Part Two

Arashi heard a sudden rush of air and several startled cries cut brutally short. Glancing backward, he was startled to see four of his troops spiraling down towards the earth...

In eight separate pieces.

He barked an order and the ninety remaining Striking Talons scattered and drew close combat weapons, the deadly double-headed pike of the desert people. Floating several yards above them, a strangely calm green-haired man hovered with only a blood covered pike, his hair hiding his eyes.

"Who the hell are you?!" Arashi wondered out loud, his own pike in front of him.

The man smiled. "Lieutenant Valgaav, Her Majesty's First Airborne Division." He joked quietly.

Arashi blinked.


Tess forced herself to ignore her lover's struggle in the sky, which was much too far away and full of confused movement to follow anyway. When he got back, she'd either have to promote him or kill him... depending on her mood.

She had much more pressing problems at hand. The horde had gotten to the city's walls over the thousands of its dead, despite the best efforts of her two remaining cannons. The barrel to her third cannon, on the lower deck, had split. The gun crew, while trying their frantic best to replace it, would probably be out of the rest of the conflict.

Whichever way it went.

The ladders and arrows began to fly upward, and Tess and her squad began the brutal task of pushing said ladders back over, sending shrieking barbarians down to land with bone-crushing impact on their fellows. The guard also began tossing down rocks, furniture, arrows, spears, livestock, their own dead... anything that had any heft to it in an attempt to kill as many of the barbarians as possible.

The body count grew...

The battle raged on.


Seeing Mina's limp body strike the mountainside, Red's eyes widened. He stood up with a roar.

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!" He charged forward, bellowing, his sword raised high. Dnarc, stumbling backwards, trying in vain to reach the broken blade in his back, threw up a hand to ward off Red's shrieking blade.

The hand dropped to the ground, twitching feebly as Red's blade sheared through it completely and scraped down the front of the monster's iron breastplate, showering the Bandit King with sparks.

"AHHRHHAHHRGGG!" Dnarc articulated as he stumbled backwards. He flailed his useless stump at the enraged bandit as though this might entice him to stop hammering him with blows.

Red would have none of it. The monster's breastplate dented and deformed under Red's fury, driving the juggernaut to his knees.

Switching targets, he now focused his attacks on the creature's armored head, battering it over and over again in his blind fury.

The first blow sheared off a horn.

The second left a huge dent in the left cheekguard. Black fluid pattered down the front of the creature's breastplate.

The third shattered the helmet completely. Dnarc gurgled and fell heavily onto his back, his breath coming in shuddering gasps.

Red laid his sword point on the creature's battered chest and snarled downward...

Then gasped in surprise and disgust.

Revealed before him was a twisted mockery of human and reptilian features, one pupil-less eye staring at him in burning red hatred, the other shattered and dead... leaking black blood. Breath burbled through a throat deformed by huge interlocking scales with odd bristling hairs sprouting between them. The left side of the face was horribly shattered, but most of the damage had been done by nature.

It smiled.

"Ouch..." a weak voice sounded behind Red.

He whipped his head around to watch Mina stagger up from her previous location (namely, prone on the ground) and limp towards him.

"Mina... you... you're alive..?!"

"Yeah... something broke my fall... I think it was my spleen." She winced, taking hold of Red's shoulder to straighten herself. "It was me." an irritated voice sounded from the depression she'd left in the rock. She blinked and looked wearily at it.

Zelgadis stumbled out of the hole and brushed dust from his clothing, looking irritable but none the worse for wear.

"Oh... thanks." she grinned woozily.

"Please don't mention it." He muttered sarcastically as he walked up and looked over Red's shoulder.

"Yuck... someone beat him within an inch of his life with the ugly stick."

Pix landed on his shoulder and nodded.

"Did I do well, master?"

"Perfectly well Pix - all that training paid off. You redirected that Ra Tilt like a pro."

She clapped her hands and blushed. "Yay!" She did a little aerial victory dance. "I shot the bad guy, I shot the bad guy! Thank you master!" she kissed his cheek.

"Er.... you're welcome Pix." He had the grace to look embarrassed.

Mina grinned. Red frowned.

"Well... at least now we know why this guy calls me "Pretty Boy"..." Red stared curiously at the abomination lying prone before them. Dnarc coughed wetly.

"Damn you.... how? How did... you beat me?"

Red grinned. "By myself, I don't think I could have taken you. You're quite the juggernaut... but you made one error."

Red threw his arm around Mina and Zelgadis, who looked stunned as he drew them into a hug.

"My friends here watched my back and beat the livin' hell out of you, distracted you enough to make you careless. Well, that and you pissed me off... no one beats on Mina and gets away with it."

Mina blushed. Zelgadis rolled his eyes. "Thanks... I think."

Red released them and grinned nastily down the length of his blade at Dnarc. "You lost because you're a coward, big guy. You hide yourself in that mountain of metal, bullying those weaker than you - the defenseless - it made you careless and slow, but I can't say I blame you.. I'd probably hide myself too if I looked like the ass end of a dragon."

Dnarc spat out blood and several fanged teeth and chuckled wetly. "So you think it's as easy as that? You may have defeated me, but we'll be meeting in Hell soon enough, Pretty Boy... If THIS is your best, Talon will make short work of you.... he's twenty times worse than me... he's GLRRURRRK!"

Dnarc was suddenly cut off as Red casually leaned on his blade hard enough to shove it into the mortally wounded Axeman's breastplate. The blade slid slowly in, then crunched through the expiring creature and into the ground. Dnarc shuddered convulsively, then gasped out one last groaning sigh.

"Sorry... I never was one for long-winded death speeches." Red replied pleasantly, withdrawing his sword from the creature's chest.

Mina blinked and gulped but did not argue. One does not argue with someone who just pushed a yard of steel through someone else's chest - particularly if that chest happened to be covered in a half-inch of Stygian iron.

"So what now?" Zelgadis asked, completely nonchalant about Dnarc's rather casual murder. Pix, for her part, had winced and turned a bit green.

As if in answer, Dnarc's body shuddered suddenly, then turned to dust. A strange red light flickered around it for a moment, then struck Red like lightning. His eyes jerked impossibly wide and he arched his back, dropping his sword and roaring as a blast of fire rocketed for the heavens. A huge form appeared behind him... a twisting, three-headed dragon, all three heads shrieking triumphantly to the sky.

As Mina and Zelgadis watched, stunned, the roar became a growling laugh of victory.


The Chaos Dragon had returned.


Tess shoved her bastard sword prefunctorily through another faceless barbarian and kicked its twitching body back off of the walls. Her arms were two leaden weights, and her world was casual slaughter, and meaningless death...

She looked blearily around for another target and was surprised to find that there were none. Standing up straight, she took stock.

Of the fifteen hundred men she'd started with on her side of the wall, barely five hundred straightened to mirror her. They looked out with haunted and stunned eyes at the horde remaining, which had pulled back just out of range of the city's cannons and waited.

Not that it mattered... they'd lost their last cannon only a few hours into the fray. Tess stumbled a bit, clasped a hand over a sluggishly bleeding wound in her left shoulder, then raised her bastard sword and howled.


Her troops, tired, battered and barely conscious, mirrored her. It was a pitiful sound, barely heard over the dying and the clash of arms still raging in the sky.

It sounded like victory.

She stopped suddenly when she saw a small unit of troops, maybe fifteen or twenty, approaching the gates. They clustered around what appeared to be a figure clad completely in a maroon colored cloak. She narrowed her eyes.

"Talgus... have your archers give that impertinent group of barbarians a little something to worry about."

Talgus grinned coldly and signaled his archers to attack. Arrows lept immediately down upon the small group...

The front rank took several arrows, the shafts thunking solidly into the barbarians bodies...

They didn't even flinch. They just kept coming.

Her eyes widened. "What the hell...?"


Talon threw back his hood and grinned up at the massed defenders. They had forced back his troops admirably, dashing any hopes he might have had of getting through Sentinel without revealing himself. Ah well... one could hardly expect barbarians to do the work of a God.

Grinning up at the wary defenders, he pitched his voice outward.

"Surrender.... or die!" He called out cheerfully, the black holes of his eyes flaring as he said "die".

He was met with laughter. A few arrows. He caught one easily and crushed it in his gloved fist.

"I'll give them something to laugh about." he chuckled, then his face grew deadly serious.

The Bloodguard around him obeyed his silent signal and stepped back. He removed his gloves. His hands, pale and unmarred, were twisted into claws. Pressing them against the air as though he were carrying a ball, he concentrated, his eyes flaring into two stygian pits of darkness.

Nothingness grew between them, and he was outlined in a hideous black aura of anti-light. Souls became visible around him, the dead of both the barbarians and Sailoon crying out in terror as they were pulled inexorably into the ball of darkness growing between his palms. A wind kicked up, shrieking inward, as though a hole in the universe had opened between his hands.

This was exactly what it was. Stretching his arms out wide, he tossed the impenetrably dark sphere shrieking towards the gate, which gained size as it made its approach.

The defenders directly above the gate screamed, some of them tossing themselves off of the wall and to their deaths rather than face the impossiblity barreling towards them. Private Garret, stationed directly over the gate during the conflict, widened his eyes and dropped his spear when he witnessed his death approaching.

"Oh... dear Cephied..."

The ball struck the gates.... settled.... widened a bit..... engulfing one fourth of the wall...

Then vanished in a flash of light and a howl of displaced air.

The battlefield settled.

A hole had appeared in Sentinel's walls. It was perfectly spherical, cutting into the bedrock as well. The gates.... the walls around them... and the men who had been perched on them, including Private Garret, had simply ceased to be.

A single sound echoed across the battlefield. Talon's cruel, mocking laughter became a death knell for the spirit of the Sailoonian defenders. He shook his head at the futility of their plight.

Then he smiled. "Kill them all."

The horde rushed forward, shrieking in joy. Their God had delivered Sentinel unto them! At last! Vengeance!!!

A voice cut through the din. It was a tired female voice, high on the wall. Everyone looked upward.

"Whoever you are... you miserable son of a bitch! I CHALLENGE YOU!"

Talon watched in amusement as a scuffle broke out on the wall... trying desperately to save their captain, the remaining troops had dog-piled her. She slipped out from underneath them, punched Talgus out, and grabbed a nearby ladder, sliding all the way to the ground. Landing heavily, she stalked forward, murder in her eyes. When she reached the front lines of the barbarian horde rushing forward, she brutally smashed any of the unfortunate wretches who happened to cross her path to the ground. The horde stopped and stared at her in morbid fascination... did she have a deathwish? Her answer seemed to be...

Did they?

Talon chuckled and gestured them to cease their attack.

"What can you possibly hope to accomplish with this... pitiful show of resistence? You've lost!"

She stalked up to ten feet from him. The Bloodguard watched her silently, but she got the feeling that if she came any closer, they'd fall upon her like rabid wolves. Some of them still had arrows protruding from them.

"We haven't lost yet! The field isn't lost until one army or the other has retreated, surrendered or is destroyed... but after the way you just threw your peoples lives away for nothing, I hardly expect you to know elementary tactics.

Talon gave no outward sign of annoyance... save that his eyes flared into two black flames. "My... how noble of you to think of MY people. This ought to be good for a laugh... what are your terms?"

"If I kick your ass... this whole horde turns around and heads back home... and none of you ever show your face here again. If you win.... you let my army head back to Sailoon.... and you get Sentinel."

" generous of you." Talon remarked dryly.

"That's not all, asshole... you wait for exactly one week before you advance on Sailoon."

"I hardly think you're in a position to negotiate." Talon grinned, admiring her.

"Whatsa matter.... afraid?"

"Hardly." He shrugged, removing his cloak and tossing it aside. "Very well... I-"

"NOOOO!" The voice cut in from above as Valgaav dropped down between them.

"TESS.... I won't let you! He'll kill you!"

"STAND DOWN, SOLDIER!" she snapped. "YOU ARE THE NEXT IN COMMAND. IF I LOSE... YOU HAVE TO GET WORD TO THE QUEEN. YOU HAVE TO GET THESE MEN BACK HOME." Her voice became tired but proud and she glanced up at where they crouched, tired, battered, but still full of fight. "God knows they've earned it."

"What about you?" he pleaded, unconvinced.

She closed her eyes. "What about me? One person for a kingdom?" she grinned. "I'll take that price."

"WELL I WOULDN'T!!" he gestured angrily back at the city. "You've done enough!!"

She opened her eyes and they were full of calm confidence and love. "We both know that isn't true. I gave my oath to Queen Amelia to defend Sailoon with my life. I may not always agree with her, but she is my Queen, and she IS Sailoon. That's something worth dying for, Valgaav. Besides... I don't plan on losing. Got too much to live for."

"Tess-" He started. She narrowed her eyes.

"Don't make me force you to have them take you back in chains, Valgaav. Please." She sighed.

He crossed his arms. "I'd like to see them try."

Talon rolled his eyes, or at least he might have. It's sometimes hard to tell when a person doesn't have anything that could truly be called eyes.

"This is all very touching, but if it's alright with you, I'd like to get on with more important matters."

Tess nodded shortly. "Valgaav.... go. That's an order."

He gritted his teeth but saluted, clenching his fist over his chest.

"Yes... sir."

She returned his salute. "I'll see you later."

Valgaav took off and headed towards the city. She sighed and removed her breastplate, tossing it to the ground. She had a feeling it wouldn't help much.

"Well do you accept?" she stared at him, hard eyed. The barbarian army surrounded the two of them.

"Oh... is it alright if I do now? Is the melodrama over with or are there any more impudent underlings waiting in the wings?" Talon smirked sarcastically. "Certainly my dear. I accept your terms."

Tess smiled. Whether she won or lost, Valgaav would get her people home, and sooner or later they'd bring this monster down. She took a deep breath...

Time to face destiny.


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