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Which character/creature would you like to see art of next?

Mikey 0.15151515151515 15.2% [ 5 ]
John 0.15151515151515 15.2% [ 5 ]
Fluffs (post which one) 0.21212121212121 21.2% [ 7 ]
Father Garghoul 0.090909090909091 9.1% [ 3 ]
Malevobear 0.3030303030303 30.3% [ 10 ]
Other: Please post 0.090909090909091 9.1% [ 3 ]
Total Votes:[ 33 ]
< 1 2 ... 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ... 24 25 26 > >>
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Winged Abomination

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Hey guys I made a "Behind the Scenes" video for this and it's been uploaded. My question is would you guys be interested in watching 30 minutes of me ranting about writing? And it is the first video I made so the quality isn't the greatest either.
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Tricky Demon

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Berryfarmer
Hey guys I made a "Behind the Scenes" video for this and it's been uploaded. My question is would you guys be interested in watching 30 minutes of me ranting about writing? And it is the first video I made so the quality isn't the greatest either.
I WOULD I WOULD emotion_kirakira
Berryfarmer's avatar

Winged Abomination

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Brooklyn Rage Mage
Berryfarmer
Hey guys I made a "Behind the Scenes" video for this and it's been uploaded. My question is would you guys be interested in watching 30 minutes of me ranting about writing? And it is the first video I made so the quality isn't the greatest either.
I WOULD I WOULD emotion_kirakira


30 minutes of ranting split into 2 videos. Not to mention I'm very photoshy and afraid of movie criticism.
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Tricky Demon

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Berryfarmer
Brooklyn Rage Mage
Berryfarmer
Hey guys I made a "Behind the Scenes" video for this and it's been uploaded. My question is would you guys be interested in watching 30 minutes of me ranting about writing? And it is the first video I made so the quality isn't the greatest either.
I WOULD I WOULD emotion_kirakira


30 minutes of ranting split into 2 videos. Not to mention I'm very photoshy and afraid of movie criticism.
I'll take what I can get. xD I'll even make response vids just so you can feel special <3
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Winged Abomination

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Okay going to take a shot at this. It was a 30 minute rant about story writing for zOMC! and the video of MSWord got garbled up pretty bad during the upload. But I hope you enjoy it. Because of video length restrictions for youtube I had to cut it to 2, 15 minute videos.

My first movie made so please take it easy. sweatdrop

Part 1


Part 2
Berryfarmer's avatar

Winged Abomination

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Okay guys first off this post is very image heavy.
Secondly if you have watched the behind the scenes video I gave a sneak peek at something I'm cooking up for Chapter 15. Even if you didn't sit through 30 minutes of me ranting you'll still get the preview.

These are three characters I'm introducing in Chapter 15. The current working title I've given to this group is "The Harmonious Ones." Some brief working descriptions accompany each picture.
Hope you all enjoy, I think it's my best art yet.

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Tyres Rode: This creature was Todd's first experiment at combining a 'natural' with animated. The result created a creature halfway between being animated and being organic. This constant conflict causes his three heads, one made of living metal, one made of living rock, and his organic head, to constantly bicker. He can attack with his native acid breath or his animated metal or rock breaths. This fearsome creature stands 30 ft tall.

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Sulaeh: She was the second of The Harmonious Ones created. Her gentle spirit was born of combining a carefully crafted stone masterpiece with the raw power of Ghi energy. Her kindness and beauty have made many who see her question if she really is an animated. Unfortunately, the person who sculpted her original form was terrible with faces leaving her with an always blank smile. Her rock and spirit based attacks emanate from her crystal rod and its ability to channel Ghi energy from the Null Fragments that adorn it.

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Guardus: The youngest of The Harmonious Ones, this animated armor is a fierce warrior. His blade is deceivingly small but when combined with his metal berserker it grows into a massive two handed weapon.Guardus is a master of Ghirate the ancient Gaian martial art of focussing your energy to affect the reality around you. The ancient suit of armor he was made from once hung in the dojo of a great Ghirate master where it would watch him practice. When infused with Ghi energy it began to practice the techniques it had once watched. Nobody fully knows his motivations but this heroic armor bravely fights for justice against The Phantom.
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Winged Abomination

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Sorry I haven't been able to write so much recently. Been testing glitches and what not. But I figured I'd share another character concept with you.
Her name is Bianca, just who she is and what her purpose is you will have to wait until the chapter is complete to see but feel free to speculate.

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They sound great, Berry!
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Winged Abomination

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So someone asked me today, "Berry you always say you're writing but it still takes a while to get anything out of you. Why is that?"

In response to that question, I made this handy graph depicting how I actually spend my time when I say I'm writing. The person who asked shall remain anonymous -coughSamcough-

But here you go. And for people curious, I'm about 2/3 of the way writing chapter 15, so expect it by mid-March timeframe. I probably should have included the "I don't want to play with you right now" into the "I just want to be left alone." To anyone who thinks I've used that excuse with you, that probably hasn't been the case as I use the line "I need to get back to my writing" to escape bad crews. No if you invited me out and I said "I'm writing" chances are it's the "Actually writing" or "Staring blankly at the screen."

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.
Starshine's avatar

Magical Gatekeeper

I'm liking the concept art emotion_yatta

LOL @ your pie chart, I space out and stare blankly at the screen a lot more than that emo
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Winged Abomination

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Alright just a heads up. Beginning the editing process on chapter 15. I should have it up before the end of the day. It's another really long super long Holy epic story Batman, length chapter and will probably take up three to four posts once it's ready to go.
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Winged Abomination

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Alright guys. New chapter fresh from editing. This is the longest chapter to date, 49 pages, nearly twice as long as chapter 14. I'd like to thank anyone who has read this far. This chapter is dedicated to my special someone who has been a constant inspiration and muse to my writings. This chapter spans multiple posts just a heads up. Without further ado.

Chapter 15: Inner Strength

“Don’t worry humans, we’ll have that mine opened back up fer ya in no time.” The burly chiseled stone statue smirked at the crew and McCoy as they walked into Durem.

“Welcome humans to the grand city of Durem. A cultural center if there were one. It is home to several civilized animated that have learned to live side by side with the Gaians who also call the world home. Though be careful there are still some who believe in fighting between naturals and animated so just be careful.” McCoy was leading the crew down various pathways.

“McCoy where are you taking us?” Jeremy asked as they seemed to wind back and forth through brick roads.

“There is an inn at the clock tower. And we Anari have found someone who is ready to join the fight.” As they rounded a corner they found themselves gazing upon a tall, majestic clock tower.

“Well that’s good we could use any allies we find.” Mikey stopped as a group of armored figures marched down the street in front of them. Their armor was that of the Barton Regulars but their stride was much more uniform. As he got a better look he could see they were empty suits.

“Animated armor?” Henry asked.

“This city is protected by a unified group of Gaians and animated. These Guardians are one of the animated units trained by Leon himself.” McCoy seemed to smile like a friendly tour guide.

Penelope’s stomach made an audible gurgling sound as she smiled nervously, “Guess I’m hungrier than I thought. Is there something to eat at the inn?”

“I don’t think we’ve eaten since just before Frosti. I’m so hungry I could eat a bootsnake.” John interjected.

“Wouldn’t that be rubbery and leathery tasting?” Kerri asked.

“That is an interesting thought, eating animated. Wouldn’t that make us like the Landshark?”

“Mmm Brain Clam chowder, or Barton Fried Coatl, or what about OMG surprise?” Mikey’s stomach growled as they entered the small inn.

“The Clock Tower Inn, Durem’s finest in accommodations and cuisine. Home of the Moira Pie, try it today.” Read the placard outside.

“You must be the ones for that table for 13. Right this way please.” A pale waitress with dark hair led the group to a large table in a back room. Seated around the table were the remaining five Anari and huddled in the corner looking beaten and bruised sat KJ. Henry and Jeremy both stopped and raised their rings ready to attack. “Hey if you’re going to fight do it outside where there aren’t paying customers!” The waitress said before walking away.

“There is much to discuss humans.” Deanna looked up from her steaming cup of tea.

“The momentum of the coming war is shifting in your favor but you still have much to learn.” Hoshi poured herself a cup of tea from a steaming kettle on the table.

“Old enemies and new allies.” Miles continued to read something in front of him.

“KJ here has already lain the groundwork for the beginning of your army.” Archer said as everyone sat down.

“An army?” Mikey said in disbelief.

“The only army we need is right here.” Jeremy showed off the rings on his fingers.

“And just how far will that army get you when you truly have to fight?” Sisko could only do what Jeremy figured was a chuckle, “The Phantom is mustering everything we has to face you. Or have you already forgotten the loss you experienced in the Phazian Wastes. You may be able to take his generals one at a time but their strength came from their unity. That is a lesson you have yet to learn.”

KJ finally spoke up, “I’m sorry I caused any of you any kind of pain. But, if The Phantom is to be stopped we need to start working together. You have managed to do what no other crew before you has. You have managed to collect half of the elemental amulets now. This has left him afraid of you and what you can do. See the ability to stop him once and for all is contained within the combined power of the six. And I know where the other three amulets are.”

“Really now?” Mikey rolled his eyes.

“And just what is this information going to cost us?” Henry looked from Mikey to KJ.

“Consider it may way of starting to make amends. One amulet free as the breeze in Durem lies, an amulet bound to the earth has taken to the skies, steeped in the darkness of the underworld the last one hides. You have already collected the amulets of light, fire and water. What remains are the amulets of air, earth and shadow.” She slowly reached for the cup of tea in front of her. Her hands were shaking and bruised as they closed around the cup, “I also don’t think you are ready to face The Phantom yet, but I know of someone in Durem who could train you to be. For now though, let’s eat.”

“Here’s the special. Hope you brought an appetite.” The waitress set down a massive pan it was piled high with a mountain of cheeseburgers.

“Yay! Let’s eat!” Jeremy and everyone dug in. The pile was large enough that everyone had at least two burgers in their hands and two more on their plates.

“Guess there’s one thing about humans that Kamila got right. They can be like a pack of ravenous wolves. " KJ said as she watched in horror at the sight of John stuffing two cheeseburgers in his mouth.” KJ said as she watched in horror at the sight of John stuffing two cheeseburgers in his mouth

“So KJ who is this teacher you say that you’ve found for us?” Mikey asked between mouthfuls of burger.

“His name is Guardus. He’s a master of the ancient martial art of Ghirate, and his dwelling is around Durem somewhere.” KJ responded rather quickly.

“And he is supposed to teach us how to fight?” Henry chomped down on another burger.

“He is an accomplished hero in his own right. There is a story told around Durem that he was one of the original animated who forged the peace this town experiences. I don’t know the story so well though. But the only other crew that asked his help, while never finding the amulets, did manage to fight The Phantom to a stalemate in his own castle. They were wiped out but Guardus and his two comrades managed to infiltrate the castle and rescue two members of the crew. So you tell me, does he sound like he is worth talking to?” KJ slowly chewed on a cheeseburger.

“Excuse me, did I hear ya talking about Guardus?” the waitress had come back and was refilling their drinks.

“Yeah, do you know anything?” Kerri asked.

“Why sure I could. I know all the myths surrounding The Harmonious Ones by heart. I work weekends at the library.” She pulled up a seat and sat between Henry and Jeremy.

“Alright so tell us quickly.” Penelope gritted her teeth because the waitress seemed to stare at Henry and his figure.

“When the animated first started appearing, and this was before the Gambino event, long before, well when the animated began appearing they attacked everything on site. They were mindless and full of rage against the naturals. Durem was blockaded and the population had to learn to fend for themselves. Eventually, the animated began to become intelligent, it happened about the time the library became affected by whatever makes things animated. Three creatures eventually rose up and stood between the fighters in the expanse between the animated and the natural armies. One of them was a creature who possessed the qualities of both animated and natural creatures, one was a beautiful woman who appeared to be carved from stone, and the last was a suit of armor that carried a massive blade. As they stood their ground they demanded both sides agree to peace, they discouraged anyone who tried to launch an attack. Eventually the two leaders relented and sat down to a negotiation mediated by The Harmonious Ones. With a peace agreed to the naturals and animated began rebuilding, they found that together they were stronger than they ever were apart and so a spirit of friendship and trust evolved between the peoples. Guardus was one of The Harmonious Ones, his fighting skills are legendary as he once single handedly fought off a regiment of the Blade Corps.” The waitress was excited in telling the story.

“So this Guardus where is he located around here? We need to find him.”

“Well that’s just the thing, nobody rightly knows. Anyone who does is sworn to secrecy or never seen again. There is however person who might be able to help you.” She smiled.

“Well it seems important that we find him so who is this person.” Mikey reached for another burger.

“Lord Iwadi Kepi, sovereign of the Durem Library, he knows just about everything about everything. Rumor has it he was born when the encyclopedia section of the library became animated and all that information merged into one being.”

“Great so we have to find an animated library in this huge city. How are we supposed to do that?” Henry groaned.

“Well I’d be happy to take you after my shift ends sweetie.” The waitress giggled as she left the table.

“Uhhhh.” Henry was dumbfounded.

“If that big chested, thin waisted, brown haired NPC bimbo thinks she’s going to touch my Henry she’s got another thing coming.” Penelope gritted her teeth as she whispered to herself.

“Hey calm down Penny, I’m sure Henry’s not going to fall some NPC when he’s got you.” Kerri whispered back.

“He better not, for his own sake.” Penelope finished her burger and sipped on the tea that sat in front of her.

“So you humans are in agreement to seek out Guardus and be trained in the art of combat.” Hoshi gazed at each of the crew members.

“The training will not be easy, it may push each of you to your very limits.”

“That’s assuming they can even find the legendary Guardus. Durem is a big city and finding one individual amongst the thousands.” Miles and Sisko eyed the crew.

“Dessert’s on the house a slice of Moira Pie for everyone.” The waitress set out plates with slices of some kind of fruit filled pie in front of everyone. The fruity syrupy filling was a black purple color.

“Hmm tastes like some kind of grapey blueberry.” Jeremy slowly chewed on his slice of pie.

“Ughhh I think I ate too many burgers.” John leaned back in his seat with a pained look upon his face.

“So how long until you are off work miss?” Archer kindly asked the waitress.

“Oh I get off as soon as I finish up with you. My shift ended about 10 minutes ago, just wanted to make sure y’all got the best service. By the way my name’s Bianca.” She winked at Henry as he was obliviously absorbed in his slice of pie, Penelope noticeably grinded her teeth at Bianca’s gesture towards Henry.

“Well then, this should more than pay for the meal and an ample gratuity.” McCoy placed a stack of various gold coins on the table.

“Alright, thank you kindly. I’ll be right back to take you around the city as soon as I ring this up.” Bianca walked out to the front of the inn. When she came back she had let her hair down from the tight bun it was in, the mass hung on her shoulders. The white apron she had been wearing over her red and black dress was balled up in one of her hands. “Alright then, to the library. Oh and be careful there are some less than savory areas we’ll have to go through to get there.”

As she led them around Durem there were various shops and outdoor bazaars along the streets. At some point Jeremy believed that he could hear a street band of animated musical instruments playing a song, the group stopped just long enough to listen to the entire song. They threw some gold coins into the hat the instruments had set out before continuing on their path to the library. It was finally when passing H.R. Wesley that they saw the library.

“Just ahead is Durem Library the finest repository of all knowledge this world has to offer, it just so happens my shift as librarian starts in a few minutes.” Bianca said as she took them inside.

“So you’re a waitress until 3PM, then a librarian until…” Jeremy began.

“9PM.” Bianca answered, “Girl has to make an honest living, and besides I love books. Some of my best friends quite literally live in this library. Well anyways, Lord Iwadi Kepi is way back in the reference section just take a left at the card catalog and go all the way back to the wall. Can’t miss him he has thick spectacles and a beard.”

They followed Lily’s directions and found themselves surrounded by empty bookshelves, the air felt thick and musty. “We’re looking for a Lord Wiki- I mean Lord Iwadi Kepi. Is he present here?” Mikey spoke calmly.

“Many seek the knowledge of the master encyclopedia; few prove themselves worthy of it. To ask the questions for which you seek answers to your worthiness must be evaluated. Thirteen of you have entered but only three may participate in the trials of wisdom, courage, and power. Then you will be worthy of an audience with the lord. When you are ready your three must step forward into the ancient ring.” A glowing circle with symbols all around it lit up as the pathway back to the rest of the library closed.

“Who do we pick? Only three of us get to take these trials and I don’t think they’ll just let us go if we fail.” Penelope started.

“I vote Jeremy be one of our representatives. He knows just about everything under the sun, no offense but you are a bit of nerd.” Kerri began.

“Hey! Well okay I guess. I think we need Mikey on this one, he’s the most versatile member of our team with all the random things he can do with his computer warping abilities.” Jeremy spoke up.

“I believe that miss KJ should also assist you. She may yet know something or possess some ability you need in the trials.” Miles said.

“You want me to help?” KJ asked rather shocked.

“Well you are going to be part of the team what better way to break you in?” Mikey said dryly. He, Jeremy, and KJ stepped into the glowing ring. The room split open and the three became separated from the rest of the team by a deep chasm.

“So the trials have become. The first is the test of power, survive the Bookends and prove your worthiness as heroes.” The echoing voice boomed.

“If I remember correctly Bookends were small animated created from books, they come in several flavors which determine how they attack. There’s the comedy which sporadically attack, the horror which targets your vitals with precision, the fantasy that tries to cut you with massive blades pulled from its pages, the sci-fi does the same with guns, the young adult and children’s varieties use themselves as living weapons, while the self-help variety copies your attack and sends it back at you, as for the mystery variety their attacks are a complete mystery, go figure.”

“Da-ding. Buur-ring. Ding.” Numerous colored books began to float off the nearby shelves and circle the three chosen for the trials. One of the books pulled a knife from its pages and stabbed at Mikey. He retaliated with a quick hack which only split the Bookend into two.

“Okay that didn’t work” Mikey grimaced.

“Their spawning isn’t stopping we need to start killing them fast or we’re going to be overwhelmed. Don’t you have some massive aoe that could take them all out?” KJ broke through a Bookend with something that spat ice freezing it solid then punching it.

“Way to restate the obvious KJ.” Jeremy spun several times whipping away several Bookends.

“I got something that might work but it has a long recharge, so we’ve got to get them all together. Buy me as much time as you can give me.” His open spot began glowing crystal blue.

“He do this often?” KJ and Jeremy began rounding up the Bookends.

“Only when he wants to be a hero, or when nobody else has a better idea.” Jeremy and KJ regrouped on Mikey once they had everything clambering after them.

“Now!” Several geysers of water erupted from the ground and swirled around Mikey before forming a tidal wave. The wave carried off all the Bookends as they were thoroughly soaked. But Mikey collapsed from the effort of using the effects.

“John?” Kerri asked as she watched.

“Wild Rapid Tsunami, an epic ring crafted from Heavy Water Balloon, Dervish, Improbability Sphere, Wish, 10,000 Charge Orbs, and 2,000 Shadow Orbs. Like the meteor ring he used in the mines this one also has recoil damage but thankfully the splash heals nearby teammates with ‘cleansing water.’ I’m surprised he got to test some of these rings enough to perfectly copy them so perfectly.” John said plainly as he watched.

“You have passed the test of power. Next you shall be faced with the test of wisdom.” The voice echoed.

“That’s great.” Mikey groaned.

“The world is born of six elements. But to these are six ancillary elements. Presiding of all is a legendary presence. Before you is a pedestal and 20 cards solve the puzzle of the pedestal and move on.”

“So we have 20 cards and 13 spots. And only one combination is correct.” KJ fanned the cards out and looked at the symbols, “Hey wait, these are the symbols for various elements around Gaia.”

On the pedestal was an outer ring with six depressions sized for the cards. In the middle of the ring there was another depression. Around this depression was an asterisk that had six points, each point ended in a depression.

“Fire, gravity, ice, souls, insects, time, water, metal, stone, earth, air, light, plants, lightning, shadow, body, acid, magnetism, sonics, and life. We have to pick 13 of these 20. It looks like the inner six need to be placed in a certain way.” Jeremy stared at the pedestal.

“That asterisks makes me think the inner six need to be arranged that opposites are across from each other.” KJ ran her finger across the depressions.

“That makes sense, light and shadow are definitely opposites. So are soul and body.” Mikey looked at the cards.

“How do you figure that?” Jeremy looked skeptically at Mikey.

“You can either develop your body or your mind.”

“The mind does not necessarily mean soul. Fire can be an opposite to ice or to water or even plants.”

“Wait a minute. Fire, water, air, earth, light and shadow are the elements bound into the amulets we’re collecting. Among those six each one has an opposite: fire’s is water, air has earth, and light has shadow.” Jeremy laid out the asterisks.

“Souls, plants, metal…that’s starting to sound like the Anari who are here to help the amulet bearers.” Mikey pulled out the cards for souls, plants, metal, rock, ice, and lightning.

“Wait there’s a grand asterisks indicating those need to be laid out in opposites too.”

“Metal can be opposite of plants, but if you associate it to machines it can be opposite of souls. Plants and rock, or even plants and ice.” Mikey murmured.

“I think you’re onto something with metal and souls. I think ice and plants are another opposite. That leaves rock and lightning.” Jeremy laid out the cards.

“That only leaves the middle square and the choices that make the most sense are gravity, life and time.” KJ looked at the remaining seven cards.

“The power of the amulets seals away the Time Axis. The center card is time!” Jeremy pulled out the card marked time.

“You sure?” Mikey placed the other 12 cards in a formation they had worked out.

“Positive.” Jeremy responded.

“Go with it.” As Jeremy put the time card into its depression the grey-brown stone of the pedestal began glowing gold.

“I commend you for your wisdom. You now move to the final trial, the test of courage. Before you sit three cups each one a different color. One cup contains poison, the other two are harmless. The test ends when the three cups are drunk.”

“Russian roulette with drinks. Wonderful any ideas on which is poison?” Mikey looked into each of the cups that appeared on the pedestal. One was green, one was red, and the last was blue.

“KJ what are you doing?” Jeremy exclaimed as KJ took all three cups.

“The voice never said we each have to drink one just that they are drunk. And honestly, your lives are much more valuable than mine, so if anyone is going to die it should be me.” KJ quickly gulped down one cup after another, until all three were empty.

“Facing death requires great courage. Sacrificing oneself so that others may live requires even greater courage. You have passed the test of courage, and fear not the poison was a bluff. You have been deemed worthy of an audience with the great Lord Iwadi Kepi.” The room rearranged itself back into the original shape it was in, and then two of the book shelves split open.

“I am Lord Iwadi Kepi, I have watched as you completed my tests. Very good show, I must say not many have passed the trials. I am at your disposal humans, Anari and in-betweens.” The grey mustache on the Bookend’s spine rustled every time he made the sound of an s. His glasses also changed shape to reflect his mood.

“Lord Kepi, we were told you could help us to find a being known as Guardus. It is important that we find him.” Mikey asked the old Bookend.

“Guardus? Oh yes, the last of The Harmonious Ones, he dwells past the arc in a house near a house of ink. To gain entry to his home first the library’s curse must be lifted. Each of the elder Bookends who slumber in darkness must be brought back to light to free the keys. But be careful, the master of evil approaches, he will use his ghostly pawn destroy everything you hold dear.” The ancient Bookend looked from each of the team members to the next. “McCoy my old friend how are you?” McCoy and Iwadi stalked off lost in some old conversation while everyone else looked around at each other.

“I guess we are to seek out these elder Bookends?” Henry stared.

“Isn’t that the obvious conclusion? To find Guardus we must first free the library.” Deanna chuckled.

“So where do we begin looking?” John asked.

“We could split into teams and search the library. Dibs on Mikey.” Kerri began.

“Guys.” Jeremy was trying to be heard.

“Well that conversation was refreshing, there are 13 of us and six directions to explore in. So six teams of two and an odd person to relay messages?” McCoy began.

“Guys!” Jeremy tried to be heard again but went ignored, “Okay you guys want to search that way, I’ll search my own way.” Jeremy stormed off.

“And if anyone sees anything fire a beam straight into the air.” Penelope and Henry went off in one direction, Mikey and Kerri another, John and KJ went another way, McCoy and Hoshi fluttered down another, Archer and Deanna another, Miles and Sisko were jabbering as they took the last path.

“They never listen to me when I have good ideas. Hello we came here with a librarian, why not ask her, she probably knows.” Jeremy walked up to the counter where Bianca was seated behind a computer.

“Why hello again, Jeremy was it?” She smiled as he approached.

“Hi Bianca, I was wondering if you could help me with something. I’m looking for some books. And they’re really old books.” Jeremy began.

“You’re looking for the Bookend elders, aren’t you?” Bianca motioned for Jeremy to join her behind the counter.

“Yeah. How did you know?” Jeremy pulled a chair up next to Bianca.

“Well, all your friends went off in different directions and you came here. Seems everyone was looking for something, guess you’re the smart one huh?” Bianca was trying different searches at her computer.

“Yeah, but nobody listens to me unless it’s life or death. Everyone is always underestimating me.” Jeremy sighed.

“Want to talk about it. The search is running and it could take a while before it finds anything.” Bianca turned to face Jeremy, she placed a hand on his.

“It’s always been this way as long as I can remember. I’ve always been the smart kid at school. I used to try and tutor my classmates until I started getting beat up for my intelligence. I remember in 6th grade there was this one girl who always had pink ribbons in her hair. And her looks… you know she looked a lot like you. But thing was, everyday someone was always beating me up for being the nerdy kid.” Jeremy started.

“Jeremy did you go to Bowman Middle School in Plano?” Bianca asked.

“Yeah, how did you know?” He looked.

“No reason, never mind. Tell me more?” Bianca said.

“Even in labs and group projects nobody listened to me. I was the smartest guy in the class but I never got anyone to pay me any attention. What was worse, I was always ridiculed and humiliated.” Jeremy looked away hiding his tears.

“Like the time that you were hung from the bleachers by your pants and everyone called you Jerry Stands instead of Stans.” Bianca mumbled.

“How did you know that?” Jeremy turned back quickly.

“You stopped trying to get the ribbon girl’s attention after that didn’t you?”

“Are you really an NPC Bianca?”

“Look the search turned up something. Six Bookend elders were tainted with evil by The Phantom, where once they had helped Guardus maintain order, they imprisoned him within a tomb. Six heroes venturing through the town were able to seal the elders away in the Forbidden Section of the library though they could not purify their taints. To find the Forbidden Section you must begin at the Adventurer’s Compass. The path shall take you 100 paces north, 30 west, 50 south, 70 west, 90 northeast, 70 east, 100 north, and finally 40 northwest. The entrance veiled by stone requires both fire and water to open. The lurkers within the section shun the light.” Bianca read off the search result as Jeremy frantically scribbled them down on his notepad.

“Bianca what’s the Adventurer’s Compass?” Jeremy nervously asked.

“It’s one of the tile artworks on the tile floor here. Come on.” Bianca grabbed Jeremy’s arm and dragged him to some tile work that resembled a giant compass. “The Adventurer’s Compass marks the exact center of the library. So it is said to lead you on your great journeys into the worlds of literature. I’ll go with you, if you tell me more about the ribbon girl.”

“Oh okay, thanks.” Jeremy said as he started counting his paces, “Well she was a year older than me. And she was the prettiest girl in the class, at least I thought so. But she always seemed like her mind was elsewhere.”

“She was probably daydreaming because she was bored.” They turned to go in another direction.

“Maybe, but that didn’t stop me from fantasizing. I almost asked her to one of the school dances.” Jeremy continued.

“What changed your mind?”

“Mostly the humiliation day after day from other kids. I figured that if I was humiliated like that, she’d never be able to like me the way I liked her. I thought she would be embarrassed to be seen with me.” Jeremy grimaced as they continued following the directions.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Henry, what am I to you?” Penelope asked as they were taking books off of a shelf.

“We uhh. You see, you’re a good friend. And you’re a reliable partner.” Henry replied nervously.

“Is that all I am to you?” Penelope asked, she had a tone of disappointment in her voice.

“Well uhh uhh. I was hoping uhhm well. I was hoping after all this phantom stuff is over if we could be something more than friends.” Henry turned red while he put a few books back on the shelf.

“Why wait until then?” Penelope reached over for Henry’s hand.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“So Mikey, what are your plans once we defeat The Phantom and go back to our lives?” Kerri shyly asked Mikey while pulling a book off a shelf.

“I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet. To be honest I thought I would just go back to my life of being a Target middle manager. How about you?” Mikey pulled a book from its shelf.

“Well there’s this guy. And I wanted to introduce him to my family. And maybe be a bigger part of his life.” Kerri said.

“Oh?’ Mikey pulled on a book and ended up buried in a pile that spilled out.

“That and I’d like to get to know him better after all we’ve been through together.” Kerri smiled.

“I’m sure he really wants to get to know you better too Kerri.” Mikey leaned his head on some books as he watched Kerri going through some books on a shelf.

“Mikey can I tell you something?” When Kerri didn’t hear an answer she assumed it meant yes, “I love you.” She turned around to see Mikey had dozed off and was sleeping peacefully in the pile of books. “Guess between the mines and the trials exhaustion caught up with him.” She picked up some of the books around him.

“I know you do.” He whispered as she turned her back.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“So KJ what changed your mind?” John asked.

“Change my mind about what?” KJ tilted her head.

“Well you’re openly helping us now, when before your plan was to quietly pass us information. What changed your plan?” John began looking through some of the books on the shelves.

KJ shrugged her shoulders and rummaged through some of the books before she answered, “It was a combination of things. Because of Kamila, The Phantom was soon catching on to my sabotage. He was going to torture me for my failures in capturing you and in failing him as a minion. So I disappeared, I thought the safest place to be would be with your team. I sought out the Anari when I saw Deanna wandering around the Durem bazaars, after speaking with them, they promised I could remain with them.”

“Well I suppose that’s good. Just I’m keeping my eye on you.”

“I didn’t think you would trust me so soon.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“So Sisko, what is your opinion of the humans?” The two Anari were taking their time ambling down a row of shelves.

Sisko shrugged his shoulders and chuckled, “They are a heroic bunch. But they are stubborn and overconfident. They have power but lack the discipline to harness it fully. Maybe in time they will be ready.”

“Especially if this Guardus lives up to his reputation.” A smile crept across Miles’ metallic face.

“Of that I am skeptical.” The two Anari continued in silence.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Well if that doesn’t say entrance to a prison, I don’t know what does.” Bianca pointed out a stone door in front of herself and Jeremy. It was held fast by several ancient looking locks.

Jeremy raised his hand into the air and fired his lancer into the air, its green light glowed across the entire library, “Bianca, I can’t thank you enough for your help.” Jeremy smiled.

“Well I… just come out of there alive please.” Bianca ran back to the front desk before Jeremy had a chance to react.

“Remarkable.”

“How did you find this?” The rest of the group reached Jeremy.

“Unlike all of you who stormed off randomly searching I did some research. And I found directions leading me here.” Jeremy laughed.

“How are we supposed to get in? It looks like these locks are pretty solid.” John tried to pull on one of the locks.

“Just watch this. Pitcha!” Penelope used focused beams of fire to melt the locks.

“Nice one Penny.” Kerri said.

“Why thank you Ker.” Penelope replied.

“Hee-yo!” Henry kicked the door open once the melted locks fell off.

“Wheew it smells dank in there.” Hoshi stepped back.

“Well good luck humans and KJ.” Deanna said.

“What? You mean you Anari aren’t coming?” KJ was shocked.

“Think of us more of guides, we’re here to lend our experience as it’s needed. Regardless, we need to speak more to Lord Kepi about some other things you need not burden yourself with right now.” McCoy said.
Berryfarmer's avatar

Winged Abomination

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(Post 2 of Chapter 15)

“Good luck finding answers.” Mikey said

“And good luck to you down there combating the Bookend elders.” Archer closed the door once the crew and KJ were inside the dusty dank room.

“This definitely looks like a Forbidden Books section.” Kerri was examining some of the titles. “Dark Arts, Dark Souls,” “The Power of All,” “Harnessing the Power of Negative.”

“Sounds like we’ll find the elder of self-help first.”

“You naturals dare disturb my slumber.” A dusty sounding voice said as if to answer Jeremy, “Your kind doesn’t belong here. Leave before I add you to the shelf.” An older Bookend with a white spine appeared from the shadows.

“Self-help Bookend. It absorbs and reflects your attack.”

“Any ideas?”

“It can’t attack us until we attack it.”

“Guess again.” A lightning bolt shot out of the yellowed pages and struck Mikey. Mikey shot back with a lancer beam. As the beam hit the pages they turned golden in color and it began shooting beams of light like Mikey’s lancer.

“Hmm… I wonder.” KJ hurled a lump of shadowy energy at the Bookend. It howled in pain before the pages turned black and it began throwing out black shadowy lumps.

“So we have to play tennis with it? Mikey and KJ do your business; we’ll try to keep you alive.” Mikey and KJ traded off attacking the Bookend until it finally shrieked and collapsed. As it stood back up it had the same thick glasses and mustache as Lord Iwadi Kepi.

“Thank you,” It said before vanishing.

“So I guess on to finding the next one here.” Penelope said.

“Don’t think that will take long look at these titles: ‘Murder at 1500,’ ‘Where Did the Blood Go,’ ‘Watson at the Stained Red Door.’” John was reading titles off of the next shelf.

“Look out!” Jeremy pushed John to the ground as a blood red Bookend tried to knife John.

“The hunt is afoot humans.” The Bookend took another swipe as John and Jeremy backed away. Henry and Penelope were the first to react as they shot fire and water. The two beams collided in the air and instead of reaching the Bookend they created a plume of steam.

“Hey that was my shot!” Henry looked at Penelope.

“As if we both know fire does more to paper than water.” She glared back at him. Penelope and Henry started shooting at each other while Jeremy and Kerri attacked the Bookend.

Mikey was poking around the room using his lancer as a flashlight and then he saw something dart away from the light. As Mikey caught it in the light again it appeared to be a black Bookend and strange red pulses were coming from its eyes. “He was mine!” Henry fired a geyser of water at Penelope.

“He was mine!” Penelope shot a jet of flame at Henry. As the two attacks met the air sizzled and steamed.

“KJ, John help me with this one. Jeremy, Kerri how’s it going with knifey?” Mikey knocked the black Bookend off the shelf. “You must be a mystery genre right?”

“How very perceptive of you.” The Bookend stood back up. It was knocked back down as KJ fired a bolt of lightning at it.

“Don’t worry about us.” Kerri called back as she a water balloon at the red Bookend. It collapsed and a black vapor left it as a pair of glasses and a mustache sprouted from it. It gave a silent nod as it disappeared. Henry and Penelope were still trying to attack each other.

“We’ll try to stop these two.” Jeremy tried to pull Henry back only to be swatted down.

“Oh how incorrect that deduction is human.” The Bookend’s eyes began pulsing blue as Henry and Penelope turned on the crew. Their expressions were blank and their motions mechanical as they attacked their crewmates.

“Jeremy look out!” As Kerri shouted a blue sphere enveloped Jeremy. KJ stood with a hand pointed at him a band around one of her fingers glowed blue. The barrier was struck by both flame and water.

“I can hold your two friends. You guys take out the puppet master.” KJ started menacing both Henry and Penelope.

“Heh heh heh this is more fun than I imagined. Let’s see those blades now.” Henry and Penelope brandished their hack and slash rings as they approached KJ. She formed a barrier around herself as their blades flew through the air. They struck several times and the barrier began to crack.

“Hey, where did those other kids g- Ughh” The Bookend didn’t finish its question as Mikey ran it through with his blade. It began to turn to look at him even as the blade tilted. Jeremy finally shot it off of the blade before it collapsed. As the Bookend fell Henry and Penelope both snapped back to normal with the most perplexed looks on their faces.

“What just happened?” Henry looked around.

“I had the strangest dream.” Penelope blinked a few times.

“Three elders down, three more to go. I think we got self-help, horror and mystery. That leaves sci-fi, fantasy and –“ Jeremy began.

“Eeee hehehehehe comedy! You’d think a human would have better memory.” A blade zoomed past Jeremy’s ear before a spinning Bookend spun down from a shelf. It had a green spine.

“Oh whereto beyond what Comedy break?” A Bookend with a purple spine threw another blade at them.

“Oi let’s not frack them too hard. We still got stars to chart to find our way to Earth.” A blue colored Bookend fired at the crew with a few wild bullets.

“Three against seven huh? I like those odds.” Henry and Kerri lunged for the comedy Bookend.

“Let’s get to it.” John and Mikey chased after the sci-fi.

“Ahh what light beyond shadow break that I hast the pleasure of dispatching with thee.” The fantasy Bookend eyed Jeremy as KJ and Penelope joined him.

“John, I got you covered. Burn him to cinders.” The bullets the Bookend was shooting at Mikey and John did little damage as they glanced off of Mikey. John was right behind him in the charge firing his hot foot at the Bookend.

“Ugh what is this? Such power from humans, it’s not possible.” As soon as he was in close enough John circled around to the other side of the Bookend.

“So a wise guy eh?” As Henry and Kerri got within melee range of the comedy Bookend its pages popped out and formed a saw shape around the Bookend. “Yes humans I know your story, time for the finale.” It began to spin like a miniature version of Buzzkill.

“Oh no you don’t.” Kerri’s heavy water balloon dampened the pages as the slapped against Henry.

“Hahaha think that’s the only trick in my book?” The Bookend sprouted new pages and they shaped into a shark’s head. “Omnomnomnom, muahahahaha.” The Bookend cackled as it chased Henry and Kerri.

The fantasy Bookend pulled two blades from its pages. It threw one at the feet of Jeremy, Penelope and KJ. “A foolish whelps, thy experience in this world numbers in the days, mine own is a lifetime. But if thou is insistent then I shall duel one of you.”

“I guess that’s my cue.” Jeremy pulled the blade from in front of his feet. The blades sparked as Jeremy and the Bookend dueled.

The last of the Bookend’s pages went up in cinders as John and Mikey stood over their collapsed foe. It sparked before it disappeared. Henry and Kerri kept drenching the pages of their foe as they changed shape. As the paper formed a massive Sandcastle Golem Henry sprayed it with his lancer. The pages shifted to a bulky creature with pincer claws, and Kerri flung another water balloon at it. As it ran out of pages to transform it collapsed, it sparked a moment before disappearing. The other four ran to KJ and Penelope’s sides, all they could do was watch the flurry of blades.

“You are but a youth and yet your strength is beyond your years. How is this possible?” The Bookend was beginning to collapse from Jeremy’s attacks.

“You’re talking to a kid who spent his entire life dreaming of far flung adventure and wielding a blade. I’ve got both right here.” Jeremy twisted his blade and it shattered the Bookend’s. The blade sunk with a thunk as ran through the Bookend. There was a flash of light as it disappeared. The chamber door that had closed when they entered slid open again. The crew and KJ walked back out into the library.

“You humans did it. You were able to restore my comrades that were poisoned by The Phantom.” Lord Iwadi Kepi approached them. “I was able to see the entire thing. And I believe now that this is yours.” He held out a teal colored amulet to Jeremy. “It was your skill which was able to do it, Jeremy.” The amulet glowed and sparked as Jeremy took it.

“Now we shall take you to Guardus,” The six Bookends they had fought were standing around Kepi they all had the same expression on their faces. They turned and led the group of humans, Anari and KJ out of the library.

“I’m coming too.” Bianca leapt over the counter and grabbed Jeremy’s arm as they walked along. They passed several more shops and markets on the road, they even went past a massive stone archway before stopping in front of a statue. It was of a woman clad in armor with a billowing cape, in her hand was a staff adorned with purple crystals. One of the crystals was broken and missing a piece. “Lady Sulaeh, she was a statue before a surge of Ghi brought her to life. She along with Guardus and Tyres Rode were The Harmonious Ones, until The Phantom started coming around.” Bianca’s expression changed to sorrow, “Tyres Rode’s heart fell under the corrupting influence of the evil one, and in a fight Sulaeh was returned to her stone prison, Guardus was enraged but could not fight his old friend and The Phantom. He was sealed within a shrine around here and the seal was held fast by the power of the corrupted Bookends. By freeing them, you were able to break the seal.”

“Bianca how do you know all this?” Jeremy looked at her concerned while everyone else marveled at the statue.

“It was because of me that Sulaeh was imprisoned. Instead of helping Guardus, she threw herself in front of an attack that was meant for me. After that Lord Iwadi Kepi managed to keep me and the crystal fragment I have hidden from The Phantom.” Bianca bit her lip.

“Bianca, why was he after you?” Jeremy asked.

“My crew was close to stopping him. We needed only to find the entrance to his lair, which brought us to Durem. He attacked with a wrath we had never seen and kidnapped the rest of my teammates.”

“Wait, you aren’t an NPC?” Jeremy stared as Bianca shook her head.

“Quite the opposite, I was a member of the fourth crew that was sent in here to stop The Phantom, the only other crew to get this far according to the Duremites disappeared in the mines.” They had begun walking again, “It may sound creepy but I know you Jeremy, from the real world. All those months I watched and wondered when you were finally going to ask me on a date, then the bleachers incident happened and you avoided me.”

“That’s how you knew all those things.” Jeremy started rubbing the back of his head, “Guess fate has a funny way of making things happen.”

“There it is.” Kepi pointed with his staff at a building that looked like a small church. There were seven locks on the heavy iron doors. Each of the Bookends placed their hands on a lock as they pulsed with energy. The locks dissolved one by one and the doors cracked open.

“GO AWAY!” A strange vortex of energy shot out of the doors and knocked everyone off their feet. “GO AWAY!” The voice shouted again.

“We’re not going anywhere we seek the warrior Guardus.” Mikey got up and began pushing open the door but it was far too heavy for just him.

“We’ve come too far just to be turned away.” Henry got up and began pushing with Mikey.

“We’ve risked far too much to get here.” Penelope stood up and began to push on the door.

“I’m not ready to give up.” John began to push against the door.

“All my friends are willing to fight why shouldn’t I?” Kerri pushed the door.

“We’ve got too much to fight for. Too many people are counting on us.” Jeremy began to push.

“I’m not going to let my existence be in vain.” As KJ joined the others the door finally budged open.

“Your bravery is noted, but the road on which you embark is a treacherous one and not for the faint of heart.” The group pressing against the door was teleported away and the door slammed shut.

As their visions cleared they found themselves in a cathedral. Rather than pews and an altar there was a fighting ring and equipment for training. Were there would have been an altar sat a suit of armor, its crimson cloak wrapped around it and the winged helmet cast bird like shadows in the lantern light. “We seek Guardus.” Mikey’s voice echoed as everyone looked around.

“And you have found him.” The armor rustled as it stood up in the pitch black of the helmet glowed two crimson eyes. “Why do you disturb my sorrow filled rest?”

“You train people in the ways of the warrior. We have come seeking your training.” Mikey spoke up.

“Does this one speak for you all?” Guardus asked the crew. After a few seconds they all nodded in agreement. “Very well, I will instruct you in the ways of Ghirate. It is an art of focusing your life-force energy into potent attacks. “The armor clanked as it approached. “Those rings you wear allow you to channel only a fraction of your life-force energy. Master what I have to teach and your energies will be unstoppable.”

“Forgive my asking, but if our powers from your instruction will become unstoppable how is it you were imprisoned?” Henry asked.

“Even with great power, numbers can overwhelm and a warrior’s spirit can be broken.” Guardus replied dryly to Henry.

“Broken spirit?” Kerri looked dumbfounded.

“Tell me humans have you ever had to fight a friend while watching helplessly as another was destroyed.”

“We’re sorry for your loss. But we need to learn if we are to stop The Phantom.” Penelope spoke up.

“Before I can teach you, you must first conquer that which you fear most.” Seven green crystals rose from the ground. “Touch a crystal and you will be transported somewhere you can face that fear. Each of you take a crystal.”

There was a strange jolt of energy as Jeremy touched the crystal. When he turned around there was nobody else around and the scene had shifted to his middle school on a foggy morning. “What’s going on here?” Jeremy looked around confused.

“Hey I think I heard that dweeb Stans around here. First one to find him gets to give him a swirly.” The voice belonged to Mark, a classmate of his that developed in the athletic abilities while Jeremy had developed in the academic.

“Oh no, not a swirly.” Jeremy ran into the deep fog and his glasses nearly broke as he slammed into a tree. He looked it up and down a few times before the sound of footsteps nearby caused him to climb it in a panic.

“Could have sworn, I heard him around here.” Mark and two of his goons stood directly below Jeremy. He tried his best to remain calm but the sweat dripping off his brow was causing his glasses to slide down his face.

“Oh no.” He whispered as his glasses slid all the way off. They thudded onto the ground in front of Mark.

“Hmm? Well, seems he is here. Get him boys.” Mark’s two goons reached up and pulled Jeremy off of his tree branch. They dragged him to the restroom kicking and screaming for help as Mark twirled the glasses on his finger as some kind of trophy. His classmates in the hallways just laughed and pointed as he was dragged towards the restroom.

Why won’t they help me? He was finally pulled into the restroom. Mark punched the first stall door open.

“Nah too small.” He went to the next one and punched the door open. “Nah not enough crap leftover.” He opened to last stall, the bowl had floating pieces of evidence of the last visitor. “Any last words Stans?”

Jeremy held his breath and tried to keep his eyes closed as his head was shoved into the putrid water. He struggled in vain against the grip he was held in as he felt the water rush around him.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Hello? Is anyone there?” Kerri was alone in foggy forest. It looked like one she used to play in as a little girl. The tall pine and oak trees towered high above her as she walked down one of the trails. She heard something rustle nearby. “Anyone there? Mikey, Henry if this is a joke, it’s a very bad one.”

“Sssso I’m a joke am I?” A massive animated made of aluminum cans rose from the bushes, its end segment was a plastic bottle filled with ball bearings. It rattled its tail as it loomed over Kerri.

“Anyone help!” She screamed.

“Don’t wasssste your breath it’ssssss jusssst you and me out here. Nobody is coming to help you. Nobody even knows where you are.”

Kerri was backed against a tree and she felt her pulse racing, I can’t beat it alone. I’m just not strong enough.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Oh your hair is going to look so wonderful once we’re all done with it.” John was clamped down to a chair and his hair was being braided by a stylist.

“No please anything but that.” He tried struggling but couldn’t free himself. He watched the mirror in terror as his hair was transforming into a braid.

“Now we need to find the perfect accessory to go with your new look. Just you wait soon all the boys will love you.” The stylist slid a pink headband onto John’s head.

I’ve got to get out of here before she finishes. John struggled against the clamps again.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“It just had to be spiders didn’t it.” Penelope found herself alone in a nest of spiders. She remembered she had fallen into one when she was a girl exploring a forest. She had been separated from the group and the ground beneath her collapsed. Her fear of the eight legged made her swore she saw a spider the size of a cow as she was running.

She tried pulling the strands of web from her face as the sound of the enlarged spider forced her to continue running. She could hear its mandibles clicking. Oh god it’s trying to think of how best to eat me. She screamed as she got stuck on a web covering a tunnel.

The clicking of the massive spider’s legs grew louder as Penelope struggled to free herself. In the end it only turned her around to see the spider was much larger than she originally thought. “Somebody help me!”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………....

“Hey Henry some old guy came around looking for you bro.” Henry was on his way back to his apartment and his roommate Marshall caught him in the hallway on his way to class.

“Old guy?” Henry stared.

“Yeah he said he was your dad. He reeked of alcohol but he showed an id to prove his statement. A let him in the apartment. See ya.” Marshall ran down the hallway to get to class.

Henry’s apartment door was ajar as he reached it. “Henry is that you?” Henry opened the door and saw his dad sitting on the couch with a beer clutched in his hand. “Look at you, big man on campus. You think yer better than your dad?”

How can he be here? Henry flinched as he felt his father’s fist connect with his face.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“You think a creation can just turn on their creator? Ha I’ll teach you better.” The Phantom’s voice echoed in KJ’s head as he electrocuted her. She could feel the world go dark and fade before it flashed back into existence. “Death is a release, but I don’t need you released just yet. You were a fool to trust such weak humans”

KJ screamed in agony as the shocks started again. Did I make the right decision siding with the humans? I don’t know.

“Never again will any of my servants question me. You will be the example of what I do to those who disobey.” The pain he caused her suddenly increased as she screamed again. The world went black for a few moments before she was resuscitated once more.

Mikey, Henry, Jeremy, Kerri, Penelope, John, anyone please help me.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Hello is anyone here?” Mikey was wandering alone in the Phazian Wastes, the sand was starting to make his eyes itchy when he finally saw a coliseum ahead. He thought it would be a good place to take shelter but when he arrived what he saw was disturbing. His crewmates were all talking amongst themselves. “Hey guys what’s up?” They continued talking, completely ignoring Mikey. “I said what’s up.” He raised his voice in case they didn’t hear him.

“Hey did you guys hear something?”

“Like what? What do you think you heard.”

“I don’t know. Whatever it is it sounded annoying.”

“Guys I’m right here can’t you see me?” Mikey waved his hand in front of Jeremy’s face.

“Oh we can see you just fine.”

“And we can hear you alright.”

“We just don’t want to talk to you.”

“What’s going on? Come on we need to stop The Phantom, let’s go.” Mikey tried nudging them to move.

“What’s all this ‘we’ stuff?”

“Yeah last I checked you were perfectly fine with answering for everyone, making decisions and fighting battles.”

“It’s not like you really need us.”

“Come on you guys I can’t do this alone, I need all of you.” Mikey tried grabbing Kerri’s arm only to be slapped.

“Funny you never show it.”

“Yeah, you need us like I need size 17 shoes.”

“Please if you don’t need us, we don’t need you. We’re going on without you.”

“But guys.” Mikey held his arm out after them as they began walking away without him. Do I really drive people away like that? He bit his lip to hold back his tears, “I hate being alone.”

“Really? Seems to be what you want most.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I’m stronger than this. And I have to get free Jeremy stomped on one of the guy’s feet. His grip loosened as he reached for his foot. Jeremy elbowed the second goon in the stomach and he fell to the ground writhing in pain. His hand clenched into a fist as it zoomed towards Mark’s face.

“Ahh the runt Stans is fighting back?” He gripped his nose as it bled out.

“I’m not afraid of you anymore. I’ve become a lot stronger and you’re still weak. Now get out of my sight.” Jeremy barked. Mark tapped each of his goons’ shoulders before heading for the door.

“Let’s get out of here. This isn’t over Stans.” They ran out the bathroom door.

“Come back any time. I’ll take you on. Huh?” The scenery rippled back to the shrine as the crystal he was touching grew dim.

“Excellent work young one, you have conquered your fear of standing up for yourself. Please take a seat while we wait for your friends.” Guardus motioned to some large pillows arranged in a ring around a lantern.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Kerri tried running from the massive serpent but its tail flung out to block her pathway. “Where are you going? I thought we were having fun.” It hissed as it stared her down.

“Guess I have to fight, even if I’m going to lose.” Kerri fired a purple beam at the snake. It bounced off of the beast’s metallic hide.

“Sssso you are trying to fight.” The snake wrapped itself around Kerri and began squeezing. She gritted her teeth and fired a heavy water balloon, at point blank range she could see the body starting to become speckled with white and orange. “My composssssite hide. Curssssse you human.” Its grip loosened as the metal began to corrode. Kerri backed up before trying to fire her lancer again. Its purple light punched holes into the snake’s body where it had corroded.

“Fantastic!” The snake began to crumble and dissolve as she continued to alternate attacks. “Maybe I am strong enough. No wait, I am strong enough.” Kerri smiled as the world shimmered. The crystal her hand was pressed against dimmed.

“You have done well Kerri to overcome your fear of being inadequate. Now that you know you are just as capable as any of the others please have a seat.” Guardus motioned her to the ring where Jeremy was already seated.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Ahh let me go!” John squirmed as the stylist continued braiding his hair.

“Quit it, you’ll get a tangle. I’m just about done.” She trimmed some strands of hair and brushed it back. “Now who looks like a darling. Your misses is going to go nuts for you.”

You know it does kind of look nice. And she is always saying I need to try new looks. Maybe I could make this my pirate hair. John looked in the mirror and looked back and forth.

“You know what she would really like? How about these breast cancer awareness pink bands.”

“You know I think I’ll take you up on that. I do look decent with the braid.” As he was looking in the mirror his hair returned to normal. The world shimmered before the mirror turned into the green crystal, it began to dim as Guardus put a hand on John’s shoulder.

“Fear of appearances often leads people to be shallow and vain, and neglect things they might otherwise try. Conquering this fear has made you a better individual. Now join the others John.” He motioned to the circle around the lantern.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“You think just because yer some college big shot now that you could just forget about me.” Henry’s drunken father was trying to hit him. He was swinging wildly.

“I left because I didn’t want to end up like mom.” Henry managed to grab his dad’s fist and subdue him.

“You’re just as bad as she was.” His father struggled against Henry’s grip in vain.

“Mom was an angel and you drove her away. You’re the bad parent!”

“I raised you from when you were 10, on my own and you say I’m the bad one? Where was your mother in all that?”

“Mom never beat me. She left because you didn’t give her a choice, I should have gone with her. I was too young to fight back growing up, but not anymore.” Henry’s dad broke free from his grip and tried to punch Henry again. I was too young to stand up for myself before. Not anymore. Henry took a punch and knocked his father out. As the old man fell to the ground the world began to ripple. It returned to the shrine as the humming crystal dimmed.

“Your father represented a past that you were afraid to face. You have stood up for yourself, showing that you are no longer afraid of. Join your friends Henry.” Guardus motioned to the circle.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“You were born of a fragment of John Kim and an empty data core. You are nothing more than an echo created by me. Your disobedience will not be tolerated.” Waves of pain surged through KJ’s body as she was tortured.

“I’ve become much more than that. I’ve become more than the sum of my parts. I have friends now.” KJ felt another jolt as she lay in a crumpled heap on the ground.

“Friends hah! Those humans will never see you as a friend. To them you’re just another computer program.” Another surge of pain coursed through KJ’s body.

Could he really be right? Can the humans see me as more than a program? They have to, they wouldn’t have trusted me otherwise. Not for those trials, not for seeing Guardus with them. The pain was unbearable but she managed to stand.

“What’s this, you dare stand against me?” He sent another attack at KJ, but it reflected off of an energy shield she created.

“I have grown beyond what I was. And you can’t stop me!” She struck back with her own attack. As it made contact with The Phantom the scene shimmered and dissolved back into the shrine. The crystal she was touching darkened.

“One often has fears about what they are capable of, or if their origins can limit their growth. It is only by moving beyond those fears that you can continue to grow and evolve. KJ please be seated with your friends. Only Michael remains, but I fear his lesson is the hardest for he has many fears.

“How can he have a lot of fears? He’s always been the one driving us to keep going.”

“His will to meet a foe does not make him immune to fear. Merely he controls it or has not dealt with it. Either of which is dangerous, for whom it is dangerous is a matter of debate.” Guardus spoke again.

..............................................................................................................................

"No this spider isn't here. So what if it's a spider?" Penelope manage to free herself from the spiderweb just as the spider loomed over her. Its eyes glittered in the pale light of the cave's glowing stones. So what if it's big, hairy, has, too many eyes, has too many legs I can't let it paralyze me. Penelope jabbed at the spider's eyes with her finger. As the spider recoiled the scenery shifted to the shrine. The green crystal before her began to dim.

"Facing your fears, even the superficial ones takes a great deal of courage. Get some rest and join your friends." Guardus motioned to the ring.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“I can’t save the world alone. I need you guys.” Mikey cut off the others.

“You don’t need us you just keep us around so you aren’t so lonely.”

“Just admit it you’d be happier without the rest of us.”

She has a point. I’ve always been a soloer because of my antisocial behavior. Maybe I would be happier… No, I wouldn’t be able to come this far without them. We need each other, even if we do drive each other nuts.

“Truth is hard to face isn’t it?”

“To him we’re just a bunch of pests getting in the way. He only keeps around to sponge hits or heal him.”

“You’re wrong. Alone I don’t have the power needed to do this. I’ve come to appreciate you, all of you. You’re more than just a crew, you guys have become my friends.” Mikey stared back at them.

“Hmm he thinks he understands friendship. He’s more lost than he knows.”

“That’s for certain.”

“I don’t think we really are his friends.”

“My whole life I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid of opening up to people. Afraid of being betrayed. Afraid of not being good enough. And I put on a brave face, but in reality it’s just a mask I where so nobody can hurt me. To be honest without you all I wouldn’t have been able to get much further than Papa Saw.” Mikey looked away, his eyes burned.

“So you aren’t the rough exterior as you lead us to believe?”

“Just a mask I wear to keep people away. I’m sorry it might have scared off people like you who genuinely want to be my friends.” He bit his lip as he looked down.

“Hey Mikey, true friends won’t betray you. In fact they probably would be the ones to comfort you when someone does that.”

“Hey don’t worry about being good enough. People who really care will already like you the way you are.”

“What if I’m not strong enough to help anyone?”

“Has that ever stopped you before? As long as I’ve known you, you’ve always tried to help people, no matter how qualified you were.”

“So you guys don’t care?”

“If we did we wouldn’t have tolerated you this long.”

“So you are my friends?”

“Only as long as you let us be.”

Mikey looked down a moment before smiling, “Then let’s go save this world!” The world seemed to fall apart like breaking glass, Mikey found himself staring at the dimmed crystal.

“Very interesting, how your fears manifested. You fear loss and loneliness and yet you are always around people who wouldn’t do that to you. Now that all of you have awakened please have a seat and we shall begin.” Guardus motioned to the circle.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“My lord we have encountered a delay in launching an attack on Durem, the mine tunnels have collapsed from the battle with Lavafly those kids had.”

“You had better have a but in there Tyres or I think you will end up like your friends very soon.” The Phantom gritted his teeth as he stared at his three headed minion.

“Well it is only a slight delay, we have Pick-Axis digging around the clock to have it cleared. It will be cleared and ready for your army in less than three days.”

“Very well. You will lead the attack and we will crush those insolent fools.” Tyres bowed his head to The Phantom before turning to leave. His twin tails dragged across the floor as he walked away.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“So you are the bunch I have to work with, hmm?” Guardus eyed them as they sat around the ring. “Very well, before each of you is a candle. I want you to light it without use of rings or touching it.”

Penelope raised her hand, “How are we supposed to do that?”

“Where do your rings derive their power? You, correct?” Guardus’ eyes closed. “From you your rings pull their energy, from the flow of Ghi across this planet is where you derive your power. You can use that power directly, some of you have even experimented with that.” He opened his eyes and looked at Mikey and Henry. “Now clear your minds and focus on your task.”

As Mikey closed his eyes and focused on the candle. He began to feel energy welling up in him. It feels just like when I mimic something’s power. He opened his eyes and the candle was burning brightly.

This feels like how I felt just before fighting Lavafly. Henry opened his eyes and the candle was lit.

Come on, I can do this. I’ve got to. Kerri felt the energy welling up within her as she focused on the candle. Her candle flickered a moment and went out before it finally lit.

So the Ghi energy flows from the world into me, and I can shape it into a flame. I’ve got to learn this. He opened his eyes and the candle burned brightly.

So by mastering our Ghi we can shape it into new powers? Maybe that’s the secret to bursting. The candle in front of Penelope suddenly lit up.

All my powers are based in focusing Ghi. I should be able to do this without batting an eye. Her candle’s wick already burned brightly even as she thought.

So we’re going to learn how to Ghi Burst and control it. Interesting how Ryan and Garrett designed this. John’s candle flickered into life.

“Good job all of you, but the hour is already late. We shall continue your training in the morning. For now I recommend sleeping.” Guardus went into another room of the shrine leaving the group alone in the main chamber.

“Hey Mikey, that focusing Ghi stuff. Is it similar to…well you know?” Jeremy asked as he changed from a sitting position to a laying position.

“Similar to the ring animated mimic attacks I have? Yes very, albeit I think the mimicking is a little more specialized.” Mikey traded places with Henry so he could be next to Kerri, and Henry could be closer to Penelope as they laid down to sleep.

“I hope Bianca is okay.” Jeremy whispered as he fell asleep.

“Hey Mikey,”

“Yeah Kerri?”

“Do you think we have a future?”

“I think with Guardus’ training there won’t be anything that can stop us.”

“That’s not what I meant. Night Mikey.” Kerri rolled over and began snoring.

Mikey continued to stare at the twinkling candlelight on the ceiling before adding in a whisper, “I love you too Kerri.” A smile crept across Kerri’s face as she continued to pretend to be snoring.

Henry put his arms around Penelope as they were laying down, “Henry, I’m glad you finally told me how you feel.”

“Yeah, me too.”

John and KJ stared each other down before they rested their heads, “So you were born from a fragment of me?”

“Yeah, but I’ve grown beyond just being an echo of you.”

“I know. And I’m happy for it.” John closed his eyes as he drifted off to sleep. KJ took one look over at Mikey who was still staring at the ceiling. KJ decided it was better to sleep than to ask him what he was thinking about.
Berryfarmer's avatar

Winged Abomination

24,750 Points
  • Winged 100
  • Battle Hardened 150
  • Alchemy Level 10 100
(Post 3 of Chapter 15)

Was I really able to conquer my fears or was I just able to cover them up? He played with making different shapes out of red light. At some point while he was playing he was able to create a replica of Kerri’s face, but it quickly vanished as he heard her roll over. The Phantom is coming. Whether we’re ready for him or not we’re going to have to fight him this time. I have faith in us as a team, but I don’t know if I could lead them in that fight. Jeremy is smarter, Henry’s a better fighter, John is like Wikipedia, Kerri is the moral center, and Penelope keeps us going when we’re down, even KJ now has her talents…who else can summon an army at a moment’s notice? What do I bring to the table? Just some cheap parlor tricks and mimicking things, what a big help that is? It was Jeremy who was the standout today, and Henry in the mines, and Penelope in Thenedrana. They could have handled Tridra just fine without me. Mikey stood up and walked over to a jar full of water sitting on a table in the corner of the shrine. He poured himself a cupful in one of the clay cups there were.

“Your mind is plagued with questions Michael Berth. Come join me in meditation and we can discuss some of your worries.” Guardus waited for Mikey to finish his water before leading him into another room. “Please sit.” There were only three cushions in this room. They were arranged in an equilateral triangle around a small round table. Upon the table sat a sheathed blade, the jeweled hilt reflected some of the candlelight that dimly lit the room.

“Now tell me. What is on your mind?”

“My place in the crew. I don’t know what it is. Everyone else seems to have their own strengths but me. I don’t even know if I actually was able to conquer my fears or just bury them deep down.” Mikey stared across the table into the glowing red eyes.

“Isn’t your purpose in the crew obvious? You are the one who keeps them all in harmony. You may not be the strongest or the smartest or even the most compassionate, but without you they would fall apart. I have seen far even in my imprisonment, I watched from when you first set foot in Phazian. Without you the others would have been lost.”

“I’m not so sure of that. They all have enough cooperation to avoid that.”

“It is true they can cooperate. Do you remember when fighting the OMGWTF how Henry and Kerri turned on each other? Or what about in the Old Aqueduct? They began to lose cohesion and turn on each other, but you stopped that. You bring them back together and hold them together.”

“You know about those fights?”

“Your pasts were an open book when the crystals had to generate your fears. You are more important than you value yourself. While Jeremy is smarter, you can act more quickly. Where Henry is an unfocused strength you give direction. Where KJ has an army you can lead. If you doubt yourself you will never be able to fully unlock the potential of your Ghi. I know you’ve already been able to burst with it, with more faith in yourself you can control the bursts. I knew another two who came through here, they were just like you. The leader was a brilliant young woman she did not believe her strength until she turned a fight from loss to victory. Her name I think is familiar to you, Environmental Unity. She was accompanied by a young man who was the exact opposite, he believed in his strength and never gave up. I watched as blow after blow he continued to get up, only to be knocked down again.”

“How am I just like him?”

“Despite his fighting spirit he always doubted what he really meant to his crew. He sacrificed himself so that his crew could escape from The Phantom. He held back the evil one long enough for his friends to escape to Tlauixcalpantecuhtliopolis. Without him the grieving crew all went their own ways and were lost as one by one they fell to darkness.”

“I think I know who you’re talking about, he was always a bit of a hopeful dreamer and an author of some story around the forums. He really doubted himself, he always seemed so confident.”

“The last of that crew is still alive in this city, you met her. Bianca I believe is her name. Michael, I believe that you and your team are the ones who will finally rid us of the evil.”

“So what’s with the sword and the three seats?”

“This used to be where The Harmonious Ones would meet. That is my blade the Guardian’s Song, the blade is able to channel Ghi energy and in the hands of a true hero its full power is unlocked. Only two wielders have brought out this power, myself, and that young man who used its power to hold off The Phantom for his friends.” A silvery light began to creep in from the windows. “Is it morning already? It is time to begin the next exercise in your training. You best return to the others before I wake them.”

“Guardus, thank you.” Mikey left the chamber to lay back down for a few minutes.

As he closed the door Guardus talked to himself, “I made that young man a promise to protect and train any that I believed could defeat The Phantom. Even as he lay on the brink of death from the wounds inflicted upon him I made that promise. I shall keep it Abraham.”

“Mikey, are you okay?” Kerri sat up and stared at Mikey, “I woke up partway through the night and you were gone.”

“I’m fine Kerri, don’t worry.” Mikey returned her stare with a smile. No sooner had he said that then Guardus opened the door and walked into the main room of the shrine.

“Wake up all of you. A day of discovery and practice lies before you.” He began clanking his armor to wake everyone up. “Your first task is this, each of you possesses a piece of your morning meal. Only one of you may speak and only one of you may cook, you are not allowed to write. You must learn to communicate or you will go hungry.” Guardus sat back and poured himself some water as he watched as they each went to their belongings. Mikey had 14 eggs, Jeremy had a pound of bacon, Penelope had a skillet, Henry had a few potatoes, KJ produced cheese, while John had a spatula, Kerri rummaged around and pulled out a camp stove. “Did I forget to mention, with those supplies you must satisfy everyone’s individual tastes. And any direct kind of body language shall be mat with swift punishment.”

Each of the team shrugged their shoulders as they showed one another what they had. “How are we supposed to communicate without talking, writing or gestures?” Jeremy finally asked.

“Through the power of Ghi many things are possible.” Guardus continued to sip on his water.

“So we’re suddenly supposed to become telepathic?”

“Hmm it is up to you to discover.”

Kerri looked at the camp stove before putting her fingers on her forehead. I’m starving and we have to work together without talking. Ugh, I just want some scrambled eggs and hash browns.

Henry thought to himself, How are they going to know I want a cheese omelet?

“Alright guys let’s just make a giant pan of scrambled eggs.” Jeremy took the role of speaker upon himself.

No way, I don’t want scrambled eggs. I like mine fried over easy. Mikey held the eggs back.

What was that? I could have sworn I heard Mikey say something about fried eggs. I must be losing it.

No, I heard it too John. Don’t worry you and I are of the same Ghi so we can hear each other’s thoughts. But hearing Mikey’s, it must be strong.

Who’s there? Mikey looked around until KJ and John both stared at him. Okay that is weird.

So the quieting your mind thing legitimately works?

It seems so.

Yeah, it’s weird.

So Jeremy still can’t hear us?

You know him always thinking too much on how to do something to stop and breath. Mikey focused on Jeremy before Jeremy stopped midsentence.

I believe he gets the idea. Guys we’re tapping into some of the same things I use in the mimicking powers.

So this is how you produce those powers? Bye quieting your mind and focusing on their shape?

Now, let’s make some breakfast. Not another word was spoken as the seven went about making a breakfast each of them could be happy with.

“I see you’ve learned how to commune with one another through your Ghi. Once you are finished eating we shall delve into some of the defensive powers available to you through it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Sir, it is as if the very rock has come to life and is opposing our advances to clearing the mine.” Tyres Rode whimpered as he delivered the bad news to The Phantom.

“Do you wish me to return you to the pitiful state I found you in?” The various hazard signs on Tyres’ body faded a moment and he returned to a forest green color.

“No-no Lord Phantom, sir. I can’t go back to being weak”

“I thought not.” The Phantom waved his hand again and the symbols began to glow again. Tyres’ color turned into a lime green color again. “I gave you your power and I can take it away. Now, you will find a way to stay on schedule or I will do to you what I did to Sulaeh.”

“Yes, master.” Tyres Rode slowly walked away back into the tunnels before he began speaking to himself. “I miss those old days.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“You don’t understand if too many naturals encroach on the territory beyond the city wall the animated there will be forced to fight!” Tyres slammed his metal head onto the table they sat around.

“I’m not saying we’ll allow the area to become flooded. I’m just saying that more resources are needed to keep the city running. Without them both naturals and animated within the city wall could be in danger.” Guardus’ piercing look stared back at him.

“Please, brothers, we mustn’t fight between ourselves. We need to find a balance between the homes of the outlying citizens and the survival of the city. We have discussed much today, I believe a recess for collecting our thoughts is in order.” Sulaeh’s crystal staff pulsed blue as everyone left the table.

Guardus walked beside her as the two of them walked through Durem, “Guardus, you do not need to be so forceful. Tyres understands the need for more resources, he just wants to ensure that the situation isn’t going to be exaggerated and cause more harm than good.” Sulaeh and Guardus looked out over part of the city wall around Durem.

“I know he cares about the city, but I think he is putting too much into the outlying citizens and not enough concern into the overall survival. If only he knew what was truly at stake. We’re at a teetering point, the amount of naturals and animated here is in balance and they can peacefully coexist. But without more food, or more ores, or more spaces to live that balance will decay into another war.” Guardus stared back at Sulaeh as the sun was setting.

Tyres Rode appeared on one of the nearby battlements and when he saw the two of them he felt anger and rage well up inside of him, “So you two are plotting without me? I should have known that the two of you who only live in the city would!” He began spitting rocks at Guardus.

“We were plotting nothing!” Guardus cut through the rock chunks with his blade as easily as a hot knife would cut through butter. He swung his blade back to attack Tyres.

Sulaeh ran between the two of them, “Stop it! Both of you!” From her hands blue energy fields held Tyres and Guardus back. “We weren’t plotting anything Tyres. I was trying to help Guardus to see your side of the argument.”

“So that’s what you call your secret date?” Tyres jumped away, “I will defend the outlying population from your wild advances with all my power, mark my words.” Tyres ran deep into the forest covered mountains around Durem, until he stumbled into a silvery fog.

“Tyres Rode Protector of nature, it saddens me to see you so angered. Do you desire power?” The voice seemed to echo from all around him.

“I only want the power to defend my people and to crush Guardus.”

“I can give you that power. If you help me in the future I can give you that power now Tyres Rode.”

Tyres was looking around, the skin where his two other heads attached to his arms prickled, “Come out and show yourself, I do not make deals with those who hide in shadows.” As he said that The Phantom appeared from behind a tree in front of him.

“I am right here. Now, do you accept my offer?”

“You’re The Phantom. You-you’re evil.” Tyres stared at The Phantom, almost afraid.

“Good and evil are a matter of opinion. I seek to bring order to world outside our world, a noble mission, though those who would not want my order twist the information to make me a villain. You wish to preserve the natural world you call home, while others would seek to taint and infringe upon its beauty. I find your cause to be noble and would gladly lend you a fraction of my powers to make it so.” The Phantom held out a glowing silver orb.

“Then I humbly accept your deal, noble Lord Phantom.” As Tyres Rode took the orb his forest green skin became a lime green color. Where once he had been plain he sprouted hazard symbols marking his increased power.

“Just remember, the cost of this power is serving me later.”

“Yes, my master.” The Phantom vanished as Tyres let out a massive roar.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Yes, I said you can shape your defensive shield. Simple shapes like hexagons, squares, and circles are easiest, but you could theoretically have a rabbit shaped shield. The color it takes indicates your personality. And since no two people have the same personality no two people should have the same colored Ghi effects. Look at Michael his Ghi manifests as red energy, while Henry’s here manifests as blue, and Jeremy’s is green.” Mikey was having no troubles with Guardus’ lecture about defensive Ghi abilities. He was more comfortable with Guardus’ instructions than he was using his rings.

Kerri’s Ghi kept sparking around her hands but never held form long enough to make a shape, “I’m having some trouble.”

“Stop focusing so much on the shape and focus on defending yourself.” Guardus took a swing at Kerri with his massive gauntlet. She closed her eyes expecting to be hit, but instead a purple hexagon had materialized between his hand and her. "See when you overthink you cannot act. Once you have mastered creating the field then you can work on shaping it. For now take a break, you cannot learn Ghirate on an empty stomach and it is mid-day. After your meal we shall begin with some combat Ghirate.”

It was a silent meal as everyone chewed on the meat and rice that Guardus placed before them. It was immersed in a broth that bit their tongues as they tasted it. As they ate, they got the impression that this was a lesson in Ghi being able to sustain you, and only needing the bare minimal nutrition. One by one everyone set down their bowls when they were finished with lunch.

“You have all born witness to the maximum potential of offensive Ghirate. You call this the Ghi Burst in which all your combat abilities are maximized. There are two kinds of bursts a controlled and an uncontrolled. The controlled can focus your energy into a achieving a goal, while the uncontrolled can wreak mass havoc. Thus far you have only seen the uncontrolled. Before you can control a Ghi Burst you must first learn what your Ghi can do.” Guardus held out his hand as his sword flew across the room into his palm.

“Ghi takes many forms: the trees, the bugs that crawl, the flowers that bloom, the fluffs that breathe, even humans, Angel Imps, and yes even Zurg, and many others. All that you see in this world that lives, both naturals and animated, has Ghi. It is a life force that comes from the planet itself. More recently harnessing different aspects of Ghi has become doable. There is the life giving Ghi manifested in your healing rings, there is the wrathful manifested in your attack rings, there is the preservation Ghi which you have come to call buffs. By focusing the Ghi energy through your rings you unlock the different powers Ghi has, but you also cause a cascade releasing more into the world. The released and unbound Ghi is what gave rise to what you now call the animated.” He paused a moment as they were all listening intently.

“Your next challenge is to harness your Ghi and focus it without needing your rings. Remember, the power is in you, your rings only act as a means to focus that power.” He turned to Mikey, “This should come very naturally for you.” Almost as soon as he tried, Mikey had already produced several weapons from thin air. They hovered in front of him outlined in a crimson red light.

“Guys just focus on what you want to make: A blade, a flower, a dome over your head, anything.” Mikey said as everyone seemed to only produce multicolored sparks. As Penelope tried again she produced a small flower, Henry was able to produce a sort of axe. The shapes everyone was producing varied. KJ’s was a pet OMG, while John produced a spiked shield.

“Good, good. Now we can move onto Ghi Bursting, but first practice some with producing Ghi effects and shields.” A series of training dummies rose from the ground. The dummy in front of Jeremy took a swing at him, he able to deflect it with a hexagon shaped shield and then he pushed it back with several projectile orbs made of Ghi. Kerri was able to deflect her dummy with a circular shield, then she swiped at it with sharpened claws made of Ghi energy. Guardus sat thinking to himself.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Sir, Tyres Rode is breaking the outer wall. We can’t stand against both his metal and rock powers, and he seems to be able to spit some kind of acid.” The suit of animated armor gasped as it ran back to Guardus from the city wall. It had dropped the round shield and short sword that was standard issue for Guardians.

“Alright, I shall deal with him myself. Lead on brave one.” Guardus followed the Guardian back to the wall where he saw Tyres Rode melting and breaking the wall block by block. “Tyres! Tyres stop this instant!”

“Ah I was wondering how long it would take you to show up. I’m going to defend my charges however I can.” Tyres Rode stared at Guardus with all three of his heads.

“What has happened to you my friend?”

“I am better and stronger now, stronger even than you.” The hazard symbols on his body began flashing.

“Our strength as The Harmonious Ones has always come from our unity. Tyres I have no desire to fight you, but if I must,” Guardus drew his blade, “Then so help me I will. And I promise you I will do everything to protect this city.” The blade transformed from a simple short sword into a massive claymore.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Alright, the key to causing a Ghi Burst is your emotions, your desires, your will. A Ghi Burst is the massive energy spike created by those feelings. If you can control these you can create a Ghi Burst at will. But be careful, while a Ghi Burst is a powerful tool it leaves you near helpless once it wears off. You must only use it in times of greatest need.” Guardus looked them over as they stood in a line in front of him. “I want you each to try and trigger a burst. It requires a great deal of focus at first so do not be disappointed if you cannot do it the first time. Focus on something powerful. Your will, an emotion, anything, allow it to fill you up and try to channel it into your Ghi.”

My friends, my family, my desire to protect them and keep them safe. Jeremy became surrounded by a blue aura but there was no surge in power.

Everyone is counting on us, if we don’t win The Phantom will take over the world. We have to stop him. Kerri became shrouded in a bright blue aura, it had vague shapes like a flame.

We can’t lose I won’t allow it. We have the power to win. We just have reach up and make the impossible possible. Henry’s aura was billowing flames. As he began to focus it into his Ghi he felt a massive spike in power.

We’re the only ones who can do this. If we don’t stop him no one else will be able to. We have to win. John’s aura suddenly burst into flames as his rings began to glow with new life.

Too many I know have died for me. I don’t want their sacrifices to be in vain. For their memories I must keep going. KJ’s aura was vaguely resembling flames but it kept retreating back into a blue glow before it would spark again as flames.

Mom, dad, my annoying cousins, Henry, I can’t let them all be ruled by some rogue program. I have to fight for the future. Penelope’s aura immediately surged to life as a roaring fire.

I can’t lose. I can’t allow myself to, everyone is counting on me. I can’t let them down. Mikey’s aura was no more than a blob of blue light surrounding me.

“Keep trying, you’re getting the hang of it. I see some of you can already burst, good. Just keep working at it.” The ground suddenly shook as Guardus was walking.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“My lord we have blown our way to the surface using the Creepers. Your army is now free to advance.” Tyres Rode bowed before The Phantom.

“Excellent. You will lead the attack on Durem. Leave none alive.”

“My lord?”

“Durem shall become an example of what happens to those who harbor my enemies. We shall utterly destroy the city to serve as warning. And this time nobody will get in our way.” The Phantom motioned Tyres Rode to go. As the massive three headed lizard walked to the staging area for The Phantom’s army of animated weapons he thought to himself about the last time they attacked Durem.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Tyres you can’t even defeat your old friend Guardus. I gave you power and you can’t even destroy him?”

“I cannot defeat a warrior who refuses to give up, my master.”

“Tyres, this is who you would ally yourself with? He is evil. Your new power has only the ability to destroy can you not see. My brother there is still hope, please come back to the light.” Guardus stood up.

“Hope? Ha, the only hope you have to survive is to join me.” The Phantom shot Guardus with a silver beam knocking the warrior unconscious. “There are humans here from the player world. Find them and destroy them. Am I understood?”

“I must obey.” Tyres Rode stomped through the town destroying many buildings. He stopped when a figure stood before him. Her staff was clutched in one hand as her other was in front of a group of six humans.

“You will not hurt them. They are our salvation from The Phantom’s evil.” Sulaeh blocked Tyres’ path as they stared at each other.

“We cannot allow it either.” Six aged Bookends stood beside Sulaeh.

“You think you weaklings have the power to stop me?”

“We may not, but these humans will. Together they will stop you and your new master.” Sulaeh motioned for the crew she was protecting to get in the airship behind them.

A silver beam shot across the distance, as it struck Sulaeh her stone body began to crack, “The only thing stopping here are those humans.” Sulaeh’s body exploded into many white stone fragments. Tyres could only watch, Guardus saw the explosion as he dragged himself across the roads.

“That’s it! I’m drawing a line right here, you come no further, do you hear me?” One of the humans stepped forward. There was fire burning in his eyes. “Go guys, I’ll keep them off you as long as I can.”

“But you can’t hold them alone.”

“Maybe not, but I stand the best chance. I was a solo player before meeting you, remember Boss? Now, keep the others safe and get on that airship.” The man pulled out the blade Guardus, it became a massive claymore as he ran his hand down the blade as a fiery aura burst around him.

“So we finally get to see the power of a lowly human.”

“This lowly human is fighting to protect the ones he loves, you’re going to get to see just how strong that is.” The Phantom’s next beam reflected off of the blade. As Tyres tried to pursue the other five humans he was blocked by a wall of energy. “Neither of you will touch my friends today.”

As Guardus watched he could only see flashes of light and the breaking of the buildings from where the fight was.

“Why do you keep getting up? I’m only going to knock you down and kill you. Why bother to struggle against it? It’s impossible for you to win.” The Phantom shot the lone hero with another beam.

“I fight because I have hope. I will continue to fight until my last breath, and even then I would rather die on my feet fighting than in a hole feeling any regrets.” The warrior adjusted his stance, “And I guess we have different definitions of victory. Every minute I keep you here is a minute my crewmates get further and further from your reach, while it isn’t the same victory as defeating you it’s still a victory to me.” He leapt into the air as he swung the massive blade at The Phantom. Tyres moved in the way and the blade glanced off of his metal head. The warrior was tumbling through the air as another beam from The Phantom tore a hole through him.

“We shall see how long that victory lasts.” The Phantom and Tyres disappeared in a silvery fog.

Guardus crawled his way across the broken stone roads over to the fallen warrior, he was still breathing as it began to rain. “Sometimes you have to be willing to put your life on the line to keep a promise you made to your friends. Hehe, never thought I would go like this.” He gritted his teeth as he struggled to breathe.

“Save your strength, you have nothing more to prove. You may yet survive.” Guardus picked up the man in his arms.

“We both know that isn’t going to happen,” The six Bookends that had stood beside Sulaeh were getting up except where once their eyes had been covered with spectacles they were now a shadowy blackened red. “Neither of us have the strength to fight them. But I can give you what remains of mine so you can help those who will come after. Just promise me that… you will….prot…tect…….the………future. Good bye Guardus.” The hero handed the now short sword sized blade to Guardus as he began to glow white.

“I will keep that promise my friend. Count on it.” As the glowing faded Guardus was fully restored and in his shrine. As he looked out a window he saw white lights dancing across the sky.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“It is The Phantom, he has come to destroy Durem and any that would dare to challenge him. We must get you all to safety.” Guardus began leading the group outside as another explosion shook the ground.

“What’s he shooting, Deathmines?” John asked.

“Worse. Those sound like Can-Anons and they’re firing Deathbombs by the sounds of it.” The ground shook as a small round animated cannon ball exploded on the road ahead.

“If I remember correctly Can-Anons are massive animated American Civil War era cannons. And the Deathbombs are just Deathmines adapted for above water use.” Jeremy jumped back as another Deathbomb went off.

“Begging your pardon Guardus, but if the city really is under attack we need to get its citizens evacuated.”

“Hee hee hee. Don’t make me laugh, it’s you humans who need to be evacuated.” Tyres Rode landed on the road ahead of them. “What’s wrong Guardus? Not going to introduce me to your new friends before I have to destroy them?”

“How are we supposed to fight this guy all I see are horns and teeth. Lots and lots of teeth.”

“He’s got three heads made of actual organic tissue, rock and…” Jeremy had to jump back again to avoid being chomped by one of the heads.

“Metal seems a safe guess.” Penelope said.

“You humans are no match for me.” Tyres spat acid at them. The green smoking fluid ran down the shield Mikey threw up and smoked on the ground.

“Want to bet?” Mikey turned to Guardus, “Find the Anari, get them to handle the evacuation, then go to wall and lead the defense, we can handle this guy.” Guardus’ eyes shifted as he thought about saying something, but he nodded and went another direction.

“So what’s the plan boss?” Henry moved up next to Mikey, who just smiled.

“Easy, Rocky the left hand is weak to water, your specialty. Steely the right head there is weak to fire. At least if the elemental mechanics they added are working. As for the center head, let’s just say I’m going to light up his world. Jeremy, Kerri, John, KJ feel free to attack his chest tails, whatever.”

As everyone began moving in different direction Mikey stood his ground and fired a beam of light at the middle head on Tyres Rode. The monster flinched as his vision suddenly became a white blur. He began spitting acid randomly as his rock head fired table sized chunks of stone and his metal head sprayed a mist of diamond shaped metal fragments. The ground around Mikey was littered with holes the acid had created as he moved around to keep his lancer shot aimed at the eyes. The metal fragments turned to melted goo on the ground as Penelope’s flames raced towards the metal head. The rock head recoiled from the touch of water, but Henry kept after it. As they kept damaging Tyres Rode the hazard symbols began glowing brighter until they began to blink.

“Guys what’s going on?” The symbols began blinking faster and faster.

“I don’t-” KJ was cut off midsentence.

“Graaaaaaaaaaaa!” A shockwave of energy flung everyone back from Tyres. “You are strong I give you that. But you will not defeat me.”

“Uhh everyone okay?” Mikey got up from the hole he’d been flung into.

“Still able to fight if that’s what you mean.” Henry pulled himself out of an impression he had left on a building.

“Anyone get the number off that truck?” Penelope pulled herself out of a hole in another building.

“I’m fine just one question. Who are you guys? No, don’t worry just messing.” Kerri managed to pull herself out of a hole in the ground.

“I haven’t felt this bad since that one New Year’s party a couple years back. But I can keep going.” John managed to pull himself out of a building.

“We’re both fine here.”

“Yeah.” Jeremy and KJ both crawled out of a hole.

“I’ll start with you!” Tyres Rode had all three of his heads pointed at Jeremy. Jeremy looked back in shock before shoving KJ away. He pointed his hand at Tyres and let loose a lancer shot as all three of the behemoth’s breaths bore down on him.

“JEREMY!” Everyone shouted as they watched in horror.

“Guys, I got him. Just finish it.” Jeremy’s amulet was glowing as his lancer beam converted midair into a cyclone. In the vortex of air rocks, metal and acid all swirled as Tyres continued his attacks. Mikey’s hand enlarged into a massive fist as he smacked the rock head. Mikey pulled his hand back in pain but the rock head began to crack and fall apart. On the other side Penelope’s flamethrower and KJ’s lava were melting away the metal head. Tyres stumbled back from the pain of losing his other heads. No longer being repulsed, Jeremy’s cyclone smashed into the giant lizard dumping all the rocks, metal shards and acid it had collected. The ground shook as a nearby section of the city wall burst open. Gr8-Swords and B@le-Axis began to advance through the hole.

“Alright guys we need to defend the city while people evacuate, the city is one big square so we need to divide up and defend the walls.” Mikey began.

“I got this one!” Penelope shouted as she melted the advancing medieval weapons.

“Alright calling that the west wall. Henry take the east wall. Jeremy you take the south. Kerri you and I got the north wall.”

“What about us?” John asked.

“We need everyone out of here. Try to keep the evacuations as orderly as possible, I have a feeling it’s about to get chaotic. I’ll meet you guys at the airship dock nearest the clock tower. Fall back if your position becomes overrun.”

“Aye aye captain.” KJ said as everyone split up.

“Mikey why are we the only ones defending a wall as a pair?” Kerri asked as they ran.

“Simple, wind, fire and water can all be used for their ability to force enemies back. Me with light and you without an amulet yet don’t exactly have that luxury so we need the extra firepower.” Mikey and Kerri reached the north wall and almost immediately he had wished he’d given it to someone else. The hole blown into it was massive and the advancing enemies included Can-Anons.

“Guess it’s a good thing you didn’t try soloing this one.” Kerri and Mikey charged into the line of advancing enemies.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

As he reached his wall it was still very much intact. Henry breathed a sigh of relief as he ran up the steps to the top of the wall. From his vantage point he could see the enemies on this side of Durem were only beginning to form lines. “Let’s keep it that way.” Henry began firing jets of water. As they made contact the ground became a bog making it difficult for the Can-Anons to move, much less aim.

“Fire!” A nearby Guardian shouted as nearby trebuchets emptied their baskets into the crowd of G8t-Swords and B@le-Axis massing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Penelope’s next flamethrower shot melted a line of G8t-Swords and B@le-Axis that were engaged with a row of Guardians. “Looked like you boys could use a hand.” The Guardians cheered as she helped them to fight off anything coming through the hole.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Jeremy and a group of Barton Regulars he met at the south wall were lobbing pieces of broken buildings using massive trebuchets mounted on the wall. While they would reload the giant catapults Jeremy would fire a whirlwind to knock around anything that tried to advance. “We have to hold the line.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“As fast as they are moving we still need another hour to two hours to get everyone out of here.” Sisko hovered overhead as John and KJ motioned people to the airship docks.

“Sisko you guys need to find a way to get these people moving faster. I don’t think the others can hold back the advances for that long.” John shouted back to the Anari overhead.

“Northeast district is clear. It doesn’t help that we’re having to go building by building just to be certain we got everyone.” Hoshi flew off to another part of the city.

“This ship is packed to the brim, any more people and she won’t be able to take off.” Miles called back.

“Alright people you heard the walking Buzz Saw, move down to dock two. Keep moving in a neat and orderly fashion, there’s plenty of room. Miles get that captain to lift off.” KJ could see the smoke coming from the north wall. “Mikey and Kerri are there. Please be safe you two.”
“Southeast district is cleared.” Archer hollered down from above as he flew to another part of the city.

“A few buildings have collapsed in the northwest district, we’re trying to route around it but there are fires everywhere up there.” Deanna called down.

“Fire suppression teams are on their way, try to hold on.” Bianca was organizing the emergency response teams not already deployed.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Mikey have you noticed we’re the only ones still here? Maybe we need to fall back.” Kerri and Mikey were fighting both the animated and clouds of smoke and dust from all the rubble.

“If you haven’t noticed,” He ducked as a Deathbomb shot over his head, “Most of the Guardians and Barton Regulars on this wall are either dead or dying. We’ve got to hold the line until they can get everyone out of the northern districts.” Mikey’s empty finger lit up as he created a temporary wall from the effects of a shield ring. Kerri shot an approaching Gr8-Sword as it tried attacking Mikey. He kept his focus on maintaining the shield.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Master, they are driving back our forces and holding the city.” A B@le-Axis cowered in fear as it reported to The Phantom.

“Those humans are holding the city? What of Tyres Rode?” The Phantom scratched his throne already predicting the answer.

“He has been bested by the humans my lord.”

“Such a pity for you.” The Phantom burned the B@le-Axis as he stood up. The poor creature dissolved as it cried in pain. “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” He cracked his neck a few times as he began moving through the various tunnels to the surface.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“This ship is full, get them moving to the next in line.” Miles buzzed around.

“You heard him. Dock three, move it people.”

“We’re moving people as fast as we can, but we still need at least thirty minutes.” There was a flash of light as McCoy spoke and The Phantom was hovering over the clock tower, “We’ll find a way to get them moving faster.”

“John I think you should go help Kerri and Mikey. I can manage here.” John gave KJ a look before going off toward the north wall.

As he flew overhead McCoy could see the city defenders were pulling back from the crumbling walls to defend the city’s core. Thankfully, those areas they were pulling out of had been evacuated. A beam shot past his face as it struck a building, the collapsing building crushed a line of Guardians running ahead of Penelope.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Mikey! Kerri!” John had trouble moving through that portion of the city. Everything was falling apart, in flames, or already a broken heap.

“We saw already John.” Kerri looked up. Mikey reinforced his shield one last time.

“We have to stop him or slow him down. Or else we’ll lose half the city.” Mikey tightened his gloves and pulled down his goggles.

“Are you crazy? He’ll tear you apart.” John tried to stop Mikey.

“I’ll buy the time you guys need. Don’t worry.” Mikey sprouted a set of rocket wings created from his Ghi energy. He shot off into the air and approached The Phantom.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Jeremy looked at the sky, “What is he doing? He’s going to get himself killed.”

“He’s doing what he must for those who mean everything to him.” Guardus appeared next to Jeremy. “All we can do now is believe in his power.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Alright we have one last airship at the main docks and the mini-airship at the clock tower dock. Anyone who doesn’t need to be here get to those airships.” Henry was moving the last people out of the downtown district as he retreated from the wall. He looked up at the sky and saw Mikey staring down The Phantom. “Good luck Mikey.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“So one of you decided to finally fight me.” The Phantom jested at Mikey.

“Someone has to finally put you down.” Mikey glared back, he could feel his energy beginning to swell.

“You boast, but you’re nothing more than a filthy human.” The Phantom stared back.

“Enough chit chat, it’s fighting time.” Mikey’s thought were focused on saving his friends, both in the real world and with him now. He clenched his fist as he felt a surge of energy. “Ghi Burst!” He drew his hack as he flew towards The Phantom. There were blinding flashes of light as The Phantom’s blade and Mikey’s own clashed.

“You are powerful. Much more than the last time we met. What are you 15.0, 14.0 now?”

“18.0, I see you haven’t grown one bit in strength since the last time.” He pulled back as The Phantom tried shooting him with a beam, he held his arm up and was able to produce a hexagonal Ghi shield. Once The Phantom’s beam dissipated he fired his own beam. The Phantom appeared to dissolve before the beam reached him, only to reappear behind Mikey.

“Pick-a-boo!” He slammed his knee into Mikey’s chest as he turned around. Reeling from the blow Mikey cringed as The Phantom began to launch a flurry of punches. His last punch sent Mikey flying into the clock tower. He impacted the clock face with a crash and a boom as the tempered glass began to crack. He was pulling himself out of the cracks as The Phantom began to fly towards him fist outstretched for another blow. Mikey managed to move to the side as he slammed into the clock face. There was a shower of glass as Mikey took the opportunity to launch his own flurry of punches.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“I hope those flashing lights indicate he’s holding his own up there.” Kerri and John had regrouped with the others as they saw the last large airship off.

“That’s it. Everyone from the city got off safely, just us, the Anari, Bianca and a few straggling guards to get about to small one near the clock tower.” Jeremy watched as the red blue spark that was Mikey and the silver splotch that was The Phantom moved across the sky.

“You know he’s actually holding his own up there. He might win the fight today.”

“Remarkable, his Ghi is bursting beyond the usual limit for people. Normally, they can only harness the energy of the Blue Ghi, but he’s tapping into the Red Ghi. Not even I can do that.” Guardus watched.

“There are different kinds of Ghi now? What’s the difference?” They began running to the clock tower as Penelope asked.

“Blue Ghi, is the life-force energy of living things. It tends to be the kind both people and animated have stored within themselves. Red Ghi, is a form of Ghi stored within something like a planet, to be able to use it you would have to be tapping some very primal emotions that connect you to the very world. I can’t explain it so well because I’ve never seen someone able to channel it in all my years.”

“You know what else is incredible? You all thought I was dead.”

Bianca gasped, “Tyres Rode!” The massive beast stood between them and the airship. His arms had sprouted claws where the two elemental head had once been grafted.

“Wait I know you.” He stared at Bianca, “You were in the forest just before I met The Phantom. You tried to be my friend.”

Bianca nodded her head, “I’m surprised you remembered that. But then you ran away. You later attacked the city and would have destroyed my crew were it not for Sulaeh and his sacrifices. He was a close friend, but he gave his life so we could escape. Now their friend Mikey is up there putting his on the line so we could save the city.” Tyres Rode could only stare he was paralyzed by her words, but the tears she had in her eyes pierced him even more.

Mikey crashed into the ground up the street from them. “I ca- I can- I can’t keep up my burst anymore.” He collapsed as the wings he had created faded away and the red blue aura around him died down.

“Time for your utter annihilation Michael Berth.” The Phantom fired another beam. The flash of light was so bright that Mikey saw it through his eyelids. When he opened them Guardus stood between him and The Phantom. A hole gaped and smoked in the middle of his chest.

“Sometimes a man must be willing to put his life on the line to keep a promise he made to his friends. That time is now.” Guardus left his sword at Mikey’s feet as he grabbed The Phantom’s hands.

“Human I can never atone for the evils I’ve committed, all I ask is for the chance to receive your forgiveness.” Tyres Rode charged forward and added as he passed Mikey, “Take the blade, it belongs to you now. Please save our world.” He clamped down on The Phantom with his jaws.

“Guardus! Tyres!” Mikey struggled and clutched the blade’s hilt as John and Henry dragged him aboard the airship.

Once they were all aboard, “Captain take off!” Hot tears streaked down Mikey’s face as he smacked the porthole. Kerri couldn’t even look up from leaning against Penelope. As they started climbing into the clouds there was another bright flash of light.

“You guys think they were able to win?” Jeremy tried to hold back his tears, already the answer loomed in his head.

“Not a chance. They may have been two of the most powerful animated, but I doubt even their combined strength couldn’t stop The Phantom.”

“So what do we do now?” Kerri was barely able to speak.

Mikey sniffled and wiped his face, “We rejoin the Durem fleet on route to Tlauixcalpantecuhtliopolis, we find the remaining two amulets, and we destroy the remaining generals in his army. Next time we meet The Phantom in combat, we’ll be playing for keeps.”
The Phantom of the 0pera's avatar

Romantic Phantom

STOP ME WHY? WHAT DID I DO?!

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