Existential (Prelude)

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Existential (Prelude)

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Thomas Sam, FCHS Journalist

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The resounding roars of war rage through thunder and rain on the fields of Germany, and the clashes of swords and the defeated yelps of the Germanic knights constantly ring out. There are some 500 men on the field, about half with their armor adorned with the black symbol of their cult, and the other half wearing the two gold triangles of their warrior-god. This is not a battle of countries or governments, but a dark crusade.

Within the fight, the cultists are failing. They are being pushed back into their territory by the triangle knights; however, it is not the common cavalry striking this fear into the cultists.

Suddenly, strikes of red lightning smash around a figure in the forefront of the triangle knights’ offensive. It reveals a man with flowing, ghost-white hair, wearing armor of brilliant gold and maroon; he is the very warrior-god his followers devote their service to.

The demigod raises his black sword to the rampant sky and lets a bolt of red lightning strike it. With a sideward slash, the lightning projects forth at a line of his opponents. After creating a path in the enemy line, the warrior looks at his destination, a castle on the hill overlooking the battlefield.

The warrior turns toward his regime. “Onward! Their sanctum is near, our goal shall be accomplished soon!” he called in his thunderous voice.

 

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The cultists sit in a dark room with rickety pipes lining the walls and an altar placed in the middle. There is one man sitting closest to the altar and two rows of three people sitting behind him. All in the back hum a deep and low tune as the man in the forefront mutters dark hexes. From the sounds echoing throughout the castle, the cultists know the triangle knights have breached their defenses and entered the castle.

One of the cultists looks up. “It is only a matter of time before they find us, Alaric,” he says. The man in the forefront, Alaric, stops uttering his incantations and gazes on the altar in front of him with a sickly, but smug expression. The man’s skin is horridly pallid, as if he has not come in contact with sunlight for all his time on Earth. He wears a torn, black, hooded robe which casts a dark shadow on his undead face and hides grey cloth wrappings which cover the length of his arms.

“They will find no accomplishment here,” Alaric begins in his sickly voice, “we have already completed our work.” As he finishes, the voices of the enemy knights are getting closer. He turned to one of his disciples and said, “Ready the contingency plan, Rainer. They will most definitely be able to overwhelm us.”

A young man of 35 years, Rainer, stood and moved quickly into a back room and down a secret flight of stone steps deeper into the dungeons of the castle. Upon reaching a large metal door at the end of the stairs, he pulled a lever on the wall and a loud hiss of steam continuously poured from the pipes covering the wall as the door screeched open.

What used to be the castle’s colossal dungeons are now filled almost completely with robust masses of steam-driven circuitry created by the cultists. Neither these machines, nor the concept of steam power, are seen anywhere else on Earth at this point in time. In their seclusion, the cultists have developed technology far beyond their own era. Rainer now stands before the master controls of his society’s greatest mechanical feat: an artificial brain.

He hastily pulls some levers on the primary console in a specific order and triggers some shifting and clanking throughout the huge machine. To his left, in the little bit of room not taken up by the brain, a clock winds up. Rainer moves and inspects the clock. “Twenty-four hours is all it will need,” he said to himself. With that done, he reaches above the primary console, unlatching a tube-casing, and sliding its hatch open to reveal six crystal orbs. It is done, Rainer thought. After pushing one last button on the console, he ran back up the stairs to join the cultists.

 

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The door finally came into the warrior’s view. He walked up to the door, placed his hands on the hinges, and let loose a red blast of electricity from his hands, busting off the hinges. He kicked the door down and came face-to-face with the head cultists. Alaric was now standing on the altar with a black book in his hands and his disciples surrounding him.

The old man looked up. “Welcome Xerxes,” he said. He then completed his incantation in a couple more dark words and shut his book. “Unfortunately for you,” he began, “you are too late.”

The altar erupted in a violent black cloud that rose and overshadowed Alaric. As the living shadow flowed into him, his entire body began turning darker. His form turned completely black and – as if all his skin and flesh had become tar – it all began to melt off of his bones, leaving only a standing coal-black skeleton. The eyes who used to be  Alaric’s lit up with a blue flame.

“Finally, you will suffer defeat, Xerxes,” the newborn shadow hissed in blood-thinning whisper.

“Do not hold your hopes so high, demon,” said Xerxes. The idea of not being  able to prevent the awakening of the entity annoyed him, but not enough to make him doubt himself. “Putting you back in your prison would not require even half of my attention.”

“So much certainty,” said the dark skeleton, its words fading as it spoke. “We will prove it misplaced,” it said, turning to the followers, “Attack!”

Two disciples, a tall man and and a burly man, rushed toward Xerxes. They attempted to grab him, but he swiftly laid his hands on each of them, and electrified them for three solid seconds. The disciples crumpled down feebly in defeat.

The next two followers drew knives and ran slashing at Xerxes, and he threw up his armored arms to let the blades bounce off of him. With the two off balance, he repeated the process as before and his opponents lit up in a red flash, and then fell, completely pacified.

The skeletal demon was surprised, and it now must reevaluate the situation as its forces rapidly dwindled at the hands of the formidable Xerxes. Coming to a solution, the demon transformed into a speeding, shadowy blur and flew around the room. Xerxes watched as the shadow hopped in and out of each of the fallen bodies and through the two standing cultists. Upon the demon’s exit of the last person, the eyes of the standing followers lit up in the familiar blue flame and the fallen stood up once more.

The shadow demon looked at Xerxes once more and whispered, “Enjoy yourself.” With that, the shadow phased through the wall behind him and disappeared to the dungeon.

Xerxes was now completely surrounded. He looked around him, and drew his sword. The followers’ arms became enveloped in shadow and began to resemble blades.

The followers lunged once again, this time all at once. At that moment, Xerxes used his electricity to accelerate his movement and dashed out of the ring they had made around him. Slowing down and running at the wall, he grabbed one of the steam pipes and ripped it open, aiming at the group of hostiles. As they stood there stunned, Xerxes transformed his metamorphic sword into a spiked ball and chain and swung it sideways, swiping three followers in their sides. Realising the demon was getting away, he decided to end this swiftly, thrusting out his hand to let a lethal strike of lightning arc from his fingers to strike the remaining followers. With them fallen for now, he kicked down the door to the dungeon stairs and ran to find the shadow demon.

 

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The demon looked at the rack of the six crystal orbs above the primary console. Reaching its shadowy hand up, it dropped six blue lights – the souls of worshippers taken from their bodies – into the orbs. The shadow has implemented the final piece to his contingency plan to have the orbs preserve the consciousnesses of his followers, which will be loaded into the brain on its start-up at the end of the timer that was set by Rainer, therefore allowing them to fight another day.

The demon pushed the centermost button on the console and the orbs were whisked out of sight, deep into the brain. Its work was now completed, and it turned back into a blur of darkness and flew into the machine. The brain whirred, sputtered, and clanked, and then stopped, silence once again resuming.

Xerxes made it to the room and opened the door to the brain, however, he found nothing but a narrow space and what appeared to be a jumble of pipes and machinery. Believing he had lost the demon, he continued down the hall.

 

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Finding nothing, Xerxes ascended the castle until he reached a balcony overlooking most of the conflict between his knights and the cultist knights. “Exterminate them!” he thundered at his followers. “No cultist is to leave these grounds alive!”

The careful and methodical removal of cultists ensued from sunrise till dusk after. With them gone, Xerxes and his faction embarked on their search for the demon farther north, abandoning the castle. Unbeknownst to the knights, the timer on the brain runs out, and the mechanization starts up, distributing the crystal orbs to six automatons hidden in the room. Alaric’s cultists awake and survive artificially. And they now begin their work to reanimate themselves and prepare themselves for a future encounter with Xerxes. An encounter which the cultists intend to win.