Warning: This chapter will contain dark thoughts of revenge and graphic violence in the form of blood, gore, and a very gruesome death.

12: Fear Itself


I slowly opened my eyes, fully expecting to be either dead, or buried under the wreckage of the warehouse. What I didn't expect to see was a bubble of blue-to-green light protecting me. I looked around and saw that everyone else had their own bubbles of light protecting them. The warehouse had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Fortunately, most of the wreckage had blown outwards, leaving only the remains of the roof around us. The bubbles of light faded away and Sunny collapsed to the ground.

Eli and I immediately ran to Sunny's side. "Are you okay?" Eli asked with concern.

Sunny nodded slowly and spoke between breaths "I… I've never tried… to protect… multiple people… from multiple explosions… before…"

"Can you stand?" I asked.

"Yeah, just... just give me a minute…"

"I'm afraid we don't have a minute." Archer said darkly, walking over to us. "If this was a trap then we need to return to the hideout and see if the others are okay." Archer picked Sunny up in his arms "Follow me."

Archer sprinted all the way back to the factory with me and Eli in tow. Once Sunny had regained her strength, she got Archer to put her down so she wouldn't burden him. We made our way into the tunnels and all but flew through the passages to find the door to the hideout blown off its hinges. We burst into the garage to find it strewn with the bodies of Vereor grunts.

"Maria's handiwork." Archer said flatly.

"Then where are they?" Eli asked worriedly.

Sunny spoke up "Perhaps they-"

"Wait," I said, raising my hand. "Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Eli asked

"Shh, listen."

The others fell silent and listened for several moments until they had heard what I had. "Is that…" Sunny said in puzzlement "…barking?"

Without warning, Archer set off at a sprint toward the stairs. We followed him up the stairs, through the observation room, passed the common room and into his office. Archer knelt down and opened a trap door under his desk. Archer climbed down into the escape tunnel and came back up a few seconds later with Luke under one arm.

"Luke," Sunny said to the wolf when Archer had put him down. "Where are Ella, Leo, and Maria?"

Luke barked several times in response.

I gasped "They're stuck in a well?" I noticed that everyone –including the wolf– was glaring at me. I grinned sheepishly "Sorry, I couldn't resist. Did you honestly think that you'd get an answer from him?"

If I didn't know any better, I'd have said Luke looked insulted. Archer pulled out a radio and spoke rapidly into it. There was an incoherent response from the radio and Archer sighed, putting the radio away. "They never arrived at Thomas' something's wrong."

Eli shared a concerned glance with Sunny, "Do you think the Vereor… took them?"

Archer sighed, "It's the only explanation left." In a rare display, Archer angrily punched the wall. "Damn it!"

"We can get them back," Sunny tried to calm Archer "All we need to do is-"

Without warning, Archer spun on Sunny "No, we can't!" he growled "The Vereor HQ is located in an old fort. The place is more heavily fortified than Fort Knox, there's no way get in there without being seen! They're gone!"

Archer stepped back and closed his eyes, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself. I spoke up in the awkward silence that followed. "How did they even find this place?"

Archer opened his eyes and addressed me in a level voice. "They most likely found one of the tunnel entrances. Even so, the tunnels are a maze, it would be almost impossible to find us."

An idea popped into my mind so fast it was like a light bulb had been turned on in my brain. "What if they had a map?" At everyone's inquisitive looks I explained. "What if this isn't the only base under Philsburg? What if the Vereor had access to one of those bases? What if that base had a map of the tunnel network?"

I could practically see the gears turning in Archer's mind "It's a possibility, but finding it would be just as impossible as attacking the Vereor head-on"

I grinned "Leave that to me."

Several minutes later, we were standing just inside the dimly lit tunnel we had come through.

"Are you sure about this?" Sunny asked.

I waved off her concerns "I've fused myself into the shadows before and I've listened to them, combining those two shouldn't be too hard."

"That's not what we're worried about," Eli said "Every time you've fused with the shadows you're consciousness is mostly contained in one place, but what you're suggesting: spreading your consciousness across an area –and a large area at that. What if you can't pull yourself back together?"

I rolled my eyes "Relax mom, I'll be fine." With that I turned away from my two friends and drew on the shadows around me. I felt the darkness merge with my skin, my flesh, my very being and suddenly my physical body vanished and I was one with the shadows.

There are no words to accurately describe what being one with the shadows is like, but I'll do my best. Imagine that you are aware of everything around you, every sound as loud as a gong, you see everything at once, every detail, every movement, everything. Add on top of that the feeling that you are everything and you'll have about as close an understanding of the experience as any none shadow-kinetic can get. I let my awareness expand and keep on expanding farther and farther down the tunnels, stretching my consciousness further than I ever had before, and then some. All the while I was being overwhelmed by a tsunami of information. I was aware of everything, hell I was everything, and I had only expanded my consciousness in a few hundred feet radius. The feedback was overwhelming; I couldn't distinguish the patter of a rat's feet from a tunnel wall.

Then I felt… something brush against my mind.

"Ah, at last you attempt the hardest task any shadow-kinetic can manage: total shadow omniscience."

I mentally tried to recoil but the… thing had me caught like a fly in a web.

"Now, now, no need to fret. I have been watching you for some time."

Surprise vibrated through me. Cautiously, I responded. Who-What are you? I asked warily, several possibilities already running through my mind.

"I am not a god if that's what you're asking?"

I hesitated before responding. Then what are you?

"A Conduit obviously, and a powerful Conduit at that."

Have I heard of you?

"No, I was a Conduit long before MacGrath began his crusade and I have learned to conceal myself from him."

What do you want with me?

"I'm curious. The Shadows see all, nothing can hide from the darkness, and I have searched far and wide for another shadow-kinetic. In all my years of searching, you are the only one I've found."

There was a long pause before I responded. Huh?

Suddenly, I felt myself reforming; my consciousness coming back together as the torrent of information thankfully subsided. Before my body could fully reshape itself however, I felt something tug at my gut and suddenly I felt like I was flying over a great distance. After several seconds of flying, I felt my speed drop and I came to a halt. All darkness cleared from my vision and I found myself standing in a large circular plaza.

Standing tall in the center of the plaza was an obelisk, while the plaza was ringed by a large columned wall with two gaps in it on opposite sides of the plaza. Beyond the larger of the two gaps -the entrance I assumed- I could see the ruins of a large city. Opposite this, past the other smaller of the two gaps, there was a large, towering domed cathedral, its gilded doors and striking mosaic windows in remarkably good condition.

The voice spoke once more. "When you are alone, lost, and betrayed, come to me here and I will teach you the Way of the Shadows."

A dozen questions raced through my mind but I voiced only the one that concerned me the most. What do you mean betrayed? By whom?

"You will see. Now, our time s up and I must send you back but before I do, a word of caution: Do not pin all your hopes on Ella, she is not as powerful as the Beast."

What do you mean? How powerful is she?


My vision started to go dark once more and I once again felt myself flying at great speeds. Wait! What do you mean by that?

I was answered with only silence. I cried out as I felt my back slam into something hard. The darkness cleared from my vision and I found myself lying on my back on the floor back in the tunnel, Sunny, Eli, and Archer standing over me with concern written on their faces.

"Are you okay?" Sunny asked worriedly.

"Yeah," I groaned; my head hurt like hell. "What happened?"

"We don't know." Eli said "You disappeared into the shadows and then a few minutes later you reformed on the floor."

"Did you find them?" Archer asked urgently.

I shook my head "No, when I extended my consciousness the feedback was too overwhelming; I couldn't discern one thing from another. Then…" I stopped myself from relaying my encounter with the mysterious voice; something told me I shouldn't share that information. "…Then I landed back here, sorry."

Archer eyed me suspiciously, I had a feeling he knew I wasn't telling them everything.

Eli sighed and helped me to my feet "It was worth a shot. We'll just have to figure so-"


We turned to the source of the bark: Luke. The pup was sitting farther in the tunnel, looking at us expectantly. "What is it Luke?" Sunny asked.

The young wolf barked again and started down the tunnel, his nose to the ground. Archer raised his eyebrows "Huh, I can't believe I didn't think of it before." He started after Luke.

"What?" Eli asked as we followed after Archer.

"Luke can sniff them out." Archer said "As long as the trail hasn't gone cold, he should lead us right to them."

Luke (wait, WHAT?):

The poor lighting of the man-caves-underground did not concern me: my eyes were made to hunt in the dark. What aided me most however was the sensor-of-surroundings on the tip of my snout. Information from the smells-that-inform poured in. A bad-black-rodent was nearby, and an old mark-of-territory was around the next corner. Behind me, man-Archer and the three man-pups were following close behind me. What I was focused on however, was the scent of litter-bond-mate-Ella. I honed in on the trail. I felt black-night-fear emanate from litter-bond-mate-Ella through our linking-of-hearts. The protective instinct ingrained in me burned brighter and I increased my speed, forcing man-Archer and man-pups to sprint to keep up with me.

"Luke, slow down!" cried man-pup-Eli.

The only word that held meaning was my man-name, the other words were as meaningless as an annoying-small-bug-that-buzzes-in-ear. Still, I understood the intention and decided to ignore them. If man-Archer and man-pups can't keep up with me then I will leave them behind.

No one would keep me from litter-bond-mate-Ella.

I would not lose her.

I would not fail.


"It's quiet… too quiet…"

"Really Cole?" I put my hands on my hips "There's plenty of background noise."

Cole grinned at me "I know, but I've always wanted to say that." He shrugged "Besides I'm from Empire, this place has nothing on its cacophony."

"Well, look who learned a new word." I couldn't resist teasing.

Cole cocked an eyebrow at me "You're never going to forget the 'Ray-a-what?' comment are you?"

I rolled my eyes and looked down at the old fort from our perch on a roof to the south. "Sense Eli anywhere?"

Cole's eyes flashed and he stared at the fort intently for a moment before frowning. "Odd, I can sense him but he's… underground?"

"Sewers perhaps?" I suggested.

Cole shrugged "Maybe, I can sense the girl as well." Cole pointed to the fort. "She's in there."

"So," I said after a moment "What's our plan of attack?"

"Go in all powers blazing?" Cole suggested.

"And what about the truck that has been suspiciously parked at the base of this building for the past ten minutes?"

"The what?" Cole looked down from the roof to the truck below. "How did I not see that?"

Suddenly, the truck started to rumble and Cole stiffened. "Kuo, get ready to-"

He never got to finish his sentence as the truck blew apart and something large, white, and bulky rocketed at Cole, tackling him and sending them both flying south through the air, Cole's voice fading away as the swore. "Son of a …"

My eyes widened "Oh, fuck."


I landed hard.

Not that it really mattered, me being the invincible all-fucking-powerful Beast and all but still: OW!

I rolled my shoulders and got to my feet. I had landed amidst the ruins of an old nuclear plant: 3 ½ Mile Island I think was its name. I faced the thing that had dared to challenge me as it landed on its rockets. It was a large machine with a camera for a head, its large white frame adorned with various weapons.

"Beastslayer Mark 11 primary protocol active." The machine spoke in a cold metallic voice. "Objective: Terminate Cole MacGrath."

I cocked an eyebrow "Really?" I raised a single hand to the heavens and red lightning arced across the sky. "Good luck with that."

I brought my hand down and trillions of volts of red lightning shot down from the heavens, striking the machine. I kept up the torrent for a few more seconds before I let up. When the smoke cleared I expected the machine to be a pile of fried circuits and scrap metal. What I didn't expect was for the machine to be completely unscathed.

"Is that it?" the machine said, sounding bored.

I just stood there, gapping in disbelief. Nobody could survive that! Nobody!

When I didn't respond the machine curled its metal fingers into a fist and mimed cracking its knuckles. "My turn."

The machine thrust its hands out, fingers spread wide. Two balls of swirling light appeared in each hand and I barely had time to shield myself when the balls combined into one giant beam of light fired at me. I was knocked back into a building behind me by the blast and the building collapsed on top of me. Anger burst to life inside of me and I blasted the rubble on top of me away with an explosion of fire.

As I got to my feet I grinned grimly at the Beastslayer. "This should be interesting."


God, this dog can run fast! I thought as we chased after Luke. We had been following the pup for several minutes now and my legs were killing me.

Luke rounded a corner and as we followed him, I noticed that at the far end of the tunnel was a metal door guarded by two Vereor grunts. Before they had time to react, Luke was on one of them, taking a flying leap to the grunt's face and knocking him to the ground while ripping out the grunt's throat with his jaws. Archer pulled out his crossbow and fired a bolt into the brain of the other grunt before he had time to aim at Luke with his assault rifle.

We stopped in front of the door and Ryan tried the handle. "Locked," he said bitterly when the door refused to budge.

"Allow me," Archer said, stepping forward and taking a small case out.

I raised an eyebrow "Maria's pocket knife?"

"Leatherman," Archer corrected as he pressed a button on the case and a strange device that resembled a mini cattle prod flipped out "I found it near a dead grunt in the hideout." Archer pressed the device to a keypad next to the door. "Now if I remember correctly… Aha!"

The door unlocked with a click and swung open. Archer grinned at me as he put the Leatherman away. "Portable code breaker."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "That's… pretty cool."

We entered through the door to find another deserted hallway. Ryan groaned "Not another one."

"Shh" Archer quieted us and slowly crept toward the door at the other end of the hall.

Archer stopped just outside the door and readied his crossbows before he kicked the door in. Archer rolled inside the room and I lost sight of him. There were sounds of struggle and the Twang of Archer's crossbows for several seconds before all was silent. I held my breath in anticipation and sighed in relief as Archer reappeared in the doorway.

"What are you waiting for?" Archer said impatiently.

We followed Archer through the door and into a locker room. Strewn throughout it were the bodies of three Vereor grunts. Archer searched the lockers and eventually found a digital map of the Vereor base. "It looks like we're underneath the Vereor's fort." Archer said, studying the map. "Maria, Leo, and Ella should be in the detention block, follow me."

We made our way through the halls and rooms underneath the Vereor base. Occasionally we came across a couple of Vereor grunts. When that happened, Ryan, Luke, or I would swiftly eliminate them while Sunny protected Archer. Several minutes and 27 dead Vereor grunts later, we arrived in the detention block. Ryan and I eliminated two guards standing in front of a cell door. Archer hurriedly opened the door and rushed into the cell.

I followed Archer into the cell. It was small and dark, barely large enough to fit four people. Lying in the corner, her eyes closed, hair a mess, and a small trickle of blood steadily flowing from a pierced artery in her arm, was Maria.

Archer rushed to her side, quickly applying a bandage to her arm. "Maria, can you hear me?" he said calmly yet I could still make out the fear in his voice. "Are you alright?"

Maria groggily opened her eyes. "…Archer…?" her tone was not something I'd heard from her before: it sounded fragile, broken.

"Easy," Archer said when Maria tried to rise.

"…Took my blood…" Maria mumbled.

Archer stiffened "What's wrong?" Sunny asked.

Archer shook his head "Nothing, it appears that they took a lot of Maria's blood."

"Why would they do that?" Ryan asked

"I don't know," Archer said quickly. He turned his attention back to Maria. "Where are Leo and Ella?"

Maria's eyes suddenly filled with tears "Archer…" she said softly "Leo's dead…"

There was a long, horrible silence before Archer spoke again "What?"

Maria explained "A man… covered in scars… had a double edged sword… stabbed him…"

"Carver," Archer said darkly "Where's Ella?"

At that moment, whether coincidence, divine influence, or just plain dumb luck, one of the dead grunts' radios cackled to life. A harsh voice spoke through it, "Rogers, grab the girl and meet me and the doctor at Access Point B. He's taking the freak, the girl, and the kids corpse back to Rissikburg."

The radio cut out and Archer swore. "Carver. He's giving them over to the representative." Archer sighed "We have to get Maria out of here. Sunny, help me with her."

Until now I had been silent, too shocked by the news of Leo's death to speak, but now I found my voice.


Everyone looked at me in astonishment. I continued "You're not going to get revenge on Carver? He killed Leo!"

Archer spoke up "Eli we-"

"And what about Ella?" I ignored him "We can't just leave her!"

Archer stood up and stared down at me. "Eli, Maria needs medical attention. But trust me; we will save Ella." Archer's eyes softened "I want to kill Carver for what he's done too, more than you in fact, but unlike you I know where that path leads."

I did not stand down "If you lack the balls to do what's right then I will."

Archer sighed "Fine," he tossed me a small device. "Clip that to your ear and contact us if you get Ella."

I nodded and took a map from one of the grunts' corpses before starting down the hallway. "Luke, stay with them." I said once I noticed the wolf was following me.

"Eli…" I froze when I heard Maria's weak voice. Slowly, I turned around and saw Maria standing up, supported by Sunny. She locked her dark eyes with my golden ones. "Kill that hijo de puta."

I nodded and turned my back on them, sprinting down the halls.

As I used the map to navigate through the halls, my mind was clouded by dark thoughts of revenge. Leo had become like a little brother to me this past month. Sure he was annoying at times but he was also fun-loving, energetic, friendly, and when it comes right down to it a good person. Now he was dead; killed by that bastard Carver. The fire of hate that burned in me far outshone the hatred I had felt just before I killed Burke. I dashed through a mess with a small group of Vereor grunts sitting at a table, barely glancing at them as I tossed a fireball in their direction, incinerating the grunts before they had time to notice my presence.

Through the halls I sprinted, brutally killing any grunts that got in my way. Finally, I burst through an open door and into Access Point B…


We made our way to the nearest exit, Archer, Ryan, and Luke killing any grunts we encountered while Sunny protected me. Gradually, I could feel my strength returning to me though I still had to lean on Sunny for Support. We entered another room with four grunts scattered around it. Ryan immediately vanished into the shadows, only to rematerialize next to a grunt and plunge his dagger into the grunt's throat. Archer fired his crossbows and took down two more grunts while Luke leapt on the last grunt before he could draw his gun and tore out his throat.

I looked around the room. From what I could tell, this was a workshop, with various bits and pieces of guns and explosives scattered around. Lying on a workbench were several rolled up blueprints.

Nearby I saw that Ryan was looting a container. "Hey, grenades. Sweet!" Ryan cried, triumphantly taking out several bandoleers full of grenades from the container.

Archer looked at Ryan sternly. "Put those back."

"Aw…" Ryan groaned "You're no fun."

I however, was more focused on the blueprints. "Hey Sunny, could you get those for me?"

Sunny frowned in confusion but leaned me against the wall and grabbed the blueprints from the workbench. "Why?" she asked as she handed the blueprints to me and resumed supporting me.

I shrugged "Why let perfectly good blueprints go to waste?"

"You can examine your souvenirs later," Archer said "Right now; there should be an elevator to the surface through here."

We followed Archer to the elevator in the next room and we crowded inside. Ryan pushed the button for the top floor. We waited several minutes as we ascended and when we reached our floor the door opened…

…right onto the roof of a tall building.

Ryan gaped in surprise "I think I pushed the wrong button."

"No worries, I can just lower us to ground level," Sunny said.

Archer however, frowned. He took out a pair of binoculars and looked to the northeast. "Damn it."

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"See that wall of smoke?" Archer said, pointing it out to us "That can mean only two things: a forest fire or…"

"Feral Harvesters." Ryan finished darkly.

My eyes widened and Sunny paled (if that's even possible with her already pale skin) at the mention of the monsters that were currently marching on Philsburg.

Archer nodded "We need to stop them before they reach the city."

"No," Ryan interjected "What we need to do is get the hell out of Dodge."

"And leave all these people to be corrupted and turned into mindless Feral husks?" Sunny snapped "No way."

Ryan sighed "Fine, but if we're going to take on a pack of Harvesters…" Ryan grinned and the bandoleers he had found earlier materialized from the shadows in his hands "…then it's a good thing I brought grenades."

Archer glared at Ryan "I thought I told you to put those back."

Ryan shrugged "Did you really expect me to listen?"

"Point," Archer turned to me "Maria, wait for us here." He handed me an ear-com and the binoculars "Luke, watch over her."

Sunny set me down on the roof before creating a large disk of light. Sunny, Archer, and Ryan got onto the disk and crouched down low on it. "Hold on tight." Sunny said before the disk shot out toward the Harvesters, carrying Sunny, Archer, and Ryan with it.

I watched them go for a moment before turning to look at Luke. The pup was looking at me curiously "Sooo…" I said awkwardly "What's up?"

Luke looked at me like I was delirious (which could very well be a possibility). I sighed and opened the blueprints "At least now I'll have time to study these…" my voice trailed off as I studied the blueprints "Cuál el Infierno?"


… I burst through an open door and into Access Point B, taking in everything in a single glance. Access Point B was a large concrete tunnel, high enough to fit a truck and wide enough for a two lane road. How did I know this? I knew because there was a truck and a two lane road in it. The start of the tunnel was bathed in an eerie red light while further down, I could see that the lights turned white. The back of the truck was open with a ramp extending down from it. Being pushed up the ramp by a man in a dark green uniform was a stretcher with a body bag on it –it didn't take a genius to figure out what was inside it. There were five other men in the room; three men also in dark green uniforms, a tall man with short, slicked back, black hair wearing an expensive white suit, and a large man covered in scars wearing a red jacket over his large scarred chest and a long, double-edged sword with serrated edges strapped to his back.


I snapped my attention to the source of the voice. Restrained by a man in a green uniform standing in the truck, was Ella. Lightning arced across my arms "Let. Her. Go."

The man in the suit stepped forward "Ah, so this is young Mr. Macgrath." The man spoke with a familiar accent I couldn't place. He eyed me up and down. "I must admit I expected you to have fangs and be spitting fire from Roman's description."

That stopped me in my tracks "You know Roman?"

The man in the suit laughed "Of course, you don't think that we funded just the Vereor do you?"

The full impact of his words struck me. "You're behind both the Vereor and the HR?"

"Well, not me specifically." The man in the suit said "But yes, the people I represent do fund both those groups."

"Who?" I said, threateningly taking a step forward.

The man in the suit laughed "Did you really think I would tell you that? No, I think not." The man in the suit snapped his fingers and the large, scarred man stepped forward. "Carver,"

I felt my anger return with renewed vigor upon seeing the bastard who killed Leo.

"Yes, Doctor?" Carver said, sounding bored.

The man in the suit pointed at me "Deal with him."

Carver grinned savagely and unlimbered the large blade from his back "With pleasure."

I snarled and unsheathed the katana from my backpack, fire and lightning burning in my other hand. I was hardly aware of the doctor and the others climbing into the truck. I ignored Ella frantically calling my name while the truck's back hatch closed, and I paid no attention as the truck started and sped down the tunnel; all my attention was focused on the son of a bitch who killed Leo.

"You'll pay for what you did to Leo." I snarled venomously.

Carver laughed; a harsh, cruel sound that stroked the fires of my fury even more. "The kid? He was easy to kill, like a dumb pig sent to the slaughter."

My anger burned brighter than a raging inferno. I thrust out my hand and focused all my rage into a large blast of sapphire fire. Carver vanished in the blaze and I kept up the torrent for as long as I could. When I was starting to feel weak, something large burst from the inferno and tackled me. I rolled away from the brute and spun to face my foe. Carver was only slightly singed, having somehow ducked under the flames. He grinned at me "I've trained for years to fight Conduits; do you really think you have a chance?"

I growled and hurled a light grenade at Carver, hoping to blind him. Carver anticipated my move and rolled out of the way of the grenade, charging right at me. Carver slashed sideways, aiming to cleave me in two. I back flipped out of the way of the blade, charging a lightning bolt as I did. I fired at Carver only for him to dodge and retaliate with a swing to my throat. I barely had time to bring my katana up to deflect the blow to the side. Sparks flew and my arm vibrated from the impact as the blades clashed, the ring of metal on metal echoing through the tunnel.

I shoved Carver's blade to the side and tried to gain some distance between us but it was no use, Carver was on me in seconds, blade flying toward my head. I ducked away from the swing and counter- attacked with a strike of my own, only to be effortlessly blocked. I parried Carver's next slash and tried to run him through only to be parried once more. Carver punched my gut, winding me, before raising his sword to remove my head. I barely managed to raise my sword to deflect the blow to the side in time, earning a gash in my arm for my efforts. Carver's eyes widened and his lips spread into a sadistic smile at the smell of first blood.

I will never know how long we fought; all I was aware of was the ache in my limbs and the ring of our blades. Initially I tried dodging and dancing around Carver, planning to use his bulkier form and slower speed against him. Carver soon proved that method defunct however, as he moved with a speed to rival Archer. Next I tried getting some distance between us so I could use my powers effectively but again, Carver bested me, barely letting any distance between us more than a few feet. I soon found myself struggling to defend myself, Carver's blows having both the speed and power in them that jarred my arms every time our blades contacted.

I slashed at Carver's throat only for him to bat my blade to the side. I tried to follow up with another slash to his legs but Carver had other plans. He blocked my strike and before I could react, aimed a booted foot at my ankle. I heard a sickening crack as the blow landed, feeling the bones in my ankle break carver followed up with a punch to my jaw, sending me to the floor. I barely managed to roll out of the way as Carver followed through with a slash to my head. I raised my katana to block Carver's next strike. The already battered katana shattered under the blow and I cried out as I ducked under the unstoppable slash. Lightning and fire arcing across my arms, I rolled under Carver's next strike and buried what remained of my katana into Carver's thigh. Carver grunted in surprise and swung at my chest.

I reflexively stuck out my hands and somehow caught Carver's wrists, stopping the swing. I don't know where the idea came from but I immediately coated Carver's hands in fire and lightning, burning his flesh off and turning his hands into charred lumps of flesh. Carver cried out and released his blade. I let go of Carver's wrists and caught the blade as it fell. I spun back around and swung the blade through Carver's chest, parting flesh, cleaving through his intestines, his blood spraying out and staining my clothes.

Carver cried out and fell to his knees, clutching where I had cut him open with the burn lumps of flesh that were all that remained of his hands. I struggled to my feet, careful not to put weight on my broken ankle.

Carver looked up at me, a sick, sadistic gleam in his eyes. "Do you feel it?" he whispered hoarsely "The pleasure of snuffing out your foe's life? Does it fill you with joy?"

I looked down on the disgusting, homicidal, sociopath. "Normally no," I said darkly. I raised the blade in my hands above my head, pumping lightning and fire through it. "But for you I'll make an exception. Just. This. ONCE!"

Upon speaking those last words, I brought the blade down on Carver's head with all my enhanced Conduit strength. I cleaved through his skull, splitting his brain, rending his spine, ripping through his vital organs, and slicing through his intestines. When the red faded from my vision, I saw that I had cleaved Carver in two from head to toe. I felt nausea overwhelm me and I promptly vomited up the contents of my stomach all over the bloody carcass.

Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I looked down at what remained of the Vereor leader with disgust. I spat on the corpse. "Have fun in Hell."

With that I turned away and limped down the tunnel.