Episode 035: Challenge! Critical Conditions
Episode 035: Challenge! Critical Conditions
The humans, the power in between light and darkness, the power from the Darkstar prophecy. Suddenly, the old dragon's ramblings didn't seem so random after all. Both Milgazia and Zelas listened quietly. "In old human folklore both dragons and monsters were rare and few. This isn't a simple matter of not mentioning minor characters in ancient verbal records, but rather, they weren't there. Do you remember, young lady? Back then it was just Ceifeed, Shabranigdu and those them they created to continue their battle and seek revenge should one of them fall. The dragon lords and the monster lords were the only ones back then. There were no other dragons and no other monsters. Do you know what happened to create more?"
"Numbers," Zelas replied, thinking back on it. "We realized that numbers were convenient and..." She paused and looked deeper into her memories. "Actually, the dragons came in more numbers first. The new dragons were of much lesser power than the dragon lords, but they were inconveniences. We monster lords decided that we needed to match them with numbers as well if we were to win. We weren't certain how to do it, so we experimented and in the end managed to create new life by breaking off portions of ourselves. Those were very small portions, but they were enough to fight off the lesser dragons."
"Yes," the old dragon nodded. Then he looked at Milgazia. "Young man, do you know where those dragons came from, that fought beside the dragon lords?"
"I... don't..." Milgazia admitted. Who knew about he very beginning of life anyway?
"Humans have short life spans; they are destroyed and recreated constantly through their rapid generations. They have hasty ambitions, the ability to change, to progress and a lively determination that seems far too powerful to be contained in so little time. Humans were many and they were innovative. The dragons observed them and became jealous of them. They too had physical forms as the humans did, so why would they not have offspring as well?"
Milgazia sat there with a frozen expression. His face was a mixture of surprise and fading doubt. It made sense, it all made sense. He had heard theories about it before, though not exactly like that, not so direct. "Then us dragons are descendants of the dragon lords?"
"Yes, but as you became many, the dragon lords feared you would be as unruly as the wild humans. Resourceful and adaptable as they were, the humans were not so civilized back then as they are now," the old dragon explained. "Hence why certain rules were put into place and strictly enforced to prevent too many dragons from spreading all over the world. The dragon lords also noticed that the new dragons were in some ways like humans, perhaps more so as high humans."
"High humans?" Milgazia questioned, too entranced in the story to care that he was interrupting his senior. "You mean elves?"
"Yes, that is what they are called now. Their kind has become purer and achieved a greater lifespan by mating only among themselves, though they were only particularly talented humans in the beginning. They are a race, rather than a species," the old dragon explained. "The humans had companions of other species though, the ones known now as beastmen, trolls and the like. However, even with their claws and fangs to defend themselves, their fur and tough skin to protect them from the elements and their advantageous strength and agility, the more fragile human race with their wit and determination bested them in the race of evolution. Humans with their quest of superiority, perhaps to make up for the physical advantages that the Mother of All Things didn't give them, made sure to establish themselves as the dominant race of this world. They are numerous and they are incredibly resourceful and volatile."
"So the underdogs of physical creatures came out on top," Zelas chuckled. "I do hope this story is actually going somewhere more interesting than that."
"Patience, young lady, I'm getting there," the old dragon continued. "The monsters attacked from the astral side and though they had some limitations, the dragons could sense them and attack them back. The monsters didn't need to leave the astral side and it would be a waste of power to do so. Why then did they become so determined to do so?"
"So the history lesson continues," Zelas sounded rather bored. "We thought that we could find a weakness in the dragon race by experimenting in the physical plane of existence."
"That was only an excuse," the old dragon boldly declared.
"What?" Zelas glared.
The old dragon remained unfazed. "Astral attacks were effective enough, fighting the very soul. Mere observation and perhaps possession would have been enough to figure out how to pray on physical weaknesses. Yet the monsters wanted their own physical forms because the dragons had them, and the humans had them, and all other creatures had them so why shouldn't they?"
"Are you saying we were envious?" Zelas challenged.
"Indeed," the old dragon dared to confirm. "Those who won the race of evolution were the humans. To keep them from destroying themselves, they were given guides, the dragons. To push them to overcome negativity and to weed out the weak, they were given challengers, the monsters. They would fight those astral evils as they would fight the evils within themselves and they would be protected by the dragons, cared for in their fragile forms. If you consider those purposes, it makes sense for the dragons to need physical forms and for the monsters to be astral. The dragons helped preserve the humans and the monsters challenged their spirits."
"We were enemies as we are and always will be." Zelas voiced, though the impatience was gone from her tone.
"Your goals seemed opposite, but it was all the same thing, to encourage the evolution of humans, see how far they can go and keep the cycle of motion that is life." The old dragon remarked. "To keep things in order means to encourage living creatures to leave their mark and preserve their identity, to reach their goals and stay focused. To return the world to chaos means to place living creatures on the path to rapid evolution, to destroy for the sake of creating. To destroy what is not needed so that what is best can flourish against all odds, if it has what it takes. When it all comes to a stop, the Lord of Nightmares shall start the cycle over as she has no interest in stagnation."
The wise old dragon continued. "Yet your missions were all but forgotten, corrupted and bent to convenience because those whom you were to influence have influenced you into becoming like them. You emulate them in every aspect, believe it or not. You want, you desire, you want to leave your mark rather than remain in the shadows. You want to dominate, to conquer, that is their instinct. For them it is necessary to preserve their fragile forms. For you," he referred to dragons and monsters as a whole, "it has resulted in something very interesting."
Zelas was frowning while Milgazia remained lost in thought. The water clan elder knew he couldn't share what the elderly dragon had said with many other dragons. Few would understand and most would take it the wrong way. Perhaps it was the same way for the monsters; most wouldn't like this story either. Yet he did find the discussion fascinating and it showed on his face.
"At least someone is amused," Zelas glared at Milgazia. Then she turned her piercing eyes towards the old dragon who, to no surprise to her by now, remained unaffected. "I suppose I can credit you a little, though I won't say I agree with it all. Yet regardless of how my personal desires originated, they exist and I will pursue my goals. An identity is a monster's most precious thing. I suppose it is that way for a human too and perhaps we copied our need to be acknowledged from them, but that doesn't matter now, we've already come too far. Maybe we did learn to evolve by observing humans and maybe that wasn't how it was set up to be, but it happened and that's that."
"I am not saying that it is wrong," the old dragon corrected with a smile. "All the opposite, I'm sure the Mother of All Things is both amused and intrigued. I'm certain that she very much enjoys watching your endeavors. Well, that is all that I wanted to tell you."
"You're an odd character," Zelas voiced.
"A character, eh?" The old dragon chuckled. "You are correct, that is exactly what I am, as you see me at present at least." Neither Zelas nor Milgazia quite understood what that meant. Before they could ask about the odd philosophical hint in the statement, the old dragon spoke again. "Go on and play your game of cards now. This old character won't interrupt you anymore." He stood slowly and with difficulty, then picked up his cane from the ground. "What was it that you were going to play? Strip poker?"
"N-no," Milgazia stuttered, his eyes suddenly wide. He composed himself quickly though. Judging by Zelas' silence she wasn't expecting such a comment from the elderly dragon either.
Zelas finally reacted and joked. "Only because you know I would beat you."
"Aren't your clothes part of your astral form?" Milgazia pointed out as a matter of fact. "You can create as many garments as you wish; you would never lose like that."
Zelas chuckled, amused to be given the opportunity to annoy Milgazia by such an unlikely source. "Are you disappointed?"
"Of course not," Milgazia frowned.
"Well, don't you go taking your clothes off either. Not until it's time to jump into my oven and become dragon cuisine at least." Zelas grinned maliciously, but also with amusement. Seeing Milgazia's frown deepen, she added. "What? Is it modesty? I'm the world's greatest chef, I can cook without looking. Besides, you'd have to be in dragon form anyway."
"I hate your dragon cuisine jokes," Milgazia stated the obvious.
"I know," Zelas grinned some more. "That's why I tell them to you." Her expression was quite similar to Xellos' at that moment, though it soon changed to alertness as the sky suddenly turned darker and darker until it was pitch black. The clouds spiraled overhead and thunder and lightning flooded the area. "It's happening!" This was it. It was her time to go into survival mode against a power that she could only hope to escape at present, so that she would later become strong enough to defeat it.
"Sir, you must get out of here!" Milgazia urged.
"Nonsense, my boy. Didn't you hear me before? This character is near death and his final wish is to witness this event." The old dragon reminded.
Milgazia considered arguing, but the elderly dragon had a point. He would die naturally soon anyway so he didn't want to force him to miss out on his last request. "Alright, just stay behind me, I'll protect you. We better step away from her though."
"Very well," the old dragon followed Milgazia as they put some distance between themselves and Zelas.
The monster lord stood proud and unafraid. If she had a heart it would be pounding with something akin to distaste for the unknown and an overload of courageous adrenaline. Lack of physical aspects aside, she got the same jolt of bravery anyway. "So you want my power, Darkstar?" She yelled into the skies as she took on her true form of a winged wolf. "I'll give you my power in more ways than you can handle!"
A beam of light came down as the clouds parted. It seemed to go on beyond the atmosphere, beyond the world itself. The summoning device was in the over-world after all. Zelas opposed no resistance, as she knew it would be futile. The light engulfed her form and pulled her up as if guiding her through a dimensional tunnel. She imagined that in their chosen locations, Dolphin and Dynast were going through the same process.
Finally, the light faded, leaving destruction behind and Zelas was no where to be found. The few trees that occupied the field were practically without leaves due to the strong wind, with most of their branches broken. The land was churned, the grass gone to leave behind burnt earth. "Are you alright, sir?" Milgazia let down the magic shield he had put up for their protection and looked at the old dragon. Even with the shield he felt a strong lashing of energy that felt like being subjected to a painful astral attack.
His energy was so very fragile; he really was an inch away from the end of his life, yet the old dragon remained unaffected by the aftershock that caused Milgazia such pain. "I'm alright, but I seemed to have dropped something."
Milgazia looked around and spotted the dragon's cane not too far away. "Just a moment, I'll go get it." He walked the few steps towards the cane laying on the ground on the edge of the burnt circle. There was a card near it with a picture of a wolf in the back. Zelas dropped her cards when she was summoned and most of them seemed to have been blown away. This one that was left behind was the queen of spades. He didn't think the card was of any importance, but he kept it anyway, just in case. Then he bent over and reached to pick up the wooden cane. Yet when the tips of his fingers brushed it, the cane became a shovel. Milgazia stared at it in disbelief and once again reached for it. The item seemed stable enough in its new form. He looked at the card again, but didn't think that had anything to do with the strange transmutation. He held the shovel in his hand, looking at it curiously. Then he turned around to face the old dragon, but he wasn't there.
There was no trace of the old dragon, his weak energy having disappeared completely. As for the person who stood where he once was, it was a woman of human appearance with long blond hair, eyes hidden beneath her bangs and red painted lips curled into a knowing grin. Milgazia couldn't sense her energy at all, as if she was there but she wasn't. She extended her hand to him and looked at the shovel. Without a word, he gave her the tool and when her hand touched one end of the handle, while he still held the other, he felt a jolt of immeasurable power.
Milgazia quickly pulled back his hand and stared at the being before him. Her power was tremendous, but she was hiding it very well. She smiled and disappeared without a trace, not even leaving bits of energy clinging to the atmosphere; it was a completely clean exit. Not just anyone could be capable of that. 'The Lord of Nightmares...' Milgazia silently concluded. It further confirmed that this was something big; she was like a sign of the end of the world. He knew the world was in danger, but this encounter put it into a new perspective. The world was in very serious danger of ending again, not just their world, but also the over-world Darkstar had to be stopped.
xoxox xox xoxox
At the same time of the summoning, Xellos witnessed it from Wolf Pack Island. Amelia and Zelgadis had been teleported to Seyruun by Fang. In the mean time, Lina and Gourry had Fang take them restaurant hopping all over the world, insisting that it was a very much needed preparation for the coming battle. Xellos had remained at Wolf Pack Island and Filia with him. He visibly tensed as the skies turned darker. Though it was far away, he was looking in the direction where he knew Beast Master was, his senses focused on her until she was gone and the onslaught of energy, that could be painfully felt even from afar, ceased.
He stood there at the shore of Wolf Pack Island for several more minutes as the skies cleared in what most who were uninformed would think of as nothing but a crazy mood swing of the weather. Except for the pain similar to an astral attack, every living creature in the world felt it, no exceptions. "She's gone..." Xellos voiced with more bitterness than Filia had ever heard him use before, though he was obviously trying to suppress it.
Filia wasn't fond of Beast Master, but she was still Xellos' mother in a sense and she knew how much he admired her and, she dared think, he loved her like a son. "Xellos..." She wrapped her arms around him, but Xellos only stiffened, not returning the embrace.
He pushed Filia back by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, opening his. "I have a lot to do, Filia. Go home and be with Val, I don't have time for you."
Filia didn't like how she was pushed away when she was trying to be supportive, but she did miss Val and she knew that having a golden dragon running around after him wouldn't make Xellos' job any easier. "I want to be with you, but I-"
"Filia, don't be difficult," Xellos voiced sternly and seriously, his eyes still open and intense.
She brought up a finger to his lips to silence him. "I want to be with you, but I understand there are things you need to do which only you can do, and having a dragon along might be inconvenient. I'll leave the monster business to you, if that will make it," easier? No, nothing could make this easier. "Faster," she finished. "Just know that if there's anything at all I can do, I'm willing to try my best."
Xellos nodded silently, closed his eyes regaining his usual mask, and teleported them to Seyruun. He dropped off Filia at the living area of her shop on the second floor of the bakery where the foxes lived, and disappeared again, back to Wolf Pack Island to tend to his duties as Beast Master's general priest.
xoxox xox xoxox
After Xellos was gone, Filia took a moment to compose herself and ventured out of the living area and into the Maces and Vases shop area. Strangely, it was closed. She went down stairs and found that the bakery was closed as well. She looked all over the building, but couldn't find Val, Gravos, Jillas, Elena or Palou anywhere. Perhaps they had all gone to the castle where she would guess Amelia and Zelgadis still were.
Filia was heading out of the structure, but had a bad feeling suddenly and ran back in. She scrambled up the stairs not understanding why her premonition was making her heart pound. She hurried to Solex's room, but he wasn't there. She gasped and could feel herself panicking. The castle, Solex had to be at the castle, everyone had to be there. They must have taken him along, yes, they were keeping him safe, they had to be.
Filia dashed out of the shop and down the street. The citizens of Seyruun were still shocked from the crazy weather and the wave of pain that hit them all simultaneously. The princess had warned them that something dangerous was about to happen, but she didn't mention the specifics, as not even she knew them. Filia paid no attention to the voices of the crowds as they went out of their homes to discuss the happenings with their neighbors and expressed how much they hoped this was only a one time occurrence.
She made it to the Seyruun castle in record breaking time and ran past the guards. They knew her, so they didn't try to stop her. She tried to sense someone's energy, anyone she knew and allowed her senses to guide her past flights of stairs deeper into the castle. There were more guards, but they recognized Filia, they were expecting her and didn't get in her way. Finally, she reached a chamber decked out for protective magic and the scene she saw almost made her heart stop.
To be Continued
Oh, cliffhanger! :D