Written in cooperation with Franklin Vittoe.
were quiet aboard the Border Security Station. If any hostile
actions were taken by the Dra'Keshi, then the Spidership patrols would
probably take care of it before word even reached the station. Then, one of
the Dr'owe noticed something.
A small energy spike kept appearing on his monitor. He suspected a
malfunction, and made a few adjustments. "There it is again." he thought to
himself. Aloud, he said, "Mistress, you should come see this."
The commanding Priestess walked over to his station. "What is it?"
"I keep getting this odd energy reading. It originates from inside
Dra'Keshi space. It seems to be coming from the central homeworld."
The priestess studied it for a moment. "Can you filter the signal? Perhaps
we can get a better fix on it, and tell what kind of energy it is."
The male dr'owe pressed a few buttons and turned a dial, and the signal grew
a little clearer. "At first I thought it was a malfunction, but apparently
its real." he said.
"Apparently. That is almost identical to the signature given by necromantic
energies. Almost, but not quite. Communications, contact Prenia Arachnia's
quarters and ask her to come up here."
The comm officer did as ordered, and a few minutes later a rather ruffled
and half~dressed Prenia Arachnia arrived at the stations control center.
"This had better be good, I was just in the middle of the attentions of a
rather attractive Dal'Sein male!"
The commanding priestess cleared her throat. "My apologies, Priestess
Prenia, but you should see this." Prenia walked over to the station, and
stood next to the other priestess.
"That looks...necromantic. But the Dra'Keshi don't use necromancy that we
know of. A faerie elf would never do so, and the Dra'Keshi are descended
from them. But something isn't right. It isn't quite necromantic, but very
similar. Some sort of intelligent undead?"
"You tell me. I am just a station commander, not the Granddaughter of the
"It would have to be either a very powerful being, or several undead
together to register this far from the source." the male put in.
"Shut up! and don't speak unless spoken too, male!" both priestesses
"I will contact it." Prenia sat down in the command chair, an act which did
not go unnoticed by the station commander, though she wouldn't dare
reprimand a daughter of House Arachnia, at least not in public. Later,
perhaps Prenia would hear about it, but not now.
Prenia sent her mind out, and found the psychic ley~line that led to the
Dra'Keshi world. She had used it three times, most recently on a trip with
Phaere Arachnia. She followed the line to the world, and using her
abilities to mask her psionic signature, she located the source of the
signal. Apparently, her shielding wasn't good enough for the signal's
source detected her. It was apparently a large group of undead, elven in
origin, though there was a malevolence about them Prenia found both fearful
"I am Prenia Arachnia, a Daughter of House Arachnia, and a Dr'owe elf."
Prenia was confident enough not to fear identifying herself. She could
fight the being if that proved necessary, or retreat. Besides, she had
several powerful mental shields in place if the being attacked. Prenia was
not going to initiate hostilities, though. One could never tell exactly how
powerful an undead being was. "I seek...information. I wish to know what
you are. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement mutually beneficial to us.
I can sense your power, and ask, what is your purpose? Perhaps my people
can assist you?"
Prenia then waited for the beings reply.
"You are simply fortunate that this is not a Dra'Keshi trick to try and stall me! If it were I would taste it no matter how well concealed, and would have bound your soul to watch helplessly while I consumed the flesh from your bones. But since you are not Dra'Keshi it matters not."
"My purpose is quite simple actually. I shall destroy all Dra'Keshi everywhere, beginning with the children of he who made me this way. Assist me?"
Seldak's awareness broke into a fit of eerie laughter.
"How could one such as I need assistance? I do thank you for the humor however, it has been long since I have felt mirth such as that. Now perhaps when I sit as king over the undead remains of the Dra'Keshi Empire we will have more to discuss, for now however I have a kingdom to crush."
Breaking off the connection with the mysterious elven female, Seldak was once again about to order his forces to assault the capital when yet another interruption halted his intentions cold.
Seldak's discussion with Prenia had given Alyndra and her force the time needed to catch-up with Seldak's force. Turning with a fierce growl toward the approaching force, the SpiritFangs were showered with energy as several force globes drifted into their midst and exploded.
Utilizing another tactic, which had been unavailable to them during the conflict on the surface of Ember, the living Dra'Keshi released a devastating volley of white-hot solar breath into the undead troops of Seldak. Howling in anger and disappointment, nearly a quarter of the evil undead were sent screaming into the spirit realm in the face of the long-ranged assault before clan SpiritFang was able to close for combat.
Boosted by the living mage's magic and using tactics they had developed during the conflict on Ember, Alyndra and her forces fared much better in this aerial battle than had been expected.
Despite the best efforts of the honorable undead Dra'Keshi, Seldak was able to get a group of his followers past the spectral foes and into the midst of the living mages. Striking at the rear of the invading force, they were however unsuccessful in saving any of those brave living Dra'Keshi who had joined with Alyndra.
Setting aside the un-life or death nature of the conflict, the battle being waged across the skies of Heartstone was a truly breathtaking view to behold as the huge spectral dragons danced through the air performing strikes and parries against their similarly insubstantial opponents.
The two spectral leaders faced off with a fairly even number of forces on either side. Alyndra's group had taken a loss of over half the original force to around 50 in number, while Seldak had fared much worse with only a quarter of his original group.
Yet another distraction arose to harass Seldak's attention as a force of living Dra'Keshi rose into the skies from the direction of the capital. Leading his wing of elite Wingriders, Onshir'Valik raced toward the skirmish. The scent of blood from the line of Valik infuriated Seldak as he ordered his squad to turn and destroy the approaching wing, yet commanded that the leader of that group was his alone.
Seldak cared little that his order would leave Alyndra's force at their backs and was indeed a complete tactical error of judgment. His awareness, having sensed the blood of his ancient jailor, snapped to a single mindless focus...to slay the Valik at all cost.
Having taken the advice passed along from Alyndra, Onshir and his wing had enchanted their claws and fangs with energy auras to aid them in dealing damage to the insubstantial foes they would be facing.
Unable to use their breath for fear of hitting Alyndra's forces, Onshir and his wing raced into the fray without pause. The resulting conflict was violent and deadly as Onshir and his elite clashed with Seldak and his unnatural forces.
Using the advantage to full effect, Alyndra closed from behind to envelope the evil Draks in death.
Facing off against Onshir, Seldak managed to wound the king's son deeply along his right side, however paid for that small measure of satisfaction with a large portion of his remaining force and a near fatal slash to his ghostly neck.
For the first time since he had been exiled to An'drax nearly 3 millennia ago, Seldak felt fear. Breaking away from his battle with the wounded Onshir'Valik, Seldak fled the field with the dozen of his followers that remained tied to unlife with him. Racing off into space, Seldak knew not where he was going. Only that he had been beaten...beaten badly...
Continuing their research and development into the
applications of merging
Dra'Keshi forms, Neeva and Tarsha were prepared to begin the most recent in
what had become a huge project. Working off their success with the first
Xin'Drak team, the pair of Dra'Keshi females had formed several more teams
out of the ever-growing number of volunteers that arrived to signup for the
project. The pair soared in high orbit over Dervish while the team
assembled into formation. Extending their plan to encompass the accident
, which had allowed an additional "rider" to enter into the formation at the
moment of its formation and thus be incorporated into the whole, a new
variable was about to be tested.
A volunteer from clan SpiritFang floated silently nearby waiting the signal
to enter the formation. The concept of introducing one of the spectral
Dra'Keshi had been approached with extreme caution and taking into account
every possible outcome. Finally the panel that was comprised of Neeva,
Tarsha, Lysia, T'yren, and a representative from Heartstone, had determined
that the experiment could be safely attempted.
Moving into the formation when the signal was given, the spectral Drak joined
the merging forms as the volunteers became one large individual form. The
two female observers then extended their tuned senses to monitor the
Necro'Drak. It was still solid in form, yet had a hazy aura to it, which
gave the entire dragon an almost ethereal appearance. Sending a suggestion
to the Necro'Drak that they go on a patrol run to further test the bond,
Neeva and Tarsha slipped into place a distance behind as the huge ethereal
dragon made speed for the area of space which had become known as the
The cloaked Stealth Spider moved through space, cloaked, on its patrol route
in the Disputed Zone. A light on the tactical station screen came on.
"Commander Teliel, we have something on long range sensors, coming from
"Can you get a visual?" the male commander asked.
"No, sir, it's too far away."
"Well, we're cloaked. Helm, move us in for a closer look."
The Stealth Spider moved closer to the Necro'Drak.
"Commander, it's in visual range, and...In the Name of The Spider Queen...."
"On screen", Commander Teliel ordered.
"That is the biggest Drak I have ever heard of." the Commander breathed.
"That's not the half of it, sir. I get necromantic readings from the thing.
Similar to the ones that border station picked up a few weeks ago." the
tactical officer said.
"I see. Well, with something that big, those cursed Dra'Keshi elves
obviously plan to go on the offensive. Communications, send out a request
for aid. Combat possible...I want two more cloaked Stealth Spiders here, as
well as two Black Widows, and a Tarantula. And I want them here five
"Aye sir. Attention Spidership patrols in Disputed Zone. This is Stealth
Spider 8 Omega 9 beta alpha. Request immediate aid. Dra'Keshi
encountered at these coordinates. Two cloaked Stealth Spiders, two Black
Widows and one Tarantula needed immediately. Dra'Keshi apparently plan to
Seconds later, the requested ships sent acknowledgement of the request and
moved quickly to the area. The Stealth Spiders remained cloaked, and the
Black Widows and the Tarantula, upon detecting the monstrous Necro'Drak
assumed attack formation. The Tarantula's Preistess~Commander, the highest
ranking officer present, took command of the squadron.
"All ships, this is Preistess~Commander I'leia Tel'Daerien, of House
Tel'Daerien. Power weapons and attack at will. Stealth Spiders, provide
The Spiderships acknowledged their orders. The Stealth Spiders began
zipping around, stopping, decloaking, firing manually and recloaking, some
shots hitting glancing blows, others flying wide of the mark, no real damage
being done. The Tarantula and the Black Widows opened up with Fleet Lasers,
Radiance Missiles and Necro~Phasers.
Neeva and Tarsha were rather surprised that the mere presence of the
Necro'Drak near the Disputed Zone was enough to draw a force of the
SpiderShips into attack stance, yet as it would prove an excellent way of
testing it's combat effectiveness neither of them moved to interfere as the
huge dragon closed to long range and studied the force arrayed before it.
Filling its great lungs, the monstrosity opened its maw in a roar, which
was highlighted by a stream of phased light and energy 90 feet in diameter.
The breath lanced out at the speed of its makeup on an unerring path
toward the center of the largest opponent visible, the Tarantula. The large
Spidership's shields shuddered and flickered under the punishment of the
massive continuous stress of the weapon, while the phased light strands
passed through without pause and burned directly into the hull of the
"Its breath weapon is altered." Tarsha commented from their position far
behind the combat.
"Indeed. Unexpected to be sure, yet seemingly effective..." Neeva replied
as they continued to observe the skirmish. Occasionally as a passing
Dra'Keshi on patrol drew near and moved to enter the fray, Neeva or Tarsha
would warn them off as this particular test was for the Xin'Drak alone at
this time. Moving on as requested the patrols continued separate of the
battle taking place nearby.
"Mistress, incoming..." the tactical officer screamed.
"Shields!...increase power to the shields, damn you!" the
"Too late...shields won't hold!" That was the last words the Tarantula's
tactical officer would ever utter.
Unable to hold under the continuous stream of phased light, the Tarantula's
shields collapsed as the entire beam of solid and phased light leapt forward
to impact upon the section of hull already weakening from holes formed by
the phased light impacts. With a violent shuddering of its eight legs, the
Tarantula vessel's innards opened for view to the battle participants
beneath the steady stream of burning light. Tearing out the opposite side
of the vessel, the stream of light continued off along the straight line of
its path. Blinking into sight directly in the path of the exiting light
stream, a Stealth Spider jumped visibly as it darted aside just barely in
time to avoid the beam and received only a raw looking burn along one side
due to it's quick movement. As the last of the breath beam faded
into the darkness of space, the red glow of the still burning Tarantula as
it drifted off in two parts, lit the battlefield with an eerie light.
Ignoring the fleet lasers which bounced harmlessly off it's reflective skin
and only minorly discomforted by the touch of the Necro-phaser hits, the
huge Necro'Drak had several red welts from Radiance missile explosions which
seem to only further anger the huge creature as it turned it's gaze upon the
two smaller ships. Having given up on trying to follow the movements of the
Stealth Spiders, the combined talent of ten joined Dra'Keshi was focused
into a storm of ice directed toward the Black Widows. Roaring in anger as
another missile blast left a livid red burn across the right side of it's
face, the Xin'Drak released the magic in the form of a ball of ice the size
of a small asteroid centered between the two visible vessels. Two small
sections split off from the ball to drift harmlessly off into
space as a few lucky fleet laser shots cut into the ice ball. The remaining
large mass continued on course to a point just between the two Black Widows
where it exploded violently sending thousands of large, razor-sharp ice
shards toward the two ships, while spraying the rest out through the battle
field around them. The shields held against most of the impacts, although
along one side of the nearer of the two took a few hits from rather large
shards which punched two holes through the hull in the spider's side.
Shaking one massive claw that tingled painfully following another missile
impact, the Necro'Drak decided against further casting and flicked its
massive wings as it glided in to grapple the two spiders. Reaching for one
with either of it's front claws it batted an unexploded missile harmlessly
off into space as it had been too near the launching vessel to arm fully.
"Commander Teliel, Necro~Phasers almost completely ineffective. Somehow,
they have become protected against them. That might explain the necromantic
readings we got earlier."
"I suppose it would." Teleil replied.
That was when the Stealth Spider heard a hail sent to the remaining
Spiderships, three Stealth Spiders and a Black Widow, on a secure frequency.
"This is Seldak, a Shadow Drak in service to House Arachnia. We are here to
cover your retreat, it seems."
Commander Teliel replied, "Acknowledged, Seldak. House Arachnia has our
thanks, in The Name of The Spider Queen. Commander Teliel out."
The Stealth Spiders signaled their retreat to the remaining Black Widow.
The Black Widow decided to stay to lend aid to the Shadow Draks.
The Stealth Spiders then decloaked, fired everything they had at the
gargantuan Xin'Drak, then cloaked and fled.
The Shadow Draks took up an attack formation around the Xin'Drak while it
was occupied by the Stealth Spiders, and the Black Widow fired Radiance
Missile after Radiance Missile at the monster. The Shadow Draks then fired
their bolts of lightning at the beast. The Black Widow sent a message to
the Shadow Draks that necromantic weapons were largely ineffective, halting
their impulse to use their necromantic breath weapons. But they could
detect living Dra'Keshi and would certainly attempt to drain their life
"Interesting..." Tarsha commented and observed. "The missiles are
disrupting the cohesion of the Xin'Drak form slightly...as were the
Necro-phasers to a lesser degree."
"Yes! I noticed that also... It appears to have only 60% of the cohesion
it had at creation. Perhaps magic could be included during the formation to
strengthen the bond somewhat..." Neeva suggested and noted the attention of
a few of the newly arrived Shad'Draks, which they had come to be named
within the Dra'Keshi Empire. With a mental tug focused upon Tarsha, Neeva
withdrew further from the battle site and joined a moderate sized group of
scouts that had paused to watch the fight. Nearly two full wings (38) had
gathered in a small mass a fair distance from the skirmish and within those
numbers the pair of females felt relatively secure that the Shad'Draks would
not become a difficulty to their continued observations.
Closing a massive claw over the Black Widow with a sickening crunching
sound, the Necro'Drak turned it's attention fully upon the arrayed
The lightning attack raising a roar of pain and anger from the Xin'Drak.
For but an instant the huge dragon form flickered and 11 individual forms
could be seen before it became one solid form again.
Narrowing it's eyes as the creature calmed itself and lashed out with it's
long supple tail to encircle one of Seldak's 13 followers in a constricting
grip which had the Xin'Drak been of normal form would have passed through it
harmlessly. However the spectral aura of the Necro'Drak gave it power in
that realm of being and the unfortunate follower of Seldak dissipated into
true death under the pressure of the embrace.
Seldak took grim note of the loss of one of his followers and the Black
Widow. Obviously, the Theocracy forces were overmatched. But Seldak had
one more trick up his sleeve. Due to their undead nature, the Shadow Draks
could sense several life~forces making up the gargantuan monster before
them. Seldak sent a command to his 12 remaining followers to lock in on an
individual life force, drain as much energy from it as possible, and retreat
speed in different directions, to meet again above Arach'Tuine. Seldak
hoped that this would be enough to weaken the Xin'Drak enough that the
individuals comprising it would break apart, perhaps killing some of them.
The Shadow Draks spread out in such a manner that it would be impossible to
fight more than one of them at once, and sent their life draining powers not
at the whole Xin'Drak, but at the individual life forces they detected in
it. They decided to hold out until the Xin'Drak either broke apart, or
until it attacked one of the Shadow Draks, whichever came first. Then they
would make for the safety of the Theocracy side of the border. If any of
the Dra'Keshi followed them, they would meet a fleet of Spiderships, and
most likely be beaten back.
Commander Teliel Arachnia wondered exactly how he would explain this one to
Mez'Barria. "But", the commander thought to himself, "at least I don't have
to tell Matron Phaere directly..."
His tactical officer spoke up. "Sir, we have studied the sensor logs of the
battle, and there are some interesting readings here."
"Do elaborate." Teliel ordered.
"Well, sir, as you saw, the Necro~Phasers, which are usually devastating to
the Dra'Keshi had little effect. Of course, Fleet Lasers mean nothing to
their reflective skin. The Radiance Missiles hurt the thing. Also, as we
left, we picked up something. The Xin'Drak seemed to nearly break apart.
This leads me to believe that it has a weakness. The Radiance Missiles
affect the magical cohesion that holds the thing together."
"Wonderful" the commander began. "So for the Theocracy to score a victory
in a battle with Xin'Draks, we have to risk losing a lot of Spiderships just
so we can break apart the thing!"
"Perhaps, or we could just increase the payload of the Radiance Missiles."
the tactical officer replied.
"I see. And that leads me to another idea. What if we changed the Radiance
Missile's payload? What if we used positive and negative energies as the
"I see where you're going, Commander. That would, when the positive and
negative energies collide, create one hell of an explosion. And that would,
in all likelihood, be extremely disruptive to the Xin'Drak."
"I'll certainly include that in my report to High Priestess Mez'Barria.
Might save me a little pain." the commander said grimly. "Take us to House
Arachnia's underground docking facility in Bain're.
Neeva and Tarsha watched with concern as the Shad'Draks spread out and
initiated a rather unexpected tactic. The huge Necro'Drak likewise roared
in anger and pain as the necromantic assault took hold of the life of two of
the individuals within the shared form. Unable to maintain the cohesive
bond that held the large dragon form together, the Xin'Drak broke apart
unexpectedly resulting in the death of over half the squad. Of the original
11, only 4 Dra'Keshi and the spectre remained whole while the rest of the
group never regained solid form during the collapse of their shared form.
Seldak and his squad were not unaffected by the Xin'Drak explosion as the
sudden feedback knocked several of them out of phase and one of them even
dissolved entirely from the backlash. Retreating back into SQT space,
Seldak and the 11 remnants of his squad vanished behind the line of waiting
Spider ships to regroup in relative safety and return to House Arachnia's
At the command of Neeva, the remainder of the Necro'Drak group also
retreated from the disputed zone as they followed the pair of female
Dra'Keshi back to Dervish. With the show seemingly over, the large group of
Dra'Keshi onlookers filtered off to resume their assigned routes with mixed
feelings regarding the outcome of the skirmish they had just been witness
One other witness of the battle returned it's view screen to normal
magnification and turned to rejoin the squadron of StarChasers from which
they had separated to investigate the odd readings they had been receiving.