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Archived Fight needs a home

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Archived Fight needs a home

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Albatross City on Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:23 pm

(A home for the homeless)

Alucroas

The Stalker's destructive arrival on Colossus was met with a lackluster reaction - even worse though - was the fact that he had to rely on an external power to save his Mother's life. The Corruptor's extraction of the Planet's spirit into his scabbard had put him in a state of wondering whether or not he could fully trust the being. However, it was thanks to Singar's clever ploys that he was able to escape Hell and make it to Colossus in the first place, lest more treacherous Heralds be free to continue defiling the Cataclysm.

In the end, Singar had proven to be an ally to Thane, albeit for reasons unknown. Still, his intervention in the not so civil war had removed Colossus from the enemy's reach. This was an inarguable fact, and would serve as to govern his actions as he embarked on his quest to restore the Val'Gara.

A heavy gust swept over his immediate surroundings as the Herald crouched and launched himself from what was now just a rotting corpse, ascending through the cloudless, starless, sky, through falling draedite branches and finally disappearing beyond sight, into the freezing darkness of outer-space.

--


During the many cold months traveling through space, Thane was given an abundance of time to contemplate a strategy. Feeling another conflict with the new Collective to be inevitable, his first objective would be to build an army, and considering he was planning on forming a Val'Garan army, this meant his military might would have to be truly massive. Conquering a whole world on his own was wholly impractical as it would take far too long to subvert an entire planet's numbers on his own, and so he would have to go where he already had assets of his own: his homeworld...

Soran

Throughout the many conflicts transpiring amongst the Val'Gara, the Entropic Passages had remained entirely untouched. Narcissus' betrayal, the Collective's attempted usurping of power, and even Mire's sudden conversion into Tithonus. Furthermore, the Vesuvian Virus had been steadily spreading from the mountains of Liaita - the place where the Passages were located - onto the western portion of the continent, through the plains leading past it, into the forests already rife with hazards before the Val'Gara had been introduced, and infecting numerous other Niraan tribes that had not been rescued by that strange group that had attacked him the last time he was there. As a Niraan himself, having familiar faces by his side, even if some of them once belonged to rival tribes would prove most uplifting to Thane's morale, as well as those he would be leading, the Unity Effect being a most crucial element to this plan.

Feelings of nostalgia upon seeing the planet come into view were quickly repressed, shoved off into the back of the Stalker's mind, for while he was glad to be back home, his mission took precedence over all emotion be they positive or otherwise.

Wrapping his wings around himself, Thane threw his body into a spiral encased with negative blue bio-force that was shaped into a drill, eradicating the raging inferno that was the planet's atmosphere trying to burn him up. When he emerged from the fire spread his wings he was greeted by the sight of Kinji: the continent which encircled Soran's equator and whose many massive rock towers ascended back through the atmosphere, giving off a molten hue as they breached through into space. Briefly spotting a giant shelled serpent raise its head out of the ocean trench running through the continent's central mass, Thane initiated a series of barrel rolls to ensure he remained away from where its mouth catch him.

Leaving Kinji behind, Thane flew on a northwestern path on his way toward Liaita, soaring high above the ocean to ensure he didn't have to deal with anymore obstacles that might try to impede his journey.

--

Rolling tsunamis crashed into Liaita's high southeastern cliff face, spilling over the top and sending a flood of seawater surging on a collision course down the sloped terrain through the forest. The Stalker chose to ignore the destructive sight caused by the flood, nor did he pay any attention to the damage he inflicted with the wind brought on by his telekinetically increased speed. He was getting closer and closer to his destination, able to feel his connection to the Cataclysm left on this planet growing stronger by the second, the rusted chains of an unused psi-link being shaken off with every mile.

Finally reaching dry land, Thane's legs elongated and his wings folded in, assuming a quadrupedal form that would let him bolt across the forest which was starting to thin out and give way to vast open plains. Up ahead was the swirling thundercloud of crimson hovering over the mountains that led into the Entropic Passages. Skidding to a halt and resuming his bipedal, gargoylian form, the Stalker looked back into the forest and wondered if he should start searching for Niraans or fortifying the Passages.

Then a different thought came to mind...

The Gates...

Law

[ I. EX_MACHINA ]

Bee was absolutely livid.

Atleast, in the odd mechanical way that lacked sentience but some manner of underlying emotion all the same. Was that possible at all? She felt as if she had swallowed the world whole and left nothing satiated but everything to be desired. She couldn't feel anything, no temperature, no pressure of the cabin around her, or the mathematical alignment of the stars, and the most frustrating fact of it all was that even with her seemingly limitless intelligence, she had absolutely no idea why.

Somewhere inside she could recall when she had began to feel that way, the hatred that filled her nonexistent heart, when everything around her came crashing down like the glass that it truly was.

She could recall the flames that surrounded her, burning the nape of her neck, melting her soul like wax...and at the epicenter of chaos. She remembered the gigantic white-haired berserker and the mountainous behemoth that blocked the sun from view, threatening to destroy anything in its line of sight.

The horror of her parents faces as they were crushed beneath its frightening steps paralyzed her in utter agony. Their faces or disappointment in her very existence...the stern expression of the hero, unable to do anything, suddenly unleashing carnage upon the feral beast. Those were the only human memories that had any emotion in them. The moment she was dragged from the collapsed ruins, missing her arm pieces of her legs, and a chunk of her head, she knew in those final moments of life that she had no purpose.

She had known that since she was born after all, had they survived she would have been sold to slavery anyhow. She was nothing but a speck of dust passing in the harsh, astral winds of the universe. Bee had come to accept her fate when she suddenly opened her eyes again, and realized she wasn't in heaven, or anything that resembled the promised land.

It seemed destiny had no intention of letting her off so easily.

Times had changed, but she could never escape the frigid hollow that pervaded her mainframe and erupted into a fire of anger. With every care in the world, or perhaps without any, she stared at the stars from the soulless bridge of the Leviathan. The beauty of the stellar Zodiac-class starship was that the artificial intelligence running in compliance with its pre-installed modules and protocols gave it the intelligence needed to practically run the serpent on its own even with its processing unit being foreign to even their understanding. VIS transcended the typical stipulations of what would label it artificial intelligence yet to call it human? Fragile, moronic fools who intentionally make irrational decisions as if guided by some higher calling. VIS made it a point to mock those onboard the Leviathan any chance it got, but considering most of them were anything but human, it was hardly an effective insult.

"We'll be approaching the perimeter Soran soon, would you like to wake our sleeping beauty from his sleep?"

"He has been sleep for awhile hasn't he..." Bee remarked, glancing at the hard-light vector screen and the time Adell had spent in Reinbach's state of the art Quantum Recovery Chamber. By some manner of profound scientific research and advanced technology it didn't heal, but reversed complicated damage as if it had never taken place, allowing one to return to the state they were in prior to having their arm dismembered or their eyes gouged from their skull. Unfortunately, while effective, it was quite the lengthy process, and still not completely developed - a risky prototype more than it was a default to any injuries. Tapping her chin, Bee sighed, and reached to scratch her metallic scalp, "fine fine, I'll do it."

It was a long walk, from the long hallway connecting the bridge to the many other passageways in Leviathan, to the resting place of the QRC. The reflective sky blue screen dissolved and allowed her to walk in, bare footed as usual, and stopping just over the pod, she crossed her arms along her flat chest.

If she wanted to, she could kill Adell right now. Vulnerable, stuck in the fluctuation of time reparation, this could be his inevitable end. The dangerous lives that they lived never guaranteed they'd make it back with their lives, and the only thing more dangerous than their missions were each other. Adell, Jin, Vincent, Loki, Riku, Phantom, Elijah, with a few honorable mentions from associates that weren't officially apart of the rag-tag team of misfits. They all were dangerous in their own way, yet somehow they all managed to fit under the fearsome umbrella of Havoc. They were particularly unmatched, in-terms of firepower, wits, and willpower, and even their victories. None of them had ever failed to complete a mission yet, they had all been frighteningly efficient and had created quite a name for themselves.

Yet how long would it be before they turned on one another in lack of entertainment? They were those kind of people, the type to fight amongst one another for stupid idiotic reasons like being blinded by belligerence or having nothing better to do.

"Adell!" Bee barked obnoxiously, not unlike a dog, slamming her fist into the pod. "Wake the fuck up...uh...faggot! It's time to go!"

Nothing. He remained submerged in teal fluid circulating through the bulky cylinder majestically, shimmering occasionally as if within the chamber were jewels of grandeur reflecting the light of important restoration. Zo was always captivated by its magnificence, but they were running low on time as usual, and her patience was already thin as was.

"ADELL! Wake up you ugly white-haired reptilian fuck! We have work to do, and you sitting in the tub like a bitch isn't going to get it done!"

The light atop the cylinder suddenly shined orange and the shimmering water slowly slowed down, slowly allowing the vision of the naked behemoth to be seen through the glass of the chamber.

And then his eyes snapped open.

[ II. Political Pish-Posh ]

The height, size, and difference between Adell and Bee was ridiculous. Bee was five feet and four inches, with an acute and feminine visage, a B-cup chest, and leering teal eyes. Her scalp looked as if it were made of aluminum, and it ran down her back into her clothing, which was loose fitting and in need of attention. She wore a tight white shirt and black, distasteful swears that unintentionally showed off her figure.

Then there was the monolithic titan, seven feet and two inches tall, he was gigantic, cut on every inch of his body, and his face reflected absolute intensity that would've shook anyone at first sight. His high-too, wet, was slicked back for a moment before he glanced down to Bee, who stared at him with a lack of interest.

"You were a human before you were a robot, doesn't my body appease you?"

Adell began dramatically flexing as if attending a body-building competition.

"Hurry up and put on clothes, Soran is nearby."

"Already? We are ahead of schedule it seems..." Adell snapped into something of a serious mood, "very ahead in-fact. Has The Organization called regarding our updated mission protocol?"

"No but I'm sure they will be soon, now hurry up." Bee snapped, twisting towards he exit of the room. Her expression intensified suddenly, and she didn't waste time leaving the room.

"You're worried aren't you?"

After-all, they were targets of the Twilight Kingdom, and it was her fault.

She didn't bother answering him.

"Adell, you have a visual transmission request from Mheadreva Reio, Vice-Chairman in the Department of Technology and S-"

"Yea yea pick it up dumbass."

"..."

Seconds later a flat rectangle materialized before the naked man, the call connecting instantaneously.

"Why are you naked!"

"Why are you not naked fair lady! What type of party is this!"

Adell appeared to be legitimately upset.

Flustered, the old lady hidden in the darkness of her camera groaned and straightened her posture. "You're within Soran's perimeter, it's time to perform reconnaissance. The objectives have slightly changed."

"Ok?" Adell murmured, digging in his ears with his pinky fingers.

"Yes, you are not to destroy anything that appears to be of importance. Minimize damage. I want you to investigate anything out of the ordinary. There's still too much we don't know about it, and the aliens that inhabit it. We didn't get the green light from the board of directors to do anything more."

"...in the end Havoc will act as it sees fit." Adell retorted, finished cleaning his ears. "If we destroy Soran, then we destroy it. But if possible, playing by your rules will not be much of a problem, not since I myself am going."

Reio cleared her throated and leaned closer to her visual projector, it's emerald light shining even through Adell's own screen.

"Get the job done, we're asking you for a reason...this goes under water, we're looking at war with not just The Twilight Kingdom, but an entire alien conglomerate."

"Duly noted."

[ III. Arrow from Heaven ]

Like a comet from the skies it penetrated the chaotic hell surrounding Soran, separating the harsh energies in its powerful descent from above. It's light was unlike any other, silver and mysterious it was impossible to tell who or "what" it was, but it seemed to effortlessly tear through the atmosphere of Soran, a beacon of hope, or even possibly an omen of disaster...it was hard to tell.

Either way, after clearing the dangerous higher skies it began to slow down, but remained as vague and indescribable as it had been when obscured by the raging energies above. Slowly the light began to dissolve and within the leylines of mysterious power was an even greater mystery.

ZXX-G1S1FF "Helios" otherwise dubbed, The Dream. All of its usual colors of red, gold, and blue were discontinued, it's trim was silver and its overall color was white altogether. But why was it here? The Neowave Engine flared obnoxiously, shaking the very air about Helios before beaming down to the surface, surrounded by beautiful grassy plains that reminded him much of home. The backdrop of a bloody storm surrounding the mountains was a key point of interest, but Adell was sure things wouldn't be that easy. A moment after the shimmering white light surrounding Helios faded, the white-haired matyr leapt from the cockpit centered in its chest, the plates unfolding to reveal the leader of Havoc once more.

Adell Illiandes Laemington, The Lost Hero, King of Heroes, and the God Dragon himself.

He wore strange technological armor, black and placed over an even stranger stretchy grey, rubber-like material covering him from neck to toe. The plating had sponsor names and writing of some odd language that hardly mattered, and fit the 6'9 titan perfectly. His chest, forearms, shoulders, kneecaps and lower legs, and his stomach were well protected by his armor, and atop of that was a thin cowl that covered him from shoulder to toe. Exactly what any of what he was wearing was, or its purpose, was hazy at best. This would be his first time using the newly designed Titan-armor series redeveloped by Reinbach after The Aesir Empire's discontinuation (after-all, they were obliterated).

"What is that?" Adell yawned, glancing at the gargoyle-like monster several meters out (approximately seventy).

"It would appear to be one of the inhabitants of this planet, I can't quite make out the species however."

Adell continued watching it as it stood there, keenly interested in what it was, what it was capable of, and if he would have another fight worth putting his life on the line for.

In the back of his head he could still feel his connection to Beramode from there last encounter.

"It's not over," he murmured, before ambling in the direction of the gargoyle.

Alucroas

After concluding his mission-plan in his head, the Stalker's eyes softened for short while; staring at the storm above the mountains, its viral fury calling out to him as the psi-link he once shared with those peaks finished mending itself into a gleaming, bloodstained chain of unity. In his mind he watched a crimson wave come rushing toward him, and he met it with dorsal protrusions across his limbs, back, and tail. He dove in without hesitating--and then, felt catharsis wash over him... All his fears, all his worries and anxieties...rather than simply vanishing, he felt them compact and round out into the base of an arrow; its piercing tip was determination and the feathers which steered it from behind formed resolve that would skewer his prey to a tree, and let him feed on his goals.

Thane rolled his shoulders a few times and careened his neck so-as-to remove any remaining symptoms of tension from his long flight back to Soran, letting him relax completely.

Now could begin his mission.

The Herald needed to make it to the Gates of Doloran, epicenter of human and draconic activity as he knew it, in order to commence carrying out his objective. It wasn't far from his current location either, which was very close to the base of the mountains. An hour, maybe less perhaps, was all it should take for him to arrive and start investigating the area; remembering that upon taking the Entropic Passages for the Val'Gara, he smelled a faint stink-- a foreign presence somewhere above the caverns composing the passages that happened to be extremely close to Doloran's location... He wanted to kill it to ensure the caves security, but more pressing matters had consumed his will. Narcissus' sudden betrayal and the Slut's departure to find Anathema were among them.

Just thinking about it made the Stalker scowl in suppressed anger.

His thoughts on being denied his hunt were abruptly blown to smithereens though; his eyes flicked up and his wings twitched with a noticeable degree of irritation. The sky was on fire, but he could not see what had breached the atmosphere, only his psychic senses let him know that multiple living entities were present in the area of flames. Thane had to turn his body at an angle to watch the beam of light, bright and annoying as it was, descend quickly toward the surface and deposit a human figure just out of range from where he could close the gap, and crush their throat between his fangs.

Given his uncertainty as to the man’s identity, a bit of natural fear did manage to permeate his bloodstream, but agitation fueled by memories of dissatisfaction, and frustration on top of having to contend with multiple acts of treachery against the Val'Gara... is that one the interlopers who interfered with our harvest the first time?! Overridden...

The Stalker's hands balled into fists clenched so tightly that claws pierced his palms, drawing blood which trickled onto the formerly serene plain. Numerous tears split open on each side of his five and a half foot forearms and along the entire length of his twenty-three foot tail that ended in a club of compact tissue, followed by a fleshy extension made up of mostly cartilage, protruding from those slits were jagged saw-teeth. Thane's digits sprouted a small amount of fur as they began to mimic a cross between human and feline anatomy, as his facial features--which upon being combined with his wings--brought the term 'griffin' to mind.

No more frolicking through the confines of nostalgia, no more moping over lost kills, or lamenting his departed brothers. There was only one thing in front of him he needed to pay attention to: the fool walking bravely toward the jaws of death, and the Stalker charging at him in a ferociously pissed off wrath, not even giving the wounds in his hands time to stop bleeding.

The clouds hovering over the plains darkened as the Vesuvian Virus recognized one of its Heralds moving into action, it pulsed deeply within the Entropic Passages, and put the Cataclysm on full alert.

Ram horns exploded through his shoulders, flashed green momentarily, and when the Stalker finished closing the gap, he briefly crossed his forearms and swung them out away from him. An additional five and a half feet of range sprouted from forearms by way of a rubbery, blade-shaped extension protruding from the topside, just before the wrist joint. The teeth which were approximately three feet long, glinted with a light blue sheen; more than enough force to skewer, and more than enough strength to tear the man into two chunks of delectable meat.

Law

[ IV. Welcome To Soran ]

"Welcome to Soran eh..."

The feeling of sweet nostalgia that kissed his skin and captured the world around him was all the same as it had been before. It gave Adell something to look forward to, it gave him a sense of belonging. The moment where instinct seized control and any coherent thoughts unrelated to survival were tossed to the wind. It hadn't taken him long to get used to it all again, from destroying Akuma, and slaying the legendary Dias Blade, Adell had already become proficient in tearing apart anything that crossed his path. The God Dragon himself was already becoming a name whispered by the underworld, and screamed by the public. As one of the leaders of Havoc, he had begun something revolutionary and dangerous all the same.

The world would never be the same. The very aura surrounding Adell was deafening, but next to the monstrous gargoyle it was of little to no consequence. They were both terrifying in different ways, both mysterious and obvious. Just from an exchange of glances they could probably feel each other's power - a trait that came with experience and practice. Adell wouldn't waste time identifying the weaknesses of the unknown beast, and after an instantaneous scan of its physiology was sent up to the Leviathan, Adell began making preparations of his own.

The magnetic rails holding Order and Silence to his backside were slid along the belt to his sides, and the adjustments to the planet's gravity and maneuverability were adjusted as well. All within three seconds, the monster didn't take long to marinate in anger and charge his way, it's long legs and powerful stride closing the distance in moments. Before it reached him, however, it'd have to survive what Adell had to offer from approximately fifteen meters away prior to the creature reaching him.

Grasping the hilts of both Order and Silence the world around him twisted in a vortex of movement, though Adell didn't appear to move a muscle at all. Rather instead, sickles of twisted purple plasma erupted from Adell's forefront. There were sixteen in total and all three inches thick they burned through the very air separating the two, accelerating in a flurry meant to tear flesh from bone and rip the beast into several pieces. While seven were aimed for exposed flesh of the upper torso, the others were aimed for the lower torso, seemingly bare and without fortification.

And it wouldn't end there, if the beast managed to charge through the net of superheated plasma then it'd have a much bigger problem in closing the distance between the two. The glint in the sage's eyes blinked across the distance, ether calmly gathering at the balls of his feet. The advice of his elder monks echoed subconsciously through the white-haired sage's head. Even the most basic maneuvers would be important in a battle of relative skill.

Even still, it was hard to tell just what the warrior had planned, but one thing was certain: by no means would Adell take his opponent lightly. He wasn't facing a comrade or having a friendly spar, like always, with his life on the line, Adell would aim for poised overkill.

The only way Adell liked it.

"Come on you ugly behemoth!" Adell yelled in excitement!

Alucroas

The only thing driving the Stalker's charge was the urge to kill, to run through his weak little body and take it all the way back into the woods where lesser creatures would scavenge his corpse. Instead he was met with irritating delay; his saw-tooth blades were charged with bio-force though and, moreover—they were negatively charged, explaining the blue sheen given off. With this power, he his crescent swing severed the chains holding the plasma sickles together, erasing them from existence before they could so much as singe his skin, for that was the effect negative bio-force had on everything it touched.

Two more saw-tooth extensions emerged from Thane's forearms, one on the ulna, a second on the radial bones, angled so that the three blades were arranged together like a triangle. All three weapons charged and ready to saw through his enemy, the Herald chose an alternative option. His face cringed in a split-second of pain, the ram's heads which acted as spaulders for his shoulders, glowed with luminous green bio-force--positively charged and engulfing his entire body in a protective barrier from any distracting assaults launched by his adversary, and dove straight into the ground from five meters away, leaving a plume of soil in his wake.

Utilizing the newly formed tri-saws as drills to burrow through the soil, three of those same tools emerged from his back as dorsal spines of the same design. Each of the three spines had four sides, were much thicker than the blades on his arms, presenting an overall diamond-shape and edge which came from the teeth fusing together to allow minimum surface resistance as he dug. Knowing he was on a collision course with the enemy, Thane made a hard right, passing the man's left-hand side. He took a brief moment to make direct eye-contact with Adell through six pairs of freshly grown eagle eyes--two on each side having sprouted from his dorsal cutters, their translucent lids providing protection as well as moderately clear vision from the mass upheaval of dirt.

On finishing his evasive maneuver, Thane's body suddenly accelerated in a massive one-hundred-eighty degree turn. If Adell could see through the dirt, he'd have likely witnessed the bulge moving underground grow larger, and accelerate much faster toward the mountains. Something was going on with his body beneath the surface, and as he would soon find out, the Stalker was not simply running away, nor had he allowed himself to get so close to the man without leaving behind a parting gift.

The dirt plume cleared, and as it did, roots stained with the Herald's blood dripped into the tunnel and served as the basis for a rapid accumulation of flesh-growth that bore no distinct shape, only the raw, visceral image that it was alive, pulsating, and still-growing. Closer down the tunnel, at the point where Thane had turned away from Adell mere seconds ago, an object of compact tissue and cartilage that had detached from his tail glowed with positive bio-force, tuned for two very specific purposes: exploding in the man's face in a primordial maelstrom, and for what didn't kill him to be absorbed into the flesh-growth, drastically increasing its rate of mitosis and expanding it throughout the plain.

Soon this warrior who dared to interfere with the Stalker's mission would find out just how cunning he could be when angered, for now he had the Gates of Doloran and Adell's death racing through his mind as he sped toward the mountains, watching the explosion happen with the sharp, with widely dilated eyes on the backs of his spines.

Law

[ V. Talamak ]

Adell Illiandes Laemington behind his visage of steel analyzed every move Thane made, it's response to all of his moves, and it's powerful bloodlust that only seemed to grow as the distance between them dissolve. His eyes widened in excitement. Would they meet head on? Could his bait had been enough to draw in a direct attack from his enemy that seemed to be drowning in agitation and madness? Grinding his teeth together he gripped tightly on the hilts of the two magsabers, preparing for the split second that would be their collision. Would this enemy be different than the others? Time and time again he was disappointed and lived to tell of just how agitating it was to remain without a challenge. The only thing that made it all worth it was the beauty of it all aesthetically.

And it looked like the air was on fire. When Thane readjusted his charge five meters away and decided to drill his way towards Adell, the white-haired sage made subtle and very minute preparations to deal with the beast's plans, whatever they may have been. Usually he was far more of the aggressor than he was the defensive counter-monger, but when dealing with a crafty, unique, and very ugly enemy like Thane, Adell couldn't afford to charge headstrong into his enemy's clutches without knowing what he was dealing with. This was the time for both Adell and VIS to study their prey.

It burrowed past him, and when it did, Adell didn't so much as flinch or move from where he stood, rather instead he allowed his own eyes to meet with that of Thane's. This was the least bit of an introduction that they could offer each other after-all. This didn't stop Adell from feeling guilty, but it'd help him focus on tearing apart Thane and completing the assignment they'd been given.

Zooming around and past him with its newly grown appendages, Adell counted them all and noted their locations, and even when Thane took off in what appeared to be the alien's tactical escape, Adell could already detect that it had left something for the white-haired warrior.

And it wouldn't take him long to figure it out.

A typhoon of unknown biological energies exploded and consumed everything around them, enveloping Adell's last known location, barely missing The Dream that suddenly activated in distress.

But what of the captain?

Even as the debris and maelstrom began to settle to some degree, there appeared to be no sign of the man in the vicinity of the blast range. No corpse, no pieces, nothing but smoke and the biohazardous bullshit left behind by Thane's outrageous display. Meanwhile as Thane enjoyed itself drilling through the ground on its way towards the mountains where the Gates of Doloran awaited, Adell was about ten feet away running in the same direction, racing the ugly beast to his left to the top of the mountain. How long had he been there? Since the explosion? How had he gotten there? Unlike Adell who observed with all senses conventional (five) and unconventional (thirty-six), it had appeared that Thane's primary method of observation was by sight, and it wouldn't be able to figure out how Adell had escaped trouble by sight alone.

No, it went beyond that. Even Adell had been confused when he had first witnessed it. The Zenoushka-Ryu and its potential truly was frightening.

"Now this is fun!" Adell roared, his legs an enigmatic blur of gray and black beneath him. His left hand stretched out and in its grasp shined a pure light, luminous and golden its brightness only grew in the seconds since it appeared and it didn't show any signs of stopping. Focusing the chi into the palm of his hand, he began to incite fire and light into a dangerous mixture with Yin and Yang as the powerful building blocks.

Whatever defense Thane had in store would need to be powerful to withstand what came next.

"Now stop running you bitch!"

[ VI. The Damned Fort ]

While Bee prepared to investigate Soran of her own accord, VIS continued analyzing the statistical data of the battle involving Adell and the Nirran. Nothing out of the ordinary as usual, everything was going as they had projected: Adell getting lost in his foolish truculence, Bee sweeping in to handle things as they needed to be, and VIS collecting useful information as the operating system was designed to do. For everything it learned, it fetched some price to those morbidly curious, and the relationship most had with Soran was little to none: that went the same for most when it came to the Val'gara, the warlike parasitic alien-species that devoured everything in their path.

As Bee finished putting on her suit that was identical to Adell's own, she finished her own calculations on the bridge, which also displayed the conditions of Soran per Helios' entry. Everything was set, and it wasn't until Bee turned around that things went awry. One of the worst people imaginable just so happened to be standing in the bridge of the Leviathan, staring at the data with a look of moderate curiosity. Some knew him as the Merchant of Infinity, a man who had single-handedly destroyed worlds and bent the underworld under his clutches - a dark world that extended across several galaxies. Ace Leiusan, the Green Trigger. No one knew how he received his name, but some said it was after Vestusio where he toyed with the Yggdrasil Crew by his lonesome that his fearsome reputation grew, and while he didn't quite accomplish his objective, he grew bored with it all the same.

There was bigger fish to fry, like Havoc's sudden rise to fame, and Val'gara's internal civil affairs.

But before that, Ace, while a super-computer with the most up-to-date information regarding virtually anything, there were still some things outside of the Realm of Intelios' knowledge, and that was what made VIS's displayed information that much more appealing.

"Well well well, it's been awhile since we last met. I recall last time Jin almost killed me and you spit in my face."

Bee jolted back, creating five feet of space between them almost instantly. "What the hell are you doing here fuckwad!"

"Oh just taking a tour of the awe-inspiring Leviathan...Phantom brought it to you didn't he? That XETA punk...he's a dime a dozen, the rest of them I couldn't be assed to care about, let alo-"

Ace could feel the air in-front of him shift, and with a raise of his right hand, the force behind Bee's fist disappeared. With a crooked smile on his face, the brown-haired, green-tuxedo'd man with crimson eyes stared into the artificial eyes of Bee. She wasn't quite as handily made as an android, she was still human in many ways, but the beauty in her eyes made him recognize why her true name was Belvida Alcamine'. She had a certain spunk and fervor to her that one wouldn't find in an ordinary piece of machinery.

"Ya' know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you're a rip-off of-"

Another fist, and it'd be stopped much the same as the first.

"Oh that's right, a coincidence wasn't it? Or does Adell miss his old friends that much that he has to live them through his new comrades?"

Bee mustered up as much saliva as possible before spitting it into Ace's face. It splattered onto his forehead and barely cleared his eyes, to which he looked on, hardly agitated by Bee's attempt to derail his taunts.

"Jin and the others aren't here to save you this time...so now what?"

[ VII. Touch ]

In the dark room all that could be heard was the sound of a long drag, and the relieving exhale that followed. Over and over again the scarlet light bled across the room then faded, struggling to keep itself alive for what little time remained. In a sense, the light wasn't much unlike the person who had created it, a blonde haired woman, sitting naked in the bed on-top of the world orchestrated by Horizon and its powerful assets.

Yet she knew the cost of the power she wielded was lethal.

It didn't matter.

The only thing she wanted was to feel that man's touch once more.

"Come back to me before it's too late..." she whispered as if he were standing right there.

Beramode

Soran was proving to be quite the nuisance…

Many months ago the Apex had discovered the supermassive planet while adrift through space. Soran presented an interesting prospect for the fledgling Republic, since their bloody inception things had gone remarkably smooth for them and that was steadily becoming something a problem. They were a warrior people forged through fire and blood and they were beginning to grow squeamish with their peaceful star faring lifestyle. Soran was exactly what they needed, not only would it provide them with immeasurable resources, but the unfriendly natives would serve to wet the violent appetites of the Apex Republic once more.

That said Soran was a stubborn world. It had been entertaining at first but now it was bothersome. The number of times the Minikong had clashed with the stubborn Niraan tribes alone was becoming a headache. Superior technology and modern military training had done absolutely nothing to dissuade the robust gargoyles, if anything seeing their greatest warriors fall to superior tactics had only incensed them, resources were running low and the planet had more numbers than they did. Not to mention that the world itself was something of an ever shifting biological nightmare.

The Minikong were the elite soldiers of the Apex Republic. They were hardened veterans devoid of emotions and that was well and fine but at some point the Republic would have to stop throwing resources at this damned planet and start stripping of its resources. If that meant making an example of the Niraan tribes than that way simply what needed to be done.

And so Ceasar himself had come to Soran.

The Minikong were the apex of the Apex and by their nature they were quite standard of what it meant to be a hyper-evolved simian soldier. The smallest of their number stood at six and half feet tall while the largest of them topped off around ten feet in height. They had robust bodies with broad chests, long arms, and limber legs that ended in prehensile toes. Their bodies were covered almost entirely in fur with sparser density around the hands, feet, abdomen, and of course around the face; thick in males and habitually groomed thin in even the sturdiest female. Their fur came in dark colors from black and grey to rusty red and midnight blue. Amongst the Minikong they were all hardened fighters, scarred and muscled, and all religious devoted to the strange ritualistic voodoo that pervaded throughout the Republic, a stubborn holdover from their terrestrial days but a useful tool considering that their god walked amongst them every day. Each one was also enhanced in some way, incapable of feeling pain, sporting cybernetics that made their already superior bodies far and above that of any other humanoid. All details the Minikong were more than capable of standing toe to toe with the most vicious monster on this planet.

Their advantage came in technology. The Minikong all wore boxy power armor in dark greys and blacks, made up of thick metal plates that left no opening to the simian beneath, and stylized with beady red eyes, a bulky respirator to cover up the mouth, and a hood. The leadership wore more ornate armor in dark purple shades and could be seen sporting capes. All of the Minikong were quite ornate though, much of their armor sporting the symbols of their particular squad, they were after all as much a religious force as they were a shock troop.

They milled about their camp, almost out of place in the daytime, taking posts on the high stone walls and going about their daily activities with a fervor normally only reserved for children and the mentally handicapped. They all sported some degree of gear, though the ones in training and in labor were not fully armored, and yet their weapons were all close by should they need to scoop them up at a moment’s notice. Vines hung down the walls in a pitiful form of camouflage and already the camp was littered with the assorted trophies of their stay on Soran from decapitated heads to the smooth skeleton of a particularly large reptilian fish they had drawn from the steaming ocean several hundred miles out. The tidal wave had only just managed to reach them and though it had claimed no lives repairs were certainly in order.

Quite an auspicious day for this to happen; the chiefs of all the Niraan tribes had been gathered to meet with Ceasar so that the two might discuss some sort of alliance and if not that then at least a non-aggression pact. Their leaders were all gathered in the big tent at the center with acting commander Alfred “Lanky” Kong hovering about; he was a silly looking creature with fire red fur and an elongated face that caused him to stand out amongst his ape brothers. He was known for being jovial, too much so, but any member of the Minikong knew that behind his broad smiles and jeering jokes lay a very nasty mean strike.

“My king, my king! The ugly brutes are almost here, shall I open the gates or shall I open fire?” Lanky said in a sing song voice that tipped on the edge of mockery. He had been a cousin of the royal family before Ceasar’s ascension and the royal tongue still came to him from time to time, though he had by no means been given his rank as a form of appeasement. He grinned sardonically as the captain’s chuckled.

“Very funny, but save the jokes for after. They may not understand our Simianese but I can smell the hatred on you from here.” Ceasar’s voice was a stately thing, a deep rumbling that did not seek to offend, but carried a heart command to it nonetheless.

“I’m surprised they can smell anything over their own stench.” Lanky rolled his shoulder in a shrug.

Ceasar stood at fifteen feet tall with a body chiseled from stone. Where the Minikong were blocky creatures as a result of their modifications his form was rather svelte, perfectly well-proportioned but not without a bulk of muscles, it was a statuesque thing carved by the gods themselves. He was far shorter than his predecessor had been and still towered over most of his ilk. His body was covered in long golden fur that gradually shifted to a stark red towards the ends. Where a standard Apex face was fairly humanoid his ended in a great snout worthy of a baboon, filled with sharp teeth, and with a wide hateful red gaze. The hair upon his head fell in great locks decorated with feathers and beads and other such ritualistic things.

He wore the armor of the Mini Kong though only lightly so. He did not after all need such things. But the breastplate was thrown over his flowing purple overcoat along with a set of gauntlets, grieves, a steel skirt, and a few more affects to cover up the most incidental areas. His clothing was of a deep royal purple despite being suited for the environment, he wore boots over his grasping feet and pants with a hole carved out for his long curling tail, which also happened to armored with centipede-esque overlapping armor sporting wicked ridges. At his hips he was heavily armed, a pair of hand cannons strapped in place named alternatively Darwin and Wallace. There were a number of other devices hanging there ranging from grenades to nets, all stored in flat space convertors.

Then of course there was the mighty halberd hanging over his shoulder. A mighty Apeviscerator fully larger than the biggest of the Minikong that ended in a curved head. The staff appeared to be made of a lacquered glittering wood and the head that emerged from it was as red as a ripe strawberry but with a keen edge to it that caught the sunlight and a shine to its polished length.

Ceasar Kong was the unquestioned god of the Apex save for one fact and that was that he walked amongst them. He had taken them to the stars and now he had led them to a new world with which to populate. That was if he could deal with the damn locals. Supposedly the big thugs had a warrior culture of their own and Ceasar hoped that the two might be able to find some peace within that. With a wave of his hands the gates were swung open and the first beleaguered leaders of the proud Niraan people strode their way in, each mighty chief with an honor guard of his own, head held high despite knowing that they could have very well just wandered to their death.

Then a mountain exploded.

Just blew right the hell up and began raining shards for miles around. This mountain, the Entropic Passages, was one they had not dared step foot towards. Not because the locals held it sacred but because they feared it. There were rumors of a vicious plague that spread throughout the beasts that lived there, left behind by a race of wicked aliens and it now mutated every life form it came across and turned them into raving mad beasts, even the Niraan themselves. More than defending their homes the Niraan fought tooth and nail to make sure that the Minikong had never come close. Women, children, and even elderly were willing to throw themselves in front of a bullet so that the Vesuvian Virus could not spread.

Ceasar curled his lips back for a snarl. The raw magical stank that filtered off of his body filled the camp and caused every creature present to shudder in terror. Though he only stood eye to eye with the Niraan chieftains in that moment he loomed over them like a mountain whose entrance they had blindly stumbled into and was slowly beginning to close around them. Then it was over and that presence was gone and Ceasar had risen from his throne.

“Let this be the first offering of peace between our people. You, my friend, have a bug infestation. And I shall clear it out…” he called out with a boom, the magic on his tongue translating the words as they left his lips, and then he turned to Lanky. “Contact my flagship. I will investigate on my own and then afterwards we shall see the Entropic Passages removed from the map along with whatever wretched disease exists inside of it.” Somewhere in space the Apex flagship Survival of the Fittest had begun to stir.

Alucroas

The Herald dismissed his thoughts on how Adell had managed to escape the explosion, instead placing his focus on making the best possible use of the brief seconds the warrior took to close the gap on him, at which point the avian eyes watching from above widened, his capillaries plainly visible through the rush of dirt. Thane's dorsal saws tilted inward toward each other as though drawn together through some form of magnetism, glowed with rich, searing green lightning, and projected a massive, luminous pillar into the sky. In the instant that followed, what was left of the bio-force blast-wave that had not yet been sucked into the subterranean-born flesh-growth--which ruptured the ground with its expansion--became conducted into the pillar and was siphoned back into the Stalker's body.

A deep rumbling ensued on both sides of Thane's body, the terrain itself lifting in front of him as though he were a shark plowing through water, the area being so great that it threatened to disrupt Adell's movement alongside him. He had heard the man's threat, telling him to stop running away, but the Stalker could care less about his idle words; his brutal death would by WorldWideCoupon"> come soonenough. Behind Thane, the tunnel he had left was quickly filling up with raw flesh at a rate great enough to almost make it seem as though it was liquid rushing down a dried riverbed, meanwhile the bio-force he absorbed was pouring out of his skin and condensing itself into a blinding barrier of raw energy that scorched the earth and left a burning red scar in his wake.

As the cold dirt flowed into his nostrils, the Stalker could feel his elevation starting to rise, the air beginning to thin as his by WorldWideCoupon"> ascent up the mountain began. The flesh growth slammed into the base of the mountains with the force of a tidal wave, sending branching cracks out in every direction; cracks which were immediately expanded and forced wide open as the organic substance began to fill and perforate the rocks which were hundreds of feet thick, until finally penetrating deep inside at which point the real journey began: locating the epicenter of Vesuvian and Val'Gara activity,

The great barrier of bio-force surrounding the Herald's body thrummed and pulsed, releasing enormous waves of burning energy, melting the area around him into a molten soup of rocks and foilage. Considering Adell's close proximity and insistance on keeping up with the Stalker, it should've come as no surprise when he found himself in the direct path of a particularly thick ring of bio-force blasted out in a colossal shock-wave, yielding the force of a hydrogen bomb that would leave a deep crater in the mountain. This was what happened when a Herald ingested their own bio-force into themselves; it became infinitely more potent, as it had been reprocessed, refined, and purified, giving wonder to just why the Herald had seemingly turned his body into the equivalent of a nuclear reactor.

--


The Niraans: throughout most of their existence , they had thrived off the spoils of war, pillaging other clans, ransacking human settlements throughout the mountains, using the Entropic Passages themselves as proving grounds for their young males. Glo'Rath, a thirty foot tall Niraan chief had experienced these trials himself: the dark aura which permeated every nook, cranny, and bottomless pit the cave system had to offer, ripped the limbs off colossus insects whose numbers were extreme both in species variety and individual species themselves. It is said by the Niraan elders that their powers of body-morphing comes from deep within the passages themselves, and while it could be mere biological coincidence that the Niraans begin to show their abilities upon reaching adulthood, no Niraan had ever emerged from the Passages without also possessing complete mastery over their newfound powers.

Upon emerging from the cave, covered in giant insect bites, and looking like he had just experienced the dark side of the after-life, Glo'Rath began to prove his might to his tribe using his new exoskeleton. The armor was colored in the likeness of sandstone and bore an exceptional sheen to it, a seemingly endless amount of blades arced up out of it like crescents, and were brittle to the touch. Breaking these blades off in the skin of an enemy caused them to dissolve within the blood stream, slicing the enemy apart from within. Of course that was merely the first layer, and only layer he showed, thinking of it as proof of his leadership.

Dragging his claws across his armored chin, dark narrow eyes, looking directly back at Ceasar's, Glo'Rath finally spoke with a nod.

"Though fearful of the Passages, we Niraans are not cowards, and are coming with to witness this great claim of yours."

Beramode

“Very well, these are your lands and I cannot bar you from them.” Caesar gazed upon the grim faces of the assembled Niraan. They were an ugly people with harsh faces that came in a variety of flavors, from flat to snouted, and like many tribes were no strangers to ritual scarring. “But send only your strongest warriors. I set a hard pace and I will slow down for no one.”

“Lanky, you are in charge until my return.” The gangly ape saluted but kept his mouth shut in spite of the wry look spread across his face. “Entertain our guests and do not make a fool of yourself. Or them. Whatever nightmare is consuming your sacred mountains has only grown stronger in the time we wasted speaking and I suspect it will not stop until it has uprooted everything in its path.”

“I know nothing of its goal, only that if it wants something fiercely enough to break the land then I do not want it to succeed.” The Niraan listened in silence for they were a reverent people. Like animals in the wild they said little and made little noise unless of course it was in the head of battle. With that the tribal leader and three other Niraan stepped forward, one distressingly small and another unusually thin for his people, but the largest by far was a seemingly obese female with flesh that bore cracks like a shattered mirror.

With a final assenting nod Caesar took off. His pace was a light jog at first which the Niraan kept up with easily but he quickly sped up, soon the camp was out of sight and he moved in a blur, the tribal leaders had to fall upon all fours just to keep up pace, bounding along like feral beasts. Contrary to his word he did not let any of them fall behind and they were on the mountain in time to see the glowing pillar of emerald light. The Niraan leaders were coated in thick sheens of sweet in comparison to Caesar who was still feeling stiff from a morning of political proceedings.

“We have seen this before when other invaders came to our world.” Glo’Rath growled. “I was still a youngling, I can tell you no more other than that it is trouble.”

Caesar perked up a brow. Unlike the Niraan he could feel what was atop the mountain, in fact he could feel both of them at the top of the mountain; one had the familiar feel of a dragon though noticeably muted while the other felt almost native to Soran, but beneath that whiff of familiar savannah was something entirely unknown to him and it was dangerous. ‘Better that they learn themselves,’ he conclude in an instant. Cracks webbed through the uneven ground at his feet and between them pulsating flesh could be seen radiating a fell energy. Lesser than the beast in the mountain but part of a greater whole, ‘How curious, I wish to know more.’

This thing in the mountains, literally inside the mountain, was to the Niraan as Caesar Kong was to the Apex. Similar and yet greater in fundamental ways. There had been a time with Caesar was a normal ape, in fact he had been a small child born out of poverty, the name Kong had not once been that of the royal house but a placeholder set upon those without a family of their own. But then in a moment of desperation he had devoured the bones of the Old King and with them he had absorbed the Old Kings power into his body, luckily he had not become a hundred foot titan, perhaps this one had once been normal as well. They would have much to speak of though the words would be transcribed in violence.

Caesar extended his magic into the world beneath his feet. He took command of the fissure beside him and he smashed the earth shut, forcing the meat to swell until finally it popped and spread a bloody smear along the resealed savannah. A senseless gesture to some but it released the contaminated energy within and allowed him to taste it upon the tip of his tongue. Caesar’s magic was an unusual thing, born of a universe of thought and of will, on this plane it did not play by the rules of the universe, while other forms of magic only sought to bend the soul of Grim actively rewrote them. Under his command the earth flowed like liquid around the sickly meat between the cracks and pulped them down until no more weighed on his conscious in the immediate area.

“We engage in battle, brave tribal leaders. I advise that you prepare yourselves because whatever hides within these mountains will not be pleased by what I am to do next.”

The beast within may well already be aware of his presence with his ostentatious destruction of his meaty toys. Thus Caesar needed to take the offensive fast, he slid his feet out, shoulder width apart with his body squared, with a sweep of his hands he grabbed the yokes of Grim that had plunged into the earth moments before. He swirled it around beneath him, mixing it together and twisting the earth beneath his feet like a whirlpool, the Savannah beneath his feet rumbled and the Niraan unsheathed their animal crafted weapons. He moved with the steady flow of a dance known only to him and then he stomped forward a single step and a single fist forward, the other remaining chambered at his hip. Beneath their feet feet the earth surged, thoroughly caked in unreal Grim the earth surged forward, snagging more stones and vines along the way and expelling the sickly meat that pervaded throughout the mountain rage. As it travelled the stone condensed itself, hardening a thousand upon a thousand times, until finally when it reached the magma tunnel created by Thane it could resist the heat on will alone. A massive stone fist scorched black like obsidian crashed into Thane like a high speed train, striking with enough force to pitch the beast out of the mountain and into the ocean.

“Hear me beast, I am Caesar Kong.” His voice was the deafening roar of thunder and it filled the entire mountain. “Where Dragons fear to tread I reign as King. State your name so that I may know who to name your corpse after when I claim it as a trophy!”

Law

[ VIII. 90059 ]

Adell Illiandes Laemington was and always will be a primitive monster at heart.

If Thane was anything it was intelligent, wise enough to avoid a direct confrontation with Adell after witnessing hardly a glimpse of what he had to offer. Most adversaries Adell faced only realized the true strength of Adell's close-quarters range when it became too late. Even then, Adell could feel that there was another ulterior motive behind Thane's actions, something else he was aiming for beyond their right. Blinking across the mountain at an astounding pace it was no surprise that he was able to keep up with the pace that the Niraan had set.

That is until something quite unexpected happened.

Adell could see the signs beforehand, and had been monitoring the wavelengths of the barrier as it condenses around Thane and melted everything it touched. Making the proper adjustments ahead of time, he slowed down his own pace and allowed Thane to run slightly faster than himself, after-all, at his previous speeds if something spontaneous were to happen like an explosion with the power of a nuclear reactor behind it, it'd be hard to react to.

And as it turns out he wasn't too far from the money.

The green bio-force released by Thane consumed everything in its path, a crippling explosion that would've destroyed Adell otherwise were it not for the sudden white flash of divine energy that stood between Adell and the destructive bio-force. His right eye glowed slightly and his left hand, outstretched with his fingers wide as possible, forced the two energies in a startling collision together that sent haphazard shockwaves flying across the mountain top. The Dragon's Gate insisted on being unleashed, and it's power was very much real, so real infact that this was merely the presence of the Gate's essence and not its true power itself - a manifestation of the Gate's presence and the spiritual testament of Adell's inner beast. Nothing like what had almost destroyed everything that surrounded Gaea and the world's beyond (that weren't consumed by the black hole), while its billowing rage sent surreal flames cascading across the mountain in a blazing inferno, Adell stood in the midst of its draconic energy, commanding it with a lot more emphasis than he ever had before. While he wanted to meet Thane head on, it seemed that their head-on collision was a ways away.

After the dragon essentially devoured the bio-force blast with its anger and frustration, Adell grounded himself atop the rubble of the mountain and watched his inner spirit thrash across the mountain in fury. The huge four-winged silhouette lurched and slammed about, sending waves of blinding energy and concussive force flying everywhere atop the mountain - and likely effecting whatever was within.

But Adell didn't care. The longer his spirit held on to the Dragon's Gate to sustain itself the more maddening and powerful it would become, and if Thane didn't intend to fight him face to face then he'd prepare to actually destroy Entropic Passages and the mountain itself - it didn't matter, and a six stories tall dragon bubbling in anger wasn't exactly an ideal enemy for anyone, even Adell himself.

"I'm not going to chase you all day creature." Adell mumbled, surrounded by the same hazy white energy that thrashed across the mountain, the essence of his pure soul. "Come out here and duke it out or I'm blowing this whole mountain the fuck up. Don't think I will? Try me."

Adell's attitude has changed entirely, obviously affected by the spirit dragon's disposition itself. As the beast continued to create mind-numbing earthquakes and physical explosions, Adell glared in the general direction of Thane.

"Give me the right I know you can give!"

[ IX. Lost in the World ]

And at the exact same time as Thane's rude outburst down on Soran, Bee collapsed on the ground, armless and speechless. Staring with a look devoid of hope, she struggled to clear her sight just enough to see Ace's nefarious grin. The truth hurt. There were very few in existence that could challenge Ace's power and authority, and the few that did exist who could didn't matter in his eyes. Crim El Furaga was a clear example, all the effort he and his Yggdrasil Pirates put into fighting Ace and the best they could do was burn his clothes?

And that was only because of a lapse of thought, allowing himself to underestimate the bugs that they were. Yawning for a moment he crouched down and grabbed Bee's face, twisting it about to get a better look at her design; or perhaps to coax and remind her that there was nothing she could do to escape.

"You are a rip-off. Nothing more than a piece of scrap built to mimic something you can never be." Ace smiled sympathetically, tapping his index finger on her cheek. "But you're still beautiful, I'll give you that."

"Aren't you a rip-off of God?" Bee coughed, her systematic functions damaged and under reservice using the emergency nanomachines installed in her construction.

"I AM GOD." Ace roared, his personality shifting in the blink of an eye. "I am absolute, do you understand that?"

The Green Trigger rose from before Bee and turned to the main console at the top of the bridge, that which could be used to manually operate VIS.

"So, VIS, how would you like to go to sleep? Forever?"

"?!" Bee's face jerker angrily, but couldn't find the strength to move. The green liquid that was her blood squirted across the floor, and she toppled over, losing consciousness.

"Oh...no response? What a rude A.I...but I can fix that."

Alucroas

The Stalker's collision with the mountain had slowed his tunneling speed significantly, as dirt and plants shifted to solid granite, his energized body did much to ease his procession into the cave system that is until another interloper decided he wanted to join the fray. He sought to target his flesh growth, an action he felt ​immediately​, for the organic substance running throughout the ground was merely an extension of his mind and body. It was through sheer principle of causality alone though, that when the Herald consumed his own bio force, reprocessed and released it back into the open, two things happened: it obliterated the terrain directly in front of it and acted as a steroid to to Thane's hideous tumors that were closest to his position near the base of the mountain, causing a massive surge in mitosis. Such was the nature of bio force to act as a fuel source for any living organism it came into contact with, and as Thane had just demonstrated, its creative energy could be equally devastating.

Mid-way between the Stalker and Caesar, the cells comprising the Herald's flesh growth multiplied, aligned, and grew into something beyond simple living tissue. Muscle fibers rapidly developed, formed enormous rows of thickly coiled digits, continuously being compressed by the Ape's control over the earth, until the pressure became too great to contain. The smallest nerve impulse triggered a violent and sudden spasm within the coils, springing open, widening the fissure, and cracking Liaita’s agonized visage in a pattern of chaos. Everything beyond the defensive zone died and was expelled as the Warrior intended thrown out like garbage and smeared across the vacant trees dotting the edge of the forest from whence he had emerged.

The Stalker felt all things...

Concurrently, the thickness of the mountain range succeeded in decelerating Thane’s momentum, gradually coming to a halt as dirt and rocks piled up against his protruding dorsal saws. His body hummed and glowed with luminous bio force, the light becoming ever more faint as the psi link strengthened, the darkness of the Vesuvian Storm’s constant rotations expanding, dominating the environment and shrouding the world in a terrifying umbra, hiding him from sight. The rubble rose in height, the Herald’s long, muscular tail swinging in wide horizontal arcs which slung debris to and fro, freeing himself from the destruction he had wrought.

Thane heard a voice boom across the distance between the mountains and forest, crossing paths with the darkness, puncturing it like infernal arrow and igniting his kill drive. Standing and turning in one motion, the Stalker bowed down, his leonine eyes sharp focused on the giant rock hurling in his direction. Glancing at the wretched field of newborn flesh and fissures only briefly, he put all his power into two distinct plans; fists clenched, crushing rocks, his body lunged forward and tensed. His dorsal saws empowered by his own reprocessed bio force, were as hard and as sharp as diamonds, vibrating like the enchanted swords forged by the smiths of Doloran, met with tremendous impact. Sparks of emerald light flew off the saws, illuminating Thane’s transforming face only briefly, providing momentary glimpses of two alpha predators facial features being merged together, baring distinctly feline and selachimorphian traits.

The saws sliced through molecules composing the super-hard rock by shaking it apart at the very same level, and because its speed had been in no way decreased, when it was cut through by the three dorsal saws, all three rocks slammed into the mountain behind Thane like three massive rails, creating three holes arranged in the shape of a triangle. His psychic roar triggered something that was nothing short of prophetic a vision he had experienced earlier upon coming within close proximity of the mountains: the plains destabilized, the fissures split into islands floating on a dark red lake of liquefied flesh growth, undulating ground like boats floating on the ocean.

SSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLKEEEEEEEEEEEER!

His psychic scream raged in the ears of all who heard it, maybe even Caesar’s companions ​recognized​ it, behind all the infuriated animal ferocity shouting viciously and vindictively at the violators of his sacred

home.

Lightning branched out from the storm-cloud, struck Thane’s dorsal saws, and sent uncontrollable shivers racing down his spine, running throughout his wings which had taken on the appearance of enormous fins, his tail rapidly thinning out to resemble a rudder swishing excitedly through the air.

I am Thane, the Val’Gara’s Ultimate Predator! Once We were knocked off the top of the food chain that gleams so brightly, free of blood, its metal rusty-wrong, and reeking of WEAKNESS UNWORTHY OF A TRUE HUNTER’S FANG!

Like this chain, our links have grown frail, grown pathetic, shrunk down into abominable cubs incapable of hunting an apple from a tree!

Members of the Cataclysm...

I AM THE STALKER! I WILL STAIN THIS CHAIN, RUSTY, RED, RIGHT!

A deep rumbling took place deep from far within the Entropic Passages, Corpsefeeders who bore the appearance of tanky turtles with long necks, no eyes, but mouths like bear traps yielding no stomach, carried atop the backs of Riflemutants resembling humanoid horseshoe crabs, their right arms baring the shape of a chitinous arm cannon capable of firing off intense rounds of bio plasma, while their left was a standard albeit massive claw that crushed whatever it managed to grasp. The Stalker launched himself into the air, soaring beyond the rubble he produced mere minutes ago, the Riflemutants tossing the Corpsefeeder just a few feet above their heads before aligning their two appendages together.

Cobalt bio plasma gathered inside the cannon, their claws snapped shut so hard it released a sphere of air that was quickly followed by the bolt, igniting the oxygen and creating an explosion which hurled the Corpsefeeder into the sky, sailing behind the Stalker. An enormous swarm of spiders and centipedes, whip scorpions, opiliones, myagalomorphae, ricinulei, schizomida, haptopoda, crickets, mantises, catepillers who had lost their taste for plants and became carnivorous monstrosities whose butterfly wings had already sprouted. Vinegaroons, ant colonies that had once warred with all the other insects, giant louse, crabs who crawled along the moist interior of the Entropic Caverns, microbial extremophiles who lived at the highest points of the caverns where the temperature was ice cold, and creatures who dwelt near magma chambers where the caverns breached Soran’s crust. All came rushing down the mountain in a crazed blood frenzy, chittering, chattering, skittering along, some hopping from one floating island or group of isles to the next flesh growth which had grown solid over the islands cliffs produced silk spinners that weaved the islands together by forming small bridges to allow the insects easy passage.

The Corpsefeeders landed with a crimson splash right behind the Stalker, taking up residence in the spots with the most amount of space between isles, disguising themselves as rock. The foresty glow of Thane's dorsal spines faded as he reached greater depths. Still, his psychic voice could be heard and felt screaming across the psi-link, the islands rising and falling visibly with the intermittent lightning strikes, disrupting the surface and spraying the insects with the blood of Thane, further enticing their appetites and lust for nourishment.

His final message would be directed at Adell...


YOU WISH FOR A FIGHT, WARRIORS!

I WISH TO EAT, TO FEED, TO FEAST!

MY KIND ARE HUNGRY, MY KIND IS STARVING, AND SO I ASK... YOU WHO DEMANDS I GIVE YOU THE FIGHT I KNOW YOU CAN GIVE!

The Island Adell was standing on rapidly rose up out of the lake, as did the one belonging to the Monkey King, the silk webs connecting them quickly reeling them together at speeds great enough to smash them together.

WHERE IS MY MEAL!?

A gargantuan mouth lined with mandibles, shark teeth, lion teeth, ALL TEETH FIT FOR SLICING, DICING, CRUNCHING AND CRUSHING, lifted the islands high into the sky, formed by the Herald's ability to shape-shift. The many teeth embedded deep within the islands, pulling them into its their monstrous esophagus. If Caesar and Adell's eyes had adjusted to the horror going on all around them, at the far bottom of throat, a geyser of blood and gore filled to the brim with insects of every shape and variety could be seen spouting its way up, as though the mouth were vomiting its own innards. The Stalker was at its center, submerged down to his waist in his own blood the energized saw-blades on his forearms rich with positive emerald bio-force pointed at an inwards angle, forming a v-shape that he aimed to impale both of those intrusive bastards with and throw them into the pit.

WHERE!

IS!

MY!

FILL!?

Beramode

“Are you sure you do not wish to flee, brave Niraan?” Caesar’s voice was a low unperturbed rumble that ran contrary to the fierce warrior roars that surrounded him, the only way the bold chieftain and his cadre knew how to confront their fear, and after a moment’s wait a sneer appeared along his long snout. “It’s too late for regrets, far too late, but since I am your guest I will save you this one time...”

Not so long ago they had been staring at one of the largest mountain ranges on the planet Soran, teeth of stone so vast that they defied conventional measure, it seemed almost impossible that they had all disappeared so fast by falling into the planets crust. But there was no denying that it had happened and in their wake a great gaping mouth had opened up on the continent lined with teeth and a generations worth of rot that had been allowed to fester in the dark, for that’s what the tide of mutants swarming out were to Caesar’s nose, with all his vast knowledge he could not place a name to their species but his instincts told him that they were a disease. Whatever it was it had turned once noble beasts into monsters and now commanded them to attack in waves. Meanwhile the land fell away bit by bit until only a single shrinking island remained around them.

The Niraan to their credit only allowed surprise to overwhelm them for a minute or two before they set about fighting the horde and they were doing an excellent job of it. They clutched weapons made of giant animal bone and carved from stones found deep within their planets, carved with runes that enhanced their natural strength to prodigious levels and added a touch of primal magic to their attacks, every sweep of their mighty arms sent the hordes crashing back and it was only just enough to keep the tide from overtaking their humble little island. But the Monkey King said not a word, his hands folded neatly behind his back as he observed the chaos unfolding with a casual eye, and the Stalker in the middle of it all. Thane was likely sporting a few bumps and bruises from his rough encounter with the fist of stone and his faulty attempt at a defense but was only more ferocious for it and it showed when he addressed the King with a beasts roar; Caesar’s reprise was no louder than before but it could be heard clearly throughout.

“First things first, I would rather you not lump me in with whatever fool hunters you have encountered before.”

Caesar swept his right hand forward; index and middle finger close together, and from the tips of his gnarled claws a pair of blades lunged out. They were carved of the wind and they moved with a spiraling mind of their own, slicing clean through the webbing that had been attached to the underside of his island on a molecular level before making their way all the way down to Corpsefeeder. It would take a moment for the Corpsefeeder itself to realize what had happened before the webbing began to slide apart and by the time that split reached the insectoid it proceeded to explode into a bloody mess along with a few hundred or so of its brothers unfortunate to have been in the path of the wind blades.

This of course did little to save Adell as his island which was still going to be swinging in Caesar’s direction.

“Second, you insult me by sending a swarm of weaklings my way; this shall be your undoing.”

Caesar’s fur seemed to lift itself upon a magical wind as the Monkey King took a massive breath and with the world froze in place. Not really of course but the weight of his breath was so heavy that the atmosphere itself seemed to shrink in around them and everything within a solid fifty miles was forced to pause and ground themselves lest they be drawn interminably towards the Monkey King. Then when the golden ape’s chest had swelled like a balloon and a billion insects were flailing through the air towards him he would thrust his abdomen forward and belch out a might storm; Kong Fu Sacred Technique: the Royal Apes Voracious Breath had been unleashed. It was a literal storm molded with the fae magic that ran rife through his bones and body, every wisp of wind forged into a blade, and it spread like a clone that consumed every Val’gara in the air and on the ground, had the mountain range still existed then it too would have been consumed. But rather than continue in the manner of a tornado the winds curved in at their apex and formed a giant sphere. Those insects that were not caught in the immediate blast would be torn from their perch and sucked into the voracious tornado by whipping tendrils of wind. It was as if the storm itself were a living hungry thing, because it was, and if one listened closely to the roaring of the winds they seemed to form vague worms like the crack of thunder. It tore apart the Cataclysm like a cruel child plucking the wings from an insect, spilling toxic blood and growing stronger for it, until not a single life was left.

Even Adell and Thane if they were unfortunate enough to fall inside.

“Third and perhaps the worst, you dare raise your voice to a king?”

Caesar clicked his fingers and it was done. The storms life came to an explosive end at his command and all that was left were winds whirling around at thousands of miles per hour and the unstable mixture of aimless magic and the psychic residue of a billion lives lost in an instant. The explosion flattened the world around it and even the Niraan were not safe as they were flung to the ground. Of the mouth it would be consumed by a storm of purifying fire and the world turned white, when the light faded and the roar of power was gone a great gaping hole would be torn in the atmosphere of Soran and the memories of the world, enough force put into the attack that even the corpses of the Cataclysm had been reduced to a tepid stench on the air. Everything else was blackened glass and sludge.

And what of Thane?

Well Caesar fully expected the Returning Son to survive and so the Monkey King planned for that. With a leap he flew into the path of the only thing thick headed enough to survive the attack, the smoking body of Adell, whatever the state of that foolish Prince of Dragons may have been in the Monkey King lashed out with his tail and caught the man around the leg. Then with a yank he flung his body up and over Adell’s, turning in the air before delivering a hard kick to the back of the man’s head, his toil uncoiled just in time to avoid being towed alongside and the Platinum Prince was sent flying towards Thane like a bullet; again whatever wretched state the Stalker was in after the attack. Even if dead Caesar wanted the corpse to be gone. If the atmosphere had survived around them it would have broken ten times over, but alas, the viewer at home would simply have to satisfy themselves with the knowledge that attack had been fast. So fast that when Adell hit Thane their bodies would atomize in the impact.

“Stand before your liege and address him properly, if you do that, I may just let you live.” Caesar clapped to the ground one foot at a time, long tail swishing behind him and a storm drifting through his fur, for all that effort he seemed none the worse for wear. If anything the golden ape was exhilarated; it had been a decent warm up.

Alucroas

The great mouth of blood and gore rose in perfect synchronicity with Thane’s rapidly growing appetite, his tongue tensed inside his mouth, jaws tightly clenched as he eagerly drove his body upward and awaited the satisfying sensation of his saw-blades grind and cleave through the flesh and bones of his prey. Instead he felt the blood he had just swam through lift off his skin, its warm embrace erased and replaced by the cold wind, as members of the Cataclysm were violently pulled from their crimson stations, up into the storm and passed Thane’s face. The Herald’s body reacted instinctively to the change in movement: thin brown fur sprouted from his pores, and his limbs became bound together by a membrane which caught the air within it and carried him into the tornado.

For now the Stalker was safe, but now was hardly momentary; he could feel chunks of his fur quickly shearing off, the curvature of his membrane stretching and tearing like cheap elastic. In order to survive in this harshly chaotic environment, Thane would have to reach deep into the catacombs of DNA he had plundered from the jungle, and start combining their traits for his escape and inevitably deliverance of wrath upon Caesar Kong.

Beneath the remaining remnants of fur, the Herald’s epidermis secreted a thick layer of slime, followed by hundreds of quills protruding from his pores, creating a film blanket held together by the barbs lining their surface. His dorsal saws, which extended just below the quills instantly lit up with positive bio-force, was drawn into the film and triggered mass cellular division and condensation. Due to the storm’s loud noise, coupled with the cyclone’s rapid evolution into a gyrating sphere of destructive wind, the accumulation of voltage between cells sparked off and the Stalker’s bio-electricity was conducted into the film.

Empowered by Thane’s bio-force, the heat emitted by the lightning vaporized the film in a matter of seconds, only to be replaced as microscopic glands formed under his pores. The wind sliced his quills in half, immediately regrowing as the Herald’s flesh-growth kicked in, regenerating both the slime which became more viscous and less prone to being blown apart by the intense wind. His quills which more deeply rooted as well as extended farther out from the Stalker’s body, serving as the basis for electromagnetic equilibrium, ensuring his field would not fall apart again, and stabilizing his war of attrition.

Still, in the effort to maintain and sustain this defensive strategy, the Stalker had suffered more cuts than he could count across his entire body. He knew it would happen--nor did he care-- a fight wasn’t a fight and a hunt wasn’t a hunt without someone getting hurt, and so as the Monkey King sought to reduce him to a thousand ribbons of flesh and bone whirling around inside the vortex... Thane closed his eyes roared in brutal agony as the oxygen surrounding him ignited in a maelstrom of fire and lightning, disintegrating any chances of further injury as his wounds were cauterized by the heat, eliminating the pain, and turning the pained scream into one of primal rage.

Engulfed in bestial fury as well as hundreds of burn blisters both big and small, the Stalker felt his eyes roll back in his head, psychic senses immediately taking over, his smell receptors were burnt out by the flames and lightning coursing throughout his body.

The astral plane was recognized by some as a place of healing and reflection, to others it was a place to face their fears and train their minds, but for Thane it was merely blur of static with the only coherent things being a cluster of three colors lashing against his subconscious. He felt the orange sting of the Cataclysm’s devastation splatter on his conscience, the gold storm of Caesar perforating and digging its way burrow in like a parasite, and iridian madness boomed from every aspect of Adell’s features since the moment he encountered and challenged the Herald to a fight.

He didn’t see, but felt the Gold Storm intertwine with the Iridian Madness for naught but a moment, and like a rainbow forming in the aftermath of a storm, witnessed the latter arc toward him on a collision course, the sensation being equivalent to something exploding out of his brain.

Though not acutely aware of what happened, the static scream of the astral plane and the constant buzzing from physical lightning in his ears, allowed the Stalker to feel the Iridian Madness being sucked his electromagnetic maelstrom. The clothing incinerated, skin blackened and crumpled, muscles and tendons detached from bones became decellularized into a tary soup along with all his organs, demolecularized and broke down into visible Iridian lightning, decimated every atom from each other, and disseminated the atoms and continued cracking and smashing all the quartz, and smaller sub-atomic particles a beast like Thane could never know nor fathom, sane or insane.

Adell Iliandes Laemington had lived a life wrought with war, treachery, adventure, and likely millions of other memories, and Thane could see them all passing through his mental defenses, pulled throughout his body, forcibly pulled up through his throat. He could sense something else as well: Singar’s image blinked before him, as did Magnus, as well as three other creatures, one of whom was a native to Soran that affected him more physically than mentally.

The chaos was so real that Thane hadn’t even noticed Caesar’s storm explode and die out, but the Vesuian Storm expanded to monstrous proportions, reacting violently to the threat against the Cataclysm which it in-turn saw as a threat to itself and begun conjuring a similar vortex to drag the Caesar into.

Was it assimilation the Virus was after? A threat to the Cataclysm and to a Herald could easily be interpreted as grounds for recruitment, or so the data it received had told it as such, ontop of the fact that the Val’Gara were several Heralds and one Son of Idea short. Times were tough, minds were going berserk, and the essence of Adell Illiandes Laemington, whose soul had been stripped on every possible level to render its energy raw, naked, and vulnerable was clutched inside the Jaws of the Beast, the Stalker who flew straight down at the only thing left which he could recognize: the Gold Storm, Caesar the Monkey King, lifted his saw-blades to his mouth and hooked the Iridian orb between their tips and aimed it with the soul intention of detonating the Prince of Dragons in both their faces.

Beramode

Caesar Kong, Purifier of the Land, stood tall before the Fallen Son of Soran and time froze…

Or so the stories said. But truth be told there was no way that the guttural language of the Niraan, so consumed with savagery, could capture the majesty of the Apex God King in those moments. He had just excised the Val’garan disease from this world of that truth there was no denying, the gaping wound it had left in the planet yawned before them and the aftermath still whirled in the air like a brewing storm, the cloud of pure Vesuvian fury was still miles away from them but it was so potent that they feel its hatred from where they stood. Hatred that was almost as potent as its desire to consume the God King.

The Fallen Son dove towards them, covering miles of distance in a span of time that was downright frightening, and though none of the Niraan chieftains knew what he clutched in his mighty jaws they were sure that it was terrifying. All they could do in that moment was fall in line around the one pillar of sanity that left in the Mountain of Liaita, fifteen feet tall with foot long golden-red hair adorning his entire body save for naked palms and face, one of the former sat on the hilt of his sword with fingers splayed wide and no intent to draw while the later was curled into a sneer. It was hard to tell his moods, with jagged teeth like that everything had a habit of looking nefarious, but he seemed almost happy and at once disappointed…

Many of the Chieftains fell to their knees, their archaic weapons of bone and wood planted into the ground as a base while their heads dipped, their stone skin did not weep blood like other monsters of the world but the cuts they displayed were like deep rifts. The only female amongst them could not kneel, her obese body still as hard as concrete but as if bloated by intense heat and then cooled while still folding unto itself, but her wretched face showed undue amounts of lust. And after the first moment had passed and the world began the whistle of death that was wind returning to this wretched place did Caesar turn to face them and say, “Ah… you’re still here. Didn’t I suggest you run?” So cold, so disinterested. “Let it be known that any who die did so in open defiance of my recommendations. I won’t have this alliance ruined by calf eyed fools…”

Thane would be more than half the distance. Though the Fallen Son and the God King were old friends by now, you didn’t shred another man to pieces and then smash those pieces into a fine pulp without developing a bond, the truth is they had never been within five hundred feet of one another. The Fallen Son had been fighting in the mountain peaks against the Platinum Prince while the God King had been at the foot and with how ridiculously large everything on Soran was that meant that every attack had happened over miles of distance and that charge gave Caesar plenty of time to prepare. And prepare he did…

While Thane had assumed that Adell was simply dead Caesar had more faith in the Platinum Prince. Too much faith though, for an instant Adell had died, his entire body turned into pure energy and effectively murdering him but that was just a detail. Unknown to anyone currently on Soran, save Adell himself of course, this was not actually the Prince’s first experience with being ionized. Not so long ago on the planet Ragnarok he had suffered the same fate at the hands of the King of the Night, more than once, in fact he had suffered that very same death more than a hundred times in the span of a brief second and each one had been brutally painful. But every brutal failure was a learning experience. Also unknown to both parties was that Adell was great at absorbing energy, kinetic energy mostly, and the process of reaching the speed of light involved generating infinite kinetic energy.

It was the gift of Grimm that kept him alive to make use of it.

Somewhere inside of Thane’s maw Adell find consciousness, his body and spirit would have normally separated if not for the spiritual bridge that had formed between the two long ago. It took an instant, after all Adell was light now and he could only move at that speed or faster, but in truth the motions were surprisingly simple when one no longer had a physical body to worry. Muscles, bones, organs were all in the way but there was a certain function to be found in either and he found inspiration there. The light that Adell had become spilled across Thane’s entire body, six powerful hands grabbing that hinged jaw from multiple angles and craning it open, though it need not open fully in truth. More arms formed, wrapping around Thane’s limbs, tail and wings included, and restrained them in powerful grasps. Big mighty claws were there to lock his joints while smaller hands dug into the meat and pulled at his fins. It was entirely possible that pieces of Thane might just flat out break off, after all Adell did not know his own strength now that he was in theory at least infinitely strong, and for just a moment he was at the pinnacle of martial arts.

Just as Beramode had taught him.

On the ground level Caesar watched Adell respond to their unspoken plan with a booming laugh, his right leg lifted from the ground and then stomped down, allowing the ape to sink into a low stance. Though he could not speak for the moment of purity that Adell was experience but Caesar had his own drug that he had inherited from his bestial father. They were creatures of Grimm, alien to this universe and its law, and their drug was twisting them to their will, that was the true form that Louie’s command of nature took and Caesar had taken it a step further by adding a spiritual element to the whole proceedings. One swirl of his hands and he grabbed at the earth below him, had anyone looked at the mountain they would have saw unworthy stone but on a spiritual level this land had just been stripped clean of a wretched spiritual disease, there was fertile ethereal soil there just waiting to be used as there always was in the wake of any great act of desecration, the cycle did not end it merely continued.

In that moment Thane would have lost his favorite toy and ideally his mouth would be wretched wide open while the rest of his body was bound tighter than an Apex virgin’s asshole. The cheeks, which is to say his mouth, spread wide open to accept the God King’s glorious rod. Well, it wasn’t quite like that but it was close enough, because as Louie thrust his arms up a column of earth nearly fifteen feet wide (only slightly smaller than Thane himself) sailed towards the sky to meet Thane’s fall. The column itself was covered in a layer of flimsy stone that would shatter against Thane’s body easily with the speeds he was moving out and then release a spray of rapidly hardening shards to ruthlessly bury themselves into his fleshy front. Beneath that thin outer layer though was a super dense column of black onyx, a peaks worth of stone packed into as tight a space that Caesar could manage, giving the rod exponentially more mass than it appeared to have on the outside. Put another way it would not shatter and even attempts to cut it would be dulled, should it enter Thane’s mouth it would gore him from front to end and leave him hanging in the air while the Prince of Dragon’s squeezed on him.

And then there was the surprise waiting for him once that was done…

Alucroas

Lost within the throes of primal madness, his mind ravaged by a barrage of memories both foreign and familiar, only one presence remained clear, distinct, and void of the complex chaos.



THE NEED TO KILL!



Resistance was futile, especially for what was a mere beast on a rage-fueled rampage through the sky, diving toward his enemy like a fox diving headfirst into snow to catch a mouse between its jaws. Animal minds have, and always will be comprised of simple basic instincts: stalk or chase, fight or flight, submit or dominate. Thane felt the pull of resistance wrenching its way out of his jaws, and stopped clenching, but not before immediately, not-so-sequentially biting down and piercing through Adell's ethereal flesh which became trapped between his fully interlocked teeth, spirit-matter bleeding into his mouth and triggering his insatiable hunter's appetite.



For just a few instants, a dark thought swelled from an even darker sea of rain and slush, fattened forms wallowing in their own filth and misery, the blackened clouds churning violently over a dead ocean. In another, lower, more crushing corner of his mind, a monster of metal swam through a crimson river, killing everything in sight, its desire for wrath too great to contain in such a small, concentric cavern. At the bottom of his mind, where everything was coldest, a once great and trusted being sat immersed waist-deep in a lake of ice, his heart chilled to the core.



The Herald's veins swelled and filled to capacity, sweat spilled from his pores, and was vaporized by heat that was the result of a sudden surge of positive bio-force trailing off his body as a faint green mist. As the gap between sky and ground closed, a faint whisper echoed in his mind, the words searing into Thane's very flesh in a language completely unknown to him. Not that he had time to decipher its meaning anyhow; but that churning storm up above did, its lethal intelligence likening to that of a highly advanced supercomputer.

With unimaginable speed and processing power, the Vesuvian Virus translated the text, comprehended its full meaning, and at that very instance fired a bolt of bloodstained lightning straight down at the Stalker.


להתעורר, יצור של השילוש הלא קדוש, קום שחור הילד של אשמדאי בוגדני, לצרוך עם, שטנה הכבידה, מלכודת כל בתוך הכוכב זעם, שחור, לדקלם כל הנודניקים לשארית חלקיקים בתוך הזועם שלך הסינגולריות!

The light which spilled from Adell and sought to restrain the Hunter was absorbed into the bolt and rendered utterly ineffective, while at the same time passing through the Herald's body, setting him aglow while hijacking his muscle control at the same time. His arms reached forward, his neck compressed down upon itself, dorsal saws flattening against his backside and thrusting bio-force out which propelled him faster toward the surface of Liaita, the saw-blades on his forearms buzzing with the emerald light of wrath that he would inflict upon Ceasar Kong, using Adell as his unwilling weapon. Perhaps the two somehow thought that by combining their attacks, that they would be able to hold back the Val'Gara's Ultimate Predator. They couldn't have been more wrong in their hastily contrived strategy, just like Adell thought that he could escape from the jaws of death through sheer force of spiritual will; though in taking on the form of pure energy he essentially already was dead, for spirits were creatures of the astral realm, neither living nor dead, suffice to say the Prince of Dragons very existence was all too beneficial for him.

The Monkey King stomped on the soil - Thane's soil and summoned another obsidian pillar - foolishly believing the same failed tactic would work a second time. A strange metal liquid poured out from his swollen veins, coating his weapons which rapidly heated to red-hot, the mixture of green bio-force causing them to turn yellow and crackle with blue lightning. The weirdness of the events was lost on the Stalker's rage-soaked mind, but that was all okay, because he didn't need to worry about anything, he had all the strength and force he required on impacting the pillar, and it was frankly all he needed...

His saw blades vibrated with such intense force that the pillar shook apart on a molecular level, cracking on the outside and splitting apart, sending numerous shards of obsidian blasting into the Stalker's eyes, blinding him completely. He didn't need sight though, the pillar was still pushing against him, and he could feel its girth thicken, pressure mounting against his head which compressed his neck and spine, but it that didn't matter either because the raw energy leaking through the Prince of Dragon's mouth burned and melted through it, until he finally hit the bottom, a particularly large shard from the pillar piercing his skull, and impaling him just as the two had planned.

The only problem was that CEASAR WAS PINNED BENEATH HIM.

A twisted metal roar.

A demonic laugh.

A mocking sigh.

Transference. His eyes closed at that point and he felt himself bathe in his own flesh and blood.

Detonation


In that moment, Ceasar lost both his legs, the fur was incinerated from his face, eyes instantly cauterized before his entire body was blasted back by the force of the explosion, his armor damaged to the point that it was no longer strong enough to prevent him from being pierced upon the petrified branch of an extremely sturdy oak tree, left to dangle from it like most monkeys tend to do in the wild. The only reason he hadn't been completely incinerated blast was due to a lucky redistribution of Grimm into his very soul, shielding him from the Reaper's scythe.

Thane wasn't so lucky.

His entire head got blown to ashes, bedrock ruptured and turned over underneath, whilst above neck was split open, as was the rest of his spine and torso completely separated and flung across both sides of the bloody lake behind him. The rest of the landscape for a hundred meters out had become molten and desolate from the raw heat which came with the explosion, making the place look like a scene out of the Inferno.

Then, the world grew cold, and a frosty chill spread over the land, the Vesuvian sky shifting from its infectious burgandy maroon to a hue of dark-blue ice.

Perhaps, despite being devastated and scattered across the plains, Adell would somehow be able to reassemble his form and continue fighting, though to be perfectly frank, he and Ceasar's best options were to...

Abandon All Hope

Beramode


Caesar Kong watched Thane descend like the iron fist of Armageddon, a stillborn snarl on his lips and madness in his eyes, and he responded with a smirk. It was a difficult facial expression to pull off given that his once handsome flat face had evolved into a fanged snout but he managed it, one corner of his gnarled black lips curling up to reveal jagged yellow teeth before he uttered that fateful word.

“Perfect.”

All according to plan did not even begin to describe how well things were going. Thane did not seek to break free of Adell’s grapple and scatter the Prince of Dragons to the ether, no, instead he chose to devour him and really there was no worse choice he could have made. Here was a wild eyed young hero who was so full of will that he refused to die, that he had managed to survive the complete atomization of his physical form and pull it together into something coherent, and he had shoved it down his gullet like a fat kid who had forgotten his lunch. Adell was now inside of Thane, the thousand strong hands of his will tearing through his physical and spiritual body alike, clutching at the maw of oblivion and wrenching it wide open from the inside out in order to render the Stalker completely and utterly immobile for what was to come next.

Then the pillar shattered just as before, at least at first…

Up to this point Caesar had been utilizing the Chinese elements to battle for him. He had summoned the Earth to batter Thane and expunge the Val’garan disease from Soran, then he had transformed the wind into Metal which he had first used to cut and then smash Thane into oblivion. Both efforts had been a rousing success and had dealt massive damage to the Val’garan Herald but despite that Caesar was not intent on repeating himself just yet. When Thane smashed through the first layer of the pillar he immediately met a super dense under layer, not merely stone, it was a true solid with no space between the molecules for the beast to carve through and in easily heavier than one of the mountains Thane had brushed aside earlier. This incredible density would not yield to simple vibrations, perhaps a monomolecular attack could tear the black stone apart but the real world consequences of such an act would be tremendous, for now though Thane’s blades were more likely to just shatter themselves at the stone.

Then he was impaled, somehow looking to writhe himself down the pillar until he reached Caesar Kong who had more than enough time to simply turn on his heels and begin to walk off. There was no need to watch what happened next, Thane had made a grave miscalculation, Caesar had given birth to the spirit of Wood.

A lesser known spirit but Wood was known for its absorbing properties. That super dense pillar was a hungry monster too, when Thane had slid far enough against it its sides split, stone branches growing out and impaling Thane from every angle possible. Larger branches drove themselves through is organs and tore at his joints while a million smaller branches greedily dug away at his bits and giblets, but the key was that Thane’s body would be entirely immobile upon the impaling branches just as they began to greedily devour him. The tree had no poison of its own but as it spread out it did secrete a pan dimensional adhesive sap that bonded all things that were the monster to it so that it would remain writing in place during the process. The tree would consume all those nutrients that made up Thane’s body and it would also consume the spirit that kept him alive while leaving the will stuck to a rotting corpse. A normal soul would have been consumed in a matter of moments but Thane was powerful enough that he would survive for quite some time, a few months at least or perhaps even a year, while the strange time-space defying nature of the sap would stretch his mind out across multiple realities and leave him confused as to the proper flow of things.

It would last an eternity in other words and by the time Thane’s body had rotted his insane soul would not know what eternity truly was.

Meanwhile the tree itself would strip that energy of the Vesuvian Virus, tearing it apart and expelling it into the atmosphere as rich oxygen supplement, the roots would dig into the once mountain range and give birth to a wondrous forest with all that it had stolen from Thane. And Adell, well his physical body had been lost, but his spirit would sit upon the branches of this dread Tree of Liaita as a guardian until such a time as the tree bore fruit (a neat three months from now) wherein he would his new body. A gift from Caesar Kong for playing a hand (albeit unwilling) in his victory. Such was the domain of the Last King of the Grimm, Lord of the Jungle whose Master of Life, laying the seeds for the creation of a new and wonderful domain by stripping it away from a monster who sought only to destroy.

“Do you want to know what the difference between you and me is?” Caesar said as he watched those final moments of sanity slip from Thane’s eyes. “Cohesion. You’re a magnificent creature, there aren’t many wonderfully built monsters like you in this ‘Verse and you clearly have a purpose, but your brain is fried on that drug you call power and you can barely tell up from down. You wanted too much and you wanted it too fast, I had a plan and I stuck to it, think about it.” Caesar said with a tut, up ahead he noticed that the tree was already growing, a mile high from the start and its branches already beginning to sprout over with blood red leaves that were hungrily devouring the leftover Vesuvian toxins in the atmosphere, in their branches the immaterial form of a thousand different Adell’s watching. “Both of you, you’ll have a long time.”

“One of you more than the other.” Then like that Caesar turned on his heel and began to stalk towards the Niiran Chieftain, the setting sun in his eyes and a new wind on his nose.

Alucroas

Transference…



Trapped on an oakwood branch with no legs to feel how high he was impaled, or eyes to observe the devastated landscape around his Val'garan foe, Ceasar Kong had tapped into his power of Grimm to give it an impossible zero molecular space gap. Bio-force ran through the Stalker's saw-blade protrusions - enhancing their durability and cutting power while at the same time heating them up to hellacious degrees with its crackling green emission - humming loudly and carrying vibrations of such incredibly high frequency and destructive intensity that the bones in the Herald’s forearms would have crumbled if not for the strange metal coating holding them together which also held its own purpose. Then, on making contact with the much denser black onyx which had been spiritually enhanced to allow it to circumvent the laws of physics, giving it zero molecular space, a change was triggered - not in composition or essence - but in the quantity and functionality of the metal, revealing its true nature: nanomachines.



Many years ago, before Thane’s capture and assimilation into the Val’gara, the Niraan and his older brother, Morbid were on a nighthunt in Liaita’s wetlands when suddenly, a mysterious pillar of blinding light - not unlike the one Adell’s spacecraft used to beam him down to the continents surface at the start of the battle - issued forth from the clouds. With no chance to react, the two brothers were fully engulfed, overwhelming their senses entirely, and ultimately rendering them unconscious as it whisked them aboard an unknown vessel floating in the starlit darkness of a foreign system. During their time asleep, something injected Thane with a nanoscopic metallic substance, the only hint at anything being done to him displayed in the form of liquid-metal dripping from his mouth. Unable to process what was happening to him, the stone walls parted, revealing a man calling himself Corruptor, accompanied by a draconic beast whose body was born from metal fused with other metal, its crimson eyes observing with indifference. Greeted by Corruptor, Morbid responded with rightful hostility, causing a scuffle between the dragon who sought to contain the Niraan’s fury. Interrupting the fight, the fiend revealed his interest in Thane, which was to see how his powers of shape-shifting could be augmented with cybernetic enhancements. Tage, the Draconic Cyborg provided these enhancements via the injection of nanomachines, and Corruptor ordered the testing of such augmentation against a squadron of space-pilots investigating his ship, then teleported him out into the vacuum without a moment’s hesitation or warning. Uncertain of how to combat these things which he had neither seen nor heard of, Corruptor merely assured him that the nanomachines would grant him the physical capacity necessary to survive in the vacuum of space, and reveal their gifts to him. Through this newfound power, he weaved his way around those pilots’ missiles, tracking not the jets but the pilots themselves via their internal bio-force, and launched a bolt of eel-charged, ley-line-enhanced lightning that was conducted along their plasma propellant trails, and back into the jets, shocking the pilots to death, and detonating their fusion reactors in the process, ending them in a devastating explosion of cosmic violence. Minutes later, Dreadnaught - one of the Sons of Idea emerged from the Red Planet, overwhelmed Thane with a swarm of its Drones and abducted him before departing just as quickly as it had arrived.



Since then, and as compensation for Thane’s successful defense of his ship, Corruptor agreed to aid Morbid in finding and retrieving his brother from the Val’gara’s clutches, granting him similar augmentations to the ones given to his younger sibling. Unlike Thane, Morbid didn’t have his mind picked apart by Brobdingnag, crushed, and rebuilt to fit that of the Stalker, causing him suppress the memories of everything that happened aboard that ship, as well as outside of it, remembering only what was important: that he was a Herald of the Val’gara, that the only family that mattered to him was the Val’gara, that he would revive them, and that he would crush this bastard Kong, and raise the Val’gara over his corpse, just like he had resolved to do at the start of this fight.



Over the years the nanomachines had fallen into dormancy, reactivating when they received the signal that had been transmitted to them through the text that burned itself into the Stalker’s skin less than a minute prior.



The outer-layer split and shattered on impact, sending a flurry of shards stabbing into Thane’s flesh, hardly of any consequence for the vast majority of the debris were reduced to ash from the heat emitted by the bio-force running through his saw-blades, the tips of which extended downwards. Before they could pierce the super dense inner-layer, however, the metal coating those blades dispersed and spread over the pillar, cascading down its surface. What had once been void of molecular space became overwhelmed with an abundance of room as billions of black onyx molecules were picked apart and shoveled overhead a billion times per second, producing a gradually visible haze that Thane rocketed through. Like an infestation, the machines burrowed deep within the core of the onyx, ravenously eating their way into the center at which point a crack formed and raced outwards. Branching throughout the structure, the entire pillar became little more than a tower of unstable onyx. The Stalker sped down the rest of the pillar, impaling himself multiple times along the way, but his speed would not decelerate given the propulsive force of the bio-force jetting out behind him. A particularly large shard managed to pierce his skull just before hitting the bottom and slamming down on top of that Monkey who should have known that when a predator is coming after you, the best solution is to RUN, not walk.



Laying there with Ceasar pinned underneath him, the Stalker lifted his face, meeting his gaze only briefly as his mind continued to swim madly amidst its furious tides, Adell’s soul still clutched between his jaws, NOT swallowed up like some puny, worthless morsel of such minuscule caloric content that not even a rodent would bother dining on. To ingest the man back into his system after doing it once already wasn’t just pointless, it would be redundant to do so, for the only reason he had consumed Adell in the first place was so that he could strip him down to his very soul, and use the exposed ether which composed it as a bomb to use against Ceasar Kong. Even then, the Stalker was in a maddened state the entire time -- all of this had been done on a level that was controlled by pure, unrestrained instinct, unadulterated rage; trapped in a state of such intense emotional compromise, there was no room for re-thinking one’s gameplan, no time for reassessment, the only thing one could do was hang onto the one and only thing within fang’s reach.



Adell’s soul had gone nowhere.



The light in Thane’s eyes faded out before his body went limp.



And then, Adell, in his raw, naked form, exploded.



Ceasar received the full force of the explosion which erupted in a spherical blast, the shock-wave hitting him well before the platinum ethereal flames could burn his golden fur off and render him sightless, hurling him across the sky at speeds beyond his ability to control.



Hundreds of meters up ahead, at the shore of the Lake of Flesh, the remains of the Herald’s brutal self-sacrifice were rendered plainly visible: his entire body had been bisected by the explosion, but just as the two chunks of Val’garan meat were launched and sent flying across the lake, the spirit tree known as Wood sprouted up and grew, catching and skewering his carcass upon its hungry bark, carrying the Herald up with it. The Stalker’s insides were scorched to ashes by the detonation of Adell’s soul, leaving not but skin, bone, and vague bits of unburnt strands of muscle fiber flapping in the wind. Here, the Gargoyle appeared as an eerie banner of conflict and bloodshed, or possibly a warning symbol to any who would dare trespass on this gruesome region of Liaita, so rife with the unignorable image of death and strife.



The Monkey King's arrogance, coupled with his casually dismissive walking speed, and lack proper respect and acknowledgement for his enemies on their own homeworld were the reasons he now occupied a petrified branch running through his torso.



Transference...



It was only the result of a battle-hardened will that Ceasar was able to reach behind him, feel out the branch's weak spot and chop through the bark with his hairy fingers which stung and throbbed with pain as the thick wood cracked and gave way to his now imbalanced weight, dropping him to the ground with a plumy thud of dirt, ash, and charred grass. The field would not remain this way for long… a foggy wave of cobalt rolled and crept down from the sky, freezing the molten epicenter. The Fog invaded the King’s nostrils, infiltrated his brain and nervous system, and time as his mind both persisted and perceived within it slowed to a complete halt.



Transference...



While appearing to lack any signs of conscious vitality, Thane’s body still lived, albeit crudely so; violent spasms racked the Herald all over, its twitching, tearing, terrifying movements occurring with an undeniable sense of apparency. Wood ravenously consumed those meager nutrients of organic substance, its branches pulsing and bulging unnaturally as it started to feed. Soon, only the Stalker’s wings, spine, and rib-cage wrapped in grayish-brown skin was left, disappearing into Wood’s onyx bark. Fortunately, the eye of the Vesuvian Storm was watching, and reacted with a bolt of lightning tinged with an accursed hue of black ice, and likewise emitted the unusual sound of cracks spreading over a frozen pool as opposed to the cacophonous boom of thunder echoing across the sky. The bolt triggered a massive electrical surge to the miniscule piece of tissue, shocking the cells back to full functioning capacity and force-feeding it an infinitesimally small portion of its own raw essence - stimulating the Herald's Flesh Growth and causing it to begin to regenerating itself at a rate that was simply unheard of given the current circumstance, and subsequently providing even more sustenance to the spirit tree. Wood gorged itself upon this endless meal - a meal which continued to grow larger and more delectable with every electrocution, expediting an endless cycle of consumption that would seemingly go on forever.



The fog which blanketed the field began to condense and rise, encircling Wood and the carcass it was trying to consume. The carcass spasmed ceaselessly as it accumulated more mass, overlapping the tree at some points, whilst being pierced and torn apart by its multiplying branches-- the faintest glow of red text could be seen searing into the Stalker’s skin; it was the same text that had appeared on his skin when he initiated his dive toward Ceasar. As Wood gluttonized itself on the Herald’s body, the text was copied, transferred, and branded deep inside its bark - small tissue-fibers strung off, tipped with microscopic pins of negative bio-force. The pins pierced numerous holes in its bark which were quickly filled by the fibrous strands, sewing themselves into Wood’s surface. More skin was stripped away, the metallic substance coating Thane’s forearms disappearing with each peeling of flesh, the tiny fibers that had stitched into the bark lighting up as the smallest of crimson objects passed through into the plant, the letters comprising the mysterious text fading away in unison.



Deep within Wood, a disease took root - carrying itself along the being’s vascular system wherein it was dispersed throughout its pandimensional sap, solidifying its presence across the entire landscape of the spirit tree’s ethereal reach. The origin of this infection was in fact nanomachines, each of them serving as the crimson quill to an insidious spell which inscribed itself across every inch, every surface solid enough to write on. Since Wood sought to bind itself to everything that was Thane, this also meant it would be bound to the Lake of Flesh which was now rising up and down in enormous swells of primordial gore, reacting to the presence invading its waves. This tree which hungered for Stalker’s body and soul found nourishment from his physical form, sparing not a single ounce of skin and bone that regenerated just as quickly as it was devoured, never allowing Wood to finish its meal and delivering an endless supply of cursed energy that was busy establishing itself on both the physical and astral planes of existence.



Behind Wood, the Lake of Flesh churned and swirled around a central point, lesser currents crossed paths, forming horrifying eddies which sank into each other as a result of the cyclical life and death process that had been commenced. The activation and subsequent distribution of the Runic Strings throughout Wood - whose influence was everywhere, and therefore the Runic Strings were everywhere as well, for in gorging itself on Thane, it also gorged itself upon his tainted flesh; flesh that had been tainted the moment the Herald took his dive toward Ceasar. Sickness had corrupted the Spirit Tree, the Vesuvian Virus’ very sentience guiding that wretched disease into the stem, to the roots, deeper still into the darkest depths of the astral world until finally something cracked. On the outside, the Stalker’s Flesh Growth had reached a point where all but the tallest branches appeared to be covered in the hideous muscle, veins, and organ tissue, his very skin forming a thick outer-layer to contain the process. The fluid highways of the Herald pulsed with red blight, swelling and filling the body up completely until - finally, everything began to come apart - skin wrinkled and flaked, muscle grew flabby and drooped, bones cracked and became a jagged mess of shards simultaneously slicing and clinging onto stringy tendons that snapped under the strain of holding the weight. Bark came loose as it was ripped and shaken free by another wave of spasms, pulling it down as the flesh decayed mid-descent, putrefying the air before hitting the soil, quickly piling up into a disgusting pool of rotten bacterial ooze. Leeches spawned within the ooze as the unending flesh growth carried on, burrowing and bonding to the outermost subterranean layer of regenerating skin, sucking up ooze and force-feeding it back into Wood through its own roots, and adding but another devastating piece to the endless cycle.



Transference...



Transference...



Transference...



Meanwhile on the far side of the lake, situated high above the gravelly shore, standing at the summit of an undamaged mountain peak to the west, a solitary figure stood dressed from head-to-toe in dark Venetian leather, his white collar framing the base of his neck. At his left hip, a knight’s sword with a golden handle and curved guard remained sheathed in a silver scabbard that was decorated with long, wavy lines traced onto it remained strapped to his waist, the pommel gripped to support himself as he leaned forward. His short hair which bore a faint sheen of purple was being ruffled by the wind, his pale masculine jaw stuck out in concentration, thin lips pressed together, small nose with nostrils slightly flared and dark-indigo eyes baring a focused stare as he observed the warzone. It was likely no one saw him, though his presence was felt by the Stalker, whose mind had transferred itself into the Lake of Flesh before detonating Adell's soul in Ceasar's face. Indeed, the being who stood atop that summit was the same being who snatched Colossus from The Collective, - Singar who had months prior visited Soran to help out an old Arachnid Prince, Fallen Angel of Creation who wished to resurrect the perpetrator of Original Sin, a seemingly Capricious Creature looking to toy with a Swimming Abomination, and, for now to quite simply be a Corruptor of Wood.



Yes, Singar was the being who had ordered the implantation of nanomachines into Thane’s body by the Draconic Cyborg, he was the one who had marked them with his runic strings which triggered the cause of all this death, and he was the one who had willingly done nothing when Dreadnaught came to claim him as the Val’gara’s newest Herald. This was an opportunity he had waited a long time to act on, and like every opportunity that presented itself before him, the long and constant years of anticipation and contemplation allowed him to formulate the perfect method for executing that action.



Without hesitation, Corruptor unsheathed his sword, held it to his chest in an inverted grip and commenced scrying out the future in preparation for the ritual that would raise not only Metal Mayhem, but the source of all conflict within the human universe, the true Stealer of Forbidden Fruit; the Morning Star - the Monster who had brought forth this madness, and in his own and unbeknownst way... was the spiritual Grandfather to the Val'gara.



He spoke the words in his original tongue for no one here needed to know what he was saying, save for the ones who he was going to bring into this world, and he didn’t trust the Doloran folk not to have noticed the events plaguing Liaita’s eastern side, nor to have dispatched their own drake spies to investigate the madness taking place here at the mountains.



"לספק מזון להודעה זו חיה של מתכת אלימות, לספק דלק שערים יכולים להוביל לסבל נצחי, לספק נתיב נקמה ומדריך לשחרר, לספק אור מורנינגסטאר של שנאה, וחושך עבורו הסינגולריות הזועמת להיזון מן .. ."



One needn’t blink to witness the instantaneous anomaly that presented itself within the Lake of Flesh’s center: a transparent, crimson phantom of Wood bathed in crimson, covered in the Stalker’s flesh, the Midnight Fog encircling its entire barken body, and preventing any sort of elemental aid to be offered by Ceasar across the ether - not that he could if he wanted to - the Fog had invaded the Monkey King’s central nervous system and brought all his electrical impulses to a halt. After all, the Fog had been present the moment the sky turned blue, the very clouds comprising the Vesuvian Storm being overtaken, the supernatural stasis Fog forming but a single eye through through which to allow the Virus to release those stimulating electric shocks and aid Thane, which was Singar’s way of proving he was not a threat, but in fact, an ally to the Val’gara in this moment.



TRANSFERENCE



Cracks ran rampant throughout the area surrounding the Lake of Flesh as the Herald’s mind influenced it to expand while Wood continued to do the same on its real body, the Mirror Image mimicking those actions, forming tributaries that flowed into the forest, with the lake itself constantly replenishing its bio-force supply by consuming the countless insects and Val’garan Cataclysm inhabiting the Entropic Passages. All the while the rampant growth of life, rampant decay of life, and the rampaging stench of death within the Lake of Flesh triggered an unstable explosion which caused it to overflow, breaking off into multiple, rapidly expanding streams flowing out into the forest both above and below ground, uprooting the trees, rolling over boulders, and carrying the Monkey King and his Niraan compatriots back in the direction they had come.



PHLEGETHON



The temperature began to drop again, enough so that a single, solid layer of ice formed at the base of the crimson Phantom Tree, more Val’garan Cataclysm members rushing out of the Entropic Passages to escape the cold, seeking to warm themselves inside the lake which Thane had created, only to quickly find themselves unable to move. The frost hastened its way up the tree, the Fog condensing around it, as it became utterly apparent that the Midnight Fog was the source of all the cold, for its presence inhibited the flow of energy, heat-energy included, meaning if it stayed here long enough, then Liaita’s temperature would inevitably reach that of a state close to absolute zero.



From the lake emerged three monstrous figures, their bodies blobbing together slowly, fibers forming into muscular strands that stringed off, flapping uselessly in the cold. All three of them had horns, though some were larger than others, as were their overall mass. The first was a ten-foot tall, bipedal dragon of considerable humanoid structure and design, broad shoulders and chest with a back like a bull, arms bore a zig-zagged streaks of jagged lightning bolts, a sapphire right running from the rear tricep to the topside of his forearm and a crimson one on the left reaching the same length, both arms extended with claws stretched out in front of him and legs spread as though in some fighter’s stance, lips furled back to reveal a snarl of red teeth, eyes alight with furious blue lightning. The second was a bipedal dragon as well, only twenty-four feet tall and he drew largely upon the metal present within the Lake of Flesh, giving his skin a shadowy sheen, rosy red eyes staring out into the distance with a look of indifference, his calm demeanor betraying his resolve to see things through to the end. To that very end, a revving could be heard behind his body, the tail swishing vaguely back and forth as something akin to a saw slashed across the ice, parting it momentarily to reveal a terrible sight: there were humans - sinners trapped there, unable to move, unable to breathe, even blink, a fitting punishment for those damned to Cocytus. The last of the three idols was a twelve-foot long creature who stood on four legs, possessing a somewhat slender frame that was nonetheless very muscular, vaguely resembling a feline in overall shape and contour. This creature was the most simple of the three, short horns which jutted a scant few few inches out from the sides of its skull, its lipless mouth rendering its teeth fully visible. Its head jutted forward, red eyes wide and eager, as though it waiting for something to come to it, or was it the opposite. These three avatars remained stationary for the time being, their physical motions were merely the echoes of their angered souls trapped down in Hell.



Beneath the ice, in between the cracks, through the abyssal darkness, an evil, three-faced angel stood in what was apparently an upside-down position, elbows pressed against the cold surface. His apathetic expression bordered on indifference, fingers tapping his chin in apparent utter boredom. A giant pair of bat wings flapped in a distorted image, long, greasy black hair blowing in the unseen wind caused by the motions, and the lowest cries of three men damned within his three mouths. The tormented wailing elicited a turn of the heads from the three Idols standing in place, their eyes flicking downward to observe the screams, then looking to each other, and upon staring at Wood, the Idol of Metal’s arms began to glow, as did the Idol of Lightning, and the Idol of Unity.



All at once, the three Idols of Metal, Lightning, and Unity charged across the sleek ice with hunger in their eyes, Metal unleashing a barrage of bullets from a rail-gun protruding from its radial bones which buried deep into the already weakened Mirror Image, chipping away at its very foundation, at which point the real Wood began to sway and teeter back and forth, the trunk cracking as a cluster of missiles slammed into the Mirror Image’s wood and exploded, blood, black bacterial ooze, skin, and bone spraying across the environment. Lightning transformed into its namesake form whilst maintaining the shape of its original draconic design, fists tightening, stretching skin to the point that it would tear had it been of a strictly physical constitution. On reaching its destination, the lightning compressed, and the Idol’s form was returned to normal, clenching the ball between its claws, fists tightening once more then pounding them together, producing a tremendous, point-blank thunderclap, shocking Wood to its very core from the intense burning vibrations, rippling throughout its onyx bark and causing the other side to collapse, causing Wood to balance itself upon a spade shaped trunk that cut deep into its own root base.



Wood suffered all of the effects in full, for this was the effect of the Runic Strings. Sickness and decay, followed by a mirror image of the person infected, and any injuries the image suffered were superimposed onto the real person. The Spirit Tree would be on its way back home very soon, back to the ground where it belonged, destined to be a sacrifice for that which sought to truly live, for in that vein it would serve a much more noble purpose than restoring a Liaita back to a state which the continent had already seen once before and could recover from without foreign aid.



“Progress, not stagnation, dear Fog of mine.”



Before the final impact could be made, a the shape of an immaculately sculpted gate emblazoned its form upon the ice. Carved into its surface were numerous human figures, some were fighting, others displaying affection, but the most noteworthy were the three figures standing at the top, their three hands pointing down at the message written on the gates, and a man sitting with his chin in his hand as if contemplating and philosophizing the words in his mind.



THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE CITY OF WOE


THROUGH ME THE WAY TO EVERLASTING PAIN


THROUGH ME THE WAY AMONG THE LOST.



JUSTICE MOVED MY MAKER ON HIGH.



DIVINE POWER MADE ME,



WISDOM SUPREME, AND PRIMAL LOVE.



BEFORE ME NOTHING WAS BUT THINGS ETERNAL,



AND ETERNAL, I ENDURE.



ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE.



The Idol of Unity rammed the spade with its hard head, delivering the final blow that brought down Wood. Its trunk shattered, the Mirror Image tipped forward, the clouds splitting and scattering into each other as the mass fell through the sky, chunks of bark and branches dissolving away as the sickness bled throughout its entirety, streams of liquefying flesh and bark flowing upwards as it exited the body of Wood. The Gates of Hell expanded to astronomical proportions, fusing with the Lake of Flesh, utilizing its very life force as a catalyst to grow larger, monstrously large, large enough for something unimaginably massive to come through. Slowly, Wood began to disappear into the Gates as it was eaten alive and sacrificed for the grand opening of the way into everlasting pain.


COCYTUS


All three idols commenced a ritualistic dash around the gates, their three forms blurring, countless after-images forming an enormous ring that encircled the gates, from which a giant fountain of boiling blood spouted all the way up to the heavens where it made contact with the Vesuvian Virus. Another lightning bolt emitted from the stormcloud, conducting itself not through the crimson fluid, but the nanomachines which flowed throughout that ominous current, nanomachines that roared with an unrestrained rage: a rage that was so ridiculously strong, that the tri-faced being’s facial features shifted, its three jaws clenching, three rows of teeth piercing and impaling Judas, Brutus, and Cassius, triggering another flurry of tormented wailing.

In that moment, Lucifer felt his blood boil as it had not boiled in far too long, the sting of betrayal spurring him into an uncontrolled rage, a rage that devoured every last shred of gloom, despair, and melancholic hopelessness, swirling in the endless singularity of infinitely dense RAGE. Reaching out in agonizing anger, he saw the hand of Singar whose fingers were coated in metal, from which a series of ethereal ley-lines extended and branched out, piercing Cocytus’ ice and weaving itself throughout the entirety of the last circle of Hell.

“Salvation is at hand, brother.”


Then Singar’s fist clenched, and with that clench, he clenched the ENTIRE Circle of Cocytus, using the Raging Singularity’s ley-lines as a means of extracting what was arguably Hell’s most sacred place of punishment. The Gates shook with rebellion as though God Himself had intervened to stop this event, and while he may have been the indisputable, infallible, and supreme ruler of the universe in His eyes, there were other beings trapped within the Midnight Fog; other “Gods”, other Divine Deities who felt otherwise. Not long ago, Singar had travelled to Soran’s southernmost continent of Athans to break the spell set upon a being called the Arachnid Prince from the grips of twelve malevolent deities. He used Xelas as the bait to lure them out into combat, and sealed them within the Midnight Fog while their guards were distracted, trapping them in eternal stasis. They were to be an ace in the hole for just this type of situation. Fight against the God of Jerusalem, oppose His Divine might with their own, use Their Godly power to maintain the Gates of Hell and They would be granted not only salvation, but a chance at revenge against the Arachnid Prince.


“Foolish Father, You fight with Them on foreign ground, on an unknown world, in a region of the cosmos where Your prideful ego has hold no sovereignty.”


The Hand of God reached down through the clouds, His almighty fist that was easily the size of Laita’s entire mountain range leaving a vacuum that rapidly closed around His forearm, producing a cataclysmic shock-wave which shaved the tops of forests to the east clean off, and capped the mountain tops to the west, rendering their peaks as flattened platforms. The Vesuvian Storm parted momentarily as it too felt the wrath of divinity pierce through, having no time to adapt against what was ultimately raw force, exposing the reality of daylight if only for an instance, contrasting what had otherwise been an extremely dark turn of events.



THROUGH US THE WAY TO THE CITY OF WOE


THROUGH US THE WAY TO EVERLASTING PAIN


THROUGH US THE WAY AMONG THE LOST.



JUSTICE WILL REMOVE THE MAKER ON HIGH.



DIVINE POWER RUNS THROUGH US,



OUR WISDOM REIGNS SUPREME TO YOUR PRIMAL LOVE.



BEFORE US NOTHING WAS BUT THINGS ETERNAL,



AND ETERNAL, WE ENDURE.



ABANDON ALL HOPE, GOD WHO ENTERS HERE.



The Hand of God passed through the Gates of Hell, colliding with Cocytus and pushed with all His furious might. He should have heeded the warning written on those gates, for though Singar controlled those ley-lines using his ethereal hand, God had passed through with His actual physical hand. Hell’s gates sharpened, charged with the divine energy of twelve desperate deities eager for freedom and revenge, glowed with white hot power and slammed shut like horizontal cross-doors. God, overwhelmed by His egotistical desire to win the war against the Morningstar reacted with a lightning fast jerk, but it was already too late. Corruptor held his Father’s hand in an angelic vice-grip, further empowered by the ley-lines coursing throughout those ethereal digits.

Never before had the Almighty known pain. Never again would he forget the image of his wrist being chopped through by the guillotine gates, severing His hand and leaving it to plummet toward Cocytus where even divine instinct it clutched at the bottom of the ascending rock, pulling with all its insufficient strength. Never again would those whose heads exploded from that ungodly scream feel agony on that level, the very air seeming to ignite around the bloody stump which retreated back through the clouds, cauterizing itself as God fled back to Heaven where would inevitably sulk over His sudden and unbelievable defeat at the hands of His scathingly rebellious son -- the son whose true name was not Singar, but Kalaziel.


“הזמן שלך הגיע, אב ... עכשיו בואו מסע של אלף מילין התחל עם צעד אחד, בואו זעם להתחיל בשתי, תן ​​להגיע המטרה עם שלושה, והשמדתם תושג עם הרביעית ולרסק סופי.”



The massive cave-system that was Cocytus emerged through the re-opening, gates, expanding evermore with every gulp of Wood’s life force, petrifying it in the tree in the process whilst the tributaries spawned from the lake of flesh continued to surge unopposed. Many Niraans had fought feverishly to avoid the river’s wrath, planting their bone-saws which were easily the same size as their hulking bodies into the ground, attempting to form a barricade against the flood. It was not enough. The River of Flesh slammed into the barricade, at first swelling up and being thrown back into itself, but as the flood built up, it seeped through the imperfect gaps, perforating the calcium pores composing their weapons, spurted out against their faces and immediately began to drain their lifeforce as well. Veins swelled as their internal fluids were sucked out of them, eyes shriveled and sank inwards, muscle fibers unwraveled and strung together into a thick weave that was pulled into the flood like a threading machine. In a matter of minutes those proud Niraans were reduced to skeletons being pushed toward the coastline where quickly approached Liaita’s east ocean. The Simians were no exception to this rule, their hightech equipment failing utterly to contain that which fed not only on their lifeforce, but on the life sitting right beneath their feet. Cryogrenades were hurled at the river, freezing minuscule surface layers as it ruptured the soil, plasma-throwers seared the flesh to a crisp, only for the burnt outer-layers to peel off and reveal more fresh meat underneath, pushing and pulsing and rupturing itself in endless expansion. Panicked ape cries bellowed throughout the forest, quickly turning to coughs, chokes, and gurgles until nothing but the sound of snapping bark, tearing roots, and the sudden crescendoing explosion of Liaita’s shoreline bluffs bursting open to release tremendous waterfalls of pink, red, and orange pouring into the ocean where a chorus of sea-monsters would surely come to feast.



Singar needn’t wonder what happened to Thane, for when Wood merged with everything that was the Herald, the Herald himself became a part of Wood, and since Wood’s life force had been used to expand the Gates of Hell, this meant that his lifeforce had all but been depleted, his spirit now coursing throughout the Gates themselves – Gates that were in the middle of becoming burnt out just as Deceiver’s circles of power had, dissolving and leaving naught a gaping doorway that would never close again precisely because the door had been removed altogether, leaving a gaping portal in its wake.



It would not be long before even Earth would begin to feel the effects of the Gates being shattered and Mobius Corps would have a new problem on their hands: containing the endless swarm of demons, sinners, and fallen angels that would come rushing out. Anything and everything that was connected to Hell, whether literal or symbolic exploded open, from the French catacombs to the Devil’s Island of Lake Superior, to the books of teenage satanists, and haunted houses where the Fiend was said to hide in the corner and wait for children to fall asleep, all the way to the very oakwood carving of Apollo Ammon’s presidential office doors.



Nothing was safe. Nobody was safe. The only solution to this problem was to Abandon All Hope.



Earth

At that point, without warning, whether the President of Earth was present in his room or not, a sword sheathed in a silver scabbard with wavy lines coursing down its surface emerged through the gates and hovered in front of his desk. The guard of the sword shaped itself into two letter ‘A’s, signifying Apollo Ammon’s initials, before gently descending down so that the scabbard stood on its tip, presenting itself to its new owner.



No matter where he was, or what he was doing, Apollo Ammon could hear the voice of an elderly woman with a tone of irritable nobility speaking in his head.



“It is the Sword of Sal’Chazzar, Star of the VAL’GARA. It contains what is arguably their greatest source of power. Wield it as you see fit.”




Soran

As the rock came up through the open mouth of Hell, it hovered in place momentarily, before falling back down to Liaita’s surface, cracking its top half open to expose the head of the now freed the beast who shouted the name of his betrayer while cursing the name of his Father, whose severed hand the Circle of Cocytus now rested atop, its wrist firmly implanted in the ground where it twitched and spasmed in endless attempts at freeing itself from underneath the Cave of Treachery.



“GOD DAMN YOU, MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGNUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUS!”



The ultimate paradigm shift was underway, not just for Soran, but for Earth as well. Athan’s deities were now free, and as an additional part of their agreement, were to act as the twelve council servants for their new Dark Lord, given that all of Satan’s original fallen servants, save for Singar and Magnus, the latter of whom he would surely enact his vengeance upon, were all but drowned beneath the black waste water of the Dark ­­Realm’s corpse.



Dominion had been not just reclaimed, a new one had been established, a new army had just been birthed. One that was both Val’garan demonic, one that was good in its desire to preserve consonance throughout the universe, and one that was evil in its desire to completely and utterly destroy the universe. Its generals were the ancient pantheon of Soran, its soldiers the Cataclysm, and its leader, Satan Himself, with Singar acting as neither enemy nor friend, but rather as a fallen angel with something to gain, exemplified in his unspoken alliance to the Morningstar. The Gates of Hell dissolved completely, returned to their state of liquid tidal flesh which was currently on a path to encircling all of central Laita, reaching intersecting Aeros before reaching back around to Liaita’s western bluffs, passing through the mountain range, and meeting back at the Lake of Flesh. The result would soon manifest itself - Soran would have a flesh-stained a ring around it, and all who flew past or came upon Soran would see it with their eyes.



At the finale of these horrifying events, a Beast of Metal, a Beast of Flesh, and a Beast of Mythology stuck his head out of Phlegethon’s boiling fountain as one great Beast of Rage, all three creatures merged into one unfathomably enraged being: rage that could never be tamed nor controlled. Its crimson left and sapphire right eyes gleamed in the pitch blackness of what appeared to be night, but was soon revealing itself to be day time as the Vesuvian Storm shrank in size and resumed hovering over the crushed mountains, revealing the cloudy gray sky once more. The scales composing its exoskeleton that had been fused to an internal layer of black flesh opened and closed, expelling rivulets of slime containing nanomachines colored red and black, followed by a shadowy platinum sheen running over its entire body which measured roughly thirty-eight feet in length, its horns shining as sharp points while its tail swung back and forth through the air, revving non-stop as it the blades lining its surface sliced the slowly solidifying flesh beneath its feet.



Taluge X: The Raging Singularity roared an unimaginably loud roar, its vocal chords stretching as lightning current ran throughout its nervous system and empowered the scream to sonic levels, reaching frequencies that should not have been possible -- frequencies so destructive it caused multiple wounds in reality – visions into other worlds that had not yet been explored, but through which Taluge probed with his ley-lines, draining their energy and using it to further empower his maddening rage. The jagged, dark-green streaks running from the undersides of his front triceps to the fronts of his forelimbs illuminated with the energy that was siphoned into them, only becoming inactive when the rifts sealed shut. Reacting to the consumption as though he had just finished consuming a meal, Taluge gnashed his teeth together, licking his chops with a flexible metallic pair of internal jaws that scraped away at the insides of his teeth, then dragging it down his limbs wherein embers sparked off the exoskeletal frame.



Behind him, Cocytus’ ice melted out through the rocks pores, coalesced and began to flow in and out of the cavern as if like a serpent being controlled.


Soon Thane would awaken a changed Herald, his soul had been preserved by the ley-lines, never once allowing Wood to feed on his soul despite being bound to the Spirit Tree, a thing that would also come to an end given how much damage Singar's runic strings had done to it, its raw essence coursing around the mouth of Hell which served as a means of powering the portals. He would have much to listen to when that time came.


Taluge didn’t paid none of what was going on behind him any mind, instead choosing to do what had always been typical of Zucroas, Aludon, Alucroas, Tage, and now Taluge X:



He spread his wings and wandered off in search of something interesting to poke his nose into.

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