Anxiety flooded every part of Drake’s body. The creature that called himself Lord Dy’Ixion had rendered both Alf and Rex inert.
Drake cut his sound warp and pushed his back solidly against the wall he hid behind. He had to think of something, and quick.
In milliseconds, he ran through a thousand different scenarios, but not a single one of them could possibly work. Years of training, strategy, and experience, and there wasn’t a single thing he could do! If the blood oath had killed Alf it’d be one thing, but he had knocked him unconscious, and at the same time, secured the Stone of Kay inside the earthen cocoon. Which meant Vackzilian would soon have both of them. He would torture Alf to find out about Drake’s existence, and then, using Travers Wake, he’d teleport a whole army at once to surround and capture him. And while Drake could now become completely invisible, he didn’t have the energy to remain so forever, which in turn meant there would be no way for him to outmaneuver Vackzilian’s limitless resources.
He stared blankly at the destruction around him, despair welling up in him. For the first time in his life, Drake had no viable options.
He closed his eyes; no, that wasn’t quite true.
Taking a deep, wavering breath, he slid to his knees. “God, you know I’ve never believed in you, and to be honest, I’m not sure I do now, but Alf does. Please, if you are real, please help us now!”
“NOO!” a blood curdling scream of animalistic rage rang out, followed seconds later by another unintelligible scream of pure hatred.
Drakovian sprang to his feet and spun around the corner.
There, several-hundred feet in front of him, a multi-layered golden shield surrounded the blood oath, closing him in. Streams of black indigo lightning poured off the blood oath, hissing and popping against the shield as the first layer completely entrapped him. More unintelligible screams erupted from Dy’Ixion, and the lighting tripled in mass. As the dark magic blasted into the barrier, slowly but surely, the shield thinned to the breaking point.
Just as paper-thin cracks began to split the golden surface, a well-built, white-haired man dashed up, slammed his palms against the barrier, and grunted. The second layer of the golden shield slammed shut, securing Dy’Ixion inside; then the glorious sphere flared and solidified, becoming completely opaque.
The older man dropped to his knees, gulping down air as perspiration poured from his brow. Blue streams of energy crackled down his right hand and fed into the shield.
Catching his breath, the man looked around. His head swung from right to left until his eyes latched on to Rex. “Tairexy you better wake up, or heaven so help me, I’m going to fan your hinny!” the white-haired man hollered.
Rex didn’t stir.
He hung his head and gulped down air again then shouted, “Gerhard said there were three of you that came out here. I only see two. Is the third one still here?”
Drake released his invisibility spell and stepped out. “Yes, I’m here.”
The man’s bearded and well-weathered face lit up with surprise. “Drakovy, I haven’t seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Your father told me you were now his spy m-.” The man stopped himself and coughed as his eyes flickered to the blood oath now slightly visible through the golden shield. “I never thought I’d see you here,” he finished.
Drakovian stopped dead in his tracks. “Do I know you?”
The older gentleman frowned at him. “Of course you do. I’m your mother’s brother, God rest her soul.” The golden shield flashed as the blood oath inside it delivered a heavy blow, and the man’s muscles tightened as he rocked forward. “Alas, we don’t have time for reminiscing right now,” he said glancing at the ever-thinning shield. “I need you to grab the smelling salts out of my pocket and go wake up my son over there. I would, but I can’t take my hands off of this, or this freak here will escape. He’s a rather feisty one, he is. I’ve never had this much trouble closing a reversed shield around someone before.”
Memories of a much younger version of the older man standing in front of him flooded Drake’s mind. Most of them had been before he had become the spy master. He blinked in disbelief. Had it really been that many years since he had seen his uncle? He knew he had lived a backroom and secretive life, but had he really kept himself in the shadows that long?
“Get that fond look off your face. I wasn’t that great of an uncle!” the bearded fellow barked.
A small smile parted Drake’s lips. He ran towards the man and a thought shot into his mind. Wait, if it’s been that many years, there’s no way he should be able to recognize me. Especially with my confusion spell in place. Drake came to a stop and took a second look at his uncle.
The man was no ordinary fellow: an assortment of spells covered him from head-to-toe, and he had at least three, if not four, magic tattoos activated. Most surprising of all, though, was the magic signature of one of his father’s Imperial crests, one he didn’t recognize.
The older gentleman noticed the change in his eyes and promptly said. “Yes, I work closely with your father, and I’d like to know what in the Dragon’s fire is going on! But first, you need to wake up my son.” He stood to his feet, being careful to keep both his hands on the shield. “I believe the smelling salts are in my right cargo pocket.”
Drake pushed aside the questions which normally took prevalence in his mind and dashed over to him. Using his dragon eye to locate the smelling salts, he quickly retrieved them from his uncle’s left cargo pocket and headed for Alf.
“Don’t bother. That one is down for the count and will be out for quite some time. My son over there, on the other hand, from the looks of it, should wake up with just a little coaxing,” Rex’s father called after him.
One glance at Alf with Ra’avah and Drake knew he was right; blood seeped from Alf’s head and energy swirled like a cyclone inside his brain as it desperately tried to heal the sudden damage to his neural passageways. Drake tore his eyes away and sprinted past him, around the crater, and over to Rex. Breaking the smelling salts, he swooshed it back and forth underneath the nose holes in Rex’s damaged mask.
The vice champion shot up like a rocket and pulled away, coughing and gagging. “Ah man, I hate those things!” he gasped, rubbing his hand under his nose. Then he remembered where he was and frantically looked around till his eyes fell on Alf. “Oh, that can’t be good.”
“It’s not!” Rex’s father yelled. The sound of distant marching footsteps echoed up the street and all color drained from Mr. Havanger’s face. “And things just got far worse.”
“Dad?” Rex turned to see his father. “When’d you get home?”
“About fifteen minutes ago, and what do I find? Freaks wearing strange uniforms barring my way back into my own hometown, that’s what! Worse yet, after I disposed of them, I find out that my arena has been attacked while I was gone and it’s missing one of its walls to boot.”
Some of the tension in Rex’s shoulders faded away. “I’m glad you’re home dad.”
“I am too son, but I need you to listen to me and not argue with me about what I’m about to tell you to do, for the first time in your life.”
Rex’s father’s tone caused his son to freeze in his tracks.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” Rex asked in trepidation.
“I need you to pick up little Drakovy, and your friend there in the cocoon, then run for your life.”
“No! No way! I’m not leaving you here alone with that freak!”
“You don’t have a choice,” Mr. Havanger said, his voice stony and hard. “Any minute now, two-hundred enemy soldiers, men who have had their energy opened by dark magic, are going to come around that corner. Normally, I would let this thing go and both of us together would’ve kicked his butt, but there’s just not enough time for that, and from what I’ve seen of this freak, there’s no way you could escape carrying all three of us.”
“I can!” Rex interjected excitedly. “They have this amazing transportation skill that will let both of you follow me at the same speed. I can run without anyone slowing me down.”
Drake shook his head. “No, we don’t.” He pointed. “It’s in the cocoon with Alf.”
Without hesitation, Rex snatched up his sword and dashed past Drake. “I’ll get it out then,” he said rolling Alf over. Spotting the lump where the sword lay, he stood up and sliced at it with all his might.
With a dull thud, his sword bounced off the hardened surface.
Faint, maniacal laughter drifted through the golden shield. “You fool,” the blood oath spat. “No one can break through my magic, and when I break free,” he said, smiling from ear to ear through the now transparent shield, “the old man is mine! And oh, I will so enjoy ripping him limb from limb.” Fire erupted from Dy’Ixion’s hands towards Mr. Havanger and cascaded around the spherical cage.
Mr. Havanger’s eyes lit with disdain, and he grunted as the shield thinned.
Rex’s shoulder’s tensed, and he grabbed his sword with both hands. Yelling, he charged and hacked at the earthen encasement over and over again. But to no avail. Sparks flew, and his sword glinted in the night, but still the earthen cocoon remained undamaged.
Drake watched on the sidelines while trying to calculate their best course of action. Even if he had a hundred men instantly at his disposal, the dark soldiers would still overwhelm them, and Dy’Ixion would still break free. If Drake stayed, he could do nothing, and if he left…
The sound of marching footsteps increased in volume, and Rex’s father anxiously glanced down the street. “Enough! Grab the boy and the cocoon and run!”
Rex gazed at the ground as he stood over Alf’s impenetrable cocoon, his shoulders curved inwards, heaving, and his head hanging low. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the hilt of his sword; then suddenly, he turned to his father. “Maybe I can defeat the soldiers,” he said, a strong tinge of desperation in his voice.
Mr. Havanger gazed into the distance and slowly shook his head. “You and I both know that two hundred is more than you can handle.”
“No!” The older man swung his arm towards the marching army. “Those men have achieved Patuah through dark magic. Against normal soldiers you might have a chance, but if one of them accidentally inverses his magic flow, the resulting explosion will kill you.”
“I don’t care.” Rex straightened his back and stared defiantly into his father’s eyes. “I’m not going to leave you here to die!”
“Yes, you are! If you stay, we both die and so will Drakovy and your friend.”
Rex’s father’s expression softened, and he looked through the mask into his son’s eyes. “Please go son. I will hold this monster here as long as I can.”
“No! I know what’s right and what’s wrong and leaving you here to die is wrong. It’s something I’d regret the rest of my life, and I will not have any regrets in this life. Cover your ears!”
Rex took his mask off, tossed it to the ground, aimed his mouth towards the cocoon, and drew a deep breath. “Wait!” Drake shouted. “Alf can’t cover his ears, neither can your father.”
“Oh, yeah… Well, stuff them with something.”
“Like what?” His father asked dubiously.
Rex glanced around. His eyes landed on the stuff that had spewed out of the medallion. “Like the clothes that appeared out of nowhere and almost cost me my life.”
“Ah,” Drake said as he rushed over and grabbed one of Alf’s now shredded shirts. Jogging back, he pulled off two wads and handed them to Rex. The young man jammed them into his father’s ears as Drake padded Alf’s and his own with shreds of clothing. Having done this, Rex kneeled down and once again aimed his mouth at the cocoon.
As he opened his lips, the bewitching sound of polyphonic overtone singing cascaded over the demolished battleground. Bouncing off the walls and echoing across the basin, it made the night seem haunted and eerie, as if a lonely animal sung of love and happiness long lost.
Quickly, his voice disappeared into ultrasonic range, resonating off of the cocoon with a spine chilling hum.
Drake’s skin crawled and he stepped away. The clothing wasn’t enough. At this rate, Alf’s earthen confines wouldn’t be the only thing damaged. Quickly moving beside Mr. Havanger’s side, he channeled a shield around them.
Seconds later, his puny barrier shattered.
“Rex!” he shouted. “My skin feels like it’s peeling off.”
Rex cupped his hands around his mouth and leaned closer to the cocoon.
As he shifted closer, the earthen cocoon cracked, but so did Rex’s hands, and streams of blood began to drip from his fingers as tears of pain flowed down his face.
“Stop! before you kill yourself,” his father pleaded.
Rex paid no attention to his father’s cry and kept singing. Two seconds later, a giant gash appeared in his left arm, and spurts of blood spewed forth, bubbling and boiling as it oozed to the ground.
As his voice ate at the magic around him, a crack appeared in the golden, reverse shield, and the blood oath laughed. “Soon revenge, oh sweet, sweet revenge will be mine,” he crooned behind his barrier, his eyes fixated on the old man.
“Son,” Mr. Havanger whispered, “Please, go.”
Tears streamed from Rex’s eyes. He shook his head, and his face hardened in determination. Another gash appeared on his right arm as his singing became even louder.
Drake looked back and forth. The shield containing Dy’Ixion continued to weaken while Rex looked no closer to breaking Alf free. Time was running out. Enough is enough, Drake thought. He’s going to get us all killed. Forming a small wind sphere, he was about to blast the vice champion off his feet when something in Rex’s voice changed. Drake focused his attention through his dragon eye. There, inside Rex’s body, blue lines of energy flared to life as the electricity broke free and started to flow unhindered throughout his system, and as the vice champion’s magic pool flooded for the first time, without even realizing it, Rex formed a wind spell and channeled it into his voice.
The effect was instantly noticeable: Drake’s skin didn’t crawl as much; the damage to the golden shield ceased, and the ear-piercing sound visibly collided with the cocoon.
Tairex Julian Havanger had achieved Patuah!
With the sound akin to a cracking clay pot, the impenetrable cocoon shattered into thousands of pieces. Rex’s voice caught in his throat as Alf came into view, and the crumbling earth rolled off his unconscious form. Four giant gashes, like the ones on Rex’s arms, lay carved into Alf’s skin, and blood covered him from head-to-toe.
Rex froze in horror at the sight in front of him.
“Noo!” the blood oath screamed. “You will not escape me. I will not let you!” Dy’Ixion bellowed as black mist swirled around his fist. He punched the reversed shield with all of his might and golden sparks hissed as the two magics collided.
“It’s fine!” Drake shouted rushing to the vice champion’s side. “It’s only surface damage, nothing a healer can’t handle! Grab Alf and the sword, and let’s get out of here!”
Rex snapped out of it. Grabbing Alf, he grunted as he threw him over his shoulder, then picked up the sword. He glanced towards his father. “Think, follow me.”
“Huh?” the older man asked keeping both his eyes on the enraged psychopath.
“When he runs, choose in your mind to follow him,” Drake clarified.
“Are you doing it?” Rex asked.
“I ah… think so.”
“Don’t think you have won,” Dy’Ixion screamed, frothing at the mouth. “I will hunt you down to the edges of the earth, and then I will tear you from limb to limb. All of you. I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!!”
“Not today you won’t,” Rex said, and turning away from the screaming, yelling lunatic, Rex set his eyes on the destroyed road and took off running as fast as the wind.
Just as the sound of marching men reached a crescendo, Mr. Havanger, Drake, and Rex, carrying Alf, vanished into the night.
The golden shield shattered and two giant strands of violet electricity exploded from Lord Dy’Ixion’s hands, burning giant gauges into the building opposite of where his prey had disappeared, as he screamed in blind rage. He had been trapped, just like he had been all those years ago, and once again, just like before, he had been helpless—he, Lord Dy’Ixion, helpless!
The building burst into flames, and the hardened earth melted like chocolate pudding and still he poured his hate into his spell until, with a mighty groan, the dome domicile collapsed into a pile of rubble.
He raised his hands above his head and started to form a massive, invisible wall to completely crush every last piece of the demolished structure when a cold chill ran down his spine.
Dy’Ixion froze and slowly turned to see a hologram of Vackzilian shifting in the starlit night. “I trust you’re quite done,” the Emperor of all of Alfireá said in an icy tone.
Every part of Dy’Ixion’s skin crawled with terror as his mind desperately scrambled to formulate an excuse for his utter failure.
Vackzilian’s eyes narrowed, “You look like you’re about out of energy.”
It was not a question. It was a thinly veiled threat. Lord Dy’Ixion fell to his knees and blurted his half formed excuse, “I’m sorry my Lord. I never expected such an old man would be capable of trapping me, and I wasted too much energy playing with my prey to destroy his barrier.”
An unnerving smile played at the corners of Vackzilian’s face. “Yes, it seems all you blood oath like playing with your prey, a fault I may have to correct, the hard way.”
Dy’Ixion’s heart skipped a beat, and he pushed his head all the way to the ground. “Please, have mercy,” he groveled.
“Get up you sniveling fool!” Vackzilian commanded, disdain permeating his every word.
Lord Dy’Ixion scrambled to his feet, his heartbeat thumping in his ears.
“I’ll give you one last chance to prove yourself.”
“Thank you sire,” relief flooded over him. “What must I do?”
“I want the grand champion, both of the men you fought, and the boy.” He paused and his eyes bore holes into Dy’Ixion, “Unharmed and unspoiled.”
Dy’Ixion’s mind did a double take. Wanting the champion and the men made sense but the boy, as well?
“The boy?” he cautiously asked.
“Yes, the child. The way he holds himself is most interesting, and I have reason to believe he was the one helping them intercept your attacks.”
Now that he thought about it, Vackzilian was right. There had been something very curious about the child. “I understand. I will retrieve him along with the others.”
“See that you do.” Vackzilian’s hologram turned away and started to fade, then abruptly reformed. “You have my permission to use any technique you want. I no longer care about this city, just bring me those four.”
The two hundred soldiers finally crested the corner and turned to start marching towards them. Unstable magic lights swayed back and forth, lighting the procession’s way. Their formation was a mess, their postures sloppy, and upon seeing Dy’Ixion conversing with Vackzilian, they came to a clumsy halt.
Dy’Ixion’s eyes slowly and meaningfully drifted to them as a murderous smile spread across his face. “Any technique my Lord?”
The hologram glanced at the array of soldiers. Vackzilian shrugged. “Those scum are of no use to me. Do with them as you will.”
Dy’Ixion’s mouth twisted in evil glee. “Thank you Sire.”
Vackzilian’s hologram finally dispersed, sending out little splashes of multicolored lights.
Raising his hand, Dy’Ixion flexed his fingers as the dark mist in the crater rose into the air, forming a dark shadow over top of him. This is going to be fun, he thought as he strolled towards his army.
Several minutes later, the black mist faded away, revealing his army’s fate. Two hundred dead and shriveled corpses lay scattered at Dy’Ixion’s feet in haphazard piles. Not one had escaped; not one had survived, and not one had ever stood a chance.
Dy’Ixion casually stepped on top of one of the human piles and stared off into the distance towards the arena. The energy of his fallen army coursed through his veins, strengthening and revitalizing him. All signs of the former battle had disappeared; his wounds were healed, his depleted energy replaced. His deformed muscles bulged, and the air around him hummed as palpable waves of energy rolled off him.
“It’s time to trap the rats,” Dy’Ixion said as he flicked off the blood and dirt staining his clothes with a casual wind spell and reached down deep into the earth.
Drake walked back into the infirmary, and his nose wrinkled as the fabricated scent Cretan and his cohorts had tried to use to cover up the smell of their magical experiments assaulted his senses. He shook it off and paced over to Alf. All of the High Lord’s external wounds had been healed, but he still lay unconscious. Katarina and Gerhard currently leaned over him, using a scrying pot to examine his brain.
Gerhard swished her hand through a scrying, dispelling it while Katarina reached down and patted him on the head. “Don’t worry, he’s fine.”
“He has an amazingly hard skeletal structure, so there was no real damage,” Gerhard added.
Drake made a substantial effort to hide his aggravation as he pushed away Katarina’s hand and asked, “Do you know when he’ll wake?”
Gerhard shook her head.
“What about them?” he asked nodding towards Zaphaniea and Olivia.
Katarina knelt down and ruffled his hair once again. “Don’t worry little one. They’re all fine. They’re just resting. How about you, though?” she asked glancing at his eye patch.
Drake closed his eyes and abruptly turned away from her. Everything was not fine! All three of his most powerful allies were unconscious, and Mr. Havanger was insistent on attacking the blood oath again. At this very moment, he was finishing forming his team. While some of them were definitely not normal people, and bore the same crest as Mr. Havanger did, they were no match for Dy’Ixion, and Drake knew that without a shadow of doubt.
Rex’s father walked into the infirmary and strolled over to Rex, his white, bushy hair shining in the infirmary’s lights. “You ready for another go son?” he asked, slapping his son on the back, his voice jovial and boisterous.
Rex stopped gently tapping at his newly healed skin. “About that dad, I agree with the kid on this one. We need to use Traverse Wake and evacuate everyone.”
Mr. Havanger stopped and stared at him in shock. “I can’t believe my own son would talk about running from the fight, especially after seeing him display such amazing courage and bravery.”
Rex slid off the medical bed to his feet and took off his replacement mask. “That is exactly why I am suggesting we run.” He paused and ran his hand through his hair. “You weren’t there for the entire fight. Even with my strength, I was nothing more than a toy to that blood oath. If it hadn’t been for Alf, I would have been destroyed in a matter of moments. Without Zaphaniea’s, Alf’s, or his girlfriend’s help, we don’t stand a chance!”
“There you be wrong son. That dark freak was almost out of energy. I’m certain that all of us together can take him.”
“You’re forgetting the two hundred soldiers he has. You yourself verified that they had achieved Patuah by dark magic. You know better than anyone how dangerous someone like that can be. Fighting them alone might cost you more than half your men.”
Rex hung his head. “And to be honest, dad,” he swallowed. “Even if we took them out of the equation, and even with Dy’Ixion being so weak, I still don’t believe we can defeat him.”
Rex’s father wrapped his arm around his shoulders in comfort and said, “That’s not my brave son speaking. That’s fear.”
“No, dad.” Rex raised his head and looked into his father’s grayish-blue eyes. “It’s not. Even with all my time fighting in the arena, and my time with you, I’ve never seen anyone as strong as this…this thing. I truly felt as if I were the dark mage that hurt Eldrin’s son and was now facing the great Lord of the Dragons’ wrath.”
Mr. Havanger held his son’s gaze as he took in his words.
“Did they tell you how long it took him to rip the arena apart?”Rex asked.
He shook his head. “No, they didn’t.”
The young man closed his eyes and breathed deeply. His features paled as if he were recalling the horrible scene that had played out. “Less than thirty seconds. He ripped the entire side of the arena off, then caused a chain explosion which killed hundreds. We were slaughtered like chattel.”
The weight of his son’s words hit Mr. Havanger hard, and he sat heavily on the medical bed in disbelief. “He did all that in thirty seconds?”
Rex nodded. “Ya, he did.”
Relief washed over Drake. Rex was getting through to his father, meaning they may just survive this ye…. Drake’s mind and body froze as power flooded his dragon eye, and a wave of pure energy as bright as the light of day lit up the ground underneath them, then vanished.
“Something’s wrong! An immense wave of energy just passed underneath us,” Drake shouted.
All eyes turned on him, and as if in response to his words, the world shook. Medical equipment flew off the open shelving; nurses grabbed at the beds and walls in an effort to stay upright, and carts rattled as they bounced up and down.
Seconds later, the muffled sound of a seemingly never-ending rockslide reached their ears.
“Follow me!” Rex shouted as he scooped up Alf’s sword, slid back on his mask, and headed for the door.
Without hesitation, both Drake and Mr. Havanger mentally followed Rex as he dashed in a blur out of the room, down the curving hall, and out the main entrance of the arena.
The crisp, night air washed over them, and a cloud of dust rolled over the city as a fifty foot wall rocketed from the ground, ripping through the aqueducts, destroying houses, and replacing the original city’s walls. The black, obsidian barrier destroyed everything in its path as it pierced the sky and completely surrounded the entire city until the two rising ends slammed into each other with a mighty crash, sealing them all inside.
They, and everyone in the city, were trapped!
A wave of wind and dirt rushed towards them as the ground shook beneath their feet and Rex’s father plopped onto his backside. The old man sat there in the dust, gaping up at what should’ve been an impossible structure. “In all my years,” he mumbled. “I’ve never seen the like. Dragon’s blood,” he said as he wiped the dirt from his white beard. “If I wasn’t seeing it for myself, I wouldn’t believe it. Tell me that creature didn’t do this.”
Drake studied the energy permeating the ground, sky, and every building in sight, and his stomach dropped out from underneath him as he recognized the energy signature. “Without a shadow of doubt, the blood oath did this. It’s his energy signature.”
Rex gazed up at the black monolith. “How is such a thing possible? It would’ve taken hundreds of earth users three months to even erect a part of this.”
“There’s only one way such a thing could be achieved,” Drake stated.
“Dragon’s teeth,” Mr. Havanger cursed. “He used someone’s life energy!”
“Yes.” Drake clenched his fist and his eyes narrowed. “And he didn’t just murder one person either. To accomplish something of this magnitude, he would have to take hundreds of lives.”
“But I thought everyone in the city was… Oh,” Rex stopped. “He… he massacred his own men didn’t he?”
Dy’Ixion lay on his back breathing in the glorious dark mist pouring from his sweating pores as his wall towered into the sky. In his mind’s eye, he imagined the look on the old man’s face and the absolute pandemonium breaking out among the populace as they realized they were all trapped like rats and soon to be his victims.
He imagined them fleeing from the arena in droves like little sheep that he would then catch and devour for their energy. He licked his lips. If he consumed the entire city, even Vackzilian himself would have to bow to his might, and he would become the new emperor.
Relishing in his imaginations, Lord Dy’Ixion rose to his feet and formed a scrying.
“Yes, that’s what I’ll do,” he purred as he planned how he would ambush the first of his prey as they fled for their lives.
Drake, hearing a shuffling noise, turned to see four men which were part of the team Mr. Havanger had previously assembled run up behind them. “Sir, what should we do?” one of them asked.
Rex’s father nodded toward the wall and said, “You three, go see if there’s any possible way out. Soul Knight, tell the men to prepare themselves. It looks like our only option now is to stay and fight.”
Placing three fingers over their hearts, the soldiers gave a salute Drake failed to recognize and dispersed.
As he made a mental note to find out who Mr. Havanger really was, he noticed people pouring out of the arena. Turning to Rex’s father, he said, “This isn’t good. If those people realize what just happened, mass panic will ensue, and Dy’Ixion will use it to make short work of us.”
Rex glanced towards the forming throng and fixed his mask as he gripped Alf’s sword. “That’s probably exactly what the blood oath wants. It may be one of the reasons he put up the wall in the first place.”
“For being a freak, he’s pretty intelligent. He’s trapped us, and at the same time, crippled our ability to fight back.” Rex’s father slammed his right fist down into the ground and pushed himself to his feet. “But I’ll be hog tied and thrown off a cliff before I let that freak’s plan work on us.” Mr. Havanger gritted his teeth, slapped his hands together, and started charging a shield.
Drake stared at his uncle in confusion. “What do you plan to do?”
“My dad is a master at shield magic,” Rex answered for his father. “He’s able to form them in any shape he wants.”
Drake stroked his chin. “Well, it looks like he’s constipated.”
“I heard that!” his uncle stated looking over his shoulder. “You know, even though you’re an old fart yourself, you should show more respect to your elders.”
Rex cocked his head. “Old fart? What in the world are you talk about? He can’t be more than ten.”
Mr. Havanger bellowed in laughter and released his charge.
A twenty foot tall, hollow man, made out of a golden shield, formed and lifted Mr. Havanger into the air. As it finished rising, it lifted its leg and slammed it’s foot down hard into the pavement, taking on an intimidating pose with its hands on its hips and its legs spread shoulder width apart. In the middle of it chest, Rex’s father stood in the exact same position.
At the sound and sight of the golden statue slamming its foot down, the swarming crowd stopped in their tracks and stared upwards. Thousands of people of all occupations and ages—warriors, commoners, tradesman, men, woman, and children—stood at the shield-man’s feet while more poured out from the arena.
Rex’s father smiled down at the gathering crowds and drawing a deep breath, he shouted. His voice bounced around inside the shield and came out of the statue’s mouth in a deep, reverberating bellow. “I am the arena master, Mr. Havanger. Most of you know me as the mysterious old man who’s never home.”
A chuckle arose from the crowd.
“Now,” he continued in a calm, teasing voice, “I know all of you see that giant wall around us. Heaven’s above, I think Aunt Agatha can see it and she’s blind as a bat.”
An old woman in the crowd shook her cane at him. “I may be blind as a bat Garvan but I can still hear you as loud as day.”
Mr. Havanger coughed and continued, “Before any of you go rushing off hilly nilly, I think you should know what’s transpired.”
Silence fell over the assembled people.
“Earlier today, the city was attacked by an unknown force. At the cost of many lives, God bless their souls, we succeeded at driving them back, but those scallywags regrouped at the teleportation stone and decided they wanted to have another go at us. That’s when the vice champion and a few of us paid them a surprise visit.” Rex’s father smirked. “Imagine their surprise when we set their britches afire and incinerated more than half of ‘m.”
People laughed and the air of ensuing panic calmed down as they settled in to listen.”As you can guess,” Mr. Havanger continued, “this made their leader more than a little miffed. He’s quite a poor sport, that one,” Mr. Havanger tutted. “Instead of owing up to it like a real man, he went off into a blind rage and devoured his own men, with dark magic no less, and then he went and created that hideous wall now surrounding our fair city,” he said jutting his finger behind him.
“Dark magic?” someone gasped.
“Wait,” a father with two little girls huddled around his legs shouted. “Are you saying one man did all of that?” he asked waving at the wall.
“That’s not possible,” a thickly built fellow said as he pushed his way to the edge of the crowd.
“It is too,” an old woman said pointing her bony finger to the sky. “He’s a vile one he is, I tell ya. With my own two eyes, I saw him raise out of the ground like a demon from hell after that strange light saved us all.”
Mr. Havanger laughed. “Who cares if he consumed a few hundred soldiers, we’ve got thousands of warriors, tacticians, brave men and woman—myself and the vice champion included—on our side. He won’t stand a chance, demon or not! Now, I say we make him pay for his crimes to us and our fair city and go show that freak exactly who he’s messing with. What say you?!” he bellowed, his voice carrying across the streets and into the arena.
“Kill him!” a warrior screamed. “For our fallen brethren.”
“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” the crowd chanted, stomping their feet and shaking their fists in the air. The buildings shook with their cries and the yellow moon shined on their upturned faces.
“I’m glad we’re of the same mind,” Mr. Havanger answered from his elevated loft within the golden shield. “Who among you are brave enough, and strong enough, to help us take down this monster?”
Drake startled in surprise as hundreds started to come forward.
“My father has a golden tongue,” Rex’s voice rang with pride.
“You mean that literally, don’t you?” Drake said focusing his energy to his eyes. As he thought, there were subtle fear suppressing frequencies coming off the golden statue.
“I do,” Rex shifted his weight to his right leg. “As you know, dark mages thrive on chaos and fear. By bringing peace and order, my father’s techniques have saved thousands of lives.”
Recognition flooded over Drake. Now he understood just who his uncle was.
The chest of the statue opened up and Rex’s father dropped out. He walked over to the people, his broad shoulders and strong physique setting him apart, and set about organizing them into rank and file.
Rex sighed. “Do you think we stand a chance?”