s mediport, but nothing happened.

“We are out of range I think.”

Occam’s Razar had been drifting in and out of consciousness only barely registering the exchange between the Protector and Thauma. He opened his eyes fully witnessing Thauma’s magical shield fail and the hordes of Nightcasters fall upon them with daggers and curved blades.

“Behind you,” he groaned rising to his feet. The pain of a long lost appendage and the cracked bones from slamming into the cave wall blinded his senses.

“Occam, please rest,” Thauma pleaded not noticing the onslaught.

“Thauma,” Brian shouted setting another row of attackers to sleep by scrambling their nervous system.

She turned around watching Occam send for his chi energy from his remaining claw into the nearest Circle defender. It jerked with a spurt of blood erupting from its chest and fell a couple feet from her. Even in the drake’s injured state was he able to tap the strength of dragons. Thauma drew upon her dark powers from traversing ley-lines and launched a spell encompassing those minions near her in dark tentacles that rose from the stone floor. She fired streams of dark blasts at those rushing forward unhindered by her spell.

Occam’s Bow was now fighting hand-to-hand, her arrows becoming thin narrow daggers and her bow a curved club. Whenever she caught a free second, she fired off another arrow, but those moments were disappearing all to fast. They were too out numbered and surrounded to survive the battle. Her breathing quickened and grew shallower with every thrust. She only needed one shot with a special arrow she kept from her homeland, an arrow meant for the Dark Lord Ockham. Her opening had to come soon or all would be lost.

Brian reached for the several canisters connected to his belt and began unhooking them and tossing into the mobs of Circle members. He triggered each properly, but was shocked to see nothing happened. He thought maybe he did not activate them correctly, but each exploded just like the demo the Tsoo had him test.

“That son of a bitch,” Brian muttered realizing he had been tricked.

The Tsoo had stolen his supply and doomed him further. Now everyone with him in the caverns was condemned too. His suicide mission was going to kill those close to him and other great heroes like Occam’s Razar. He watched the drake collapse his endurance drained from his focused chi attack, but Thauma caught him.

Circle Nightcasters rushing forward and fell upon the distracted dark skinned defender. With her attention drawn to the severely wounded drake and her back to the surging attackers, Brian stepped in their way his breastplate diverting a thrust intended for his self-adopted sister. Tapping the power of his gloves, he sent the wielder flying with a telekinetic blast. He followed through to the next six sending them careening into the high ceiling only to bounce off the cold cave floor. He cast another spell wishing he had time to grab his hat that would have assisted his spell casting.

The next wave felt the brunt of his sleep spell that disrupted the pathways of neurons in their brains. They only stopped for a moment before suddenly popping awake. Brian could feel his powers draining away; too much was happening and too fast. His spells were not as strong as they should have been. He realized another failure that would lead to the death of those near him. If he had brought his camera, any camera, the powerful foci for his magic abilities, his spells would have been stronger. He thought he had weaned himself from the necessary item, but now he wished he had not.

The oncoming mix of Guardians, Guides, and Thorn Wielders met the force of his eldritch telekinetic ability. Only the last lone green robed guide felt the weak punch delivered from Brian’s left hand. His fist throbbed in pain, but he still knocked the attacker off balance. He kicked out with his boots and knocked his momentary foe back into another column of advancing attackers. He watched Thauma cast another healing spell on Occam where she laid him against the wall. The drake was still alert, but it was obvious he was in a great pain and needed serious medical attention.

Brian looked down the passage were Occam’s Bow was valiantly fighting off the new arrivals. Her moves came in quick spurts and were deadly. It almost appeared she was dancing to a song of death. He looked down the retreating corridor, considering his options. It would be easy for him to engage the traveling powers of his boots and speed away from here. He could not bear to witness the deaths he had caused again. He sent out a wave of green healing energies around him to delay the inevitable.

He then noticed Thauma’s new cell phone. He ran over to her and grabbed the new piece of technology.

“I need to borrow this,” he said snatching it from her hip.

She turned and nodded knowing why the camera phone was needed. She watched Brian put another advancing rank of Circle members a sleep with the built-in flash of the phone. Not wasting any time she again cast enchanted barriers around her ally’s to help turn back the arrows that were sent their way. Realizing the end was near she fired another spell encompassing a close group of attackers in black tentacles holding them in the place. There were just too many of them, how the Dark Lord turned so many Circle of Thorns members against themselves to create his own legion would remain a mystery. If they failed to stop them here, millions above them could die and the repercussions would reach even further. Someone would have to warn others of what was coming. It was then Thauma realized she did not care if her life was sacrificed. She missed Aaron too much and recent events only dug into an unhealed wound. The realization shocked her, but came as no surprise.

“Brian,” Thauma said realizing he was the only person in the cavern fast enough to make it out alive. Occam’s Mind was keeping many of the Nightcasters trapped by their own fears stretching the limits of her powers. Occam’s Bow was fighting hand-to-hand and Occam was too injured to make the journey. The drake had already proven himself by sacrificing his life in the past and was willing to lay it down if ever became required. She knew his students would do the same for him. His words of wisdom would be sorely missed, but there was no one left to miss her anymore.

The ex-hero turned his attention to his former mentor.

“Brian, we need to warn the city,” she explained. “You’re the only one who can make it back and bring help.” She did not believe the last statement; help was too far-gone to reach them in time. She was accepting her destiny then, longing to be in the arms of her lover united in death.

Brian turned away from Thauma gasping for breath. No, he thought, can she read my thoughts. He froze and glanced past Occam’s Bow down the dark tunnel. Tonight he was responsible for everyone’s death and habitually reached for the flask of liquid courage. Taking a gulp and snapping the cap back on the urge to race down the tunnel overwhelmed him, but could not understand why he was not off and running. How could he stand on the shore of eternity and watch them drown like he did in the past?

TO CHAPTER 9 >





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