(''): Mental conversation
- An hour after Emily's admittance to the Guardians Hall infirmary
Across the evening skyline, three glowing lights seemed to flicker over Angel Falls, heading for one of its largest highways. As the highway loomed closer, the lights grew larger, taking the shape of four individuals.
The first was the grim-faced Matthias Geist, Emily's own husband to be, now feverishly tracking after the one who had assaulted his beloved. The Neo-Atlantean elemental warrior shaman was in no mood to waste any time in locating the culprit. The second was the feisty mage Hailey Storm, traveling with Matthias to ensure that the creature who harmed one of her best friends did not escape from the city.
The third and fourth individuals were the Arcane Bolt Stallion, Prince Ozarion - Emily's mighty Spirit Animal, - and the prismatic homunculus Rhomerho Kel Llurian, Matthias' brother in law. They had also joined in the hunt for the vermin who had harmed Emily, and to also ensure that Matthias did not go too far in getting his measure of vengeance upon the foul creature.
Presently, as the quartet closed in on the highway, Matthias pulled up in his flight path, his flaming gold-colored wings keeping him aloft as his eyes glowed. The shaman extended his ethereal senses toward the asphalt below, and immediately gritted his teeth as the smell of blood filled his nose..... the blood of his wounded bride.
"Mal?" Hailey spoke, noting his fierce visage. "You find something?" Matthias nodded to Hailey.
"Everyone, descend." Matthias instructed. "I need to be up close to the trail to be sure of which way that foul symbiotic creature went."
Everyone nodded, and they were all soon on the side of the highway. Rhomerho quickly dismounted from Ozarion, his diamond-shaped prismatic eyes scanning up and down the road as Matthias kneeled, placing his armored hand against the ground as he reached out and listened to the elements around him.
The Arcane Bolt Stallion pawed the ground with his hooves, feeling out the electromagnetic energies present in the area and looking for clues. Hailey also extended her magical senses around herself, looking for the place where Emily and the symbiote-slash-human female had fought. She soon found the area of dried blood that she quickly realized Matthias had smelled from the air.
"Mal... over here..." Hailey said, doing her best to keep herself composed at the sight of where the creature wounded her friend. Mal nodded, but remained where he was.
"I know, Hailey. Keep looking for clues. Rhomerho?" Matthias called out. Rho was soon at his side. "Confirm what I am seeing, Rho." The prismatic eyes of Rhomerho quickly followed the fading energy signature to the trail leading down and away from the highway, and into a burnt-out area of the warehouses on the coastline.
"Yes, Matthias. I see the trail, too." Rhomerho commented. "Maybe three hours old, at best, heading southwest... and it's wounded. Severely. Your bride gave it one hell of a thrashing." Matthias nodded, his eyes already alight with power, before he called out to his friends. "Hailey! Ozarion! We have the trail! Follow me!"
As Matthias recalled his wings and took off, Rhomerho pulled himself back into the saddle on Ozarion's back, and the arcane animal leapt into the heavens, running as if it was on the ground. Hailey summoned her flaming dragon, Puff, hopped on its back, and soared after them.
In the air, though, Matthias quickly opened up a private telepathic link between him, Rho, and Ozarion. Hailey could not be linked in due to the magical protection given to her by her elusive boyfriend, but she would be informed of Matthias' discovery soon enough.
('Rhomerho.') Matthias thought.
('Yes, Matthias; I sensed it, too. We were not the first ones here.') Rho mentally replied as he looked over what Mal had sensed. (One of the life signs was human, but possesses metahuman qualities, and has had alterations done to it by alien means.) The booming thoughts of Ozarion sounded out to the Neo-Atlanteans.
('ARE THEY ALLIES, OR ENEMIES') Matthias quickly answered the thoughts of the Arcane Bolt Stallion.
('The other one was distinctly alien, Ozarion. Both possess a high level of technological enhancements, though, my friends. Any ideas who these two new quarries could be, and why they are in this area?') Rhomerho quickly answered.
('I recognize them, Matthias, Ozarion. They are the two aliens who recently became part of the Young Guardians, and the Guardians reserve staff.') Matthias frowned at his brother in law as he heard his thoughts. ('I saw the information at my first orientation of the protocols that the Guardians follow, Matthias.')
('I see.) The elemental shaman replied. ('Will they be an aid, or a hinderance?')
('The pure alien is skilled and experienced. His partner is much less than that, but her metahuman abilities seem to be quite helpful.') Rho replied. ('However, I do believe that they were not currently allowed to be on patrol without senior membership, especially the young female. We should ask Hailey about this.')
('Ozarion.') Matthias thought. ('Inform Hailey as to the nature of our find, and have her contact Guardians HQ. We need to know if these two were dispatched intentionally, or if they are acting on their own.') Ozarion nodded, before turning his booming voice in Hailey's direction.
"HAILEY." The Arcane Bolt Stallion rumbled toward Hailey, who gestured Puff closer to him and Rho as they flew across the sky. "I HAVE SOMETHING I NEED TO ASK YOU ABOUT."
"What is it, Ose?" Hailey asked as she neared him. The Arcane Bolt Stallion responded by forming a shimmering electrical orb before her, showing the recovered images of the two individuals in question.
"TELL ME: ARE THESE TWO NEW RECRUITS TO THE GUARDIANS, SUPPOSED TO BE AIDING US IN PURSUIT OF EMILY'S ASSAILANT?" Ose's question caused Hailey's eyes to quickly widen in response. "IT IS OBVIOUS THAT YOUR SURPRISED LOOK AT THIS IMAGE ANSWERS MY QUESTION."
"What are those two doing out here...? Aw, crap!" Hailey said, slapping her forehead as she readied her communicator. "Emily's their mentor, now! Stands to reason that they would want payback, but I'll bet that she must have been the one to go rogue first, and now, he's trying to back her up AND bring her back!" Rhomerho's audio receptors quickly picked up on that.
"Hailey, I can already imagine what Maddie is going to say when you contact her about this, so make sure you cover your ears. You also have my sympathies in advance for the incoming bellow." Rho stated, causing Hailey to frown and nod at the same time.
"Those two are so busted..... they owe me BIG for taking the initial hit from Maddie on this one..." Hailey stated as she started to radio in. Matthias, meanwhile, kept on flying, following the trail with his senses.
('It does not matter to me. This creature's pain is MINE to deliver, not theirs.') Matthias inwardly growled as he continued on, his thoughts followed by the Arcane Bolt Stallion and the thundering of his hooves.
('WHATEVER YOU WISH OF ME IN THIS MATTER, COMMANDER, YOU NEED ONLY SAY THE WORD, AND IT SHALL BE DONE.') Hearing the elemental Prince's words in his mind, Matthias nodded, and sped up his flight.
Meanwhile, a fair distance ahead, Wyldechild continued to stalk the creature who had attacked her new mentor, with Novastar in hot pursuit of his human guide on Earth. As soon as he had a clear sight of her, he contacted her through their armors.
("Indigo!") Novastar called over their comm. ("Will you kindly slow down and talk with me about this!? PhyreFrost is going to be livid that we defied orders!")
("I'll deal with the consequences later, Jayson!") Wyldechild shouted back. ("I want this thing's hide on my wall, and nobody's gonna' tell me to back off!) Novastar shook his head at his bond-mate's reply.
('I really need to teach her more about tactics and battlefield awareness.') Jayson mused to himself as he increased his speed to catch up with Indigo, his alien armor's systems monitoring hers as she tried to track down the one who had assaulted Emily earlier on this evening. Just then, Novastar's scanners picked up a HUGE electromagnetic signature rapidly coming from behind them, and as he turned to look at it, his eyes widened in sheer surprise.
"Cosmos!" Jayson yelled out as the massive surge of EM radiation engulfed him, holding and dragging him along as the wave quickly caught up to Wyldechild! Grasping her as well, the powerful energies quickly dove to the ground, and unceremoniously dumped them both onto the pavement! Wyldechild skidded a few feet as Jayson rolled with the impact and regained his balance, only for the loud CRUNCH! of a large being to sound out only a few feet away!
Jayson turned to see who it was, and was immediately greeted by the massive size of the snorting and baying Arcane Bolt Stallion, lightning crackling all around him and the rider on his back. He also noticed Hailey Storm descending nearby on her flame dragon, and another individual with flaming angel-type wings on his back thumping down before Hailey. They all wore scowls on their faces.
As the robed rider dismounted from Ozarion, the man with the flaming wings dispelled his method of flight, and let his glowing eyes bore down on the two newest junior members of the Guardians organization. Jayson could instantly tell that this man was a seasoned combatant of countless campaigns; the energy of his warrior's aura was so thick, it was like walking through quicksand. Pointing his finger at Wyldechild as she began to stand, he spoke with the authority of a fleet commander.
"What in the name of Atlantis do you think you're doing!?" The bellow of the incensed warrior shaman echoed loudly as Matthias berated the novice Young Guardian. "You were ordered to remain at base by PhyreFrost, and you deliberately disobeyed her to go after an enemy you have no intel on!"
"What was I supposed to do!?" Wyldechild retorted. "Sit on my thumbs while that... that thing got away with hurting Emily!? Someone had to go out and track it!" Hailey crossed her arms at that response.
"You need to let the experienced ones do that, Wyldechild. Period." The mage stated.
"BULLSHIT!" Indigo screamed. "She's MY mentor! I had to! SOMEONE has to care about what that piece of shit did to her!"
In her anger, Indigo did not realize that she had said the WRONG thing to the people in front of her. Before Jayson could say or do anything, a massive burst of sheer POWER erupted from Matthias, stunning all of them, and he was instantly in front of Indigo, and he was not at all pleased at her words. Then, the air turned bitterly cold, and as Hailey saw her breath on the air, Matthias spoke like the Grim Reaper himself.
"Emily. Is. MY. Bride. .... LITTLE CHILD." Matthias rumbled at Indigo, who immediately realized exactly what she had said, and her eyes widened in shock as Matthias' gaze seemed to bore right through her helmet. Hailey chimed in, just as frosty.
"She's one of my best friends, Indigo. We've shed blood and tears together several times since we joined the Guardians. Ask before you flap your trap." Right after Hailey, Ozarion's electric tones buzzed out like crackling ozone in the air.
"I AM HER SPIRIT ANIMAL, WYLDECHILD." The Prince of the Northern Herds from the Thundering Crags spoke, his voice shaking the air like thunder. "AND RHOMERHO HERE IS MATTHIAS' BROTHER IN LAW. WE THREE ALONE HAVE THE GREATEST STAKES IN FINDING THIS CREATURE." Rho's frown remained hard as stone at Indigo, even as his elemental shaman brother manifested his flaming wings again, allowing them to shift and transform into its near-identical Seraphim set of three winged pairs.
The elemental shaman's hand then shot forward, seizing Wyldechild by her chest armor and hoisting her above his head! The Neo-Atlantean GLARED at the novice before him, his glowing eyes filled with disappointment at her.
"Having Emily as your mentor means respecting her wishes." The elemental shaman growled out. "And having PhyreFrost as your leader, means that what she says - when it comes to Young Guardian protocols - is LAW to you, Wyldechild. From what I've seen here, all you've done here, will make them think that you consider their input worthless, and unnecessary. Is THAT what you want!?"
Indigo looked away, unable to meet Matthias' iron stare. He was right; she had totally gone against what PhyreFrost had ordered her and Jayson to do, and she had done this out of a selfish sense of revenge for Emily.
Having heard some of the stories told to her about Emily's arrogant and merciless brother over the last few days, Indigo was now realizing she was doing what Emily herself had done in her first few encounters against Gravitas. She felt ashamed.
"I-I'm sorry.... I... I just...." Indigo murmured, but Matthias shut her out, even as he put her down and released her. Looking over at Novastar, the Neo-Atlantean sent him a glare that said one thing to him, despite knowing that he was of a alien noble family and strong military upbringing from Rhomerho's shared intel.
(She is your responsibility now. You chose her. Starting acting like that reason is truly important to you, nobleman.) Novastar got the message loud and clear, bowing his own head in proper shame.
His flaming wings returning to normal, Matthias breathed out sharply, then spoke up to everyone present. "This delay will not aid the creature in its escape. I have its trail; I know where it has gone. Wyldechild, Novastar: your reprimands will be resolved when we return to Guardians HQ. For now, you will assist us, and you WILL, follow my orders in this matter. Are. We. Clear?" Both of them nodded quickly.
"Which way, Mal?" Hailey said, conjuring up her flame dragon again as Rhomerho pulled himself back into Ozarion's saddle. Matthias pointed south, even as a thin wispy trail in the air manifested by his will.
"Follow me." Matthias instructed. "I will deliver the plan to Rhomerho as we approach, and he will inform Ozarion, who will tell you where to go. Understood?" Everyone nodded, and they quickly followed after Matthias as he leaped into the air, his wings appearing and carrying him off after his prey.
The hooded figure stopped in its rooftop run to catch its breath, sliding down behind one of the air conditioning units to stay hidden. Retreating from the vicious fight she had been through with Miss Blitzen, Kate Five and her symbiotic ally had been forced to flee and try to recuperate on the fly.
Stopping here and there as she traveled south to kill and drain the life from a few homeless people, though, barely replenished enough of her symbiote's strength. They were all too malnourished to provide enough nutrients and fluids to begin a full regeneration of its shape-shifting form.
For now, Kate did her best to strengthen the large remainder of her symbiotic arm enhancement, the same one that had formed the blade that had stabbed Miss Blitzen and put her at Kate's mercy. Smirking slightly to herself at the pleasure she had taken at the heroine's expense, Kate missed the roar of thunder in the distance.
Then, as she began to stand up, Kate suddenly felt her symbiote's battle instincts kick in, and she leaped away from the A/C unit just in time to avoid being hit by a massive bolt of lightning! She rolled across the ground, kicking herself to her feet to avoid a thick wave of flame that seared the ground she had just been on, and turned to face her attacker with a snarl..... only to see that she was outnumbered.
The massive horse covered with electricity standing fifteen feet away from her bayed furiously at her, and the robed man in its saddle calmly pumped the underguard of the rifle in his grasp. Kate then took notice of the young, flame-haired woman riding on the ethereal dragon made of flame, right before a powerful impact struck the ground before her with the force of a tank!
Kate molded her symbiotic arm into a shield to fend off the debris, but when she finally looked back at her attackers, she saw a fourth individual standing with them. This one, however, she sensed a strange familiarity with; as she smelled the air, Kate detected Miss Blitzen's scent on him, and from the way he glared at her with his glowing eyes, she quickly deduced that he was obviously her significant other.
"Going somewhere?" The red-headed female stated from her perch on her flaming dragon in the air. Kate hissed at her, baring her teeth. The horse bayed again, stomping the ground and sending short-range electrical waves into the ground.
"YOU HAVE MUCH TO ANSWER FOR THIS DAY, PARASITE." The mighty stallion bellowed, surprising Kate, only for his rider to leap off and aim his weapon at her.
"I do believe that my brother in law would like a word with you." The robed man sneered, his anger palpable in the air, but not as much as the last man standing before Kate. As she moved to step backward, Kate heard two loud THUMP!'s behind her, and looked over her shoulder to see two more individuals - one male, one female, and clad in armor - now standing there with energy weapons drawn on her.
"NO." came the powerful voice of the last man still before Kate, his glowing eyes riveted on her. "You will NOT escape from MY justice. No one harms my Daeva-Nyhshea, and walks away unscathed." Kate turned to face him, turning her arm back into its bladed form as her combined consciousness prepared for battle. Matthias shook his head, then spoke again. "One."
Like the arcane electricity rippling through its veins, the Arcane Bolt Stallion hurled a torrent of blue-white lightning at Kate! Even as she barely dodged it, the lingering closeness of it to her body made her nerves all spasm. As Kate stumbled, Hailey pulled back her hand, swirling her mystical energies into a deadly fireball, and hurled it right at the stunned Kate!
Kate heard the symbiote scream in her mind as the flames roasted its skin, but could do nothing to soothe it as Matthias spoke again. "Two." At that, Rho darted forward into the fray! Slamming the butt of his arcane shotgun into her gut, then into her face after dodging a wild swipe from Kate's bladed arm, Rho then jabbed his weapon into her symbiotic appendage, and pulled the trigger.
Kate screamed as the symbiote's molecular structure literally melted away from her arm, and Matthias simply responded with his next word. "Three." Both Novastar and Wyldechild let loose with powerful force blasts that sent Kate tumbling across the roof, and off its side! The barely-conscious Kate landed hard on a closed dumpster, bouncing off and landing on the cold, hard pavement!
"Gotta'... get away..." She croaked out, but as she tried to rise, the sides of the alley were instantly closed off from her by Novastar and Wyldechild on one side, Rho and Ozarion on the other. Hailey floated overhead on Puff, her energies keeping the alley closed off from anyone passing by. As Kate pushed herself up on the wall, cradling her smoking right arm and hearing the symbiote crying in pain, Matthias landed a few feet away from her without a sound!
"I already told you, Kate Five, or whatever name that parasite uses to call the two of you now: NO." Matthias growled out, instantly producing a slim bladeless handle in his hand as he shifted the sheathed blade on his hip to his back. With a flick of his wrist, the handle in his grasp snapped out a glowing white energy blade! "You are NOT leaving here without answering for your assault on my bride."
Kate did her best to be strong, despite the devastating assaults upon her, but Matthias simply gestured with his empty left hand, his eyes aglow once more, and glowing silver-green crystals formed on his armored forearm. "Let us see how well you handle the mighty tones of the vibratastone." The moment Kate realized what that 'vibratastone' entailed toward her, it was too late.
Pain: indescribable, unrelenting, and full body-wracking PAIN erupted throughout her entire body as Kate was hit with the quasi-harmonic tones of the vibratastones now surrounding Matthias' left bracer. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out of her; the vibratastones' attack drowned out her vocal cords as the power kept slamming into her body. The only sound she could hear were the words of Matthias as he slowly approached her, step by agonizingly slow step.
"My bride has suffered enough pain and indignity in her life, you disgusting worm." The rage in the elemental shaman was radiating like a storm around Matthias as he twirled his energy blade with his other hand. "She is a warrior priestess, and you had the sheer arrogance to VIOLATE her after you stabbed her. THAT, was a foolish move."
Focusing his elemental powers to his left bracer again, Matthias summoned crimson red stones that joined the vibratastones on his forearm, and channeled the intense radiating heat of a volcano into the air around Kate. She and the symbiote screamed as scalding pain added to the harmonic torture Matthias was inflicting upon her.
Hailey looked queasy from her perch upon them as Matthias inflicted his wrath on Kate, as did Novastar and Wyldechild, but Ozarion and Rhomerho remained firm and unmoving in their stance. Then, out of the blue, Matthias' dual methods of pain suddenly stopped, shocking Kate even more so. However, that ended when her eyes went wide as a new pain greeted her.
Kate Five slowly looked down to see the humming energy blade sticking out of her lower left side, cauterizing her skin after penetrating her body, then looked back up to see Matthias glaring down at her. "It does not feel good at all; does it, little witch?" Kate said nothing, her mouth only opening a painful inch as her head turned to see Matthias gripping her symbiotic left arm.
The ragged edges of Kate's alien companion were not healing at all, and for good reason: Matthias was telekinetically tearing it off her limb, and taking his time in doing it. "I should simply kill you and be done with it, Kate. A few years back, I would have done just that. Now, however, I will let you live, in the shackles of the prison of your own making, with this warning." Matthias leaned in close, letting the full measure of the elemental shaman's power sear into her screaming mind.
"If you, or your companion, ever attempt to come near me, my allies, or my bride, ever again, with an attack like this..... you will BURN." At those words, Matthias unleashed the image of his own spirit animal within him upon Kate's mind: the phoenix. Kate's scream echoed around the district as she fell away from Matthias, while the shrieking symbiote was condensed into a squirming ball of black liquid, and encased in a crystal shell of Hailey's making. Only Kate's fingers remained as black as the defeated creature.
Looking down upon the naked and trembling body of their defeated foe, Matthias breathed out the final remnants of his rage, and turned to look up at Hailey as he restrained Kate with solid steel shackles he formed out of the air, her hands and feet locked behind her back. "Hailey; please call Guardians HQ. Let them know we have Emily's assailant, and are en route back to HQ."
Hailey nodded, pulling out her communicator as Mal walked over to Ozarion and Rho, then laid his head against the Arcane Bolt Stallion's shoulder. "My wives would be so disappointed in me." The elemental shaman muttered as Rho stood with him.
"Your anger has passed, my brother, and the culprit has been caught." Rho stated, his hand rubbing his fellow Neo-Atlantean's shoulder. "Let us return to your bride, and we shall deal with the consequences of this another day."
Breathing deeply, Matthias nodded, and turned to the rest of his allies that day.
"Novastar. Wyldechild. You will follow us back to Guardians HQ. And..." Matthias said, looking at them with a weary face. "... you have my thanks for aiding us. I can appreciate your willingness to track down Emily's attacker, but from now on, you MUST heed what your superiors tell you. Agreed?" The two nodded.
"I WILL CARRY OUR CAPTIVE." Ozarion said. "YOU CAN MANAGE, RHOMERHO?" Rho nodded at Ozarion's words as he shouldered his shotgun, and hefted up Kate's bound form from the cold ground. Rho then laid her out over the broad Arcane Bolt Stallion's back, securing her with the saddle straps. He then tapped a few raised points on his left vambrace, which summoned up twin energy nacelles from his back, causing him to hover in the air.
"I am ready to travel, my friends. Let's get going, everyone." Rho stated. Matthias nodded as his flaming wings returned. The six heroes departed into the skies, returning to their allies and loved ones.
After delivering the defeated Kate Five to the authorities waiting to take her back across the ocean, Ozarion visited Emily once more before returning to the Nyhshea Eternal, while Matthias stayed by his wife's side, beginning to make plans for their wedding with her while holding his beloved to his side. Matthias also reinforced his intentions to Kate's jailors: if she ever returned to Angel Falls to cause harm to anyone, he would not hesitate in eradicating her from the face of the Earth. They quickly agreed, and took Kate away to their waiting transport.
The Atlantean Royal Family was informed of Emily's condition shortly afterwards, and both her mother and father thanked Matthias for his actions in defeating and capturing the one responsible. Meanwhile, Rhomerho flew off through the evening skies, his alchemic chassis humming within its null gravity field as he silently arrived at Maddie's apartment building. He'd asked where she was, and the Dynamic Five had told him where she lived before heading home themselves.
Letting himself in through the ground floor with a psychokinetic nudge to the door, Rhomerho walked to the stairs, then silently levitated himself up to Maddie's floor. He then knocked on Maddie's door. Moments later, Rho was pleasantly surprised to see that Maddie was just getting ready to turn in. Letting her rest in her room, Rhomerho said he would sleep on the couch, but promised to make her breakfast in the morning. They would talk more then.
Smiling, Maddie gave Rho a peck on the cheek before heading to her bedroom, the door closing and hiding her lovely face from Rho.
He kept smiling back at her until the door was fully closed, and even then, the smile remained on his face. As he stepped to the balcony window, Rho mentally powered down his active combat systems as his eyes looked out over the city. Lifting up his left hand, Rho focused on his open hand, and watched a faint glyph form on his palm.
For one like him, a former fully capable Battle Mage, such markings were easy to remember from the old teachings of his youth. It was the beginnings of an Arcane Courtship Brand, a counterpart to the Soul Harmony ritual for Neo-Atlanteans. Mages of the highest order in Neo-Atlantis were linked to it in order to find their future mates, and even in his alchemically-altered state, Rhomerho was no exception. He was still a Neo-Atlantean, in mind, body, and soul, and that would never change.
Rho looked over the tiny lit-up part of the Brand, and smiled to himself. 'Ah, Matthias, my brother-in-law; it seems that you are not the only lucky one around here now.' Rho thought to himself, admiring the night skies as the stars filled the heavens in their eternal dance.