Chapter 81 = The Final Stretch
Disclaimer: With one exception, all characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
“He’s gone.” Tsi-Lau murmured. He’d fled just as she had expected him to make a valiant last stand, and now she was in a predicament.
“I can’t pull out the sword, Skafria…” she said calmly. “I can’t even touch it…”
“But I’m going to die from Volzia loss!” he cried, writhing in pain, also unable to pull it out. It was burning him where it touched, and dark red Volzia was seeping out across the snow, perhaps enough for him to have lost his shielding already.
Tsi-Lau looked around, before deciding to check the tent. It was quite large, certainly big enough to hold all twenty soldiers at once, but the only occupant was a naked, winged anthro, using one of the sleeping bags to cover herself up and keep herself warm.
“Oh, thank the gods.” Tsi-Lau whispered. “You, outside, if you value your life.”
She briefly paused to show her both her fangs and the assassin’s mark on her hand before dragging her out of the tent, pointing to Skafria. “Pull that sword out.”
“Why can’t you do it?” she asked, shivering.
“Just do it!” Tsi-Lau shouted, pushing her forwards with her hand.
She obliged, grabbing hold of the handle and pulling with all her strength, prompting a steadily louder cry from Skafria until the tip came free and she dropped it to the ground next to him. Tsi-Lau immediately bent over him and gently put her hands on his chest, using her chi to heal the wounds and force them to close, though she couldn’t replace his lost Volzia. She kept her hand over the stab wound until it finally closed, and he sat up uneasily, breathing a sigh of relief.
“I thought I was a goner…” he gasped, before fixing his eyes on the anthro, who had wasted no time in gathering her clothes, putting her undershirt and sweater on in such a way as to allow her wings to pass through specially cut slots in them. Whereas on the winged Yoshies they were fixed to the midsection and folded over their lower back, on hers they were attached just below her shoulders and folded down her back, with the tips just touching the sides of her tail.
“Thank you…” she said to them. “They were going to kill me, I just wanted to get back home…”
“What’re you doing out here, anyway?” Skafria inquired, her clothes not preventing him from letting his eyes wander. “You look… a little too fragile to be out here, not to mention…”
“My mother was a winged Yoshi.” She said, answering Skafria’s unasked question. “She fell in love with an anthro, and went to live with him. I’m her second child, and the younger sister… I was looking for these people, but not quite so up-close and personal.”
“Dragon Slayers…” Tsi-Lau muttered, identifying the crest on one of the fallen guard’s breastplates. “They’re cowards. They only attack minority Yoshi groups, and they even kill hatchlings…”
“Kayatinrá.” Skafria swore. “But at least there’s a feast for us here, don’t you think?”
Tsi-Lau smirked. “Yes, we can drink to our fill, but remember to slit their throats when you’re done. We don’t want to leave these cowards alive.”
The anthro shivered. “Vampires…”
“We won’t bite you.” Skafria said placidly, even as he was bending over the neck of a soldier he had taken the helmet from. “We’ve got plenty of food here. Are you staying or leaving?”
“I think I’ll leave. I just want to get home…”
“Wait.” Tsi-Lau said, speaking up. “Where’s your village? I need to talk to some anthros…”
She hesitated, but gave in, pointing further down the valley. “That way, not too far from here. These humans were too close for comfort…”
Obviously nervous, she turned on her heels and ran, taking off as soon as she built up enough speed, and vanishing into the night, leaving the two creatures of darkness to their midnight snacks…
On the opposite side of one of the smaller mountains, Darkmark and Yoshata had set up their own little camp within a sheltered cavern halfway up a sheer stone face, which had apparently once been the resting place of some other winged Yoshies, given the leftover camping gear and long-rotten supplies. There were no signs of the Yoshies themselves, so Darkmark could only assume that either the cold had gotten them outside, or the humans had…
He tried not to think about it, checking the stuff to see what was usable. None of the food was still edible, but there were scratchy woollen blankets buried beneath a thin layer of snow on the floor, and the tattered remnants of some less sturdy blankets that he used to make a fire. A cooking pot had been left, but the prolonged exposure to subzero temperatures had left it brittle and useless.
Yoshata had fallen asleep a while ago, and Darkmark envied her. Something was keeping him awake, and try as he might, he couldn’t slip into a dream world no matter what he tried. He had even resorted to attempting various exercises to tire himself out, but they only served to keep him alert and awake, and he retired to the warmth of the blankets once more.
Gently, he tried to form a light ball to look around, but for some reason the enchantment went out of hand and created a flash of light that blinded Darkmark for a few seconds. Shaking his hand as static passed through it, he wondered what had happened, gently trying to bring a charge into his hands again. Something surged as he did so, and an enormous charge of energy, far more than he could contain, welled up inside of him before sparking off spontaneously in a purple flash that left him writhing in pain.
Once he had regained himself he reached back into his saddlebags, and took out the orange gem that Karlo-Shin had given him. It was pulsating slightly, and as he stared at it, its form seemed to shift and buzz a little, as though it were trying to simply disappear. He moved closer to try and get a better view, but it touched his nose and sent him spiralling into a trance…
“Ah, you’re quite close, I can sense it.” Karlo-Shin murmured in his low, dark voice. “Just a little bit further, and I promise you’ll find it worth your while…”
“Ah, I-” Darkmark muttered, shaking his head, but was silenced as he cast his gaze over to the left of the altar he was on…
The other six Dark Gods were assembled around Klashkna, standing tall in all his glory with his reddish aura around his body and his staff in his hand, the edges of the blades encrusted in blood just like his fangs, claws, and talons. He gave a slow, high-pitched cackle, fixing his gaze upon Darkmark as he spoke. “Ah yes, my servant… but not just a servant any more, now a follower… it is good to see you again.”
Darkmark remained silent, and Klashkna continued, “Yes, yes, yes, I possessed you back then for awhile, but it was merely a safeguard against the schemes of the Light ‘Gods’… and it allowed me to help you discover your power, to unlock your psionic potential, or at least what you have now. You enjoyed it, though, didn’t you? The destruction, the death… admit it. You enjoyed it, even if you weren’t completely in control of your body when you did it…”
“Y-Yes.” Darkmark answered. “It felt… satisfying… to give them back what pain they had given to me…”
Klashkna gave a loud cackle, echoing off of the walls of the church of death. “That’s the spirit! Yes, you’ll make a good Dark God, I can tell, even without peering into the future… and when the time comes, we eight will change the balance of the world…”
His eyes flared bright red just like the other Dark Gods, and his aura surged into twice its normal size. “No longer!” he shouted, his roaring voice carrying such force that the floor shook and the six around him fell back, “No longer will those filthy humans befoul our world! No longer will they hurt us and kill us, no longer will their corrupted kingdom have us under their thumb! We will pay them back in blood for all those they have killed, for all the innocent lives they stole!”
Darkmark thought to himself, that’s rich coming from you…, but apparently Klashkna could read minds, and he pointed the staff at the ethereal form of the brown Yoshi.
“You think I am a hypocrite? I was doing what was right! Is it better to take a few innocent lives to gain the power to eliminate those who would kill thousands of innocents, or just let those thousands of innocents be slaughtered? I tried to gain the power to tip the balance of the world, and I was imprisoned in this fiery pit of insanity for my efforts! Every day we wait, the shattered sword of Eirsir makes the Light Gods lose just a little bit more of their power, and every day more of us are killed! Why, not more than a lunar cycle ago, the feral village where you met Shiala was torched and razed to the ground by the human kingdom’s Dragon Slayers!”
Darkmark took a sudden sharp breath. “What?!”
Calming down slightly, Klashkna’s aura receded a little but his red eyes remained. Holding his free hand out in front of him, a misty circle in the air appeared, focusing into a scene on the upper world of destruction. Slain feral Yoshies lay sprawled across the ground, shattered eggshells were strewn among their contents, the simple tents they used to live in were burning, and not a single thing moved. The poses of the fallen Yoshies said it all; parents protecting their hatchling children, adults banding together to try and fight back with their meagre weaponry, baby Yoshies trying to flee… all killed with no remorse, no guilt, no pity…
Darkmark let out a deep growl that would have surprised even himself had he been listening, and brought such a charge of energy to his body that is snapped him out of the link to the Underworld. In his rage he crushed the orange gem into fragments, and was engulfed in a virtual cloud of static purple psionic energy, filling him with power he had never known before. In his rage he swung at the wall closest to him, putting all of the energy into the swing, and the immense power behind the blow knocked out a chunk of rock the size of a house, which went flying almost horizontally into the valley, sinking out of sight as it faded into the darkness.
The loud crash abruptly woke Yoshata, who sat up, rubbing her eyes and yawning. Hopping up to her feet, she caught sight of Darkmark standing in front of the newly created cave exit, an expression of utter hatred and anger clear on his face, his wings tense, his fists clenched. He looked over his shoulder, and saw that the gem which had lain in pieces not a moment before was now whole again, without a crack to show what had befallen it. Darkmark picked it up and saddlebagged it, looking over to Yoshata, who appeared to be waiting for an explanation.
“I hope you’re rested up.” Darkmark murmured. “We’re leaving again, and not stopping until we get to the place I have to go… for every day I wait, every day I don’t succeed, the afterlife is flooded with innocent lives…”
“W-Who are you?” she asked, taken aback by his fearsome appearance. “What are you? I thought you were just a traveller, but…”
“I am all the hopes of both Darkness and Light.” Darkmark murmured. “I am the saviour, and the last Dark God. I am the hand that could push the world into the chasm of destruction, or pull it back… but either way, my ultimate purpose is the same. Revenge. Personal revenge, retaliation against those who would hurt me, my family, my friends, my race…”
“Y-You’re scaring me.” She said quietly, stepping back. “I don’t want to go with you any more…”
“You’re not going anywhere!” Darkmark roared, throwing a mass of psionic cables at her, catching her off guard. “No, no, not yet. Not until I’ve found what I’m looking for… then you can go.”
He dispelled the cables and she collapsed to her knees, keeping her eyes on him. He spread his wings and looked out into the night, casting his gaze over the land before him. “We’re not far. And I’m not stopping until I find it… until I find the psychic’s temple…”
To be continued…