@_drake: Hehe, perhaps we should. But be careful...
(Nobody posted >.> so I will <.< even if the idea to post here is dead and even though I find the post only okay)
It was not the fire time Alianette came here, she'd done as a spectral like presence. She came now though in person, hazardous climb had become nothing but a stroll for the environmental Keijijo she'd climbed many mountains, ventured all about Reisho. Synonymous with clandestine factions was peril filled journeys but those adventures were a thing of the past for the prodigy of combat. She'd outgrown the muscle straining climbs of before. She'd outgrown many things.
Upon her death post an abused moment of vulnerability she outgrew her position as a woman of the clan. If a clan could foster Milo what was it worth? She outgrew the need of revenge or redemption, she had the eyes of Milo, she'd taken his greatest strength there was no need to pursue him. Her family failed to look for revenge the burial forgettable she outgrew family. For a time the focus became the concept of death and the enlightenment it came with. But then Ishin brought down the clan, enlightenment after death was a pipe dream. It was a choice and choice alone. There was nothing to hold her down, no clan or family to focus on. Only one journey mattered she had come to realize.
That being the quest of self development, to live for herself to grow for her own empowerment. She was clad in her traditional ware her body lean and entire figure clean. Cold winds of climbing so high mattered not to her. Nor did the dirt and rocks have her permission to hinder her image. The Nest catered to mutants, and her genetics came through for her. She had powers over life and death as a mutation, an affinity that only grew more under training. From the force practitioners of the Covenant to the Keijijo clan but it wasn't enough. She'd further her talents under the Arcani, however wether she'd teach herself, wether she'd learn on her own those were questions with answers still pending.
Far up in the mountains, the nest resided, difficult to reach - a test in of itself just to reach it. Valken had been using the eagles to scout ahead for him as he navigated through the jagged, thick, brittle rock. Through their eyes he could determine the best path to take and it proved highly beneficial. He moved like a big-horned sheep up the mountains using his exceptional agility and balance combined with knowing the route ahead. He did not tire as the atmosphere began thinning out; his body adapting constantly to the changing atmosphere and the ever decreasing levels of oxygen.
Still finding his place in the world, Valken was constantly wandering with no direction; a lost and direction-less nomad. That was until his encounter with the physical powerhouse, Satar. Training was ongoing; Valken the apprentice - scary that a man of his skill and ability was an apprentice in such a situation. He sought further refinement of his skills, better use of his abilities and ultimately to become a bigger threat.
As he continued up the summit, a thought crossed his mind. Valken had no idea if this place was still inhabited - it may very well be abandoned. But he had a feeling that such a case was quite unlikely. Regardless of the oncoming scenario, improvisation was the name of the game. Proper reconnaissance using the local fauna would also benefit greatly, providing any living creature were around that area. The adventure had just begun.
@valken: (sorry for delay work sapped my momentum a bit past few days)
Signs of life were scarce at the time it would seem, not barren but secluded. It was by the looks of things a time ideal for those looking to train and grow. Matters of the Arcani were being handled elsewhere, this was inconsequential however to the prodigy of martial arts. Rather then search or investigate she sat down animal like eyes closing in serenity as she took a moment to meditate and reach into the enriched past of the nest. Through her spiritual affinity in the next few weeks or so she'd be conjuring up the souls of past masters of the Arcani arts and studying under them.
Amongst her searching however she picked up on the life signs of another. For her it was the pressence of Yin, the metaphysical energy of life itself. Training always made best in colaboration of others the well built Keijio reaper moved to await the arival of whoever was approaching. The cliff side taking on a ladder of rock within it's formation. An alteration of earth and stone second nature to Ali, and nicer in her eyes then simply offering a hand. "Alianette, there an Arcani art your looking to learn as well."
She did her best to be friendly and welcoming though it wasn't something she particularly specialized in either. However she did hope for a training partner and a starting point. Selecting which art and learning on her own was far less enticing.
Europe's tallest mountains. Breathtaking but harsh icy peaks to some, a place of proving for those who were no strangers to hardship, and home to the most violent of Strigidae. Deep in a canyon ravaged by storms too cruel for the weak, and guarded by the Orochi, Nest 629 sat in isolation as the prison to a secret withheld even from many in the death cult itself. A secret that the Horned Saint would now unearth. Ice crunching under his boots, red eyes staring up at mountains that touched the heavens themselves, Kellan breathed in deep and looked over his shoulder to meet eyes with the horde of Orochi standing behind him. Black gauntlets on the hilts of their swords, crimson Keikogi fluttering with the cool breeze, they strode forward and led to the legendary nest he who gave them new purpose in Ivana's disappearance; to control and castrate villainy, the world's criminal element, with a reign of terror no hero had the steel for.
Together, they scaled the Alps, braving harsh storms of frost, snow and mud as the wild winds whipped at their backs and flung broken chunks of icy rock. Still they held on, biting down and trekking up the mountains. Their bones ached from the cold, and the thin air left their lungs breathless. But the Horned Saint and his Orochi had known the feeling of death's cold breath down the nape of their necks since the first of their days, they would not stop. And though some were claimed by the elements, the Orochi persevered, rolling forward like a red mist till they stood flanking Kellan's left and right before the gates to Nest 629 of Strigidae legend, and where members of the feared Blackdagger were held. The Strigidae would not give them up so easily, nor would they listen to reason. Gloved hand wrapping round the hilt of the vibranium sword he'd claimed from Synergy X, the Horned Saint drew the freshly oiled blade from it's sheathe, and his Orochi followed suit.
He had spent years fleeing from the Strigidae, in fear that they would hunt him down and take from him his autonomy and sense of security, his identity. But now, he had hunted them down, perhaps foolishly, but no less driven to take something from them instead. He had taught the Orochi his brutal methods, and as he stormed the nest's gates, they would do as he would and mutilate but not kill, flay their skin but keep them alive, free the Blackdagger and defeat all enemies if possible, or flee with those freed if not.
There were no Strigidae here.
Only a man who once stood proud among their number. A man who dedicated his life to the mutant cause. A man who fought his way into their ranks and whose eyes pooled with tears of pride when he knelt to make his sacred oaths.
A man who fell before a young challenger. A man who died. A man whose failure ripped his dream away from him and stripped him of the bonds of brotherhood that he held so dear.
But his story did not end there. He was useful so he was re-animated and bound to the service of the Seven Secret Masters. Those sinister seven held him at the end of a simple leash; they alone supplied the drug that kept him alive. Without daily injections his re-animated body would return to the grave from which it had been plucked.
Obedience was life. Disobedience was death.
Such were the ways of the Strigidae. Even the cold hand of death did not separate a Strigidae from his oaths. From his duty.
Years ago he had been commanded to return to the abandoned Nest 629 and take command of the Blackdaggers. The Blackdaggers were a group of former Strigidae, those who had abandoned their oaths, turned their back upon binding utterances written in blood.
Traitors. Filth. Scum.
Boresight hated them. But the Secret Masters held their reigns just as they held his. Neural reprogramming, deep-level cognitive conditioning and psychoactive drug cocktails had been used to give the Secret Masters a backdoor into their very thoughts. They were no longer in control. The Secret Masters were, and through them, Boresight.
Secret even to the Strigidae at large the Blackdaggers were a deniable asset in the hands of the Secret Masters, a blade in the night to be wielded against their enemies, controlled by a man whose life depended upon his obedience for Boresight had been given the control words to the Blackdaggers.
With them he fought a secret war against the enemies of the Seven Secret Masters. Even the Strigidae were unaware that those who betrayed or failed them in life often served their masters after death.. or after the death of even the freedom of thought for such was the power of the brainwashing techniques used by the Secret Masters that the Blackdaggers could not betray them even if they wished to.
Boresight had been alerted to Grimmwald's approach and he stood in the center of the court yard, his hands clasped behind his back. The ex-Strigidae watched the Orochi and the Horned Saint through the lenses in his mask, his pistols holstered at his hips and his knives sheathed across his back.
The Blackdaggers swept the courtyard behind them. They were traitors. Boresight hated them and forced them to do manual labor when they were not on a mission.
He did not recognize Grimmwald. Not at first.
"Whoever you are, make peace with your gods and devils. I shall give you five minutes to pray and then I will send you to meet them."
Gates blown open, the Orochi storming in with their swords gleaming and their eyes cold, the Horned Saint followed - and found no Strigidae. Instead, he met eyes with the Blackdagger, with men and women bound to a life - and death - of servitude to the Strigidae. In their hands were broomsticks instead of swords, spears and bows. And their task entailed no sparring to the death, no arduous training meant to push mutant genetics to it's limit, it was manual labor, it was sweeping a courtyard ravaged by wind and ice. It was demeaning. It was pathetic. And as Kellan locked gazes with Boresight, it was a telling reminder of what the Blackdagger were to the Strigidae. Glorified servants and nothing more.
"Death is the only god we've ever known", Kellan answered, striding forward like a panther, sword twirled once or twice by the wrist, "And you know better than I, brother, that we will never know peace". Kellan knew him, if only through Richard. Boresight, killed by the Shogun's son and raised from the dead by science and sorcery to serve the Strigidae as Kellan was to before his escape. He knew him, because he was like him. "I'm here only to free the Blackdagger. But if you insist", he paused, breathing out as if to melt the frost on his flesh and warm his body, "Then let's see if you can squeeze that trigger before I can cut you down". Slowly, the Orochi surrounded them, trapping them in an enclosed sea of red with their shadows stretching nearby for Kellan to use. He was tired, cold and cut by rock but he had the Orochi's shadows to use. Death never played fair, neither did assassins, and neither would he.
"Don't worry about them, brother. They won't raise a finger", the Horned Saint taunted, deep voice flowing out his throat cold and striking. "But you can".
Was it.. His eyes narrowed under his goggles. It couldn't be. It couldn't. "Kellan." He whispered.
The traitor. The Strigidae had hunted Kellan for months and he had eluded them, slipping through their fingers like a wraith, avoiding all electronics and blending into the civilian population of large cities with a proficiency that had left several Strigidae hunters baffled.
"It's you." He said, laughing. "It is really you. You know, I have dreamed of killing your brother but this will be even sweeter. He will know the pain of your death before I send him across the river Styx."And when it is done the Strigidae will accept me among their number once more.
He did not hesitate and he struck without qualm, warning or mercy. Hands flashed as he drew his twin Berettas and sent nine millimeter rounds screaming across the cobblestone, unleashing a dozen rounds toward Grimmwald in the blink of an eye, targeting his legs, his feet and his hips. He didn't want Kellan to die. Not yet. Not until he had suffered.
"He will know the pain of your death before I send him across the river Styx"
The Horned Saint heard him clearly. Even as the cold wind whistled and swept frost into the air, he had heard him. Kellan was cold, his skin pale, blood running slow through his veins, lungs heaving and body tired. But he was ready. Like a viper snatching it's prey, Kellan's dermal senses caught the aerial vibrations from Boresight's first movements - and he vanished - sinking into the shadow of the nearest Orochi as the first bullet grazed his left cheek. There were few gunmen better than Boresight. He was a deadly marksman like Valentina, and a tireless killer like Alpha Dog. Kellan, exhausted and freezing, could not fight him as he was. So he did as his assassin blood commanded - and cheated.
Moving from one shadow to another, Kellan was quick. Right arm stretching out the shadow of an Orochi behind Boresight, he'd reach for the disgraced Strigidae's ankle and try to drag him down into the shadow, stopping only once Boresight was swallowed into the shadow from the neck down. His foe's head sticking out the ground, and the rest of his body buried in a shadow, the Horned Saint'd leap out a different shadow - and turn his hips into a kick that'd smash the back of Boresight's head like an aluminium bat. A quick knockout, it was all he needed, and all he sought. But Boresight was dangerous, tireless and supernaturally skilled. And the Horned Saint's attack may very well fail.
A mocking comment on his lips Boresight begin to laugh as Grimmwald hid in the shadows but the laugh was cut short as Kellan's hand snagged his angle and dragged him down, down into the pit of shadows where Grimmwald's kick came racing in.
He had barely a second to react, only enough time to duck. But not quite fast enough-- Grimmwald's leg clipped him in the top of the head and smashed his face into the rim of the shadow pit, shattering one of his goggles.
Boresight rolled out of the pit, pistols abandoned and drew his knives. "Face me, coward." He said, waving Grimmwald on as he rose.. but he wobbled as he took up his fighting stance, blood running down his mask from where shards of broken glass drove into his face and upon unsteady legs, rocked by the powerful kick to the skull.
"Face me, coward"
The Horned Saint said nothing. The cold digging deep into his bones like fingers of ice, exhaustion crippling his muscles, and the thin air taunting his lungs - he'd be a fool to give in to Boresight's challenge. Around him, the Orochi watched, evaluating their new leader, judging his worthiness as one who walks the shadows as they do. Though his eyes held Boresight's, Kellan's dermal senses zeroed in on the knives his foe'd drawn, feeling the vibrations - the warning - from the air as it stroked the sharp edge of each blade. Closing the distance would be suicide. One slip of the foot or one movement too late or too awkward and he'd be gutted like a fish. Kellan would stay on the outside.
Sinking into the nearest shadow as he'd done before, Kellan began toying and taunting. Boresight was rocked, his judgment and sense of distance was off. And Kellan would pounce like a predator, popping in and out of shadow after shadow, confusing and frustrating till he leaped out a shadow behind Boresight, lifting and twisting around a rod as it extended into a steel-tipped quarterstaff. Elbow tucked as he swung the staff fast and low to sweep Boresight's legs from under him, the Horned Saint'd follow with less technique and more brutality - bringing down the steel end of his staff with bestial strength to smash into Boresight's head for a savage knockout. Panting, chest heaving, Kellan was beginning to tire, he could not continue for much longer.
But Boresight never tired. Boresight would keep on coming like a tireless beast.
Normally losing a fight was tiring. Especially a fight held in the swirling mountaintop snow and buffeted by sub-zero temperatures. But Boresight never tired and never slowed. Despite being badly rocked he kept his wind. His hands were just as quick, his strikes just as fast.
The Horned Saint taunted him from the shadows and Boresight spun this way and that, slashing at phantasms and parrying strikes he was certain would come. But Grimmwald refused to close and Boresight struck at a ghost, blades cleaving the white mist of the snow in a silvery pattern of death.
His hands were laserlike in their precision, tireless machines of muscle and blood that never missed. Never wavered. But his knees were week and his feet uncertain upon the slippery cobblestone and as Grimmwald teleported through the shadows one final time Boresight spun to parry-
-a fraction of a second too slow. Grimmwald's first attack was aimed at his feet, which his knives did not have the reach to guard and which were already unsteady. The Horned Saints inhuman strength snapped his ankle and ripped his feet from under him.
The world spun around him and agonizing pain ripped through his leg. His situation was impossible. But Boresight had once been a Strigidae and though he was but a mortal man he was not just a man. The je ne sais quois of the Strigidae was with him still and his knives came up in mid air, cross-parrying Grimmwald's strike while still falling.
But though he had the skill he did not have the strength and Grimmwald's strike broke through his block and smashed into his skull. He landed hard, head cracking against the cobblestones a second time.
Boresight lay there. Ankle broken. Blood pouring from his shattered goggle and pooling amid the snow covered cobblestone.
Then he set up.
"**** you traitor."
Few sounds were more sickening than the sharp crack of breaking bones. A sound that the Horned Saint had spent his life in intimacy with. And there, on the windswept courtyard of Nest 629, Kellan circled his bloodied foe, his slow and predatory strides shadowing every side of Boresight like a panther while the Orochi watched in silence. But where Kellan's lungs heaved in desperation for more of the thin mountain air, Boresight sat up like a corpse risen from a snowy grave. And he wasn't tired. He was never tired. Beaten and bloodied but never tired. He was a monster. One that simply kept coming, hour after hour, with a pressure and intensity that never yielded. A monster his brother had slain, and one that Kellan sought to tame.
"**** you traitor"
Quarterstaff twisting and turning, and his mouth pulling back into the devil's sick smirk, Kellan's chuckle flowed out his throat dark and low. "You hate me don't you?", he taunted, ruby eyes moving from Boresight to watch the Blackdaggers still sweeping away the snow with their brooms. Boresight was nothing if not a strong hand, and they knew better than to disobey him - even with blood spilling out his face. "Or maybe you just hate the fact that you're powerless to stop me", he continued, his breath heavy and his smirk gone. "Probably why you hate my brother. Couldn't beat him when he made your heart stop... beating", his smirk returned, his humor betraying none of the gruesome thoughts in his mind. "But I'm not gonna do that to you, friend". Pausing, Kellan's eyes swept to the Orochi surrounding them and gave his command.
"Capture him and flay him. His entire body", Kellan ordered, "Don't worry too much about keeping him alive. He's already dead. But keep the flayed skin as intact as you can. And remove his larynx. The dead don't talk". While many Orochi circled round Boresight like preying wolves, the Horned Saint looked on at the Blackdaggers. "The rest of you - are free from this. Follow me and we will hunt the Strigidae as one".
"You hate me don't you?"
Hatred did not begin to cover it.
On Grimmwalds command the Orochi struck and Boresight was buried in a swarm of red bodies. Staffs and fists and blades flashed. Boresight vanished under the crimson tide.
But then he burst forth, blood streaming from a dozen wounds, silver knives flashing in the frosty air as he carved his way to freedom, swaying and stumbling forth from the group and putting his back to the stone wall. Three bodies lay in his wake, blood running down the crevices of the cobblestone.
Again they charged. They drove him to a knee, his back to the wall. They crippled one hand and he fought like a wolf, eyes savage, driven by the desperate power of the biological drive to survive.
Two more died at his hand before they brought him low a final time and dragged him away to execute Grimmwalds final and most terrible command.
The Blackdaggers were his.
The Beast of Brass stepped forth out of nothing. He did not teleport, nor appear from invisibility, yet he did appear from nowhere for such were the mysteries commanded by the greatest of the initiated.
He towered over mortal men. Perhaps twice the height of a man. The air shimmered around him so thick was the accumulation of esoteric wards of protection. They had taken a thousand years to acquire and guarded him against all manners of doom.
Two Strigidae awaited him as did a handful of other mutants. They stood over the grusome figure of Boresight, skinned alive and throat raw from wails of agony.
When they saw the Beast they knelt. The non-Strigidae threw themselves upon the ground and pressed their faces into the freezing stone.
"Forgive us Master. He has gone. And master.. he has taken the Blackdaggers."
The Beast uttered not a word and the only sound was the sound of his breath, carrying somehow over the howling winds.
His gaze fell upon the prone mutants. One by one they spoke.
"Master he could not have breached the conditioning of the Blackdaggers. Not so quickly. He must have had the command words. It is the only way."
When the Beast spoke his voice boomed through the courtyard and seemed to come from every direction at once yet his lips did not move.
"Who is responsible for the security of the command words?"
One of the mutants swallowed and spoke, his voice shaking with abject terror. "Me. I am."
He stood, shivering in the biting wind. "I have served faithfully for twenty six years." His tail flicked back and forth in the wind and his stilted eyes squinted against the blowing snow. "Until this day I have not made a single error. I beg of you, show mercy."
The Beast was not without mercy.
"Thank you. Thank you master." Tears of gratitude ran down his cheeks as he pulled a silver dagger from his belt and punched it into his chest up to the hilt and the tip jutted out his back while a red stain slowly spread across his white shirt-- he swayed, blood bubbled on his lips and he fell, legs kicking aimlessly and a gurgle coming from his throat as he breathed his last breath.
The blood soaked the snow while the Beast spoke.
"Dispose of that and prepare Boresight for rejuvenation. Find the traitor. Kill him. And return to me what has been stolen."
With those words the Beast turned, took a step to the left and vanished. He was gone yet there was no pop of displaced air or change in pressure that would accompany teleportation.
The Strigidae tossed the corpse over the edge while the Beasts surviving servants picked themselves up from the floor, shivering and counting themselves lucky the Beast was a man of mercy and compassion.
He had fled from an enemy more nightmare than man - or mutant. And allowed the tyranny of paranoia to overtake his mind so that he may live. He could not be found. Not by the Strigidae nor by anyone. To be returned to the Seven Secret Masters would be a death sentence. It would be handing his soul - what remained of it - to a claw that would rend his sanity to shreds.
And it was exactly what Kellan did.
As Grimmwald, he cloaked himself in shadows and preyed on the black heart of evil with a brutality and horror too real for the heroes and good men resigned to moral naivety. And as the Shadow King, he sharpened his skills to a razor, pushed the limits of his body to unearth the genetic artifacts left behind by his forefather of many names; صفر, Strigidae Zero, the Brahma Bull. Tonight, he was driven by freedom, and he would flee no more. He would become the end, of either the Strigidae or himself. Draped in the red of a blood moon, Kellan stepped from a shadow and hung still.
His body emitted no sound, and his heart surrendered to nothing - neither panic nor expectation. His mind pulled back to thoughts of the Secret Masters, mutant monstrosities governed by physical laws too twisted and hideous for the world of man, and his blood ran cold like ice water. Ruby eyes passed over the Strigidae around him, and glimpsed at the bio-electrical currents so needed by their intracellular metabolic processes. Their life-force. He would bury them all tonight, or die. He would kill a Secret Master - or suffer a fate worse than death.
He stepped out his shadow, armed with a new skill eons beyond him, a strike that - for an hour - severed mutant from X-Gene. An hour he hoped to make into the nest's massacre.
The prodigal son returns.
A voice from nowhere.
The Strigidae that surrounded Grimmwald drew weapons and circled him. A ring of wolves around the red panther.
Once lost, now he has found. But found what? Has the wandering son seen in his heart the wisdom of the seven fathers and returned to kneel before them?
The Beast laughed and his laughter echoed from every corner and from every crevice and from the sky and it was carried on the wind that howled.
Thirteen Strigidae were as silent as the grave. The ground was covered in snow. Pure and white. The black of the Strigidae's garb was a ring of midnight.
No. The son has betrayed his friends and lost his soul and now lives as he was born; alone. One might think he looks to die to escape this fate.
Too simple, of course. Let us speak of the life-history of the son. Born no one, he answered to the fathers every day of his youth. Then the brother drew him away and he fled the fathers every day of his life.
There has never been a day that was not governed by the fathers. He obeys or he flees and hides. Like a rat. Like a rodent.
Now he seeks what the brother sought. He will overthrow the fathers and be free of them or die, and be free of them. Freedom, in this life or the next.
The door to the dojo opened. A man walked out. Tall. Not too tall. But tall. Thin but not too thin. He waded through the snow. He was wearing a mask.
Let me tell you a secret, prodigal son.
The man reached up and seized his mask.
Life and death are not real.
The man pulled off his mask.
It was Boresight. Skinned alive; no man could survive long for skin was a vital organ just as the kidneys or the lungs. And yet he lived. Each breath was agony. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Muscles were exposed to the wind. Snow drifted against veins.
He fell to his knees in front of Grimmwald.
"Kill me." He begged. "Kill me."
The Beast of Brass was not always merciful.
Death will not save you from me, lost son. You'll die here and I, in my infinite mercy, will clasp you to my bosom and lift you up from the grave. You will serve me then. You will have no choice.
Suddenly the Beast was there. He stood behind Boresight, twelve feet tall with teeth like knives and brass claws upon his fingers like daggers blades and he placed those horrible gauntlets marked with many runs upon Boresights shoulders.
His voice filled the air again but he did not open his mouth.
Oh, the things I'll make you do. Friends. Family. Lovers. They'll think it's you.
He laughed and laughed and laughed.
They'll think it's you.
@grimmwald There you go and my apologies for the long wait. I really wanted to nail this one.
@beast_of_brass: (No worries!)
The air heaved in panic, all Strigidae grew silent, and a voice that made gods feel small echoed in amusement. And as the laughter rose from the air itself, so too did Boresight - skinless but alive. To the silent snarl of the surrounding Strigidae, Kellan paid no mind. Instead, he met eyes with the man he'd condemned to lose all flesh, and said nothing even as Boresight did the unthinkable, did as no Strigidae'd ever dare do with their senses yet to take leave of them. He surrendered to the tyranny of agony - and begged.
In all his years, raised by cruelty and hardship from the Strigidae temple of his birth, where children fought for the fates of their starving stomachs, and saw the white of death's grin - Kellan had never known anyone to beg. It disgusted him. And the voice - a Secret Master's - laughed and taunted with a knowing that could chill bone. Finally, as though he'd always been there, the Beast of Brass rolled in like a mist too thin for the eye to have noticed. Up. Kellan looked up, and his crimson eyes saw twelve feet of something more monster than mutant. Something twisted that left a feeling sinking in the stomach, and bitterness rising in the throat. Yet Kellan, hollowed with no soul, felt little as he stared up his fate.
There was no glint of fear in the eyes, only a martinet's composure. The Beast of Brass spoke again, shaking the core of Kellan's body with it's voice alone. And to that, to the dread future laid bare at his feet by the Secret Master, the Red Shinigami said.
The snow fell cold, frost clung to their edges, and the Beast of Brass still stood twice his size. His arms limbs were as thick as trees and longer still. For Kellan to cut in, to sweep the tide of distance in his favor, he would... stand still. With his arms at his sides and his eyes staring up at death's white grin, he stood still - and his shadow stretched to bind with and violate the Beast of Brass' own. Kellan had become the Shadow King, a legendary shadow-binder whose silhouette merged with the shadows of others so that he may control their bodies. And here, now, the Beast of Brass'd be bound to Kellan's physical will. Every movement he made, he'd be forced to imitate. And every movement he didn't make, he'd be forced to live with.
So the Red Shinigami did what he thought the Beast of Brass could not, reach into his own shadow and pull out a sword. It's vibranium blade glimmered like silver and Kellan breathed. His muscle fibers'd twitch, and every unit of time poured into perfecting his movement'd swarm his arm with a burst of inspiration. He'd hurl his vibranium sword where the Beast of Brass'd hurl nothing - and stand still as Kellan then did. The sword scram, not in fury, but in silence, for it sped not for the Secret Master's skull, but the mythical stress point in it's molecular structure glimpsed by the Eyes of صفر. So the sword, hurled by supernatural skill, would cleave into the Beast of Brass' skull, carve it's molecular stress point, and his skull, his brain, his head - would collapse.
Like a sandcastle blown apart.
The Beast begin to move. But he could not. The occult arts of the king of shadows had found him and in the darkness had bound him.
Muscles strained. There were a series of clicks from within the Beast, like gears of cartilage slipping. Whatever strange organs animated him groaned with effort.
The air wavered with the force of the Beasts indomitable will. Like a heatwave in the desert. His will alone almost bent reality itself to obey him.
Frozen. A great statue of black and brass. He could do nothing but stare as the blade flew toward him. A spear of silver through the swirling snow. It gleamed in the moonlight.
The tip struck the first of the Beast's wards. There was a flash like lightning as it broke through. The second and third ward failed as well for the Horned Master's blow was perfect.
That keen edge struck home. It punched through the super dense bone of the Beast. It struck the stress point in his molecular structure with the precision of a laser guided machine.
It was a fell blow.
Bone crumpled inward. Flesh imploded. Brain matter was rent asunder. His skull collapsed upon itself like a paper bag having the air suddenly sucked out of it.
The corpse of the Secret Master fell with a thud.
Stunned silence descended upon the clearing. The ring of Strigidae gazed upon their fallen Master as black blood ran from his neck and soaked the snow.
This was impossible. Grimmwald was a no one. Just a boy. Even the greatest of the Strigidae angered not the Secret Masters. But their eyes did not lie. This no one from no where had struck down the immortal Beast in a single blow.
Even the hardened men and women of the mutant death cult were rendered speechless by this abominable miracle.
But then there was a voice. This voice didn't fill the sky. It didn't echo from nowhere and everywhere. It was just a little whisper. Just a little whisper in the back of Grimmwald's head.
I told you child. Life and death are not real.
The human mind perceived three spatial dimensions. Length, depth and width. All engineering, physics and even human movement was based upon these three dimensions.
But what if there was another? A direction the human mind had not evolved the hardware to perceive. A direction, a dimension, in space that was as real as any other but the human mind could not even imagine, save in the vaguest possible way?
And this was an ancient secret possessed by the Seven Secret Masters. Occult knowledge in the truest form of the term; knowledge that was hidden.
The Beast used this dimension to travel. A shortcut between too points that might be distant along three dimensions but were close together along the forth. He used it for invisibility; by moving in a direction the human mind couldn't even comprehend he could walk through the world of men unseen. He even used it to fight, by striking from angles that his foes couldn't conceive.
But that wasn't all.
Life! The low resolution idea generated by a caveman long gone to separate man and animal from rock and dirt. A cognitive tool to think about the world in his dim, primitive mind. A tool you use to explain reality to this very day. How inexact. How unscientific.
Thoughts too had directionality. Neurons possessed length, width and depth. So did electrons. So did the masses of hormones and chemicals and things stranger still which made up a mind.
And just as he could control the physical direction of his body so too could he control the physical direction of the physical processes that composed his thoughts.
He didn't just move through the impossible paths, he could send his thoughts through them as well.
Life is information of sufficient organization that replicates through space and time. Death is information that has succumbed to entropy. I am information. You are information. There is nothing else. Life and death are not real. I am only a thought carried in a sack of flesh and ichor.
The Beast could think himself from mind to mind. Not telepathy. Not magic. But literally moving his brain from one skull to the next. And now neurons swarmed into Grimmwald's brain. Linking with his centers of of language to speak into him. Memories bled into his and he could suddenly remember lives he had not lived.)
He could remember a young, scrawny mutant in a distant time and distant land blessed with the ability to perceive another direction.
Grimmwald could remember being discovered by Kratesis; a woman with a black sword of anti-reality called SLAKE. The first thing the Beast stared upon and feared for when he saw it he saw nothingness for the first time.
He could remember inhabiting a young, fit body and training at Kratesis's feet. He could remember her inducting him into the ranks of the Strigidae.
He could remember his rise.
He could remember the younger, stronger challenger who slew him. He could remember the panic as the world grew dark and the burst of inspiration that saw him move into his slayers mind.
He could remember the next challenger and the next. With each rival he grew, either by defeating those weaker than him or by inhabiting the body of one stronger, hijacking their skills and experiences and incorporating them into him.
Memories flashed before him as he recalled the sheer mass of skills, life experiences and memories exceeding the capacity of a single mind and as he remembered branching out, spreading his mind, his thoughts, among dozens of other minds. Hidden in the background, but linked together and thinking as one. Thinking thoughts bigger, more complex, more nuanced than any human mind could conceive by virtue of the vast processing power at his disposal. Grimmwald could glimpse concepts, ideals, so full and rich that a human being couldn't even imagine them.
Grimmwald could remember the Schism. When the Seven rose against the Strigidae's founder, Kratesis. When the Seven Secret Masters overthrew her and cast her out, taking her throne for themselves. He could catch flickers of that war; a war of impossible ideas and secrets and weapons difficult to even imagine. He could see, dimly, what it had taken to defeat Kratesis.
Grimmwald could remember when a mighty Strigidae who went by the Beast of Brass challenged him for the rank of Secret Master. He could remember his primary body being overpowered by the godlike mutant.
He could remember leaping into the victors mind and carrying on his work through the new body.
Just as he had done so many times before.
Now you will think my thought. Now you will be me. I will not die. Death is not real.
This has all happened before child. It will all happen again. But I made you a promise, didn't I? I promised that you would serve. That you would obey. That you would bring horror to those you love.
It's time child.
And with that the Beast of Brass, whose true name was long lost in the sands of history, begin to import his brain into Grimmwalds. Neurons streamed into his mind to cut off pathways of thought. Hormones and chemicals washed into him. Thoughts that were not his invaded him.
The Thing of Thought attempted to not merely mind control Grimmwald but to merge with him in a physical, biological way. To become one and to subvert the Lost Son of the Bull into another appendage of his own mind.
He had done this many times. And to make matters worse, Grimmwald no longer possessed the quantum soul that might be immune to the physical assault of neuron binding to neuron in a way calculated to overwhelm Grimmwald with thoughts not his own and shatter his own thoughts by breaking their physical pathways.
The Shadow King'd hurled his sword like a lightning bolt, and the Beast of Brass' skull shattered like glass at the mercy of thunder. The silence of Strigidae left stunned by the headless corpse they once called master became deafening, and Kellan stared down the gore of his making. First there was paranoia, a whisper grazing the nape of his neck with a warning, that to fell a Secret Master was impossible. Yet the seconds ticked away, and relief - elation - came in tidal waves ready to erode his fears away. And yet, the Strigidae knew no fear greater than the Secret Masters. A voice awoke his brain.
He recognized it. He shouldn't have.
He should have heard nothing but the low echo of his own thoughts. And for a moment, as the silence returned, the panic faded in his chest. Just paranoia, he dismissed, red eyes passing over the stunned Strigidae with a gaze that promised he'd return for them. Though whether to kill or free, only he - and the Beast lurking in his mind - knew. Kellan sank into the nearest shadow, and as the light faded from his world, so too did his freedom. The voice rang once more. Louder now. The Beast of Brass. He yet lived. Somehow roaming the deepest parts of his mind like a nightmare the Shadow King could not wake from him. In the Shadow World, no sensation but touched prevailed, and Kellan felt the sweat run cold down his spine. How? HOW!? His heart clamored in his chest, his skin tightened as if near a flame, and all sense of security was torn asunder.
You're no mutant! What more could Kellan do but lash out against the master he so loathed? Try as they might, the psycho-spiritual sorcery unearthed from the Keijijo scrolls he'd stolen offered him little. It could not wrestle the neurons grappling his, it could not stop the cancer spreading through his mind. It could only erect barriers to shield his mind - the quantum information that constituted his consciousness - from the Beast's, to separate it from a brain quickly coming into possession of the immortal master. As his mind, the Shadow King bore witness to a history kept from him. The Court of Arcani was no longer what it once was. Kratesis had been felled, betrayed by men and women she'd once trusted as bodyguards. Her attack dogs had bitten the had that fed them and tossed it to the wolves. He smelled the fear the Beast felt for SLAKE, more programming glitch in the universe's information fabric than a sword forged from metal.
And he learned the many lives the Beast had lived in the skin of others. What irony that Kellan, a devil who skinned the guilty, was losing his to the guiltiest of them all. Psycho-spiritual barriers formed a dome, a shield with which to keep Kellan's mind from the Beast, to retain his autonomy as his brain lost it's. And in it, Kellan found something. Some control over his movement. Control he owed to the forbidden mastery his Keijijo skills held over the qi nodes that dictated his movement over his nervous system. A mastery made possible by tethering mind to body. And yet, he felt the Beast of Brass tug for control, just as the Soul Lavaliere once had. Was the skill of shunned Keijijo masters enough to fight the will of his own nervous system every second of every day for the rest of his life?
He could feel it. The Beast of Brass half-controlling him. He could never sleep again. And how long would his psycho-spiritual barriers endure? Kellan hardly knew. He knew only that he need find Kratesis to fight a common enemy lest he lose his mind and body for good.
Please Log In to post.