Crossing Worlds 02: Ahk Trials

Nov 28th, 2016
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  1. “huh?” says Betty blinking as she looks straight ahead at a wall that wasn’t there a moment before.
  3. “What the hell?” says Rhulan.
  5. “M…Miss Rhulan?” asks Hollia as she looks at the white metal wall before them, another to the right of them, and a glowing yellowish energy field to their left, “what…”
  7. “Hollia?” comes a familiar voice behind them.
  9. “m…Mom?” says Hollia as she turns around to see her mother standing with them in this weird rectangular cell; and she’s not alone.
  11. Corinth and Tiana are in the cell with them.
  13. “What is going on?” demands Corinth speaking to Rhulan, “what trickery is this? And how are you preventing me from teleporting out of it?”
  15. “It’s not a trick,” says Tiana, “some mysterious force has gathered us here….”
  17. The group gives her a curious look, “I…I can feel it,” says Tiana.
  19. “So,” says Jasma, “Hollia do we know these…two…”
  21. Jasma looks at Corinth for a moment, “Well…you’re an elf that’s for sure…but you…”
  23. “Yes,” says Rhulan, “she looks like a blond priestess version of myself, if we are done with this…”
  25. Rhulan reaches her hand out to the energy field *sisisizzz*
  27. Rhulan pulls her hand back, smoke coming off of it.
  29. “Miss Rhulan!?” shouts Hollia, “are you all right.”
  31. “Damn” says Rhulan, “this is bad.”
  33. Hollia puts her hands out over Rhulan’s hand and chants,
  35. “Healing light
  36. Glowing White
  37. By the Goddess of Dawn’s great might
  38. I call forth thyne power to heal this infliction”
  40. A white glow from Hollia’s hand quickly heals the burns on Rhulan’s hand.
  42. “You were hurt?” asks Tiana as she looks at the energy field, “this could be bad.”
  44. Through the energy field, despite it making everything look fuzzy they can make out another cell similar to the one they are in off in the distance.
  46. -Meanwhile in the other cell.
  48. “Stand back!” yells the young man known as Ethan, a swordsman adventurer from the land of Croix, to a larger man standing before him in the cell.
  50. “What stupidity is it this time?” asks the trenchcoat clad rival of Ethan, Zanaz, who is there as well standing beside Ethan, speaking to the same man.
  52. This man, with his large build, and unmistakable sponge cake hair style is none other than Baron Adonz, the man they both thought had been killed not long before this.
  54. “Now, now, my boy,” says Adonz, “errk,”
  56. Ethan holds his broadsword to the man’s throat, glaring at him intensly through his green eyes, “don’t call me your boy, you dirty old pervert! Now tell us how you did this!”
  58. “He didn’t” says a tall man sitting on a bench in this cell.
  60. With Baron Adonz alive still before them Ethan and Zanaz had completely not noticed three other people in the cell. A strange tall man wearing a long coat and ornate clothing as only worn by nobles of the Xiang Empire; but of a style they don’t know. Near him are two people, a man and a woman, both wearing black leather, and both with glowing spiky red hair.
  62. “Havn’t we met before?” asks Zanaz to the man with spiky red hair, a fishing pole strapped to his back, “Yes, you were the man who helped the girls out in this bastard’s garden.”
  64. Zanaz indicates Baron Adonz as he speaks.
  66. “Yep,” says Death Fisher, “I reckon so,”
  68. “And the young lady,” says the tall man sitting down, “I do believe we’ve met before.”
  70. “Have we?” asks Sickle.
  72. “Indeed,” says the man standing up, “you invaded the temple were my coffin rests. I assume though you two are not responsible for my being here; and I highly doubt this rotund fellow is responsible either.”
  74. “Now see here!” says Baron Adonz.
  76. “Be silent if you want to live,” says the man, “I can sense your powers, how interesting to find three Necrokinetics of such power levels; but you pale in comparison to myself, for I am none other than Lord Xiang, founder of the Xiang Empire.”
  78. “I heard,” whispers Ethan to Zanaz, “that in Xiang there is a myth that their founding emperor still lives, trapped in a magic coffin in a temple, kept there by the spirits of their wisest ancestors.”
  80. “It’s not a myth,” says Lord Xiang, “although I imagine the details are…a bit off after all this time. However who we are is not as important I believe as to how we all came to be trapped here. I’d imagine given the nature of our powers it’s not a coincidence.”
  82. Both cells feel the floor move beneath them. The cells move across a wide white metal floor towards each other, stopping no more than fifteen feet apart. The fuzziness of the energy screens vanish allowing both sides to see each other.
  84. Ethan narrows his eyes, “Elves!” he exclaims.
  86. Zanaz looks over from the corner of his eye, “some maybe, I’d say those ladies are as much prisoners as we are.”
  88. “Maybe,” says Lord Xiang as his eyes narrow at Rhulan. He rubs the tiny black strip of a beard on his chin, “Well, this should certainly be interesting.”
  90. Rhulan looks at Lord Xiang, putting her finger on her cheek she says, “hmm, interesting.”
  92. Between the two cells a massive sphere of pulsating light appears.
  94. “What spell is that?” asks Hollia.
  96. “It was already bright in here,” says Jasma.
  98. “It’s not a spell,” says Tiana.
  100. “Silence!” comes a booming voice from the sphere, “All shall be explained.”
  102. After a brief moment the sphere continues in a lower, yet still very loud voice, “We are the Ahk, ancient ascended beings, to life forms such as yourselves we would be equivalent to what you call gods.”
  104. “Gods?” says Ethan, “what is going on?”
  106. Baron Adonz sneers, the others in the cell don’t seem phased; however a sweat drop escapes from Zanaz’s temple betraying that he is worried.
  108. “Are they really gods?” asks Hollia.
  110. “No,” says Rhulan, Tiana, Betty, and Jasma at the same time.
  112. “Shhh,” whispers Rhulan giving a knowing look amongst the grown women that confuses Hollia who exhibits a slightly comical, “huh?”
  114. As they were speaking the Ahk continues, “We are beings of light and psychic power, evolved far beyond the need for what you may consider physical bodies.”
  116. Hollia and Betty try not to laugh as Rhulan makes a *blah blah blah* motion with her hand. Tiana holds her hand to her mouth and turns her head. Jasma looks back and forth and at the people across from them confused.
  118. “We watch worlds such as yours,” the Ahk continues, “scanning them for the presence of the two greatest energies, the power of life, and the power of anti-life, creation and destruction. This world has for ages untold harbored life forms of extreme power, yet until now there have been none with such high levels of life and anti-life power. When a world evolves enough beings beyond a certain threshold of these powers we arrive and take the six of both powers at the highest levels that power and have them partake in a contest to decide which is superior upon that world.”
  120. “garbage,” whispers Sickle.
  122. “oh come on,” says Death Fisher still sitting on the bench, “you can’t say…par-ta-king…in an Ahk contest doesn’t sound fun.”
  124. Sickle sneers, “this is stupid, we aren’t even from this world.”
  126. “Shhh,” whispers Lord Xiang, “now to think you’d not be interested in this, the girl who ignored her orders to make a deal with
  127. me. How interesting, I’m the devil a Shinigami makes a deal with.”
  129. Death Fisher raises his eyebrow and the others in that cell look over at him.
  131. Everyone’s attention is drawn as the Ahk booms out, “AND NOW!! If you impudent beings are done speaking amongst yourselves we will begin. It is evident from your powers and from what we have observed of you all over the last few weeks that you may think of yourselves as gods. Know now that our power surpases your own. The woman…dressed oddly for a champion of life…in black…and revealing clothing…harmed her self trying to break out of our barrier, and she is the most powerful of the life energy signs.”
  133. “What!?” screams Tiana, “My ass she is?” her hair starts to turn shadowy, elongating, as her eyes flash with a deep blue light, seeing the others looking at her she shakes her shifting her hair and eyes back to how they were before.
  135. “Did her hair get longer?” thinks Jasma.
  137. Rhulan smiles, “Don’t think too hard about it, all these glow balls are sensing is the intensity of the astral signature, it’s not like I’m hiding mine.”
  139. Tiana raises her eyebrow.
  141. “Now,” says the Ahk, “do not think we mean either side any harm we simply wish to know which is superior upon this world; when the contest is finished we will place all of the contestants back where they came from with out harm.”
  143. A circular pedestal on a pole rises from the floor between the two cells.
  145. “Now,” says the Ahk, “before the contest can begin, it is customary that the contestants reveal who they are for the sake of fair play. We the Ahk being of advanced intellects will know if you are lying; so make no attempts to hide your identities from us or each other. We do not tolerate falsehoods.”
  147. Rhulan vanishes in a quick blue light only to re-appear on the pedestal.
  149. “First,” says the Ahk, “from the life energy team, who are you oddly dressed woman?”
  151. Rhulan strikes a regal pose, “I am Rhulan! The celestial sorceress! One ruler of the entire world of Aesperia; I am now a traveling adventurer.”
  153. Ethan’s jaw drops, Zanaz’s eye twitches as he tries to retain his cool guy composure, Lord Xiang just smiles saying, “the Empress is back”.
  155. The corner of Jasma’s mouth twitches as she says, “Heh, I guess she’s not trying to hide that anymore is she?”
  157. “Not really,” says Betty.
  159. “Why would she?” says Corinth, more as a statement than a question really.
  161. Rhulan vanishes from the pedestal switching places with Hollia.
  163. “Second,” says the Ahk, “from the life energy team, a more appropriately attired individual for life energy. Who are you?”
  165. “I…” says Hollia who looks down at her mother and Rhulan watching her. Hollia straightens herself up and summons her staff. She looks straight at the Ahk, as best she can given its glowing nature and says proudly, “I am Holly-Lia, known through out my adventurers as Hollia. I am the heiress of Stratalia.”
  167. “Wait, what did she just say?” asks Ethan coming back from his (wow) moment from seeing a mythical figure standing before him.
  169. She vanishes, switched out with Jasma.
  171. “I am Queen Jasma of Stratalia,” she says before the Ahk can do his bit, “Daughter of Queen Thistle of the High Elves.”
  173. “By the goddess,” says Ethan, “Queen Jasma…wait that means that other girl’s her daughter…and they…they’re real… . Yes! I knew it!”
  175. “Great,” whispers Zanaz sarcastically, “the girls wont hear the end of this when we get back.”
  177. Jasma is switched out with Betty.
  179. “and you are?” asks the Ahk, its tone sounding less than divine.
  181. Betty takes off her hat, her long hair flowing down and her ears revealing her true nature.
  183. Ethan’s eyes practically bulge out if his head.
  185. “I am Betty the Baroness,” she says, “a great and powerful Elf maiden of a royal family from a distant land from the one I now travel in.”
  187. “Sneaky,” whispers Corinth, “not lying but not being too revealing…eh…Tiana.”
  189. “Indeed,” says Tiana.
  191. Betty is switched out with Corinth.
  193. *Corinth breaks out in haughty laughter*, “I am Corinth the demon priestess of the Light!”
  195. She goes silent as she floats, looking right at the Ahk with a vicious smile.
  197. “Ooookaaay…” says the Ahk, “next,”
  199. Corinth is switched out with Tiana.
  201. “a very different looking specimen,” says the Ahk, “so tell us…”
  203. “I am called Tiana,” she says interrupting the glowing spherical being, “I am known as the Shadow Hunter. I am a hunter of monsters.”
  205. “I think that’s an elf too,” says Ethan, “only blue,”
  207. “A blue elf?” asks Zanaz,
  209. “Why not,” says Ethan, “Dreia is green.”
  211. Zanaz shrugs.
  213. Tiana vanishes back into the cell.
  215. The Ahk is silent a moment.
  217. “The greatest life energies,” it says, “of this world…are…weird. *cough* I mean very unusual entities for harbingers of the life force power.”
  219. Hollia raises an eyebrow and leans over to Rhulan whispering, “I never though gods would talk like that? Or…how’d it cough?...”
  221. Rhulan crosses her arms and smiles watching as it summons up the people from the other cell, all she says is, “This should be interesting.”
  223. The first brought up is Sickle.
  225. “Now,” says the Ahk, “the anti-life side. As this side tends to harbor villains…not that we are sure all those on the life side on this world aren’t, we remind you to be truthful and point out that the order you are called up to introduce yourselves means nothing. Your villainous ranks and powers mean nothing before the power and wisdom of the Ahk.”
  227. “What ever,” says Sickle, “If you have to know my name’s Sickle, and I’m not some damned villain or dominatrix or what ever. I’m a Death Hunter you glowing idiot. That means I hunt ghosts, zombies, undead freaks who refuse to stay in the grave. It’s my job, it’s who I am, and I am very good at it.”
  229. “Right,” says the Ahk, “okay next.”
  231. Sickle vanishes and is replaced by Death Fisher.
  233. Death Fisher *sighs*, “guess I have to stand up now, okay, so my name is Tandenmaru, but you can call me Death Fisher, you know that Sickle chick, well that’s her real name you know but I guess special title names or mono…mona…currs…eh…*shrugs* anyway, I guess just call me Death Fisher, yeah I’m a death hunter too and all. But you know hunting down ghosts is too much trouble I just fish for them.”
  235. “Isn’t that the guy from the haunted mansion?” asks Hollia.
  237. “Yes, yes it is,” she continues.
  239. “A friend?” asks Jasma.
  241. “Um,” says Hollia remembering her intense fight with Death Fisher, “not really.”
  243. Rhulan steps forward, “your daughter valiantly kicked that man’s ass.”
  245. “Oh,” says Jasma, her smile surprising Hollia as well as relieving her.
  247. Death Fisher is switched with the trenchcoat clad Zanaz.
  249. “My name’s Zanaz,” he says acting cool about it, the women had talked over the Ahk’s intro bit, “I am a first class Adventurer and problem solver from the Land of Croix. With my partner Andria we are the highest rated duo team in the entire country.”
  251. He takes his hand out of his coat pocket and points at himself dramatically with his thumb, “No one is better than us, or ever will be, from thieves too dragons and demons we can take anything head on!”
  253. Zanaz is switched out with Ethan.
  255. “Well now,” says the Ahk, “an anti-life warrior decked out in yellow, and it’s not some skin tight costume.”
  257. Zanaz glares at Baron Adonz and growls, “you even look like you’re imagining that and I’ll kill you right now.”
  259. “Don’t blame your fantasies on me,” says Baron Adonz, “I for one prefer manly men over some tights wearing dancers.”
  261. Lord Xiang takes a step away from Baron Adonz.
  263. “This is just general armor,” says Ethan, “Oh, you mean the Yellow Deer leather vest? Yeah, it was a gift from my dad when I came back from New London as an official adventurer; well this and my house.”
  265. “We just want to know who you are for the records, your life story isn’t neccisary,” says the Ahk.
  267. “huh?” says Ethan his thoughts echoed by Hollia’s thoughts, “I though they could read minds?”
  269. “Oh well,” says Ethan, “I’m Ethan Ol’Whanna Barandarish, but everyone just calls me Ethan, well that and it’s my name. The rest of that is my middle and last name of course. Well I guess I should also say I’m an adventurer, yeah me and Zanaz graduated and returned home. Been rivals I guess, but if you guys really want a villain that Baron Adonz guy is a real villain.”
  271. “Enough!” says the Ahk as it switches Ethan out with Baron Adonz.
  273. “Now then,” says the Ahk, “Who are you?”
  275. “Me?” asks Baron Adonz putting his hand to his chest, “Why I’m just a humble business man and local Baron of Catarack Kingdom under our glorious king, King Maras, just one of many kingdoms of the grand and glorious Croix Empire. I’m no villain, Ethan boy is just in denial, he mistakes my advances to enlist him in my…private squad, for something more heinous. Poor boy really could use some proper guidance, from me.”
  277. Baron Adonz looks back at Ethan, who shivers at the glance.
  279. “eh,” says Death Fisher, “you in the trench coat, you did say he had girls back home right?”
  281. “Yes,” snaps Zanaz not meaning to say it so harshly.
  283. “Oookaaay,” says Death Fisher as he leans back on the bench, “you could cut the tension with a knife in here.”
  285. “Perhaps you should mind your own personal matter,” says Sickle, “the dealings of these mortals don’t concern us.”
  287. “Go back to the cell villain.” says the Ahk
  289. Baron Adonz is switched out with Lord Xiang.
  291. In the cell Ethan has his sword partially out of its sheath facing Baron Adonz, and Zanaz is facing him as well. Sickle and Death Fisher are on the bench between them.
  293. “Wish I had some popcorn.” says Death Fisher.
  295. “Me too,” says Sickle, right before her eyes pop open wide and she puts her hand over her mouth. A moment later she returns to a silent cold look, “I mean; what ever.”
  297. “I am Lord Xiang,” says Lord Xiang before the Ahk, “I am ancient immortal with powers over death its self, trapped for over a millennia in a coffin held shut by machines and ghosts. I am the founder of the Xiang Empire; and I will not allow you to put me back where I was! Ahhhhh!”
  299. A massive green aura erupts from Lord Xiang as his body rises from the pedestal, the aura takes the shape of a ghastly dragon.
  301. Lord Xiang vanishes, the energy dissipates in his absence. Lord Xiang finds himself back in the cell with the others.
  303. “You are not the first villain,” says the Ahk, “to try such a thing, nor likely to be the last. As we said, do not underestimate our power.”
  305. This display was enough to distract Ethan, Zanaz, and Baron Adonz from their conflict and watch the insanity taking place.
  307. “Amazing,” says Ethan, “the founder of Xiang, the elf queen of Stratalia…and the princess of Stratalia, not to mention the ancient queen of myth…I…I guess not a myth huh Zanaz?”
  309. Zanaz shrugs, “myth is just history mixed with stories to explain stuff from long ago. After all, she’s not a statue under razed castle after all.”
  311. “Yeah…” says Ethan, “but its hard to believe she’s really been walking the world…or you know to think that this morning while we were having breakfast somewhere in the world a real live Empress Rhulan was standing on the same world as us…” Ethan looks over at Lord Xiang glaring across the way at Rhulan who looks to be laughing, “or a real live Lord Xiang…its like standing in a castle of gods.”
  313. Ethan looks up at the Ahk as the pedestal lowers back into the floor thinking, “then again, that’s what this is isn’t it?”
  315. ******
  317. Hollia finds herself standing before a weird grassy area. Although it looks wide she can tell no more than thirty feet to either side there is a wall. Before her she can see far enough to see some trees, moving platforms over pits, and mechanical creatures with oval bodies a giant red eye on one end with legs resembling flat blades moving back and forth in some areas. Something too is flying around, orbs painted like bees with wings and something resembling a canon underneath the body. Ethan is looking at the exact same thing, except his back is to Hollia.
  319. “Huh?” they both say in unison as they turn around. A clear wall separates them.
  321. “The first contest,” comes the voice of the Ahk from out of no where, “will be through a fixed linear environment with deadly enemies. You will both face the same obstacles to make the challenge even. Your goal is to make points by taking down enemy robots and hitting the special orbs hidden through out the stage will act as collecting them. The one who collects the most points, defeats the boss at the end of the stage, and of course survives will be the winner. If your opponent is killed prior to completion the other will be declared the winner of the contest.”
  323. “By the goddess,” says Jasma back in the cell, both sides watching a floating split screen of what is happening in both areas, the cameras following the action of the contestants, “I though it said we’d be put back,”
  325. “Don’t worry,” says Rhulan, “Hollia is tough. This contest is child’s play.”
  327. Back in the area the Ahk signals the contest to begin.
  329. “Hut, hut, hut, hut, hut…” says Ethan as he runs along, jumping onto a floating green platform that is moving back and forth over a seemingly bottomless pit, above him an orb floats; however a bee drone flies back and forth, even passing right through the orb.
  331. Meanwhile Hollia back at her start touches the tiara on her temple, a purring sound assuring her Lin Lin is awake. Hollia does a spin rising into the air as she says, “levitation” a good distance up she stops spinning and floats. She an see over the entire stage, seeing an orb high up in a tree close by she flies over. As she gets close however a coconut flies from the tree. In a flash she summons her staff and swats the coconut away. A mechanical monkey is in the fake looking tree.
  333. “Goddess Wind!” she yells out, blasting the mechanical monkey into pieces, pieces that don’t look like they should have worked together as a robot. She passes her staff through the orb, it blinks and makes a chiming sound before vanishing. She sees not far off another one floating above a moving green platform guarded by a bee drone; another Goddess Wind makes short work of that drone as she swoops down and collects the orb.
  335. “Wow,” says Jasma watching, “Miss Rhulan your flying lessons really have been paying off.”
  337. “Of course,” says Rhulan, “Just because I went by a different name doesn’t mean I wasn’t holding true to tutoring Hollia.”
  339. Jasma smiles and nods to Rhulan as she turns back to the view screen.
  341. Meanwhile, Ethan takes out his broadswords, leaps up, and cuts the bee drone in half while also passing his sword through the orb. As the platform nears the other side he leaps from it and continues on. The contest continues on this way, crab like drones guarding an orb trapped in a cage made of over sized pipes, an orb floating over a pit of metal spikes with a floating platform moving across, orbs hidden in bushes, above the trees, guarded by chomping metal balls on chains. Ethans sword slices and dices these opponents with ease, Hollia’s “Goddess Wind” and “Saint’s Fire” spells make short work of these low class opponents. However as the two nearly mirror each other in how far they are getting, Ethan unknowingly overlooks the orbs high above his head; however Hollia is overlooking orbs in hidden tunnels whose give-away entrances can only be seen at ground level.
  343. At the end of this area a most unusual creature appears; or rather creatures as each faces one of their own. A giant eye with a red iris, with a silver flat back and silver eyelids; a silver ring floats around the eye, on this ring are tiny leaf like spikes, loose on their hinges, each spike with its own eye.
  345. Tiny fire balls shoot rather slowly through the air from the ring of eyes, Ethan slashes the fire balls to deflect them. On Hollia’s end her “Saint’s Barrier” protects her as she studies the enemy before her; she remembers the battles she has faught in the past along side Rhulan, the Aqua marine dragon harmed by fire, same too with the Dah-hoth monsters, Impchin harmed by ice, Mata-Go-Lucky stunned by electricity….her eyes shoot open as she has a “light bulb moment”. The monster before her is attacking in a predictable pattern just like Mata-Go-Lucky. As the fire balls stop the central eye opens wide and glows red; an obvious sign for a larger attack. However it looks down as it begins shooting a massive red beam and scans up from below; easy enough to dodge. The attack continues this way with fireballs for five seconds then the eye beam after a brief pause.
  347. Ethan has also noticed the pattern; however he is pressing his attack, jumping and slashing with his “Necro Blade” as much as he can. The thing closes its eyelid when he tried to hit the central eye while it’s shooting fire balls but not when it’s charging its eye beam. Its body flashes and jerks about when he hits it, but he can only get in a few slashes before the beam is ready; the first time nearly hitting him.
  349. “Ice Spear!” shouts Hollia with a swing of her staff from behind her barrier, the eyelid closes on her causing the ice spear to shatter against the metal eyelid.
  351. “I see,” says Hollia, her expression and tone reminding Betty of Rhulan; yes they can also hear the contestants but the contestants can not hear them.
  353. “I think my new technique should work,” she says.
  355. The instant the smaller eyes stop shooting fire balls Hollia un-summons her staff, her finger nails turn long, her eyes become cat eyes, and her ears vanish, replaced with cat ears on top of her head. She swings one arm and then the other, the energy slash marks don’t fly forward, instead with a mystical gesture and a magic blue sigil in the air appearing she gathers the slashing energies together into a sphere.
  357. “Shining Bell!” yells Hollia as she throws the weight ball sized sphere, as it flies it makes a jingling sound like a bell.
  359. Just as the eye is about to starts its beam the Shining Bell attack hits the eye, and goes through it. The entire body flashes, shakes, and then small explosions start up all across its body for no apparent reason, the body sinks into the ground, phasing into really, the explosions having no ill effect on the surroundings.
  361. Just as Ethan is about to come down on his giant eye ball boss opponent with a mighty slash of Necro-energy it vanishes, as does the entire stage.
  363. In the blackness both Hollia and Ethan find themselves next to each other. The voice of the Ahk echoes out into the blackness, “Contest over, entity designated Hollia has slain her boss opponent first. Total points place the life energy side in the lead, however it is only barely thanks mostly due to slaying the boss of the linear arena. Entity designated Ethan found five more orbs than entity designated Hollia did thanks to taking advantage of hidden areas. However as an amendment for the sake of progress of life form development, entity Ethan, you missed several orbs in the trees.”
  365. Both vanish and find themselves back in the cells.
  367. “You always forget to look up,” says Zanaz.
  369. “What?” says Ethan.
  371. Zanaz points out to where the screen still is, showing a “replay” of the last three minutes of the boss battles for both sides.
  373. “Very good dear,” says Jasma, “My, you’ve grown so much in such a short amount of time. I always knew you were tough dear but you’ve grown into such a great sorceress.”
  375. Hollia blushes, between her mom’s praise and the happy expression on Rhulan’s face, she doesn’t know if she’s embarrassed or really happy herself.
  377. ******
  379. Rhulan and Lord Xiang vanish from the cells and appear in a wide grassy area with rolling hills, a few steep short cliffs; some with caves in them, and spots of trees.
  381. “So much for breaks between matches to congratulate your team mates,” says Rhulan.
  383. “Why bother,” says Lord Xiang, “all they did was play a basic training program, we did harder training in our day.”
  385. “Oh don’t be such a spoiled sport,” says Rhulan, “so you’re team lost the first competition.”
  387. “One,” says Lord Xiang, “It’s a point system, and two it’s not my team, these freak aliens threw us together and are forcing us to play these stupid games for their entertainment, no doubt, so why should I be a spoiled sport when my only reward is these freaks feeling one side is better than the other for their own idiotic reasons and sending me back to a coffin.”
  389. “As I recall,” says Rhulan, “you put yourself in there and set it up so you couldn’t escape even if and when you wanted too. Not
  390. sure how you’ve not escaped, but then again you like most men think more about flexing your muscles than using your head, the one with the brain in it any way. How many times have I said, releasing the most energy isn’t always going to make you the winner, sometimes strategy is a far better weapon than brute force; or using different kinds of energy and methods than normal when all else fails.”
  392. “This coming from the woman who spent the last millennia as a lawn ornament.” says Lord Xiang with a *villainous chuckle* and a sneer of a smile.
  394. “If the heavy hitters are done with their bravado dialogue display,” says the voice of the Ahk, “the second contest will begin.”
  396. Rhulan and Lord Xiang both look in the same direction despite the voice seeming to come from all directions, “Through out this wide area spanning many miles there are many keys, and many treasure chests. Each key will only work once and then vanish, each treasure chest being opened will count as a point, who ever can open the most treasure chests using the keys in three hours will be the winner.”
  398. “Simple Enough,” says Lord Xiang as he makes a strange gesture with his hand, his left hand a fist into his right palm with his index and ring fingers raise, “Twin!”
  400. His body blinks in multiple colors, changing into a light that splits into two. When the blinking stops two Lord Xiangs stand there.
  402. “Amora come forth!” shouts Rhulan. The inside of her cape turns black, her shadow extends and becomes blacker than the blackest ink. Amora leaps into the air from her shadow, landing beside Rhulan in a bow.
  404. “Yes my mistress,” says Amora, “I am ready to serve.”
  406. “Rise and stand beside me for now,” says Rhulan, Amora does exactly that while keeping her eyes fixed on Lord Xiang.
  408. Lord Xiang narrows his four eyes. The two of him face each other and punch their right fists together while shouting, “Triad of the Emperor!”
  410. They once again blink, then merge, and then split again, this time into three Lord Xiangs.
  412. “Heh,” says Rhulan as she pulls her nano-egg from her cape.
  414. She shouts out, “Metal Skeleton come forth!”
  416. A beam shoots from the device into the ground, a Metal Skeleton rises from that spot and stands at the ready waiting for orders.
  418. “Very well,” says Lord Xiang as he makes some quick hand gestures.
  420. A blue see through energy in the shape of a large oval appears before Lord Xiang. He smashes his fist into the energy, which cracks like glass as he shouts, “Mirror Copy!”
  422. The blue shards fall, but do not hit the ground; instead just before hitting the ground they recombine into a blue silhouette of Lord Xiang. This ghostly form then glows bright a moment before turning into another Lord Xiang; except something is off about this one.
  424. Back in the cells Corinth on one side and Sickle on the other both notice and say at about the same time, “it’s a mirror image.”
  426. Indeed, this copy is Lord Xiang with his two sides switched around as they would be in a reflection; not something easily noticeable.
  428. “Alligator Man come forth!” shouts Rhulan, this time her device summoning an Alligator Man from the ground.
  430. Lord Xiang makes some different gestures and then slams his fist into the ground. A crack with a wave of blue light from it travels away from him a short distance before it stops. The ground caves in like a small crater before a statue version of Lord Xiang pops out of it. This statue moves as though made of flesh and cloth to join the other copies.
  432. “Narcissist,” says Rhulan, “watch this.”
  434. With a wave of her hand she sends out a swirling violet energy. It collects into the ground. A stone rectangular pillar erupts from the ground just before it splits apart to reveal a short muscular stone monster with craggy spherical boulders for arms.
  436. “Boldorio,” says Rhulan, “stand here at the ready!” the golem walks over next to the Metal Skeleton and Alligator man, with Amora on the other side of Rhulan.
  438. “Shadow Copy!” yells Lord Xiang. His shadow splits from his body and rises up; becoming three dimensional. A natural replacement shadow appears behind Lord Xiang.
  440. Rhulan holds her hand out, summoning her Runic Blade; however this time the small portals doesn’t vanish. Instead with a gesture Rhulan moves the portal behind the blade. It forms into a copy her hand, and then expands into a three dimensional shadow copy of herself; except unlike the one Lord Xiang summoned, hers has red glowing eyes.
  442. Before Lord Xiang can try something else, the Ahk shouts, “Enough! Enough of this; it is apparent you are both armies unto
  443. yourselves, and wont stop till you both have enough doubles or summoned minions to cover the ground of this arena in an instant. As you both insist upon cheating, we are calling this one a tie with no points.”
  445. As the Ahk speaks Rhulan gestures to Amora to quickly get back into her shadow as Rhulan reclaims her sword. Not a moment later both Rhulan and Lord Xiang are sent back to their cells; their doubles and creations vanishing with out their power there to sustain them; the golems and machines turning to dust.
  447. ******
  449. Hollia can barely start a “wow, Miss Rhulan,” before Betty vanishes from the cell. Same too with the other cell, except Baron Adonz was trying to say, “you know, your highness…” He however doesn’t finish what ever attempt to gain favor with the ancient emperor he was saying as he vanishes from the cell.
  451. Betty and Baron Adonz find themselves standing on the edge of a desert canyon, a trail leads into the darkness below, illuminated by a river of lava. Around them is a starting point like one would find for a race track and a path going down the cliff side of the canyon. On the other side of the canyon, about two hundred feet away is another checkered line on the ground with poles and a banister indicating a finishing line.
  453. “This contest,” says the voice of the Ahk, “is a race, the contestants are to go from the starting line to the finishing line as fast as possible while avoiding the obstacles below. There are traps, a river of lava with floating rocks to jump across, and various hidden enemies along the way. Now…begin!”
  455. Baron Adonz races ahead, going down the side of the cliff on the narrow trail.
  457. “Ha!” he yells back up, “now I am in the lead, no way one of you goody goods would think to shove me aside ha!”
  459. Betty takes off her hat, which vanishes. As her hair cascades down, her great white wings spread out. Baron Adonz stops, dumbfounded in his tracks looking up as Betty rises into the air and flies gracefully across the chasm to the finishing line.
  461. “bu, bu, bu, bu,” stammers Baron Adonz.
  463. Betty summons her hat back, her hair rising into the air on its own to collect inside it as she lowers it onto her head; with some magical golden sparkles changing her ears.
  465. “Hey!” yells up Baron Adonz, “that’s cheating!”
  467. “Betty the Baroness,” comes the voice of the Ahk, “you were supposed to go down the canyon and back up.”
  469. “That’s not what you said,” says Betty, “you said to go from the start line to the finish line and avoid all the stuff down there, well I avoided all that none sense the best way possible. I flew.”
  471. “True,” says the Ahk, “but in all fairness…”
  473. “Fairness?” yells back up Betty, “have you checked out my outfit? I’m a pirate! If you want fair to get some knight in shining army to play your games.”
  475. “Well…” says the Ahk, “per the conditions of the contest we....*whispering sounds*….we have concluded that Betty the Baroness who is apparently not just dressed like a pirate, is the winner.”
  477. Betty and Baron Adonz vanish and find themselves back in the cells.
  479. Betty looks around the cell, “So…you all saw that huh?”
  481. Rhulan shrugs, “I would have done the same.”
  483. Hollia looks at her mother and blushes before saying, “yeah, I would have too Miss Betty.”
  485. Jasma smiles, “to be honest if I could fly so would I; its only logical.”
  487. Corinth just leans against the wall, “It goes with out saying that was the prudent course of action given the conditions.”
  489. Tiana has a look in her eyes as though contemplating something.
  491. In the other cell Ethan is laughing his ass off as Baron Adonz sulks while Zanaz is trying futilely to hide that he is laughing with his mouth closed.
  493. ******
  495. Jasma and Zanaz vanish from the cells and find themselves standing next to each other at a starting line before a long rectangular still clear water pond. Tiny Lilly pads float about on the surface as a gentle warm breeze blows through a wide flat grass plane that ends in what are clearly walls with an extending field scene painted onto them.
  497. Jasma dips her head to Zanaz, “Greetings, as I recall you are an adventurer of Croix. I would like to take this opportunity to
  498. greet you properly; I am Queen Jasma of Stratalia.”
  500. “Uh,” says Zanaz, “Hi…your majesty,”
  502. Jasma smiles, “it’s a bit awkward yes, a royal meeting an adventurer in such a strange circumstance as this.”
  504. “Y..yeah,” says Zanaz, “I mean,” he shakes his head slightly and stiffens up regaining his composure. He puts his arms to his chest and bows his head, “It is a pleasure to meet you your majesty. I am Zanaz, adventurer out of Mid-Croix.”
  506. Jasma gently bows her head, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Zanaz.”
  508. Ethan could just punch the wall out of jealousy if he wasn’t more composed. In his mind’s eye he sees Zanaz bragging about getting to meet the Elf Queen of Stratalia when they get man, “no way,” thinks Ethan, “No Zanaz would play it cool like it wasn’t a big deal,” He imagines Zanaz standing there leaning by a tree talking to the whole gang, “Yeah, it weren’t no big deal for a hot shot adventurer to meet an Elf Queen from the mystical continent.”
  510. Back in the field the voice of the Ahk speaks to the Jasma and Zanaz, “This is a simple athletic competition; dressed in your current gear you are to swim across this pond. The first to reach the finish line wins. Now…Begin!”
  512. Jasma glows blue, Zanaz glows green; they both take off and…run across the surface of the water.
  514. “Stop!” yells the Ahk.
  516. Jasma and Zanaz both stop, standing on the water.
  518. Ethan watching says, “when the hell did he learn water walking?”
  520. “Wow,” says Hollia from the other hell, “I didn’t know mom could do that, I’d like to be able to do that.”
  522. “Sure,” says Rhulan, “seeing as you have about perfected your flying, lessons on water walking should be a nice side lesson to your spell casting and attack techniques. Its always good to have a few extra tricks to pull out.”
  524. Back in the arena the Ahk says, “This is a swimming competition, in the field you warriors should be forced to swim from time to time in your gear.”
  526. Jasma and Zanaz look at each other.
  528. “Uh,” says Zanaz, “to be honest…swimming…I…”
  530. “He can’t swim?” says Ethan looking at the screen.
  532. Baron Adonz remembers the screens in his castle, watching them fighting in his garden, when the girl with red hair had been pulled into the water Zanaz didn’t help her. He figured Zanaz hadn’t arrived until right after that; but now he wanders. He looks over at Ethan with a creepy smile wandering what the adventurer would think if it turned out to be true that his long time rival might have let one of his girls drown.
  534. Jasma says to the air above them, “It’s not a shame to lack one talent when one has so many others. Walking upon the water is as good a safety measure against drowning, if not more so, as swimming in it.”
  536. Rhulan thinks to herself, “well that I wouldn’t say.”
  538. “In this event,” says the Ahk, “this competition is voided, neither side gains any points. The race is swimming, if the competitors can not swim, the competition is null and void.”
  540. Jasma and Zanaz are returned to their cells. Zanaz leans against the wall, looking at Ethan expecting some snide remark.
  542. “Hey man,” says Ethan, “why didn’t you say you can’t swim, I could teach you when we get back home.”
  544. For a brief instance a spark of happiness appears in Zanaz’s eyes as though he would accept this offer, but instead he blushes, turns his head, and says, “I don’t need your help. If you can do it, I’ll no doubt pick up on it in a day.”
  546. “Get a room you two,” says Death Fisher to himself.
  548. In the other cell Jasma feels ashamed; she had wanted to show off like the others had done.
  550. “You can’t swim mom?” asks Hollia, a memory of her mother swimming in a pool comes to mind, “wait…you can swim.”
  552. “Yes, dear,” says Jasma, “I never said I couldn’t. But it seems our supposedly omniscient game masters don’t quite know all.”
  554. ******
  556. Corinth and Sickle are next to be transported to a weird place. A long thin dirt road is in front of them as they stand side by side behind a white line. On either side of it is grass, short cut green grass. To make the whole thing even weirder there are stands for spectators along the length of this path.
  558. “This competition,” says the Ahk, “will be a foot race. So no flying, go from the starting line to the finish line in a straight line. A test of speed, however as villains are permitted there is no rule against cheating, other than flying.”
  560. Corinth and Sickle look at each other,
  562. *Flash/Yellow*, *Flash/Red*
  564. *Flash/Yelloq*, *Flash/Red*
  566. Corinth and Sickle have both teleported at the same time to the finish line.
  568. A soft *rrrr* can be heard.
  570. “Very well,” says the Ahk, “We are calling this one a tie.”
  572. Corinth and Sickle are returned to the cells.
  574. Death Fisher smiles as Sickle stands by him, “let me guess,” he says, “kind of irritated that elf had the same idea huh?”
  576. Sickle’s eyes narrow, yet a brief moment later a sly little smile sneaks into the corner of her mouth.
  578. ******
  580. This time it is Tiana and Death Fisher who find themselves transported to a weird place; a large square stone arena about three feet tall and nearly fifty feet wide. Around it is grass for a short distance before meeting a tall red wooden wall with bleachers on the other side of them.
  582. “A martial arts battle arena,” says Tiana, “guess they decided to cut the shit and just make us fight.”
  584. “Damn,” says Death Fisher, “I really had my fingers crossed for a fishing contest.”
  586. “This competition,” says the Ahk, “will be a direct contest of skills and abilities, a battle with the one left standing the winner.”
  588. Back in the cell Rhulan mumbles, “Why didn’t they just do a tournament to start with? Would have made more sense, even if convoluted with a team based point system.”
  590. Back in the arena a disc of glowing white energy appears above the two combatants standing at either end of the large arena.
  592. “As we are fair” says the Ahk, “we will scan the two contestants, that way we will have their vital signs and know when they have reached their limits. It has been our experience that champions of good and evil tend to push themselves beyond the boundaries of death when fighting each other. We will insure that when a fighter is beyond able to battle that they are declared incapacitated. As this is a martial arts arena, not a death battle arena.”
  594. A light bathes down over Death Fisher; his body becomes see through with a red aura.
  596. “What the hell!” screams the Ahk, “*cough* we mean…you…are not human…by any means, or even mortal…that is not a biological body.” The sound of disbelief in its voice draws the attention of everyone.
  598. “Now the other contestant,” says the Ahk.
  600. The light bathes down over Tiana, the Ahk appears in the center of the arena just as Tiana’s body turns into shadow. As her body extends up, changing in shape to that of a beautiful athletic woman, the Ahk falls to the ground making a horrible *screeching* sound, its body blinking all sorts of colors. The shadow morphs into that of a woman wearing a black cloak with a face like a dark mask in a hood with swirling darkness between the face and the hood, blue blazing lights for eyes.
  602. “The Umbra Luminous!?” shouts Corinth.
  604. “You know her now do you?” asks Rhulan a strange confused expression on her face causing her to rub her eyes as if sleepy.
  606. “Y…yes,” says Corinth eyeing Rhulan, “but…Tiana the Shadow Hunter… mother?…it doesn’t add up!”
  608. Rhulan shrugs while thinking; thoughts that seem to echo beyond her mind into her mind, “The Umbra Luminous, it is as I feared, damn.”
  610. Back in the arena Death Fisher says, “So instead of some little blue elf, you’re something else huh?”
  612. He shrugs, as she puts her finger to her lips to *shush* him. Her body turns back to shadow and then back to that of the petite blue elf girl Tiana. The Ahk instantly recovers and returns the air, turning invisible as it does so.
  614. “This contest is void!” shouts the Ahk, “neither contestant has a normal body. Both in fact are in direct contrast of what is expected of life and anti-life, a spirit body and…what ever the one called Tiana is that emits….*crash*….” Its tone changes the more calm and collected tone it had when these games began, “I mean a strange shadowy being.”
  616. Tiana and Death Fisher are sent back to their cells.
  618. “Halt!” shouts Corinth aiming her cane at Tiana, “what game are you playing? Traveling with Princess Vondroncha, as Tiana the hunter?”
  620. “She hired me,” says Tiana with a smile, “so I’m doing exactly what she hired me to do.”
  622. A wicked smile creases across her face, “ever wonder…priestess, why no one ever knows how to describe me on Ecliar? Why no one would think to say I looked like the princess?”
  624. “This is fascinating and all,” says Rhulan in a condescending tone, “however we have far more pressing matters to attend to than what ever beef you two might have with each other over some alien matters. I do believe everyone has been in a competition now, so its time these Ahk creatures played their final card. I suggest you both be ready.”
  626. Hollia gulps, pressing her fingers against her tiara, a flash of red eyes in Rhulan’s shadow making Jasma jump before she remembers what happened between Rhulan and Lord Xiang earlier. Much the same is occurring in the other cell, Lord Xiang and Sickle telling Ethan, Zanaz, and Baron Adonz they can kill each other when they get home; for now the real game is about to start.
  628. ******
  630. The Ahk appears in the air above and….wobbles about madly while speaking to its self.
  632. “What the hell was that?”
  634. “What?
  636. “There was no reason to cut the last competition short, it was going to be cool!”
  638. “My ass it was, did you see that shadow thing? It was emitting trans-dimensional radiation!”
  640. “So what; all we had to do was correct the signal to compensate for it.”
  642. “I say we end this now, these aren’t even humans I tell you.”
  644. “no way, this is too much fun. Its no where near done.”
  646. “Fine, I’m out of here, don’t come crying to me when this whole bag of shit explodes on your head.”
  648. “Yeah, thanks for the imagry.”
  650. The Ahk stops wobbling and speaks in the loud voice again, “Beings of this world, the first round is complete, the being of life are in the lead. For the sake of fairness every combination of your two teams will be explored and…”
  652. “Get back,” says Rhulan as she holds her hand up as if to side swipe karate chop the energy barrier.
  654. Her hand glows with a deep red, “Demon’s Rapier!” she shouts as she slices through the barrier. Sparks fly from the edges of the cell as she shouts, “Now run!”
  656. They flee out into the open space as the cell briefly catches fire before cold air blasts out from all sides of the cell extinguishing the flames.
  658. “What the hell?” says the Ahk.
  660. Sickle smiles as she pulls her blades forward, their chains floating into nothingness.
  662. “Demonic Arts, special attack demon’s blade” she says as a similar red energy comes over her weapons. She slashes them through the barrier imitating Rhulan. They flee their cell as well just before it too catches fire.
  664. “ywaa, wwud, I sawy,”
  666. “Get the food out of your mouth! The speaker is still…on…oh shit.”
  668. Rhulan looks up, “It was the whole time you imposters! The Ahk indeed. I don’t know what you are, but the Ahk aren’t so foolish as you.”
  670. “What?” says the glowing ball meant to look like an Ahk.
  672. “Say Hollia,” says Rhulan, “want to see something cool? What’s one of the most difficult and dangerous spells for someone to try?”
  674. Hollia thinks a moment.
  676. “Okay,” says Rhulan, “not exactly a narrowed down list really, but you know Chaos Destroyer, well I made a watered down version,” she smiles wickedly before she continues, “check this out.”
  678. Rhulan holds her hand out, red sparks dancing between her fingers as she shouts, “Chaos Blast!” a wide dark red energy beam shoots out and engulfs the would be Ahk, and goes beyond it hitting the ceiling and blasting through it. A sudden gust of air picks up around them surprising them as it sucks up towards the hole in the ceiling.
  680. “Damn it Rhulan,” shouts Lord Xiang, “we’re in a space ship!”
  682. “That doesn’t even make sense,” shouts back Rhulan, “we’re in Other World, there’s no vacuum in space here.”
  684. *paswoosh*
  686. The wind stops.
  688. “Eh, it wasn’t strong enough to pass for the vacuum of space anyway,” comes a voice from no where.
  690. “No matter,” says another voice, “Yes we are not the Ahk. That doesn’t change the fact that we are judging your world. What we said is true, its just…the Ahk are more…”
  692. “Glowy,” says Rhulan.
  694. “Over bearing ass-holes,” says Tiana.
  696. “Full of themselves,” says Jasma.
  698. “Apparently already well known here,” says the voice.
  700. “Actually,” says Tiana, “to be fair, your whole bit here who ever you are is illogical.”
  702. “Regardless of our methods,” says the voice, “we are still the judges of this world’s development in life and anti-life energies. Even if our true forms would not fill you with as much awe as that of the Ahk.”
  704. “You know,” says Rhulan, “if you’re anything we wouldn’t have heard of it wouldn’t have mattered what you called yourselves, and just spoke from nothing like you are now. In fact the less you see the bigger the impact sometimes.”
  706. The voices are silent a moment, but they hear a whispering *I told you so*.
  708. The voices return, “who are you to tell us that any how?”
  710. “She,” says Tiana, “is a super-powered immortal who is thousands of years old and has been worshipped as a goddess on this world, feared as a devil and villainous on many others, also worshipped on many others, and on the rare occasion seen as some divine blessed being or something…usually seen as something darker.”
  712. “What?” says the voice.
  714. “It’s what I meant by illogical,” says Tiana as her body morphs into that of Umbra Luminous, taking to the air her cloak becomes like great wings, a bird like tail made of solid shadow with no signs of feathers forms from her legs, leaving her hooded face and ample chest as the signs of her human for, “you said you have been watching this world for ages. Watching the life forms develop. Okay, so, why are we here? I mean several of these contestants aren’t even from this world. Corinth, Betty, and myself came here from different dimensions, Sickle and Death Fisher are Death Hunters…in other words grim reapers from the Land of the Dead. Rhulan and this gentleman in the dress over here called Lord Xiang weren’t born on this world either so you can’t say this world developed them. Hell the entire Aesperian race originally came here as colonists from another universe not much further back than maybe two thousand years ago. Sure the magic of this world has influenced their development, maybe even Rhulan and Lord Xiang have had some changes as a result also; who knows. This woman Jasma I’m pretty sure isn’t from this world either. Her kid there then is only part Aesperian, got some elf in her…pretty sure there is some Kuhrai in her too. So then really, the closest things to locals you have are…”
  716. She indicates back to Ethan, Zanaz, and Baron Adonz who have been listening to this way over their heads and experiences story with a dumb founded look.
  718. “…these three,” she continues, “but even then they are also Aesperians, their powers are descended from people who already had those kinds of powers who came here two thousand years ago…these three I guess just are the most practiced at it. Hell if not for the death hunters being here you might have gotten a few more like them; and if not for us on the so called life side being around who knows who or what you might have gotten. I mean really, you idiots should have just filtered out anything alien when scanning for local life forms not just power levels.”
  720. “Hold on!” shouts Rhulan.
  722. “Did I steal your thunder?” asks The Umbra Luminous
  724. Rhulan thinks a moment before saying, “Any Who, no, I want to know how the hell you know all that? Even being who you are there is no reason you’d have all that information, even traveling with us, even with what you’d know from the past, there is no reason you’d have all those details about everyone here!”
  726. “Oh dear,” says Umbra Luminous, “guess I got the better half....”
  728. The glow of her eyes intensifies, Rhulan's eyes light up the same, sparks of electricity dancing from the edges, the two stare at each other, the colors of their eyes flashing in different shades of blue, red, green, purple...but then suddenly stop as the Umbra Luminous' body glows with an aura of darkness mixed with red and blue fiery waves.
  730. The Umbra Luminous shrugs, “Well…this isn’t the right audience for this scene, so this will have to wait till later in the story.”
  732. She suddenly unleashes a blinding blue light.
  734. ******
  736. “There you are,” says Cata as she sees Hollia, Rhulan, and Betty come around from behind a rock to their campground by the river.
  738. Scrags raises an eyebrow at seeing the three ladies, coming back to camp.
  740. “So,” says Cata, “I had assumed you wouldn’t abandon me with Scrags,”
  742. “Hey,” says Scrags, who shuts up when Cata looks at him.
  744. “Oh no Miss Cata,” says Hollia, “we…”
  746. *Flash* Corinth appears.
  748. “Rhulan,” says Corinth, “clearly you know The Umbra Luminous, perhaps better than I, care to explain what you meant. I assume everything she said was outside her range of knowledge as you know her.”
  750. Rhulan shrugs, “I havn’t any idea how she’s know all that. When I knew her she was a monster living in Eastern Croix.”
  752. Rhulan's eyes narrow a fleeting memory of flying through the air shrieking like an eagle with great shadow wings in place of arms. She shakes her head.
  754. “Someone else tagging along?” asks Cata.
  756. “Nope,” says Betty sitting down beside Cata taking a bowl of the chili Scrags was preparing for breakfast, not much of it though, “it was that Tiana girl, she turned into this other lady and went all higher power on some gods or something pretending to be Ahk or something.”
  758. “Oh,” says Cata preferring not to ask any more questions.
  760. “Any who,” says Rhulan turning to Corinth after eavesdropping on Betty, “Like I said she was a monster when I met her.”
  762. “Hmm,” says Corinth, “Seems she’s also been a bounty hunter on Ecliar under the name Tiana. But in her true form on Ecliar she is worshipped as a goddess, the Light that casts a shadow and the Shadow that emits lights...and in a sense, my mother. We call her children, the Daughters of Chaos.”
  764. “Really?” asks Rhulan looking thoughtful
  766. “You mean…?” asks Corinth.
  768. "No," says Rhulan, "I am absolutely certain Umbra Luminous is not my mother"
  770. *giggle*
  772. Rhulan and Hollia both at the sky, hearing what no one else can hear.
  774. Corinth twists her staff in her hand, “I see,” she says after a short pause, “then this mystery only deepens. Not that, its any concern for my current mission.”
  776. “Current mission?” asks Rhulan
  778. *Flash* and she is gone.
  780. ******
  782. Jasma finds herself standing in the private garden of the Lia family.
  784. “Jasma!”
  786. The manly shout turns her around just as Tyros lifts her in the air in his embrace.
  788. “Here you are! Ever since you vanished this morning I’ve have the guards looking all over for you. I even had some of the seers try to see where you went. I mean…at first when you just…poofed into thin air I thought.”
  790. “Tyros,” says Jasma.
  792. “Yes my love,”
  794. “Please put me down,”
  796. “Oh…sorry dear.”
  798. Jasma brushes herself off, “Is it such a big deal that I vanished? I mean my mother calls me back all the time.”
  800. “It was your mother? Well, usually she does that whole…no offense, creepy talking mirror thing.”
  802. “No, no,” says Jasma, “it wasn’t my mother this time. It was something pretending to be the Ahk.”
  804. “What?”
  806. She grabs his arm, “I’ll tell you all about it over breakfast…or is lunch now. But first we should probably call the guards off their wild goose chase.”
  808. ******
  810. The water of the stream sparkles as the sun filters through the trees. Before Zanaz and Ethan is a familiar dirt road, under their feet an equally familiar wooden bridge traversing the stream.
  812. “Where the hell have you been!” shouts a woman behind them. Zanaz and Ethan turn to see the source of the voice is none other than Zanaz’s girlfriend, Andria, dressed in her all black witch costume despite the hot weather.
  814. A flash of red and blue from next to her rushes and grabs onto Ethan, Rebecca the blue witch, and Janet the red witch.
  816. “Oh Ethan,” says Janet, “where have you been darling we’ve been looking all over for you.”
  818. “I’ve been looking…harder…” says Rebecca enveloping his arm in her breasts.
  820. “No,” says Janet copying her sister as she presses harder against Ethan’s side, “I have.”
  822. Ethan says excitedly, “Oh you guys wont believe it, we were in this like magic place, and oh, this is so amazing, I saw Queen
  823. Jasma; yeah the elf queen of Stratalia. Oh and it gets better, turns out she has a daughter; yeah say her too, uhm…I think they said her name was Hollia…or Hol Lia, or…something…but yeah totally, we saw the Elf Queen and the Elf princess…and oh and there was an Elf
  824. Baroness, except she was dressed like a pirate, and there was this Elf Priestess, and this short blue Elf, it was totally awesome.”
  826. Janet and Rebecca look at each other around Ethan’s chest with questioning looks on their faces.
  828. “We also saw,” says Zanaz more calmly while looking ahead, not wanting to meet Andria’s icy stare, “two figures from mythology, Lord Xiang the founder of the Xiang Empire, and Empress Rhulan.”
  830. “What?” says all three girls in unison.
  832. “Oh right,” says Ethan, “I totally forgot they were there too, but I…I honestly don’t know who they are.”
  834. “What?” says Rebecca, Janet, and Zanaz in unison.
  836. “Hmph,” says Andria.
  838. “You know,” says Zanaz, “the fact those two actually exist and are walking this very world somewhere at this moment is more than a bit disturbing.”
  840. “Really?” asks Ethan, “they seemed alright to me.”
  842. Zanaz remembers the scene they just came from, the competitions, making his eye twitch that Ethan could be so oblivious.
  844. “Wait,” says Ethan, “didn’t they say those two people on our team were reapers or something too.”
  846. One could practically see the questions marks floating over the heads of the girls from the expressions on their faces.
  848. “I do believe,” says Zanaz, “we encountered one of those two before, he was the man who helped us out at Baron Adonz’s castle.”
  850. Before any of the girls can ask Zanaz and Ethan say together, “Baron Adonz!” and look at each other.
  852. “What’s wrong?” asks Rebecca.
  854. “Yeah,” says Janet, “you guys took him out weeks ago.”
  856. “He’s alive,” says Ethan with a shudder.
  858. “He was there too,” says Zanaz, “the gods or what ever they were, that took us there also brought him there for their childish competitions.”
  860. “Yeah,” says Ethan, “that was pretty cool how that sorceress,”
  862. “Empress Rhulan,” says Zanaz.
  864. “Yeah her,” says Ethan, “and that blue elf that turned into that taller cat-girl elf totally showed them up.”
  866. “So,” says Janet, “you two had an adventure…with out us?”
  868. “I guess so,” says Ethan, “it was more like a sports competition…”
  870. “How about we discuss this over dinner,” says Rebecca, “I bet you’re starving Ethan…”
  872. “and you two can join us” she says to Zanaz and Andria.
  875. “Tha…” starts Zanaz *oomph* however Andria bumps his side, “I mean,” he continues, “we must be going.”
  877. Zanaz and Andria walk back over the bridge towards their home, discussing what happened in detail as Janet and Rebecca take Ethan back to his home talking how each of them is going to make him a super energy and stamina boosting dinner and how he has to decide which tastes better; which he takes in stride as he continues to talk about the crazy adventure he just had. However the fact that their greatest enemy, the corrupt Baron Adonz still lives floats in the back of their minds and how he too was likely returned to where ever he was just like them.
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