Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Part 8: How The War Ended

The thunderous collision caused a shockwave and a splash that threw Court and his men far aside. The chamber reeled and cracked further, its pillars shook, several toppled downward from their frightful dark heights and noisily crumbled around those below. For several long moments it was chaos. The dim Dragoon Knights halted in awe, to watch their sinister masterpiece at work again.

After some time, Court slowly regained his senses and stood up, crawling back on his feet through the rubble. He coughed at the dust clouds filling up the chamber, and cautiously peered over the ruined lengths of the toppled pillars around him. Court saw that in the midst of the ruin, the watery crack was bubbling ominously. Surely he had not just seen -- a Nocturne war machine? After all these years, and then looking for any other sign of life he realized, Where are Adan and Cael?

The great machine rose out of the dark water, a living relic, a nightmare. Built with the same skill and fearsome knowledge as Aries Black's armor, its menacing form lurched forward. Blue sparks popped out of it's moving tangled parts, and the living electricity within it's scarred and ancient husk reverberated throughout the chamber as it came rising up. Court could not help but feel overwhelmed by the raw power of it, with its twisted whirling cogs and mechanisms which had lain waste to countless Garai before him. How many wars has this monster survived...and how? Court didn't have time to finish his own thoughts, for he had been seen by it, and dread fell upon him.

With all his powers, with all his mind, Court attempted to wrench it apart psychically. A single plate of its steel – bolted armor was torn off. He tried again, but it was to no avail; he was too weak. As Court backed into the shadows, he had time to glimpse the Nocturne knights as they faded away. Steadily the towering outline of the war machine came rising above Court, breaking apart all the debris in its path. Court remembered of course, that the Nocturnals had built their war machines to be nearly indestructible by any earthly weapons, and in his weakened state he had little choice. He used the only option he had, and ran.

Court ducked under the high piles of debris, clinging to the shadows. He had made it nearly to the opposite end from where he had started, when suddenly he found Aries Black. They startled each other as Court rounded the marble throne, each still holding their guns. In a blur of action, both men were grappling each other, trying to get the first shot off. Even though Black's suit had failed him, he still had considerable strength as Court faltered. Black's sharp gauntlets squeezed down on Court's wrists till they nearly snapped.

And so, locked together in battle, Court and his nemesis toppled over the ledge before the throne that fell into the dark water, the rift. Just before they hit water, Court's silver pistol fell out of his hands and onto the ledge, but Aries Black's gun discharged out awkwardly into the dusty chamber. Sparks flew. Gun smoke swirled about them. Without a splash they sank, choking one another. There was gurgling, then a wall of silence that filled Court's ears, until all he heard was the pounding of his heart. Down and down they descended, Black's suit hastening their fall like an anchor.

It wasn't long before they hit bottom. The impact broke them apart, and they tumbled about the watery floor of the crack. Court's cloak was an immense burden in the water, and he managed to slip it off and push it away. Black was hopelessly overwhelmed by his armor now. He barely had strength to stand, yet he did, slowly and purposely. He can't have more than a few moments, Court thought darkly, for even his lungs were beginning to burn. The two looked at each other, unblinking, until Black began to shake. With all his effort, Black lifted his arm and pointed a finger towards a nook in the side of the crack behind Court. Some sort of tall object shimmered there. Aries Black died then, for the last time, as he sucked in the water, until at last his eyes rolled up as though looking peacefully into the distance.

Quickly now, Court swam to the hidden, murky object at which Black had pointed at. The closer he got, the colder and meaner the watery rift became. The rift seemed like an unnatural living thing, its malicious currents pushing against him from all directions. The worst emotions seemed to strangle him and seep into his skin like poison. Thrumming in Court's ears was the strongest wailing. We're glad you came...you belong dead and drowned like all of us. Fearing the power of the rift, Court refused to look behind him, where with colorless eyes, the drowned multitude of the Nocturnals watched hungrily at his back.

The object, though rusted and covered with grime was clearly identifiable; it was a mirror, a tall, rectangular mirror that would have served a Queen's vanity. It lay sunken against the sharp protrusions of the crack, waiting. Defying his fear, Court made to brush his frozen fingers over the grime, to push away the mud that obscured its polished face. Only his fingers slipped through it. There was only a phantom shimmer where the glass had been, no face to the mirror at all. Yet it was not empty, which made it all the more terrifying. My Gods, I have no reflection. Behind the mirror was an abyss of water vast and endless. This is the source of the rift, Court knew instantly.

Memories flashed through Court's mind with dizzying speed. He understood as this was happening, that the mirror was transferring what it had seen before the rift had opened. There in the middle of the chamber had been two figures arguing beneath their towering white marble Gods, Marduke and Tiamat. One was a man, wearing a tall, well worn suit of mechanical Nocturne armor and the other was a woman, in a flowing regal red dress with fair skin and dark hair and eyes. The vast, domed chamber shook and cracked around them, as outside the war was raging into a climax. Outside the Palace, the Garai army approached at a steady and unrelenting pace.

"Do it now, I say!" Commanded Aries Black to his Sister-Wife.

"It has never been done. It will kill our Knights!" She cried out.

"They are all dead anyways, but we can still save ourselves." Black said with a lowered, grim tone.

"…Then this is the end of everything." She wept.

Now Court saw the Queen standing before her ancient mirror, the special mirror she had brought up from the dusty bowels of the Palace. Her spell, at Blacks command, was to unleash a tidal wave from the ocean. Surely such a massive wave would disperse the Garai fleet, and crush their army as it crashed over the island of Nocturne.

"This wave," Black whispered in her ear, "must be larger and more deadly than has ever been seen."

Moments after she had worked her magic, they knew something had gone wrong. The statues above them stirred, a malign look upon their faces. Panic. The floor around them was cracking, and then sinking around the mirror as a vast pressure built within it. The fabric of the world had been torn open through the mirror. In a moment of unparalleled violence they had all died. The image of the frightened Queen, with Aries Black at her side, was wiped away into darkness as the mirror spewed out like a geyser, the nameless evil ocean that was the rift.

Out of the palace hallways the waters exploded, washing over the entire fortress city. Thousands of people died at once. Hundreds of black armored Nocturne Knights, who were desperately defending the besieged fortress walls, were obliterated. The walls broke apart, and the vast waters leapt over the ruins to fall upon the entire Garai army. Court saw himself, washed off the cliffs with the rest of his Brethren. At sea, the Garai fleet buckled as the wave hit…

Court could look no longer.

To be concluded...