As we stepped out into the mist, ropes suddenly snaked out of the darkness and wrapped themselves around us. Only Dameon, still inside,escaped.
Outside we were quickly tied up. Shadows and Wraiths appeared out of the mist around us as we were quickly stripped of our weapons. Suddenly the mist was blown aside as a huge Airship landed with a smaller scout ship behind it. With the sound of hydraulics extending, a ramp descended from the underbelly of the Airship. We squinted in the bright light as the nearest shadows drew back. With slow deliberate steps a tall man moved down the boarding ramp. As he approached we began to make out his features. His face was stern but seemed lined with weariness. His gray hair was short and a short fringe cast his eyes in shadow. The high collar of his light brown cloak hid the rest of his face from us. One of the Shadows approached and handed over our weapons. The man looked them over and handed them back, jerking a thumb at the Airship. The Shadow nodded and disappeared up the ramp. The man jerked his head at us “bring them too”. Two Shadows pulled us up and herded us towards the Airship. I noticed that as we passed into the light the Shadows faded somewhat.
The scout ship had landed now and two Wraiths slipped towards the tall man. He gestured towards the abandoned house. “Burn it down.” They nodded and moved towards the house. The tall man spun on his heel and stalked back up the ramp into his own Airship.
The two Wraiths slipped silently towards the house. Suddenly a noise came from the left. The two Wraiths turned towards it, plasma guns appearing in their hands. A streak of purple lightning came from the right and took the right Wraith high in the chest. It exploded into a cloud of black dust. Dameon rolled out of the mist and lunched himself at the second Wraith, catching his sword as it spun back towards him. The second Wraith collapsed like the first and Dameon rolled to his feet, sheathing his sword on his back. He ran towards the scout ship and after a quick look at the panel sighed in relief. It seemed that Valhall was still the only Kingdom to make Airships. He pulled down on the throttle and heard the ship system whir softy to life. The control panel flickered briefly then lit up. Dameon looked at the display and cursed.
It was in the language of the Misted Realm, which he’d never bothered to learn. Dameon tapped a few buttons experimentally and by pure chance logged into the ships flight history. He scanned through the last ports and found one that he recognised, ‘The Arena’. He tapped the flight button and took control of the ship as it lifted off and sped away.
Meanwhile on board the main Airship we were thrown into the hold and untied. The tall man approached us down the steps. Brandon the Elder gasped “Baron?”
The tall man laughed cruelly “Quite right, Brandon. It’s been far too long.”
“Where are you taking us?” Catarina demanded angrily.
“Why my dear I’m taking you to my home city to be my honoured guests. All except Brandon that is.” He turned away and climbed the steps to the deck. “Alert me when we land,” he snapped at two Shadow guards.
Left down in the darkness we could only contemplate what fate awaited Brandon when we landed.
Dameon pushed his small scout ship to its maximum speed and soon became aware of a low humming sound. It began to build in intensity and before long he could see the taillights of the other ship. He tailed it for a few minutes and then as it started to descend he hit the invisibility booster and followed it down.
On board the larger Airship the Baron had been woken and now stood beside the door that led to the boarding ramp. We had been tied up and marched up to him. There was a slight bump as the ship landed and the ramp hissed down. The Baron strode down the ramp, Shadow guards followed him, herding us before them. The Baron stopped and gestured towards Brandon.“Throw him in the Arena with his sword and take them,” he nodded at us, “to my personal viewing platform.” He strode away as we were led past him. “Let the Games begin”.
Brandon was thrown into the Arena with his sword. He landed on all fours and slowly picked himself up. He picked up his sword and green lightning snapped along the blade. The Baron’s voice rang out from high above him “Begin”. Brandon swung around sword in hand as two Wraiths came at him. Both the Wraiths held a short sword. They attacked simultaneously. Brandon blocked both swords and flicked them to one side before swinging his sword in a murderous side-hand that sent a wave of lightning washing across the field, instantly killing both Wraiths. More came at him and within ten minutes the field was littered with heaps of ash and
the bodies of two large, black, red eyed dogs that had been Brandon’s last opponents. Brandon stepped forward and thrust his sword in the Baron’s direction, “You’re running out of executioners, Baron”. Up above, the Baron beckoned one of his Shadow guards and suggested, “Try the Corellian Slice Hounds”.
Meanwhile on the other side of the city Dameon, having found the others weapons was leaving a trail of destruction in his wake as he worked his way towards the Arena. He entered the last corridor and as he took a step forward the doors at the far end slammed shut. Shadow warriors and Wraiths poured from the shadows and converged on him. Dameon unsheathed both of Serah’s swords and sent small bolts of lightning shooting forth and wherever they struck small black fires sprung up and all the Wraiths within a two-metre radius were pulled in.With the Wraiths gone the Shadows retreated to the door. Dameon covered the last few meters of the hall in a rush, swords spinning. He cut through them like a scythe and they fell back, broke and ran. Those that tried to flee he brought down with throwing knives. After collecting the knives he turned to the door to see it had been sealed shut. He raised both swords and let the lightning run down their blades for some time before slashing a giant X on the door. Taking a half step back he delivered a spinning back kick to the door. The door shattered apart and Dameon stepped through onto a small platform that jutted out some two meters above the Arena. Looking down he saw Brandon dispatch the second Slice Hound and drop back into the guard position. Dameon jumped off the platform and landed in a crouch behind Brandon.
“You had better sit this one out General”, he said, walking forward and laying a hand on Brandon’s shoulder.
“Never!” Brandon growled. “I’ve got a score to settle”.
High above, the Baron growled in fury and turned to the nearest guard. “Release the Gorog.”
The Shadow took a step back in surprise. “But My Lord, the Arena’s restraints. They have not been properly tested.”
The Baron swung around on him in fury. “RELEASE IT!!!”
The Shadow shuffled away, “Yes, my lord”
Down below Dameon withdrew one sword and raised it, as a gate at the other end of the Arena opened. Brandon slipped back into a ready stance. A large monster about twelve feet tall shuffled out into the light. Dameon and Brandon relaxed as the monster shuffled forward. Its arms were so long they brushed the ground and the short powerful legs set it off balance. Dameon lowered his sword but then a mammoth hand rose behind the monster and clamped down on it. A huge head appeared and it swallowed the monster with one gulp.
Dameon cursed and withdrew Serah’s other sword. Brandon backed off and retreated into the corridor. The Gorog pulled itself out of the gate and reared up. Dameon took a few steps back. The Gorog towered over him at least fifty feet tall. As it took a step forward the ground collapsed beneath it. It sunk but only up to its chest before it stopped holding itself up by the arms.
“I’m going after the Baron” Brandon called. “He’s too powerful to let him get away”. He took off through the corridors. “By the way, good timing I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.”
“No time General, what the hell is this thing?” Dameon called walking backwards.
“I have no idea but it’s big,” Brandon replied unhelpfully.
“That’s perceptive for a blind man,” Dameon snapped sarcastically. “Now how do I kill it?”
“I’m not sure you can,” Brandon replied but Dameon didn’t have time to hear anymore.The Gorog swiped an arm at him and he was forced to dodge away. He danced in and slashed at the Gorog’s head. The Gorog roared and swiped at him again. He jumped and slashed at the arm. His sword seemed to bounce off the leathery skin.
“How the hell am I supposed to hurt this thing?” Dameon asked, ducking as a huge arm swung towards him.
“Aim for the shackles”, Brandon called at the same time Dameon spotted the shackles on the wrists of the Gorog. He aimed a swing at one as the right arm swung towards him. The sword bounced off the shackle and sent a slash of lightning across it. The shackle sparked and the chain behind it snapped back and pulled the hand back into the restrained position. The Gorog roared in frustration and then swiped its left hand at Dameon. He fell backwards as it descended over him and swung both swords at the shackle. The shackle snapped the Gorogs other hand back and into the restrained position. Dameon jumped up and ran towards the head of the Gorog. His eyes alighted on a metal plate attached to the beast’s forehead. He leapt up, vaulted forward and landed next to the plate. He slashed at the clips holding it down and plunged both swords into the gap below. The Gorog roared in fury and wrenched both hands free and swiped at Dameon sending him flying. Dameon flew through the air and slammed down on his back on the catwalk that ran around the top of the Arena. The Gorog growled and clawed its way after him.
“You’re not going to be able to restrain that thing,” Brandon called, peering out a shattered window below the Baron’s platform. “We have to take it out of commission.”
“Ha Ha Ha,” Dameon retorted flipping himself back to his feet. “How?”
“It’s a hanging city. Ummm.” Brandon chewed his lip as he thought. The Gorog meanwhile grabbed at one of the supports and it collapsed beneath it. “See what you can do about those supports.”
“Wha… Whoa, Wait. That’ll bring the whole structure down.”
“Got a better idea?”
“Not so much. No.”
Dameon rushed to the left as the Gorog swung a clumsy right at him. He made his way to the Baron’s tower. He reached it just as the Gorog ripped the catwalk away and Dameon was forced to jump for the viewing platform where the Baron and his friends waited. Brandon had already cut Serah and the others free. “Go,” he cried, throwing away the ropes. “Get a ship and get out of here”.
Hawkeye nodded and herded the others ahead of her. As they passed through the door she turned and threw a tracking device to Brandon who pushed it through his belt. Dameon and Brandon advanced towards the Baron but before they could step forward the whole tower rocked and tilted sharply downward as the Gorog’s head appeared. It pushed a hand forward and grabbed the nearest person who happened to be the Baron. The Gorog swallowed the Baron in one gulp and then made a grab for Brandon. The tower lurched more sharply and Dameon had to dig both swords into the floor to stay on his feet.
The Gorog caught Brandon and as the floor began to tilt clawed with its free hand trying to find something to halt it’s descent. The Gorog slipped off the edge of the platform. “Brandon” Dameon called, sliding to the edge. He saw the Gorog and Brandon falling through the air together. Without hesitating further Dameon leapt off the platform. As he fell through the air he clamped his arms to his sides, making his body as streamlined as possible. The Gorog, by comparison, was failing around, trying to do anything to stop its fall. Dameon closed in rapidly.
Suddenly the Gorog managed to stop itself by grabbing a protruding spur of rock. Dameon slammed both swords into the Gorog’s leg and hung on. Sword by sword he worked his way up the Gorog’s body and along the arm to where Brandon was held. He helped Brandon free and at that moment the Gorog lost its grip and dropped away beneath them. Dameon and Brandon slowed their descent somewhat by turning their bodies horizontal.
“You don’t have a way out of this, do you?” Brandon called to Dameon over the howling wind.
“Well, I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” Dameon shot back.
“Let’s just hope she can reach us in time.” Brandon turned himself on his back and pushed the button on the tracking device. They fell for another five minutes before the scout ship Dameon had commandeered earlier swept in below them.They landed safely and dropped down the access hatch into the ship. Making their way to the main cabin they slumped, exhausted, into chairs. Catarina and Hawkeye came in and sat down opposite them.
“Good to have you back, Brandon” Hawkeye said.
“Is the beast dead?” Catarina asked.
“What about the Baron?”
Brandon nodded “He’s gone too.”
Cassius appeared in the doorway that led to the gun turrets. “We’re not out of this yet,” he said, shaking his head. “Fighters in-bound”.
Hawkeye climbed to her feet and manned the right gun while Cassius manned the left one. Strapping himself into the gun seat Cassius pushed his hair out of his eyes and slipped on the com-link headphones. “Hawkeye, do you copy?”
“Copy” Hawkeye replied.
“Can you see them yet?”
“No. No sign of them”.
“Where are they?” Cassius muttered scanning the sky.
Up in the cockpit I heard the door behind me open as Catarina, Dameon and Brandon entered.
“Welcome back” I greeted without turning around.
“Anything out there?” Dameon asked.
I gave a negative shake of my head. “Nothing yet and night’s approaching”.
Suddenly a small,one-man fighter appeared out of the air in front of us, unleashed a hail of bullets and then disappeared before either Cassius or Hawkeye could bring their guns to bear.
“He’s using some sort of cloaking device,” Cassius growled over his headset.
Hawkeye was slowly scanning the sky through the gun sites. Suddenly she drew a bead on something and fired. The beam of Plasma shot forth and disappeared into the sky. “Damn” she cursed, “I missed”.
Cassius meanwhile was fiddling with his gun trying to turn on the infrared sensors. After a minute the gun gave a small beep and he looked through the sights and smiled. A red and yellow shape rose up before him. He focused his gun in the middle of the shape and fired. The Plasma beam shot forth and a minute later disappeared in an explosion. Cassius gave a wolfish smile. “Gotcha”.
“How did you do that?” Hawkeye asked.
“Infrared sensors” Cassius replied.
“Right.” Hawkeye turned hers on and a second later blasted the second fighter to pieces. “We’re free” she relayed over the speakers.
In the left turret Cassius slipped the headphones off and sighed, slumping down in his chair. An audible sigh of relief went through the cockpit as we all relaxed.
“Where now?” Brandon asked.
I shook my head. “I’m not sure. We were heading for Chalamore but now…” I trailed off and looked at Dameon.
“Can’t you still head there?” Hawkeye asked.
Dameon shook his head. “I overheard a conversation between two shadow guards who said the Baron had ordered a major attack on Chalamore.”
“But they would never overcome it,” Brandon put in, confused. “Chalamore’s a city fortress with all shops and houses inside the walls.”
“Yes,” Dameon agreed. “But they sent a request to Chief Marrek and he agreed to help them”.
“Right,” Brandon said. He sat down again and bowed his head.
“Why not set a course for Tel’ Duskstark, Serah?” Catarina asked.
I gave a decisive shake of my head. “No.”
“Why not?” Hawkeye asked.
“My father and mother rule,” I explained. “If I return they would push me into the life of a Princess again. I left because I couldn’t cope with it anymore.”
“I thought you said you escaped,” Dameon pointed out.
I shrugged. “Escaped, left, it was much the same thing”.
“Then why not go back?” Brandon put in. “Your parents must be worried about you”.
“NO!” I cried. “I’M NOT GOING”.I looked around hoping for some support but saw nothing but agreement on every face. Finally I threw my arms up in despair. “Fine!” I snapped and turning back around to the control panel I punched in a set of co-ordinates. The small scout ship fired up and shot off into the encroaching darkness.