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The New Age

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Thread: The New Age

  1. #1
    Beginner Megastick's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
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    Default The New Age

    ok ya i originally posted this on sleepywood.net/forum a while (a long while) ago...and just restarted writing...so i decided to post it here

    this is my "rough draft" of a story ive been making..its basically for feedback and whatnot...eventually when i finish (there are no chapters...only 'parts' atm...and i have aorund 37 parts...the full story will have over 100) i'll clean it up

    the beginning as ull noticed is a little amateurish...that is becuz that is back when i had just started writing...give the story time to develop (and my writing style) and ull see as u read on it gets less amateurish...but just to give u guys an idea on how much it improves/will suck u in...on sleepywood.net/forum...my "posts" in my thread is 297...with 14,372 "views"...the second highest viewed AND posted story in the fanfic section

    since ill be posting all 37 parts i have up atm...ill cut each off at the end (even tho they are indicated) so at least ur eyes dont burn out of their sockets tryning to read
    enjoy =)

    Part 1


    Henesys

    In the house of our main character

    Striker awoke with a start when he heard a bang on the door. "Who's there!?", He shouted.

    "Dude it's me Rick!"

    Striker opened the door. "What do you want? Do you know what friggin time it is!?"

    "It doesn't matter, don't you remember what day it is!?!"

    "Oh my god your right!!!" He had just remembered it was the day he had been waiting for since he first came to Henesys. "Today's when they're assigning new recruits to become archers! And since this year we're finally old enough to sign up, maybe all that training we've done will finally pay off...maybe they'll even pick BOTH of us as one of the five!"

    "I know man, and that's why we gotta get going. Don't you remember they only let people sign up until noon? You were friggin sleeping until ****ing eleven. If I didn't come, you would've missed it. Now get dressed, I'll meet you there."

    And off Rick ran down the street towards the archer academy, where people from all around the world came once a year, hoping to be lucky enough to get chosen to be an archer.

    Oh ****! How could I have forgotten that it was today!? I hope I get in.

    Striker threw on his only set of armour that he had, some crappy things he had earned from countless hours of training with Rick. Of course, Rick didn't need to find his things. He came from a rich family. Anything he needed, his parents got for him.

    He bolted straight through the door, still jamming his hat onto his head.

    (to be continued...)
    _____________________________

    Part 2

    Outside the archer academy

    "Yo! Striker you finally made it!" Said Rick as Striker appeared just over the hill.

    "Ya man sorry. Even though I'm here, I can't help feeling like I forgot something."

    "Well let's see...you brought your armour, and that's pretty much all you need since they provide weapons inside. Oh, where's your entry money?" Asked Rick, trying to figure out what Striker could have possibly forgotten.

    Striker checked his pockets. "****. I forgot it at home! Can't you just loan me the 1500 mesos?" He asked desperatly.

    "Sorry man, I only brought enough for myself."

    Panicking, Striker imagined himself walking into the academy without the entrance fee. Being laughed at by the judges. He realised there was only one thing he could do. "Rick...there's a shop in there right?"

    "Ya, what are you planning on........Oh man. Don't tell me your planning on doing what I think your going to do. You'll be totally unprotected against whatever we have to face inside!" Rick gasped realising what his best friend was about to do.

    "It's my only option. As soon as we get in there, I'm selling all my armour. I can fight with the clothes on my back." Just then, the huge doors to the archer academy opened slowly and out walked the three judges.

    The middle judge stepped forward. "Everybody! We thank you for coming this year! We know that you all would like to become archer's, maybe even one day the strongest archer. You all know that each year's event to become one is different. You will find out the event as soon as we enter, but first I will ask you all to find a partner." Rick and Striker looked at each other and nodded. "As soon as you have done that, follow us inside"

    Striker heard Rick gulp. He looked at him and gave him a re-assuring nod, and then they both walked toward the archer academy and straight through the wooden doors into what looked like a circular arena. But nothing was there. The three judges had taken seats along the far right wall. Again the middle judge was the one to speak. He rose to his feet as the monstrous wooden doors slammed shut with such force that some of the applicants lost their balance. "Everyone please come and pay the entry fee so we can begin."

    Striker walked to the left of the judges, to the shop. "Hello, I would like to sell these pieces of armour. I think I deserve at least 1500 mesos."

    "Agreed." Said the shopkeep, handing Striker his money. He met with Rick. "Ok, let's go sign up."

    After everyone had finally signed up, all three judges stood up and spoke at the same time, almost as if their mouths were linked. "Now for the task. What you must do to become an archer is...kill your partner. All surviving applicants will move on to the next round. Now choose your weapons."

    The room fell silent. Striker and Rick both stared at each other. They both knew that the other would do anything to become an archer. They both nodded to each other and went to the wall that carried the weapons upon it. Striker had chosen a curved, blood-red bow with a point in the middle for extra accuracy. He then went to the vat full of arrows and grabbed as many as he could fit into his quiver.

    All judges were still standing, and they all looked like they were smirking. But this time, only the middle judge spoke. In a malicious voice he said the word Striker had been dreading since hearing the task.

    "BEGIN!"

    (to be continued...)

    ___________________________________

    Part 3

    Striker couldn't believe what he was about to do. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, even though he knew he was wasting precious time. He could feel the wind from the arrows of the other participants passing him by. He looked over at the judges. The judge in the middle was smirking...and he appeared to be looking, straight at him. Maybe it was just his imagination.

    Before he knew what happened, he felt Rick's foot connect with his chin. Striker looked at Rick, but Rick didn't look like himself, he had a menacing glare in his eyes. Even though he knew that Rick would do anything, he didn't expect the look he saw. Almost like Rick was...enjoying this. The arrows flying left and right, barely missing other contenders, the screams of the others as they were pierced with arrows, and the floor, stained with blood. But still all that Striker could focus on was the look on Rick's face.

    "What's the matter Striker? Losing your touch?" Asked Rick. But no sooner than had he said this, Striker was beside him. Striker then raised his bow and brought it crashing down on Rick's back. Knocking Rick to the ground, Striker saw his oppurtunity to attack. He pulled an arrow out of his quiver and shot it straight for Rick's torso, but Rick managed to roll away to avoid a painful blow, but not enough. The arrow had pierced his arm.

    Rick let out a shout of pain as he ripped the arrow from his arm. Using the same arrow, he shot at Striker's head. But in the blink of an eye, like some sort of fluke, Striker caught the arrow! All three judges seemed to have noticed this, as they began muttering amongst themselves.

    Not knowing how he had done it, Striker dropped the arrow to his side. Looking upon Rick's face he could see that he no longer seemed ****y, but yet seemed frightened.

    Panicking, Rick set a volley of arrows at Striker. But amazingly Striker dodged each and every one. Rick, shaking, now shouted with a mix of fright and anger. Yelling at Striker, "Where did you learn to move like this!?!? That speed...it's blinding. I blink after a shot and you've already dodged. But still you don't shoot back. Come on! I know how badly you want this also! Why don't you stop pretending that you have all these 'morales' and kill me!?"

    Striker couldn't take it anymore. He was frightened because, he himself, did not know how he was moving so quickly. And he was angry because his best friend wanted nothing more, than a fight to the death. "You really want me to kill you that badly? Then fine!"

    Rick sent another arrow flying right for Striker's head. Striker moved with lightning fast speed, right underneath Rick's raised arms. Striker swung his bow with all his might straight at Rick's torso. He felt the bow shake as it connected with Rick's ribs. Rick crumbled to the floor. Striker raised his bow and pointed it directly at Rick's face, not even one foot away. As he was loading an arrow into the bow he looked, saddened, thinking what he was about to do, right into Rick's eyes. Instead of the malicious look he wore before, he was now tearful. Tearful, yes, but smiling. Rick managed to stutter out a single word. "C-C-Congratulations."

    Striker pulled back on his bow string and released it. He could hear the arrow sink deep into Rick's head. Blood spouting from Rick's head, Striker watched as his best friend, fell in a bloody heap on the ground.

    Striker looked right at the middle judge, who was definitly looking at him now, grinning his malicious smile. Striker thought to himself, I will get my revenge...on all of you...if it's the last thing I do.

    (to be continued...)

    _________________________________________

    Part 4

    Striker walked over to where the rest of the contestants who had finished were waiting, feeling his heart weighed down with the sadness of what he had just done. He wanted to know why so many people would kill a person, just to become and archer. But at the same time, he understood. It was the same thing that drove him to put the arrow through his best friends head.

    A fierce battle still raged in front of him. The people, friend or not, killing each other. The bodies of the dead still lying on the ground. He looked over at Rick's body and could still see the tears, dried to his face, and a thick pool of blood surrounding his body. He brought his eyes away, shutting them quickly, trying to hold back his own tears.

    Finally, after each and every person had killed their partners, the judges rose again. The one on the right motioned to a man in the corner. The man seemed to know what it meant. He quickly ran to the middle of the room and raised his hands. At once, the bodies had been cleared, and the blood had been cleaned. The academy looked just how it had when Striker had first entered.

    The judge on the left began to speak. "We know you all may feel sorrow in your hearts. But to kill is what the outside world is all about. We thought this year, we should prepare you competitors. The next task though, will not result in anyone else dying."

    Striker breathed a sigh of relief. The judge continued. "But the next task, in ways, will be more difficult."

    Striker couldn't believe his ears! He jumped up. "What do you mean it will be more difficult? How can it be more difficult!? I had to kill my best friend!"

    The judge looked at him...and laughed. "Well first off. Nobody made you kill him, that was a choice you made on your own. You could have simply left." Still laughing, he looked at Striker. "But either way. We wouldn't have allowed you to leave. Now sit down."

    Striker looked at him. Angered and horrified. The judge was right, he had made the choice to kill Rick. But he couldn't help noticing that the judge had the same menacing look on him as the middle judge when he had said the last line "But either way. We wouldn't have allowed you to leave.".

    The judge on the left, once again, spoke. "As I was saying before I was interuppted. Your next task will be an accuracy contest.". As he said this, the man in the middle of the room once again raised his arms, and big bullseyes were lined up across each wall. "This is the final round. Each of you will make one shot. The best fifteen will remain. Then those fifteen will make another one shot each. And so on until our five new archers are the only ones left."

    Everyone went around choosing a bullseye. Striker had chosen the closest one to the judges, just to see their expressions on his shot.

    The middle judge spoke this time. "Okay. Make your first shots"

    Striker pulled back on his bow string, aimed his shot, and released.

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 5


    Striker's arrow soared through the air, landing almost directly in the center. He looked over at the judges. The two on either side were watching each student take his or her shot, but the middle judge had his eyes fixed right on Striker. As soon as Striker saw this he brought his eyes away, and instead, let them rest on the mage in the middle of the room. He was walking around giving the results to the people who had already made their shots.

    As the mage got closer to where Striker was, he could here him giving out scores. "Good job, eight point five. Try harder,seven.". Finally, he got to Striker. After examining where his arrow was, he looked at Striker and said, "Impressive. Nearly perfect, nine point five."

    Breathing a sigh of relief that he was almost guaranteed a spot in the top fifteen, Striker waited for the mage to finish giving out the scores to each shooter.

    The mage went to talk to the judge on the right. The judge stood up and announced the names of the advancing fifteen people, Striker was one of them. "Now I would kindly like the rest of you to walk through that door.". Raising his hand, he pointed to not the main door, but a side door. As each person that had failed walked through the door, Striker swore he heard screaming.

    The judge continued. "Now, for the rest of you. Ten of you will be eliminated next, giving us our new archers. Make your shots."

    Striker loaded his bow with an arrow. Taking his shot, he got it dead center! The mage gave him a perfect ten.

    The judges all stood up. Striker looked on with anticipation, knowing that he made it. They all seemed to be speaking together again as they announced the names of the new archers.

    Striker wasn't one of them!

    Standing alone in shock, watching as the five new archers made their way out of the academy, and as the other nine walked into the side room, followed by what again sounded like screaming. Striker couldn't take it. He charged right up to the judges table, slamming both hands hard down, the sound echoing through the empty academy. "This is bull****! I had a perfect score! How could I not be selected as a new archer?"

    The middle judge spoke this time. "Because we find you lacking a certain something, we're not sure what, but I think you have it in you, the only problem is bringing it out."

    Striker was furious. "Then why did you make us make that last shot? And where are the others that failed, how come they haven't returned?"

    Smiling and laughing, the middle judge said, "Oh, don't worry about them. They're, how should I put this, not going to be in next years competition.". His smile widening as he said those last few words.

    Striker couldn't believe his ears. "You killed them!?"

    The judge was no longer laughing, he was laughing an evil laugh, one that sent a chill straight up Strikers spine. "Very good. And you didn't even need anyone to tell you."

    Striker was beyond furious now. He couldn't hold his anger in anymore. "You *******s! You bring us here and make us kill each other! Then when you say nobody else will die, you lead the losers to be executed! I killed my best friend, and still I haven't done what you wanted! You sons of *****es! I swore to myself that I would have my revege. And now I shall take it!". And with those last words Striker lifted his bow and loaded two arrows into it. The judges on the left and right saw this, but two late. Before they had even raised their bows, they had both already fallen, both with an arrow sticking dead center in their foreheads.

    Just as Striker was loading another arrow into his bow, he looked up. What he saw made him stop, bewildered by what he saw. The middle judge was standing there, unflinching, his smile wider than ever. "Now that's what I wanted to see. The thing you were lacking; hate. You want to be an archer? Then fine.". And with that, he tossed Striker a badge. Catching it, Striker stared down at it. He looked back at the judge, his eyes looked like a blaze of fire there was so much anger in them. "You think you can solve this by just making me an archer!?"

    With that, he raised his bow, still loaded with the arrow, aimed it at the judges head, and fired.

    The judge raised his hand and closed it around the head of the arrow! When he released, it fell to the table without its head. The judge overturned his hand and Striker saw a gray dust falling ever so slowly to meet with the bare shaft of what was once an arrow.

    The judge looked at Striker, the smile had faded. "Fool."

    With that the judge raised his own bow, a wicked curved, black bow, half the length of Striker's entire body. The colour of the bow was darker than the darkest night. Darker than the deepest hate.

    Fearful, Striker stood, frozen to the spot, unable to move. The judge pulled back on his bowstring and released.

    Striker felt as the arrow sunk deep inside his gut. It was the worst pain he had ever felt. He could feel that it was hanging out his back, meaning it went all the way through. Striker fell to his knees and looked at the judge. "You ****er," spat Striker. The judge simply laughed and walked out of the academy.

    Striker then blacked out.

    (to be continued...)

    _______________________________________

    Part 6

    Three Months After The Academy

    Striker's House

    Striker had just come home from a rigorous day of training. Closing the door behind him, setting his bow down, he walked over to the full length mirror in the hall. He saw a young man staring back at him, eyes; cold with months of pain and strife, his hair; blue as a mid-summer sky. Examing his battle scar's which covered his body, fresh one's from the days exercise now covered his right cheek and arm.

    But still, one scar, Striker would never forget. It was not visible to him in the mirror currently, only because it lie beneath his shirt. The ******* that put that hole through his gut, Striker would never forget him. He still remembered how he had survived that day.

    The last thing he had remembered was blacking out, and then waking up in a hospital. They had told him what had happened.

    Flashback-Three Months Prior

    "Sir, are you alright?" Said a strange voice Striker did not recognize. He tried sitting up, but as he did so, felt a shooting pain course through his entire stomach. "Sir, you shouldn't be moving yet, you were hurt pretty badly. Do you remember your name? If I told you we found you yesterday and treated you, could you tell me the day?"

    Still puzzled, Striker looked at the stranger. He realised he was in a hospital. He felt he remembered the stranger from somewhere. Of course! He was one of the contestants who had failed in the second round. But that could only mean that a few, maybe even all had survived.

    "Sir?" Asked the man, still awaiting Striker's response.

    Striker looked at him. "Oh, sorry. My name is Striker, and if this is the next day, it's Friday. But why are you here? How did you get out of the academy?"

    The man smiled. "Well first of all, I'm also a doctor. I jsut always wanted to do more, so I attempted becoming an archer. As for the escape. That was a close one. We had all entered the room, and it was pitch black inside. A light burst on and we could see what lay ahead of us...a monstrous kargo. But you may also remember the mage handing out our scores to us. It seems he was not on the side of the judges. He also had a few more tricks up his sleeve. As soon as we were sent to the room, he told us he had left an after image of himself that moved, so it looked like he was still there, when in reality, he had teleported into the room to help us take on the kargo. We were all terrified screaming, but with a swish of his staff, it was down. He said he would teleport us out of the building, to safety, so the judges wouldn't get suspicious."

    Striker sat there, letting the story sink in. So noone more did die. That's good...

    The man continued. "It's lucky that I was the one to find you. I had gone back to the academy, dressed in a disguise so that the judges wouldn't recognize me, to see what had happened, but as soon as I arrived, I saw that noone was there, except for you, lying on the ground, with an arrow stuck through your middle. I also found this. Congratulations."

    Striker wondered what he meant, but realised as soon as he found out what he was being handed. It was his badge, the badge that certified him as an archer. "Thank you, I guess."

    The man seemed more serious now. "Well, you can go home now, but don't overwork yourself."

    Striker thought to himself as he walked out of the hospital. But over exerting myself is all I will be doing. After all, I still have a vow to fully fulfil.

    And with that began his months of intense training, early morning, late nights, small meals, and the building up of even more pain, knowing what he was fighting for.

    Back In The Present

    One Hour Later

    Striker stood up from his chair where he had been resting. I think...I'm ready. I've been training for three months. Nothing else matters, just so long as I beat that judge.

    Searching all over town, he couldn't find a trace of the judge anywhere. There was only one explanation, the judge was no longer in Henesys.

    Heading home, Striker grabbed his bow, quiver, and any spare arrows he had and set off to find the judge. I think I'll go west first. Kerning City, here I come.

    (to be continued...)

    ___________________________________________

    Part 7

    Striker turned back to take one last look at his house. He remembered growing up there. But now, he was going out, to avenge his friend.

    Bringing his quiver to rest more securely on his back, bow held down by his side, Striker set off.

    He headed for the forests that lie west of Henesys. Wild pigs ran rampant in these parts, attacking travelers. Striker had to be sure to watch his back. He continued, a look of disgust on his face as he passed by wandering snails. He hated bugs. He crushed each and every snail he saw, a slight smirk spreading across his face.

    Climbing ledges, walking over hills, sliding down the steeper sides of downward slopes. At one point, Striker slid straight into a pit of snails. Bringing his bow from his side, he swiped at the snails, killing many at once. Climbing from the pit, he continued on his journey.

    As he walked deeper within the forest, he heard a rumbling on the ground. Taking cover in a nearby tree, Striker saw as many wild pigs ran by underneath. Just as he saw the last one pass by, he climbed down. What he did not know was the pigs knew he was there. But Striker had made one fatal mistake, he had underestimated the pigs, thinking they were stupid. In truth though, they knew he was in the tree and planned a round-about.

    Moments later, the group of pigs had cought up to Striker. Striker noticed this just quick enough to get out of the way of the first charge. The pigs circled around, but this time Striker was ready. He brought his bow up once again, loading it and firing it at pigs with blinding speed. The squeel of pigs dying echoed through the forest.

    Evading and shooting, eventually Striker had taken out each and every pig. Or so he thought. Again underestimating the pigs, he continued walking, just as another pig, at least four times the size of the others, had come and blindsighted Striker, knocking him into a tree. As the pig reared, ready to bring it's full body down on Striker, Striker stood up and jumped away all in one swift motion. But not only was this pig bigger, it was also faster. It had countered Striker's dodge with yet another charge. Jumping out of the way, Striker took the oppurtunity of the pig missing him to take his shot. Aiming straight for the pig he released an arrow straight for the pig. The pig was hit, but did not even looked stunned. Instead it charged at Striker again. Again Striker tried the same method with no effect.

    Pinned up on a tree, the pig charged again. Striker knew what to do. Just before the pig would've struck Striker, he leaped into the air, kicking off the tree. As he turned back to face the pig, he loaded another arrow and shot it straight at the pigs head. Striker watched as the pig fell down, dead.

    Striker continued to Kerning City. He knew he was getting close, because he could see the construction that was usually going on, left unfinished.

    As Striker neared the city limits, a hooded figure charged at him from out of the shadows of a nearby unfinished building. Striker unloaded arrow after arrow at the hooded figure, but each arrow was proven useless because the hooded figure was brandishing a pair of daggers. Each arrow shot was sliced in half before it reached it's target. Still charging, the hooded figure made a swipe at Striker. Striker raised his bow and whacked the hooded man in the back his head. Taking his oppurtunity, Striker shot another arrow right at the man. Success! The arrow had gone right through the man's head. Instead of falling, the man turned around, and pulled the arrow out! The hooded man stood there and laughed.

    Striker was stunned. "Who are you?"

    The man spoke. "Do you really want to know?" Striker nodded. As he did so, the man removed his hood.

    Mouth wide open, eyes bulging, Striker stared.

    "Oh my god...!"

    (to be continued...)

    _________________________________________

    Part 8

    "Rick! Is that really you?" Striker was puzzled. How could his best friend be right here, when he knew that he had killed him. He had seen the arrow sink deep into his head, watched him as he fell in a heap on the ground, as the thick pool of blood ran from his body, staining the floor. None of this made sense. He couldn't be alive.

    But just as he was thinking how untrue this could be, Rick nodded. "Yes it's me Striker."

    Striker stared at his best friend, somehow reborn. "But how, I watched you die. I killed you myself!"

    With those last four words, Rick closed his eyes, his face looking saddened, but when he looked up, he looked just as determined as the day they went to the academy. "Even though I knew you would do anything, I couldn't help feeling hurt that my best friend would kill me. I'm not saying I wouldn't have done the same, but either way. Not only did the arrow pierce through my brain, but it felt as if another arrow had pierced me, straight through my heart."

    Striker knew exactly how he felt. "I'm sorry Rick, but like you said, you would've done the same. But I'm still confused...how did you survive?"

    Rick looked deep into Striker's eyes. Striker felt as if Rick was searching deep within his soul. "You don't need to know." With that, Rick charged straight at Striker.

    Striker dodged. "Rick what are you doing?!"

    Rick swiped another time, grazing Striker with his right dagger. "Payback, old friend."

    Rick was grinning a grin Striker had only seen once. The time Rick thought he would be the one that was chosen to become an archer, right before he knew he was going to die.

    Rick was bringing out his full force, or so Striker thought. Daggers blazing, too fast to be seen, Striker was getting ripped up from head to toe. Blood splattered on the walls of an unfinished building. The battle was leading into the building, and up the stairs.

    Striker was reluctant to fire a single shot, worrying about hurting his friend, again. "Come on Rick, it doesn't have to be like this!"

    Rick stopped. "It's the only way!"

    As the battle progressed in the building, Striker ran. He found another set of stairs. Running straight up them, Rick followed. Striker found more and more stairs and ran up each one. If his count was right, this was the tenth floor.

    Rick caught up with him. "There's nowhere left to run Striker." He said as he laughed with a certain enjoyment.

    Striker looked around. Rick was right, they were on the top floor. As he took his bow from a hilt on his waist he said, "You're right, I guess there's only one other option."

    Rick's smile faded slightly, but returned quickly as his ****iness took the best of him. "Now that's what I wanted to see!" And with that, he charged at Striker, who was standing only fifteen feet from the ledge, slashing the air. As he reached Striker, he got in a few good slashes, cutting Striker right arm to an almost unusable state.

    As Rick passed by, Striker turned. "It ends here, once and for all." He ran straight at Rick, bow raised, and swung it at Rick's head. Losing his balance, Rick stumbled. Too much. Before Rick knew it, he was falling over the edge. Striker heard as Rick smacked the ground, bones breaking.

    Striker walked to the edge of the building, crying, as he had had to kill his best friend once again. As he peered over the side, he realised something. Rick was gone!

    (to be continued...)

    _________________________________________

    Part 9

    As Striker walked down each floor of the building, he couldn't help getting one image out of his head; looking over the edge of the building, seeing just the ground. Each floor he walked down, more questions seemed to form, and reform. How was Rick back after the battle at the academy? Why was he so intent on killing him? How did Rick become so strong? How did he become so fast? And most of all, how did he survive the fall? Striker swore he had heard Rick's bones break, a sickening crushing sound.

    Just when Striker reached the bottom of the building, he looked around, looking for any trace of where Rick has gone. There wasn't even a footprint, almost as if Rick had simply vanished. But that wasn't possible...was it? Striker didn't know anymore. He had also thought his best friend was gone, for good, now nothing was certain. But the thing that puzzled him most was when he thought back to when he had first saw Rick, as a hooded stranger. He had shot an arrow, straight through Rick's head, but without even a flinch, Rick had pulled it out effortlessly.

    Striker continued looking around, from construction site to construction site, but nothing, just rubble that littered the ground, a thick cloud of fog hanging in the air; a mixture of dust and pollution from the nearby Kerning City. Striker decided to forget about Rick, for now. As he dragged his torn body through the construction, he saw Kerning come into view. Breathing a sigh of relief, Striker headed to the nearest clinic.

    As he trudged on, he saw why Kerning was dubbed the title "City Of Thieves". Trash cans lay knocked over, spilling onto the roads. Trashed, broken down cars lay by the side of the road. Gunshots rang through the air from the far reaches of Kerning, followed only by the echoing of screams. Signs of each shop, bar, and cafe hung slanted, some neon letters blinking, trying desperatly to stay on, and some that had already burnt out. Drunkards lying in the street's, unconcious, and those that were concious, begging for spare change.

    Striker finally spotted the clinic. As he headed toward it, he passed by an alley. Looking down it he saw nothing, but almost as quick as he had taken his eyes away from it, he was pulled into it.

    Obviously a thief, looking to do anything for some change, wearing tattered jeans and a black shirt. Flashing a dagger he spoke. "Give me your money, and I might let you live, hehehe."

    Striker smiled. "Oh I'm sorry, I seem to have no money." With that, he took an arrow out of his quiver and stabbed it straight through the man's stomach.

    Clutching his stomach, stumbling back in pain, the man looked at Striker, fear in his eyes. Striker looked at him without remorse. "You picked the wrong guy to rob, buddy." He loaded the arrow he had stabbed the man with into his bow, pulled back, and released. Striker could hear the arrow sink into the man, as he fell onto the ground, dead.

    Striker left the alley, once again heading towards the clinic. "Hmph, not even worth my time. But I guess, ironicly, I now know why the judges made us do the first task."

    (to be continued...)

    _______________________________________

    Part 10

    As Striker reached the clinic, pulling open the doors, a horrible sight met his eyes. People in the waiting room, coughing from diseases, bags under their eyes, and other patients being rushed in and out of emergency rooms, scarred and bloody. Battle worn patients that had not been tended to yet sat in chairs or lay on the ground, screaming.

    Striker sat in a chair, holding his arm, blood dripping down his arm to the floor. As he sat, he saw many people come in, but only a few leave. Striker thought to himself, maybe their wounds were too marred to be helped.

    After what seemed like hours, but was actually only twenty-seven minutes, according to the clock, which hung on the far wall by just a bit, hanging on a slant, an attendent from the clinic came over and handed a sheet to Striker. "Please fill this out. Return it to me at the desk when your finished."

    Striker looked at the sheet, then to the woman. He gasped. "Hey! Don't I know you from somewhere? I swear I've seen you before!"

    The woman turned her head. "No sir, I don't believe we've met. I've never even been to Henesys." Turning, she returned to her desk.

    Striker, puzzled, sure that he had seen her before, thought nothing of it. It was probably just someone he had seen before on the street in Henesys, sparing just a passing glance. But something bothered him, how did she know that he was from Henesys?

    Striker stared down at his paper.

    1. Name-

    2. DOB (eg. October 21/2025)-

    3. Need For Clinical Service-

    4. Cause Of Incident (Optional)-

    5. Do You Require An Overnight Stay-

    6. Financial Management (Please select)-
    A. 5,000-10,000 A Month
    B. 10,000-15,000 A Month
    C. 15,000-20,000 A Month
    D. 20,000+ A Month
    E. None Of The Above
    F. Selling Your Finds From Monsters

    7. Current Marrital Status-

    Please Leave Form At Front Desk.

    After filling out the form, Striker looked at the paper...it was stained by blood from his arm, as he stood up and walked towards the front desk, handing the form to the secretary, he tried looking at her face once again, but she had moved before he had the chance. "Thank you. Please return to your seat and wait for your name to be called."

    Twenty minutes later, Striker heard his name called. He got up, and walked to where a different attendant was directing him. She pointed him to an empty room. "Wait here, please."

    Striker sat on the only chair in the room and waited for the doctor to come. Finally, the doctor arrived.

    Fifteen minutes later, Striker left the clinic, arm mended. Striker looked around the city for a motel or some place to spend the night. Finding nothing, he decided to take temporary refuge in a bar. Finding an empty stool beside the bartable, Striker ordered a drink. As the bartender slid the drink towards him, a thief swung his leg around the stool next to Striker, taking a seat, laying down a huge throwing star, grabbing Striker's drink. The man spoke. "Bartender, another drink for this young lad here. Put both drinks on my tab."

    Striker looked with bewilderment at the thief, thinking there were no nice ones in Kerning. "Thanks. Do I owe you something?"

    The thief laughed, just as Striker's drink slid into his hands. "Nah dude, it's fine. Just don't go judging all us thieves the same."

    Striker finshed his drink, thanked the man once more, and left. It was getting dark. Striker had heard before that it wasn't safe to lurk the streets of Kerning alone at night. He walked on, once again searching for somewhere to sleep.

    Striker heard a voice call out to him. "Striker! You should learn to watch your back!"

    Just as Striker turned his head, moving his body to one side, an arrow went whizzing by his head, just touching the rim of his nose. Striker looked around for the attacker. "Where are you!? Who are you!?"

    From behind the wall of a building, Striker saw a woman walk out of the shadows. Cloak draping behind her, whipping around her legs, her long black hair, streaked with a crimson red, flowing around her body. Striker knew this woman! "Rose! I knew it, it was you that I saw in the clinic earlier, wasn't it? What happened? Why did you leave Henesys!?"

    Rose looked at Striker and smiled. "I had to leave! I couldn't stay there forever. But it's nice seeing you here. I remember how we used to play as kids. All those days racing through the trees, seeing which of us was faster. Using our parent's bows, shooting the trees, seeing how accurate we were. But I had to get away, not from you, but from the town. I've always wanted to see what the rest of the world was like. By the way, have you met my friend Wilson?"

    From behind her, someone else walked out. It was the thief from the bar! "Hey again! How's it going?" Wilson smiled happily, twirling his throwing star over his head and catching it over and over.

    Rose looked back at Striker. "But Striker, what brings you here?"

    Striker looked at her, still so happy to see his childhood friend once again. "I...I'll tell you another time, OK?"

    Rose grinned. "Fine, fine. Need a place to stay? You can stay with us, come on."

    (to be continued...)

    ______________________________________

    Part 11

    Rose turned on her heel and headed in the opposite direction. Wilson looked at Striker and looked at him, grinning happily, then turned to follow Rose. Striker stood there for a second, still taking in the fact that he had met an old friend, and of all places, in Kerning.

    Before he lost sight of Rose and Wilson, Striker ran to catch up. "Hey! Wait up!"

    Rose led them to what could only be described as, if there even is such a place, a nice side of Kerning City. The roads were in good condition. This was basically just a lesser evil of the heart of Kerning, but nontheless, still Kerning.

    Finally, Rose turned to face her right, coming to a halt. As she did so, Striker couldn't help looking at her, standing there, her cloak swinging around to meet the other side of her body. Rose looked at Striker. "Well this is the place. It ain't much, but it's home."

    Rose stepped into the house, followed by Striker, and then by Wilson bringing up the rear, twirling the star he held between his fingers, like a coin. As Striker stepped inside the house, he realised the outside didn't reflect what lay within. If Striker had suddenly woken up one day and found himself in this house, he wouldn't even have realised that he was in Kerning until he got outside.

    Rose turned to Striker. "Let's go upstairs, I'll show you your room." Striker followed behind Rose while Wilson stood at the bottom of the staircase, looking into the living room as if someone was there. Rose entered the second room in the hall. "Here's where you can sleep." She walked to the window, peering out, gazing over the streets of Kerning. Striker couldn't help but look at her.

    Just as Striker was about to go and talk to Rose, Striker felt a whack on his head. He turned and saw Wilson walking down the hall. "Don't stare, it's rude." Turning to face Striker, smiling, he finished. "Not that it's any of my bussiness." Wilson entered the third room of the hall, stuck his head back out and looked at Striker pointing inside the third room. "This one's my room." Pointing to Striker. "You stay out, hahaha. Unless it's really important, like...I don't know, anything I guess."

    Striker thought to himself, wow that Wilson guy has serious issues. Even so, Striker couldn't help but laugh. Rose jumped, obviously she had been in deep thought. "What's so funny?" Striker looked at Rose. "Oh nothing don't worry."

    Rose sat down on the bed. "Well, it's later, so why don't you tell me what brings you to Kerning?" And so Striker sat down beside her, and told her the whole story. "Rick, I don't remember him. But that's got to be so bad for you, having to kill him. Those judges are *******s, but the one you describe, I hate to say this, but I've seen him. He was in the pub six days ago, saying he was heading to Perion."

    Striker jumped off the bed. "Perion!? I've got to go, right away!" Rose smiled. "Sure, and I'm coming with you."

    Striker turned around. "What? No. It's too dangerous. I couldn't bare it if anything happened to you, I would feel responsible." Rose's smile faded. "What!? What do you mean "too dangerous"? I'm no weakling, heck, I even took you by surprise. Either way, no matter what you say, I'm coming. I'm not letting you leave yet though. We'll leave in the morning, after we rest a bit." Striker couldn't help but stare at her. Knowing she wouldn't change her mind, he sat back down. "Fine..." Rose's smile quickly returned.

    The Next Morning

    "Striker!" Rose shook Striker until he woke up.

    Striker was still half asleep. "What?"

    Rose looked eager. "Come on get up, let's go!"

    As they both headed downstairs, Striker saw Wilson standing downstairs, leaning against a wall. "I heard you guys last night, and I'm coming too."

    Striker looked at him. "But--" Rose cut him off. "We'd be glad to have you come along. The more the merrier!" Striker muttered under his breath. "Fine."

    As all three of them headed out the door, Striker looked into the distance. The sun was just starting to rise over the hills of Perion. "Ok, let's go."

    (to be continued...)

    ________________________________________

    Part 12

    As they began heading towards the edge of Kerning, Rose turned to Striker. "Oh I almost forgot. You can have these special arrows, made only in Kerning, and are usually only given to members of the police force. They have a bomb attached to them. Since they're illegal, they're expensive and hard to come by, but I've got five left, have these." She then handed Striker three arrows, each with a miniature explosive attached to the end. Striker looked at Rose. "Thanks."

    Leaving town, heading towards the mountains, Wilson ran ahead to talk to Striker. "Do you even know where Perion is."

    Striker stopped dead. He didn't even know where he was going, how did he expect to get there. "No, do you." Wilson shrugged. "Nope." He looked at Rose. "Do you know?"

    Rose sighed. "You guys are hopeless. Leading the way but not knowing where your going. And no I don't know the way, but sooner or later we'll find it right?" Rose smiled at Striker. He nodded. "Ok. Let's keep going then."

    As they left the construction yards of Kerning far behind, they reached the foot of the Perion Mountains. Striker looked around, finally finding a path they could use. "Come on, this way."

    As he lead them up the path, Striker could begin to feel the air getting hotter and thicker the farther they went. Striker kept walking until they got to a ledge. He looked around for a way to go, but there was nothing. It looked like they were going to have to jump. Striker turned around. "Guys. There's a huge gap here, so we're going to have to jump." Striker turned back around and ran straight for the gap, clearing it and making it to the other side. Next came Wilson who almost fell into the abyss, but made it.

    Finally came Rose. As she ran for the edge, her foot caught a crack and she stumbled. Too late to stop, she took the jump. Missing the other side but grabbing onto the ledge. "Striker!"

    Striker ran for the edge of the cliff, just to see Rose's hand slip off its grip. Striker stuck his hand down, grabbing her hand just before it was out of reach.

    Shaking, Rose hugged Striker. Pulling away, looking slightly embarrased, her voice still shaky with fear. "Um, thanks Striker. I thought I was a goner." Brushing herself off, she walked away quickly.

    Striker started walking, past Wilson and Rose. "Let's keep going guys." He reached a corner and turned, but the sight that met his eyes left him breathless. A drake. At least nine feet tall, razor sharp teeth, claws the size of plates, and pointed toenails. It reared it's head and let out a terrifying roar. Wilson and Rose both came bolting around the corner. Rose looked shocked. "Oh my god! I've only read about these in books. They're supposed to be very dangerous, even to some of the most skilled."

    Striker pulled his bow from his side. "Well theres only one thing we can do. And besides, there's three of us and only one of him." Loading an arrow into bow and firing it at the drake, it sunk into it's thick hide. The drake didn't seem to be hurt, and it just swiped at the arrow, knocking it out. Striker turned to the others. "Let's go!"

    They all charged straight at the drake. Striker and Rose unloading arrows at it, while Wilson threw his stars at it, each sticking to it's belly, legs, and head.

    Striker ran up to the drake. While doing so, he was still unloading arrow after arrow on it. As he neared it, he pushed off the ground as hard as he could, and landed on the drakes back. Unloading arrow after arrow into the back of the drakes head, it finally fell to the ground, dead.

    Striker ran over to the others. "Great job guys. Good thing too, because I'm out of arrows, except for the explosive ones, but I think I'll save those."

    Rose checked her quiver. "Darn, I'm out too, I only just realised."

    Striker looked at Wilson. "How about you?" But Wilson wasn't listening. His eyes were bulging and his hand was raised, pointing past Striker.

    Striker turned to see what Wilson was looking at. He noticed immediatly. Over a dozen more drakes were heading right for them. Striker gasped. "T-T-They must've heard the other one's roar."

    Wilson looked over at Striker. "I know this might not be the best time, but I'm also out of stars."

    Just as Striker thought it was hopeless, he heard a rock fall from above them. A figure jumped off the cliff above, blocking out the sun. Raising his sword, he brought it down on each and every drake, severing vital parts. Each drake, one after another, fell to the ground. The stranger turned to them. "Hey there. The name's Carson!"

    Wilson looked away, hands behind his head. "Tch. Showoff."

    Striker ignored Wilson. "Thank you for saving us Carson. How can we thank you?" Carson just laughed. "Ah, don't worry about it! But why are you guys out here in the middle of nowhere?"

    Striker told Carson why they had come, looking for the judge who had headed to Perion. Carson smiled. "Oh, well, you guys are going the totally wrong way. Perions that way." He pointed in the opposite direction. "I'll go with you guys, I was just heading back myself."

    Striker, taking the lead, followed by Rose, then Wilson, and finally by Carson, made his way to the direction Carson had pointed.

    Suddenly, Striker heard a scream. He spun around to see Wilson with a sword through his left shoulder. Carson ripped it straight out, leaving a gash in Wilson's arm. A malicious grin upon his face. Striker looked at Carson both afraid and angry. "Carson, what the hell are you doing?"

    Carson stared back back at Striker. "Sorry, Carson's not here right now, hehehe. I'm Paul, your worst nightmare."

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 13

    Wilson fell to the floor, clutching his arm, screaming. He crawled away, towards Rose and Striker. Rose knelt down as Wilson reached her. "Hold on." She touched his wound, closed her eyes, and concentrated. A bright yellow aura started glowing around Rose. Wilson looked at his arm, as it mended itself. "Thank you Rose."

    Striker turned to both of them, looking at Rose. "How did you do that?" Rose smiled at Striker. "Didn't I tell you? I can heal wounds, to a certain extent. If the wound is fresh and not to bad, I can heal it." Striker grinned. "Well isn't that handy."

    Rose looked back to Wilson, his wound almost finished healing up. As she looked back at Striker she screamed. "Striker look out!"

    Striker moved to his right, just as a pitch black sword swung down, inches away from him. Striker jumped back. "Carson what the hell are you doing?"

    Carson just looked at him, still grinning. "I told you, I'm Paul." Striker just stared at him. "But if you're Paul, where's Carson?"

    Paul brought his sword up, and rested it on his shoulder. "He's still here, inside. You see, we share the same body and mind. Usually he's able to suppress me, oh how he tries, day and night, and it's ****ing annoying! Him suppressing me actually causes me pain! But once in a while, his defences weaken, and that gives me a chance to break through, shoving him down into nothingness and pain. In the end though, he always regains control somehow, so while I have control, I try to have as much fun as I can. Let's go!" He brought his sword down, carried it with both hands, and ran at Striker, his sword dragging on the ground.

    Paul dragged the sword until he was close enough to Striker. Still running, he brought it up and spun around fully, using the momentum to swing his sword at Striker.

    Just before the sword would have hit him, Striker swung his bow in front of himself, blocking the sword, but the blow was so powerful, he slid about six feet backwards.

    Paul started laughing uncontrolably. "HAHAHA!" Bringing his sword over his head, he brought it down with all his might. Striker rolled to his right, just as Paul's sword hit the ground.

    Striker looked down at Paul's sword. It was stuck in the ground! Striker took this oppurtunity to attack. He raised his bow over his head and swung down. Paul looked up. "No Striker it's me, Carson!" But too late, Striker whacked Carson right on top of his head.

    Carson rubbed his head. "Ow dude! That hurts! Too bad I didn't regain control a little sooner, huh? Oh and by the way, sorry I didn't tell you guys about Paul earlier. I thought I could control him. At least it all worked out." Smiling, he walked up to Striker and punched him in the head.

    Laughing, Carson walked over to where Wilson lay. "Dude I'm really sorry."

    Wilson looked up. Even though the wound was mended, he could still feel it seering underneath the skin. "No problem, don't worry about it. It's just a good thing we had Rose here." Wilson and Carson both sat on the ground, talking loudly.

    Rose giggled and walked over to sit beside Striker. "Thanks again for your help on the cliff earlier. Without you I don't know what I would've done. I've been wanting to say something to you ever since you came to our house in Kerning."

    Striker turned his head only slightly, just to see Rose out of one eye. "Ya? What's that."

    Rose looked down at her feet, looking shy and blushing. "Well...I..."

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 14

    Rose looked down at her feet, looking shy and blushing. "Well...I..."

    Just as Rose was about to finish, Carson came from behind Rose and Striker and sat himself down. "So what you guys talking about?"

    Striker looked away, his face looking angry, as if he had known what Rose was about to say, but just wanted to hear it. Rose on the otherhand, looked towards Striker, hoping that he would still feel confortable that she said what was on her mind. Seeing him looking away though, she knew he wouldn't have wanted her to say it. "Oh nothing, don't worry about it."

    Carson looked puzzled, but he seemed to think that he had interrupted something. "Uh, were you guys in the middle of something? I can leave if you want me to."

    Rose kept her eyes on Striker, to see if his expression had changed, but it hadn't. "No, it's ok Carson, we weren't in the middle of anything." Sighing, Rose looked at Carson. "What is it you needed?"

    Carson looked to Striker, still sensing something was wrong. "Um, it's getting dark. The Perion Mountains aren't safe to travel by at night though, so we should probably find some kind of shelter."

    Carson got up and walked back to Wilson. Rose looked at Striker, but he had already gotten up. Striker looked down at Rose, smiled, and walked off to join the others.

    Rose sighed. She stood up also, moved her cloak aside to the right with her hand, and walked to join the others, standing close to Striker.

    Striker cleared his throat. "Ok, so we gotta find shelter, correct? Well Carson, where do you think would be the best place to look?"

    Carson looked up at the stars, checking his direction. "Well, if we head east, we should get to a pretty shady, well covered area." Striker nodded. "East it is then!"

    Striker headed east. Looking at the scenery around him, seeing jagged rocks from the cliffs above, tiny rocks and pebbles littering the ground. Each step they took kicked up more dust, and created more rubble when they crumbled the rocks beneath their feet.

    Striker looked to his left, barren, cragged wall. He looked to his left. Nothing different. Wilson was ahead of the group. "Hey guys, over here!"

    Everyone rushed over to see what Wilson had found. It was a cave, looking uninhabited by anyone, or anything else. Striker looked inside. "Good job Wilson. Ok guys, let's get cozy."

    They all entered the cave, Carson on the otherhand, stayed by the entrance, searching around the edges of the cave. He came back carrying dried leaves and twigs. "We can use this for fire."

    After the fire was made, everyone began to heat themselves by the fire, talking. Striker on the otherhand, went to stand by the entrance of the cave.

    As he reached the entrance, he leaned against one wall of the cave, glancing out into the night sky, thinking deeply about nothing and everything at the same time.

    Rose came to lay beside him, against the wall. "Striker..."

    Striker turned to Rose. "You don't have to say it, I know. I feel the same way." Smiling at her, he noticed that she was smiling.

    She stared into his eyes. "Really?" Striker stared back into her eyes. "Of course." Rose threw her arms around him softly, and lay her head on his shoulder. She felt as his arm went around her waist, and his other hand lay on her head, almost comforting. She sighed, happily. "I don't ever wanna let go."

    (to be continued...)

    ______________________________________

    Part 15

    Striker released Rose. She looked up at him. "What is it?" Striker didn't reply, but Rose could see that he was concentrating hard, as if listening for something. "Rose, go back to Wilson and Carson." As Rose ran back, Striker backed away from the mouth of the cave slowly. Staring at the entrance to the cave, which now only looked like a black nothingness, he began to see dozens of little yellow beads of light flicker into existence.

    Carson ran up to Striker, sword held by his side. "What are they?" Striker kept his eyes fixed on the glowing eyes, which still grew in number. "I don't know." Striker could hear Carson as he let out a slight chuckle. "Well, whatever they are, they're not getting by me. I've been so bored. Maybe these will actually prove to be a little bit of a challenge."

    Wilson came to join the two. "Don't get ****y now Carson. I may not have my stars, but I still know how to fight." Striking a stance, Wilson prepared himself for whatever lie beyond the darkness.

    Rose was the last to join, but was not any less eager. "And even without my arrows, my bow still proves to be a formidable weapon." Raising her bow, carrying at her side, she awaited whatever hardship they had to face.

    Striker raised his bow also. "Well, I guess all we can do is fight. Everyone, prepare yourselves!" Holding his bow tightly, leaning forward a bit to ready himself if there was any sort of shock.

    Striker turned as he heard a maniacle laughing. Looking in Carson's direction, he realised it was him that was laughing. "HAHAHA! You guys don't have to worry, I won't hurt you...this time. But for now, let's just have some fun!" No doubt, this was Paul. Striker could tell this when he looked into his eyes. All he could see was a murderous will to kill, as if everything around him stopped when there was a battle. But then again, for Paul, he wanted all life to be a battle.

    Everyone readied themselves for what await them. As they peered into the darkness, they saw the first of what lie there, a boar. With a leather hide, as tough as wood, and a row of fanged teeth that could rip through almost any material. It walked on all fours, bounding straight towards the four of them.

    Paul, being the most reckless of the bunch, bolted straight at it, forgetting that there were more behind it. "Die!" Laughing insanely as if his only means of survival in life was to kill anything he saw. Striker reached one hand out, as if trying to stop him. "Paul, no wait! Don't be so reckless, we need to stick together!"

    Paul reached the first boar, leaped easily six feet in the air, and borught his sword down on the boar. The boar's head rolled away, leaving a trail of dark red blood. "Ha, **** togetherness. Nothing can take me down!" As quickly as the words seemed to come from his mouth, the real battle had begun.

    Dozens of boars could now be seen, charging into the cave. Paul was still at the entrance. He managed to kill a few as they came in, but no longer had enough room to swing his sword to it's full extent as he was getting swarmed and covered by dozens of boars.

    Striker looked to Wilson and Rose, who both stood to the left of him. "Let's go, we gotta help him!" As they charged to help their comrade, it was instantly chaos. Striker and Rose both used their bows, knocking the boars in their heads, leaving them not dead, but unconcious. Wilson on the other hand, was using his hands and feet as his weapons. He sent punch after punch, kick after kick, aimed directly at each boar.

    Striker heard screams as his friends were wounded, time after time. He himself had a gash across his left leg where a boar had tried to take a bite out of him. Striker looked around, the number of live and concious boars was decreasing dramatically. As the last few came at them and were dealt with just as the others had been done, Striker let out a sigh of relief, knees callapsing, as he sank to sit on the ground. "Thank god, we survived."

    Wilson dragged his body over to where Striker sat, and just crumbled. He lay on the ground. "Ouch, my hands hurt, and my feet are killing me."

    Paul and Rose also came over, still having the most energy, they sat down rather calmly. Paul immediatly went into a fury. "That was so boring! Not even worth my ****ing time, I'm outta here." Just as he got up to walk away, he fell back to the ground, landing on his knees, clutching his head. "No! I want to stay!" As he stopped screaming, he let go of his head. He smiled back at the three others. He let out a howl of pain as he tried to stand up. "Argg! What the hell did that idiot do to my body!"

    As Rose began to heal each of them, Striker couldn't help but wonder, as he watched Rose. What would have happened if those boars hadnt attacked? I guess I'll just have to wait and see where this takes us now. As he watched Rose going around healing Carson and Wilson, he saw Rose take a glance at him. He smiled to her, and watched as she smiled back.

    (to be continued...)

    __________________________________


    Part 16

    As Striker sat there, Rose healing what wounds he had on him, he saw the others sitting there, conversing. As Rose finished she looked at him. "All done." She smiled, turned around and sat to the left of Striker, also with the other two. Everyone was sitting together, almost in a sort of circle.

    Striker looked around the circle, seeing at once that there was a variety of things in the world. Just by looking at the three of them, and that at himself, he could instantly see a difference in hairstyles, clothes, armour, and weapons.

    Looking at Rose, her skin tan, he saw her in her black cloak, that covered ninety percent of her body, starting with a hood at her head that she almost never wore, to a ripped off tip at the bottom. Striker couldn't decide if the rip was from battles, or just a fashion statement. He smiled at the thought of Rose actually preparing a battle garment for fashion. Her cloak opened in the middle, revealing a black shirt with blood red outlines on in, and pure black pants. The two seemed to almost meld together. He looked even closer, even with her hood on at the moment, he could see her hair, streaked with a beautiful crimson. Her hair peeked out, just past her shoulder, waving in a breeze that wafter in through the entrance of the cave, almost as if trying to breathe; it was a breath taking sight.

    He remembered playing with Rose as a kid. Always together, as if nothing could seperate them. They would run through the streets of Henesys as kids, just looking for sumthing to do, or sometimes racing. He had always thought there was something different about her, that set her apart from archers. He remembered that she had never once had a serious wound that lasted. It must've been her parents that healed her, and also taught her what she now knew. They would also train for hours on end, but were also the most mischevious kids in Henesys. Having no parents, Striker would often stay at Rose's house.

    Thinking of this brought up the memory of his parents deaths. He remembered it very clearly, as if it had only happened yesterday. One night, during a fierce storm that brought rain and lightning crashing down on rooftops, there was an attack on the town. Raiders and robbers had come. Stealing from each and every house, they killed anyone that had gotten in their way. Sadly, Striker's parents were part of the police force, so as the raiders broke into their house, waking them up, they must have felt obliged to help themselves and the town. Striker was also awoken, but when his father saw him awake he simply told him to hide in the kitchen closet. Being the kid he was, he disobeyed his fathers wish. Leaving the confines of the closet and entering the hall, he witnessed as the raiders pulled a pair of daggers from their sides, twirling them in their hands with a skill that bordered on ****iness. He could see as they slashed his parents throats, blood spewing like mad, splattering against the walls. Retreating back to the closet, he could hear as the vicious bandits ripped through his parents bodies, finishing the job. He could hear their screams. As he reached the closet, tears flowing, he sat there and cry silently, as he heard the raiders tearing apart his house.

    Gazing to the right of Rose, he saw Wilson. He bore a dark gray blazer on his back, which covered most of his fire red undershirt. His hair, brown, like the bark of a tree, and Striker looked at it as it was untamed, sticking out in odd places. His pants were along the lines of his shirt, but a little darker in shade. With black boots that pulled past his ankle, Striker wondered how he could move so nimbly, it must've taken alot of training and skill. Around his waist there was a belt. Striker could see where his stars would have been hooked in. The little hooks were so close together, when the belt was full, there must have been an almost uncountable amount, each overlapping each other.

    Striker saw as Wilson looked at him. "So Wilson, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, what kind of life did you have? We don't really know that much about you, except Rose." Rose shook her head. "Nope I don't know that many personal things about him either. He doesn't really mention anything to me, and I never thought to ask him."

    Wilson shifted a bit where he sat. "Ok, well, I grew up in the ghetto's of Kerning. My parents never had enough money to support us all. They spoke many times of kicking me out, just so they could take care of themselves. I told them to go out and get jobs, but no matter what the sircumstance, they refused. One day I decided to leave home, but forgetting my things, I headed home. Taking a short cut down an alley, I was ambushed by seven bandits. Each brandishing a pair of daggers, wiping them together in a very intimadating motion, I thought I was a goner, because I could tell they weren't there for money. Just as the first bandit made a leap for me though, he was suddenly pierced through the head with an arrow, and he crumpled to the ground. The rest went after my mystery savior, but none of them succeeded. Obviously, it was Rose who had saved me. She asked me what I was doing in the alley, and I told her about moving out. She asked if I had anywhere to go, which I didn't, so she offered for me to stay with her. I told her I couldn't pay her, but she didn't seem to care. Ever since then I've been living with her." He looked to Carson. "What about you?"

    Before Carson replied, Striker took a look at him, this being the first time they actaully could rest fully. Carson wore a steel metal body suit that covered his entire body, but was in truth two piece. Thick dragon hide gloves were wrapped around his wrists. Boots that went up to his knees, shining, even though they had endured coutless walking and battles. His eyes were friendly, but also with a sense of fierce determination, as if he wanted to prove himself of something. His hair was a deep red. Not as dark as Rose's streaks, but along the same lines. It came down past his ears, covering one tenth of his face, right in front of his eyes.

    Carson replied to Wilson's question. "Well, I've lived in Perion my whole life. I never knew my parents, but the head of Perion took me in and raised me as his own. He taught me how to fight, and how to survive out here in the wilderness for days on end." He looked down and stroked his sword, which Striker noticed, was still pitch black, but seemed to be glowing, not brightly, but a black aura. "As for Paul. I wasn't born with him. It's kind of, how should I say, a curse. My adoptive father told me if I wanted to be the strongest in Perion, to go see a man named Manji. He was a wise experienced swordsman who knew a little bit about dark magic. When I went to see him, I told him my desire. He told me he could give me the power to be the best, but if I wasn't ready, it would release my darkest side, and might even hurt myself and my friends. I didn't care, and that was one mistake I shouldn't have made. He gave me this sword you see here. I could feel the power surge through me as I carried it. That night I went to sleep feeling satisfied. That was also the first night Paul appeared. I wasn't aware of it, because when Paul takes control, it's almost like a dream. The first time it happened I thought it was a dream, but when I awoke, I realised what I'd done had really happened. I had killed my father. I cried for hours. I went back to Manji and asked him if he knew what had happened, and he told me it was the sword. I told him I no longer wanted the power, so I gave him the sword back, but when I returned home, I opened the door and the sword was lying there, in the middle of the room. I tried many times after that to get rid of it, but no matter what, it kept returning. Eventually I just gave up, and tried to live in solitude. And that's my story."

    Striker noticed the aura around the sword seemed to have subsided. He noticed that everyone was looking at him. "What is it?"

    Rose smiled. "And what about your story?"

    And so Striker told them about himself, and about his parents. After each story had been discussed, they all decided it was time for a much needed sleep, for they were planning on heading to Perion the very next day.

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 17

    As the sun rose, just peaking over the Perion Mountains, it cast an orangish glow over the rubble, rocks, and scattered twigs and debris, finally creeping into a cave filled with four travelers. Shadows began to form, animals began to awaken. Roars could be heard from afar by drakes and various other creatures. A stranger sound could be heard, one that was rarely heard so far up the mountain; the rustling of someone who was asleep, beginning to wake up to a brand new morning.

    Inside the cave, Striker rolled over onto his back. Sleep still in his eyes, he rubbed them until he could open them fully. Sitting up and stretching his arms far in front of him, rubbing his hair as if trying to fix it to how he liked. He sat there for about twenty seconds. He turned his head to his left. Rose lay there, still asleep, looking so at peace. He watched her with almost a strange fascination, watching each breath she took. Her nostrils opening and closing ever so slightly, and her chest rising and falling.

    Striker brought his hands to the ground and pushed himself up to a standing position. He stretched his arms once more, raising them above his head and down to each side. He looked to the mouth of the cave. An almost eerie orangish glow was creeping in from the morning sun outside.

    Looking back at Rose, he realised she was curled up in a sort of ball, slightly shivering. He looked around her and noticed that her cloak was off and lay discarded by a wall of the cave. Striker grabbed it and gently placed it over Rose, being sure to cover as much of her as possible. He stood back a step and made room for her to straighten. As if knowing that he had covered her and moved, Rose straightened out slightly into a more comfortable postion. She turned over and faced Striker who was beside her near the wall that her cloak had once lain.

    Striker fell back against the wall, leaning there. He slid his body downwards, once again sitting on the warm ground of the cave. He looked at Rose, who still shivered slightly. Thinking of nothing else that could warm her body more, he did the last thing he could think of, something he didn't think he'd have the courage to do, but did it anyways. He went over to her body, lying there, and lay with her, wrapping his arm around her body, bringing her closer. He could feel the warmth pulsating from her body.

    He closed his eyes, feeling wholely at peace with his arm around her. When he opened his eyes he noticed something, Rose had her eyes open and was staring at him, smiling. "Morning." She said grogily. She kissed his lips softly and pulled away, looking shy.

    Not even a second after Rose pulled away, Striker knew the only thing he wanted was to the taste and feel of her lips. He grabbed her chin and brought her lips back to his, letting her know there was no reason to be shy or afraid. Striker felt as if the whole world had just sunk away, and Rose and him were the only two people left in only a vast nothingness. He felt as if he ever let go, he would die, like nothing could ever be as perfect. He could feel Rose's hands clutched tightly around him. He opened his eyes. The sight that appeared was wonderous. Roses features were almost too perfect to even be real. He noticed as she opened her eyes, and through their locked lips, let out a slight giggle. He looked deep into her eyes but saw something out of the corner of his left eye that made him pull away, looking slightly embarassed. Rose sat up, looking puzzled and turned around. She quickly sat up as well, with around the same look as Striker.

    Wilson sat there, still looking sleepy. "And I thought my dream was good." He stood up, laughing. He nudged Carson with his foot. Carson rolled over, opening one eye to look at Wilson. "What?" Wilson stared down at him. "We need you to take us to Perion, or we would have left you here." Smiling he walked and gathered his jacket, which he had taken off before sleeping.

    Carson stood up and stretched, much the same way as Striker. He looked over to where Striker and Rose sat. "Wow. What's with you guys?" Wilson came over and put his arm around Carson's shoulder, like they'd been best friends forever. "The lovebirds were busy while we slept." Wilson gave Carson a humorous wink.

    Striker stood up, holding Rose's hand he helped her up as well. "Well it shouldn't matter to you guys either way. But anyways, Wilson's right Carson, we need your help to get to Perion. We're lost without your help. If it's alright, I would like to leave soon. Like, now."

    Carson rubbed what sleep was left out of his eyes. "Ya sure, let's go. Follow me guys, even though I don't think you guys would miss Perion from where we are now since it's daytime and you can see more clearly now."

    Carson was right. Everyone soon found out, as soon as they walked outside and turned a corner from the path that held the cave in which they'd slept, Perion clearly came into view. It was a straight path the whole way.

    They got to the entrance gates of Perion. Carson, who had been leading the way, turned and faced the others. "Welcome to my home, Perion!"

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 18

    Striker gazed at the town from afar by the entrance gates. He noticed how every house was either some sort of tent or made of a kind of rock mixed with mud. He noticed that a few buildings were bigger, and these must have been some important things, like shops. None of the rock buildings was as big as one that rest upon the top of what seemed like the highest point in Perion. The rock seemed alot smoother, as if the person who had built it took major care in this one building. Something had just occured to Striker. He turned to Carson. "Which one is your house, and where can we stay?"

    He noticed as Carson raised his hand and pointed to the building on the top of Perion. "That's my house, and you guys are more than welcome to stay." Carson noticed that Wilson was staring at him, open-mouthed. "Oh, i forogt to mention. When my, I guess you can call him my dad, was...killed, he left me the house. It's the chieftan's house. So far we haven't appointed a new cheif of town, so I'm kinda the one that runs things."

    Striker looked to his left and saw a little kid running down a hill towards them, waving one hand above his head. "Carson! Carson! Carson!" The kid reached them and looked to Striker, Rose, and Wilson. "Dude good job you found yourself a girl! But who are these guys, the bodyguards? Come back to my place when your ready, much to tell you, and from the looks of it, you have much to tell me. I'll be at my house, bye!" With that the young boy ran back up the hill from which he came and headed towards one of the small rock houses.

    Striker looked to Carson. "Who the heck was that? He's very...energetic."

    Carson laughed. "Ya. His names Leo. He's kind of been like a brother to me ever since Paul came to exist. He's really young though, so I'm kind of protective of him. He doesn't live with me, but we're with each other most of the time. The only time we're really apart is when I go out into the wild. This is the first time I've actually come back with someone though." He laughed. "Let's go." He headed up the hill and entered the same house Leo had.

    Striker looked to the others. "Well, we mine as well go." They all followed the exact same path and entered the exact same house as Leo and Carson.

    Opening the door Striker saw that it was pretty much like any house you would see in Henesys inside. He had expected something different. He saw Leo and Carson sitting at a table with what appeared to be a map laid out on a table. He could hear Carson, who hadn't noticed they'd arrived. "Ok, so first things first - we need to find a way to stop this thing." He looked up and saw Striker and the others. "Oh hi guys. Leo was just telling me what happened while I was away. It seems some bandits came and stole our sacred stone, the Essence Stone. It holds the Essence of each person in Perion, and if it were to shatter, Perion would be destroyed and its inhabitants greatly drained. If you guys are willing to help, we could greatly use it."

    Striker looked to the others. "Of course we'd be more than glad to help out a friend. Just tell me what you need us to---"

    A huge explosion was heard from outside. Carson jumped up. "Oh ****! It's the bandits, they're back. It's now or never guys, let's go!" Just as Carson reached the door, it blew apart, sending Carson flying across the room. A figure stood in the doorway, it was a bandit, but he looked to be of low rank in whatever gang he was in.

    The bandit looked back. "Hey boss, your right, they're all in here." The bandit stood off to the side, leaving enough space for someone outside to enter the doorway, and bowed low.

    A new figure appeared in the doorway, a hooded figure. The figure's head was pointed slightly downwards, but he raised it and spoke. "Hello again, Striker." He removed his hood and revealed the face that lie beneath. It was the judge.

    Striker opened his mouth, almost lost for words, except a chosen few. "Oh ****, it's him. The judge!"

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 19

    Backing up slightly, looking frightened, Striker noticed that the judge had a grin on his face. It was the same grin he always wore, as if he knew what pain it caused Striker just to look at it.

    Wilson and Rose both looked at Striker at the same time, looking almost as frightened as him. Wilson was the first to speak. "That's the judge. Here? Now? What do we do?" Panicking Wilson grabbed three plates that were on the table that held the map.

    Rose knew there was nothing any of them could do, they had no weapons. All except Carson. "Striker, Wilson. Distract the judge while I heal Carson." She walked over to Carson who she thought to be unconcious.

    Carson opened his eyes. "It's ok, I can fight." He tried getting up, but realised that his leg had been split open by the impact. Blood was spewing from the wound, staining the ground. "Ok, maybe I need a little help."

    Striker watched as Rose began to heal Carson's leg. He looked at Wilson and gave a slight nod. Removing his bow from the buckle it was latched to on his side, holding it firmly in his hands, he watched the judge standing there still smiling, not moving even an inch. The judge looked at them, almost with anticipation. "So it's a fight you want, huh? So be it, but how will an archer fight without arrows, and how will an assassin fight without stars? You know what, you're lucky I'm in a generous mood today, and also I just want to see how badly I can slaughter you." Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out two quivers full of arrows and threw one to both Rose and Striker. Moving his cloak aside, Wilson could see there were stars around the judges belt. The judge grabbed handful after handful, tossing them onto the ground less than an inch in front of Wilson. In the end Wilson had around two hundred stars. "Let's take this somewhere where there's more room. I'll be outside waiting." With that he turned and left.

    Striker and Wilson followed the judge outside. The first thing they noticed was how different Perion looked. Tents were on fire and buildings had whole chunks that seemed to have been just blown away. The sky around Perion had become something of an orangish red, probably from the rising flames and smoke. They heard as Carson came outside, joined by Rose. "What have they done to my hometown!? I won't forgive them for this! Where is that ****er!?"

    Striker spotted the judge standing about a hundred yards from where they were. He saw as the judge pulled the same black bow out that Striker had seen at the academy. Striker raised his own bow and loaded an arrow into just as he saw Carson begin his attack, charging at the judge. The judge released his arrow, aiming for Carson who easily sliced the arrow in half. Taking his oppurtunity, Carson struck, swinging his sword wildly as if not caring where he swung, as long as it found its mark in the end. The judge evaded without even the slightest of trouble. Striker looked to Rose and Wilson and silently told them this was their time to strike.

    Striker and Rose both released their own arrows and Wilson threw a barage of stars, each aimed at the judge. The judge realised this almost too late. Tripping almost, but still remaining unharmed he dodged each and every thing the three of them sent to him.

    Still twirling as he dodged, the judge loaded three arrows into his bow and shot them at Striker, Rose, and Wilson. Wilson was pierced through the right leg, and Striker was pierced through his left arm, where his bow was being held. Trying desperatly to stop the last arrow from reaching Rose, Striker did the last thing he could, he flung his right arm directly in front of her face, taking the arrow blow. The arrow pierced straight through his arm, but the pain was nothing to him because he knew if he did not stop the arrow, Rose would have died. That was the judge's true intent with the shot; to make Striker sacrifice his own abilities to fight to save the life of the one he cared for the most.

    Looking back at the judge, Striker realised not all was going well with Carson either. He had an arrow through both legs and could barely stand. Striker could do nothing but watch as the judge shot yet another two arrows at Carson's legs, one sinking deep into each leg. Not being able to take the pain anymore, Carson fell to his knees. He looked at the judge, right into his eyes. The judge looked at Striker and smiled. He raised his bow less than five feet from Carson's face and loaded a single arrow into it. Striker realised that the judge was going to kill Carson, and as an extra torture, he was going to do it in the same fashion that he had killed Rick.

    Carson kept staring at the judge. The judge stared straight back. "You fools never had any hope of beating me." He released his arrow, and a scream could be heard from Rose. Striker, Rose, and Wilson all turned their heads just before the shot. Striker was the first to look back, but what he saw was not what he expected.

    Carson was getting to his feet, sword held in front of him, an arrow split in half lying at his feet, pulling the arrows from his legs, with what looked like minimal pain. Striker saw as the judge backed off in amazement. Striker could only hear one thing said from Carson's mouth, even though it was barely above a whisper. "Jeez, I leave you alone with this body for a little while and look what happens. My turn." He looked up and stared at the judge, and laughed.

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 20

    Striker stared at Paul in amazement, watching as he got to his feet, he seemed to forget his own pain shooting through both of his arms. He only felt the pain return when Rose pulled the arrows out of his arms to heal the wounds. He smiled to her in thanks and returned his gaze to Paul.

    Paul looked at the judge, still smiling, watching the fear in his eyes as he still held his bow in front of him. Paul swung his sword, doing a sort of pirouette with such speed, he and his sword seemed to turn almost invisible. Paul had aimed his blow not at the judge, but at his bow. The sword had found its mark, slicing the dark bow in half.

    The judge gaped, open mouthed at Paul. Paul, thinking he had the upper hand now, swung his sword high above his head and brought it down at a thirty five degree angle, aimed straight for the judge's neck.

    With blinding fast speed, the judge reached into his cloak and unsheathes a pair of daggers. Thrusting both in front of him, one to block the oncoming sword, and one wrenched into Paul's chest. The judge brought his head closer to Paul's ear, just close enough to hear a whisper. "I told you, you never had any hope of beating me." As those last words left his mouth, the judge tore the dagger out of Paul's chest, and using his other dagger, slashed Paul's wrist.

    The judge turned and walked away. All that could be heard in amongst Paul's screams of pain were him yelling, "Get back here! Don't you walk away from me! Ahhhh!!!" Blood draining from his chest, splattering the ground, he attempted to crawl after the judge, using every last bit of strength in him. "Ahhhh!!! Come back! Coward!" Eventually, Paul gave up, and lie there on the ground, holding his chest.

    As the judge neared the end of a building, he turned and to face someone out of the others sight. "You can take the rest from here, I'm leaving. Take this with you also, it's the Essence Stone." With that the judge seemed to just vanish.

    From around the corner of the building, a figure appeared. Head bowed down, he ran directly to where Striker was standing, having just had his arms fully healed. The figure seemed to be dissappearing and reappearing more than two feet from where he had dissappeared from. The figure stopped twenty feet from Striker, Rose, and Wilson, leaving Paul behind him. The figure, like the judge, had a cloak on that had a hood which covered his face. The figure removed his hood while speaking. "Hello again, Striker. This time, we finish this." As the hood came off, Striker realised it was Rick.

    Striker saw the Essence Stone in his hands, and one question came to mind. "Rick! What are you doing working with the judge!? He's the one that set upon us the task that tore us apart, why would you work with him!?"

    Rick smiled. "Wouldn't you do it, if you were promised immortality? You remember the day I came to get you, it was all a set-up. The judge had promised me immortality if I could bring him one of the strongest candidates to become an archer, and I knew exactly who it was...you. He gave me the power of immortality before I came to get you, that's why I didn't die that day. I also threw that competition, even though you probably could've beaten me either way, I could've at least worn you out, but we needed you to succeed in the competition. We knew if you had the choice to do either become an archer or kill me, you would choose to become an archer, and we also knew you would pursue the judge all the way here to Perion, you did exactly what we wanted. Now look at you, you helped us with so much. You kept the leader of this town away for extra time, enough for us to come and steal the Essence Stone. If you truly wish to save the town, there's only one way and it's this stone. If you want it so much." Rick unsheathed his own pair of daggers, jagged edges and a wicked curve to them, nine inches in length. "Come and get it!"

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 21

    Striker looked at Rose, speaking just above a whisper so Rick wouldn't hear him. "You go heal Paul while me and Wilson get the Essence Stone back." He noticed as she nodded and waited for her oppurtunity. He turned his gaze ay Wilson, still speaking so only Wilson and Rose could hear him. "When I attack Rick, you concentrate on getting the Essence Stone. Since he's invincible, I'm going to need you to hurry, or I'm a goner."

    Striker, bow still held at his side, loaded a single arrow and pulled back the string, aiming it at Rick's head. "So it's a fight you want? Then it's a fight you'll get!" Striker released the string and watched as the arrow flew at Rick. Striker watched as Rick quickly dodged to his right, slicing the arrow in two before charging for him.

    Striker watched carefully as Rick came at him. He released arrow after arrow at him, only for it to be sliced and lie on the ground, wasted. As Rick reached Striker, he raised one dagger and stuck it out as far right as possible and did the same with his other arm, except sticking it out to the left. Doing a sort of sweep with his feet, bringing his body closer to the ground, he spun his body, daggers still held out to his sides, one leg stuck out in front and one tucked underneath his body, he helicoptered on the ground, aiming his daggers for Striker's legs.

    Backing up, Striker swung his bow, knocking Rick's daggers out of the way, sending Rick sprawling across the ground. Taking his oppurtunity, Striker sent arrow after arrow at Rick who rolled out of harms way each time. Striker watched as Rick seemed to roll to his feet. He also noticed that Wilson had snuck around behind Rick, and Rose had almost finished healing Paul. Wilson gave Striker a nod that Striker took as Wilson being ready.

    Reaching back into his quiver, Striker pulled out one of the three explosive arrows Rose had given to him before leaving Kerning City. Loading it into his bow, he sent it flying, not at Rick, but at the ground in front of him. It seemed like it was forever until it had reached its mark because Striker could hear Ricks mocking voice. "Ha! I won't even have to move from that. What a pathetic attempt." But Rick realised only too late that the target was not him.

    As the arrow impacted with the ground, it sent a cloud of dust billowing around Rick, blinding him. Striker could hear Rick's screams of anger from within the cloud. He also saw as Wilson entered the cloud to grab the Essence Stone.

    The cloud began to clear, but the sight that befell Strikers eyes was not what he had expected. Wilson lay there, cuts all over his body, each one bleeding profusly. A thick pool of blood began to form around Wilson within seconds. Striker could hear only one word from Wilson. "Sorry." After that he passed out from the pain.

    Rick stood there, laughing. "Haha. First your warrior friend, now your assassin friend. Can you protect anyone? Don't think I didn't see your elf friend run to heal the warrior. Maybe I should go after her next, she's kinda cute." Rick glared at Striker and grinned as he saw how angry Striker was becoming.

    Striker could feel his blood begin to boil. "Don't you dare touch her! I swear to god, if you touch her, you'll greatly regret it! I know you said you're invincible, but nothing is impossible, I will find a way to kill you Rick! I swear it by my parents graves!"

    Ricks grin widened. "It's strange you should mention that. Don't you find it weird that that attack happened the day before I arrived in Henesys? Haven't you ever wondered?"

    Striker thought about it. "But if that's true, how come Rose had never seen you?"

    Rick continued. "I don't know, luck maybe. But I'm surprised you never recognized me from that night. I saw you that night, did you know? Even though you may not have noticed, I did see you. Yes, I can see you beginning to figure it out." Ricks grin widened even more, to a point where it looked unnatural. "It was my father and my mother that killed your parents Striker. I saw you run into the closet. You're lucky my father or mother didn't see you or else you wouldn't be here today. I was too young to care, but I did have the taste of hate for you on my tongue."

    Striker stood there, having just found out that his so-called best friend was there when his parents were killed. "No! I don't believe you! *******!" Striker unloaded any arrows he had left at Rick. Several landed on their mark, but with no effect. Striker noticed one thing amongst his anger. Rose and Paul were gone, and Striker couldn't see them.

    Stepping away from Wilson's unconcious body, Rick began to walk towards Striker. Striker finally noticed where Rose had gone, but for Rick it was too late.

    Raising her bow, in it a single arrow. Aiming it directly at the back of Rick's head, less than six inches away. She released it. The arrow sunk deep into Rick's head and blood was already beginning to flow from the wound. Rose loaded yet another arrow into her bow. "How could you do that do him!?" Releasing the arrow into the back of Rick's head, more blood flowing. She loaded yet another arrow. "I thought you were his best friend!?" Another arrow became lodged in Rick's skull.

    Rick reached his hand behind his head and pulled each arrow out. Striker could see three holes in his head. Rick turned around, blood spilling down his face. He faced Rose. "Ah, so that's where you are. You think you're funny? You little *****!" Rick raised his dagger and sliced Rose across the chest. She held it and fell to the ground in pain.

    Striker was furious now. "You ****er! I told you to leave her alone!" Just as he was about to charge at Rick, Paul blew past him. "I got this one Striker"

    Paul charged at Rick, sword held at his side. He lept into the air and windmilled, holding his sword stifly. Rick raised both of his daggers to block the oncoming blow. As Paul landed, he swung his sword for Rick but missed. Instead, he had cut Rick's cloak off, along with the Essence Stone held inside it. Grabbing the cloak, Paul took the Essence Stone out and threw it to Striker.

    Rick took his chance and stabbed Paul in the back with both daggers. Ripping them out he swung one dagger at Paul's left arm. Screaming in pain, Paul swung around, carrying his sword with his right hand. He brought it down on Rick before he could block, cutting off his left arm. Rick, using his remaining arm, slashed Paul several times before he brought the brute down.

    Thinking desperatly, knowing he couldn't defeat Striker with only one arm, he did the only thing left he could do. He held one dagger firmly in his right hand and threw it with all his might. It was so fast, Striker didn't notice it until it had reached its mark, the Essence Stone.

    The Essence Stone shattered and Striker watched as Rick ran from the town, shouting over his shoulder. "We'll meet again if you survive!" With that he was gone.

    Striker didn't realise what Rick had meant until it happened. A rumble spread throughout Perion. Striker looked around. He saw fires, still ablaze, but the one thing he noticed was that all the bandits had fled, and he wondered why. Soon, he would find out though.

    Perion was silent until...

    A huge explosion erupted from the core of Perion. Perion was being blown away, literally.

    It was all over in almost a flash, but almost only one thing was noticable. Perion was no more.

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 22

    Striker awoke, but left his eyes closed. He could feel he was on a bed, and that there were bright lights on. As he opened his eyes, one thought came to his mind as he recalled what had happened before he lost conciousness. He sat up so quickly that his ribs began to ache, but right now that didn't matter, because he only had one thought. "Rose!"

    Striker felt a hand come onto his shoulder. Not to push him back, but to let him know there was no reason to get up. Striker turned to face the person who the hand belonged to, and found himself staring at Carson. Carson smiled at him. "Wow, so you're finally awake, eh? Don't worry about Rose she's fine. In fact, she hasn't left your side the entire time, even when the doctors told her to rest. She just had to go to the washroom, so I'm sure she'll be back soon."

    Striker was looking at Carson's wounds. Striker could see that he had bandages around his entire torso, and arm, and also minor ones around various parts of his body. As he finished examining Carson, the door opened and Rose walked in. "Striker your awake!" She ran up to him and threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Striker couldn't help but let out a little gasp off pain as his ribs were tightened. Rose let go instantly. "Oops, sorry I forgot. I'm just so glad your alright!"

    Striker looked at her and remembered that she had also been wounded. "I'm fine, but what about you? I was worried when I saw you just fall after being sliced across the chest. I wanted to kill Rick, even if it meant I would die. Are you alright?" He watched as she nodded and smiled shyly. Striker looked around the room. "But...where's Wilson?" He looked to Rose, who instantly lost her smile and looked away. Striker turned his head to Carson. "Where's Wilson!?"

    Carson looked to the floor, but he still felt he should answer Strikers question. "He...Rose tried to, but she couldn't heal him. He was just lying there on a bed. Rose tried over and over, but he still looked no different. He's in the intensive care section of this hospital now."

    Striker stared at Carson with a look of surprise on his face. One question still bothered him though. "What hospital is this though?" Realising that he didn't even know where he was, he thought this would be his last question.

    Striker got his answer, but the voice that gave it sounded unfamiliar. "This is Ellinia Hospital, welcome." Striker turned and saw a man in a long white coat, one hand in a pocket of the coat, and the other holding a chart. The man had dark hair that hung down to his eyes, but all his hair seemed to lead somewhat off to the right. He also wore glasses, thin and stylish and also seemed to reflect the light in an eerie way. "I didn't expect you to wake up so soon. Rose hasn't left your side, and Carson woke up only a little while ago. I'm afraid your other friend though, Wilson, isn't doing so well. His condition seems to be getting worse."

    Striker, moving his entire body to face the doctor, felt pain shoot through his entire body. Falling back onto the bed, clutching his ribs, he knew he couldn't make sudden movements. Getting up slowly and facing the doctor, he had a look of sadness and anger on his face. "What do you mean worse? Why isn't he getting better?"

    The doctor shifted his glasses to rest more neatly on his nose. "I don't know why he isn't getting better, I'm sorry. All we can do now is wait, but in the meanwhile, I'd like to ask you a few questions." Striker nodded that he would answer any questions to help. The doctor shifted his glasses once more and continued. "Well, the others said that you were the last one concious, so I was wondering, what is the last thing you remember? If I recall, Carson was the last one to go down, so why don't you tell me what happened after that, and also let me know a little more about this Paul."

    Striker tried to recall what happened after Paul had gone down. "Rick, who we had been fighting, threw his dagger and shattered the Essence Stone of Perion. I remember the ground shaking, and watched as Perion started breaking apart. The last thing I can remember before going unconcious myself is running to Rose to protect her, keep her safe. I didn't even know if I had made it. The next thing I know, I'm here. You wanted to know about Paul? Carson told us that Paul basically is Carson, just everything opposite. He's like the anti-Carson; reckless, uncaring, and brutish. But can you please tell me, how did we end up here?"

    The doctor looked at Striker. "The apprentice of Ellinia's elder, Alex, brought you here. He said he found you all on the outskirts of town, each unconcious. We treated each of you the best we could, but Wilson was too badly hurt. We rushed him to intensive care, and he's been there ever since. Rose woke up pretty soon after arriving, but didn't really answer much. She seemed intent on only staying by your side, barely leaving."

    Just as Striker was about to ask something, a nurse burst into the room. "Doctor, your other patient, Wilson, has just gone into critical status. We need you right away!"

    The doctor rushed out of the room. Striker, Rose, and Carson all followed. Striker ignored any pains he felt and ran as fast as he could after the doctor. The doctor ran into a room with no windows. As Striker tried to enter, a nurse told him he was not allowed in.

    Waiting outside for ten minutes, Striker heard a noise from inside the room, a sound that frightened him. It was the sound of a flatline. The doctor came out of the room and quickly looked at Striker, his expression grim.

    (to be continued...)

    ______________________________

    Part 23

    The doctor opened his mouth to speak. "It was hard, but we did it."

    Coming out from the door behind the doctor, a nurse pushed a stretcher out. Wilson lay on top, fully concious. He looked to Striker, but not having the strength to talk yet, gave him a thumbs up.

    Striker noticed one thing still that puzzled him, the flatline. It could still be heard from within the room. Peering inside, Striker saw as the nurse went to turn off the heart monitor, ending the flatline sound. Striker couldn't help but laugh. So I guess they unhooked him before turning off the heart monitor. Creeped the hell out of me, damn. Well I guess I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, haha. I'm just glad he's better. He watched as Wilson was pushed down a hall to a section marked "Secluded Recovery".

    The doctor walked up to Striker. "This isn't usually allowed, but I'll let you guys visit with Wilson if you want, just try to make it quick. First though, Striker come with me and we'll see if you have amnesia or anything. Carson and Rose, you guys can follow Wilson, and Striker will be with you shortly. Come this way please Striker." The doctor re-entered the room where Wilson had previously been.

    Striker looked to Rose and Carson. "I'll be there as quick as I can." Giving Rose a quick kiss, he followed the doctor. The doctor was sitting on a chair on one side of the room, and Striker noticed a chair six feet across from him, obviously intended for Striker to sit in. Taking his seat, Striker looked at the doctor. "Umm, I just realised I don't even know your name. It's harder to thank you for your help without knowing it."

    The doctor shifted his glasses once again. As he did so, the sleeve of his white coat came just past his wrists, and Striker noticed that the doctors wrists had cuts across them, some fresh, but many that were just scars. He also noticed what appeared to be some sort of pocket knife or switchblade in one of the coats pockets. The doctor seemed to notice that Striker had noticed his wrists. Pulling his sleeve over his wrists he looked to Striker. "Don't worry about that, just don't tell the other doctors, haha. I don't want them examining me, thank you very much. You asked for my name? Around here it's Doctor Nick, but you can just call me Nick."

    Striker wiped the image of the slit wrists as well as he could from his mind. "Ok then Nick. Thank you for all your help. Now what did you want to ask me?"

    Striker sat there for almost ten minutes while Nick asked Striker what he claimed were "standard questions" but to Striker seemed kind of pointless. Things like his name and where he lived. After Nick was finished, he told Striker he could join the others.

    Striker left the room and headed to Wilson's. When he arrived, he was amazed to see that Wilson was standing, putting his normal clothes back on. Striker arrived just as Wilson was fitting his claw onto his forearm securely, the weapon of choice of assassins. "Wilson, are you sure you are well enough to get up?"

    Wilson looked at him, not with the normal look of giddiness in his eyes, but with a fierce determination. "I can't stay here, knowing that the judge and Rick are still out there. Also, after what Rick did to me, there's no way I'm letting him get away."

    Carson stood up from the chair he had been sitting on, which stood beside Wilson's bed. His eyes also burned with a similar firey glow as Paul's. "And I think Wilson has a point. We have to go after them, and how can I just sit here, knowing that my home ofso many years was just demolished. I will have my revenge, especially for leo. He's been like a brother to me, and now I don't even know if he's dead or not. We have to stop the judge and Rick. Somehow we have to find out their next move since the Essence Stone was destroyed."

    Striker looked to Rose who was looking outside the only window in the room. She seemed to notice somehow and turned to face Striker. Hers were the only eyes that did not burn with malice and hate, but rather sadness and amazement, an odd mixture. "I will go wherever you go Striker, I won't ever leave you." She turned and looked back out the window. "How can those two do such things. Perion was such a beautiful place, but now it's gone. Look at this town. Ellinia is just as beautiful, if not even more. I can't believe they would want to destory something as beautiful as a town, and be so uncaring towards its inhabitants." She turned back to Striker, her eyes now filled with yet another odd mix of sadness, but now also hate. "I will do anything it takes to stop them."

    Striker sighed. "Well, I can't thank any of you enough. I set out on my own, and without you guys, I surely would've been dead by now. Thank you. I feel the same way as all of you. It's almost as if each of you have taken a part of what I feel and put it into words, but for me, it's a combined mixture of what all of you feel, and some things of my own that drive me." Wilson looked confused and Striker remembered that he had been unconcious for much of their last battle. Striker told him everything Rick had said. "And I will never be able to forgive him. If you guys are ready, let's go."

    Everyone nodded and Striker turned to walk out of the room. He headed out and found a door marked "stairs". Taking them and reaching the lobby, he opened the door and was amazed at what he saw. It seemed Nick had known they would try to leave, and had taken precautions by assembling two dozen guards. "Striker, you know you can't leave yet."

    Striker looked to his left. Wilson grabbed two stars from his belt, and Carson held his sword firmly in front of him. He then looked to his right. Rose unhooked her bow from its holster on her belt and loaded a single arrow into it. Looking back at Nick, he also unhooked his own bow, and loaded one arrow into it, holding it up, aiming it straight at Nick's head. "Don't make me fire Nick, please."

    Nick pushed his glasses yet again up his nose to rest more firmly on his nose. "So you're that determined to leave? So determined that you would kill me to pursue this judge and Rick? So determined that you won't even rest until you're fully recovered? This is a very foolish choice Striker, a very foolish choice indeed."

    Striker grinned. "You better believe it buddy. I'll kill you, your guards, and anyone else that gets in our way. Just let us pass please."

    Nick looked at him, his eyes narrowing. "Fine then, shoot me."

    Striker released his arrow and watched it soar towards Nick. He saw as Nick's eyes widened in horror. Obviously he hadn't expected Striker to shoot. Three inches from killing Nick, the arrow was suddenly burned away. It had just burst into flame, and fallen to the ground as a pile of ash.

    Nick turned around. "Ah, so that's what happened. Thank you for your help Alex."

    The stranger named Alex walked up to Nick and stood beside him. He wore pure red robes, and had a hat with a pointed tip that slouched down, bending to his right ear. Striker figured that Alex was a mage, and judging by the way his arrow had burned away, Striker assumed he was a mage who wielded the powers of the fire element. "Are they well enough yet? The elder wants to talk with them."

    Nick sighed. "Well I guess it can't be helped. You can take them."

    Alex looked to Striker and the others. "Come with me."

    Striker, Rose, Carson, and Wilson followed Alex towards the entrance, but when Striker reached Nick, he paused. "I'm sorry." He continued walking after Alex, outside, into Ellinia.

    (to be continued...)

    ___________________________________

    Part 24

    Striker sniffed the air. A strange smell met his nostrils, and he could only desribe it as one thing, life. All of Ellinia smelled of life. Trees wherever you looked, as far as you could see, each with unique designs. Flowers that came in almost any assortment of colour you could possibly imagine. Even the people here, they seemed to radiate a certain aura, as if their only purpose was to spread peace, which Striker found kind of creepy by the expressions on the people's faces. They all looked like they had their mouth edges glued to thier eyes, which bugged Striker because the people looked unnaturally happy. Why aren't the people in the hospital like this? People like Nick. Even this Alex guy looks normal enough.

    Alex turned around, about thirty feet ahead of Striker. "You coming or what?"

    Striker snapped out of his daze and realised that the others had continued following Alex, leaving him behind. Running to catch up, he stood beside Alex. "What's with this town? Why is everyone so...happy? It kinda gives me the creeps."

    Alex stopped walking and turned to Striker. "I don't know, don't worry about it." Alex turned back around and continued walking.

    Striker followed Alex, along with the others. Noone said anything for the rest of the trip, until they reached their destination. Alex looked up at the building that loomed over all of them, at least thirty feet tall. "Welcome to my master's house, who rules over all of Ellinia. This is also my house, and one day I hope to be ruler of this town." Striker noticed a slight flicker in Alex's eyes as he said the last sentence. "Well, my master has been waiting a while for you, let's go." Alex continued towards the door, which sat upon the top of a row of steps. Just before opening the door, Alex stopped. "He likes to be called Absinthe" With that Alex entered the pushed the doors open.

    As Striker entered, followed by everyone else, the door slammed shut, leaving them all in darkness. He felt as someone grabbed his arm, but knew it was Rose. Holding her tighter he said. "Don't worry." Almost as soon as Striker spoke, a light flickered into existence five feet in front of him. As he looked closer, he saw that Alex was holding a flame in his hands. The flame floated three inches from his palm.

    Striker could hear Wilson behind him talking with Carson. "Man this is friggin freaky. I have this odd feeling we're being led to be slaughtered."

    Carson replied. "Man Wilson, your just too damn paranoid. A little dark is nothing, and I'm positive we're not about to be slaughtered."

    Rose clutched Striker's arm more tightly. "What if Wilson's right, Striker?"

    Striker replied. "Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you." Leaning down for a second, he picked up a rock the size of his hand, unnoticed to Rose. Throwing it behind him, he knew he had hit his mark when he heard Wilson let out a grunt of pain. Wilson had taken the sign of the rock correctly, knowing to shut up.

    As they continued walking, Striker heard another door close behind them, meaning that they had entered a new room. Alex stopped moving and turned his head upwards, as if looking at something. Striker noticed as the room seemed to be getting brighter, but Alex's flame seem to be getting dimmer. Striker also turned his head upwards, and saw as a light seemed to be travelling down a spiral staircase that stood in the middle of the room, with no railings around the edges.

    Striker saw as two feet came into view on the stairs. Watching as the figure walked down the stairs, he seemed to stop half way down the staircase. The figure turned and leaped off the staircase. Everyone gasped except for Alex, who seemed to be expecting this. It seemed to Striker that the figure was falling in slow motion. An inch from the ground, the figure stopped falling, and landed softly on the ground. Striker realised the light was coming from the figure.

    Both the staircase and the figure were at least forty feet from Striker and the others, but when Striker blinked, he saw that the figure was less than eight feet in front of him. "Ah, so you must be Striker. I am Absinthe. I rule over this town, and everyone lives in utter peace."

    Not able to control his curiosity, Striker blurted. "Why does everyone in town seem so happy?"

    Absinthe looked confused. "You don't want them to be happy?"

    Wilson was the one to answer. "I know what Striker's talking about. It's not that we don't want them happy, it's just that they seem overhappy. It scares me. It's almost as if someone did something to them."

    Absinthe smile. "Are you implying I had something to do with this? What if i did?"

    Alex gasped. "What are you saying!?"

    Absinthe laughed. "Yes, I put the townsfolk under a spell. When I became ruler, there was some debate, and the town flew into a civil war. This was the only way I could maintain order. Shortly after, Alex came to me to seek apprenticeship. For now, I have been controling the towns people, making them do my bidding. Everyone except that damned hospital gets affected by my curse. It's something that Nick found out, something that counteracts my control, and once given the treatment, I can no longer infect them. This is why I asked you four here, since I cannot control you, I ask you to join me. Alex knew none of this, so please don't blame him."

    Fire erupted from Alex's arms, spreading down to his hands. "How could you use me like that!?" Raising one arm, there was an instant explosion around Absinthe. As the smoke from the blast cleared, Absinthe appeared unscathed.

    Absinthe looked angry. "So you wanna play? Didn't anyone ever tell you." Alex began to catch fire, starting with his feet. He began to scream. Also, Striker saw as electricty seemed to be jumping off of him, shocking him with each pass. "Not to play with fire?"

    Absinthe looked to Striker. "You think it's an accident you ended up in Ellinia? I'll admit I didn't think Nick would give you the treatment to my control, but you did not come to Ellinia by accident. The next time you see my brother, Mercucial, you can thank him. I believe you two know each other quite well."

    Striker looked confused. "I don't know anyone named Mercucial."

    Absinthe looked equally confused, suspecting Striker knew his brother. Thinking, he smiled once more. "Ah, he was in Henesys, three months ago. He judged a competition held each year, to determine the new archers. I heard the other judges had died, but my brother survived." Absinthe laughed manically, a similar laugh to what Striker had heard, only three months ago.

    (to be continued...)

    __________________________________

    Part 25

    Striker looked furious. "Are you telling me your brothers with the one thing that's caused us so much trouble!?"

    Absinthe stared directly into Striker's eyes. "Ha, and I thought you knew. I can't have you with me much longer, be gone." Absinthe raised one arm and Striker immediately felt a burning sensation burn through his body, not on the oustide, but on the inside. Striker heard the others screaming in pain as well, and he realised his vision was become blurred, and going pure black, leaving him in darkness.

    Striker heard everyone screaming each others names, but he noticed that Rose was screaming for him. "Rose where are you!? I can't see. I'm...getting...tired..." All at once, Striker felt his mind slip away from his body, almost like going into a deep sleep. He could feel his body moving, like someone was moving him, also as if he were semi-concious, but he couldn't move himself.

    A feeling like a bolt of electricity burst through Striker's body, and all at once he felt in control of his own body once more. Still dazed, not knowing where he was and being unable to see clearly, he turned his head around, side to side, and his eyes fell upon only one thing; a person. It was the person he least expected to see. "Nick! Where am I?"

    Nick stared down at him, and Striker's eyes began to focus more, enveloping him in the sight around him. "You're back in the hospital Striker. I see that you met Absinthe. I knew you wouldn't be affected by his controlling powers, so I let you leave, but I realise now that that was a mistake. Next time won't be the same."

    Striker stared at him. "Next time? What do you mean 'next time'? Are you saying we're going back!?"

    Nick nodded. "Even if you don't want to, Alex told me what he said, and I know that you will feel you have to go, and stop him."

    Striker knew Nick was right. "Alex? What about the others, are they alright also?"

    Nick smiled. "Everyone's fine, but you seem to enjoy being the last one to wake up, haha. Come on, let's go."

    Striker followed him out of the room they were in, into the hall. They walked down until the end and went down a stairway, down two floors. Nick continued along the new hallway, to a door on their right and entered. Striker saw everyone waiting, but they looked like they'd been having a conversation. Carson was leaning against a wall, one leg bent so his foot pointed backwards and also leaned on the wall, his arms folded. Wilson was sitting in a chair, his elbow on the armrest, and his head in his hand, a bored expression across his face. Rose stared out a window until she noticed Striker entered the room, smiled at him, and turned her gaze back outside. Alex lie on the only bed in the room, not injured, but looking as though he was severly hurt.

    Nick cleared his throat. "Everyone, you all know about Absinthe. I don't know if you've realised, but we have to stop what he's doing to us.

    Alex rolled over onto his side. "How could I be so stupid to be lied to this whole time?"

    Nick looked to him. "It's not your fault Alex. He manipulated you. Don't beat yourself up about this."

    Alex sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. "I will get my revenge, I swear it."

    Striker smiled. "Glad to hear you'll be joining us Alex, because we'll be going after him also."

    Alex turned to him. "Whatever, but I get to finish him, he's mine."

    Striker understood completly. "Fine, everyone, let's go."

    They walked out into the hallway and began heading towards the stairs, leaving Nick behind in the room. As they reached the stairs and started down them, they heard a noise behind them.

    Nick came running down the hall after them. "Guys, wait, I'm coming with you."

    Striker looked at him. "Well, if you're sure, then come."

    All of them walked down the stairway, down to the lobby, and all of them exited the hospital together. As they headed to the elder house, Nick stopped outside the doors. Placing his hands on the doors, he felt his hands begin to burn. "Ah! Absinthe must've placed a spell on the building to keep us out. Gimme a sec." Nick raised one hand in front of him, making a cross with it in mid-air. Striker watched as Nick seemed to be controlling the cross that appeared, bending it into different shapes, watching as it shot at different parts of the door. After a minute, Nick stopped. "Done." The door blew off it's hinges, and they all stared into the black hallway they had been in once before.

    Striker stepped into the doorway. "Let's go."

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 26

    Striker led the way inside. The hall was as black as the first time they entered. "Alex, light please." A light flickered from behind and Striker continued along the hallway.

    Striker noticed something familiar not far ahead, the stairway. "Alex, dim your flame, I don't want Absinthe to know that we're here...yet." Alex dimmed the flame and they were left with less than a fireflies light.

    Striker called everyone to him. "Ok guys. First things first, we go up the stairs. Next, Carson you take the lead, Wilson behind, and Rose and I got your backs."

    Alex cleared his throat. "What about me?"

    Striker, who had obviously forgotten about him, looked at Alex. "Uhh...you go with Wilson, and Rose and I will cover you both. Oh, and Nick. You, uhh...what can you do?"

    Nick, as usual, pushed his glasses more neatly onto his nose. "Hehe, don't worry, you'll see. I'll aid in the initial charge with Carson." Walking ahead casually, towards the stairs, he turned around. "Come on, we've got our battle plan. Let's go."

    Everyone followed Nick towards the staircase. As they reached it, each of them stared up it. Striker saw how dangerous a battle on it could be if they were discovered too early. He saw as it spiraled upwards, unrailed along the edges. "Well we ain't getting anywhere just standing here."

    Striker led the way up the stairs, everyone following him. About nine tenths up the stairs he looked down and only now realised how high the stairs went. He peared down, at least one hundred feet. Continuing up the staircase, as to not show the even he was afraid. They reached the top of the staircase and saw...

    Absinthe was standing there, looking at them, a long, thin, dark green staff with a jewel that looked like an emerald on top. "Hmm, you guys took very long to get here. Ah! I see you've brought Nick with you also. So Nick, finally come out of your sanctuary to come face me?"

    Nick reached into his coat, pulling out a vial. "This isn't just about you and me, Absinthe. This is about everyone. Ellinia, each of us, and all the world. You can not be allowed to reign free like this." He uncorked the vial, swallowing the contents in a single swig.

    Striker stared at Nick, expecting some massive change in appearance, but all that seemed to change with Nick's look, was that his labcoat that he always wore, turned pure black. Striker noticed Alex had extinguished the flame in his hands completly.

    Absinthe smiled. "I'll let you guys take the first move." He leaned on his staff mockingling, yawning.

    Carson raised his sword just above his shoulder. "Ready Nick?" Nick told him to go. Carson charged at Absinthe, whilst Nick had not moved an inch. Just as Carson was about to bring his sword down on Absinthe, and Absinthe was about to block, Striker noticed Nick's eyes flash a dark red, and in the blink of an eye, Nick was beside Absinthe ready to aid Carson.

    Absinthe did not see this and had only gone to block Carson's attack, leaving him wide open to Nick's. Carson's sword was easily knocked away by Absinthe's staff. Nick swung his hand at Absinthe's ribs, but his fingers had turned to a metallic form, each now razor sharp. Slicing Absinthe across the chest, Absinthe lept back, holding his wound. "So it appears you do have some fight in you after all."

    Wilson charged at Absinthe, hurling star after star and Alex sent fireballs after them, while Rose and Striker shot arrows at the same time from behind him. Each projectile flying at Absinthe, he smiled. With at least thirty things flying at him, with one wave of his hand, the arrows and stars evaporated. The fireballs became instant ash.

    Absinthe laughed, and all at once, his eyes narrowed, and his voice became cold. "My turn." Raising his staff, he swung it from Nick to Carson and pointed it at Wilson who had stopped charging. Nick and Carson flew through the air, colliding with Wilson. Absinthe pointed to Rose and Striker. Their arrows flew from their quivers and floated less than five feet in front of their faces, each of them ahd had at least fifty arrows. In a split second, it was a mad fury. The arrows were flying at their heads, arms, legs, and anything else that was piercable. They took some arrows out using their bows as deflectors, and Alex aided as much as possible, burning as many as he could, but he also had his own troubles. Absinthe was electrifying Alex's entire body. Alex jerked and shook, eventually falling over, clutching his chest, screaming in pain.

    Wilson, Nick, and Carson retreated back to the others. Absinthe had halted his attacks for now. Striker and Rose picked up any arrows around them that were still usable, giving them only about twenty each. Nick turned to Striker. "I can take him out, but I need to get close." Striker nodded and looked to Carson. Carson understood. Alex and Wilson signed that they would help as well.

    Striker and Rose knew they only had to provide cover, enough for the rest to get close.

    Carson once again charged, but this time Alex and Wilson followed behind. Alex lit Carson's sword on fire and Wilson threw stars at Absinthe, which Alex also lit. The stars sailed towards Absinthe and reached him at the same time Carson did. Deflecting Carson's blow, Absinthe was forced to take blows from the stars, burning his skin and cutting his flesh.

    Absinthe had completly failed to notice Nick, who had snuck behind him. Nick pulled a needle from his coat. Raising it, he plunged it into the back of Absinthe's neck. Everyone expected a scream, but Absinthe didn't move at all. He was completly paralyzed.

    Walking around to the front of Absinthe, Nick stared into his eyes. "You don't deserve to be on this world. You're just a sad excuse for a human being." Raising his hand and wrapping it around Absinthe's neck, he felt as Absinthe's air was cut off. "Die you son of a *****." Nick used his powers he had gotten from the contents of the vile and turned his fingers once again into metal. His fingers sank into Absinthe's neck, severing veins. Blood ran down the smooth surface of Nick's fingers.

    Absinthe's paralasis began to wear off, and he began to twitch as the life was drained from his body. He finally became rigid, and Nick ripped his fingers out, just to spread the wound for extra effect. Absinthe's lifeless body sank to the floor.

    Nick raised his hand in front of his face, blood running down his hand. He licked a trickle of blood from his fingers as he began to change them back. "Ahh, the taste of victory."

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 27

    Drops of blood fell from Nick's now human fingers, but none reached the ground. Each time a drop travelled more than an inch from his fingers, they evaporated. Nick tilted his head slightly. "Something wrong Alex?"

    Alex stood with his head hanging down, shaking from head to toe. Heat waved in front of him, blurring his image. He raised his head, fire literally emitting from his pupils. "What the ****! I told you, I get to kill him. Now I have to live with the fact that he manipulated me for so long, and I didn't even get my revenge!" The flames from Alex's eyes grew slightly, flickering brighter. At that instant, Nick's whole body burst into flames, and bursts of fire erupted all across his body. He screamed as pain coursed through his body.

    Carson ran to Alex. "Alex! Stop! What are you doing!?" Reaching out to grab Alex, he touched his skin. "Ahhh!" Alex's skin burned. Pulling his hand back, Carson saw that it had been burnt black. Pain shot through his entire arm as he screamed.

    Rose ran to fix Carson's hand. Nick writhed on the floor burning, while Alex's expression grew angrier each second. Alex raised his arm. Ready to bring it down, Striker did the only thing he could think of. Striker raised his bow and swung it at the back of Alex's neck. Alex's arm fell, and his eyes rolled back into his head, and he slumped to the ground.

    Striker ran to Nick. "Rose, help him please!"

    Nick signalled that it was all right. "My...pocket...vial..."

    Striker reached into Nick's only unburnt pocket. In it lay a single vial. Taking the cork out, Striker lifted Nick's head up slightly and poured the liquid down his throat. Laying Nick's head back down, he watched as Nick's burn marks began to turn back to regular flesh.

    Nick sat up slowly. "Thank you."

    Wilson looked at Nick suspiciously. "Where do you keep getting these vials from? Where the hell did you get them?"

    Nick laughed. "Where did I get them? Nowhere, I made them. I'm not just a doctor. As soon as Absinthe became ruler, I began a field of science on my own, concocting various restoratives and enhancing agents. I was planning on creating an all powerful enhancer, making me strong enough to take down Absinthe alone. But you guys came to town, so I took however much of it I had made so far, and came with you. As you saw, the potion changes my body structure."

    Wilson sat down. "Dude, that's sweet. Pretty cool what you did back there, but why were you so intent on killing him?"

    Nick shifted his glasses. "Scum like Absinthe don't deserve to live. He's like a plague, and I was the cure. I hate seeing all of Ellinia in an unnatural state. He took away their free will, for god's sakes! Someone, no, something like that has to be killed, and I don't care who does it, but I was there and Alex missed his chance."

    Wilson stood back up, rather quickly. "What the hell man. If you didn't care, you should've let Alex finish him. This actually meant something important to him. Now what's he supposed to do, huh?"

    Nick stood up. "I'm leaving. I'll be at the hospital. Don't come and see me." He turned to Striker. "But if you do end up in Ellinia again, make sure to stop by. Au revoir." He walked back down the stairs and out of sight.

    Wilson looked to Striker. "Tch. Can you believe that guy? Sure his intentions were good, but I feel bad for Alex, you know?"

    Striker walked towards Carson. "Ya I know what you mean." He turned to face Carson. "You think you can travel, because I want to get a move on."

    Carson smiled. "Ya, no problem. Rose here is very efficient at healing." Rose smiled. "What about Alex."

    Alex got up at that exact moment, as if on cue. "I'm fine, but I don't want to ever see Nick again, if we can help it."

    Striker beckoned everyone down the stairs and out of the building. Striker turned and took one last glance at the enormous structure.

    Striker looked around the town. The townsfolk seemed to be returned to a normal state, their expressions no longer forced. "Good. With Absinthe dead, this towns people finally have their free will back. I guess Nick was at least right about one thing. Absinthe was a monster."

    Striker looked towards the gates of Ellinia. "Well, you guys ready to leave here?" Everyone nodded in agreement. "Then let's go."

    Alex watched as the four of them began to walk towards the edge of town. "Guys!" Each of them turned to face Alex. "I'm coming too." Striker smiled and nodded.

    Wilson looked to Striker, looking puzzled. "Uhh, one question. Where are we going?"

    Striker stopped. "Well, Mercucial and Rick weren't here, so there's only one place left. The place where this all started, Henesys."

    Wilson sighed. "I thought you'd say that."

    As they headed towards the gates on the boundary of the town, Striker noticed there was a man that looked not much older than him leaning against one of the gates posts. The man wore a full bodied plate of armour, coloured black. A lance, magenta, rest in his arms.

    The man spotted the group. "Oi, are you the ones that supposedly killed Absinthe?"

    Striker nodded.

    The man laughed. "I thought so. My name's Richard. I've been here since this morning, I came when I heard about the towns situation. I'm from Sleepywood. I have some information I think you might find interesting. Just a little something I witnessed while waiting."

    Striker asked. "What would that be?"

    Richard smiled. "Passed by me so quick, I barely got a look at him, but I knew at once who it was. Absinthe isn't dead. You killed a fake."

    (to be continued...)

    _____________________________________

    Part 28

    Alex shoved his way to the front and brought his face so close to Richard's that their noses almost touched. "What do u mean a fake? You mean that freak is still out there!?"

    Richard stood there and shifted his lance to his other hand. "Yep."

    This time, it was Wilson's turn to rush to the front. "How can you say that so calmly!? Do you have no heart?" Striker could see the anger produced from both Alex and Wilson's eyes.

    Richard's expression changed instantly. Not to anger, but to the kind of expression someone would get after being accused of something. "Hey, this isn't my problem, OK? I'm here from Sleepywood, and I could care less about what's going on here. The only thing I care about is seeing my job through and getting paid when I return home. I'm what you could call an exterminator, and I've never failed a job even once. Thanks to you guys ****ing up, it seems I can still earn my pay." Everyone stared at Richard confused, but Alex's eyes still burned with anger. "I'm going to find Absinthe, and I'm going to kill him."

    Alex's arm caught fire and pulsed to his hand, forming a fireball, but also remaining in his hand. "**** no! I thought he'd been taken away from me once. Now I have a chance to kill him once again, and he's mine, like it or not." Richard let out a sarcastic grunt. "What, you don't think I can handle it?"

    Richard looked at Alex, his glance somewhat sideways. "It's not that I think you're uncapable. Its just...when it comes down to it, will you really kill your mentor of so many years?" Everyone looked surprised. "What? You don't think I was at least briefed before coming here?"

    The flame in Alex's hand grew to twice it's original size. "You listen to me. I don't care what you say, but when the time comes, Absinthe's mine, and if you get in my way." Alex threw his hand upwards, stopping less than an inch from Richard's face. The flame licked at Richard's chin, leaving behind slight burn marks, but Richard stayed unflinching. "I might have to take it out on you." Alex snapped his fingers and the flame was gone.

    Richard smiled. "Same goes to you then, all of you. If any of you get in my way, I will be forced to take action. If you persist and it comes to it, I will kill each and every one of you, so I think it'd be in your best interest to just stay the **** outta my way."

    Rose walked calmly to the front, but her voice was anything but soft. "What gives you the right to just come here and tell us all this? What makes you so special that you think you can take us all on anyways? If you'd known what we'd all been through, I think you'd be a little more hesitant to try and take us all. I ask you again, what makes you so special that you think you can take us all on?"

    Richard smiled. "I am the only dark knight in the world you know."

    Rose looked curious. "Dark knight? I've heard of white knights. What makes you any better."

    Richard smiled again, but not a grin, this smile was more malicious. "Everything." He raised his lance, and for a second Striker thought he was about to attack them, but watching he saw Richard turn his lance outside the town towards over a dozen trees, each very thick and at least seventy feet tall. Richard twitched his arm only so slightly. Seven of the trees blew apart instantaneously, almost clean in half, and even the bottom halves had been ripped from their roots, now soaring through the air. Richard ran forward so quick it was hard to follow. He leapt into the air so fast he seemed to have turned invisble. All that could be heard now was the connection of metal on wood.

    After only fifteen seconds, what was left of the trees fell to the ground, most of it only woodchips. There was no wood bigger than a pencil anymore. Richard could now be seen, standing in the middle of the pile he had created. "I suggest not following me." With that, he was gone.

    Alex turned to Striker. "We gotta get to Absinthe before him!"

    Striker nodded. "I agree. Let's go."

    They started towards the outer of Ellinia.

    "Guys wait! Wait!"

    Everyone turned around and saw Nick running towards them. Striker stopped. "Nick? What is it?"

    Nick reached them and bent down, hands on his knees gasping for breath. "Have...you...seen." He caught his breath better. "Have you seen a kid come through here, only about eight years old. He was there in a coma before you guys arrived in Ellinia. I've checked all over town and the other exit out of Ellinia, and nothing."

    Striker looked at him. "Nope, sorry."

    Wilson looked at Nick. "You checked everywhere?"

    Nick looked at him. "Well...I didn't check the elder house. You don't think Absinthe kidnapped him do you?"

    Rose started towards the building. "Let's go guys, can't hurt to check can it?"

    After a ten minute walk, they were back inside the elder house, at the bottom of the stairs.

    Striker looked around. "There's nothing down here, not even a door. I guess the only other place could be upstairs."

    Reaching the top of the stairs, they looked around. Striker heard Rose scream as she looked where noone else had. Everyone screamed along.

    Nick ran over to the child, his body lay lifeless on the ground, blood pooled around his body. Nick bent down and examined him. He raised his head, and Striker saw that Nick had a frightened expression on his face, mixed with sorrow.

    Striker walked over to join Nick. He looked down at the child and noticed something right away.

    The kid had punctures in his neck, where blood still flowed.

    (to be continued...)

    __________________________________

    Part 29

    Alex stared at the lifeless child, lying in his own blood. "What a *******! I knew that Absinthe was a monster, but this is too far! How could he use an innocent child as a decoy? This is such cowardice. Sickening..."

    Nick looked at Alex. "Alex...I know this might not be the best time, but I'm sorry for taking, what I thought was Absinthe, for myself." He looked down at the child. "I can't believe it. I did this, it's all my fault." Nick rubbed his eyes while he knelt down on the brim of his labcoat, so noone would see. He looked at the kid, and said in a voice just above a whisper. "I'm sorry Michael."

    Striker looked towards the staircase. "Nick, we will stay with you and help with the funeral for this kid."

    Nick got up. "Thank you. Are you sure this isn't any inconvenience? I don't want to delay you from finding Mercucial, Absinthe, and Rick. You know what? I'll take care of the funeral myself, its fine."

    Striker raised one eyebrow. "You sure?"

    Nick nodded. "Ya, I'm sure."

    Striker looked towards the staircase once again, and saw Carson was closest. "Ok guys lets go. Carson, lead the way."

    Everyone started towards the staircase, all except one.

    Carson stood still, facing the group. Alex was the first to reach him. "Come on let's go!" Carson swung his sword at Alex, missing him by only inches. "Woah! What the hell's your problem?" Alex backed off.

    Carson began to laugh slightly. Striker knew right away. "Oh ****..."

    Alex looked back at Striker. " 'Oh ****'? Oh **** what!? What the hell's going on!?"

    Striker spoke to Alex, but didn't take his eyes off who he knew was obviously Paul. "Carson has a...condition. He has a split personality of sorts, and let's just say, this personality ain't on our side, and he won't back off without a fight."

    Alex looked back to Paul. "So then what should I call you?"

    Paul looked at Alex. "The name's Paul, not that you'll be around long enough to care." Paul charged at Alex, swinging his sword wildly.

    Alex retaliated with shots of fire, but by some force of sheer power, Paul managed to actually cut the fire in half! Alex backed off more and more. "How the hell do you stop this guy." An explosion errupted around Paul. Smoke billowed around the blast area. There was a slight pause in Paul's advance, in which Alex thought he had taken him out. Just when Alex let his guard down, Paul took his oppurtunity.

    Through the smoke, Paul blew towards Alex. He lunged at Alex, his sword held in front of him, pointing straight. Alex had no time to react, and the sword was plunged into his stomach. "Ahhh!"

    Paul pushed as hard as he could on the sword, but it didn't seem to come through the other side. Paul looked into Alex's eyes with confusion. "Hey Paul. You ever seen metal melded to metal by heat? Well, despite the immense pain I might be feeling." He flinched slightly. "I can even use my own heat to meld metal to me. In this case, your sword." Alex looked at Paul, a mix of pain and a smile.

    Paul looked mildly frightened for a split second, but his mocking attitude returned quickly. He pulled at hard as he could on his sword, trying to release it.

    Striker looked at Rose and Wilson. "Guys! Arms and legs." Both Rose and Wilson nodded that they understood.

    Striker and Rose shot an arrow each, on at each of Paul's arms. Wilson threw two stars, one held in each hand, each aimed at the mirrored leg.

    Paul yelled out in pain. "Ahhh!" His look returned yet again. "Hehehe, these are all pity attempts. I shall rid myself of all of you soon enough!" Paul let go of his sword. "But for now, there are too many of you. When you least expect it, I will come back, and I will kill anyone I see. Hahaha!"

    Paul bent forward only so slightly, and raised back up. "Holy **** guys, I'm sorry! I wasn't fighting back. As soon as I saw that kid, I let my guard down, and he seemed to be driven even more by the sight of a dead body. Sorry."

    Striker looked at the newly returned Carson. "It's alright. If we had Paul within us, I'm sure at that moment, anyone of us would've let our guards down." Carson gave a weak smile. Striker looked to the stairs. "Ok, now we can go. Goodbye Nick. Hopefully we'll see you again someday."

    Nick watched them walk towards the staircase, but just before they reached it he called out. "Striker, can I talk to you please?" The others turned to follow. "Alone."

    Striker went over to Nick. "What is it?"

    Nick looked like he had something troubling him. "I have to get this off my chest, but I don't want you to tell anyone. Swear to me please." Striker nodded. "It's about...the kid. I didn't want to say anything, but I did apologize to Alex for a reason. I really am sorry. The kids name was Michael. He came with someone, a brother. Alex."

    (to be continued...)

    ________________________________

    Part 30

    Back outside, Striker still couldn't stop thinking about what Nick had told him. He kept running it over in his head. Alex had a brother? One he never even knew about. Maybe I should tell Alex about Michael so he can say goodbye before the funeral. But what happens if he's happier not knowing? Even if I decide to tell him, how can I do it without him setting off after Nick for killing his only brother before he even got a chance to know him? How can I...

    "Yo Striker you alive in there?"

    Striker focused his eyes and saw Wilson staring at him. "Striker?"

    Striker shook his head. "Oh sorry. I was just...thinking."

    Wilson turned and started walking again. "Ya well you kinda dozed off. We're already on the edge of town. Better say your farewells."

    Striker realised that they actually were at the edge of town again. The same place they had met Richard. The same place Nick had told them about Michael dissapearing. He looked at the huge fence that signified the boundary of Ellinia, and saw everyone standing there waiting for him and looking at him. He looked at Alex and saw how worry-free he looked. He didn't want to be the one to change that.

    Striker turned and looked back into town. I'll tell him eventually, but that day is not today. He turned and faced the gates once again, and headed for them. Leaving Ellinia behind, Striker led the others back to his hometown of Henesys.

    After about ten minutes of walking, Wilson started to think. Still walking, he began to ask Alex something. "Hey Alex." Alex turned his head to face Wilson, but also continued walking. "How is it that your stomach is all of a sudden so perfectly fine?'

    Everyone stopped walking. Rose faced Alex as well. "Oh ya that's true. I didn't even do anything, how did you heal up? I thought Paul left a huge gash in your stomach from when he pierced you." Carson sighed. "Oh, sorry Carson." Rose had an apologetic look on her face.

    Alex, who had been in the lead, turned to face the others. "Ah, I was wondering when someone was gunna ask me about that. It's kinda complicated, so I'll try to make it sound more basic. Ok, I've got it. My body is sort of like candle wax, and if you've ever seen melted wax, you know it kinda melds with whatever it dries on. The natural heat of my body sort of makes my body go like that. When Paul stuck the sword in me, I did the same thing, melding the metal to my body so he couldn't escape. There's very few things I can't meld my body to, and one of the things I can meld my body to is...my body. So all I had to do was meld the gash together. It still hurts like a ***** inside, but I didn't wanna say anything, we gotta get to Absinthe and the others as quick as possible, right?"

    Rose looked puzzled still. "Can you...meld internal organs?' Alex nodded. "Wow! That's even more useful than my healing abilities then, but too bad you can't use your healing on others I guess."

    Carson still had one more question. "Does that mean you're invincible?'

    Alex shook his head. "Nah. Almost, but no. If something vital, like my heart or brain was affected, I'd be screwed. Also, if I lost too much blood before I could re-meld myself, I'd die of blood loss. But if I got my arm or leg detached, I could reattach it if I didnt die of blood loss first."

    Carson closed his eyes and shook his head. "Ok, that was more graphic than I wanted."

    Alex laughed. "Sorry. Another good thing is only I can control my 'wax body'. If a heat source other than my body tried to melt me, nothing would happen. Oh, and Rose. What you said about me healing other people is half true. I actually can heal other people, but only flesh wounds. It would hurt the other person alot though, because I would have to burn a part of me off onto them, singing their flesh. That's why I prefer to actually not do it."

    Rose nodded. "Oh I get it. I guess that would suck for the other person then."

    Alex turned back around and started walking. "Well let's continue on then." Everyone followed behind.

    After another five minutes, Wilson spoke up again. "Man, these woods are so confusing. Why isn't there any path here? Do you even know where we're supposed to go Striker." Striker shook his head. "Awww man." Wilson sighed.

    Carson pointed to his right. "Hey a clearing. Maybe we can get a better look around and have a rest as well."

    Striker nodded. "Good idea. Let's go."

    They continued into the clearing. Once they had reached it, everyone noticed the same thing at once.

    "Ahh Striker, how have you been? My brother says he left you a present back in Ellinia."

    Striker gasped and detached his bow bow from his side. "Mercucial!"

    Mercucial smiled. "Yes it is me. It's nice to see you too." He gave a slight taunting bow. "It seems you too are lost in this god foresaken forest." He looked at Striker's bow. "Do you intend to fight me? We are not animals, we're civil human beings. Do we have to fight on every encounter?" Rose detached her own bow, Carson raised his sword, Wilson grabbed a couple of throwing stars, and Alex stood at the ready with his staff in his hand. Mercucial sighed. "So be it."

    Mercucial opened his cloak, revealing his arsenal of weapons inside. Before he took a pair of daggers out, Striker noticed something. "Hey! Your bow! It's as good as new. How? I watched Paul cut it clean in half."

    Mercucial smiled. "It's not hard to mend a bow you know. With the proper tools that is."

    A rustling sound came from the left and right of Mercucial. "Ah you're back finally. No luck?"

    Absinthe and Rick both appeared. "Nope." They both replied at the same time. They seemed oblivious that Striker and the others were there.

    Mercucial pointed to Striker. "Look guys, company."

    Absinthe and Rick turned and smiled. Absinthe looked at Alex and smiled even wider. "Hello again Alex." Alexs grip around his staff grew tighter. "How did you all like the little surprise I left you all back in Ellinia? Glad to finally see your brother Alex?"

    Alex and Striker both gasped. "Bro...ther? What are you talking about?"

    Absinthe began to laugh. "Oh, you didn't know? That child, Michael I think his name was. He is...or was your brother."

    Alex took one step forward angrily before Striker grabbed him and pulled him back. "You lie!"

    Absinthe stopped laughing and now wore a crooked grin. "Really? Do I?"

    Striker let go of Alex and bent his head down. "He's not lying Alex. Nick told me he was your brother just before we left."

    Alex turned to face Striker. "What!?" He whacked Striker in the face with his staff. "You didn't tell me!?"

    Striker looked back up, rubbing his cheek. "I'm sorry."

    Alex lowered his staff. "Argg. Sorry, it's not your fault." He turned back to Absinthe. "You ****! You're ****ing dead!"

    Just before anyone could attack, another rustling could be heard from Striker's right.

    Bursting through the trees, Richard leapt right into the clearing, right into the middle of the opposing groups. "What did I miss?"

    (to be continued...)

    _______________________________

    Part 31

    Battle 1 - Rick

    Striker looked to his in front of him. Absinthe on the left, Mercucial in front, and Rick to his right. He watched beside him as Alex made his way to stand across from Absinthe. "Alex?"

    Alex kept his eyes focused on Absinthe. "He's mine. You four take Mercucial and Rick. I can handle Absinthe."

    Striker nodded and looked right across at Mercucial. "I've got Mercucial, no doubt."

    Carson looked across from himself. He saw Rick standing almost perfectly still, eyeing Striker. "Won't Rick try to stop you? Or worse yet, just try and kill you outright?"

    Striker looked at Rick and saw as he smiled an evil grin back at him. "Hmm, maybe. Not much I can do though, I'll have my hands busy with Mercucial."

    Wilson looked at Rick. "Don't worry. We three will get Rick. You just keep focused on Merc and don't worry about us."

    Striker nodded his thanks. Rose looked at Richard. "What about him? Is he here to help them or us?"

    Striker looked at Richard. "Let's just hope he's on our side, especially after knowing what hes capable of." He looked left to Alex, then right to the others, then back at Mercucial. "Let's go guys!"

    Carson, Wilson, and Rose were the first to charge. Rick wasn't watching the three of them, but saw when Striker charged at Mercucial and he began to charge at Striker. He blended in almost perfectly with the surrounding trees as it was turning to night and the sky became a very dark shade of blue. Rick's cloak hid him almost completly against the blackness and shade the forest provided. His one remaining arm hidden beneath his cloak to conceal the colour of his flesh, he continued his charge.

    Carson reached Rick before the others, and also before Rick had spotted him. Rick was still focused on Striker. "Over here Rick!" He raised his sword to bring it crashing down on Rick's head.

    A flickering shine came from beneath Rick's cloak, and next second all that Wilson and Rose could hear was the sound of metal clashing with metal. Rick pushed Carson back, sending him at least twelve feet back and dropping his sword. "So...you three wanna play huh?" He turned to face the three of them better, and moved his cloak out of the way to reveal his daggers, which remained sheathed. Wilson, Carson, and Rose questioned for a split second what the shine had been if Rick's daggers remained sheathed, but then they noticed it.

    "Your arm!" Carson was staring directly at Rick's left arm, which shouldn't have been there, because he knew he had sliced it clean off in their last battle. "How...it...how...?"

    Rick looked at Carson's expression, then to the other's and saw their expressions. "Ah, this? It turns out Absinthe has quite a few tricks up his sleave. Here I was, always thinking that wizard's were useless, but what do you know. He fashioned me a perfectly new arm. Oh, and let me just add." He ran to Carson so quick that Carson had absolutly no time to react. "It's considerably stronger than my old arm." With that, he punched Carson directly in the centre of his stomach. Carson slid back at least three feet, but his feet had never left the ground and instead dragged across leaving tread marks. Carson fell to his knees, clutching his gut, gasping for air.

    Rose raised her bow and loaded a single arrow and released. Wilson jumped forward throwing one star from each hand. The arrow soared for Rick's gut. Before it could connect, Rick put his left arm across his stomach horizontally, and the arrow collided with Rick's arm, snapping in half. The stars came next, one aimed at Rick's throat, the other at his face. Rick shifted his arm upwards and vertically, easily deflecting each with quick movements to deflect each accordingly. Sparks flew when the stars impacted, but never the less, had no effect and now lay useless on the ground.

    Rick glared at Wilson and Rose. "All your attempts are useless. Even without my new arm, do your brains not process that I'm invincible? Don't you realise it's utterly impossible to defeat me!? Do you not see that it's no use to keep trying to---."

    Rick's words were cut short, due to the fact that he now had a sword jammed straight through his back, and emerging through the other side, also lifting him three feet clear off the ground. "Shut the **** up you piece of ****!! Nothing's impossible! Do you not realise that!?" Carson held his sword firmly, blood spewing down to the hilt. After five seconds of holding, he began to quiver. His head bent slightly and then he smiled evilly. "Absolutly nothing!" He brought his sword down, with Rick still being held on it. He jabbed it straight into the ground. If anyone had seen this exact point in the battle, it would seem as if Rick had been lying on the ground on his chest and had the sword pierced through his back. Rick screamed out in emmense pain, the blood beginning to pool around him.

    Rose looked frightened. "Carson! What the hell are you doing!? What you're doing is extremly cruel! Don't you realise that if you don't stop, you're no better than Rick!?"

    Carson turned his head to Rose. "Shut up ***** or I'll let him go and kill your ass."

    Wilson looked at Rose. "Oh man. It looks like Paul has taken a hold of Carson again. At this rate, the grounds gunna be littered with Rick's body. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wouldn't want anyone to have a messy death. We have to do something to save Rick!"

    Paul twisted his sword around three-hundred and sixty degrees. Rick screamed out louder with each inch turned. With each scream, Paul's smile grew more and more. Paul began to look angry after the eighth turn. "Why don't you die!?" He noticed that Rick's face was very pale now. "If anything, you should have at least died of blood loss by now."

    Rick managed to let out a slight laugh from amongst the pain. "Ha! No matter what, I remain unkilled. I'm invincible you fool! Didn't I just tell you that? Come to think of it...AHH!" Paul had turned the sword again. "You *****! Why do you seem so different!? Where did this sudden burst of power come from? How is it that you can overpower me?"

    Paul laughed. "That's not your concern, so I'll just have to find a way to kill you, even if it takes all day! Ahh!" Rose had shot an arrow and it had sunk deep into Paul's arm. Paul ripped it out, with what seemed like minimal pain. "You ****ing *****! I warned you didn't I?" He lifted his sword, Rick still being held on it. "I'll deal with you later." He threw Rick from his sword, a sickening slurping sound echoed when Rick flew easily thirty feet from the battle, deep into the forest. Paul looked back at Rose. "You're dead!" He began to charge at Rose, but barely had moved two feet.

    Paul grabbed his head. "Don't you touch them!" He dropped his sword and now clutched his head with both hands. "You idiot, let me finish this *****. She doesn't deserve to live!." Paul fell to the ground, still grabbing his face and began tearing at it, rolling around. "I think you're mistaken. It's you that doesn't deserve to be alive, Paul. You are just a freak accident. Now--" Paul stood up a bit. "--get--" He stood up fully now, swaying slightly. "--back--" He let go with one hand. "--into--" He now stood perfectly normal and released his grip on his head completly. "--your prison."

    Wilson looked at Paul. "Carson, is that you?"

    The newly restored Carson smiled. "Ya, I'm back."

    Wilson smiled. "Well at least now we don't have to deal with Rick. I guess Paul's at least good for some---."

    Rose screamed. Wilson and Carson followed her gaze. She screamed out, "Alex!"

    (to be continued...)

    __________________________________

    Part 32

    Battle 2 - Mercucial

    Striker looked in front of himself. Absinthe on the left, Mercucial in front, and Rick to his right. He watched beside him as Alex made his way to stand across from Absinthe. "Alex?"

    Alex kept his eyes focused on Absinthe. "He's mine. You four take Mercucial and Rick. I can handle Absinthe."

    Striker nodded and looked right across at Mercucial. "I've got Mercucial, no doubt."

    Carson looked across from himself. He saw Rick standing almost perfectly still, eyeing Striker. "Won't Rick try to stop you? Or worse yet, just try and kill you outright?"

    Striker looked at Rick and saw as he smiled an evil grin back at him. "Hmm, maybe. Not much I can do though, I'll have my hands busy with Mercucial."

    Wilson looked at Rick. "Don't worry. We three will get Rick. You just keep focused on Merc and don't worry about us."

    Striker nodded his thanks. Rose looked at Richard. "What about him? Is he here to help them or us?"

    Striker looked at Richard. "Let's just hope he's on our side, especially after knowing what hes capable of." He looked left to Alex, then right to the others, then back at Mercucial. "Let's go guys!"

    Striker looked at Mercucial, his hatred for him growing each second. Striker saw as Mercucial began to smile slightly, more along the lines of smirk. Striker began to run towards Mercucial, raising his bow and loading it while running.

    Arrow after arrow flew at Mercucial, but he dodged each with ease, only shifting his body slightly to the left or right each time an arrow came close. Striker stopped around ten feet from Mercucial. Mercucial's smile faded. "That's the best you've got? I'm disappointed in you Striker. I thought you could do better than this, at least landing one, or even a few arrows. Whatever happened to that amazing power and speed I saw at the competition that day? I haven't seen you do anything else even close to that, and all you've proven so far to me is that what happened that day was nothing more than a pure fluke. You aren't strong or powerful, in truth, you're just lucky." His smirk returned as he raised his own bow. Mercucial purposely let the bottom of his bow drag slightly on the ground, just for a slight dramatic effect, which it appeared had worked, because Striker now looked very worried.

    If Striker didn't think of something before Mercucial made his attack, he was definetly screwed. He's right. That power that surged into me during the competition, I haven't even been anywhere near that strong since that day. Just my average abilities. I'll just have to push my body to its limit and hope it's enough.

    Mercucial loaded and arrow into his bow, and pulled back the string. "Goodbye." Mercucial released his grip on the arrow, and it soared through the air towards Striker.

    Striker swung his bow and snapped the oncoming arrow in half. Mercucial seemed surprised that Striker had moved at all. "So, you do have some fight in you after all?"

    Striker lowered his bow. "I'm not going down so easily." He raised his bow again and loaded three arrows at once, one between each of the gaps between his fingers. He released them and they flew with amazing speed, which obviously had caught Mercucial off guard, because two arrows sunk into his right thigh and just above his waist on the left. The third arrow had just missed his neck by millimetres.

    Mercucial pulled the arrow in his thigh out with an expression of pain on his face as he did. Blood poured down Mercucial's leg from the fresh hole made by Striker's arrow. As Mercucial reached for the arrow in his waist, he flinched in pain. He grasped the arrow's shaft and started to pull, and as he did he yelled in pain.

    Striker didn't want to lose his oppurtunity and loaded another two arrows into his bow and let go. They both flew at Mercucial, but neither hit it's mark due the the fact Mercucial had spun out of the way to dodge. This was a bad idea on Mercucial's part. He now screamed in pain louder than before, for he had torn the arrow out when he had dodged the second wave of arrows. A huge hole, followed by a tear now patterned Mercucial's gut. Blood spewed freely, and Mercucial began to go pale.

    Striker lowered his bow. "It's over Mercucial, you've lost."

    Mercucial stop screaming and gave Striker a quavering smile. He began to speak, but his voice was shaky and unsteady. "Y-You fool. Rick has-s immor...immortality. Do you really b-b-believe I would not give that power unto myself." Mercucial began to cough up blood at this point. "And do you not th-think I wouldn't have another trick of my own up my s-sleeve?" Mercucial brought his hand down to his wound on his torso. He closed his eyes for less than three seconds, and when he opened them, the wound instantly vanished, and Mercucial now appeared unharmed. He began to do the same to his leg. Once he was done, he looked at Striker, the colour returned to his face, and smiled widely. "There, good as new! Now..." He threw his bow aside and shifted his cloak out of the way and unsheated his pair of daggers. "...we end this 'game'."

    Mercucial bent over and charged straight at Striker, daggers flashing. Striker prepared to defend himself with his bow.

    Mercucial made one swipe with one of his daggers and Striker blocked it, but was sent sliding backwards by the force of the blow. His eyes widened and Mercucial attacked again and again, sending Striker back further each time.

    Mercucial halted his attacks for a second and raised a dagger over his head, and it seemed like he was about to slash Striker across the chest. Striker raised his bow to block, but with such speed, Mercucial ran to the back of Striker, grabbed his main bow hand with his left hand, and placed a dagger at his throat with his right hand.

    Striker felt the cold steel pressing against his adam's apple and dared not even to swallow. Mercucial laughed. "I could end all this right now." He pressed the dagger onto Striker's throat more. "But what's the fun in killing someone who didn't even give me a good enough fight to be worthy of dying by my hands?" He lessened the pressure on Striker's throat. "Maybe I should let you live, so you have time to get stronger so when we meet again, I can enjoy killing you. Yes, I think that's what I'll do." He released his grip around Striker's bow hand, but Striker was too in shock to even move. "But then what would be a good enough motivator? Ah-ha! I've got it. A little word I like to call..." He brought his mouth close to Striker's ear so that he could just barely hear a whisper. "...'payback'." He took his his dagger completly off Striker's throat and Striker breathed a sigh of relief and unstiffened his body.

    Mercucial used his dagger in his right hand and stabbed Striker in the gut. He tore the dagger out, towards Striker's side, leaving a hole and a horizontal gash now in Striker's gut. Striker fell onto his back,clutching his wound in agony.

    Mercucial knelt down. "That's for making me rip open my own stomach, *****." He started to get up, but knelt back down again. "You know what? I don't think I want to wait until the next time we meet. I've decided to end your pathetic life here and now." He raised a dagger above his head and prepared to bring it down on Striker's heart.

    Striker heard Rose's voice yell out. "Alex!" He turned his head towards Alex's direction, and what he saw made his eyes practically bulge out of their sockets.

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 33

    Final Battle - Absinthe

    Striker looked in front of himself. Absinthe on the left, Mercucial in front, and Rick to his right. He watched beside him as Alex made his way to stand across from Absinthe. "Alex?"

    Alex kept his eyes focused on Absinthe. "He's mine. You four take Mercucial and Rick. I can handle Absinthe."

    Striker nodded and looked right across at Mercucial. "I've got Mercucial, no doubt."

    Carson looked across from himself. He saw Rick standing almost perfectly still, eyeing Striker. "Won't Rick try to stop you? Or worse yet, just try and kill you outright?"

    Striker looked at Rick and saw as he smiled an evil grin back at him. "Hmm, maybe. Not much I can do though, I'll have my hands busy with Mercucial."

    Wilson looked at Rick. "Don't worry. We three will get Rick. You just keep focused on Merc and don't worry about us."

    Striker nodded his thanks. Rose looked at Richard. "What about him? Is he here to help them or us?"

    Striker looked at Richard. "Let's just hope he's on our side, especially after knowing what hes capable of." He looked left to Alex, then right to the others, then back at Mercucial. "Let's go guys!"

    Alex looked across from him, and saw Absinthe standing there. Absinthe glared back at him with malice, yet with a smile. "You gonna make your move, Alex?" Absinthe waited for Alex to make a move, but Alex couldn't move. Thoughts mixed with anger, frustration, former adoration, and other things left him motionless. "No? Fine then!"

    Absinthe, who was once over twenty feet from Alex, appeared in front of him instantly. Absinthe raised his staff and whacked alex across the chest, and then jabbing it straight into his chest yet again, sending him flying. While in mid-air, Alex's body had explosions blowing all over his body.

    Absinthe teleported once again to Alex, and before Alex had hit the ground, Absinthe used his staff and slammed Alex to the ground. Alex looked at Absinthe, through just his right eye due to the fact that his left eye was now burnt closed. "Think I'm your only opponent?"

    Absinthe stopped his attack. "What do you--." But no sooner had he said those words than he had teleported again, another ten feet to his right. Standing in his place was Richard, his lance outstretched.

    Richard looked at Absinthe. "Tch. ****ing mages. You guys gotta learn how to stand still and just die." He recoiled his lance and turned to Absinthe again, but remained where he stood.

    Alex looked up at Richard. "Thank you."

    Richard looked at Alex. "You think I meant to save you? You just had lucky timing."

    Alex grinned and stood up. "Whatever." He started to walk towards Absinthe.

    Richard stuck his lance in front of Alex to stop him. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

    Alex pointed his staff at Richard threatingly. "What do you think? He's mine, and don't try to stop me. He's caused me too much pain for you to deserve the right to kill him."

    Richard laughed. "My payment says otherwise." He pulled a bag of money out of his shirt. "I've been paid half, and the other half comes after the kill."

    Alex looked angry. He didn't care about some stupid assassination. This to him was a personal matter, that should be dealt with by him, and noone else. "I don't give a damn." He put his staff back at his side. "By the way...who's the person that hired you?"

    Richard pocketed his money again, moved his lance back to his side, and looked back at Absinthe, looking more stern. "None of your business." He started towards Absinthe. "And now for you. Let's see if you can fight without teleporting, wuss."

    Absinthe smiled. "Ha. So you're finally done your little chatter? You really think I need to teleport to get rid of scum like you? In that case, I will not teleport, if that's what you wish, but allow me to show you another technique. No other known mage can do this. It's something I taught myself to do. Observe." He put his staff out in front of him, vertically, and spun it 180 degrees, and stabbed the head into the ground, where it remained self-erected. Wind began to swirl around Absinthe's body, and began to engulf him, until he couldn't be seen. When the wind cleared, all that could be seen were white feathers surrounding Absinthe's body. They opened very suddenly, and spread feathers all about, and gradually, the feathers began to turn black. Absinthe had grown wings.

    Alex charged. "Those won't last!" He waved his staff and lit Absinthe on fire. Absinthe didn't move, and was burned. After the fire extinguished itself, the wings were still alight, and when the fire died, the wings remained undamaged. Alex gasped. "What the hell!?"

    Absinthe grinned. "Fool, you really think it would be so easy?" He flew towards Alex, right past Richard, who tried to swipe at Absinthe with his lance, but when he tried, Absinthe did a barrelroll in midair and with a swish of his staff, froze Richard's entire arm. He continued towards Alex, his staff now licked by electricity. He swung his arm and a bolt of lightning crashed onto Alex, electrocuting him.

    Richard had broken free of the ice, and leapt into the air, slashing Absinthe across the back with, not his lance, but a sword. Absinthe spun in midair and looked at the sword, surprised, and then to the discarded lance. Richard smiled. "What? You think I'm stupid enough to only learn how to use one weapon?" He landed on Absinthe and held the sword to his throat. "You'll be surprised with just how much I can do!"

    Absinthe flew upwards, Richard still holding on. Alex took this oppurtunity to attack, having finally recovered from his shock. He summoned every bit of strength he had in him, and drew a circle in the dirt, directly underneath Absinthe, who still rose, fighting with Richard in the air. Alex quickly drew a star, followed by a cross through the middle, ending with another tinier circle in the middle. He swept his staff towards Absinthe, and a tower of fire shot straight up, with such power that it burnt Alex as well, and sent him backwards.

    Richard was lucky and had been knocked just out of the cone in time by Absinthe, but was now falling back to the ground. Alex ran underneath to catch him. "We're even now." The cone cleared and Absinthe was seen falling to the ground, spinning through the air.

    Richard got to his feet. "I never asked for your helped. And do you really think you killed Absinthe? Just look." Richard was right. Alex looked and Absinthe was getting to his feet. Shaky, but nonetheless, alive. "If you do anything else, I will indeed kill you."

    Absinthe flew over to them, now looking extremly angry. Instead of his staff leaping with elecricity, it was his body. He flew right at Alex, and tried to attack with his staff, but was blocked by Alex's staff. "You killed my brother. You lied to me all these years. What did you think would happen if I found out? Think I'd be happy? Think I'd follow you? **** no!" He surged his body forward, and fire leaped from his body, identical to Absinthe's electricity. He pushed with all his strength and sent Absinthe back. He raised his staff and began to wave it, but was stopped suddenly.

    Alex was now four feet in the air, bleeding profusely. He looked down and noticed that Richard had rejoined with his lance. "I told you...he's mine."

    Alex tried to heal himself, but couldn't. It dawned on him. Richard had knicked his heart...he was dying. He began to lose his vision ever more slightly. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was hearing Rose's voice shouting his name.

    (to be continued...)

    ________________________________

    Part 34

    "Put him down!" Said a voice from behind Richard.

    "Who the hell are---" Richard began to turn around, but was cut off mid sentence. He had been jabbed in the back by a very small, pointy object, and something was now coursing through him, making his muscles relax.

    "I said put him down." Nick pushed his glasses up more firmly on his nose.

    Richard seemed to be losing all strength in his arms, for Alex, and his lance, were slowly coming to the ground. Alex, who had stuck onto the lance rather loosely, came sliding off with a sickening suctioning and squishing sound. He and Richard both landed on the ground, and the only difference in their appearances was the hole through Alex's chest.

    "Ah, Nick! How nice of you to join us as well." Absinthe smirked.

    Mercucial looked up from Striker at Nick, then back to Striker. "Looks like you live today. We'll continue this another day." Mercucial got up and began walking towards Absinthe, who flew to meet him. "So this is Nick? Doesn't seem like much of a threat, not much at all." He looked at Absinthe with disgust.

    "But brother!" Absinthe looked to Mercucial pleedingly. "This man can do much more than he appears. He has various...concoctions to weaken his enemies body and mind, and also others to strengthen his own. When I cloned my image onto Michael, I saw what my clone saw, and have memories of the entire battle. Do not underestimate him."

    Mercucial spat on the ground in front of Absinthe. "So you fear this man?"

    Absinthe looked worried by the look in Mercucial's eyes. "N-no...I don't."

    "Then why have you done nothing?" Mercucial watched as Nick went to check on Alex's condition. Saw Rose tending to Striker. Saw Carson and Wilson join by Nick's side. And saw Richard, helplessly laying on the ground, struggling to move. "I have given you immortality, and you waste it by having fear of a mere man!?" He looked back at Absinthe, holding a dagger to his throat. "Maybe it is wasted on you. Maybe I should take away your immortality and kill you right here."

    Absinthe held his head higher, avoiding Mercucial's blade. "No brother! Please!"

    "Give me a good reason why not to kill you then." Mercucial's eyes narrowed.

    "Please brother, let me live, and I shall kill Nick, here and now!" Absinthe felt Mercucial pull the dagger away, and saw him nod in agreement.

    Absinthe flew at Nick, who had just injected Alex with something. Striker was the only one who saw Absinthe charging. "Nick! Behind you!"

    Nick looked up just in time and rolled out of the way before Absinthe could swing his staff at him. As he rolled, Absinthe shot a ball of fire from his staff, just barely missing Nick.

    Carson tried to go to Nick's aid, but was stopped by a barrier of electricity. "This is our battle, so stay the hell out of it." The only ones inside the barrier were Absinthe, Nick, and an unconcious Alex.

    Nick looked at Absinthe. "So it's a battle you want?" He reached into his coat, pulled out a vial, and swigged the whole thing. "Then it's a battle you'll get!"

    Nick's body began to change. It was much different than the last time he had drank one of his viles. This time, a tail was being formed, he grew to nearly double his normal size, his arms lengthened, and he grew a pair of wings of his own, white in colour. The final change was his body, every inch of it, besides his wings, had turned to metal. Razor sharp metal. Raising one finger, he beckoned Absinthe to him. "Come on!"

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 35

    The fight began immediately. Absinthe flew towards Nick, blasting him with fire and lightning. Nick was unaffected by either of these due to his metallic body. "Ha! You'll have to do much better then that!" He leapt into the air and soared towards Absinthe.

    Nick flew at Absinthe, nearing him every second. Upon reaching him, Nick grabbed Absinthe's arm, cutting into the flesh, and pulled him towards himself. Nick grabbed him around the throat with his fingers and squeezed, blood oozing over them. Absinthe's face contorted, unseen to Nick. "So you're immortal, huh? Let's see if you still feel pain!" Nick flew upwards and looped in the air, pointed at the ground, and divebombed, all the while holding Absinthe around the neck and squeezing harder each second.

    They smashed to the ground. Striker and the others could do nothing else but watch the battle. Striker looked at Mercucial and saw him just standing there, without any sign of worry or even anger on his face. It was completly blank.

    As the dust around Nick and Absinthe cleared, Striker saw Nick pinning Absinthe to the ground. Nick released Absinthe's neck, but Absinthe didn't dare move, or couldn't. Nick pointed his fingers on Absinthe's throat, but didn't press. Instead, he shot the tips of his fingers off, into Absinthe's jugular. Nick's now fingerless hand began to bleed, but no sooner had he shot them, then new fingers sprouted in their place. "Ah, this mixture is working out perfectly." He looked at Absinthe, who was screaming in pain and pulling at the fingers that stuck out like knives. Striker looked at Mercucial and still saw no change.

    Nick backed away from Absinthe, to watch him suffer an undying pain. What he didn't see was Absinthe reaching for his staff. Absinthe pointed his staff directly at Nick's legs, but before Nick could move, he had been frozen in place. Absinthe then did the same to the fingers protruding from his neck, then smashed them with his staff, and got up. "You're going to pay for--" Absinthe coughed up blood, his neck bleeding madly, and his arm beginning to heal over. Absinthe wipped his mouth. "--that."

    Nick didn't look worried at all, on the contrary, he was smiling. "And was it you're going to do?" He knocked on his chest, the sound of metal on metal ringing in his ears. "Your spells have no effect on me."

    Nick swore he saw a look of worry on Absinthe's face, but when he double checked, it had been wipped away. Absinthe pointed a finger at Nick. "You see, that's the problem with you people. You're all just mortal, where I on the other hand, am immortal. And we all know, anything mortal can be killed, it's just a matter of time before I find your weak point. I have all the time in the world, because no matter how much pain you cause me, you'll never kill me."

    Nick looked at the ground, thinking to himself. ****, he's right. No matter how hard I try, I can't kill him, and eventually, if he tries hard enough, he will find a weak spot in my armour. Or worse, it could wear off...

    Absinthe scorched Nick. "What are you doing just standing there, let's end this!" Absinthe charged at Nick, electricity leaping from his body. He stopped inches from Nick, pointed his staff at Nick's chest, focused all his power into a single shot, the electricity leaping on his body leaping to the tip of the staff, and he shot it straight at Nick, all within a second, giving Nick no time to react.

    The electricity created an explosion, sending Absinthe flying backwards. He leapt to his feet and looked at his work, and all he could see was a cloud of dust.

    When the dust cleared, Absinthe saw Nick standing there, looking exactly the same. Nick smiled. "Nice try." But just as the words left his mouth, a piece of metal, just above his waist, fell to the ground.

    Absinthe smiled. "I guess I found that weak point we were talking about." He flew at Nick, aiming fireballs at the exposed flesh. Nick used his arms to deflect each ball.

    Just before Absinthe reached Nick, Nick charged forward, and swung his tail around, catching Absinthe in the back and pushing him to the ground. Nick flew into the air, shooting his fingers from each hand one by one, each digging into Absinthe, causing pain, but not rooting him in place. Absinthe looked up at Nick, his face twisted in pain. "It'll take more than sharp projectiles to phase me, Nick!"

    Nick flew down, divebombing at Absinthe, arms outstretched. Instead of blocking or dodging the oncoming blow, Absinthe stood at the ready. Nick impacted with Absinthe, knocking him to the ground. Shouting in pain but smiling, Absinthe kicked Nick off of him, pointed his staff, and shot a burst of electricity at Nick, which hit the flesh. Nick screamed in pain, writhing and twitching in agony.

    Absinthe focused more power into his staff, and walked closer to Nick. Absinthe was so overcome by the fact that he could win, that he didn't see Nick reach into his pocket and pull out a needle, just as Absinthe reached him.

    Nick stabbed Absinthe with the needle, and pushed the injector, even through the emense pain.

    Absinthe dropped his staff, and crumpled to the ground, clutching his head. "What did you do to me!? Get out of my head!! Ahh!!!" He began tearing at his face, ripping off his flesh and the underneath muscle tissue, a truly grotesque sight. "Get out, get out, get OUT!!!" He stopped tearing at his head, just long enough to see what he swore was Alex, standing straight up, staff pointed at his face, then began tearing at his arms and torso. Absinthe was becoming nothing more than a pulsating body without clothes or flesh.

    Absinthe looked past his own barrier. "Brother! Help me! Save me!" He watched as Mercucial raised his hand.

    Mercucial was not doing what Absinthe thought. Instead, Striker heard him utter a single word. "Unworthy." With his hand raised, he pulled at something, like an invisible string, coming from Absinthe. Striker saw a blueish strand coming from Absinthe's body, and he also saw what Absinthe thought to be an illusion, Alex standing in front of Absinthe, now watching the blue strand.

    Absinthe cried out. "Brother, please no! You can't! Please help me!!" But it was too late, the strand had ended, and Absinthe was sitting there, helpless.

    Alex twitched his arm, and Absinthe erupted and fell to the ground, dead. "It's over...finally, it's over." He looked at Mercucial, and watched as he headed into the forest, and left, without a word.

    The barrier now broken, Nick reverted to human form, and Striker came into the area where the fight had happened. "Thank you Nick. But why did you come?"

    Nick looked around. "Well...I knew you were coming here, and I had a thought, that you might run into Absinthe. And Richard." He jerked his hand towards Richard, who was still struggling to move and speak. "I couldn't just leave you guys. We all know Absinthe had found Alex and Michael, so he had a fatherly bond, but I knew he would kill Alex. I just couldn't let Absinthe kill my other only son."

    (to be continued...)

    _______________________________________

    Part 36

    Everyone stared at Nick, eyes wide, mouths gaping.

    Striker was the first to speak. "What do you mean son? For that matter what do you mean 'other' son? I think you have some explaining to do."

    Nick smiled sheepishly, and glanced at Alex for only a fraction of a second. "Indeed, it looks like I do." This time Nick turned his attention directly on Alex. "Alex, I'm your dad. Yours and Michael's."

    Alex crumpled to the ground; a mix of surprise and exhaustion.

    Again, Striker was the one to speak up. "Just wait a second." Striker took a glance at Nick's face, his height. "You don't look like you could be more than fifteen years older than us at the max."

    Nick smiled again, and pushed his glasses more snuggly onto his nose. "True. You are how old Striker? sixteen?" Striker nodded. "Then you're right, I'm not much older than you at all. I am nineteen years old."

    Nick's smile grew as he saw the looks of bewilderment on each of the others faces, even Richards face had a look of surprise on it. "Again, let me explain." Nick looked at Alex once more. "You are not the only one who had a hatred for Absinthe, Alex. When I was just a baby, I was also 'looked after' by that monster. He experimented on me. In the process, he took DNA from my body, creating two other people from my DNA. They grew at a rapid rate at first, but the rate slowed down immensely. The experiment was to create two people who grew faster than normal, to perfect a type of 'soldier' that Absinthe could use as soon as possible. When the experiment failed and the growing rate slowed, Absinthe got rid of both Alex and Michael on the edges of town. He had kept them quiet a while, but their bodies were growing slowly. By the time I got to them, I was five years old, although Alex and Michael still resembled one year olds. I turned them into the hospital, the only place Absinthe couldn't touch. When I grew up, I went to work at the hospital, mainly to look after them. Alex's growing rate had slowed, and stopped, at that of a normal person. Michael's, on the other hand, was keeping him young. Although him and Alex were the same age, they looked years apart."

    Striker, Rose, Wilson, Carson, and Richard all looked at Alex. Striker turned back to Nick. "So how old IS Alex?"

    Nick thought about it for a second. "Hmm...although he looks around fourteen or fifteen, he is actually eighteen years old."

    Alex got up at this point, shakily. "Are you telling me I'm just some sort of...accident? An experiment gone wrong?!"

    Nick looked around awkwardly. "I wouldn't put it exactly like that. But if you're looking for the most technical of answers, then yes."

    Alex started towards Nick, looking angry, but Wilson beat him to it, punching Nick in the face and knocking him to the ground. "Yo man, you don't gotta be so tactless about it! Come on, have a heart."

    Nick got back to his feet, rubbing his cheek. "He asked me. Tact is a way of lying to someone to stop from hurting their feelings. If you ask me a question, I will tell you the answer, straight out, exactly how it is. If you don't like my way of doing things, then don't ask my opinion."

    Wilson shot Nick a sharp glance, but walked to join the others, and put his arm around Alex's shoulders.

    Rose saw Alex was still a little shaky, and went over to tend to him. Striker looked back at Nick. "Ok. So what do we do from here?" He looked at the others, then to Alex. "We found Absinthe, and that's what Alex set out with us to do." He looked back at Nick. "And you I guess." Now he just glanced at the sky. "I'm still trailing after Mercucial. Rose, Wilson, and Carson, I'm guessing you're all still with me?" As they nodded, Striker turned his gaze once more to Alex. "And where do you go from here Alex? Back with your 'father'?"

    Alex looked at Striker, then to Nick. Still looking at Nick, he answered Striker. "No...no there's nothing left for me here." Taking his eyes off Nick, Nick looking like he'd just been punched again, and turned his eyes back to Striker. "If you'll have me, I'd like to continue with you. You helped me with Absinthe, and now I'd like to repay the favour by helping you with Mercucial. I'm indebted to you Striker." He looked at the others. "And to all of you."

    Richard's paralysis was wearing off, and he stood up slowly, and shakily. "Way to **** up my bounty." He sighed heavily. "I'm going to get majorly *****ed out for this." He looked at Striker, then to Alex. "I ain't takin' the heat for this though. You guys are coming with me to talk to the elder."

    Striker looked at him. "And why should we go with you exactly?"

    Richard grimaced. "Well you guys are chasing the guy who demolished Perion right?" Striker nodded. "Well I'm heading back to Sleepywood. The home of the second essence stone."

    (to be continued...)

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    Part 37

    Striker stared at Richard. "Well then it looks like our paths are crossed." Striker looked to the others. "Well at least we know where we're going next."

    Nick shuffled his feet slightly, catching everyone's attention. As he pushed his glasses up onto his nose, he looked at Alex, then to Striker. "I hope you catch Mercucial, Striker. I have to tend to things here in Ellinia, but just know, you always will have a friend here." Alex scoffed. Striker, ignoring Alexs reaction, nodded to Nick. "Take these also." Nick handed Striker five vials of purple liquid. "I'm sorry Richard, I don't have one for you."

    Everyone stared at their vials. Rose looked at Nick, confused. "What are these?"

    Nick, again, pushed his glasses more snuggly onto the bridge of his nose. "Those will help you in battle. Once you drink them, they will double your fighting abilities."

    Wilson held his potion a little farther from him now. "We're not going to turn into some weird metal dinosaur like you, are we?"

    Carson glanced incredulously at Wilson. "You idiot. You're not going to turn into a weird metal dinosaur. You'll be the same just stronger."

    Wilson looked curiously at Carson. "Are you sure?"

    Nick interrupted them. "Wilson, Carson is right. You'll still look exactly as you do now."

    Wilson still stared at the vial apprehensively. "If you say so..."

    Richard glanced at the vials and chuckled. "Ha. I bet I'm still ten times stronger than any of you even with those vials."

    Wilson and Carson both has the same looks on their faces. The looks were voiced almost exactly by Striker. "Oh, really?"

    Richard nodded. "Nothing is more powerful than the strength of a Dark Knight. Look at your sad, pathetic group. An elf, an assassin, a warrior, a mage, and a lowly archer." He smiled widely. "Not only that, but I'm no average Dark Knight." Richard put his lance back into its harness attached to his back, and pulled his sword from its sheath. "Because I have mastered more than just how to use a lance."

    Carson stepped forward. "So you think you can take me on then?"

    Richard smile grew wider. "Hell, I could take all five of you at once."

    Carson stared at Richard, then turned back to the others. "Doesn't that sound like a challenge to you, guys?"

    Rose, Striker, Alex, and Wilson all smiled. Carson turned back to Richard and smiled as well.

    Richard looked a little bit taken back, but his grimace remained. "Hmm, this should be fun."

    Nick shook his head slightly in disbelief. "So you six are just going to start fighting, just for the hell of it?"

    Wilson looked at Nick. "Nah, man. Think of this like...training."

    Nick sighed. "Alright then. Well there should at least be some rules, so you don't all end up dead. And I will judge."

    Richard nodded. "Ok. Three rules: no using those vials, no lethal strikes, and you're 'dead' once you have three hits landed on you. Agreed?"

    Everyone nodded in agreement.

    Nick sighed once more, and pushed his glasses again onto his nose. "3..." Richard sheathed his sword, and took his lance back out. "2..." Striker and Rose took out their bows, and held an arrow each. Wilson also held three stars between his fingers. "1..." Alex stood at the ready, staff outstretched in front of him. Carson unsheathed his sword, and grasped it tightly. Nick sighed again. "Go!"

    (to be continued...)

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    and there u have it!...thats everything ive written to-date (sorry for wut seems like a massive wall-of-text)

    hope u guys enjoy(ed) it...some feedback wud be great =)
    9x Priest - RayOfFate~~~Click here to check a sweet fanfiction I've created!!

  2. #2
    Mushmom XxKiraYamatoxX's Avatar
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    I could've sworn I read this before. One of those 14k views is probably mine... >.>

    I'd say you're doing pretty good, so I don't have much to comment on.
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    (Stop flying, wings fer' brains!)

  3. #3
    I caved Merciless's Avatar
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    yeah pretty good, i read the first 15 sections, id rate it 8-9/10.
    Quote Originally Posted by BarelyAwake View Post
    This thread quickly turned into who all wants to sex up Merciless.

  4. #4
    Beginner Evenni's Avatar
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    The general idea of it is pretty good, but your grammar is horrible. Sorry. :(

  5. #5
    Beginner Megastick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evenni View Post
    The general idea of it is pretty good, but your grammar is horrible. Sorry. :(
    would you mnind perhaps being a little more specific?
    people on sw.net/forum used to tell me i had grammar/spelling/puinc errors, theyd point them out, and i'd fix them...and the parts i posted here are after (some) the editting...so either i posted this with the uneditted version, or u've found some things sw.net missed...so if u could point out some (any) errors, i'd be more than happy to correct them

    also....i did mention this is a draft...so although i do tend to try to put it as grammatically/spelling/punctuationaly correct as i can...no doubt there will be errors (i hate using word for drafts...so every word is written straight onto the site "typing panel" (except here...cuz it was c&p'd from sw.net/forum...but same idea)

    so with both those things in mind...ya

    i dont mind people telling me errors...cuz i know there are going to be some...so i actually appreciate it, but please point them (or at least some...cuz i know i posted everything i have up till now at oince so that might be alot to tell about)...dont just tell me i have errors...cuz thats said without saying it

    sry for my rant
    9x Priest - RayOfFate~~~Click here to check a sweet fanfiction I've created!!

  6. #6
    Mushmom XxKiraYamatoxX's Avatar
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    Another writer that takes criticism like it's advice... =)

    Well, I kinda rushed through it, so I didn't really spot any errors. Not really feeling like re-reading all those long chapters either. >.>

    Megastick, you can just run the fic through Microsoft Word and look for errors in there.
    Monster Hunter Tri Status:
    - Hunter Rank: HR1 (Yay, me noob)
    - Favourite Weapon: Switch Axe
    - Current Most Proficient Weapons: Switch Axe, Hammer
    - Current Armour: Barroth Set + Lagiacrus Set
    - Current Most Hated Monster: Rathalos
    (Stop flying, wings fer' brains!)

  7. #7
    Beginner Megastick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by XxKiraYamatoxX View Post
    Another writer that takes criticism like it's advice... =)

    Well, I kinda rushed through it, so I didn't really spot any errors. Not really feeling like re-reading all those long chapters either. >.>

    Megastick, you can just run the fic through Microsoft Word and look for errors in there.
    i know that...i actually do have an "editted up till now" version in word...but im using this as a...how to put it...a way to improve my writing without a computer telling me instantly wuts wrong...if that makes sense

    it helps me learn how to write better when i write out exactly how i think it shud be...if u see me write...i do do quick self-grammar/punc/spell checks...but when i miss sumthing/do sumthing wrong...i just feel i learn better being told from real live ppl...if that makes sense (again)

    but like i said...i9 do have an editted version (which is more like a second [not final!] draft)

    so if theres any mistakes ever, this is y i appreciate constructive/advisory critisism :)

    thx
    9x Priest - RayOfFate~~~Click here to check a sweet fanfiction I've created!!

  8. #8
    Mushmom XxKiraYamatoxX's Avatar
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    I know exactly what you mean, I'm like that too. =)

    But I can't really see any mistakes up until this point, so do continue writing.
    Monster Hunter Tri Status:
    - Hunter Rank: HR1 (Yay, me noob)
    - Favourite Weapon: Switch Axe
    - Current Most Proficient Weapons: Switch Axe, Hammer
    - Current Armour: Barroth Set + Lagiacrus Set
    - Current Most Hated Monster: Rathalos
    (Stop flying, wings fer' brains!)

  9. #9
    Beginner Megastick's Avatar
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    Part 38

    The fight started immediately.

    Carson charged straight at Richard, sword dragging, ready to swing at Richard's arm. Wilson almost gliding along side him, stars flying. Rose and Striker each unleashing a volley of arrows.

    Richard easily snapped each arrow and deflected each star with simple flicks of his lance.

    Alex lit Carsons sword aflame, just as Carson was about to bring a blow down on Richard. As Richard went to dodge, Alex teleported beside Carson, grabbed him, and moved him to Richards other side, landing the first burning blow.

    Richard recoiled instantly and cut Alex once with his lance across Alex's shoulder, and dragged near Carson, just barely nicking Carsons shoulder. "So it looks like you learned a little something from Absinthe at least. It's supposed to take years to learn to move at that speed. Since what you mages call "teleporting" is really just moving your body a distance, but faster than the speed of light." Alex, breathing heavily, glared back at Richard. "Ah, but it seems to take alot out of you, and you just did it twice." He smirked. "How fun."

    Striker appeared at Richard's right, as Rose appeared on his left. Rose loaded an arrow into her hand as she watched Striker do the same. "Forget about us?" They both aimed at Richard's waist, not meaning to go for a kill.

    Richard backflipped, just narrowly dodging the oncoming arrows, and with his lance, slashed each of the shooters across the leg in mid-flip.

    Wilson, leaping over Carson, who was now chasing after the flipping Richard, threw three more stars, each bursting into flame thanks to Alex. Richard deflected each, but the third one, when striking his lance, sent sparks and stray flame into his eye, mildly blinding him, blurring his vision. Wilson smiled. "Heh, too bad that doesn't count."

    Richard's smile was gone. He was slowly realising taking all five of them would prove harder than he initially thought. "Ok, no more fooling around. First things first..." He charged straight at Alex, explosions of fire hitting the air and ground around him, too late to land their target. In a blink, Alex had two more cuts on him. One on his right arm, the other just above his left eye.

    Nick called out. "Alex is down! Striker, Rose, Wilson, and Carson remain!"

    Alex shot a glare at Richard, but withdrew from the fight honourably.

    Richard now turned his gaze to Wilson. "Guess who's next?" He charged at Wilson, who threw more and more stars at his oncoming attacker, but to no effect. When Richard reached Wilson, he pulled his sword out, one weapon in each hand, leapt into the air, and whirlwinded towards Wilson. One hit by the lance and sword connected instantly. Before the third could land, the weapons were pushed down by Carsons sword.

    Wilson thanked Carson, Carson returning the thanks with a nod as he kicked Richard away, nicking him with his sword as well across his stomach. Carson smiled. "Only one more and you lose, Richard."

    Richard gave a frustrated smile in return. "...We'll see." He reached into his shirt and pulled out something that looked like a dagger, and threw it at Wilson. Carson tried the grab the knife, but it slid through, and cut his hand, and sliced Wilson through the arm.

    "Wilson is down!" Nick exclaimed. Wilson walked off sullenly to join Alex, rubbing his arm.

    Richard's smile grew as he grimaced at Carson. "Now we're both down to one."

    Carson didn't look phased. "No worries, I'll still---what the hell?" His entire hand was turning blue, and he was losing all feeling in it. He shot a glance at Wilson, and the same thing was happening to his arm.

    Richard laughed. "It's a poison on the daggers tip. It isn't fatal, and it'll wear off, but let's just say your hand, and soon your arm, will be completly useless." He turned his back to Carson, unafraid, and focused once more on the archers, whose attempts had proven futile. He charged them, one opponent on either side, perfect for his weapon holdings. With his sword, he fought Rose off to his left, her bow swinging and knocking his sword out of the way. His lance focusing on Striker, also being knocked away, but getting closer each hit.

    Rose and Striker tried moving, but Richard was ready. He repositioned himself easily, still striking madly at them. Richard then turned both weapons, and swung down on Rose, ending her standing in the fight. As her name was called out by Nick and she went to join the other two, Striker lept backwards towards Carson, and shot one of his remaining "bomb" arrows. Richard sliced it clean in half, but the bomb head fell to the ground, and erupted, dust billowing.

    Carson took his chance and charged through the debris, sword flashing in his good hand, his other arm now completly blue, dangling by his side.

    Richard yawned mockingly. "Useless." He batted Carson away easily, and his eyes widened as an arrow whizzed by his face.

    Striker smiled. "Don't forget, you have two people left to fight."

    Richards face grew stern. "Oh?" He charged Striker, both weapons outstretched. Striker, being a ranged fighter, was soon put out of the fight just as easily as the other four, his name ringing in his ears as he sat with the others.

    Richard now turned back to Carson. "So, it's just us then?" Carson was on the ground, crouched over, mumbling to himself. "Errr...?" Richard looked confused, but listened in nonetheless. The words that came to his ears had no meaning to him, but the others all smiled from their spots on the ground away from the fight.

    Carson was crouched over, speaking to what seemed like noone. He wasn't whispering, but he wasn't talking to be heard. "Ok, I know it's the only way. But promise, be good. This is only practice after all."

    Richard listened more carefully. He noticed Carsons voice change in the second sentence. A deeper, more menacing tone than the first phrase. "Fine, whatever. Just hurry the **** up. I wanna let loose."

    Carson got to his feet, and held his sword in his now glowing blue hand easily, and flipped it in the air and caught in with ease.

    Richard looked on in bewilderment as his poison failed him right in front of his eyes. "What? How!?"

    Carson turned to the four spectators, then to Richard. "So I guess you're my opponent then? I'm Paul. Looks like this could be fun." As his smile grew, from a grimmace, to maniacle laughter, he charged.

    (to be continued...)
    9x Priest - RayOfFate~~~Click here to check a sweet fanfiction I've created!!

  10. #10
    Slime Harmony's Avatar
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    awesome awesome awesome :D I was only sad that rose and striker only kissed once :P lol it would have been a little bit better for me with more like that lol xD but you can just ignore me i'm just a random person reading this at 2:00 in the morning lol :D
    I'M TOTALLY AWESHUM~
    I have a random harry potter story (w/ me in it ;D) PM me for the first chapter and I'll pm it back

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