Chapter 29: Wrath Reborn

Nyoka's Stronghold under Mt. Amdort, 338 Solar Year.

The morning sun had been up for some time when Lazlo found an unconscious Eresh, Simeon, and Rose on the ground. Using some of the sacrificial jizo he found in Simeon's traveling bag the three were revived in no time. They explained how Nyoka had ambushed them and had taken Olinda. Realizing that now the ancient magician not only had both twin runes, but both princesses as well in his possession motivated them to make for Mt. Amdort in the greatest of haste.

The news indeed felt grim in that moment. "Well at least he doesn't have the Sun Rune!" said Rose trying to find the silver lining in all this trouble. Eresh sighed, but didn't elaborate as she started to run out of breath. Because her little vessel was made for magical uses, not physical exertion.

At last they reached the foot of the mountain, the very center of the Queendom. Now Simeon reminded them, "Remember, the Sun Rune is a weapon of pure power. However, it is the Dawn and Twilight Runes that give form and direction to that power. If Nyoka gains control of both twin runes in his body, the Sun Rune won't be safe for long. He will be able to summon the Sun Rune to himself no matter where it is currently located. The True Rune will leave Sol-Falena and it will come to him here. Thus, there will be nothing either the queen or her guards can do to stop it."

Lazlo reasoned aloud, "So, we need to stop him before he summons the Sun Rune by stopping him from gaining control of the twin runes. Seems simple enough." Rose spoke up again, "But, But, what about the Sindar!? A few days ago, you said the Sindarians put powerful protection spells on the Sun Rune. So, that only female royals could use its awesome power. Nyoka isn't part of this royal family! And he certainly isn't female!"

"That's true," said Simeon half-heartedly, "but Nyoka has had centuries to plan for this. I don't think someone as shrewd and as magically keen as him would not have found a way around those charms by now."

"Eresh thinks that's why he took both Daughters of the Sun. Brother's plan to overcome the curses must somehow involve them. Eresh failed to stop her brother yet again last night. Eresh will not fail again! She swears it!" finished the short priestess who had finally caught her breath.

"I am still confused about one thing." Lazlo stated, "Are the Dawn and Twilight Runes just children of the Sun Rune or are they something else?" "Both!" he replied cryptically.

Simeon elaborated more, "After the War of Creation, when the 27 True Runes were born the Sun Rune and the Night Rune somehow became bonded together. I suspect this happened given their unique relationship to one another. To break this bond, the Night Rune transformed itself into a peerless blade, which humans would later call the Star Dragon Sword. Perhaps you've heard of it?"

Lazlo nodded in the affirmative and added, "I thought it was just a legend." "It is no legend. It exists. However, after the bond was broken two new runes were born from those shards: The Dawn and Twilight Runes. So, yes, while most of their affinity is connected to the Sun Rune. They do, however, have some trace amounts of the Night Rune in them too." the magician concluded.

Great, thought Lazlo, as if he wouldn't be hard enough to defeat with one True Rune. He'll, also, have two other strong and powerful runes helping him too. Simeon's ethereal voice added, "The Big Hole entrance to his stronghold should be around here somewhere as I recall." Simeon raised his rod, which started to glow.

Eresh did likewise with hers and started off in the other direction with her dimly lit rod. Rose looked at them and back toward Lazlo puzzled by what they were doing. Lazlo's eyes seemed just as baffled to Rose, but he shrugged his shoulders at her suggesting non-verbally to just go with it.

Moments later, a little voice called out from a few dozen yards away, "Eresh has found it! Over here comrades!" The others arrived at her location, just in time to have the ground start shaking around them as her rod was now glowing vibrantly. Rose nearly fell over, but Lazlo grabbed her in time. Suddenly, the earth opened up next to them. After the shaking stopped. They saw before them a giant hole in the ground.

A small dirt path seemed to spiral all the way to the bottom. This was not by accident. No, it was by design. This hole was not just random. It was magical. It occurred to Lazlo that only those with a very keen magical awareness like his two companions could have found and opened this door.

As they made their way down the spiraling dirt path, they soon found themselves in the heart of a deep cave. The whole area was dark, cool, and very damp. They followed the two wizards, who were now leading the two warriors by light emanating from their rods.

Finally, they arrived at the end of the main passageway. Rose saw a strange wall that was different than the rest of the jagged walls, because this one was flat and had strange artwork painted on it.

The wall depicted people from a sideway point-of-view and they dressed as though preparing for battle. There were also several strange symbols and images written around them, which Lazlo took to be words of an ancient language describing the people in the relief.

"This is ancient, but it is not Sindarian. I've been in enough old Sindarian ruins and have seen enough of their architecture." he concluded. "You are correct! They are not Sindarian. They are older than that. This temple is part of the Ancient Armes Dynasty." responded Simeon.

Rose chimed in impatiently, "That's great to know. But, this is a dead end! How the heck do we get to Olinda?" Eresh stepped forward and tapped a certain cartouche located near the right side of the wall. Unexpectedly to Rose, another part of the wall started moving revealing another secret passageway.

Once inside, Lazlo and Rose were surprised by what they saw next. There before them were ruins of a destroyed city under this huge mountain. In later years, both warriors would ponder how these ruins ever got down there. But right now, everyone wanted to find Nyoka and save the girls.

Eresh led them through the city's ruins effortlessly as though she knew exactly where she was going. After they had gone several street blocks, she led them into a large temple palace-like structure. Once inside they proceeded through several more unusual rooms. Each had more depictions of the same strange artwork of people, animals, and writing they had seen on the cave wall back at the entranceway.

After they had gone many hundreds of feet below the surface silently, at last Eresh suddenly stopped and turned around as they came to a fork in the road, and said, "Eresh senses a dark presence down here that way toward the right."

Lazlo stopped and concentrated a bit. He could feel it too. This was strange to him, because he could also feel it on the right, but also Nyoka's dark power coming from the other direction on the left.

"When I sense it, it feels strange. Because, it feels like regret and rage mixed together. I am not sure how else to describe it." spoke the True Rune Bearer confused. Simeon nodded in agreement before he also added, "It is a bitter shadow still clinging on to this world. Too much anger exists in its heart for it to pass peacefully over into the realm of the dead."

Rose asked, "Are you talking about Nyoka? Or is something else really creepy and scary down here as well?" Lazlo answered her, "It is not Nyoka. I can sense his dark power growing closer the deeper we descend into this place. But, that thing does feel a bit like him."

Eresh closed her eyes and shook her head, before she said calmly, "It is another dark shadow from Eresh's past. One that she must deal with in the future, she feels. But, it is not you Comrade Lazlo, who shall help Eresh face that one. No, it will be another rune bearing prince."

"Eresh has seen it in her dreams. Shepcesska. But, that doesn't matter now. All that matters is stopping brother and saving the Daughters of the Sun. Come let us go, Comrades!" The small party went left toward Nyoka. Leaving the right passageway alone as Eresh asked them too.

As they drew closer, everyone could sense a dark ritual starting to occur. Even Rose with her limited magical awareness was getting goosebumps on her arms. At last, they arrived in a long hallway and could hear what sounded like many men chanting a strange song that neither Rose nor Lazlo understood.

Walking down the hallway, they entered a large room resembling something like a courtyard. Where they saw natural light, not torch light, filling the room. The chanting got louder as well.

They saw another hole cut into the stone of the floor and in the ceiling above. It seemed that each floor above them was the same. Each storey of the structure had a hole cut in the middle of it, which acted like a chimney for the smoke to rise through, up to the surface somewhere on this desolate mountain.

In this part of the temple ruins, light was descending while smoke was ascending from the floor below them where Nyoka's ritual was beginning. Lazlo quietly made his way to the hole on the floor and ever so motionlessly and carefully peaked part of his head over the side. He saw Cyrah first. She was chained to the wall.

Next, he saw Olinda tied to the altar. The chanting stopped as Nyoka entered the room. He could hear them talking, but couldn't make out what they were saying. He again, carefully pulled himself away from the skylight hole and returned to the others. He told them about what he saw. He concluded with, "We need a plan to rescue them."

Simeon turned and told Eresh, "Your concealment spell seems to be working well. No one has sensed us or tried to stop us so far, but I fear we can move no closer without Nyoka sensing our presence or his True Rune. Even if he is preoccupied by his ritual for the moment." Lazlo, not Eresh, responded first, "Wait, what!?" Concealment spell?!"

Simeon smiled, "Did you think she was just using her rod to light our path? Well, she was indirectly, but in truth, she has been casting a spell this whole time to hide our presence from Nyoka and his forces. That is why we have encountered so little resistance thus far.

Lazlo smiled at the short priestess, "Way to go, Eresh! So, we still have the element of surprise on our side?" Eresh's rod suddenly stopped glowing. Eresh told them it was pointless for her to waste the energy trying to conceal them or Lazlo's Rune any longer. Since her spell would not work at this close range to someone as powerful as Nyoka.

She, also, warned them to be ready for an attack since nothing was shielding their presence any longer. However, since Nyoka was so engrossed in his dark ritual, they still might remain unknown for a few more minutes.

Simeon, suddenly, had a plan after Eresh explained there were two ways into the King's Chamber. One through the main door and the other through a secret entrance behind one of the pillars. She added only the high priest and the king of Ancient Armes would have known about the second one.

When Rose asked her how she knew about it. She explained her father once showed it to her one day when she was a child. Surprised by this answer, the Queen's Knight would have liked further elaboration, but for now she was grateful they had a plan to rescue Olinda and didn't want to waste any more time.

The plain dressed mage asked Lazlo if he would be the distraction while the others snuck around back to free the two princesses. The old Gaien Knight was not too sure how he could keep them all distracted. And "Use your Rune!" seemed like vague instructions from an otherwise normally very detailed man like Simeon. Yet, Lazlo figured he knew what he ought to do to gain the dark wizard's attention.

They left the courtyard area and made their way to another long hallway with several doors. Eresh told Lazlo the way he needed to go, while the others would go off in the other direction. The group was about to split up when they all heard a strange noise. Without warning, the sounds of moaning began to echo throughout the hallway. Zombies!

The undead forces started filing in through the narrow passageways and through the various doors including the one Lazlo needed to get to. Everyone grabbed their weapons and in moments the small skirmish had begun.

Lazlo's movements with his blades were like watching a shimmering dance. Every motion of his blades were precise and perfect. He wasted no energy or time with fancy forms or twirling of his blades as some warriors would do to show off their skills. Every slash and stroke of his weapons made direct and fatal contact with their targets.

Moreover, his speed and precision left Rose in awe. His technique was even more dazzling than Rose had remembered from that time she had seen it in the forest and in his sparring match with Robert.

She wondered if he had been holding back those previous times. Or maybe right now he was just very focused and determined to save Olinda. Whatever it was pushing Lazlo forward, every zombie he encountered immediately dropped to the ground motionless as if it were nothing, but a mosquito he had swatted away.

He was a true warrior poet, she thought. His swords were his pen and these undead forces were his paper. And right now, he was creating a masterpiece.

"I don't have time for this!" Lazlo shouted. His True Rune started glowing as he raised his left hand. Rose thought she heard him mumble something about a 'Double-Edged Sword' or something like that. But, she didn't have time to think about it as purple, red, and dark green mist filled the hall around several of the undead forces.

Suddenly, purple-reddish swords of pure energy started materializing in the zombies' bodies all around them. Then, as quickly as the swords had appeared. They now simply popped back out of existence as more zombies fell to the ground, defeated.

However, this brief victory was ended quickly as more waves of zombies were pushing to get through into the hallway. Eresh and Simeon both raised their respective rods as symbols of the Fire Rune and the Holy Rune appeared over top of them. Obliterating several dozen nearby zombies with fire magic and the pure cleansing light of holy magic.

Rose drew her two ivory-handled nunchakus and jumped into the fray of battle as well. She yelled to Lazlo to go on ahead to save Olinda and to leave these zombies to her and the others. Not wasting any more time, Lazlo did just that especially when he heard a woman scream out in pain and fear. He recognized that voice at once. Olinda!

After making his way passed a few more zombies, he found the door and staircase Eresh had informed him about. She was right. He was at the main entrance of the King's Chamber in no time. He peaked through the keyhole of the door wanting some clue as to what he was about to have to deal with.

The Islander saw Nyoka placing some sort of glowing sphere-like object in the urn on the center of the altar between the twin solar runes. He, also, saw that Olinda and Cyrah were both still bound, but alive. Lazlo couldn't tell for sure, but he thought he saw some blood falling from Cyrah's arm. Sadly, he couldn't fully see Olinda as Nyoka was blocking most of his view of her.

Nyoka was now discussing something with one of the monks who had stepped forward to help him with something. Lazlo placed his ear next to the door to hear the conversation better and waited for his moment to strike. He was only going to get one chance at this and he didn't want to mess it up he told himself.

Meanwhile, Rose brought one of her nunchaku down with lightning speed on the head of yet another zombie, splitting its skull with deadly precision. The ivory handles spun rapidly in a circular motion as she prepared for her next opponent. The two mages where both casting spells and were, likewise, dispatching their foes quickly. However, still the undead seemed to keep coming more and more.

"They seem endless!" yelled Rose more exasperated then exhausted as she continued, "We need to get into the main chamber and rescue the princess!" A whispery voice replied, "I shall deal with these! Eresh, Rose, go help the others."

Eresh and Rose both looked at the male magician, and then back at each other and nodded. Normally, they might have protested something as dangerous as leaving Simeon alone to face so many undead forces, but now the situation demanded bold action.

The two broke free from the battle. Rose followed the short priestess down the hallway and through the last door on the right. Simeon looked back to see his female companions vanishing into the doorway. In moments, all of the hollowed-out ghastly eyes of the undead were given him their full attention.

The magician smiled, not since his days of traveling with Kyril had he made so much trouble for himself. He lifted his rod high in the air as he channeled his next spell. Then, he brought it slamming down to the ground. Freezing everything and everyone around him in a powerful mixture of ice and cold from his Flowing Rune's Breath of Ice spell.

Rose was surprised by how fast little Eresh could move when she really wanted to. They dispatched whatever zombies they encountered along the way. She followed the ancient princess through what seemed like one door after another. Down one hall and up another. Around this corner and that. Until, finally, they arrived at a lonely looking door. Eresh tried to open it, but it was locked. She tapped it with her glowing rod and a sound like a lock being unlocked could be heard.

The women walked through the door and into a bedroom. The room was simple in design, but lovely in a feminine way. "This was once Eresh's secret room. She would come here to get away from her brother and father when she wanted to be alone to think about things." Eresh said in a matter of fact sort of way.

The short clergy member walked up to an old oak wardrobe closet in the corner of the room while directing the female knight to follow her. Eresh said calmly catching her breath, "Come this way. Follow Eresh!" The white robed woman opened the wardrobe door and walked into it. She kept walking and pushed very hard on the back of the old oak frame wall. It started to creek and budge slowly until the back wall opened to reveal a secret entrance.

She tapped her rod on the side of the wall and it started to glow illuminating the dark tunnel before them. "Is that your concealment spell again?" the red-haired warrior asked as they walked through the narrow path. Eresh nodded her head no and then said, "It is not that spell. It is just light too see. Eresh is afraid of the darkness and spiders and the light makes both go away." Rose chuckled for a moment before thoughts of rescuing the princess returned to the forefront of her mind.

They came to the end of the path. Rose asked Eresh now what do they do. The Nagarean cleric felt along the sides of the brick wall for a moment until she found the one brick she was looking for. After pushing it, the two heard a mechanism click and a small door open. It was very tiny.

Both women, even Eresh had to bend down and crawl through it. They came out the other side in the back area of the King's Chamber. Rose and Eresh surveyed the situation: Lazlo was facing down Nyoka and his followers.

Cyrah was closest to them. She was chained to the wall in front of them and Olinda was chained to the altar. Rose thought to herself that they probably could get to Cyrah unnoticed. However, Olinda was tied up in the middle of the room in plain sight of everyone. It would take a miracle to get to her without being seen, she thought.

Suddenly, her thoughts were broken by Lazlo's booming voice. She heard him declare: "Who am I? I am Lazlo En Kuldes, son of Lino En Kuldes, King of Obel! Trained... As a Knight of Gaien on Razril. Tried... As the Captain of the flagship Dauntless and Commander of the elite naval force: Leviathan of the Island Nations Federation. Destined... As the leader and gatherer of the 108 Stars of Destiny. And purified… By the most accursed of the 27 True Runes: The Rune of Punishment, which governs Atonement and Forgiveness, and lets me judge as such!"

As he spoke those final words, he raised his left hand to his right shoulder to show his True Rune as pulses of dark green and purple light started emanating from it. The familiar glyph of the Rune started glowing more prominently.

She now heard Lazlo finish with: "Why am I here? What do I want? Simple, I am here to pass judgment on you for all your sins. My verdict: Guilty! Your sentence: Justice! To be carried out IMMEDIATELY!"

Rose was confused by some of what the foreign warrior was saying, but she got enough of it to know he was pretty pissed off. Moreover, he had done his job of distracting them and he was generating enough power to hide Eresh and Rose's presence for the time being.

Cyrah was watching Lazlo's performance as well. When out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of two silhouettes moving noiselessly along the side of the wall. She said nothing, but pretended to keep her eyes on Lazlo, while watching the two figures with her peripheral vision. Once she saw the one had red hair, she knew immediately who it was.

The two rescuers got as close to the bound princess as they dared for the moment. They hid behind one of the pillars in the room that was closest to Cyrah. The bound princess gestured to her chained wrists gently enough to show Rose and Eresh the problem, but not enough to get the monks' attention. Not that it mattered. Because, Nyoka had ordered all the monks to attack Lazlo, who was dispatching them effortlessly one by one.

Eresh gestured to Rose to follow her quietly as though she had a plan. Not wasting Lazlo's excellent distraction, they made their way to Cyrah. None of the three women said a word. Eresh lifted her staff very slowly fearing a sudden motion or jerking might draw attention to them.

She lifted her weapon carefully and touched the manacles, which unlocked themselves immediately as the door lock had done earlier. After freeing Cyrah, they made their way back the pillar covertly.

"We need to get you out of here, Your Highness" the knight whispered to Cyrah grabbing her hand trying to lead her back to the secret entrance. Cyrah pulled her hand away and moved backwards and said in a very firm whisper, "I am NOT leaving here without my sister!"

Rose knew how stubborn she could be and was not about to try and argue with the future Queen. Plus, she saw that Lazlo had defeated the dozen or so monks. Now he turned his full attention once more back toward Nyoka.

She reasoned this was as good as any time to try and rescue Olinda. She figured speed was probably preferred to stealth in this case. The Queen's Knight told Cyrah to wait here and asked Eresh to watch her. Still not wanting to give herself away if she could avoid it. She stayed low to the ground and hugged the edge of the wall as she moved very quickly toward the altar where Olinda was still bound.

The younger princess was watching the fight between Lazlo and Nyoka as Rose approached her. Unexpectedly, Rose froze as she was about to make her move. He had not defeated all the monks. One was still alive. In fact, it was the chief monk. He had never engaged the double sword wielder in battle, but instead was still guarding the bubbling urn on the side of the altar next to the Dawn and Twilight Runes.

Rose pondered if she should try and take him out quickly before trying to rescue Olinda. Or if she should try and free her best friend and hope he didn't notice them. She elected to do the latter. She didn't know what this monk was capable of and while she didn't doubt her skill to beat him. She did not want to be engaged in a long drawn out fight if she could avoid it with the princess' life in such danger.

Olinda at last saw Rose crawling on all fours from the wall toward her. She wanted to shout with excitement. But, seeing her facial expression of surprise, Rose immediately placed her finger over her lips indicating silence. Thus, Olinda remained quiet and motionless.

Since the silver-haired woman was only bound by ropes, Rose withdrew her specially designed knife she kept wedged in the cleavage area of her chestguard, and cut the ropes once she was beside Olinda. The beautiful princess rolled herself gently off the table trying to not make a sound nor gain the attention of the chief priest, or Nyoka for that matter.

At this moment, the ancient ruler was shooting beams of energy at Lazlo who was either dodging them or blocking them with his blades. Olinda had just got off the table, had taken Rose's hand, and were about to make their run for it, when it happened.

"Master! Master! Lord Nyoka, I think it is done! Yes, the new vessel is ready!" Both women stopped instantly when he had started speaking thinking they were caught, but when they realized this was not the case. They both made a run for it back to the pillar hiding the other two.

Both sisters hugged silently having survived everything they had been through today, but something caught Cyrah's eye. She stopped hugging Olinda and gestured for her sister to look back at the shrine. Rose was pointing in that direction too. Neither of them could believe what they were seeing. It was Nyoka's new vessel and it looked just like the two royal sisters.

Concurrently, Lazlo had fended off all the monks with little effort. They were nowhere close to the training of Nethergate. However, even in his weakened state Nyoka was still a very formidable threat with his Half Moon Rune.

The old priest was hurling rays of energy at Lazlo relentlessly. However, Lazlo was dodging all the beams effortlessly. Normally, he would have just attacked Nyoka head on by now, but he was stalling for a distraction. At last, he saw out of the corner of his eye, Rose had just rescued Olinda. They were running for a pillar in the back of the room.

A deep voice called out, "Master! Master! Lord Nyoka, I think it is done! Yes, the new vessel is ready!" Nyoka didn't hear him shouting at first as he was finishing channeling another beam blast from his rune at Lazlo.

The former captain, unfortunately, did hear the chief monk yell out. Thinking that he had caught Rose and Olinda, the old warrior turned his head enough toward the altar that he didn't see Nyoka's last spell. The blast made direct contact with his chestguard sending him flying backward right into a stonewall.

Lazlo was dazed. He tried standing back up, but his legs were still wobbly from the blow. He placed one hand on his head and with the other hand he pushed against the wall to help him keep his balance while the room stopped spinning around.

Nyoka wasted no time. Seeing his opponent was down. He at last let his vessel die with the Half Moon Rune, Resurrection Rune and Shield Rune still a part of it. Those Runes had been the only things keeping the worn-out clone alive that long against Nyoka's toxic soul. The two lesser runes burnt out instantly drained of all their power.

However, the Half Moon Rune remained there on the ground intact. The dark cloudy mass that was Nyoka's spirit departed and headed for the empty vessel standing on the altar to the cheers of the last monk and the utter shock of Olinda and the other women.

The wielder of the Rune of Punishment had at last regained most of his composure. He was able to stand on his feet without having to brace himself with the wall. He picked up his swords he had dropped and looked toward the altar. He couldn't believe what he was seeing either.

There before him was a young naked woman standing on the altar lifeless as a statue. At first, Lazlo thought it was Olinda. However, then he realized she was too tall and had a fuller figure than her. Next he reasoned it had to be Cyrah, but something was off about it being her too. In truth, as Lazlo came to observe it was neither.

For this strange platinum-haired clone had characteristics of both women. She had Cyrah's basic bodily form, but she had more of Olinda's facial features. Such as her silvery longhair, blue eyes, small nose, and her gentle complexion. This female vessel was beautiful in form and features by any measurement. And yet, this feminine vessel was standing perfectly still. Her face was completely lifeless and blank.

Then, Lazlo saw something else, the black cloud that was Nyoka's twisted soul was now descending into the lifeless body. It was indwelling this clone of the royal family. The Islander started making a charge now for the vessel to kill it before Nyoka could gain full-control.

However, the chief monk had seen this and hurled his own body at him. Lazlo dodged, but the monk still managed to clip part of his shoulder into the Islander's side knocking him over. He fell, but curled up his body, and kept rolling until he had regained his momentum. Once he was back on his feet, he saw he now was too late.

The vessel started to glow once more as Nyoka's soul took control. A blinding purple light began to emanate off the female vessel. Everyone had to shield their eyes with an arm or their hands. Eresh left Rose to guard the two princesses as she ran off toward Lazlo's direction. Still barely able to see.

The monk was back to his feet as well and with staff weapon now in hand. The purple light soon diminished enough for everyone to see. Lazlo was engaged in melee combat with the chief monk, who unlike his former minions was well-trained in this kind of fighting. The cleric was using his staff more like a bow stick, twirling it over his head, before bringing it down to strike at the old sailor.

Lazlo was ready for it, though. He raised his left blade in the air to block the staff's downward strike. At the same time, he swung his right blade in an upward motion moving from right to left. The monk countered as well. Using the middle area of his staff between where his hands were holding it to mitigate most of the sword's momentum.

The chief servant brought his knee up and tried to kick at Lazlo. This broke the deadlock as Lazlo backed off to avoid the blow. Both men assumed a defensive posture immediately. Yet, out of nowhere came Eresh. Her Thunder Rune glowing brightly on her forehead. While running, she raised her rod as bolts of lightning in the form of the Thunder Runner spell came bursting forth and hit the monk. Sending him flying.

The Islander looked over to his side and smiled at his new comrade, who nodded back. They both turned their attention to the still glowing purple figure of Nyoka in his new vessel. Lazlo swung his swords at her repeatedly, while Eresh tried spells from both her Resurrection Rune and Thunder Rune; yet nothing was happening.

Both quickly realized that this purple energy was some kind of a barrier or a cocoon that Nyoka had placed around his vessel. He had used his sorcery to shield himself until he had mastery over this unique new form he was indwelling.

The monk was back on his feet and started yelling and pleading, "You can't hurt him, you fools. He's practically on the verge of becoming a god. Please Master! Please give me, Hido, your most faithful servant the power to slay your enemies."

"He's no god, yet! All we need is more power." Lazlo said this as he leaped back and began to channel his own True Rune. Eresh realizing this moved back as well.

Suddenly, however, the Half Moon Rune began glowing as if obeying the wordless commands of its former host. The unique and cursed rune took upon itself a new body to inhabit: Hido's. He was consumed by its glowing energy as a new wave of pulsating power sent both Lazlo and Eresh to the ground. The Islander's spell had been broken before the cast could go off.

Months ago, when Neclord had fashioned the unique and powerful rune for Nyoka in exchange for the ancient knowledge of how to doppelganger one's self, the old runic vampire had given Nyoka a warning. He declared that without enough time or proper precautions this rune would turn a normal human host into a vampire. And that they would become a slave to the will of the new rune.

Since Nyoka's clone really wasn't entirely human. And thanks to Razi's clever use of combining the Resurrection Rune and Shield Rune, this part of the Half Moon Rune's curse was negated while Nyoka used it. However, in Hido's case, he was fully human.

The glowing stopped around the chief monk and sure enough he was changed. He was a vampire now or something close to it, Lazlo observed. A creature of the night, who was being controlled by a powerful rune.

"What the hell!? This is getting too creepy for me." Rose concluded, "Let's get you two out of here. Before they spot us. The secret entrance door is just over there. I promised Lazlo I would get you two to safety. Now, let's go!"

However, Olinda was resolute she wasn't about to leave Lazlo and she said as much, "I am not leaving him here alone to fight that thing. I won't." Cyrah, also, chimed in, "And I am not going without Olinda. Plus, I am not leaving two of our most important treasures in the Queendom (the twin solar runes) in that crazy priest's possession."

Rose sighed as she thought to herself, I guess we shall do this the hard way then. She grabbed both women by the wrists and began pulling them without restraint to the hidden wall entrance. Both princesses tried pulling away, but the Queen's Knight's grip was too firm. They were going whether they wanted to or not.

Just when Rose thought they were going to make it. A creepy and unholy voice boomed and echoed throughout the chamber. "Where do thou think thou art going?" All three women were suddenly frozen more with chills than anything. In addition, the secret door they were trying to go toward turned red with magical power and shut itself. Nyoka's doing, reasoned Rose.

"At last it shalt be mine. We art joined together as one. My wrath shalt be reborn once more!" the same eerie voices declared. The voice from the vessel was so strange, because when Nyoka talked it wasn't just a single voice speaking. Rather, it was two voices speaking in harmony as one.

The first voice was Nyoka's creepy old cadence, but the other voice sounded like a deeper version of Olinda's female voice. Thus, the one voice sounded like a human female and the other like a creepy masculine demon. As both spoke as one in cadence and harmony the result was goosebumps on the arms of the three escaping women.

But now they were trapped as well. The only way out was the main door and for that they had to get passed Nyoka and his new bloodsucking servant. As Rose was trying to figure out how to do just that, it suddenly swung open.

Simeon emerged into the King's Chamber. His tanned robe was torn in several places. He looked tired from having singlehandedly dispatched dozens and dozens of zombies by himself. However, he took up a position near Lazlo and Eresh, who had regrouped standing between Nyoka and the girls. The Battle for Falena was about to enter its deadliest stage yet.