Welcome everyone, to the first chapter of what is hopefully a better story than before. (crosses fingers). For those of you who have read this story before, and have seen the author's note, I can only hope that this story proves worthy of your time again.
For those of you new to this, please understand that this tale is currently in the process of being heavily revamped, so please, do not be surprised when you go beyond this intro chapter and notice a very abrupt and very sharp decline in quality, quantity, and grammatical correctness.
As always, I humbly hope that this story will prove worthy of everyone's time, and the bandwidth that it is currently consuming.
Standard disclaimer that will hold true for all chapters: Attention Lawyers: I, Red Mage 04, do hereby swear upon my immortal soul and my gift of cognitive reasoning that I own none of the canon characters of this story, nor do I in any way seek to profit from their usage. I'm also pretty much broke, so there's no real gain involved for filing a lawsuit against me. All I claim ownership over is the characters and names that are the products of my demented and half insane imagination.
Additional warning: as an advanced warning to some individuals, there are battle scenes in this story (arguably even in this chapter) that will be somewhat graphic. In future scenes, especially towards the end, expect the usual unpleasantness that came with actual middle age warfare.
Special thanks to animedragongirl, for so graciously proofreading this.
With those out of the way, here we go again. May you all enjoy this story, and it prove worthy of your attention.
A Second Chance. A New Darkness
Of Dreams and Dragons
Dreaming. That was his life, his reality now. There were images swirling in his head, liable to change at any moment. The dreams, images, and memories all swirled together, being calm one second, and the next, shifting around with all the violence of a hurricane. In his mind battles were relived, precious moments with friends and family were clung to like a starving man would cling to food.
Those passing by, though, would have had no knowledge of this. They would have simply seen a massive dragon wrapped around the base of a strange, spire-like formation of rock. Its blue-black head would occasionally twitch and shift, but aside from that no signs were ever given that it was even alive. Such was the fate of the creature.
Its name was Ryu Bateson, and it was to be an eternal sentinel. A first and final line of defense against the demons that waited down below, waiting to swarm over this world and cast it into darkness. There were other safeguards of course, such as an entire city of his kind down below. There they waged an eternal war against the fiends, desperately beating the demons back, keeping them confined to the dimension called Infiniti. This was only one of its names, however. It was more commonly known as Hell or Inferno.
In the event of the city's fall, he would be all that would hold back the storm. Another, equally vital role was defending against surface attacks. The demons' powers were great and even separated from this world by barriers and magical wards, their influence had seeped out, finding the hearts and minds of those who were corruptible. To those individuals, the promises of power had been too enticing, and they had eagerly moved lock and step with the commands of their fiendish masters.
Through centuries of subtle crafting, the creatures had built up an entire religion dedicated to themselves and their foul master. Strengthened by the prayers of the people, their powers over manipulation had grown, until they had an entire army of unwitting slaves and thralls. Twice, now, the surface had been breached by the hellspawns.
The first came from below. Empowered by the prayers of their followers and the blessings of their leaders, a demonic strike force had smashed through the portal, wards and all, and proceeded to wreak havoc on the nearby community of Gate. The actions of his mother, Valerie, had repelled them, but the wards had been damaged beyond repair. The only solution was to transform into her true form and use her power to shield the surface from additional attack.
The cost was high. The energy necessary to maintain the barrier required her to enter a hibernation-like state. Her children and her husband never found out the truth behind their mothers nature, and went on through life, assuming that she had been killed in the attack.
Another attack came thirteen years later, in the form of a Saint Evans assault force. They had deluded the people into thinking that Valerie was the source behind the myriad of plagues, crop failures, and other woes befalling their village. A combination of blast-globes and spells had mortally wounded her before Ryu and his companions could stop them.
He'd had the grim, bitter satisfaction of watching her rip the entire group of fanatics, including the church leader, Habbaruku, to pieces before she'd succumbed to her wounds. Reunion between mother and son had been short, though, and she'd died in Ryu's arms.
Though Ryu and his companions had ultimately been successful, and killed Deathevan, the "Demon God," the barriers had been unguarded, and the fiends were nothing if not tenacious. It would only be a matter of time before they rallied around a new leader and continued to press the attack. The potential consequences had made themselves painfully obvious to the Kaiser, and he'd made his choice.
As his mother had stood guard over this world, so now did he.
The dragon's head shifted in his sleep, and a deep, rumbling breath came from him. Within his mind the dreams swirled and changed again.
He was in a small arena, pillars and magical darkness surrounding him at every turn. Armor adorned his body, and a helmet hid his head. In one hand, he held a large scutum, a curved tower shield that protected almost the entirety of the left side of his body from attack. In his right he held a strange weapon that looked to be a hybrid of a scimitar and a bastard sword. Known as a rune blade, the weapon featured a gentle curve and a slight flare for most of its length, to enable quicker and more efficient cuts, slashes, and chops, before narrowing down at the last few inches to a fine stabbing point. A shorter, thicker blade was also strapped to his back.
Training, back before he knew what he truly was.
Up above him, a man paced. He was clad in similar armor and equipment, only his was adorned with a large, black dragon on the front, and his helmet was tucked under his arm. This let Ryu see the face of the man. His brown hair was tied back in a pony tail, and a series of scars crossed his face, as if some great beast had slashed him there.
Down below, a figure darted out of the shadows. It fired a crossbow, which bounced off the metal and wood of the scutum as Ryu yanked up into position. Undeterred, the man pressed in and drew a longsword. Several blows were traded, a downward slash that came towards the right side of Ryu's body, a thrust that would have "pierced" his heart if it had not been parried. A chop at his neck. He blocked them all, and with a deft parry, opened the man up to counter attack. The sword sailed in, and touched against the padded armor of his opponent. The man gave a grunt, and rolled out of the way, dashing back off to the shadows.
"Phalanx!" the man up top barked.
Ryu's mind swirled for a fraction of a second, before he remembered the answer.
"Use magi to break the formation, preferably with fireballs or acid clouds." He said, swallowing heavily and spreading his legs, his eyes constantly scanning the shadows. "If those are unavailable, use archers to pin them down and then flank the unit. Again, focus on breaking the formation and wiping it out piece-meal."
He heard the cocking of another crossbow, and whirled to face it, getting his large shield up. He succeeded, and was charged again, this time from two different sides. He backpedaled to keep both foes in sight, and prevent himself from being flanked.
He traded blows with them, using the rune blade to parry one while his shield held off the other. The opponent on his right thrust out with a longsword, but with speed that seemed almost inhuman, Ryu knocked the blade down, spun his own around it and used the momentum to tear it from the other man's grasp. The disarmed opponent barely had time to blink before a metal plated boot hit him in the gut, blasting the wind from him and leaving him down on the ground.
Ryu shifted as he saw his other adversary try to roll around him to the right. As before, the man found a large, nearly impenetrable hybrid of metal and wood facing him, and his axe clanged uselessly off it. Ryu charged, shoving the man off balance and knocking him to the ground. He touched the tip of the large weapon to the man's throat and spun back around, causing a dark blue combat skirt to flutter slightly around his legs.
"Cavalry!" his master shouted.
"Pike formations, three or four rows deep. Place them between the main body of infantry and the charging lines. Adjust as appropriate," he paused for a moment as two blunt tipped arrows were fired at him. He blocked one, sliced the other out of the air. "Harass with archer fire or cavalry archers if they're available."
Again the attacks came, again he defeated them, and again the question was asked. Longbow formations, mages, legions, siege warfare tactics, all were asked. For minutes, hours it seemed, the hellish combination continued. Increasingly, the questions began to be called out while he was still fighting, and he found himself having to think on his feet, dodging blades, blocking arrows, and answering questions all at once.
Eventually, the topic turned more personal. Less about military formations, more about the individual species that made up Asparia.
"Worren!" the master demanded.
"Use thunderstones to blind them, they're more sensitive to light and noise," Ryu grunted as an assailant smashed a large war hammer against his shield, pushing him back. He countered with a furious barrage of attacks that forced his foe to awkwardly twist the weapon and use it as an impromptu defensive device, something its thin handle wasn't meant for. After a few strikes, Ryu's blunted blade shattered it. He "stabbed" his foe, forcing him to flee into the darkness.
"Use blunt force weapons, their extremity bones are hollow to lessen their weight, but beware of counter attacks," he growled as he twisted and dodged another arrow, "because of their higher muscle density."
It continued as before until finally he was given something that made him pause.
"Dragon…" his master's voice trailed off.
The young man below paused for a fraction of a second, and looked at the elder with confusion; he almost got hit by a barrage of arrows a few moments later.
"Dragon!" the elder insisted, this time with greater urgency.
"I don't know…" Ryu responded, helplessly.
The scene faded and shifted, swirling into another dream. In this one, he saw himself again, only he was clad in scales instead of metal, and had claws instead of a blade. Before him was Deathevan. The demon's pig-like face was twisted into a snarl, and its large tail thumped heavily behind it.
They were surrounded by a darkness that was so pure and absolute that an ordinary mortal would have had to shield his eyes, lest that blackness burn them from their sockets. Rage burned in his heart as he remembered his fiends, their broken and shattered bodies floating aimlessly through this plane of Hell.
Bow… Katt… Sten… Rand… Spar… Jean… and Nina…
Rage became power. Power became energy, crackling along the talons of his arms, swarming over his entire body. He curled up and unleashed the attack.
It was a blast of raw, unadulterated Eldritch, strong enough to level an entire town, and focused into two swirling balls of purple-black energy. The Demon God grunted as the blasts impacted and exploded.
When the flash cleared, it barely seemed phased.
A swarm of blackness enveloped the foul deity, living shadow belched forth from his one remaining ally: Ray Braddock. The Shadow Dragon, his visage twisted into a mask of raw hatred, bombarded their foe again and again. Darkness that could turn a man to ash and masonry to dust didn't even register to their opponent.
"You are the ones they send to face me…" Deathevan shook his head. "Ever fools, the Brood. Know this, whelps—" the creature became a blur as it moved, flying up even with Ryu and lashing out, sending the dragon's sixty ton body hurling through the abyss. "I am fear given form… hatred in a physical shell. The very races that you seek to protect empower me. I hear their prayers, their cries in the night, and I, the merciful deity that I am, answer them."
The Kaiser Dragon righted himself, coughing harshly, curling slightly around a chest that now sported a few broken ribs.
Ray screamed into to attack, but a casual flick of Deathevan's talons sent a spell towards the Shadow Dragon. It connected, and sent the former Saint Evans priest hurtling away into the darkness.
It was toying with Ray, battering him, but leaving him alive for now. Just so he could watch the champion of his people fall.
The twisted fiend snorted again and faced Ryu head on. "I am a God, boy… and you… you're nothing more than a half-breed, an accident born of an idiot village priest and a fool of a Brood that couldn't concentrate on her true mission." It chuckled darkly, before speed-blitzing again, smashing his foe upside the head with enough force that it he'd been any weaker, his neck would have been shattered.
A blast of dark energy followed, smashing into Ryu's body. The dragon had to resist the urge to scream as every nerve in his body suddenly screamed out as if on fire. The pain was like a white hot knife, cutting deep into his very soul.
"You are a sacrificial player in this eternal game of chess, young fool," he faintly heard the demon say. It almost sounded like it pitied him. "In the end, we are both little more than pawns. The difference between you and me, though, is that I understand this. I know that I am just a tool, an instrument… a weapon." It fired again, and this time, Ryu could not hold back. A scream of raw agony echoed throughout the abyss.
"You on the other hand, cannot seem to see the forest for the trees." He body checked the dragon again. More bones broke, and Deathevan's foe screamed once more. "You blunder around, honestly thinking that you have a purpose in life, that you were meant to be a man of your own will." Its tail lashed out, sending Ryu spinning again. "You are nothing more than a puppet, dancing to the tunes and manipulations of one master after another."
Ryu grunted, and fired off more Eldritch blasts at his foe, trying to force the pain from his mind. Too much had been lost to fail now. Too many had died. Too many towns lain to waste, too many lives ruined. His foe laughed the attacks off again. Then he blurred forward again, and the next for moments of the dragon's existence were agony as had never been felt before. Bones snapped, tendons were shredded, and muscles failed. He lashed out with right hand and drew deep lines across the Demon God's face, forcing it into retreat. His jaws opened and he summoned up his powers, sending a blast of raw energy that hurled the three hundred ton monster about like it was a rag doll.
Ryu knew that he had bought himself some time, but that it was far from over. He tried to channel his powers through his left arm, but couldn't get it to work properly. A glance down showed him why. He no longer had one. It was drifting off in the void, blood and Eldritch power flowing from the torn regions.
He coughed again as he saw Deathevan righting itself a few thousand feet away. The demon looked slightly injured, but it was going to take a lot more than that to bring it down. He tasted blood, and realized that one of his broken ribs had punctured a lung. His body was screaming and his vision seemed blurry. He was dying.
There was nothing left to do now but to go for broke. He quickly reviewed everything that he had learned about the monster while fighting it. It was strong, fast, seemingly a perfect being. Power that would level mountains and wipe armies from the field of battle were taken with a laugh and a jeer. The demon had to have a weak point, though. Everything did. Nothing was without flaw.
Once more, Ray came in, roaring with the fury that only a dragon could muster. Once more he was swatted aside like he was nothing more than an insect.
As the demon god came back into battle against the Kaiser Dragon before it, throwing spell and energy blast at him, Ryu finally realized something: despite the creature's long neck, it always kept itself hunched down. Did that perhaps indicate a weakness? Or was it just some clever ruse to keep its foes from guessing its true vulnerability?
There was only one way to find out. He summoned his power again, and unleashed another hellish blast of raw energy. As before, it sent Deathevan spinning and rolling through the abyss they were in. Then Ryu called on all the power that his failing body could muster and shot forward. His wings pumping, he accelerated towards the incarnation of darkness, leaving a trail of blood and crackling, arcane energy behind him, a testimony to his many wounds.
He slammed into his foe, clawing, tearing and biting at it with everything his dying body could muster. Energy was swirling around his body as he called on any reserves his body had left. The power fueled his blows as the two tumbled and rolled throughout the abyss.
Deathevan did not take the battle lying down. The Demon God fought back with every ounce of strength it had. But Ryu was beyond pain, beyond caring. He was like a berserker, who put no stock in his own safety and focused only on the destruction of his hated foe.
He finally managed to get the demon's head up and its neck exposed slightly. He saw that it was devoid of the armored hide that covered the rest of his body, and lashed out, sinking his teeth into the vulnerable flesh. His opponent roared in agony for the first time since the battle started. Encouraged, Ryu began to shake his draconic head back and forth like and oversized dog. His fangs sunk deeper into the flesh, tearing back and forth.
Deathevan managed to throw him off, but Ryu took a sizable chunk of the Demon God's neck with him. Dark energy leaked from the wound as the dragon spat the hunk of flesh from his mouth, his fangs stained dark by the blood. His tongue reached out and licked some of it from them. Ryu savored the taste of his opponent, and then lunged back in.
Unknown to the dragon or his foe was that the power that he was leaking was not just going anywhere. It was guided by its own intelligence, the longings of its master. It traveled through the void, seeking out the bodies of Ryu's fallen friends. It curled around them, seeping into their bodies.
In that moment, hearts resumed beating, souls were thrust back into their mortal shells, and with gasps of air, they awoke to find themselves back in the blackness. They quickly became aware of the titans that were raging around in this place. In an instant, they knew what had to be done.
Spells were channeled by those who knew them, and those who did not charged forward with weapons that would put fear into the immortals that had forged the very world they fought for.
In an instant, Deathevan had realized its peril. The Kaiser Dragon that sought to tear its throat out, empowered by his dying fury, was requiring all of the fiend's attention to keep at bay. The mortal allies of its foe had fought their way through legions of hellspawn to reach where they were now, and when attacking as a unified force were not to be underestimated. The Demon God was caught in a lose-lose situation. Attempt to fend them off, and Ryu would manage to get a death grip on the throat, ignore them, and focus on the enraged Brood, and they would tear into its body and wound it so badly that the devil might just be killed anyway.
The attacks began. Bolts of energy from Bow's Brood-forged crossbow impacted all over Deathevan's body, sending shards of pain deep into it. Blows from Rand's enormous gauntlets, Katt's battle-staff, Sten's knives, and Jean's rapier, hit home moments later. Then it felt a crushing pain as a huge column of spiked stone slammed into its head, punching through the armored hide and cracking the skull. The hellspawn looked up to see the Windian, Nina, hovering above him; her blue eyes alight with fury and her black wings spread in homage to the angel of death. Another spell followed, and another and another, blasts of ice comets, fireballs, and life sucking energy all hitting it, causing a shriek of agony to echo through the darkness.
They were causing the Demon God to lose focus, and to its horror, it realized that the Kaiser, though dying, was starting to win the battle between them. His head was inching closer and closer to his foe's exposed throat. At any moment, the dragon was going to succeed.
The Worren in the group landed on Deathevan's face and it had a brief moment to stare at her before she plunged her staff deep into one of its four eyes. The Demon God gave a howl of pain, and lurched backwards, tossing her from her perch. There was fleeting moment of exposure, but the head snapped back in place before Ryu could seize it.
Then it gave a grunt of surprise as its neck was seized in a large reptilian maw. Too late, the fiend realized it had forgotten about Ray. The Shadow Dragon yanked backwards, exposing the wounded throat.
The Kaiser had his window of opportunity. Fangs the size of a man's body closed around the tender flesh of Deathevan's throat and sank in. Ryu could feel his teeth burrowing into the spine. Calling on his rage to give him the energy he needed, he yanked his head backwards. The whiplash nearly decapitated his foe, and left its spine exposed.
Darkness blasted from the wound and the Brood sought one final blow; the one that would end it all. He clamped down again, and felt the spinal column crunch beneath the force of his bite. He tore his head backwards again, ripping the neck completely free of the body.
Deathevan's face managed a surprised, startled gurgle, before the hellfire faded from its eyes and died. The hellspawn's body still thrashed though, blasting everyone away from it.
The dreams swirled again, focusing on a more peaceful time. Back when Ryu had been younger, and he could see his father and mother together, feel himself clutched in his mother's arms, while his father held his little sister.
He sighed in sleep, and let the memories fade. He unconsciously realized that there was no sense dwelling on them, those brief moments were in the past, and nothing could be done to change that.
Then something started to happen. The dreams started fluxing more and more, moving in and fleeing before he could understand what was going on. He caught brief glimpses of images, Katt, on her feet before him at the Arena, clutching at her shoulder and glaring up at him. The group around a campfire. Nina fluttering in front of him, saying something he couldn't hear. Someone knocking him to the ground.
Suddenly, they all faded into blackness.
There was a roar, accompanied by a blast of light, and Ryu Bateson was awake.
Okay, hope that the story's off to a better start than it was the first time. For those of you joining in for the first time, you can already see that I'm taking some liberties with the way things played out in BoF II, as there were a few things that irked me. Those of you who read the original will note that I've changed yet more stuff around. This will have its explanations, something that I was never very good at in round one. For starters, Ryu's armor change comes from research that I've had to do for some classes and in my free time, which have educated me to the fact that plate armor, does not, in fact, reduce one to a lumbering tank that's helpless if knocked down.
I blame my own lack of common sense mostly.
At any rate. As always, I want to thank you all for reading this far, and hope that I have not caused you to regret the pass few minutes, or become so enraged at the mistakes or problems in this that you take up voodoo against me or hunt down the necromincon for the expressed purposes of sicking Cuthulu upon me.
As stated above, all comments and feedback are welcomed with open arms, as there is much to improve, and peer feedback is the best way to do that.
Thank you all for your time an patience. Until we meet again, have a great day, and stay safe.