By William Warren
The heavy iron gate dissipated into mist as they approached, solidifying the instant they were through. Their pace never slowed, never strayed from the pat; every fraction of a second that passed was another pound of sand that poured from the broken hourglass of their leader’s life. Blood soaked the streets behind them, as it dripped from their hands in a constant trickle from the gaping hole in their charge’s stomach.
They carried him on a makeshift stretcher, assembled out of two logs and torn leather strip from their satchels, and their leader, who lay on top of it, bounced madly as they ran. By now people had gathered along the edges of the streets to watch as their soldiers brought yet another fallen hero back as he ran into the arms of death. But death was not an option here. Not now. Not when so much relied on him.
The dark grey doors to the Inner Keep, which loomed high above their heads, swung inward on liquid hinges, allowing the small party to pass through into the Keep beyond. Emerald green surges of some form of energy lanced across the walls as they staggered through, coming to rest briefly over all the new arrivals, identifying them instantly before disappearing into the holographic security mainframe while a pleasant voice said, “Welcome, members of the Fourth Battalion of Gerindral” as they rushed through. They hurried on, toward the well-trodden Main Road; they knew the way very well by now. The metal high-rises on either side had been fortified recently, and the Quick-Assemble scaffolding was still in place, casting shadows over the cold grey road, reminiscent of the beasts of legend, ready to swallow the group at any moment.
For a Daystar Home, this was anything but cheerful. Everything was in dark grey and emerald, with the same green energy surging through every object, whether actually functioning for some purpose, or just to give a semblance of security to those who lived there, they knew not. The people who inhabited the city usually stayed indoors, fearing the wrath of the elements outside; Gerindral was a barren volcanic rock-world, with freak lightning storms and ash floods that, were it not for the city’s force-fields, would have consumed it long ago.
The trip through the city was short, but every drop of blood that spilled from their leader’s wound was counted off the meager hours he had left to live, and every second felt like a lifetime- they could not run any faster, but they knew they had to. There was only one thing that could save the life of Commander Ferlon now.
Koroka’s Grand Temple loomed ahead, the Daystar’s Sanctum, at the end of the humongous thoroughfare, its pyramid-style architecture startlingly plain compared to the extravagant, ostentatiously complex high-rises beside it seemed more like the kind of place that would be occupied by an Immortal. The front doors were diagonal, lying into the surface of the sharply-sloping pyramid, and they were sealed shut, and even welded, but still the soldiers ran on. Immortals did not need guards to protect themselves, but still there was a group of twelve lined on either side of the walkway leading up to the door, their long, electrically- charged spears barring the way. When the group approached, the guards raised their spears to allow them to pass through, and the doors to the Temple swung outward, the welding melting away into a series of trenches and pools carved into the doors.
When they entered, the light there was blinding. Whites and reds were prevalent, and it seemed that everything here was in stark contrast to what was outside- here was the home of a Daystar. There was no furniture, no decoration, no embellishment on the walls, and yet the whole place seemed as though it really didn’t need anything else, as if it were perfect just by itself. The hall was long, wide, and when they looked up, they couldn’t see the ceiling. Though, that could be explained, as they couldn’t even see the floor. It was as if they were walking in a room that was entirely visual, with no hold in the physical realm. The blood that dripped to the floor seemed to hover in mid-air, and they noticed that some of the droplets didn’t even reach the ground; they just hung in the air. The whole interior of the Temple was like an unstable kaleidoscope. But there was no time to wonder now- not when their Commander’s life was leaving them by the moment.
At the other end of the hall there was a door, made of some kind of bright iridescent red energy, which parted in the middle when they reached it, and moved into two shafts that defined the edge of the doorway. It was just wide enough for them to pass through as they were.
They ran into the Throne Room, and came face-to-face with Koroka himself. He was seated on a throne of emerald energy, which shimmered in and out of existence like everything else in the room, and he held in his hands a long golden celestial rod, with a glass sphere at the top with stained parts in the shape of the continents of Gerindral. A system of clouds even circled it. When they looked up, it seemed as though there was no ceiling, and that they were really looking at a mix of the sky above, and what seemed to be the bottom of an ocean, with exotic fish swimming through the stars, which were growing kelp and coral formations, and the clouds were made of schools of minnows that darted around wildly.
“Welcome, my people,” Koroka greeted them, his voice resounding from every direction at once. “And what brings you to my door today?” Custom demanded that they always state their business when they came before a Daystar, even if the reason for their presence was as obvious as a dying man.
“We seek your aid. Our commander is dying, and there is no means of keeping him alive that we have access to in the entire system, and even if we did, it would not come quick enough.” The Sergeant of the troop of ten, Calim, stepped forward respectfully. “The only thing that can save our greatest leader is the blood of an immortal- Ichor, as we mortals call it.”
“And so you come for my blood? And you think that I would just cut open my sacred skin and give you the blood of my life because you ask for it? Why should I give it to you- what good would a mortal be to me? He cannot kill my adversaries, only their pawns, which cannot kill me. I am not about to shed some of my godhood for someone who is little more than an inanimate game piece to me. Would you give your blood to save a game piece? Hmm? No? Then why should I? If you can come up with an answer to this question, then you can have my blood.”
“But we don’t have time! He’s dying, for Origin’s sake!” Calim had to fight to keep his tone level, so as not to offend the Daystar.
“Not in my halls.” Koroka’s dazzling face seemed to grin. “In my halls, death is forbidden. But healing is beyond this room’s capabilities. Now, if I may ask,” he slipped off the throne, which vanished as soon as it lost contact with him, “why do you care for your leader so much? You have plenty of time to explain yourselves.”
Calim took a deep breath, and said, “He was the ruler of this planet, as you know, before the Daystars came and took us in. Our planet is divided into two races, the Demar, and the Kadrim, of which I am part. For many years, the Demar ruled the planet, and they put the Kadrim under harsh persecution, just because our blood is of a different hue than theirs, and for many centuries we hardly could enjoy life. Then, Commander Ferlon came along, one of the Kadrim, and he made his way into the upper echelons of power, as his father had been a Demar and his mother a Kadrim. He sought to create equality between our races, and through his example, and his challenges to strive to be more than bigots, he succeeded. Then, the Daystars came, and upset our newly found stability with their war, and the Darkstars followed them. Commander Ferlon was my country’s idol, our role model, and it was because of your war that he was slain. The least you can do is give back the last token of our old lives in return for taking away them entirely.”
The Kadrim’s appearance was somewhat reptilian. Their skin was scaly, their pupils mere slits, and their bipedal gait more of a bobbing slither. They all had long, powerful prehensile tails and armored, feathered crests on top of their heads, and two sets of arms. Koroka found them both fascinating and repulsive, but they were a good people, overall. Better than the Demar, at any rate.
“A rousing story. But you forget that the Darkstars were already coming here, and we followed them, in order to save whatever civilization they besieged from harm. So, in a way, we saved you.”
“But are saviors supposed to come, do the saving, and then leave the people as they were before? Otherwise, you are little better than those who came to enslave, forcing your doctrines and ways of life upon us. We were a wholesome and good world before you came.”
“A wholesome and good world on the verge of a civil war. One of our numbers can see into the future, and what she saw was a true horror. One of the Demar would assassinate Ferlon, and in retribution, the Kadrim would attack, and a civil war would ensue that would end with the entire planet’s destruction when you decide that the only way to end the war would be to destroy everything on the planet. You would all die, and where would your good and wholesome planet be then? There would be a list as long as you of the several places it would be. So we really saved all of you twice, including the life of Ferlon.”
“Then if you saved him, what would be the point if he were to die here because of you. All you did was trade one kind of death for another.”
Koroka was about to answer, when suddenly the walls disappeared, as well as the city around it, and the floor which held them raced across the scorched land to a position twenty miles south of the city, where a massive army of Darkstar Minions, consisting mostly of Demar, were marching in the direction of the city. Then, the walls rose back up, and things were as they had been.
Koroka snarled. “Legion is coming. Your commander will have to wait- leave him here; as long as the fortress walls stay standing, he will be safe. Come! We have much to do, and barely a few minutes to do it.” The alarms were already sounding outside.
“What do you want us to do?” Calim asked, inserting his bayonet into his pistol.
“You want to save your captain? Then do exactly as I say. At the other end of the city is a set of four cannons. I need you to get to them, and concentrate your fire on the Darkstar that comes. He will want to destroy my Temple, the source of my power on this planet. I have imbued those cannons with my own power, so they can kill him, but only if you manage to hit him. Legion won’t be an easy target. If you kill Legion, I will save your Commander.”
“Why can’t you just use the power yourself, and kill him with it?”
Koroka hesitated, then said, “I guess there’s enough time to explain. The reason we all came to your planet in the first place is because of the core. The core of the planet was one of Origin’s relics, capable of being harnessed into the power of a horde of Daystars, and with it, one could destroy the other side of this war entirely. No one else knows of this but Legion and I, and that is why we have been warring over this for so long. My power alone is not strong enough to combat with Legion, but I managed to get a sliver of the metal from the core when a volcano erupted a couple of years ago. With this sliver I could kill him, but the only way I can use it is through the cannons your people designed for me. That is all the explaining I have time for. Now get moving or I’ll rethink my bargain!”
They ran their separate ways.
As they ran down the Entrance Hall, Calim ordered his soldiers to form into two even groups, each with a separate objective.
“Team one, you have to defend the hall. If any of the Demar gets through the Temple gate, you’re Ferlon’s only hope. Team two, you’re with me, we’re going to get those cannons. Ryot, you’re in charge of team one. Now let’s go!” They burst out of the Temple gate and ran.
Koroka donned his golden helmet and stood in front of the city gate, waiting for the adversary he could not beat. Immortals, which could only be killed by other immortals, had only one thing to fear- those who were stronger in power than them. Legion was above most in the entire Darkstar empire.
The Daystar’s staff shimmered with the power of its master, dancing around and changing shapes as it flew around him while his hands were occupied empowering his armor. His senses heightened when he began to hear the thumping footsteps of the Darkstar army as it marched along its way toward the city. The defenses would be uncannily lucky to be able to survive more than ten minutes against Legion’s masses, and if they were unlucky, they would fall almost as soon as the Darkstar looked at them. Time was the thing they needed the most, and unfortunately, time was the one thing that they did not have. Koroka scowled and brooded as his armies gathered behind him on the steep slopes of the city’s battlements, forming lines and running diagnostic check-ups on their armor and weapons as they waited in line to die. They all knew that they were completely useless in this fight, like the AI units in an army training simulator. The only thing that really mattered in the fight was the immortals fighting each other, and the Mortals could do nothing to change the tide of that fight.
To them, Koroka looked as a god should; shining golden armor, dark grey skin and eyes of pure green fire, and his armor emitting its own light, as bright as the sun, while his staff bore the image of their world on it which, though they were all at varying distances from it, they saw as clear as if they were holding it in their own hands. But this image of a god would do nothing to help them when he would be nothing more than a corpse on the ground. He didn’t even know what would happen to an immortal when they died. Would they become a corpse, while their souls would move on to the next life? Would their bodies and souls go on together in a flash of light? Would they even go anywhere after they died? He had never been told, and he had never bothered to ask, as he had never thought that he might have died. Immortals shouldn’t die; it was simply wrong. It was against all the descriptions of being immortal. Didn’t being immortal mean you would not, and could not, die? It just didn’t compute that an immortal would cease to be immortal just because one of their own drew arms against them. For that matter, if the wars of immortals could be solved through killing each other, then why did they drag the mortals into it? Wasn’t it terribly unfair that the immortals play games of chess with innocents who need not die for nothing, as the ones who were manipulating them could so easily stab each other under the playing table at the end of the game, thereby making the sacrifices of the pieces completely meaningless? Koroka could never understand his life as a Daystar immortal or his place among the universe, so he didn’t try.
Koroka looked out over the soon-to-be battlefield, a wide, rolling plain hemmed in on all sides by tall mountains of coal-black igneous rock that reached into the sky like a demon’s fingers. Legion’s armies were just on the other side of the narrow pass through the mountains, and the Kadrim had set up an avalanche trap at the end of it, so as to minimize the losses of their soldiers when the inevitable confrontation came. It was a miracle they had not needed to use it until now. They had a few other traps, but they all knew that they could do little more than subdue Legion for a few seconds at most, if he fell into all of them. Koroka thought, at least a few seconds may be enough to turn the tide if they were extremely lucky. If they were not, then he couldn’t bear to think what might happen. If things went as he expected, he may very well get to know firsthand what happens when an immortal dies.
When he saw the first lines of Demar come through the pass, he gave the signal for the first deception. A Kadrim Sergeant activated a remote control, and a deep rumbling filled the arena as the walls of the pass collapsed just as a monstrous black form came through, covering the entire army in piles of heavy boulders. Demar had a natural exoskeleton that protected them from many kinds of attacks, but they were sure to feel a fifty-ton rock falling on them from a hundred feet in the air. There were no guarantees that it would kill them, however. Just maim, or seriously injure. Regrettably, not kill them; only energy weapons were capable of cutting through their armor.
And, as he had expected, a few seconds after the falling rocks had engulfed them, he began to see moving shapes pulling themselves free of the wreckage, and then, they were covered again by the dust of what had once been rocks blasted out from the inside. A massive black figure leaped out of the rubble, while his minions struggled to free themselves. He seemed completely unharmed despite the fact that the brunt of the pile had been dumped on him, and he strode toward the city with renewed fervor, carrying an axe the size of Koroka himself over his shoulder. His skin was webbed with orange vein-like cracks reminiscent of the floor of a dormant volcano, which poured out bright fumes that melted the ground he walked on while his feet sank into it with his unimaginable weight. His red hair waved like fire in the hot wind, as did his garments, which seemed to be composed of pure smoke, trailing behind him as he walked.
As Legion approached, the entire army began to hear his voice in their heads, a low, resonant rumble that bespoke of a pure, incurable loathing. “You dare side with the Daystars? You side against the sword that will strike you down. You cannot hope to win this war, and so I present to you three choices: you stay here, to die, you run away, to die, or you join us, to live to fight another day.”
The Kadrim all shouted back unmentionable retorts, which bolstered Koroka’s outlook on the fight, and he saw Legion’s flaming appearance flare up in anger at his rebuff. The Darkstar’s footsteps grew deeper and more pronounced on the ground. “Then you have chosen your destruction.” He hefted the axe and strode toward the Kadrim, just as his minions finished extracting themselves from the rocks.
The last few seconds before the front lines clashed were frighteningly silent. There were no war cries, no weapons clashing against shields, no premature gunfire lancing over their heads; there was only silence. When they collided, however, there was instant chaos. The Kadrim front line held for half a second before the Demar pushed through, cutting down the defenders with no regard, and the Kadrim fell by the dozen to every Demar that was slain. Koroka’s rod struck down only those whose loyalties did not belong to him, passing through Kadrim like mist and snapping back into tangibility to knock down Demar like overstuffed sacks of flour, using its power to stop the hearts of its victims and kill them instantly.
Legion, on the other hand, showed no discrepancy when he swung his axe through the armies; he struck down friend and foe alike when his weapon plunged into the ground, creating electric fire shockwaves that rippled through the ground and sent the people flying, followed directly by a single shaft of blue electricity that linked them to the ground, illuminating the battlefield in a beautiful display that seemed to mock the direness of the circumstances.
All the while, the evil immortal moved on, his flaming eyes set on Koroka, and those eyes read murder. Pure, unadulterated, bloody, shameless, eternal murder.
“How in the name of all hells that may be did they get through the city’s defenses so quickly?!” Calim gunned down a charging Demar with twelve shots to the face, before ramming the bladed muzzle of the repeating weapon through into his gut, crushing through the grey exoskeleton in an instant. They had designed these weapons for the sole purpose of killing the Demar, and they were not about to lose their function anytime soon.
Halfway through their run through the city, they had run into enemy territory in their own city. An army of Demar had fallen from the sky, having come in on silent ships over the city and through the protective security scanners without triggering any alarms. Calim knew that more would be coming; it had always been a Demar tactic to send in small parties at a time over a long period of time.
The other four Kadrim were faring worse than he; one had fallen, and the other three were engaged in some kind of melee with a Demar Elite who seemed to be taking them on just as easily as he would a single child. Calim drove the butt of his rifle into another Demar’s neck, feeling a satisfying crunch as it shattered the exoskeleton and the pulpy flesh underneath, and moved on to fire the rest of his clip into the Demar Elite, doing little damage to the thick stone it had in place of the normal protection for his kind. There were no breaks in the armor; it was one sheet of some stone-like substance, and the only place where it did not cover the entirety of its form was its eyes. But they were so incredibly small that they would be impossible targets unless he managed to climb up onto its massive head. On a strange note, he wondered how it could possibly relieve itself with that exoskeleton.
Wait- that’s it.
He reloaded his weapon and took aim, and the creature fell.
“And that is why I made it to the Planetary Marines, and you didn’t.” He led his men on, through the deserted streets, toward their goal.
Just as more Demar repelled into the city.
We don’t have time for this!
The defending squad heard the deafening rumbles outside, and knew that the day of reckoning for their planet had finally come. This day would call into account all that had ever happened previously- if they lost this day, then there would be no tomorrow to which to wake up. They would all die, no questions asked. Their leader, hanging in the balance point between life and death would die just like everyone else, and there would be nothing they could do to stop it. When the walls began to crack, they knew their minutes were numbered.
Legion brought his blade down upon Koroka’s rod, and the resulting explosion swept the entire battlefield, knocking everyone off their feet and careening into the mountains. The Kadrim died upon impact, but the Demar, whose natural protection had saved them so many times before, picked themselves up, and ran for the city, leaving the immortals to fight their own battle.
Koroka could never tire, but neither could Legion; the only way for the fight to really end would be for one of them to make a mistake. Immortals were given free will and intelligence, but not infinite knowledge; they could fall just like everyone else. They could make mistakes; they could blunder their way through their unending life, if that was how they had been created. Koroka and Legion had been placed at the heads of armies because they were better than other immortals, and now was the best chance to prove it. The thunder of the drums dictated the rhythm of the falls, the number of dead.
Koroka brought his staff around his head and swung it down on Legion, who sidestepped gracefully and rammed his axe at his foe’s throat, before having his attack swatted aside and returned with a series of quick swipes, directed anywhere he could, at random points. Legion leaped backwards, and in mid-jump, his features blurred, became rigid, and then grew. His size doubled, and then tripled, and then tripled again, until his head was higher than the mountains. After that, he simply walked past Koroka and on to the city, trampling his men who had not yet breached the walls as he did so. In one swing he blew open the door, and was on his way to the temple, knocking down buildings with the corner of his foot. Koroka bounded after him and used his power reserves to move at light speed so that he arrived at the Temple just before Legion.
The towering Darkstar pushed aside a fifty-story skyscraper, and pushed his way through the wreckage to the Temple, eyes fixed on Koroka. “You’re quick, little one. But that cannot save you now.” He raised his foot, as if to stomp on him, but instead, he brought it down on the walls of the Temple.
The Daystar felt the impact himself, and as the stone doors crashed open, he fell to the ground, screaming. “Goodbye, little one.” Legion raised his axe to bring it down on the Temple, and then would end the life of his enemy.
Calim could see the cannons, at the top of the wall, on four separate turrets, but between them and their goal stood over a hundred Demar, all running toward them and screaming their war-cries. The four Kadrim fired unending rounds into the oncoming force, but even the cream of the crop of the Kadrim forces could not hold their own against those odds for all that long.
“If you’ve got any grenades, now’d be the time to use ‘em!” He hurled one at the Demar, and after a slight delay, it erupted, sending them flying into the buildings lining the street. They kept coming, their numbers still far too great to comprehend. The only lucky thing was that Demar had some religious hatred of ranged weapons, and so only fought with handheld tools of death, so the Kadrim could keep shooting them down while they tried to close the distance. Clip capacity was going to be a problem, though, as they only had so many, even if every clip could contain a thousand rounds. The countdown meters on their weapons ticked off the number of saviors they had left before they had to reload, and it seemed as though the endless shots they had fired were doing nothing to thin their numbers. Calim and his allies did all they could, but standing there, they were as good as dead. When the Demar got too close, they ran back down the road and to a sideway on the right, their leader having told them via their radios to follow him.
Calim knew the city very well by now, and there were many other ways to get where they needed to go, if they could manage to shake off their pursuers. Another right brought them to a narrow alleyway, where they dropped handfuls of land-mines behind them as they climbed up onto a fire escape leading up to the top of the twenty-story building, and from there they fired a hole in the side of the building next to them, and after a momentary hesitation, Calim lead his remaining men in a leap over the narrow chasm between the close-packed buildings and into what appeared to have been an apartment. They burst through the door into the hall and through the one across it, into an apartment that was still occupied.
“Get out of here! Go!” One of the soldiers ushered them to the fire escape and then followed Calim over onto the next building. There was no time to get vertigo here; if they fell, they died, if they stopped, they died, one way or the other.
Once on the roof of the next building, they turned left, back in the direction of the turrets, just as the Demar poured out of the building behind them. There were less of them now, the rest having gone off to some other part of the city to wreak havoc, but the Kadrim were still outnumbered. There was no time to shoot them down, only enough to leap across to the next high-rise fire escape, climbing up to the roof. Every second that they spent here was one that Legion spent getting closer to their leader, and every instant was vital. This was taking too much time.
“Sharny- got any high-damage mines left?” He called to their demolitions master.
“Whole bag full.”
“We’re gonna need ‘em. Head for that warehouse there!” He turned left, ran parallel with the cannons and leapt onto a wide building a few stories shorter than the one they had been on. The impact was jarring, but his soldier’s training had hardened him above those levels of pain, and he kept running. “Toss ‘em over!” He held out his hands.
Sharny threw over the bag, and Calim began dropping its contents over the roof, setting them for a thirty-second delay. Then they ran as if the devil himself were chasing them, the Demar soldiers on their heels. The structure across from them was a small residence, just perfect for a landing. Calim counted off the seconds as he ran, until their pursuers would go up in flames.
The edge of the warehouse seemed hopelessly far away.
The Demar were closing the distance at an alarming rate, their superior muscle structure carrying them faster than their prey.
They would never get there in time.
He wheeled around and swung the butt of his rifle into the temple of the Demar who had almost taken off his head, knocking it out cold. He kept running.
The first mine detonated prematurely, sparking the others. The chain reaction of explosions gained ground on them faster than they could outrun it, tearing through the Demar like a whip striking glass. Calim could feel its heat searing his scaled back, and the shockwave from the blast pushing him and his allies away, over the space between the two buildings, and throwing them onto the roof of the residence. Calim slid down the steep roof, his uniform tearing at the hands of the rough wood, frantically trying to find something to grab onto.
He felt himself tumble off the edge of the roof and into open space, knowing that any moment he would hit the ground and die, but the impact he felt was anything but rough. He felt like he had landed in a stack of hay, or a pile of pillows, rather than a stone sidewalk. When he dragged himself to his feet, he found himself in a pile of discarded clothing items, gathered outside the door of the residence, which was the city’s orphanage. He chuckled to himself and continued his running, seeing his comrades, who had landed with more grace than he had, dismounting the building and following behind him.
The cannons were mounted on top of four separate towers, accessible by a single spiral staircase made of iron that lead up onto the battlements. After that there were wooden ladders that got them up to the cannons themselves.
Calim prayed that there was still enough time.
“Ah…your throne room.” Legion had cleft the wall in two, and the throne room was revealed, and now that its power had broken, the Kadrim’s leader’s wound began to ooze blood again. “And a mortal in it, to boot.” Legion laughed, though there was no mirth in it. “These Kadrim always have been good at worming their ways out of trouble- let’s see you wriggle out of this.”
But at that instant, the other five Kadrim soldiers flung themselves on top of their leader, shielding him from the Darkstar, though they knew it would avail them not. Legion simply waved his hand, and they melted away, vaporizing into nothingness in a moment.
Koroka lay on the ground by the ruined wall, a short ways away from Legion, and though there were no wounds on him, Ichor flowed out of the Daystar’s skin, a thick gold liquid that caused flowers to spring up where it hit the ground. He saw Legion raising his axe again to strike down on Commander Ferlon, just as a bright red shaft of light struck his head. It did little on its own, but it caused him to stagger and hesitate, before bringing his axe down. In one last spark of inspiration, Koroka did what every noble leader is supposed to do. He jumped in the way of the blade. He felt it sink into his shoulder, severing his left arm, and into his stomach. Ichor flowed freely, and he saw the spring fall on Ferlon, and in a flash, the wound was gone, healing over before a mortal’s eye could register the occurrence. He gasped, and looked up to behold Koroka kneeling over him and Legion standing triumphantly over them both.
“A meaningless sacrifice, my old nemesis,” Legion boomed, “For soon I will claim both of your souls.”
The soldier to his left shot the first beam. Calim saw a pure shaft of red light connect with Legion, just as he was about to strike down Ferlon, and as he climbed into his cannon, he saw Koroka throw himself between Legion and the Commander, sacrificing himself to save a mortal. He fired his own ray, and then the other two activated their own. The four beams met with Legion and maintained their steady pulse, lighting up the sky with their radiance. There was a deafening crack! and a flash of iridescent blue, and when his eyes refocused, Calim saw the corpse of Legion fading into liquid fire, which then died out.
“Young ones, behold your Master.” Koroka motioned toward Ferlon with his remaining hand, and Calim ran to check on the Commander. There was not a scratch on him; even the scars he had borne before the war had vanished, leaving nothing but clean, unblemished scales, and even the blood that had stained his uniform had been wiped clean.
“Why did you save him? You didn’t need to.” One of the soldiers asked.
Koroka smiled, but it quickly turned into a grimace. “I did it because I felt that, though I was so much higher and stronger than you, that I did not mean anything inside. You are so much smaller than I, and yet you still have a greater heart than I could ever possess. I tried to emulate you. You inspired me to be more than just a ruler- to rule is to serve, not to be served. It was the sacrifice of your comrades that empowered me to serve. Now, no immortal shall ever set foot on your planet again. You can pick up where you left off, and rebuild your world.” And with those parting words, Koroka rested his head upon the ground, and closed his eyes. A moment later, his body shimmered, and faded away into golden ashes. Where they fell, flowers bloomed, which to this day grow on the site of Koroka’s temple. They are called the Golden One’s Brow.
“So passes one who has been enlightened.” Commander Ferlon closed his eyes, and with the forefinger and index of his right hand, he tapped his forehead, lips, and chest in the customary farewell of the Kadrim, whose lives Koroka had given back.
Calim helped Ferlon to his feet, and led him away with his men following close behind, to rebuild their world once again.