[WAR XI] Echo Through Time [Judged]
“Where are you taking me?”
Echo through Time
A young girl, no older than six, asked the question with her voice shaking fearfully. She stared up at the man roughly dragging by the wrist down a forest path, her big brown eyes swimming with welled-up tears. Above their heads, the night sky glittered with stars just as thick as the humid air. A thin crescent moon, barely hanging into existence, shed little light on the rainforest around them. Their path was only illuminated with the orange glow of a torch solemnly born by the man’s free hand. The writhing flames danced wickedly on the armor that masked his face so well, only adding to the girl’s fears.
The Steelhead said nothing to her as he continued to yank on her arm. With his strong build, he could have easily pulled it out of its socket, but it was no use as the girl tried to resist. Her tears finally began streaming down her round cheeks as she found herself involuntarily led down the limestone-paved path. A pyramidal temple loomed before them, and though the sight of it had once thrilled her, she felt apprehensive about approaching it now. Squirming, she sobbed, “I want Mommy…”
“You’re mommy is not coming,” the Steelhead tersely barked behind his armored mask, his voice surprisingly raspy and asthmatic. “Be silent, child!”
The terrified youth snapped her mouth shut, though her bottom lip quivered. Nervously, she glanced to the trees behind them. Darkness gathered deeply between their trunks, forming ominous shapes that shifted like living creatures with every flicker of the torch. She was positive that horrible monsters waited out there, wanting to pounce on her at any given moment, but she couldn’t decide what was scarier: them, or the man kidnapping her.
At last, they reached the temple gates. The skull-like emblems of the Steelhead grinned evilly from their wood, looking pleased that the mysterious man had brought them a little snack. With a simple gesture of the man’s arm, the gates noisily swung open with all manner of squeaking and groaning. As she was forcefully pulled past the threshold, the girl imagined being swallowed whole by a massive beast. For whatever reason, she got the feeling that she wasn’t going to see the outside of the temple for a long time. The gates sluggishly closed behind them on their own accord, and she took her last look of the tropical flora outside.
The belly of the beast was glumly lit by lines of torches girding a raised alter at the center of the building. Shadows squirmed beyond their reach, and the girl wondered if Magical Creatures shifted within them. They came in all sizes and shapes, from being fluffy and charming, to fierce and terrifying. Many who lived outside the temple were good friends to her, yet those within… she couldn’t be sure. They worked closely with the temple oracles, and since some of those men and women went bad, perhaps the Magical Creatures had as well.
Her kidnapper continued his relentless march, tugging the girl in tow. At the base of the pyramidal altar, five other Steelheads awaited them, their identities obscured by their stoic armor. The girl pleaded silently in her heart that that one would try to rescue her, but to her dismay the oracles didn’t do anything the like. Without saying a word, they respectfully stood aside for her kidnapper to pass by. As they began to ascend the long flight of stairs to the altar’s peak, the Steelheads closed in behind to block any chance of escape for her.
An overwhelming sense of dread settled on the child as she lifted her eyes towards the altar. A great stone dragon glared down at her from there, its snarling face lit up enigmatically from below by blue light. As she got closer, she could see that the light actually came from inscriptions on a stone just her size. Something unspeakable would happen if she went up there; she just knew it.
“No!” she suddenly screamed, planting her feet stubbornly as she tried to wrench back her arm. “No, I won’t!”
“Silence!” her captor growled, jerking her limb harshly. He pointedly ignored her yelp of pain and continued half-dragging her up the rest of the stairs. Curtly, in his wheezing voice, he hissed, “You will do as I say!”
The girl whimpered, but wasn’t about to give up. Using her free hand, she began pounding on his meaty arm, yelling shrilly, “Let go of me!”
The Steelheads all paused, though not at her resistance. Mixing with her cries where those of the Magical Creatures stirring in the darkness. They sounded anguished and outraged, as if they wanted to rush to the young girl’s side but were restrained by some unseen force. A wide variety of trumpeting roars, whistling, and growls vibrated off the stone of the temple like a wild zoo unleashed.
“Keep them in line,” the leader of the Steelhead ordered, sounding for the first time a little wary. After the simultaneous shaking of helmets, however, they continued onward. Her strength as powerful as a dried twig, the young child was unable to do so much as slow their progress. Reluctantly she found herself at the dragon statue’s feet, beside the eerie glow of the carved rock. The other Steelheads formed a circle around her and their leader, backs facing them. The uproar below calmed somewhat, though tension still chocked the air.
“Let us begin,” gruffly the kidnapper said. He lowered his torch to the shallow dish resting on the altar’s crown, which immediately ignited. Then, without hesitance, he threw the torch ceremoniously between the dragon’s feet. That, too, caused flames to erupt, fully lighting the platform they stood on. The girl gulped as she took in the statue’s regal appearance, from the crested head held high by a long neck, to the tip of its slender but powerful tail. It lacked wings, but easily made up for the loss with wicked spikes and horns all over its body. A jewel lay in its chest, sparking in the dancing flames. Though made of stone, the creature looked very much alive to her.
“Master of time, Father of history,” the girl’s captor bellowed, performing a deep bow to the stoic statue. “Thy humble servants call thee. Come to us at this time of need; witness this: the donning of new armor!”
With that, the fervent man roughly pushed the child to her knees, yet his unrestrained strength ended up throwing her all the way to the ground. With new bruises and scrapes on her delicate skin, fresh tears began flowing once more across the youth’s round cheeks. When she dared to lift her gaze back up to the statue, she could have sworn she saw an angry glint its eyes.
Then, the temple doors swung open.
“Let her go, Jirelm!” a heaven-sent voice echoed across the empty air behind them, bold and defiant. The girl whirled her head about, trying to find the source of such an encouraging challenge, but her kidnapper scowled. Wrapping his hand around her small neck, he forced her to remain kneeling at the dragon’s feet.
“What are you doing here?” she heard him wheeze behind his steel mask. “This is sacred ground! Only temple oracles may tread here. And you, Enik, are no longer one of us!”
“I know what you’ve been doing!” the intruder continued, his voice growing stronger as he drew closer. “You’ve been abusing your power as Captain, corrupting the Steelheads!”
“And now,” another voice, this one feminine, joined in at his side, “You are bringing an innocent child into this chaos!”
“You’ve disgraced this temple, Jirelm!” came a third voice, a male with a deeper and more penetrating voice.
Jirelm chuckled, sending shivers crawling down the girl’s spine. In his raspy voice that made the girl want to clear her own throat, he grimly replied, “You assume much, but I am afraid you fault at many levels.” He raised a hand, indicating the steel that he himself bore. “None of you understand the true power of this armor, nor realize its great potential. Those few who do comprehend should wield it, not fear it. As for the girl… she’s not as innocent as you would think.”
Heart thrumming inside her chest, the little girl’s lower lip started to tremble. She didn’t understand any of this. Why was this man being so mean? What was he talking about? And most importantly, what was he going to do to her? She squirmed, tying to see who the others were while hoping that they were heroes. Come save me, please! she begged. Her captor tightened her grip, keeping her in place, so eventually she resulted to screaming, “H-help!”
“Enough, Jirelm! Release her!” the first voice, the man apparently named Enik, fiercely demanded. His voice was tight with concern and outrage, apparently very worried about her well-being. He is going to save me, the girl wanted to cry. Before she got her hopes too high, a great roar shook the temple walls. The three rescuers cried out as something attack them that the girl couldn’t see.
“Never!” the crazed Steelhead laughed back, a wild glint appearing in his eye. He finally spun the girl around to allow her one good look at her so-called heroes, all who faced a livid Magical Creature—a dragon, though much different than the statue. This beast stood on two legs, with its forelimbs ending in sharp and ready talons and a pair of wings rising behind it. The flame on its tail dimly revealed its snarling face, glaring murderously at the three braves.
“Saeri, Teth! Be wary,” Enik warned the man and woman standing with him. “It’s being controlled by the Steelheads!”
“You do not understand,” Jirelm lifted his voice once again, holding the girl out for them to see. “This child has the potential to rewrite history! She has more power than you and I together, power that has yet to be tapped into. Soon, I will claim that power for the benefit of all mankind!”
“What folly do you speak?” Teth, dark-haired and dark-skinned, barked back with a frustrated thrust of his arm.
“It is the Bond, the great Harmony; this child has the strongest of any I’ve ever seen in a human—stronger even than her father. She alone can achieve the greatest level of control, becoming one with any Magical Creature… even the great deities…”
Teth and Saeri exchanged befuddled glances, but the older and wiser Enik widened his eyes.
“You mean…” he trailed off, weathered face paling.
“Yes, Enik,” Jirelm smirked as if greatly humored. “I do mean that. She is more than a young Oracle. She is a true Prophetess. Her heart, pure and good, harmonizes on a level much higher than ours. And soon… she’ll belong to me.”
With those arcane words, Jirelm abruptly turned his back to them and sharply tipped the burning dish over on the altar. The young girl yelped as some of the flaming fluid splashed onto her arm, burning the skin. At the sound of her cry, Teth, frost-haired Saeri, and Enik leapt forward, but the dragon barred their way with a jet of flames from its mouth. Meanwhile, the rest of the oil slowly dripped down the sides of the stone alter-head, over the glowing blue runes. After the liquid reached the base, the whole stone illuminated with a brilliant eruption of white-hot fire. Jirelm and his captive both were blinded by the flash, but as their eyes recovered they saw the altar was just as it existed before… save for a metal helm resting on its crown as white as ice.
Beneath his own helmet, the captain of the Steelhead grinned triumphantly. The armor had been forged, and now only one thing remained. He prodded the girl forward, saying loud for everyone to hear, “Behold your armor, child.”
She stared at it wide-eyed in both wonder and horror, utterly mesmerized. Just by gazing at it, she could tell that it would fit her small head perfectly. The white metal had intricate silver etchings in its mirror-smooth surface. Its gilded edges danced in the firelight, beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Though the girl longed to try it on, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something unspeakable would happen if she did. Only after Jirelm lifted the helm from the pedestal did the spell break. She didn’t understand what was going on, but she knew one thing for certain: she couldn’t let that strange relic rest on her head.
At the moment Jirelm held it out to her, she jolted away before the elder Steelhead could stop her.
“Seize her!” Jirelm hissed in intense irritation, signaling to his statue-like guards. The other Steelhead had been standing idly by, but at his words one automatically detached himself from the circle to chase her down. She found too late that she was cornered. The Steelheads had her trapped easily atop the pinnacle of the pyramid, backed up against the flaming statue. Jirelm was approaching behind his lackey, the enchanting armor waiting patiently in his hands. The girl glanced between the fire and the men while trying to decide which was worse.
“Nowhere to run now, girl,” Jirelm sneered. “No one will save you.”
She whimpered piteously, pleading to some unknown entity with all her heart. Over and over, she chanted to herself, don’t let them get me. Don’t…
All the sudden, a fierce red light ignited above their heads. With a startled gasp, the girl looked up to see what its source could be. The statue… its eyes were glowing…
“Ha ha ha!” laughed Jirelm maniacally at the sight, not at all surprised or disturbed. “It’s working! He’s coming!”
The girl—skin crawling at the eerie sight—was snatched up by the nameless Steelhead while she stared distractedly at the statue. He moved quickly, twisting her arms behind back with his thickly calloused hands. She cried out in protest, but she was forced to face Jirelm once more. The armor began to lower, honing in on her coppery hair.
“No!” she screamed. She thrashed in the Steelhead’s iron-like grip, even lashing out with her feet, but nothing she tried could stop Jirelm from his goal.
“Stop, you fool!” someone shouted from behind.
“You can’t stop destiny, Enik!” Jirelm countered without turning, his raspy voice bleeding with craze. “Let Dialga show his face! By then, he’ll be too late! I will have control over him! Over all history!”
The girl felt a strange sensation wash over her as the helm fell only inches away from her head. She stopped struggling and fell still, like something reached into her and shut off the controls. It was like she was falling into a trance, losing her will and her very being. The rim brushed against her hair…
“No!” Enik yelled once more, suddenly appearing behind Jirelm. He wrapped his strong arms around the captain’s neck and pulled back. The both of them stumbled to the ground, causing the white armor to fly from Jirelm’s hand to clatter against the stone ground. The surrounding Steelheads belatedly rushed forward to assist their leader. They never got the chance.
An earth-splitting roar shook everyone to their knees.
Saeri and Teth—who had just reached the top of the stairs—nearly lost their balance, but it was the sight they beheld just ahead that just about caused them to tumble back down. The statue was alive, stomping and snarling with great agitation. Steel horns as sharp as blades rose from its head, angling alongside a brilliant blue crest. Sharp spikes sprouted from its chest, rump, and spine. An ominous crystalline stripe raced down its sides, glowing with sapphire light that made up for the loss of the flames that had been extinguished at its clawed feet. The creature was giant, taking up the empty space before them with its regal but menacing air.
“Dialga,” Enik and Jirelm whispered together, forgetting their quarrel for a brief instance.
The soldier holding the girl lost all poise at the sight of the beast. He let her fall limply to the ground as he stumbled backward like a timely coward. Jirelm cursed him under his breath before shoving Enik away and making a mad dash for the fallen armor. However, Dialga saw his motion and growled menacingly, enough to make even the most weathered veteran freeze in cold blood. To Saeri and Teth’s wonder, they watched the Magical Creature lower its head protectively over the girl. The two exchanged mystified looks, blankly wondering why a Legend would come to her aide. What exactly was so special about this child? Jirelm, on the other hand, either didn’t notice the warning or pointedly ignored it. He snatched up the armor and scrambled to his feet, wheezing with the effort. Just as he whirled about, the mighty dragon ripped out another thunderous roar.
The whole platform shook beneath their feet. Steelheads, losing all courage, tumbled down the pyramid’s side as they lost balance. Even Saeri and Teth couldn’t keep their stance, falling down the stairs a few feet backwards. Soon only Jirelm, Enik, and the young child remained on the crown with a wrathful deity.
Jirelm—instead of doing the sensible— stomped his feet like a spoiled boy who failed to get his way. “She is mine! You are mine!” he challenged Dialga shamelessly, holding out the helm defiantly.
He is mad, Enik gaped incredulously. Screaming at a Legend as powerful as this? The man was seeking his own end.
The dragon narrowed its red eyes within its armored face. Once more it opened its maw, but a roar did not issue forth this time. Instead, the very air around them began to speak with a hundred voices.
“A special gift was given to this day and age, a precious one with power to brighten the path of both man and creature. Yet it is not well received, nigh abused, and brought close to destruction. Thou hast proved that such a gift was not ready to be given. Therefore…” the voices began to rise in volume, shaking the walls of the temple to their very core. “IT SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY!”
Jirelm and Enik shielded their ears from the intensity of the word, but to no use. Somehow the speech reached deep into their souls, inescapable and undeniable. As they cringed in pain, they failed to see the blue diamond on Dialga’s chest shine with white-hot light. The creature lifted its head up high, and released a roar unlike any man had ever before heard. The diamond’s light flared out and consumed the top of the altar head, blinding any unfortunate enough to stare through it. Then, as quickly as it happened, it ended. The light faded, and a chocking silence fell upon the temple.
“Enik!” Saeri called out, managing to regain her footing. She raced to the top as quick and swiftly as a panther, with a disoriented Teth following behind. As soon as they reached it, they felt the weight of the silence on their shoulders. Enik wasn’t there. No one was, nothing. Jirelm and the girl, as well as the statue and the stone were nowhere to be seen. Nothing was left of that chaotic scene but an empty platform and scorch marks left from the fire…
“Enik…” Saeri breathed, hands flying to her face in dismay. Teth came up behind her, face solemn, and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She turned to him, eyes watering, and asked, “Where are they? Where did they go?”
Teth couldn’t meet her gaze. He stared off into the emptiness and said, “I don’t know…”
Last edited by Charmander009; 07-08-2012 at 02:40 AM.