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Reason: Old version of Dark Prophecy.
|Return to the Roots|
|Story arcs||Dark Prophecy story arc|
Rrturn to the Roots is the third story in volume 2 of the Dark Prophecy story arc.
Chapter 1: Return to the Roots[edit | edit source]
The Batra dropped out of FTL next to the aquamarine gas giant Voordyrr with several irregularly shaped moons. Vast arrays of jumpships were docked at a series of stations. Sol I Dor guided the Batra, positioning it near a large gate-like structure with several space stations filled with turrets guarding it.
"Batra to Voordyrr Station. Requesting permission to enter the Szon system..." Etah said.
After a few brief moments, he got a reply. "This is Voordyrr Station. Batra you are clear for system entry."
After only a few moments, the Batra sped through the gate and headed straight to Ucharpli.
Ahrganot could not believe it. It's been several decades since he had last seen Ucharpli. Dhragolon Churszath were always on the move across the entirety of DFM territory. But now, he was returning to his roots, a chance that no Churszath could pass up. The Batra docked with one of many tall, chrome metallic spires protruding from a central, flat diamond shaped building. This was Aurora Station.
GSSOC stepped outside into the chilled interiors of the spire. They were all in casual, yet warm clothing for the time as they had planned to stay on the planet for a while. The interior of the spire was chrome and grey, though a bit rigid in design with pipes running up and down the walls.
Only moments later, a squad of five Dhragolon wearing green-plated armor and clear visors approached the GSSOC. Each of these Dhragolon were holding fire rifles.
"That's far enough," one of them said. "If you intend to go any further, we need to see your passports."
"We are on official Galactic Senate business. Our credentials are classified," Etah said.
"Galactic Senate? Very well, then. Officer Garren, secure their weapons." In response, all of GSSOC drew their weapons while the police pointed their rifles back leaving them at a standoff.
"Stand down, men! Members of the Galactic Senate Special Operations Corps are authorized to carry weapons in restricted areas," said a speaker voice familiar to Ahrganot. Both parties lowered their weapons.
"You watch yourself," said one of the Iggies. "Especially if you plan to go outside the city boundaries. Hopefully, this will be the last of our confrontations. Now move along before you get into trouble again."
"Damn Iggies..." Ahrganot muttered. This was the Internal Guard, the local police found on every planet. They were very protective and went to extreme means to keep an area secure. Dhragolon worlds were notorious for their crime rate in comparison to other empires.
After getting past the Iggies, GSSOC made their way to a glass elevator. As they descended, they got an amazing view. The sky was a deep orange; the white sun remained motionless sitting just above the rugged mountains. The vast, icy landscape was before them - the sky was clear, and the sound of rushing wind could be heard from outside.
Finally, they arrived at the ground floor in a vast chrome chamber. One of the back walls consisted of a slanted glass window. There were several sets of stairs leading to an upper level, and there was a great fountain at the center. To the sides were a plethora of shops, mostly for travelling supplies. The ambient sound of digitized voices announcing arrival and departure times was heard. The same room Ahrganot had entered all those years ago to board the DFS Garmatox for the first time.
Busily walking by were mostly Dhragolon and Karnasaurs along with mechs patrolling the area. A few Eteno were amongst the crowd, but no humans nor Delsons were to be seen, mainly because the area outside was rather inhospitable to both species. It was way too cold.
"You guys don't even turn up the heat over here?" Galiana said starting to shiver. "It's freezing even in here."
"Sorry about that," Ahrganot said. "Buildings on Ucharpli weren't designed for the convenience of other species."
"But I heard humans live here," Galiana replied. "Don't they?"
"They do, but they're all up north in Spason. Most of them are in the underground cities because the UV radiation during the day is unbearable to mammals."
"So...bad sunburn in other words?" Galiana asked.
"Well, Sol I Dor, you should be fine since, but the rest of you need sun protection. Thick clothing or sunscreen."
"Actually, I'll be fine," Etah said.
"Etah, you do realize if an ordinary Karnasaur stepped under the sun here, they would be cooked alive."
"Good thing I'm not an ordinary Karnasaur then," Etah replied. "ELICAN Program. 4500 years ago, there were a few worlds like Ucharpli that needed supersoldiers. My scales can deflect some UV, but I still can't stay out for too long."
"Fair enough," Ahrganot remarked. "Anyway, we better get some supplies before heading out. The wilderness on any Ucharpli means we'll encounter trouble. Not just the roving bandits, but the wildlife here is hostile as well. Go ahead and gather some personal supplies while you are here, and let's meet back at the fountain in an hour."
The five of them went about their separate ways to explore the chamber. The area was not nearly as remarkable or fancy as Karnas, but the atmosphere was nonetheless very soothing. Ahrganot kept thinking about that voice that told the Iggies to stand down so he that's where he went to look. Ahrganot went with stood at a short queue at the Station's information center. When it was his turn, Ahrganot met a familiar-looking face.
"Sir?" he said.
"Are you...Ahragnot Skizgo? Wow, last time I saw you, you were just a lad. How have you been?"
This was Regis Darith, the same Dhragolon that Ahrganot spoke to when registering to join the Federal Legion. "I've been fine. I didn't expect to see you still here after so many decades," Ahrganot replied.
"So what brings you back to Ucharpli?" Regis said.
"Our mission requires we go back into the Frozen Wasteland. We need a few supplies: a landspeeder to be specific," Ahrganot said.
"Ah...the Frozen Wasteland. Where do you plan to go anyway?"
"It's classified. All we need is a landspeeder."
"Classified, eh? I won't be nosy, then. I'll have a landspeeder ready for you in the garage, but it costs 10,000 Nras."
"10,000?! I could almost a buy my own ship with that!"
"Anything cheaper and it won't take you very far into the wasteland without getting attacked by bandits."
Ahrganot thought for a moment. The Galactic Senate only provided funding for areas within Karnasaur territory. Since Ucharpli was on the opposite side of the galaxy, the Galactic Senate couldn't cover for it. "Well, let me see the selections." After Regis pressed some buttons, a holograph of various types of landspeeders appeared immediately. "Hmmm...let me see."
"Well, the ones over 9,000 will have the most adequate of shields."
"What?! 9,000?! Geez, the price of Maj cells in these parts have gone up. But all we need is speed and a bit of firepower, and we'll be good. No shields or anything."
Regis said, "Well, with only those features, it will total you at 4,999."
"Alright then," Ahrganot said. "That will do."
After the transaction, Ahrganot made his way back in the direction of the fountain, gathering with everyone else at the central fountain. Tholker and Galiana were dressed in heavy, white clothing, and both were wearing breath masks with reflective gold visors over their faces that would protect them from the UV radiation. Sol I Dor and Etah had just dressed in warmer clothes, more suited for the weather outside.
They made their way to another room adjacent to the large chamber: a garage with a wide variety of vehicles. One of them was a lightly armored landspeeder. Next to it was a terminal where Ahrganot tapped a few buttons unlocking access to it. Tholker's face cringed at the sight of the ugly, poorly constructed vehicle.
"Really, Ahrganot?" Tholker replied frustratingly. "You were that cheap?"
"Maj cell prices..." Ahrganot said. "Anyway, I would imagine that we're not the only ones looking for the Ring of Shadow," Ahrganot said. "Unlike the Sepulchur of Kings, the Ice Temple is out in the open in the wilderness. Anyone could just walk up to it and take the ring."
"Unless they don't know where to find it," Galiana replied.
"But that's besides the point," Ahrganot said. "I don't want to have to wait another 48 hours before going. This mission is pretty urgent. Even if someone did not get to it first already, there's still the Infra threat."
"Fair enough," Etah said. "Tholker, you want to drive?"
"This piece of crap?" Tholker replied. "Really...I'd rather not."
"I'm not familiar with the controls of a Dhragolon vehicle," Sol I Dor added.
"Then I'll drive," Ahrganot said. They all climbed inside, and Ahrganot tapped some buttons turning on the vehicle. The vehicle began lifting off the ground, and the large garage door began sliding upwards. The frigid winds began rushing into the garage, and the landspeeder took off into icy landscape. The movements of the landspeeder were uneasy and shaky as it roved across the icy, rocky plains. The piercing wind was uncomfortable, slamming against their faces. The white sun still remained motionless, and seemed much more disturbing up close with the threat of UV radiation.
Moments late, they arrived at massive gate situated among a gigantic mountain range. A particularly tall mountain, Mt. Umageishi, was visible in the distance - one of the ten legendary mountains of Ucharpli. The gate loomed over like a massive fortress, mounted with turrets and a few watchtowers.
"Requesting permission to go through," Ahrganot said through a comm.
An Iggie inside one of the watchtowers replied through the comm, "I don't know why a rickety vehicle like yours is passing through, but keep in mind, this gate isn't here to keep people out. We're just here to warn bumbling idiots what's on the other side of this gate."
"So..." Galiana asked, "Are we clear?"
"Go on in. Suit yourselves," said the guard. "Better you guys than me. Just remember that beyond this area is wilderness. The daimyo won't be responsible for your deaths."
The massive metal gate lifted open, and the landspeeder went through. Then, the gate slammed down with a crash that shook the ground. There was no turning back. This was the Frozen Wasteland.
Chapter 2: The Ice Trek[edit | edit source]
The landspeeder cruised along the icy landscape. Rocks, mountains and other geographic features rushed past them. The sun was glaring down, reflecting upon the icy surface. A looming, watching eye.
"Ahrganot, you sure you know where you are going?" Etah asked.
"Yes, I know. I've been there actually, a while ago. I couldn't get inside it, though."
Ahrganot had distantly recalled stumbling upon the Ice Temple in his youth. During his training to become a Churszath, he had to survive several days far from any civilization. He had laid eyes on a door he could not open, one that was frozen solid. By now, someone might have gotten to it.
The landscape started to become far more treachorous. The terrain was getting more rocky and more vast ravines began to surround them. Some sharp rocks began scraping against the underside of the landspeeder. If it had shields, the rocks would have been repelled. The ride was getting bumpier.
Very soon, the landspeeder was now cruising across a thin, triangular ridge - the Xeng Ridge. It was a flat, long almost bridge-like structure only ten feet wide, with steeply inclined rocky slopes on both sides. But something was odd. Half an hour ago, they had just entered the Frozen Wasteland, yet they have not encountered anything yet, just desolate fields of permafrost. Something was not right.
Ahrganot glanced at the ground and saw tusk markings and large footprints in the ground. Evidence of a large beast. And they were in its territory. However, whatever made this track was not in sight. Only moments later, a two other landspeeders burst out of the snow. One in front of them, the other behind them. In the middle was GSSOC, trapped and unable to move horizontally, or else they would slide off the ridge. The two other landspeeders came charging at them.
"It's an ambush!" Galiana shouted.
"Gee, thanks for the heads up," Tholker sarcastically replied.
As the two landspeeders approached head on, they begun to fire streams of Maj, pelting GSSOC's unshielded landspeeder, tearing it apart. Ahrganot and everyone else quickly leaped outside all onto the same side of the steep hill trying to stay on the craggy, yet slippery slope. The two other landspeeders slowed down and leaping out were some Eteno and Katrakhan bandits armed with pistols and bullet proof vests. Having the higher ground, they were at an advantage.
"Lay down your weapons!" said the Eteno bandit leader. All except Ahrganot laid their guns down. "You! Dhragolon! Put down that sword!"
"Ahrganot..." Etah said.
"Dammit, put down your weapons!" Ahrganot, in compliance, set down his sword and shuriken gun, but kept hidden one of his daggers boot. "Now, hands on your heads!" All of them did so.
"Alright..." Etah said. "Go ahead. Make your demands, before you learn that we shouldn't be crossed with."
"Cocky ones," the bandit replied. "Anyway, we know exactly why the five of you are here. You're looking for the Shadow Ring? Tell us where it is."
The five GSSOC members gave each other a few glances and nodded at one another. Ahrganot begun charging up some Maj energy in his hands, but still kept discrete.
"Well, if you hadn't stopped us," Etah replied to the bandits, "We could have shown you."
"Alright then," the bandit said. "Perhaps you've forgotten that we're the ones with the guns. Don't try our patience!"
"And don't try ours," Ahrganot muttered. Raising his arms, he blasted a huge wave of telekinetic energy from his palms which stunned all the bandits and knocked their landspeeders down the opposite side of the ridge. GSSOC reached for their weapons again, while the bandits reached for their's.
Tholker used his mind to control their old ruined landspeeder and pushed one of the bandits off the ridge. Everyone else charged upwards while Ahrganot remained low, taking cover behind the boulders, peeking out to fire his gun. Sol I Dor has used his mace tail to push some bandits off the side of the ridge, and Etah had leaped up to one of the bandits and ripped his face mask off, exposing his fleshy skin to the dangerous sunlight. The bandit screamed as his face stinged with almost instantaneous sunburn.
"Okay, I'm definitely not going to take off my mask while on this planet..." Galiana said as she stabbed one of the bandits.
As the skirmish continued, the ground suddenly begun shaking like an earthquake. It got everyone's attention and the fighting temporarily stopped for them to gaze upon a massive beast only meters away. A gargantuan white furred, four-legged creature with two sets of frosty tusks came into view. It stood 30 feet high and towered over all of them. Immediately, the bandits retreated in sight of the fearsome foe.
"Uh...Ahrganot? What is that?" Tholker asked apprehensively. The creature lowered its head to give a taunting roar.
Ahrganot replied, "Glaceridon...A dangerous, territorial herbivore. There's a reason why those bandits made a run for it..."
The ground trembled with each step the behemoth made as it charged towards them on the narrow ridge. With the ground shaking, it was far too dangerous to consider going down either hillside. They had to run directly away from the beast.
As they ran, Ahrganot stopped to face the beast. Everyone else continued to run as the Glaceridon continued to charge towards them.
"Ahrganot! What the hell are you thinking?!" Etah shouted.
"Go!" Ahrganot shouted back. "Trust me on this!"
Etah gave him a stern look, turned his head to the side, then turned back, and nodded his head at him. GSSOC continued running, while Ahrganot charged up another wave telekinetic wave of energy in his hands. The monster came closer. Ahrganot charged up. Right when the beast was about to pummel him, Ahrganot sent out his wave of energy and sent the creature off balance. Moments later, the creature crashed to the ground once more - the weight of it shook the earth to the point where Ahrganot had lost his own balance and began sliding down the steep, rocky slope. As he slid down, his body crashed against a few sharp rocks as if he was sucked away into a coarsing river. Had he been a human, he might have broken a few bones, but he finally landed at the base of the cliff, covered in cuts and bruises.
After that, he heard no word from the rest of the team. His attempts to contact them telepathically had failed, and he received no calls on the radio communicator either. He was alone. He had to conquer the rest of the Frozen Wasteland himself. He had to conquer his past.
Chapter 3: An Old Opponent[edit | edit source]
About half an hour had passed since he landed at the bottom of the rocky hillside. He had to spend a few minutes gathering his strength as releasing such an enormous wave of telekinetic energy to stun a Glaceridon was exhausting him, and it would have sent an inexperience Maj user into a coma for several days. Fortunately, his years of training at the academy were worthwhile. As Ahrganot travelled on, a roar echoed throughout the sky. He looked up and spotted what appeared to be a large bird in the sky circling around him.
He kept at a steady pace. The creature roared a few more times. But then, the it began descending, and it swooped overhead, Ahrganot feeling the rush of wind. It had jet black scales and a set of terrible teeth. This was a Yoltox, the deadliest predator on Ucharpli. Ahrganot readied his sword to confront the monster.
The Yoltox circled around one more time and hovered. It opened up its gaping maw, then a shockwave of fire came bolting from its mouth. Ahrganot just barely dodged it, but the force of the shockwave sent him sliding across the ice against a nearby rock. Ahrganot decided to make a run for it, dashing as fast he possible could towards the destination. The Yoltox followed from behind and continued circling him. Ahrganot kept dodging the blasts of fire as he took cover behind some frozen ice spires. He kept dashing and dashing for his life. But he could only run so far. Moments later, he came to a sliding halt towards the edge of a cliff. The Yoltox landed right behind him cornering him.
Ahrganot turned around to face the beast. He noticed a scar on the Yoltox's eye. Memories of many years ago flooded him. This was the same Yoltox he encountered as a child. He had to run away from it. It was a monster he could not defeat. Ahrganot's face tensed up. He knew he had to slay this beast to prove that he got stronger since the last time he saw it.
The monster blasted another shockwave sending him right over the edge. However, little did the beast know, Ahrganot was gripping by his fingertips just at the edge of the cliff. He hoisted himself up quickly and surprised the Yoltox by leaping onto the Yoltox's head and landing a solid hit with his blade. The monster violently waved its head around trying to shake Ahrganot off, but he kept grip of its horns. The Yoltox took off into the sky and Ahrganot began tumbling down the monster's rough scaly back leaving Ahrganot cut up with bruises. However, he managed to grip onto the monster's tail so he remained aloft.
Thinking quickly on how to stop the monster mid-flight, Ahrganot climbed his way back up the monster's back. He readied his sword again and jabbed it through the monster's left wing. The Yoltox roared in pain. Ahrganot continued stabbing the creature's wings until it eventually began a dive towards the ground.
The beast came crashing into the icy ground, but Ahrganot lost his grip and let go, landing in front of the creature. The Yoltox got back up and lunged forward to bite him. Ahrganot narrowly dodged it, but he noticed a weakspot - there was an unprotected area just above the Yoltox's juggular. Ahrganot rolled to the side as the Yoltox sent another shockwave blast which crashed into the side of a hill. Realizing that Ahrganot was getting exhausted, the Yoltox tried to go for a quicker kill and raised its wing-claw and swiped at Ahrganot. It hit him sending Ahrganot to the ground and temporarily stunning him.
As the beast reared its head up about to deal the finishing blow with its jaws, Ahrganot suddenly reenergized and quickly got up, lunging his sword at the weakspot. He drew the sword back out again and the Yoltox collapsed to the ground causing a short tremble. Ahrganot stopped for a moment to catch his breath after the intense battle. The Yoltox was defeated.
Chapter 4: The Ice Temple[edit | edit source]
As Ahrganot regained his strength, he noticed the spot where the Yoltox had shot the shockwave into the hill. Some of the ice was transparent and he could see something behind it. He slammed the hilt of his sword against the ice and broke it, revealing a hidden cave entrance.
Ahrganot stepped through. It was a long winding, icy tunnel. As he got further and further he came to a large frozen door with some torches. No doubt this was the same one he encountered as a child. He never knew what was behind it since he was not strong enough to open it. This time, Ahrganot begun gathering his strength and pushed the door open with all his might.
Stepping through, reality itself seemed to shift. Now, he was standing inside an old temple. The area looked and sounded abandoned. There was not even the sound of wind. It was completely silent, and Ahrganot could only hear his breathing. There was rubble on the ground and the benches looked rotten. Parts of the long red carpet he was standing were torn away. The altar at the end had lit candles with a statue of a figure he did not recognize. In front of the altar was an etched stone tablet: he made out the words "Covenant" written like a title, though he could not read the rest of the tablet.
All along the walls were stained glass windows of non-humanoid figures. As he walked down the carpet headed to the altar, he looked to his right and immediately recognized some of the stained glass figures. One portrayed a large blue dragon perching atop a mountain. The dragon roared out a series of strange letters that seemed to resemble the dragon giving off some sort of knowledge.
Another one showed an emaciated, red demon with a strange expression on its face. It was a grin, but it appeared it was focused on one side of the face. The eyes were only partially opened. The expression was very mocking.
Another one from across the dragon and the demon was what appeared to be a woman watching over a fortress. Alongside those, there were many others he did not recognize at all including a tall skeleton creature with a scythe as well as some sort of disk-shaped spaceship.
"Ahrganot Skizgo," a voice said from behind.
"You must be Dominion, correct?" Ahrganot asked.
"That is correct," the voice said. A figure stepped into the lit area of the room revealing a man with dark skin and a white beard wearing a collar shirt.
"You're not what Etah described."
"Titans appear differently to others. Once again, I am here to oversee the challenges you will be undergoing."
"Ahrganot Skizgo, the whole purpose of this endevour is for all of you to undergo rigorous trials to conquer your pasts. Once you enter this door, there is no turning back. The only way out is to complete all the trials. After that, you will be presented with Jormun's Ring."
"Has anyone else been inside?"
"No, not since Shunketsu slew the Dark Warriors many millenia ago. Many plunderers have tried to enter, but no one since Shunketsu has ever passed all the trials."
"Very well," Dominion said, fading away as the frozen doors opened, revealing a white void of light. Be warned, the truth is never black and white. Order or chaos. No matter which side you choose, there will always be shades of gray."
Ahrganot stepped through, and after a bright flash, the room took the shape of a large circular sanctum with many pillars. The room, filled with chilly air, was similar to the Gothic-esque architecture of St. Zaren Cathedral in Lacad though there were no windows nor doors. Only a few torches dimly lit the room along with some candelabras.
The voice of Dominion echoed, "The first challenge is courage. Are you brave enough to face something more powerful than you?" Emerging from the shadows came a jet black serpent with flaring eyes. It filled up almost one fourth of the room. It hissed showed off its ferocious fangs, each of them as long as one of Ahrganot's daggers.
The serpent slithered speedily towards him trying to bite him. Aside from the Yoltox he defeated outside, Ahrganot had never battled something this large. He always faced opponents only slighter taller than him, but never a creature like this. Not sure what to do, he quickly took cover behind one of the pillars trying to think of a strategy. It wasn't long until the serpent had saw him go behind the pillar and smashed it seconds later using its lumbering tail.
Ahrganot dashed around the perimeter of the sanctum trying to get behind the serpent which was very slow at turning around. Attempting to climb onto its back, Ahrganot was soon swatted away by the tail and shoved into a corner. The serpent then turned around trying to face him and tried to bite him again, but he was quick to dodge. Ahrganot tried to back away, but he bumped into a candelabra. That gave him an idea. Noticing the carpet the serpent was laying on, Ahrganot swiftly raced to grab one of the torches mounted on the wall and threw it on the carpet setting it on fire and engulfing the serpent. Of course, Ahrganot knew that this would not immediately kill it though it did scald some of its scales. Desperately, the serpent swung its tail slamming the ground trying to extinguish the flames. It succeeded, but the wind also extinguished all of the torches and candelabras making the room completely dark.
Ahrganot was still not sure if the creature could see in the dark, although he could certainly see himself. He carefully eyed the movements of the serpent's head. It did not immediately turn to look at him, but it sticked out its tongue repeatedly trying to detect him by his scent. Ahrganot was at an advantage. This time, Ahrganot tried to land a hit using some of his shuriken, but they merely bounced off simply giving off where Ahrganot was in the room. The serpent charged forward knocking down a few pillars in the process and attempted to bite him only narrowly missing. However, this gave Ahrganot another opportunity.
He quickly grabbed hold of the serpent's neck and stabbed it with one of its daggers. It let out a hiss of pain and attempted to shake Ahrganot off. He still held on as the serpent rapidly shook its head around, then he stabbed it once more.
"Cease, mortal!" the serpent shouted rather than a roar. Ahrganot soon loosened his grip and ran some distance from the serpent. The creature collapsed into a shadow of itself. "After you find that ring, there will be a day when we meet again," it said quickly slithering away into the darkness.
Moments later, Dominion appeared. "You have passed." He then disappeared and made another door appear from the center of the room where the burnt rug was. Ahrganot opened the door leading to yet another white void.
In another room, the white void turned into a smaller chamber with two identical humanoid statues and two identical doors positioned slightly behind the statues. "The second challenge is intellect. Solve the puzzle to complete the challenge." Ahrganot took a look at a plaque inscribed on a small statue in between the statues. He read it:
"One of the doors will lead to your death. The other one will lead to light. You may ask only one question to only one statue, not both, and whichever statue you choose will give you an answer. One of these statues will always tell the truth. The other one will always tell a lie. Should you not get a clear answer from the statues about which door is correct, both doors will lead to death."
Ahrganot thought for a few moments very carefully. He was never good at riddles. Usually, the answer would just arrive to him when the situation was needed. After about ten minutes, he finally gave an answer hoping that it was right.
"Statue, answer me this," he said to the statue on the left. "What will the other statue's response be, if I were to ask it which door will lead to light?"
"Challenger, my fellow statue would say that the door on the right is the path to light."
Ahrganot then took the opposite door - the one on the left - and opened it up. Indeed it led to light. Ahrganot stepped through to yet another white void. As he stepped through, he heard, "You have passed."
The final room materialized itself. Ahrganot was standing atop a small walkway that extended the diameter of a large cylindrical room filled with stained glass windows. These windows depicted people that he knew. He could see Tholker, Etah, Sol I Dor, Galiana and Grandmaster Zerif. There were plenty others there. One in particular was an elder female Dhragolon, but he could not put his finger on who it was. He could see neither the ceiling or the floor. "Your final challenge is strength. You'll have to face your greatest opponent." Another Dhragolon dropped from the ceiling and landed on the walkway. It looked identical to him from the hair, to the green jumpsuit to the orange eyes. "Yourself."
The clone mockingly said, "We left GSSOC for a reason. We envy their abilities don't we? Oh, how much we would like to have cybernetic powers. Perhaps we should get caught into an explosion deliberately!" Its voice penetrated Ahrganot. Even its voice was identical to his. It was an embodiment of all of his dark thoughts he dared not share with anyone. "What's wrong? Are you too afraid to fight? Perhaps Umbra was right after all. We should accept who we are. Weaklings."
Ahrganot charged forward in anger and sparred his clone, balancing on the bridge as they exchanged arguments. "You’re wrong! That's not true! I'm strong!" The clone was just as fast as he was and blocked each one of his attacks. As the clone kept blocking, the arguments intensified.
The clone replied, "We should have killed Sol I Dor when we had the chance. We must prove we are stronger! Or maybe we should disable some of Tholker's cybernetics! We can become stronger than him! And if you envy Galiana so much, prove your strength by killing her! In fact, just kill everyone! Kill your close friends! Why should you trust them if they keep undermining you?"
"Well, If you can't defeat your negative emotions, use them! Give in to the darkness! Only then will you suceed!"
The dark thoughts echoed harder and harder. Then, Ahrganot got a sudden grasp of control over the battle. He dealt one strong blunt blow causing the clone to lose his balance on the bridge slipping and falling, but grabbing onto the ledge with one hand. It was dangling over an endless abyss.
Ahrganot said to his clone, "Negative emotions will not get us anywhere! Besides, those were some horrible, horrible thoughts you had there. I may as well get rid of them."
"No, don't do this! I make you stronger, don't I?"
"I can do without you. Thanks, but no thanks," Ahrganot said, stomping the clone's hand and letting him plunge into the bottomless, dark pit below. As it fell, it smirked then laughed - echoing as it faded into the darkness. As Ahrganot got up, another flash of white light went by bringing Ahrganot to a circular, frozen sanctum.
Chapter 5: Exarch of Shadow[edit | edit source]
"Ahrganot Skizgo..." said a voice. "You have come a long way." Ahrganot did not say anything. As he turned around he saw a red cloaked spectral figure that looked familiar. "You have passed the last of the challenges. You've conquered yourself."
"Dominion?" Ahrganot asked.
"By truly conquering yourself, you have proven yourself ready against the one you seek to confront. However, you'll need the help of your friends to defeat the darkness." Ahrganot said, "Friends? Are they...safe?"
Dominion replied, "Yes, they are. They were bestowed the knoweldge that you were safe and they have returned to Aurora to await you. But before you can face your great foe, each of your friends must pass Dominion's challenges. They too must conquer their pasts to be just as ready as you are." Dominon vanished. Ahrganot retrieved the ring, grasping it in his hand. That moment, a shadowy humanoid figure flickered standing behind him. Alarmed, Ahrganot turned around.
"YOU!" he shouted.
"Ah, not to worry. This is only a hologram," it said.
"Infra! You have the spine to show your face to me after all these years?" Ahrganot said. "If you were actually standing right here and now, I would kill you!"
"I came here to...check on your progress. I was informed by my agents that you are collecting Ancient artifacts."
"And why haven't you stopped us yet?!" Ahrganot retorted.
"Because, I want you to collect those artifacts. You and your friends need to become stronger. If I really wanted to kill you, I would have done so by now."
"Easy for you to say," Ahrganot replied. "When I find you, I will rip that egotistical head of yours off and deliver it to the Castle Hall in a fruit basket!"
"Your threats are as empty as your ignorant mind, Ahrganot. You do not realize that all of you will play a part to something far greater. Renr is involved, yet he is but a thrall to my ultimate plan to provide salvation to the universe. The Genodraco are weak and mindless, but the Dhragolon are strong. That is why I wish to replace Renr, last of the old Harbingers. You are my chosen ones, the prophets meant to fulfill their destinies. That Ring of Jormun will help you to become stronger than you are now, and so will all the other artifacts you will collect."
"Predictable," Ahrganot said. "The biggest mistake any villain makes is to inform the heros of their entire plans."
"Am I really the villain?" Infra said. "I am trying to help you. If you will not listen over this communication, come to my base in Locubrermour so that we can discuss this matter further. I'll be waiting..." the hologram flickered out.
Ahrganot became curious about the ring's power. The legends said that this ring belonged to the shadow serpent Jormun, a powerful artifact that made him one with the shadows. He closely examined the ring. Holographic letters glowed and became readable.
"By wearing this ring, you will be bound to fight against Destruction at the end of time. The longer you use the ring, the less physical you become. Though your death is inevitable, you will be remembered as a hero should the battle succeed."
Not sure of what exactly it meant, the ring was his to claim. After all, Na'zrah said it was. He grasped the ring and slippsed it on. He crouched down felt himself become one with the shadows. Clouds had begun covering Aggateya, and snow was falling, casting a shadow upon the land.
As a result, he could move almost anywhere. However, even though he conquered his past, there was one last thing he wanted to do before going back to Aurora. Instead of returning to that city, he instead wanted to settle one last thing. Dominion did not tell him to do this, but he realized this was going to be his only oppurtunity - and probably his last.
Moments later, Ahrganot appeared in a quiet, frozen over town outside the border of the great country Samui. The snow fell calmly, drifting in the calm wind, with snowflakes resting on top of his head and shoulders. He had never felt snow so soothing before - snow in Aggateya to begin with was a rarity, but snow like this was unheard of.
Aside from the snow, nothing had changed at all since he was last here. He spotted a frozen spicket amongst the field. Memories flooded back to him - terrible ones. The moment where he learned the truth. Then, he spotted a crooked, wooden cabin. He went up to it and knocked at the door and moments later, it creeked open followed by an old feminine voice weakly saying, "Enter..." Ahrganot stepped through. The warmness of the fireplace and the cabin made it quite comfortable. A lonely old Dhragolon woman sat on a rocking chair reading a book. "Mother..." he said.
The crinkled old lady turned around to face him. She had to be over 450 years old. "Skizgo? Is that you? It's been so long..." Skizgo was not sure how to begin. He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "I'm...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have run away...I was just..."
"It's alright. The day you left, we never forgot you. We knew that one day, you would find out the truth. Yet, we had faith that you had a much greater purpose."
"Do you know of my real parents? Are they still alive?"
The old woman paused for a moment in a relative grief. "The Kaden family. They have passed. But even so, you were still like a son to us." Upon hearing the news, Ahrganot drooped his head as regret passed him. He never had been able to meet them. "But...why did you hide the truth from me?"
"We wanted you to become stronger. Being born the way you were, we knew that others would shun you. You had so much potential yet you were being held back. We adopted you because we wanted to guide you and make you a great Dhragolon. The journey was tough, but your recent endeavours have allowed you to overcome your loneliness to ease your sorrows and troubles." "Recent endeavours? How do you know about that, mother?"
"Oh, I know many things..." she replied. "Well, it's time I go now. Meet up with the rest of your friends. You too must help ease their sorrows." The old woman had begun fading into a ball of glowing light which dimmed down to nothingness. "Farewell, Skizgo...."
Ahrganot was not entirely sure what exactly happened. He didn't shed any tears, but his eyes dimmed in solemness yet he still felt enlightened. He raised his hand to his face staring at the invisble ring he was wearing. He nodded his head once and disappeared into a shadow, returning to the city of Aurora.
Chapter 6: Rendezvous[edit | edit source]
"Schoslung! Ahrganot where did you just come from?!" Tholker asked as he jumped seeing Ahrganot appear from nowhere.
Ahrganot replied, "Behold...the ring of shadow." He demonstrated it a bit showing him warping to different spots.
"That's...that's incredible!" Etah replied. "Na'zrah was right! Who knows what the other artifacts are like? This is exactly what we need to defeat Infra!"
Galiana asked, "So that ring allows you to travel across the shadows? Wouldn't that mean you could virtually bring us every single artifact fairly easily?"
Ahrganot thought for a moment. Dominion's, Jormun's and his foster mother's words echoed in his mind. He replied, "No, I shouldn't. What good will it do? Each of you guys should prove yourselves and conquer your pasts if we are going to be truly ready against Infra."
Etah said, "Fair enough, Ahrganot. I'm quite surprised you are a bit more concerned over the rest of us. That's not like you."
Ahrganot said, "Just from this journey, I've learned so much. I've stood up against my own past, and I defeated it. No longer do my sorrows bind me down. Once we all stand up and face our pasts, we can beat Infra...as a team."
Tholker replied, "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get back on the Batra and go to the next planet."
Ahrganot stood there thinking. No matter how the serpent phrased it, Ahrganot knew he was going to die physically. What would his teammates say? He did not want them grieving over him. That would detract from the mission. He decided to keep that bit of information to himself.