“Mother!” Jezebel screams in a voice little girls reserve strictly for calling their mothers.
“She’ll be fine, right? This is her realm.” I feel stupid as soon as I speak.
Jezebel looks up with big tears pooling in her eyes. “I don’t know. I’ve never known her to leave the cathedral.”
A giant stone man with bat-like wings flies down and lands next to Jezebel. “Mistress-in-Waiting Jezebel, agents of the Master have breached the portal and are storming the cathedral.”
Jezebel wipes her eyes, her lip curling in a feline-like snarl. “He shows his hand early. He must believe my mother to be weak. Call forth as many of the Merciful Damned are as nearby.”
Revan appears above the ledge and lands next to the stone man. “I’m sorry, Jezebel. I couldn’t reach her. I have sent others to search for her. There aren’t many angels or gargoyles of the Merciful Damned near.”
“Then we will buy time,” hisses Jezebel, a fire growing in her eye. “Revan, Goliath, get us into the cathedral and we will repel the invaders. Abraham, grab your ax. You will need it.” To emphasis her point, she draws her cutlass and pistol. The angel and gargoyle nod.
I step back shaking my head. “I’m no use in a fight like this.”
Jezebel grabs the front of my golden breastplate and pulls me nose-to-nose. “Listen here, you spineless jellyfish! I just lost my mother and will be damned if I will lose her home to them, too. Screw your courage to the sticking place, Abraham. It’s time to become the man I once envied. This is your first true test. The Master’s fiends are upon us and we have nowhere to run. We fight. We win or we die.”
She thrusts me backward toward Warmache. With a gulp, I walk over and lift the ax from its cradle. It weighs almost nothing in my hand. Clutching the weapon clumsily, I return to my new brothers-in-arms.
“Ready, Abraham?” said Jezebel.
Before I can speak, Goliath stepped up behind me and seizes me by the shoulders. With ease, he lifts me off the ground and dives over the edge. Behind us, I watched Revan lift Jezebel and spread her majestic wings. She takes flight and follows us up the side of the floating island. In the distance, I could see maybe two dozen angels and gargoyles converging on the cathedral.
We fly over the cathedral. On the far side of the bridge, I can see warriors emerging from a portal and marching over the bridge into the stone building. Goliath twists in air, loops, and speeds toward the head of the cathedral and the large peaked stained glass windows. At the last second, his wings closed around me and we crash through the central window.
I drop from Goliath’s arms and I skid across the polished red marble floor. From my prone position, I see the gargoyle leap twenty feet into the midst of the invaders. I don’t get much time to look at them; I could tell they wore different uniforms armed with various weapons, before he grabs one by the head and crushes it in his hand. He spins, swinging his massive tail, and slamming the clubbed end into the torsos of three other attackers. As he spins he lashed out with claws on the tips of his fingers, splitting open the chest of another quartet.
I lay on the ground in disbelief, how could I hope to even come close to that fighting machine? To my right, Revan and Jezebel land. The pirate levels her pistol and fires five times, exploding the heads of a group of surprised attackers. The angel Revan drew her swords and, with the grace of a ballerina, slashes her way into a knot of attackers. From the way her swords move and flash I can imagine the blood flying from her supernatural victims.
“Abraham, to your feet,” Jezebel orders as she plunges her sword into an attacker’s chest.
My hand found Warmache on the floor. As I tried to get my bearings, a voice appeared in my head.
Roll right, now.
As I shake my head, Warmache leaps from the floor, forcing me to tumble to my right.
The weapon lifts to my chest in time to block a sword slash.
Push off and slash.
My mind is slowly catching up to events. The weapon was said to be forged for a child. Of course it would be able to make up for the knowledge and skill the child lacks. That didn’t say much for me. I did as the ax instructed, I push off with all my might, start to bring the ax up, but it jerks to the side, and then forward through the enemy soldier clad in leather and fur.
A shock erupts in my mind. The Scourge boils in my brain as evil thoughts push their way into my consciousness. I fight to stay above them, to let them pass. For a moment, I think I have. I find myself swinging the ax and cutting three attackers in half. The evil thoughts surge again. I let out a triumphant roar. I’m enjoying this, but I know I shouldn’t.
“Someone has found his fortitude,” Jezebel said to Revan as the pair battles forward.
Chop, step left, raise, and stab with the point.
I follow the instructions, felling two more challengers. I felt something else in my muscles. Power. I felt stronger, faster. I kick myself. I shouldn’t be enjoying this. I need to stay above these dark thoughts. They are not who I am. I block a sword and kick the attacker in the stomach, sending him staggering backward. Bringing Warmache down with ease, I split the enemy in two. I try and let a sense of calm wash over me and rise above the Scourge.
Finding space around myself, I look around. I was alone. The other three had pushed forward, driving the enemy back out the door, leaving me behind. I run through the cathedral, out the doors, and down several stairs to slam Warmache’s point into the chest of an enemy flanking Jezebel.
“About time,” she chastises me as she shoots a knight wearing an elaboratesuit of full plate mail, the body falling down the steps of the cathedral.
I glance at my companions; they fight with such vigor, vitality, and determination, even though each has suffered a number of injuries. I feel a sudden sting to my pride. If they could give so much, how can I give any less?
I step forward and bring the blade of Warmache into the middle of an attacker’s back. Following the ax’s instructions, I dropped to a knee as a blade cuts the air above me and then spin on the ball of my foot, bringing Warmache through the attacker’s knees.
From the stairs, I see a handful of the Merciful Damned attacking the enemy on the bridge, most remaining in the air, attacking the flying creatures brought by the Master’s agents.
As I look out, a scream from Revan steals my attention. The angel has two swords sticking from her chest. Before I can react, Goliath leaps into the air, abandoning his foes and lands on the pair of offending samurai warriors. He reaches down and lifts one above his head and tears him in two.
“Goliath, leave her,” Jezebel commands.
The gargoyle roars his disapproval, but returns to attacking the enemy with a new fury.
I look back at the stricken angel, only to have Jezebel berate me. “Pay attention, Abraham. Good people fall in battle, but if we stop to help, we can end up dead just like them. Defeat the enemy first, mourn the dead when we are victorious!”
I sit struggling with my conscious as the Scourge floods my mind with reasons to leave her.
Go to her.
I nearly drop Warmache when it speaks.
Good warriors deserve a chance at life.
I nod in agreement and back away, cleaving an arm off an attacker as I go.
“Where are you going?” Jezebel demands.
“She could still be alive. I have to check,” I reply as I drop to my knees next to the fallen angel.
Revan’s back is bloody. I have little hope as I gently flip her over. To my surprise, her eyes met mine.
“King Abraham, why have you come for me?” Blood leaks from her mouth as she speaks.
“I don’t leave good warriors behind,” I answer, not sure where the answer came from, but my heart swells with pride.
“Take me to the clouds. Let me die with the wind beneath my wings.”
I lift her in my arms and carry her to the side of the bridge. My eyes again meet hers.
“King Abraham, remember who you are. I have studied you as a leader and a warrior both. I know my army will be in good hands.”
She rolls out of my arms before I can stop her. I lunge to grab her, but she’s beyond my grasp. I watch her stunning black wings open and once more she takes flight, but only for a moment. She crashes into one of the reptilian creatures and the two tumble down into the clouds, out of sight.
My heart climbs into my throat as her words ring in my ears. She had such faith and reverence for me. Am I really worthy of it? My resolve hardens. If I wasn’t before, I would be now. I seize Warmache and look at my reflection in the obsidian blade.
“Warmache, guide my hand strong and true,” I command the blade.
My muscles heat and flex with power. A savage scream escapes my lungs as I charge forward between Jezebel and Goliath. I give myself over to Warmache and feel like a spectator watching a champion gladiator.
The enemy falls before our blades and the three of us leading the remaining Merciful Damned push the enemy back across the bridge. As we drew near the small island leaving a trail of bodies in our wake, I witnessed a bright flash and glowing orb appear in the center of the island. A high pitched roar precedes the creature’s appearance. Warmache nearly falls from my grip when I see it. It towers above us, nearly forty feet high. The giant creature with the body of a lion takes a few steps toward us and I feel the bridge shake beneath us. The Anubis head opens its jackal mouth and a lance of flame shoots over our heads and explodes among the gargoyles and angels behind us. They’re tossed around like toys in a child’s tantrum. It change’s its aim and a second lance of flame streaks towards us.
The flame lance strikes in the middle of us and explodes. I feel myself hurling through the air. As I tumble, I see the stone railing of the bridge go underneath me. I reach out to grasp it, but I miss. “Noooo,” I cry silently to myself as all I see are red and black clouds. I twist and watch the bridge become smaller.
The impact is sudden and jarring. I twist my neck around and find I’m in the arms of angel. She speaks not a word, but her smile and wink says it all. She carries back to the bridge and drops me at Jezebel’s feet.
Jezebel pulls me out of the way. A flame lance strikes the bridge and explodes, leaving a hole melted in the stone where the angel dropped me.
Jezebel and I land in a heap against the far stone railing.
“Abraham, where have you been? It’s going to take more than the three of us to defeat this thing.”
I feel silly when all I can do is nod in agreement.
“Go with Goliath back to the cathedral and rally the Merciful Damned. Put together a defense to destroy this thing,” Jezebel orders.
“What are you going to do?” I ask concern and confusion line my face.
“I’m going to buy you the time,” she replies as she starts to get up.
I grab her and yank her back down. “I can’t let you do that. I’ll do it.”
“You?” Jezebel scoffs. “You can barely old that ax. You wouldn’t give that creature pause.”
“But you would know how to defeat it,” I protest.
Jezebel grabs my front. “And you are needed to defeat the Master. It is not your time to be the hero.”
She thrusts me backward and starts to get to her feet. As she does, the bridge sways alarmingly. I look at the creature, but that movement didn’t come from it. The magnitude of the swaying grows.
“Now what?” the pirate snarls in contempt.
I shrug off Jezebel and jump to my feet. I reach the stone rail and feel the blood rush from my face. One of the large seven heads of a dragra goes shooting above me. The colossal creature is scaling the legs of the bridge. Two giant claws dig into the stone on either side of me as the dragra climbs up and over me. All I can see are dark red and black overlapped belly scales as it soars over me. Is this beast friend or foe? I grab Warmache and steady myself for the creature’s first assault.
A bright light explodes near the front of the dragra. I move just in time as a giant foot of the creature slams down where I stood. Its foot spans wider than I am tall. The dragra roars in retaliation. I keep my attention on dodging dragra feet as it moves forward toward the Anubis sphinx. The ground shakes violently under my feet as the pair crashes together.
I can see different colors bath me and light up the shadow under the dragra as it does battle. It rears to its hind feet and I get a good look at the Anubis sphinx. It’s covered in different types of damage, fire, ice, acid, and plague. It staggers to the left just as the dragra brings its mighty front feet crashing down on top of it. The Anubis sphinx collapses as three of the dragra’s heads tear into its body. In unison, they left the Anubis sphinx up and toss it over the side of the island.
The dragra stands and roars triumphantly. It then turns and with precision, knocked the few remaining flying reptiles out of the sky with well placed elemental blasts .
I take now as a good moment to flee and regroup with the others. As I start to run, one of the back feet slams down in front of me, blocking my path. I turn to try and dodge around it, but I find my routes blocked by two of the dragra’s heads.
“Going somewhere, King Abraham?” one says with a puff of oily black smoke.
“I…” Before I can speak further, the dragra starts to shrink and change. After a few moments, Sarin is left standing before me.
“Mother,” comes from my left. I look just in time to see Jezebel run into her mother for a hug. The tears in the pirate’s eyes make me blush and smile.
Sarin hugs her daughter, than turns to me. “That, King Abraham, is the type of enemy you will face. The next time I won’t be there to save you.”
I nod in understanding.
“Good, then you know what you must do. Ready your people, gather your armies, and complete Warmache. The blade is the key. I’m sending Jezebel with you.”
“What? Mother, I can’t go. I have no host.”
“King Abraham will find you one,” Sarin replies with a motherly look at me.
I nod again, feeling my destiny yet again twist under me.
Sarin snaps her fingers again and a red door appears, slowly it changes to black. She motions us forward.
Grasping Warmache in my hand, I open the door. I look at Jezebel.
“Oh, don’t be such a gutless worm,” she hisses and pushes pass me, into the door.
I roll my eyes and follow.