What followed him moved slowly at first. It was in no hurry. It savored the world into which it found itself thrust. The first two days here, there was no resistance and the creature were soft, edible, pliant with mild and crunchy centers. Then a few new ones came and they were armed with stinging tools. Primitive and only less effective than nothing. They and their tools were tasty with a slight iron flavoring. Some articles of their clothing were less than tasty, tough with a fibrous consistency. After eating six or eight of them, it decided to peel the rest of the blue guardians and eat only the flesh and bones.
Then They came. The special ones. Most looked like the main food of this world, small, delicate, crunchy and like the blue guardians, they were armed with tools. Their tools were fantastically more effective than the blue guardians. No matter. There is nothing of this world that can harm me. Nothing at all. Even the fire-star is too weak. I shall enjoy this one, and I shall not share it. Not a morsel will the others get.
"The Kid is down."
"He'll get up. He's just like his old man was. Stubborn."
"Any ideas of what we're dealing with?"
"With the rash of magical threats we have been seeing lately, I think someone has just upped the ante."
"Oswald, I think we are going to have to hold the line until the big guns get here."
Thornton Oswald the Third, stood looking over the city and realized, the Shrike was right. With The Kid down, Gunner on sabbatical, Kali was coming from Metro City, and Shango out doing whatever magical Protectors of the Crossroads do in their spare time, they would have to hold this thing until reinforcements arrived. But it took The Kid. After Kali and Shango, The Kid was as tough as they come. He lacked his father's fighting experience but his durability under fire was unquestioned.
"Shrike, I will need a minute, can you keep him entertained while I transform?"
"Sure thing, he'll never see me coming."
The Shrike, Walter Scott, depressed the studs in his gloves and his suit's jetpack came online. Extending his arms, large metallic wings with serrated edges extended from his arms increasing his wing span to twenty feet. "Don't be late." With a boom, the Shrike took to the air and dived to attack the creature who stood easily twenty feet tall.
Thornton proceeded to draw a circle of containment in the rooftop gravel. As his cane drew through the rocks, they lit with an eldritch glow. Hearing the boom of the rockets as they roared away, Thornton focused his mind on breaching the boundaries between worlds. To a particular world. A world of feral beasts used by dark magicians and ancient gods to the Fan-run-dhar-durak - Land of forgotten beasts. Once the realm became clear to him, he sought for a particular beast. A creature whose unmistakable might would be tested tonight. He sought the beast called Grimjack, mightiest of the Beast Lords.
The Shrike swooped fast and his onboard computer, linked directly into his brain had already plotted the course he needed to strike five times in two passes. His wings comprised of Promethium, a rare alien metal, allowed him to transfer and magnify his kinetic energy, so the longer he flew, the stronger and more dangerous the metal became.
But fly too long and the energy became uncontrollable without a release. So the longer he flew the more he was forced to fight. Only touching the ground would bleed that energy from him. It was always the delicate dance of fighting and being tougher but blowing out from not releasing enough energy or returning to his default state where he is weakest just before recharging.
Having flown here, he had already expended a good portion of his energy against the creature, he had damaged whatever this black material it called skin and even drew blood. But it seemed unaffected and knocked the Kid into next week. If he had been just a second slower, it would have been him. He doubted he would have survived that impact with the ground.
--gonna be fast, be loose, feel the air, float with it, snap the wing, strike, strike, beat the wing, turn, beat the wing turn, snap, snap, strike, strike, strike, away--
His blows were fast, blurs to the naked eye, and each tore into the nacreous flesh. But it must have skin made of diamond. His wings have sliced through bank vaults back in the days when he was a villain in Metro City.
--Come on Kid, we ain't friends or nothing but right now, I could use the sight of your overconfident face coming out of that fire. I hope Oswald is having more luck than I am.
Kali was streaking through the sky on her cloud heading to Paragon City where she received the distress call from The Shrike and the Sorcerer. She was making good time and would arrive in about ten minutes. From this height, the suburbs of Paragon city seemed peaceful. She could see the smoke from the burning buildings ahead, a path of sheer destruction. The old Kali would have liked that, the new Kali is repulsed by such mindless waste.
"Kali Yuga, I have need of you and your darkest aspect."
"I hate when you call me that, Shango. Where are you?" She really did hate that name, it invoked a violent and destructive past where she was a destroyer of all that she surveyed.
"I am at The Crossroads. There has been a breach and creatures are pouring through. I am attempting to seal it but I cannot as long as the creatures prevent me from reaching it. I need your help."
"Asking for help? That is not like you, Thunderer."
"Nor is needing help, warrior-goddess, but here we are."
"Can you make the gate or shall I follow you to the Crossroads by your whining."
"Suffice it to say, you are earning that spanking."
"Put it on my tab. I will be there shortly, husband."
Kali focused her will and her two arms became four. Each of them was armed with a knife of pure spirit. She began a sword dance designed to take her to the Crossword between Worlds, a magical nexus connecting nearby realms of existence. A particularly puissant sorcerer or other magical being could use it to reach across space and time to other worlds altogether.
As she whirled faster and faster, she began to weave open a doorway using her spirit blades and her connection to her husband's godforces. The Shrike would call it a paired quantum connection, but she preferred the magical concept of contagion; once two things are bound together, nothing can keep them apart. She was beginning to feel the connection strongly and could see into the nether dimensions the Crossroad inhabited.
She could sense Shango before she could see him. He was covered by a horde of dark skinned giants. The Crossroad was in the presence of three giant red suns shedding their ruddy light on the scene. Shango was, for a moment unable to be seen, but then lightning exploded from the ground and the creatures were thrown back and for a moment he was clear.
"Woman, what part of your Kali Yuga aspect did you not understand. I need you in your most terrible guise or we are doomed."
Once she transitioned into the Crossroad, she was behind Shango and he used his double-headed axe to create a barrier of lightning.
"Good to see you too. Before we invoke that bitch, do you think we could see what we can do here, first?"
"Do you see that portal. That is where we need to be."
The distance was only about the length of two football fields but it was filled with these creatures. Each the height of two men, with near human physical attributes. Their heads appeared to be more of an octopus where a human head might be and their hands were instead ending in a tentacled structure. There were hundreds of them before them.
"Make ready, husband."
Shango dropped his barrier and released a bolt of lightning driving a wedge between the creatures, incinerating two dozen of the creatures instantly. In the second it took his lightning to cross one hundred meters, Kali had already slain thirty of the monsters. She stepped through time and space and was everywhere and nowhere. Appearing and disappearing, each strike laid a creature low. Her face was serene and peaceful as her four blades struck once. Her superhuman strength made each blow cut deep into their flesh, severing meat and bone like a knife through butter.
Shango concentrated his powers and created a series of strikes before her, each of them she slew her way through to the next. When he was too busy to support her, he lent her his lightning and she kept the area around her cleared with her flashing blades and lightning. His double-headed axe flew around him with a cloud electricity arcing from it to every creature near him. But they were relentless and without fear. As soon as he would clear the area, more would appear.
He looked out and saw Kali was within a fifty feet of the portal. He called lightning once more and as it arced from him toward her, the creatures around him opened their mouths and sharp bones shot out and speared him in his chest and arms. He looked in disbelief, his flesh had the strength of steel. He laughed off high caliber weaponry like rain. What are these things they can do this?
A searing acid began to burn his flesh, pumped through their ceramic probosci. He howled as his mighty flesh began to burn. Without warning, the creatures blocking his line of sight were cut in half and two other blades slashed the demon's tongues. The blades whirled around him and returned to Kali, who had not stopped her dance of death and retrieved her weapons amid flight and continued killing.
Shango, now enraged, drew his power to him, focused his pain and rage and became a thing of pure lightning. The creatures strove to grab him and died instantly burned to death. As they cleared away, powerful arcs leapt from him to them and they continued to died. He moved forward slowly and Kali cut them down as they now pass through the portal. He reached her and caught her hand as she struck out at him.
"Enough, my wife. The portal is silent. Perhaps we have earned our invitation."
"Then let us not be rude to our hosts. They did set forth such a feast for such as us."
They stepped through the portal.
Meanwhile, Thornton Oswald III completed his summoning ritual with the King of Netherbeasts. Grimmamon took the form of a great cat of immense size.
"Grimmamon, I invoke your service as in the pacts defined by my ancestors."
"Bah, mortal, why should I bother with your families ancient pacts? You have been notoriously lax in your relationship to us. Where are the rituals of blood and souls as in the past?"
"Spare me your pathetic bargaining hell-beast, without me and mine, you and yours would have past into your final existence decades ago. Our world stopped worshipping your kind for hundreds of years. Look around you, ask where Lord Arioch and his brethren have gone?"
"Provide your services and enjoy the benefits of our continued relationship."
"Show me why you summoned me."
"Look, oh Great One. Tell me what you see."
Grimjack looked over the edge of the roof and his demonic mien grew more stoic. "Our pact ends at the edge of this world, sorcerer. That beast is from beyond our world."
"And evidently frightening enough to remove most of your bluster. Tell me more, Great One. Who or what is that creature?"
"A Chaos god from before the time of Arioch, from before time as you measure it."
"You lie. There were no gods before that time."
"Silence pup. There are secrets even the gods keep. These creatures were imprisoned here in a age before yours. You are not the first masters of the Earth. Did you think you were? Ha."
"By the First People. They could not destroy them but they could lock them beneath the Earth, or the Sea, or in Fire. It is said even the very Air imprisons one. I will have no truck with that one, no matter what the price you offer. Its powers likely dwarf mine, the same way mine dwarf yours."
Oswald thinks about what Grimmamon told him and realizes they are out of their depth. Even if Shango and Kali were here, this was a threat greater than they could manage on their own. Since neither of them were here, it is likely they are working on this menace in their own way. So we will do what we can until they arrive.
"I know you can see the boy in that conflagration. Bring him here, deposit the flames on the creature. Then you can take your leave. We would not want you to be injured before I can make use of you again. Weakening with age, perhaps I shall call your rival Shunmaburan instead."
"As you request so shall it be. But if you seek to wound my pride, you will find no demon has pride when its survival is at stake. But by all means if you wish to call Shunmaburan today, and he were not to survive, I would be in your debt. Farewell."
The old daemon stood at the edge of the roof and the flames rose from the crater in the street. The flames swirled as if they were a fire vortex and flew from the crater to surround the otherworldly invader with the terrible fires. The Kid disappeared from the crater and appeared on the roof next to Oswald. Oswald saw the daemon link the fire to the creature and realized the fire would only last a few minutes before exhausting its fuel. Once surrounded, the creature stopped moving forward and this bought them some time.
Grimmamon turned away from the roof's edge. Looks at the boy and said, "Tough that little one is. A parting gift." And with that he nods and steps back into the gateway in the floor of the roof.
Oswald was not happy with Grimjack's parting words. No good comes from gifts from daemons. Looking down at the Kid, he saw the boy's amazing recuperative powers rebuilding him and in less than two minutes, he sat up, looking angry. "Wait. We need to talk. There are things you need to know."
Carolyn Van Putten was having dinner on the other side of Paragon City when she saw the news. She was finally having the date she had taken a vacation for and was determined to be able to enjoy. She was wearing a black Versace with less than modest pumps, showing off her well-muscled body.
She spent days hunting for this dress and wanted to stun Elliot Cole, investigative reporter right out of his socks. And the dress had the right effect, too. Cole was barely able to speak and the evening was going so well. And then this.
Cole looked at her. "Well?"
"I know you can see that television over there above the bar."
"And? It's on the other side of town. If those heroes can't handle it, we will just cut our dinner date a bit short."
Cole leaned forward and whispered, "What about Gunner? You do realize I know who you are?"
"Don't try to kid the kidder. I have known for some time. I am the ace investigative reporter in Paragon City. Now I know you should be going and they certainly look like they need you. I don't see Shango or Kali. Moving fire means the Occultist is there, and that flashing of silver probably means the Shrike and I have not seen the Kid yet, so I am guessing thirty foot tall monsters warrant your attention."
"Do you know how long I have waited for this date?"
"And I promise we will get another shot at it, pardon the pun. Now go. Besides I have a scoop to get."
"Need a lift? My car is on its way."
"Nah, you have an image to uphold. Guns blazing and all."
"See you in a bit." Carolyn grabs Cole and kisses him fiercely on the mouth. "Just in case, you're late to our next date." She turns and runs out the door. Turning the corner, a midsize SUV pulls alongside and opens the side door.
"Your suit's in the back. Nice dress." The grizzled man driving the car points his thumb backward. She hopped up into the back and starts stripping. "Get me there, fast, set up range for heavy weapons long range. Put me on the radio."
"Shrike, can you hear me?"
"Gunner, enjoying your vacation?"
"Can it, I need you to get some distance and come in hot. I will be there in less than five minutes. Move out and I will come in with explosive ordinance, you follow with a Cannonball."
"Roger that, fearless leader."
"Where is the Kid?"
"I have him. He has been hurt. He found the creature first and alerted us. He held it until the Shrike and I could help."
"How is he doing?"
"Tough as nails, ready to go back."
"Any word from Shango or Kali?"
"None, but I can sense they are not in this world, or at the Crossroads. So they may be involved at another point in the battle. We will have to do what we can."
"Our goal is to stun and control. Keep it where it is. Can you get the rest of the people out of there?"
"Once the Kid is up, tell him to wait for my signal. Ten seconds after my signal, he should see a Cannonball. I will need him to grab the Shrike. I will work long range pushing the creature back. Is there anything else you can tell me?"
"My contacts tell me it's not like anything we have ever seen. We better hope Shango and Kali are having better luck than we are."
"My contacts said the last time these things ruled the world, they destroyed the previous inhabitants."
"That's not gonna happen."
"Hope you're right."
"Stand by for my signal. Get those people out of there."
Shango and Kali stepped through the portal and fell to their knees. The gravity was intense, eight times what they were used to on Earth. The air was thick and heavy. Even with their superior physiologies, they could barely see through the soup-like atmosphere.
They could hear a chittering sound, something the clicked, popped, sputtered at a variety of distances. Each set of sounds was distinct and otherworldly. Kali stood and began to move her hands in magical gestures.
"The flow here is weak."
"Draw the godforce from axe and complete your spell."
As Kali finished her spell, she looked exhausted but now the voices could be understood.
"What is it, why has it come here?"
"It has disease, it comes from elsewhere, nothing comes here."
"Make it leave."
The three voices had a chorus of others that answered it with similar statements.
"This does not bode well, Kali. I think I liked it better when I didn't know what they were saying."
"That can be arranged. What do we do now? I was hoping there would be something to hit over here."
"It wants to hit us. Why, what did we ever do to it.?"
"Kill it. It trespasses on our world. We would never allow that in the past. We have eaten all before now."
"No haste, visitors are rare, find what they want, first. What do you want germ invaders?"
"I am Shango the Thunderer and this is Kali Bhavatarini. On our world we are gods. I would see who I address.
"Gods you say."
"Such tiny little gods. You must come from a tiny world."
"Show yourselves braggart," Kali shouts out to the darkness.
"Pull back the darkness."
"Will rip your tiny minds apart."
"Shroud is for your protection"
Shango raises his axe and begins to emit lightning pushing back the darkness. Kali calls her spirit blades and touches them together increasing the light and dispelling the shroud around them.
"Evil germs want to see what we are?"
"Germ gods can't listen."
"So be it."
The shroud of darkness is peeled back slowly like a fog being dispelled. The scene is one of carnage as an alien landscape with what appears to be the remains of a city is all around them. Broken buildings toppled into the streets with all the great structures are damaged in one way or another.
In the sky there appears to be a great swirling mass, where the shroud appears to emanate from. Tendrils of both darkness and blackened flesh reach from it. They are immense and the creature fills the sky with its horror. The pressure on the minds of Kali and Shango increases as its spiritual monstrosity overwhelms them.
Both warrior gods, both having slain tens of thousands in battle, did not prepare them for the horror of a creature that had slain billions, entire worlds, holding their souls enslaved within its flesh, the spiritual screams overwhelming them.
Their shields diminished, pushed back to their very persons. They stood together to support each other and they held the horror at bay but it lapped at their shields, tongues of darkness, trying to lick them, taste them, just seconds from overwhelming them completely.
They had never seen anything like this.
"Now germ gods, you still do not see all there is to me. I dwell at the center of the Universe."
"I have lived before your world was even a swirling in the cosmic miasma."
"What would you know of godhood? You are only a little more evolved than the worms of your world?"
Shango laughs, loudly and contemptuously at the alien being. "Your living quarters looks foul oh great Universe dwelling deity. Where are your worshippers? Where are your spires of beauty, showing off your power to your enemies? A poor deity that fouls its nest?" Kali looks at Shango disapprovingly.
"Imprisoned by the creatures here. Unable to enter, unable to leave. I sensed an awakening and strove to find it at the Crossroads of all Realities. But before I could find it an leave here, the portal was closed.""
"Wretches bound me to this spot. Hate them I did. Killed all of them."
"They now serve me as my advanced guard. Now I seek my kind everywhere, only they can free me."
"What would you know of this creature? He roams my world, free." Kali presents a psychic image of the creature in Paragon City.
"I know him, he taught them here how to bind me to this spot."
"In exchange for his imprisonment somewhere else, away from me."
"Send me to him. I would have my revenge."
"We cannot send you to him, we cannot break the bindings that lock you here. But we could make it possible for you to bring him here." Shango looked at Kali disbelieving what she was proposing. "Trust me, my husband."
"Oh yes, I would have him here with me."
"How would you make this possible?"
"You are, after all, insignificant in power to even one as puny as he."
Kali said to the tendrils of the creature tearing away at her shields, seeking even a momentary doubt to penetrate and strike, "Open your portal, again. We will make a portal to our world. You reach through both and pull him back to you."
"How can I trust you? I trusted him and he deceived me."
"I trusted these creatures and they enslaved me."
"I cannot trust anyone now. Only one of you can go. The other stays here."
They look at each other disbelievingly. They are the last of their kind on their world. Without them, their respective pantheons will lose their last anchors to Earth. Shango readies himself to say something and Kali touches him on the lips.
"You go. Your powers on Earth make you the more suitable choice to create the gate and to drive him into it. I will stay here and play hostage."
"I will be back for you, my wife."
The Kid, using his super-speed ran through the legs of the creature and launched an attack at its chest. His haymaker rocks its footing. Rebounding off of its chest, he flips and lands thirty feet away just to the right of Gunner.
Gunner in her red and black battle gear is holding an X-25 rocket rifle, firing a series of explosive grenades into the tentacled face of the beast. The Occultist rains fiery spheres down from the sky, each wrapping a limb in a flaming embrace.
Fire seemed to have the most effect on the creature, preventing its continued movement. But that was all they seemed to be able to do. Between the Kid and his speed and strength and the Shrike's promethium based attacks, they could keep it off balance. But whenever it moved or flailed about, buildings were destroyed.
Nothing they did seemed to cause any permanent damage, and they were beginning to tire.
Suddenly the sky darkened and the wind whipped up. Lightning began to swirl at the edges of the skyline.
"Now boys, I think the cavalry is here."
The Kid looking up slowed down the flow of time and could see lightning charges building up right above their heads. Grabbing Gunner, he speeds out of the line of the lightning discharge with seconds to spare. His big grin shows this is what he lives for, that last second save no one but he could pull off. "Got ya, boss lady."
Then the lightning strikes began. Each rained down as a driving wind directed them into the face of the creature.
"Occultist," booms the voice of Shango from the heavens, "we need a Gate to the Crossroads. Something big enough for our guest."
"Shrike, where are you?" Gunner extricated herself from the Kid's very tight and strangely arousing grip.
"Coming in at Mach two, tell me we have a target or I am going to explode right over you guys. Less than a minute."
"Come down West street, we are trying to push the Creature to the Crossroads."
"What good is that? He'll just come back."
"It's what Shango wants."
"Good enough for me. Fifty seconds."
The Occultist teleports himself to the ground behind the alien monstrosity and begins to form his gate. It is hard to concentrate over the barrage of lightning and has to erect a barrier to protect himself. Holding his cane above his head, he wards off the lightning and driving rain pushing the creature back toward him. His incantations steady, he can sense the gateway to the Crossroads opening. And then he senses it. A creature of the Outer Dark awaits on the other side!
He balks holding the spell before completion. Shango is impetuous, stubborn and sometimes downright irresponsible. But since I don't see Kali, I have to assume she is somehow involved in this. In the end, this is about trust. I have to trust they have a reason. He completes the spell.
The Shrike sees the gateway opening up and is covered in the kinetic energy of his Promethium armor. Diving down, he targets the creature and can see lightning striking it as well. Four, three, two, one...
The release of the promethium has to be done at point blank range. It has a release range of less than ten feet. He cannot turn at this speed, but activates his force field a second before the wind is knocked out of him. He feels the rough handling of the Kid as they bounce off a building, arc through the air and land on the ground nearly a hundred feet away. The Kid is laughing and puts the Shrike down on the ground, clapping him on the back.
"One day I might miss you."
"Don't remind me. Thanks for the save."
The combined explosions of the Promethium wave, Shango's lightning strikes and Gunner's mini-missiles pushes the creature into the edge of the gateway but not quite through it. Before anyone can make a further effort, a tendril of blackness reaches through the gate and as it touches our air, bursts into flame. It grabs the monster and pulls it back into the Crossroads. The last thing heard was, "I finally found you Nyarlethotep. Revenge is ours."
Without warning the gateway snaps shut.
Shango drops like a rock from the sky, attempting to cross back into the gateway before it closes. His landing cracks the concrete with his speed. He roars like a madman and begins to whirl his axe to create his own portal. The air is aflame with his lightning but no portal forms. The Occultist walks up behind him and places his hand on Shango's shoulder.
"Enough, old friend. The Creature from the Outer Dark has likely temporarily sealed our passage from our world to the Crossroads."
"It has Kali."
The gathered heroes fall silent.
Kali has summoned her spirit swords and is engaged in ritual dance of power. Tapping the energies unique to this plane, she binds its power to hers. She feels the lives of the People and their rage at the creature that destroyed them. She feels their need to lash out but also feels their impotence since they are deceased and can no longer affect the world. Her dance says they can. They listen.
The portal has been open for some time. She remains peripherally aware of it as the spirits of the dead come to her and follow her dance. Each lending their tiny essence to what she is. A goddess of destruction and creation, a goddess of Time and Space. They sense her kinship to all things in creation and are at peace.
The portal is rendered asunder as the Other suddenly arrives and the two power-mad creatures tap the energies of this plane and dozens of others nearby for their conflict. They ignore her and close the gateway while their battle continues.
"Our deal is done. Release me."
"Germ gods are in no position to make demands. We have our quarry and we will use you to get back to your world once we have had our revenge."
"You will stay with us."
"We will be free of this place. We taste your world on him. It is to our liking."
Their conflict is so terrible, nearby shard realms of existence are destroyed as they move their battle through dimensions. Kali now realizes this creature never had any intention of letting them go home. That is why she told Shango to leave. She has no intention of staying.
"You seek revenge. Only Kali Yuga can give you that. So I release her to your. Gain your revenge!"
Kali's dance moves faster, her four arms become eight and she directs the energy of her death magic through the souls of those damned to be in this place and they reflect her, her spirit blades appear in their hands. And this happens again and again until there are hundreds of her and the contagion continues, spreading until there are thousands. And then they turn their energy toward the Ancient Gods locked in battle. Each hurls itself at the Great Old Ones. Their fiery trail slashes through tentacles and Dark God alike and their screams of rage are palpable.
Kali Yuga smiles and continues her dance as the sky is alight in the fiery stars of souls enraged.
Five minutes later, Kali Yuga reappears in her final terrifying aspect, eight arms still holding their terrible blades, disheveled, battered, alive, but barely conscious. When she loses consciousness, her aspect is returned to just Kali. Shango picks her up and laughs. "Look at that, they sent her home, after all."
Dark Star Rising © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved