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Deviants #3

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  • David Youngblood
    “The Battle For Lemuria!”, Written by David Youngblood, September 2002. [Camp Foray. Dawn.] The stillness of the night was interrupted by the shrill
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2002
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      �The Battle For Lemuria!�, Written by David
      Youngblood, September 2002.

      [Camp Foray. Dawn.]

      The stillness of the night was interrupted by the
      shrill piercing blow of a galvanizing military horn. I
      was never in the U.S. army, but I imagine that a bugle
      would be far more soothing sound to wake up to. I sat
      up with a start, as the high-pitched noise roused me
      from my slumber. The camp around me was soon filled
      with bustling soldiers in a hurry to pack their scarce
      possessions. Preparations were quickly being made; we
      would move out within the hour.

      Olak burst into my tent excitedly. Today was the day
      of battle, and he seemed happy about it. Looking back,
      I don�t think his excitement was because of any love
      of war, but perhaps a joy of getting the opportunity
      to serve his land once again. Here was a man who�d
      been cast out of the army, shunned away from his
      nation, all for a training accident that wasn�t even
      his fault. I doubt, on some levels, that he truly
      cared what the cause itself was; but rather, that he
      was so elated to be a part of something greater again,
      that he�d have joined no matter what.

      �Rise un� shun! Battle tum is hur! It�s uh long merch
      frum hur ta da center a Lemuria, Muny miles in fuct,
      so wur gonna be leavin� urly.�

      I was still very drowsy and not eager to get up and
      march several miles. But Olak left me no choice;
      pulling me to my feet and shaking me wide awake.

      �Hurry Psyclone! We gots ta pack tings up an� eat
      still, an� we ain�t gots much time. Here ya go, get
      drussed an� meet me outside.�

      He tossed me a bundle and walked out. I unwrapped the
      bundle to find a Deviant armor outfit. I sighed
      briefly and pulled it on. It was dark brown and felt
      like leather on the inside, but was stiff and
      resistant against outside force. It was lightweight
      and easy to move in. I could tell that the armor�s
      designer was more concerned with maneuverability
      during battle than stopping a sniper�s arrow, a
      thought that did little to comfort me. Oh well. Time
      to go fight a war.

      War. I have a hard time explaining what was going
      through my head at that time. I realized that I was
      about to risk my life for a cause not my own, but I
      wasn�t really taking it seriously enough. War. Big
      deal. So we�d go in, kick this guy�s butt, and then
      kick back for a while before I�d go back to Jersey. So
      what? I�d seen Jean Claude van Damme do it tons of
      times.

      I stepped out of my tent into a flurry of activity.
      Over a thousand warriors packed into a small camp were
      breaking down tents, eating their rations, pulling on
      armor, grabbing weapons, or even meditating. Olak
      snapped apart a few beams on my tent, and folded it
      over on itself neatly.

      �Come wit me,� he said.

      I followed him to the far corner of the camp, where he
      tossed my tent into a pile with hundreds of others. We
      then stood in the rations line, waiting patiently as
      the many people in front of us got their food, just as
      the many people behind us waited as we got ours. One
      thing that was clear to me was that I�d get no
      preferential treatment due to my lineage. I was Kro�s
      son, and most of them knew that fact quite well, but I
      was to be treated just like everyone else
      nevertheless. This was his wish I�m sure, since he was
      trying to teach me to be a man from the first day I
      met him.

      The line moved fairly quickly, since everyone
      understood the need and importance of haste. We soon
      reached the front of the procession, where a small,
      grizzly man with amber skin and a distorted face slid
      a dish in front of me and dumped a large spoonful in
      it. I looked down in my bowl to see a green broth
      with small brown chunks floating in it.

      �Eat. Yer gonna need duh energy,� Olak urged, seeing
      my reluctance.

      I knew he was right, but for a second I wondered if it
      might actually be better to pass out while marching
      than force down what passed as grub here.
      Nevertheless, I sighed deeply, closed my eyes, and
      quickly gulped down the provisions.

      I made a horrible face as I did everything I could to
      keep it down. It tasted something like cantaloupe
      juice mixed with sour milk. The distinctly different
      tastes of sweet tanginess and pungent bitterness, all
      too contrasting, assaulted my taste buds all at once,
      and were almost more than I could handle. I could only
      imagine what animal the brown lumps of spicy meat came
      from, but I tried not to think about it.

      With a gasp, I choked down the last of the dish. Olak
      grinned as he finished his as well.

      �Good, ain�t it?� He asked.

      �Well, I can honestly say I�ve never had anything
      quite like it.�

      I was still reeling from the horrible taste when we
      walked over to a groove of rocks and sat down. I
      couldn�t take my eyes off of the activity and
      excitement around me. Everyone was in a hurry. The
      food line began to dwindle as the rest of the men
      grabbed their food and gulped it down quickly. Olak
      was saying something about what to do once we got into
      the thick of battle, but I wasn�t really listening. My
      mind kept wandering back to last night.

      My father had shared with me one of his deepest and
      most private secrets. He had told me that he was
      half-Eternal and over 20,000 years old, a revelation
      he�d never trusted to another person. (1) Beneath the
      rough exterior of a Warlord was a man about to lead
      his men on a suicide run, and was actually afraid to
      miss the opportunity to meet me, his son. It wasn�t
      until a little later that I truly realized the bond we
      shared, but I remember being filled with great
      confidence just knowing my dad would be there with me.

      I excused myself from Olak, and went back up the hill
      to find Kro again. Maybe we could have a talk or
      something before heading out. My experience from the
      night before had installed a faith that the distance
      between us would quickly narrow. Filled with hope, I
      knocked on the shack door.

      �Come in, but have good reason!� Boomed Kro�s voice.

      I slowly stepped in, to see him finish securing the
      straps of a war suit. He looked in my direction as he
      carefully tied his sword�s sheath to his belt.

      �What is it, Psyclone?�

      �Um, well...I was thinking that maybe we could chat or
      something for a while, �til it�s time to move out.�

      �There is not time for such matters. Our time of
      departure is approaching within the next few minutes.�

      �You sure? I don�t mean to burst your bubble or
      anything, but there�s still a bit of a mess down
      there. I really doubt everyone�s gonna be ready to go
      in a couple of minutes.�

      �The mess is due to the haste in which we are
      leaving,� Kro explained, �not everyone is coming. We
      have roughly one thousand warriors down in that
      encampment, but forty of them will not be accompanying
      us on our march for victory. They will stay behind and
      take care of the clutter left in our wake. This will
      allow the rest of us to march light, not having to
      worry about tents, cooking material and other supplies
      not necessary for our upcoming attack.�

      �Gotcha. That, uh, makes sense I guess.�

      �Of course it does. We need only carry our weapons and
      ourselves. Speaking of which, why are you still
      unarmed when our exit is so near?�

      �Oh. Olak was going to the weapons area when I left
      him to come see you.�

      �Foolish, but for the best perhaps. Come. I have
      something to give you then.�

      I was feeling very awkward at that time. Feeling
      stupid for coming up there. Kro wasn�t in a mood to
      chat; he was in a rush to leave. However, my
      constantly changing feelings of the situation were
      turned upside down once again by his next gesture.

      He bent down to a long, slender box, and unlatched it
      slowly. From it, he drew a beautiful silver spear with
      a gold blade at its tip.

      �Here, take this. It was once my weapon as a young
      man. You will wield it well, I am sure,� Kro said

      �I can�t accept this,� I said in disbelief, �what will
      you use?�

      �Do not worry about me. I carry my crystal bladed
      sword, forged in the Valley of Diamonds several
      hundred years ago(2).�

      �I...I don�t know what to say.�

      �Good, because we do not have any more time left to
      waste here. The men are lining up outside. I want you
      to stick by Olak�s side today, no matter what happens.
      He is a worthy warrior. You will be in the second
      group, and make certain that you do not get in the
      first. Do you understand?�

      �Not really. What second group?�

      �I will explain outside, but we must get there now.�

      The conversation ended with that. Not at all what I�d
      been hoping for, but the small gestures that Kro had
      made last night and in the shack forced me to continue
      my desperate yearning to know my father. And in the
      midst of my inner turmoil, I walked back out to the
      camp to realize that I had, indeed, became a part of
      something far greater.

      Over nine hundred men stood in perfect uniformity in
      front of the West Conduit. A ways behind them stood
      another fifty men. Olak was among the fifty, so I
      hurried down to him while my father climbed a winding
      path at the conduit�s mouth, up to a rocky outcropping
      overseeing his warriors.

      The final forty or so men lingered back from the rest
      that were in line. These were those whose job was to
      clean up the camp after our departure. I would find
      out later that this was because Kro wanted to make
      certain that if we failed, Ghaur, or any other
      enemies, would never discover the camp. It was the job
      of the men left behind to wipe out any trace of our
      ever being there, though it�d be months until I�d
      discover why Kro wanted so desperately for the area to
      remain secret.

      One of the things I couldn�t help but notice was the
      difference in weapons from the first group to the
      second. The hundreds in the former were outfitted with
      sonic disruptors and propulsion guns towards the
      front, with the firepower lessening towards the back,
      down to swords, shields, spears, bows and arrows. All
      of us in the latter possessed the less destructive
      weapons. The combination of advanced technology and
      ancient weapons was astounding.

      I fell into rank as Kro began to address the group.
      The respect his sheer presence invoked was amazing.
      Every warrior, every creature, every single ear perked
      up to his words. Every eye gazed up with allegiance to
      that face that could launch a thousand ships.

      �My fellow Deviants, we go now to face a grave threat.
      In Lemuria, the homeland of many of us, and the source
      of heritage and lineage for the rest, a force of pure
      evil has arisen. He calls himself Ghaur, but he is
      nothing but an egotistical fool. The overwhelming task
      of dispatching the usurper of sin falls upon us. We
      all come from different areas and colonies; united by
      the clinging dedication and responsibility each and
      every one of us feels for our people.

      Make no mistake; it will not be easy. Though he holds
      the position through dishonesty and deception, as the
      Lord of Lemuria, he still commands the vast and
      powerful army. Many of these men will rally to our
      side against him, but the odds will still be against
      us.

      Therefore, all of you must be willing to pay the
      ultimate sacrifice for your people. Many will die. No
      matter the outcome, today shall go down in history as
      a day of blood, pain, and death. Anyone amongst you,
      who now wishes to leave our ranks, go now. Anyone
      amongst you, who is not entirely ready to do whatever
      is required of you, leave now. No repercussions will
      be brought against you for doing so, but you must
      leave at once.�

      I felt a great sense of awe as I looked around. Not
      one warrior, not a single person, would leave. They
      all stood there, steadfast in their beliefs and pride.
      Hundreds of them: all ready to serve regardless of
      what might happen.

      �Very well then. You have already been divided into
      two groups. The first and larger one will be lead by
      Jhilpez and Sercmed. It is their duty to guide you
      into the City of Toads, and your duty to fight the
      battle that will be awaiting you there. This is mainly
      a diversionary tactic, to draw the army�s fire as I
      lead the second group through the underground tunnels
      to Ghaur�s stronghold in the Antediluvian Royal
      Palace. Once my group has claimed victory there, I
      will reassume command of the Lemurian army and end the
      battle the rest of you will be entrenched in with a
      minimal of bloodshed.

      We only need enough time to retake the palace and
      dispose of Ghaur, so do not throw your lives away
      needlessly. Fight hard, fight intelligently, and watch
      each other�s back. It is my great honor to be in the
      company of such brave and noble warriors on this
      fateful day. May Gaea (3) watch over us all and guide
      us to victory. We shall not fail!�

      A magnificent cheer went up, as one thousand voices
      called out shouts for triumph and greatness. Kro
      descended down amongst them all, and they cried out
      support for their general. I gazed around me in
      wonder, as Kro took his place at the front, amazed as
      the change in those around me.

      The night before, they�d seemed laidback and carefree,
      cracking jokes and engaging in friendly spars. Today,
      they had an aura of determination about them.
      Overnight, they�d unveiled themselves as an invading
      army of fierce resolution about to go on a suicide
      incursion for a cause bigger than they ever would be.
      It wasn�t the weapons or skills they possessed that
      made this particular army so impressive, but their
      unconquerable spirit of character. Many would die, but
      they didn�t care. For each and every one of them was
      part of something greater, and for the first time in
      my life, so was I.

      The roar finally began to die down, and with a sharp
      call we headed out. Onward we marched, entering the
      West Conduit, the small passageway from Camp Foray to
      the outskirts of Lemuria. The first group led the way,
      with Olak and I following with the second group. We
      moved through the channel slowly, about to head
      towards the territory of our enemy.

      I looked about at the rocky walls of the Conduit.
      Bathed in light as the area continued to get a little
      brighter, I could see each and every stony
      outcropping, covered in dull green moss with bits of
      dew trickling over them. The stones were predominantly
      all the same uniform dark brown color, with little
      differentiation. I reflected briefly on all the
      thousands of years of erosion it must have taken to
      form this huge valley passage, and it hit that in his
      long life, Kro might have actually witnessed the area
      when it was nothing more than a continuous wall of
      rock. An insect or small animal I couldn�t identify
      would scamper across the boulders from time to time.
      The ground beneath us was hard and uncomfortable to
      walk on, but we just kept on going.

      The walk gave me a little time to reflect on our task
      ahead. Even then, I didn�t realize the enormous scope
      of war, but I was beginning to comprehend a few
      things. The soldiers on the front line had all the big
      guns because it would be they who had to face the full
      brunt of an opposing army. Every little helping
      component they could get would be vital.

      Also, there was a reason why it was Kro who lead the
      second group through the dark tunnels to the palace. I
      would find out later how much it irked him to have
      someone else lead the group in greater risk, even two
      men he greatly trusted, because he hated having others
      have to face bigger danger for him. Even then,
      however, it was apparent that the divisions were made
      that way because Kro must be the only one capable of
      navigating our way through the tunnels. The element of
      surprise would mean everything against Ghaur.

      Eventually, we came to the end of the conduit, and the
      procession halted. We were bein given a moment to
      catch our breaths, but it lasted no more than a few
      seconds. Before I knew it, we were running. At first,
      I thought we�d been attacked earlier than was
      expected, but it was all a part of the plan. The first
      division ran ahead through a clearing on the other
      side of the passage, while Kro diverted the rest of us
      to the right and cleared off grass and dirt from a
      door buried on the side of a hill. He opened it and
      began to usher us in.

      I looked ahead as Jhilpez and Sercmed lead their
      portion on hurriedly, drawing weapons and shouting
      orders. Diversionary tactic. They were going ahead in
      full speed to draw away the attention of any wandering
      eyes from us as we went into the tunnels. Within
      minutes, a servant loyal to Ghaur would alert him of
      the charging army. By the time they reached the City
      of Toads, legions of warriors would be waiting to
      destroy them. I followed Olak into the dark tunnel,
      wondering whether or not I�d ever see them again.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      [Antediluvian Royal Palace]

      I am Captain Hiskos of the Secret Guard. When Ghaur
      rose to power, we secured his assets. We eliminated
      what few enemies arose in positions of power. Ranar
      and Kro both tried to challenge the master, but Ghaur
      killed Ranar himself. (4) Eventually, we drove Kro
      into banishment after a purposely-failed attempt to
      assassinate him. Now, the Dog of Warlords seems to
      have returned.

      I walked to the door of the master�s chamber, and
      gently tapped my knuckles on it. He didn�t respond,
      but the door creaked open. I walked in softly and
      quietly, shutting the door behind me.

      The room was dark, and I could only see the vague
      image of the master on his throne.

      �Lord Ghaur, our agents in outer Lemuria have reported
      an army advancing through the country. The don�t seem
      to be attacking any of the villages along the way, but
      they appear to be headed here, towards the City of
      Toads. It�s too early to say for certain, but it would
      appear likely that this means Kro has returned.�

      �Of course he has, you ignorant fool,� the master�s
      raspy voice hissed back, �Just make certain that the
      army is there waiting when his pathetic little
      invasion force arrives.�

      �Yes, Lord Ghaur. I will lead them myself.�

      �You�ll do no such thing.�

      �Milord?�

      �Do you really think that Kro would be so stupid as to
      put all of his hopes into an invasion that has no
      chance of succeeding? It�s a diversion to get our
      attention away from the real threat.�

      �What threat is that milord?�

      �There is a vast system of underground tunnels beneath
      this continent, leading all the way up to the basement
      of this palace. That fool believes that he is the only
      one who knows of their existence. But my own master
      spoke of them to me long ago. (5) Have Captain Clement
      lead the army. I want you to take your best men and
      set a trap for Kro�s party for when they near us.�

      �At once Lord Ghaur.�

      I stood up and turned to go. Right as I reached the
      door, however, I heard my master call out to me one
      last time.

      �And Captain Hiskos?�

      �Yes milord?�

      I could see a quick flash of white from Ghaur�s thrown
      as he grins briefly.

      �Obliterate them all.�

      I nodded sharply and left in a hurry. There was much
      to do after all: places to go, people to obliterate.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      [The Underground Tunnels. Psyclone]

      We had been walking for a long time. Kro was at the
      front of the group, leading us through the passage. It
      was extremely dark in there, and we could only follow
      the indistinct forms in front of us. Olak and I were
      at the very back, trying to keep up with the others as
      we felt our way along.

      It was hard to see where we were walking, and we would
      often trip over a loose stone in the path that we
      didn�t even know was there. The air was musky and
      heavy, and we had to take deep breaths to aerate our
      lungs. There was a constant drip as me moved along,
      and a few times we would have to wade through an area
      with standing water.

      We had been told not to speak or make more noise than
      absolutely necessary. We creeped along stealthily,
      being as quiet as possible. Occasionally, we could
      hear sounds above us, at times when the tunnels passed
      underneath a building or bunker. We would slow down
      and go as silently as we could, and manage to depart
      from such areas without incident.

      Word had been whispered back from Kro in the front
      that we were about to turn onto the final stretch.
      Everyone else had already made the turn when we
      approached the intersection. I raised my spear and was
      about to follow when Olak�s hand stopped me.

      �Hold up,� he whispered.

      �Why?� I responded, voice lowered.

      �I smellz sum�tin. Like...powder.�

      Then it happened.

      I�ll tell you what I recall. I recall thinking �Why?�
      I recall thinking that life is fragile. And I recall
      realizing that it all goes by too fast, as the
      brilliant explosion ripped through the silence,
      transforming our stealth march into a fiery inferno of
      death.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      [Outside of the City of Toads. Jhilpez]

      We had made great haste. With myself at the point, and
      Sercmed guiding the group from the right, we�d sped
      through Lemuria to the central capital, the City of
      Toads. None of us knew for sure what was in store, but
      we could guess well enough. Miracles do happen, true,
      but one couldn�t waste time hoping for one in vain.
      Our job was just to occupy the army long enough for
      Kro�s group to accomplish their objective. We knew
      we�d be outnumbered about twenty-five to one, and the
      hope of surviving such odds was dismal at best.

      But even though we were prepared for our duty, it was
      still a bit of a shock to us when we got there. We
      stopped still at the sight ahead of us. I recognized
      Captain Clement as the traitorous fiend from Ghaur�s
      Secret Guard. But even more than him, I recognized the
      army that he led. We�d reached them: the Lemurian
      Royal Army.

      My first thought was not to fight. To run, to
      surrender, to find any alternative. These were not my
      enemies; these were my brothers. They were under
      someone else�s control, but I still didn�t want to
      harm or kill them.

      My second thought was to wish that Kro was here
      instead. I saw it on the faces of many of the young
      warriors opposite of me: quite a few recognized me.
      They knew me as Kro�s right-hand man, and they didn�t
      want to fight me either. But they would. For all they
      knew, I�d turned into some remote despot since Kro�s
      disappearance. So with the command, they would fight
      my men and me. But they wouldn�t have fought Kro. They
      respected him too much: not only as a ruler, but also
      as a fellow warrior. But Kro couldn�t be here. It was
      too vital to catch Ghaur off-guard while there was
      still a chance. It was up to me.

      My final thought was of Ghaur himself. Damn him to
      hell. Things shouldn�t be like this. I shouldn�t have
      to be ready to battle these soldiers doing their jobs.
      It was all so unfair, and it was all because of him.

      This helped. I thought of the monster behind all of
      this, and my resolution strengthened once more. All of
      this seemed to take an eternity, but it had only been
      a few seconds since we had stumbled onto the Lemurian
      army. Captain Clement was giving us our one chance to
      surrender, but no one was listening to him. I looked
      behind me and nodded to Sercmed, drawing my sword.

      �ATTACK!� The call came from both sides.

      The Battle for Lemuria had begun.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      [Psyclone]

      They were all dead. My father and everyone else in the
      second division was dead. Soon, I would be too.

      Olak shook me to my senses. Both of us had survived,
      having stopped far away enough from the blast point.
      When the explosion went off, the tunnel collapsed as
      we were thrown clear by the force of the detonation.
      We were aboveground now. And we were not alone.

      I blinked twice and became aware of my surroundings,
      taking it all in. Olak helped me to my feet and handed
      me my spear. Twenty men formed a semicircle about us,
      fencing us in against a wall of rock behind us.

      �Captain Hiskos, two of them survived!�

      �Indeed they did,� the captain responded, smiling,
      �But not for long.�

      �Get ruddy Psyclone,� Olak whispered, �I�lz took da
      point. Folla mah lead.�

      I looked at the weapon in my hand, only able to think
      of my father.

      �No,� I choked out.

      �What?�

      �I�m sorry Olak. I just can�t do this. I can�t fight.
      They�re all dead. My father is dead.�

      �But we ain�t! Listen ta me Psyclone. We gots ta
      finish what Kro an� da others set out ta do. We owe it
      ta dem.�

      I kept staring at the spear that Kro entrusted me
      with, and tears began to roll out from my eyes.

      �I.... can�t. I just can�t.�

      An arrow struck by Olak�s foot, narrowly missing. Four
      of the Secret Guard had located themselves on high
      outcroppings, and were readying arrows for an all out
      assault. The others, lead by Captain Hiskos, began to
      position themselves to block any exit we had.

      Olak shoved me behind a large boulder where I�d be
      safe for the time being, and turned to face his
      attackers. He stood tall in the face of the storm, but
      as I huddled with my own demons, I knew there was no
      way he could hope to win.

      [Jhilpez]

      We hit them with everything we had. The propulsion
      guns were set off first. A shot of the weapons
      generates a force of compressed air that knocks back
      whatever it hits. It was enough to temporarily scatter
      their front lines, and we had to take advantage of any
      moment of confusion we could get.

      The rest of us charged forward. Each propulsion gun
      was only good for five shots before it had to be
      recharged, so the blasts had to be used carefully.
      Sercmed directed them to fire at the outcropping where
      archers were perched, eliminating as many of the
      snipers as we could.

      I looked for Clement, desperately wanting a chance to
      end his petty existence. I found that he was a way
      off, already recovered from the effects of the
      propulsion gun and directing his forces through the
      chaos. I fought my way through the disorder, disarming
      and disposing of those who got in my way. I tried to
      only knock them out or wound them, killing as little
      as possible. But in the midst of sheer pandemonium,
      death was unavoidable.

      [Psyclone]

      I could see the fight from my huddled spot behind the
      large boulder. Olak, the same young warrior I�d once
      defeated in a spar, was facing the full might of
      Ghaur�s Secret Guard. But this was no spar. While I
      may have triumphed in a friendly bout with no
      consequences, this was different. This was war. I had
      no experience in this type of situation, and couldn�t
      even get over the death around me to help him.

      Olak had been in war, apparently. I�d beat him
      yesterday (6), but today he was different and
      powerful. He knew how to battle in this type of arena,
      and he knew how to win. Spars mean nothing. War means
      everything.

      Experience wasn�t enough though. Olak was far
      outnumbered, and couldn�t hope to win. He engaged the
      first warrior, blocking a blow aimed at his neck. He
      tried to counterattack, but had to block a thrust from
      a spear by another opponent. He twisted around,
      getting behind his attacker and driving his blade into
      the enemy�s neck.

      He leaped from an arrow, which stuck the soldier
      behind him. He was engaging the men at such close
      range that the four members of the Guard sniping with
      arrows couldn�t get a good shot at him. But there were
      still eighteen left overall, fourteen of which were
      charging at him with weapons bared.

      Olak plunged his sword into another attacker�s
      stomach, but was cut across his back as he did it. He
      cried out, but kept on going. He pushed his way away
      from them all, leaving him open to sniper fire once
      more. I watched in horror as an arrow struck him in
      the neck, but he refused to fall.

      He held his sword high in defiance as Captain Hiskos
      approached him for the final blow. For a heartbeat, a
      mental image of Hiskos� sword coming down was etched
      in my mind, and then, just like that....

      I ran away from a foster home as a teenager. Living on
      the streets, I�d witnessed many horrifying ideals.
      With all I�d seen in my life, I never thought of
      myself as innocent. How wrong I was. How truly naive.
      And at that moment, the innocence I never even knew I
      possessed was dead.

      As dead as Olak.

      That task over with, the Guard now began to approach
      me. I was vastly outnumbered.

      I needed a miracle....

      [Jhilpez]

      Their army was recovering from our initial assault. We
      were lucky that Clement had not called in the use of
      the military�s robo-tanks, or we would�ve been
      squashed already. Still, that end appeared inevitable.
      Surviving snipers were picking off my men left and
      right, and the ground warriors were charging ever
      forward. It wasn�t a fight; it was a slaughter.

      We needed a miracle....

      [Antediluvian Palace. Basement]

      I hadn�t seen it coming. I should have, but I just
      didn�t see it coming.

      I feel the rocks and stones over me, but I don�t feel
      the pain they invoke. I dig my way out, and punch my
      way through. I have arrived at the end of my tunnels
      and into the basement of the royal palace. Two guards
      come running from the commotion, but I stand tall and
      draw my crystal-bladed sword.

      I failed. I failed them all. Failed Sercmed. Failed
      Jhilpez. Failed my men. Failed my son.

      My name is Warlord Kro, and I shall fail no more.

      [Psyclone]

      I was wrong. I had never realized what I was getting
      into. War isn�t an action-packed film. War isn�t fair
      fights and happy endings. The saying never made so
      much sense. War is hell.

      And there will always be war. Always will be those who
      want to tear down, to destroy. They see war as some
      kind of conquest, but it is not that either. It�s a
      cacophony of motion and blood. The throes of the
      wounded. The stench of the dead. It�s a cold and it�s
      a broken Halleluiah.

      No more hiding. No more running. Olak had just died
      trying to protect me; trying to live up to the memory
      Kro and all the others who had been killed.

      I looked at his body as they charge, and was filled
      with determination, not sadness. I looked at the spear
      my father gave me, and was filled with the honor it
      represented, not the pain.

      I stood tall as a machete swung my way. I moved the
      spear to block its blow, and twisted the weapon in my
      hand. As my spear spun, it caught the hooked blade and
      jerked it from its holder. My opponent was disarmed,
      but this was no spar. The match was not over. My
      innocence had been the first casualty when Olak died,
      and my conscious became the second as I thrust my
      lance into his abdomen.

      The arrows bared down on me. My reflexes snapped into
      instant motion, deflecting the projectiles. One
      blocked. Two. A third, a fourth. The fifth struck my
      shoulder, but I hardly even felt its sting.

      Two more attackers reached me. I blocked the blow of
      the first one�s sword. Leaping clear above the second,
      I came down and shoved him forward. His spear
      plummeted into his comrade�s stomach, and he was then
      unable to draw it back out. An easy target, I picked
      him off before he could gain his wits.

      Three kills. I didn�t even flinch. I shut out the pain
      of my shoulder and the whispers of my conscious and
      focused only survival of the fittest.

      Captain Hiskos and the others backed away and held
      their fire.

      �Who are you?� Hiskos asked.

      �Psyclone, the heir to Warlord Kro. In case you
      haven�t realized it yet, you�ve just made the last
      mistake of your lives.�

      The statement was met with laughs, but I didn�t hear
      them. The pain was returning, and I was starting to
      feel my fatigue. With a horrifying jolt, I knew I
      couldn�t hope to beat them all. I began to panic as a
      thousand thoughts ran through my head.

      No. Focus. Survive. Put it aside all aside and just
      think. Think of Olak. Think of Jhilpez. Think of Kro.
      Think of a.... storm.

      They were charging again. No time to run. Too many to
      fight. I gripped my spear with both of my hands
      horizontally in front of me, shut my eyes, and
      concentrated with all my might. I felt pain rip
      through my brain like a thousand fiery spikes
      streaking across my mind�s eye.

      I hadn�t been hit, but was beginning to lose my
      chance. Now or never. Captain Hiskos was feet away,
      raising his sword. He was going to kill me, just as he
      killed Olak.

      No, he wouldn�t.

      I opened my eyes with a start. The blade was inches
      away, when suddenly he was flying backwards. The time
      had come. The tide had shifted.

      My name is Psyclone, and I have the ability to create
      small gusts of wind with my head. Tornadoes of the
      mind. Telekinetic twisters.

      The cyclones spiraled across the ground at my will,
      each one about seven feet tall. With every tornado I
      created, the pain of using my powers faded, and the
      might of my wind strengthened.

      The Guard was scattered, knocked around everywhere my
      attacks. As they tried to regain their composure, I
      ran forward. I would knock them down before they could
      get up. They boxed me in; I blew them off.

      The battle was waged through chaos, and I was soon
      down to only five foes. The whirlwinds pounded the
      archers perched high on the rocks, and most were
      killed in the fall. I saw Captain Hiskos, the last man
      standing.

      The throes of the wounded. The stench of the dead.
      Survival of the fittest.

      He holds his sword, and picks up another from the body
      of one of his dead men. Crossing them before his body,
      he rushed me one last time.

      Thrust. Parry. Block. I jerked into instant motion,
      snapping my reflexes as I felt the shockwaves of his
      checked attacks through the metal of my spear. I
      couldn�t counterattack; I had no time.

      It was in that moment that time seemed to slow down.
      Our fight appeared to exist in between seconds, as
      everything became crystal clear. As he lunged at me, I
      noticed a slight limp in his left leg. As I made the
      block, I realized that we were about ten feet from a
      sharp stone protruding from the rocky wall fencing off
      our battlefield.

      It was only a few instants between one blow and his
      next offensive, but it was all I needed. Creating a
      miniscule twister at my feet, I stirred up the pebbles
      on the ground. Circling around faster and faster, I
      let them go right at Hiskos.

      At the increased speed, they tore into his leg like
      buckshot. He cried out and stumbled as his blood
      flowed. I knocked from his weakened grasp one of his
      swords, then the other. Using the staff part of my
      spear, I delivered one last powerful uppercut to his
      chin.

      He started to fall back, and I lifted him from his
      feet with a fierce tempest of wind. The crushing
      cyclone carried him through the air, throwing him at
      the rock wall. The stone gouged through his back,
      protruding out through his heart. I stared on as his
      eyes rolled back in his head, and he took one last
      breath.

      They say that there is a defining moment in every
      person�s life. At that time, standing alone as the
      sole victor on that battlefield, my defining moment
      had come. I took heavy breaths while I surveyed the
      carnage about me. Even now, I can think of the episode
      as a turning point in my life.

      [Jhilpez]

      �Being out the sonics!� Screamed Sercmed.

      I heard my ally�s call behind me, and I wished to
      myself that he hadn�t said that. He�s right, I knew,
      but I had been hoping that we�d last longer before
      having to call in that artillery.

      I pressed a switch on my arm covering, and my hearing
      was completely shut off. I battled in silence as I
      watched our opposition writhe in pain when my men
      fired the sonics. A few of our own fell down clutching
      their heads as well, having either forgotten to
      activate their protection, or having lost their means
      to do so.

      The bands on our left arms had a small needle on their
      underside, which punctures into the blood vessel when
      you put it on. It released a group of antigens into
      the bloodstream, which quickly travel up to the head.
      By pressing the control on my armband, I set off a
      series of change reactions in the antigens, which in
      turn shut off all flow to the ear canal. The effect: a
      complete lack of hearing while the sonics wreak havoc
      with everyone else�s heads. But this can only be done
      with armband, which was bad news for my young ally
      who�s left arm was cut off.

      The sonics are temporary, but their effects continue
      to last long after the thirty seconds for which
      they�re going. My hearing slowly restarts again. The
      hysteria is even more chaotic than our initial assault
      with the propulsion guns. Still, any advantage we were
      gaining wouldn�t last too long. Blast it Kro, where
      are you?

      [Kro]

      The guards were dealt with easily enough. They were
      poorly trained and inattentive, and did not last long.
      But it was not them who mattered to me, but the menace
      upstairs that was sitting on my throne.

      I made my way through the levels quickly; I knew the
      palace better than anyone. I knew where to hide when
      the guards ran past, and I knew where to run when the
      heat was on. And I knew the one place where Ghaur was
      sure to be.

      My blade was drawn and my heart was ready. I kicked
      down the door to the throne room and charged in.

      I slowed up when I was greeted by only darkness. At
      first, I thought he is not there. That I made a
      mistake...again. But the room lighted up suddenly in
      brilliant luminescence, revealing Ghaur.

      He looked more like monster than man. Truly, the
      ugliness he nurtured on the inside could be reflected
      in his outward looks. Over six feet tall, he towered
      at a height near my own. His skin was a horrific gray
      that covered his entire body and monstrous face. And
      his eyes were the worst part of all. Yellow. Worse
      than yellow. It was as if he had truly no color in
      them at all, but that his inner hatred exuded an evil
      glow out his eyes. He stood before me in all his evil
      glory, a proud smirk on his ugly face.

      �My dear Kro,� he began, �I was under the impression
      that you�d been wiped out with the rest of your men in
      the tunnel. I must admit though, I was rather hoping
      you�d make it this far. It was difficult to stand the
      thought that you�d been destroyed by someone else.
      I�ve been wanting the chance to do so myself quite
      badly.�

      With every word he spoke, my anger rose. Every
      syllable he mouthed made my blood boil. This fiend
      stole my kingdom, deceived my men, and hurt my people.
      He took it all away from me. My hopes, my dreams, my
      son, everything. He would pay for it with his life if
      it was the last thing I did.

      �You want a shot at me Ghaur? Very well then. Take
      it.�

      With a flash of radiance from his hand, the fight
      began. I dive to my right. The vase that was behind me
      was shattered into a thousand pieces, but I survived
      for a few moments more. I broke into a roll as I
      avoided four more blasts from Ghaur.

      Leaping back to my feet, I struggled to stay a step in
      front of his attacks. He withdrew for a moment,
      gathering power for something greater. I tried to rush
      him in his moment of vulnerability, but I simply did
      not have enough time to get to him. I could scarcely
      get to the floor in time to avoid a flare of energy
      scorching by me.

      The widespread attack went over me, taking out the
      entire east wall. Wind began to whip around the throne
      room as we were exposed to the vacuum of the elements.
      I struggled to stand, and instantly evaluated my
      options. I only had a few possibilities as Ghaur
      charged towards me, his hands glowing. I sheathed my
      sword and sidestepped him at the last moment. Tackling
      him from behind, I sent both of us flying out of the
      palace through the gaping hole.

      [Jhilpez]

      It was at that moment that the tide finally turned. An
      explosion was heard from the palace as the east wall
      collapsed out. Most of the fighting ceased as
      thousands of warriors turned as watched as Kro and
      Ghaur came soaring down from the throne room. Nearly
      everyone recognized Kro, and those who didn�t were
      quickly explained to, and it was soon apparent to our
      opponents that we were not the enemy at all. A brief
      glimpse of their long-departed leader, and they were
      ready to switch sides.

      The chaos settled down as brother stopped fighting
      brother. Several skirmishes remained, but those were
      soon routed by the vast majority working together.
      Things were still jumbled and confused, but we were
      gaining control of ourselves bit by bit.

      The armies united, and led chiefly by Sercmed, we all
      turned on the members of Ghaur�s Secret Guard that
      were still trying to do his bidding, while others
      helped gather the wounded and provide care for those
      who were not yet beyond hope.

      In the midst of it all, I lost track of Captain
      Clement, but he found me. When running amidst the
      chaos, he paid too much attention to who was behind
      him, and not enough to where he was going. He learned
      his lesson by running into me head on, and not even
      realizing it at first. When he finally looked up to
      see me standing there, it was too late. I did take
      pleasure in the look of shock on his face right before
      I snapped his neck.

      Simply amazing. A short sighting of one certain man
      battling another was all it took for most of them to
      give way to peace.

      I couldn�t see what happened to Kro. None of us could,
      for they disappeared behind a mountain range in the
      badlands. I wanted desperately to go aid him, but my
      hands were full where I was. I could only wait, and
      hope that he would prevail.

      [Psyclone]

      They would not have died in vain. I was going to go to
      the palace and stop Ghaur myself, succeeding in the
      task my father would have fulfilled if he hadn�t
      fallen.

      I walked from the battlefield of my victory, and made
      my way to the palace. The size and prestige of the
      building made it obvious that it was the citadel I was
      looking for. Our original plan had been to sneak in
      through the basement, but the tunnels had collapsed in
      the underground explosion set off by Hiskos� force.
      I�d simply go in the front door, if that�s what it
      took.

      My shoulder was aching. After defeating the last of
      the Guard that had attacked Olak and I, I painfully
      removed the arrow that had struck me. It bleeding was
      minimal and quickly clotted, but the area was
      throbbing nonetheless. I waited, crouched down in the
      bushes a ways off from the palace. I could hear the
      battle raging on the other side, but stayed put
      despite my desire to go join in. I wanted to help
      them, but I knew deep down that the best thing I could
      do for them would be to take down Ghaur.

      I was trying to study the timing and patterns of the
      guards watching the door so I could plan my attack
      perfectly. Before I could get it down, however, a
      loud, cracking boom sounded from the upper floor of
      the palace. An entire wall fell out, and Warlord Kro
      and Lord Ghaur came flying out the gap it left.

      Kro. My father. He was alive. At first I was overcome
      by sheer joy and happiness at his well being, but I
      soon forced myself to put a grip on my emotions. At
      first, the two grappled with each other as they
      plummeted, but their fall then changed into a soar as
      they gained altitude and flew toward the badlands.

      My joy faded into a grim realization. Yes, my father
      was alive. But the way things were looking; he might
      not be for long. I jumped into action, and rushed the
      guards while they were paying attention to the flight.
      I hit the first across the back of the head, knocking
      him out, but ignored the rest. They tried to mobilize
      and run after me, but I was only after their emergency
      speeder not far away.

      I reached it first, luckily. Hopping in, I realized
      that I had no clue how to work the thing. There was no
      keyhole or starter ignition, just a bunch of
      unlabelled knobs, buttons, and levers. The guards were
      fast approaching; so I hit I picked a large red button
      and hit it. The speeder lurched and took off in a
      flash.

      The steering wheel was more of a joystick, but I found
      I could control it well enough. I felt like I was in a
      Star Wars movie, speeding along a foreign terrain at
      inches off the ground. I didn�t know how or if I�d be
      able to help once I found them, but I just knew I
      couldn�t leave him to die.

      [Kro]

      He was chanting something as we fell. I do not know
      what, but we suddenly soaring through the air instead
      of plummeting. I wanted to fight him in the air, but
      hanging on to him was the only thing keeping me from
      falling to my death. We exited Lemuria, and went all
      the way to the far badlands before he started to bring
      us down behind a mountain. I�d been in the place many
      times before. People were warned not to go here, for
      it was the place of the Infinite Shaft, a gaping hole
      in the ground that extended further than the eye could
      see. Our scientists had once estimated that it went
      all the way to the earth�s core.

      We started to land, but I delivered a sucker punch to
      his face before he could. It was apparent that he
      intended to drop me into the Shaft so I could die
      painfully, but I was not going to give him the chance.
      I fell to the ground, though it was a safe distance to
      drop now. My blow also broke his chant, and he fell to
      the ground also.

      I got up before him and drew my sword at once. Ghaur
      had many magical abilities which no one but he knew
      the limit of. I did not know what he was capable of,
      but I had to get to him before he had a chance to
      attack again.

      But he was too fast. Just as I was a few steps from
      driving my blade into the usurper�s heart, he got to
      his feet and recovered. A couple of indistinguishable
      words later, and I found myself frozen in place,
      unable to move at all.

      He had me beat, and he knew it. He circled me a few
      times, grinning all the while.

      �The brave and noble Warlord Kro. Defeated at last.
      How I�ve longed for this day. I�d ask you for a few
      final words, but I�ve frozen every muscle in your
      body, except for only those necessary to keep you
      alive a little while longer. Because I want you to
      hear this Kro: I have won, and Lemuria is mine. Every
      man, woman, and child shall be under my iron rule, and
      I will torture and kill any of them at the slightest
      whim. After that, the same army that once idolized you
      will be put to work conquering every outer colony in
      the world, and soon all will know and fear my name.

      �I�ve longed for this moment for years, just as you�ve
      longed for the opportunity to kill me. I can take over
      the complete body functions for any Deviant at any
      time I please. (7) Because the complete genome of
      every living member of our race is known to me
      instantly, and I can command their body whenever I
      choose to. Except for you, Kro. I�ve been denied
      murdering you outright for years, because you are
      somehow different. What is it about you Kro? What
      little secret is it that that you hide in your blood?�

      He stared at me intently and relaxed my facial muscles
      just enough to allow me a whisper, but I wouldn�t give
      him the satisfaction. He looked away, as if suddenly
      uninterested in the cause of my immunity.

      �Oh well. it doesn�t truly matter. You may be immune
      to that ability of mine, but after years of
      researching, I�ve found a way around even that
      problem. A nice little spell that gives me temporary
      limited telekinesis. It�ll wear off in a few hours,
      but for the time being, I have a nice little alternate
      method of dealing with you. So go ahead and die, you
      wretch.�

      With a gesture of his hand, he was about to cast me
      into the Infinite Shaft. But suddenly, his head jerked
      another way as he picked something up. I heard it too:
      a speeder coming our direction. He gave me an annoyed
      look and tossed my motionless body into a ditch in the
      ground a ways off from him. With great concentration,
      he chanted an incantation and moved a huge boulder to
      hover above me.

      �Looks like there�s no time for me to watch you die
      slowly and painfully, Kro, and there�s not much point
      in tossing you in there if I can�t enjoy it. I have
      other things to attend to now. You now what they say:
      a tyrant�s work is never done.�

      He freed my body from its frozen state right as he
      dropped the stone. More torture, since I knew for a
      split second that I was free, only to be buried as one
      thousand pounds of crushing rock.

      [Psyclone]

      I arrived just in time to see it. A huge boulder
      coming down on top of Kro. I had found him, just to
      lose him once again. It was so unfair.

      I jumped from the speeder, grabbed my spear, and ran
      towards Ghaur. Tears streamed from my face as thought
      of vengeance rushed through my head. My shoulder hurt
      so bad, but I kept forcing myself to put aside the
      pain. I would beat him for what he did. I had to.

      I didn�t have the chance though. In mid-stride, I
      froze. I�d find out later that it was Ghaur�s ability
      to control any living Deviant that was taking control
      of my body. It had no effect on Kro, but though I was
      his son, I wasn�t entirely immune. And at the time, I
      was utterly perplexed as I was held there, motionless.

      �Your the fool�s little brat, I presume. How ironic
      that I would set my sights on the patriarch, but end
      up getting another member of the family as well. I was
      planning on tossing the recently departed Kro into the
      Infinite Shaft, but you interrupted the process. I
      suppose I�ll have to settle for watching you die.�

      My legs slowly went into action, as I felt myself
      taking one step after another towards a huge whole in
      the earth. Ghaur was obviously planning on having me
      jump in for the fun of it. He made a mistake though.
      My father fought his control, and I would too.

      My legs ached as I fought each step they took. I felt
      Ghaur�s influence over my body, but I tried to impose
      my will over his. I would�ve cried out from the pain,
      had I been able to move my lips. But I kept fighting
      his dominance, and forced my way to the ground a few
      yards in front of the shaft. He tried to make me crawl
      the rest of the way, but I held my ground.

      Ghaur was beginning to get annoyed, and became even
      more determined to exert his will over mine.

      �So I see that some of Kro�s contemptible spirit has
      lived on in you. But it won�t be enough. I�ve already
      won, boy, and there�s nothing you can do to change
      that. Now get up, take a few strides, and end this.
      Jump Psyclone. Jump and die. The Shaft goes on for
      miles, and contrary to what you may have heard, you�re
      likely to remain conscious the whole way down. I am
      your master now, and you will kill yourself at my
      bidding.�

      Ghaur was trying to beat me by weakening my resolve
      through getting me to cave into my fears. But my mind
      still resisted him, even though I felt my body
      starting to give way. And that�s when it hit: his
      control is physical only. And because he�d gained
      dominance over my body, he thought I was helpless. How
      wrong he was.

      I panned all of my concentration into one great
      cyclone, and it took him by surprise. The telekinetic
      twister knocked him back to the very edge of the
      Shaft. His spell was lost, and I dropped back to the
      ground.

      I had broken his attack, but I doubted that I could
      ever thwart him entirely. But what happened next
      amazes me to this day.

      [Kro]

      Ghaur was a moronic fool. I spent over twenty thousand
      years of my life studying strategy and war. He could
      not even execute one man without failing miserably as
      his utter belligerence entirely clouded any unlikely
      reason he possessed.

      The one man was I, however, so it is hard to complain.
      He dropped me in a ditch, leaving me room to work
      with. His first mistake. He unfroze me before dropping
      the boulder. His second mistake. He underestimated me.
      The last mistake he would ever make.

      The most I had ever lifted in my life was eight
      hundred pounds, which was at extreme straining. But
      lying there near death, I heard my son; I heard that
      he was still alive after all. And then I heard Ghaur
      threaten my son, and the adrenaline surged through my
      body.

      Half a ton rock pressed down on me. There were no
      holes to grip onto, so I made some. I took a deep
      breath, and tried to lift.

      I could have attempted to burrow through the ditch
      past the area that the boulder covered, but that is
      not the way of a warrior. I could have waited; hoping
      that someone would come rescue me, but that is not the
      way of a leader. My way is one of honor and respect,
      of facing our challenges and discovering our
      potential. Of strength, endurance, and trial by fire.

      I am Kro, the one true Warlord of Lemuria.

      I pressed up against the rock with every ounce of
      energy I can muster. I heard a flurry of sound out
      there and feared only the worst. I pushed upwards,
      slowly budging the rock, bit by bit, inch by inch. I
      could feel my muscles snapping and a fire burning
      through my bones from the strain. It was a sensation
      of pure and intense pain, and I welcomed it. I had
      felt far greater pain through the millennia, and
      staring at a bolder with more than enough mass to
      easily crush me could nearly be laughed off when
      placed side by side with the other trials I have
      endured. I came close to smiling at that point,
      knowing that Ghaur could never hope to truly beat me.

      The slow inches of movement grew, and soon, I got the
      stone just up and out of its crater, and the lifting
      becomes somewhat easier. Pound upon pound responded to
      my strength, and I was their master. I could have
      rolled the rock away at this point, but I was finding
      myself able to sit up carrying my load, and I was not
      about to stop there.

      Sweat beaded down my forehead as I worked my way to my
      knees. The magnificent boulder on my shoulders, I
      looked up to see an amazed Ghaur staring my way.
      Psyclone was crouched off to the side, injured, but
      not critically.

      For a moment, I felt as if I was the titan Atlas,
      condemned to carry the world on my shoulders. The gods
      sentenced him to an eternity of carrying his hefty
      burden, and so I felt destined to be burdened. But
      Atlas was weak as well. He accepted his punishment and
      never fought back. No matter what happens, I shall
      never give up and stop fighting.

      With a great cry, I leapt to my feet and hurled the
      rock. Ghaur had just been knocked by another attack
      from my son, Psyclone, who must have survived after
      all. My joy was doubled at seeing him, and doubled
      again when I saw the last look of horror that ever
      came across Ghaur�s face. The boulder came down on
      him, and they both fell into the Infinite Shaft.

      Every muscle in my body ached like they were on fire.
      I cared naught. I had felt that stinging before, and I
      knew I would one day feel it again. For that moment,
      all that mattered was the victory we had won.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      [Antediluvian Royal Palace. Psyclone]

      A week had passed since our victory. My shoulder was
      still tender, but was healing nicely. According to one
      of the medics, the shoulder that had struck me hit
      mostly bone, and would heal near fully within another
      week or so, leaving not much beyond an ugly scar.

      Things had been calm the past few days. Without war to
      deter them, the people were very peaceful and caring.
      Everyone had banded together in an effort to rebuild
      and restore from the damage caused in battle. Though
      it�s unfortunate, it appeared that Lemuria�s citizens
      have had extensive experience in rebuilding after
      disasters. Several Deviants made the comment that the
      harm done wasn�t near as bad as the explosion
      Apocalypse once set off below ground. (8)

      Prisoners that had been locked away during Ghaur�s
      reign were immediately freed. There was a look of
      wonder on most of their faces, since they�d feared the
      madman would imprison them forever. We had somehow
      beaten the odds and grasped victory from the clutches
      of hopelessness, and everyone was ready to put their
      lives back together.

      A large funeral service was held for the soldiers that
      had been slain in battle. it was a solemn procession,
      and the mourning was hard to watch at times. A
      realized it was all a part of the grief process, and
      that the mass burials would help us all to move on.
      But still, I felt a stinging in my heart when Olak was
      put among the dead, and dirt was gently thrown over
      them. I had lost a friend that day, and I knew it
      would be something that i could never truly recover
      from.

      But things got better nevertheless. Moods shifted the
      day after the funerals, when a large feast was held at
      the Antediluvian Royal Palace. Everyone was in good
      cheer, and they all seemed eager to put the painful
      past behind them and move on into a bright future.

      That night, a small military ceremony was held in
      which Kro placed the title of Apex upon Sercmed. This
      established good old Sercy as the head general of the
      Lemurian army aside from Kro, and made him responsible
      for training and a large part of combat strategy. He
      looked a bit overwhelmed, but he was obviously ready
      for the challenge.

      Jhilpez always disconnected himself from the group
      during ceremonies and big events. He was first and
      foremost a loner, and you could always tell by looking
      at him and observing his demeanor. He actually didn�t
      even have an official military rank, and he didn�t
      really need one. In the thick of battle, men would
      follow him if need be.

      Then there was Kro. I had thought winning the battle
      would have made him more relaxed, but it seemed to be
      almost the exact opposite. He appeared somewhat
      burdened as he oversaw repairs and restorations. He
      took the responsibility of a head of state very
      seriously, and he was very concerned with the
      well-being of his subjects. He was a good leader, but
      it didn�t make it easy to get close to him.

      It was the seventh day since the war�s conclusion when
      I finally approached him. He was staring out at the
      construction of a new well when I approached him.

      �I appreciate that you have stayed for the duration of
      the first stage of reconstruction, Psyclone,� he said
      as I walked up to his side, �But you are no longer
      required. If you wish transportation to the surface
      world now, it will be provided at once.�

      �I appreciate the offer, but I�ve been thinking, and
      maybe I�ll stay here. I�m starting to get used to
      everything, and hey!--who wouldn�t want to live in a
      guest room at a palace?�

      �Very well then, I will arrange for accommodations for
      your extended stay. Just do not think that life will
      be easy here. But whether you stay or go, it matters
      naught to I.�

      With that, he turned and walked away.

      �It matters naught to I�.....? I had spent so much
      time thinking about whether or not I should leave, and
      the main reason I chose to stay was him. Then he had
      to go throw it in my face that he doesn�t care? Was he
      actually that heartless, or was it an act to keep me
      from expecting too much?

      I sighed and turned to go back inside. I realized that
      it didn�t matter what he meant, things would work out
      for the best no matter what. We still had a long way
      to go, but we�d get there eventually.

      My name is Psyclone, and I am my father�s son.

      fin

      Endnotes:

      1. The revelation occurred last issue.

      2. Kro�s special sword was first seen in Eternals: The
      Herod Factor.

      3. Though they worship the Dreaming Celestial, the
      Deviants still have a deep respect for Gaea, or mother
      earth.

      4. Ranar was killed in Eternals (v.2) #2.

      5. Ghaur�s �master� refers to the Dreaming Celestial,
      whom most of the Deviants worship. Ghaur was the High
      Priest of that religious order.

      6. Psyclone managed to best Olak and several other
      warriors in friendly, meaningless spars last issue.

      7. Ghaur�s ability to take possession of any living
      Deviant through their genetic code was first seen as
      early as Eternals (v.2) #2.

      8. Apocalypse exploded much of Lemuria in New Eternals
      #1, for reasons still unknown.

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