With Sera’s friend Josie now on our side, we proceeded to make our way out of the white-walled aircraft hangar in the direction of the underground city proper. I’m no engineer, but the feat of construction that made this place possible was really quite phenomenal. They must have made use of some existing natural caves; such massive excavation would be impossible without some assistance. However, they did a marvelous job, because it was difficult to even tell that we were underground sometimes. Perhaps they had an extremely powerful earth-caller way back at that time who possessed powers which could help with the construction. Either way, it was impressive.
As we walked through the expansive cavernous city under the fluorescent artificial sunlight, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive at the complete, smothering silence. All four of us walked without a sound through the ominously still headquarters. Something felt very, very wrong.
“Sera.” I whispered. “Is it always like this?”
“No. There’s usually people everywhere. I don’t know…I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Milo did not say a word as we continued toward the center of the town. It was still damaged from some sort of previous attack, but mostly looked like it had been repaired and lived in. But where was everyone?
Just then, my ears picked up on a faint sound. I whipped my head around behind me to see the source. To my surprise, I found that there were several people in Nahalorian uniforms emerging from within and around the buildings. Sera and Milo looked around quickly to find that we were surrounded. Our aggressors were completely silent as they encircled us.
“Hey, guys!” Sera waved and turned around to smile at the entire ring. “How’s it going? Hey, Michael, you’re lookin’ really tan! Did they turn up the artificial sunlight, or is there a new tanning bed? Huh…huh?…no…”
All of the Nephilim were stone-faced as they ignored Sera’s banter. I had a feeling that they were probably going to kill us. This theory was given credibility when they started activating their elemental-calling powers. The air tingled with a palpable energy. I prepared to put up a protective bubble around the four of us, when someone’s voice finally sounded.
“Hey! Hey, Everyone! Listen to me!”
A middle-aged man in a uniform accented with royal blue had just ascended up to the flat roof of a nearby building, out of breath.
“Todd…” I heard Sera say.
She must have known this guy from her time here. The man continued.
“You’re being manipulated! Tricked! Nahalore isn’t what you believed it was!”
Everyone started looking up at him. It was unclear whether they believed him or not at this point.
“On top of that, Doshi Troaz just murdered Bishop Sherman! I heard it happen! Now he’s just using you! Don’t let him control you!”
Someone shouted out from the crowd:
“Why should we believe you?!”
Todd shouted a response, unfazed. “I’ve kept silent for years, hoping that maybe we could come clean, or that God could use Nahalore despite the corruption. However, I can’t wait any longer! I have to speak out!”
He paused for a second, before plunging forward.
“There are no IRCABIM. There was no offspring of a holy angel! We’ve been lied to for our entire lives! We’re only Nephilim! Now, Doshi has taken action into putting his plan into effect! He’s working with Teklos to kill these young people before you now, and conquer the world! Don’t give in…”
The remained of the chaplain’s words were lost as the mob began raising its collective voice. There were those who believed the man to be telling the truth, and there were others who discounted his words as lies. Tempers grew hotter and hotter, until the once unified throng became wild with anger.
Many Nephilim remained loyal to Nahalore, either disbelieving Todd’s warning, or accepting that they could serve Doshi. There were others who refused to follow the corrupt organization any longer. Within moments, the schism grew more severe, until the division erupted into violence. Several volleys of elemental power were exchanged at close range.
Through the chaos, Sera made eye contact with her friend Todd. He nodded, and pointed to his right. The girl immediately started running in that direction.
“Everyone who wants to break away, regroup over here! Also, everyone who likes ice cream!”
Despite the incoming barrage of attacks, a number of the Nephilim managed to escape the scrum and follow Sera. I defended their retreat with a force field, until everyone who wanted to fight alongside us had made it to one side of the large clearing in the middle of the city.
Sera stood in front of the group and addressed them in a commanding voice.
“Everyone! I promise that we have no evil intentions. We’re just trying to complete the prophecy and bring peace. Teklos, and everyone they control will stop at nothing to keep that from happening! These guys…”
She pointed her finger across at the other army of Nephilim.
“They aren’t our enemies! They’re our brothers and sisters! They’ve just been deceived like you were! However! We have to get past them, no matter what! So we have to fight! Please try not to kill too many of them, and I’ll do my best to end this as quickly as I can!!”
Sera’s speech seemed to put any doubts they had at ease, and they prepared to go into battle. I continued to hold up the shield between our alliance and theirs, and looked over my shoulder to wait for my friend to give the signal.
“Seriously, everyone here likes ice cream, right? Raise your hand if you like ice cream.”
Everyone raised their hands.
“You! In the back there! Don’t you like ice cream?!”
“No ma’am! It gives me brain freeze!”
“Well you can get the heck out of here! I don’t trust a man who doesn’t like ice cream!”
“I’m just kidding. You can stay. Just messing around.”
Her tone then turned more serious and commanding.
“Alright, everyone! Are you ready for this?”
Some people cheered, others silently glared at their foes. I assumed that was the signal, so I deactivated the force field. Immediately, the rebels rushed forward past me, those with ranged abilities firing off at the targets. The other side began charging as well. The battlefield was filled with the sounds of war cries and releasing energy.
The fight was fierce. I could hardly keep track of who was on our team, and who was against us. Shirts and skins would have made it a lot easier, but it was improbable that they could be convinced to all agree on which side would be which. Due to this, I elected to take a defensive strategy. Those still dedicated to Nahalore seemed to have no trouble knowing that I was their enemy, so I always waited for them to attack me first, before shielding and either counter-attacking or leaving them open for my allies to do so. I didn’t like the thought of hurting anyone, but I saw very little choice. I’d pledged to use my powers to defend people and not to harm them, but many more people would die if we couldn’t complete the prophecy.
Josie’s powerful ice spikes were of enormous use in the war. She intentionally didn’t pierce her enemies with the tips, only knocking them aside with the blunt sides, and providing valuable defensive ice walls to block incoming attacks. The girl was making good on her boast that she could handle herself.
Behind the front lines, I noticed a woman ordering the other soldiers into strategic positions and formations. She referred to them as “maggots” a lot. I assumed she must have been some kind of commander within Nahalore. Then, Todd approached her. He spoke with her for a minute, then projected a small trickle of water near her elbow. It flowed down her forearm past her wrist and started to drip on the ground. Suddenly, she froze it solid, forming a wrist-mounted ice blade. They then repeated the process for the other arm.
Once properly armed, she rushed recklessly into the front lines. With incredibly fast movements demonstrating immense skill, she weaved and dodged through the frenzied attacks on the battlefield, and struck down a number of the enemies using non-lethal blows with her ice blades.
“Way to go Mahsa!” I heard Todd call.
Mahsa, huh? I’m sure glad Mahsa’s on our side.
While deflecting a beam attack with my defensive bubble, I observed Milo in action. He fired his grappling hook at someone. When they dodged, I saw that he had intentionally missed in order to fix the hook to a wall on the other side. The young man swung the cord down to trip a group of enemies. Some fell, some jumped over it. He then leapt into the air and retracted the cable, yanking himself across the battlefield and performing a spinning triple-kick to everyone who had dodged the initial trip. When he reached the wall where the hook was attached, he quickly pulled it out, and kicked off the building to perform a superman punch on a target.
He was then surrounded, and the numerous Nephilim began to attack. He expertly ducked and dodged, simultaneously firing mid-air spinning butterfly kicks and low strikes. I was blown away by his fighting skill, until I noticed that he had intentionally lured them into the shadow of a building. He was using his shadow-calling ability to its potential, which allowed him to perform seemingly impossible acts of strength and agility. Finally, he shot the grappling hook onto the corner of a flat roof above, and performed a jumping forward flip kick to the face of the last woman in the group while retracting the cable. He propelled expertly up to the rooftop, and landed in a crouching position, scanning the street below for his next target.
“Hey, Spider-Man! Nice moves!” Sera praised from below, while engaging in a fight of her own.
She was facing off against an electricity-caller with sunglasses and blond spiky hair, and a beam-caller with long dirty blonde hair under a stocking cap. Each side tried to make several moves to gain the upper hand, but they found themselves deadlocked. Sera called out to them.
“So, I suppose we’re still not friends, eh, guys?”
“Of course not, traitor bitch! We generally don’t make friends with people who throw their entire organization under the bus!” The girl yelled back.
“We’ve never been friends!” The boy spat. “Why don’t you just quit?”
“Quit?” Sera looked somewhat hurt. “Just quit? Cold turkey like that? Where’s my 12 step program, and support group? Free-thinking world-savers Anonymous…”
From his position on the roof, Milo spotted something a distance away. He then called down:
“Hey! I saw Doshi! There!”
Sera looked in the direction her brother was pointing. I could detect her countenance darken, even in the midst of a heated battle.
“He just went inside that building!” Milo elaborated.
Sera started running while calling back:
“Let’s go! We’ll cut off the head of the snake! Come on, Hal!”
With that, the three of us broke away from the skirmish, and dashed in the direction of the chapel. When we burst inside, it was surprisingly silent. All sounds from the battlefield were muted by the walls, giving the impression that all was at peace within this sanctuary. However, we knew that was not the case. If Todd were to be believed, a murder had just taken place, and culprit was still inside, somewhere.
The chapel was divided into three sections: a main sanctuary, a series of offices for the chaplains, and the Bishop’s wing. Most likely, the Bishop’s wing is where Doshi would be. Suddenly, we heard a quivering voice.
“St-stay away from me, you traitors!”
The three of us all turned to face the speaker, to see a man in clerical garments cowering on the floor behind a pew. Sera seemed to recognize him.
“Jim Hobbes?? What are you-“
“Be gone, heretics! You’re just trying to disrupt the perfect and sovereign order of God! You can’t just come into a holy place and assault the Cardinal!”
The man began standing up defiantly.
“We’ve been predestined in ages past to be the chosen ones of the Most High! You little pebbles are nothing in the light of the-“
His self-glorification was cut short as Milo fired a knockout dart from his wrist gadget into Hobbes’ chest. He dropped to the floor unconscious in a second.
“Thank you, Milo. I’ve wanted to do that for years.”
The boy nodded, and we continued onward. Doshi wasn’t in the sanctuary, so we quickly searched the chaplains’ offices. Again, nothing. Finally, we passed through a magnificently ornamented corridor toward the Bishop’s wing. Sera was quivering with each step as we drew closer to the door leading to where our target would likely be. I had never met this Doshi, but Sera seemed to harbor some immense fear of him. I had no doubt that we could beat him, no matter how powerful he was.
The entry way before us was made up of a very large set of double doors. They were made of a beautiful dark wood, and adorned with angels rendered in gold. Milo stepped forward, and pushed them both open. We found ourselves in a huge room, which likely took a large portion of the bishop’s wing. It appeared to be some kind of half-size sanctuary itself. Everything from the marbled floors to the ornately decorated ceiling projected a sacred appearance, and I almost felt guilty standing there and not giving worship to God.
Then, I saw him.
The young man, Doshi, was standing in the middle of the huge room, as though waiting for us to arrive. He was wearing a long robe, with golden stripes on the sleeves and radiating from the back down the floor. It must have been Bishop Sherman’s, because it was a bit too large for the slight of stature Doshi. The robe was stained dark crimson with blood. Sickeningly, the young man was licking the lifeblood off his fingers.
“Welcome, my friends. I’ve been expecting you. Welcome to day one of my rule. How is it so far? Glorious?”
Sera exploded furiously.
“NO IT ISN’T!! You freak-head bed-wetting four-eyed egg-laying treacherous sadistic piece of-“
“It’s also your last.” Milo interrupted. “What did you do with the Bishop?”
“Oh, I had his body moved to my lab for some testing. Don’t worry. There was still enough blood left for my purposes.” He licked his lips. “I’ve gotta say, though, it tastes like a winner!”
“You…you’re that Doctor…” I accused.
“Hm hm hm.” Doshi chuckled. “Yes I am, and so much more. My powers and mind were always extremely powerful, but I was bored. Nothing in this miserable organization meant anything to me. However, my master appeared to me six years ago. He came to me in dreams, and told me what I was truly destined to do. Ever since my eyes were truly opened, I finally found true purpose for my life.”
Sera was trembling with fear and anger as the sadist continued.
“I contacted Teklos, and became their informant on the inside. I provided them with every bit of information they would need to manipulate the pompous fools in Nahalore. Then, several years ago, they gave me exactly what I wanted. The Holy Grail. The Tree of Life. The Super Mario Bros of destiny.
“It was the Book of Prophecy. It contained exact detail of how I would need to complete my plans. The only problem, is that it was blank. They had no idea how to read it, or make the writing appear. That was why they needed my help. My hypothesis was that I could use the holy blood of the Ircabim to reveal the ancient writing. That’s why I was collecting blood from each elemental-caller. None of them worked. Not even the blood of the “Fiery One” had any effect. However, I haven’t lost hope. I’m certain that the Omni-Caller will be the key. But even if not, I have faith that my master will guide me to free him.”
Wait, I had the words of the prophecy in my body. Teklos knew that…why would they tell him to figure out another way? Unless, they didn’t want to wait until they could capture me… I had been gone for six years after all… or perhaps they wanted to keep this guy busy on an impossible task…
“Well, none of that matters any more. I will enjoy personally drowning the so-called ‘prophesied ones’. It’s been great knowing you. You’ve been highly entertaining.”
Sera didn’t wait to let him make the first move. She had been surreptitiously forming a fireball while Doshi babbled, and she took the opportunity to fire it at him. He raised his right hand, and a wall of water came from the floor, and quenched the projectile. Milo shot several darts at his target, but they were washed aside with a wave of Doshi’s hand. He then charged forward, and attempted a flying kick. He was easily blocked with a quick burst of water. Milo clamped his hands over his nose and mouth to prevent the water-caller from trying to drown him.
Sera gathered flames in each hand, and jumped off of a pew into the air for a double strike. Doshi swatted her out of the air with a wave. She fell to the ground, and Doshi slowly and deliberately stepped over to her. The poor girl was attempting to fight off the shock from being drenched when Doshi put his hands on her shoulders. He leaned down with a cruel smile, and looked directly into her face. Water was summoned which began to slowly flow from the floor, up her back and sides, and along her body toward her face. The girl froze, unable to even resist. Her body trembled with terror, but she was helpless to fight back against the impending punishment.
Before the life-giving death-dealing liquid could reach her air passages, I came on the attack with a series of strikes and kicks while forming force fields around my fist or foot, whichever would contact him. I failed to hit due to his dodging and water blocks, I managed to take his concentration off of Sera. He took several steps back from us. Milo came over next to me as we stood in front of our comrade on the floor.
“Well, not too bad. I must say, you’re doing much better than last time. However, I’m done playing.”
Doshi raised both of his hands, and water began to materialize in the air. It grew in magnitude and speed as it whirled around us, until it formed an enormous maelstrom that filled almost the entire room.
There was nowhere for us to go. I quickly formed a shield to protect us as the revolving deluge threatened to crush or drown us. The bubble blocked all gasses from crossing, so it was impossible for soundwaves to enter. This gave the impression that the raging torrent was eerily silent. We were trapped. If I let down the shield, we would be killed instantly. But the oxygen within could only last for so long, before we suffocated. Suddenly, I was a bit glad that we couldn’t hear the sounds from outside, or we would surely be subjected to Doshi’s gloating.
“What should we do?” I whispered.
Milo did not reply. He only looked stoically out into the whirling storm of water. Is this how it was going to end? All of our hardships, and travels just to die here? I tried to think of every possible action we could take, but there was nothing we could do. Checkmate. We couldn’t block, evade, or destroy the attacker. This was it. I began to give into despair. There was no way out.
“Hal… is there any…” Milo asked calmly.
Tears came to my eyes as I shook my head.
“No. No…we’re done.”
“I don’t think so.” Came a voice from behind.
Milo and I twisted around. Sera was slowly standing to her feet. Her legs were still shaky, but she had a look of determination on her face.
“This isn’t how it ends.”
She pushed past us toward the front of the shield.
“Hal, you and Milo get to the back. When I give the word, drop the shield. Then, make one around the two of you.”
“Sera, wait! What’re you doing?” I demanded.
“You said checkmate. But we still get to pass GO and collect 200 dollars.”
“That’s…not chess…” Milo muttered as he obediently moved behind me to the rear of the force field.
I didn’t budge.
“Sera! I can’t let you do this! I can’t let you kill yourself like this!”
“I’ll be alright. No worries.”
“NO! You’re the Fiery One! If you die, the prophecy dies with you, and this is all for nothing!!”
“If I don’t do this, we’ll all die.”
“I WON’T LET YOU THROW YOUR LIFE AWAY!!”
“Go on. Get back there.” Sera smiled and cocked her head. “I’ve got this.”
I pressed my lips together and tried not to cry out. Her face looked optimistic, but her voice was wavering. She was terrified, and certainly not sure of herself. What’s she even thinking? Does she think her sacrifice will make the water-caller spare Milo and myself? That’s not going to work. He wants to kill all of us.
Sera and I made eye contact for a long period of time. I knew that look. In all the time I had known her, I had picked up on a few things. That was her look that meant she wasn’t backing down. No matter what. I sighed, and moved to the far side of the bubble, next to Milo.
I gave her one last forlorn look. She smiled over her shoulder and gave me the thumbs up. Then, she turned back to face the opposite direction, toward Doshi. She held her arms out at a downward angle, and raised her head. Her hands and hair seemed to be glowing orange, then nearly white. That must have been the signal.
My heart felt like it was tearing in two as I dropped the force field and remade a tiny one around Milo and myself, leaving Sera lost to the furious water vortex.