A/N: I really need to work on the stories I already have... But I've wanted to write a Vexx story for ages! So, here's a one-shot for you.
BEFORE YOU READ! In this story Vexx somehow managed to leave the Shadow Realm and return home, where he found a small band of survivors that came back to Overwood when Yabu disappeared. I have no explanation so please don't ask! Just use your imagination, okay?
I tried a distinct style for this – just a little experiment. Every few paragraphs there will be one short line. I want to know if those short lines add more power to the sentence so...if you could tell me that would be great! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Vexx! Since Acclaim is kind of gone, I really don't know who owns it.
Dragonreach was a desolate realm. The only ornamentation the landscape contained was the odd hardy plant and the bleach white skeletons of various creatures. There was a crumbling castle atop the Reach's highest mountain which was said to be home to ghosts. People wondered if the ghosts had left now that Dark Yabu no longer held sway and night was a lot safer, though the path to the castle was treacherous and no one was willing to brave it to find out.
No one except Vexx.
With the Shadowraith Lord gone, the remaining Valdani had crept out of hiding and Vexx had been overjoyed. His joy waned fairly quickly as he realised that while his people were glad to see him, having thought him lost to them forever, they were frightened of him.
Vexx was a Guardian, like his grandfather Vargas, but he had the Guardian's weapons that had been lost for centuries. The legendary Astani War Talons were a sight to behold, magnificent in their design, simple in purpose and full of deadly grace in battle. They were gloves with sharp metal fingers, soft red material that stretched over his hands and metallic armour that ran from his wrists to his elbows.
Vexx couldn't take them off.
They were permanently bonded to him and people were afraid to get close. Vexx had quite a large temper coupled with a short fuse, always a bad combination, and they were afraid that Vexx would become mad and lash out. If he ever injured another Valdar in such an instance they would be forced to follow their rules and exile him. None of them wanted to exile their hero so they kept a small distance at all times.
It hurt Vexx to walk near someone and have them make sure he skirted them by at least five feet or so. He understood, but it hurt.
So he found himself here, in Dragonreach, on a dare. Some other youngsters had challenged the fourteen year old to go find out about the ghosts. They knew Vexx wouldn't lie despite the fact that he was unable to utter a word. They had told him that if he came back with an answer within the span of three days then they would play ball with him.
It was a large step towards letting the villagers know he wasn't a careless teen that would let his anger get the better of him. He had eagerly accepted, having climbed to the castle a few times before in his quest for Shadowraith hearts.
What he didn't know was that the leader of the other young ones, Rak, was spiteful and jealous of Vexx's power. The villagers may keep their distance but they revered him like a hero in a fairytale and Rak wanted them to pay that attention to him. If Vexx returned then he would play nice and get close to share some of that admiration – even more so because he was 'brave' enough to get close. If Vexx didn't return then he would fake an injury and tell the villagers that Vexx had done it then run off to escape punishment. Either way Rak ultimately won.
But Vexx didn't know.
He stood at the sand-scrubbed and spiked tail tip of a giant dragon skeleton. Instead of running up he turned left, skirted a pit and jumped up some rocks until he came to a wooden plank that spanned the empty space below. He walked across it, jumped a little higher, and was faced with a thin slab of rock that see-sawed. He stood on one end and waited a second for it to dip beneath his weight before he ran its length and jumped, catching the edge of the rock ledge with his Talons. Vexx hauled himself up and took a few breaths as he wiped his dark blue hair out of his electric blue eyes.
Two floating platforms, seemingly suspended by the air itself, was his next challenge. They swayed alarmingly if he stood anywhere but the middle, though he cleared them easily. There was a building here, though it was not the one he sought so he ignored it. Vexx lingered a few moments in the shade, trying to cool down a bit before once more rendering himself at the sun's mercy.
As he stepped out of the shade, he was annoyed to notice that there was a hobbletrod ahead. He didn't feel like getting into a slow shaking match with it so he powered up the War Talons, growling as crackling power ran through him, and fired a small blast of energy at the tiny creature. It gave a surprised squeak and toppled off, dissolving before it hit the ground. Vexx quickly powered down so as not to waste the Talons' energy and continued on his way.
A few platforms, a plank, ledges and a bounce pad later and Vexx arrived at the castle entrance. The area was mostly shaded and he took a minute to stare at the doorway. The last time he had been here he had never really stopped to sightsee. Two large columns, easily ten times his height, towered either side of the doorway, which was quite small in comparison though still large to the little Valdar.
Once inside it was easy to tell that this place had once been beautiful. The entrance was lined with carefully carved stones and the hall it led to spoke of ruined and neglected grandeur. Vexx did not go far inside the hall as the staircase had been destroyed and it was very hard to get back up. Instead he sat there, on what, at one time, may have been a path that led to a balcony above the ground floor.
A far off sound woke Vexx suddenly and he swiftly got to his feet, angry at himself for having dozed off like that – and in such a place! His eyes roved the dim room restlessly. Wait...
There it was again. And Vexx knew he had stayed here too long. The six bells of the Landspire were tolling and night was falling over the fragments of Astara. He bared his teeth slightly and growled softly. When he had defeated Dark Yabu most of the dark creatures had fled, back to where sunlight barely, if ever, reached. Most, but not all, and those that stayed were more dangerous than ever as they were bent on revenge against the land and people that had defied their great ruler.
The final note of the bell echoed around the large empty room and Vexx's pointy ears caught a chuckle. Instantly on guard he raised his hands in a stance that was both defensive and offensive. Flares of bright blue-white light sparked between fingers on both hands and he stopped growling to better hear if something was approaching.
A whooshing noise behind him made him spin around, only to get smacked in the chest by the skeletal transparent hands of a ghost. The impact was hard enough to knock him off his feet and he flew backward through the air. He landed about fifteen or so feet below, on the floor of the hall, with a disconcerting thud.
Vexx inhaled shakily and groaned beneath his breath. He rolled over and got his knees under him, which made it easier to stand up. There was no way he was going to lay down and present a ghost with an easy target. Without warning the same ghost, trailing yellow vapour behind it, appeared from thin air and swooped in for a second hit.
When he deemed it close enough Vexx launched forward. He slid along the ground and shot straight up, a wicked curved scythe of energy extending from the glove on his right hand. The ghost was impaled and gave a wretched cry as it twisted and evaporated. The cloud of yellow gas floated away.
Vexx knew the ghost would reform or the cloud would spawn another. He took the chance to climb back up while the hall was ghost free. He had his answer at least.
The climb was slow and painful. Vexx's ribs were beginning to hurt and he checked behind him every few seconds for signs of another ghost. It was a relatively short climb and had taken roughly five minutes, though to Vexx it had taken hours. He sincerely hoped Rak lived up to his side of the deal. Rak had given his word and that was no small thing to the Valdani.
Getting out was easy as the ghosts never wandered into the entrance corridor. Vexx still looked over his shoulder every now and then until he was a full ten feet beyond the doorway. He took a few shortcuts on the way down, constantly on the lookout for Grimkin, Puggles and Skinx. He saw only a couple of night's creatures, too far away from him to be any threat.
It had taken Vexx half a day to reach the Rift Hub from Overwood and a little over half a day to climb up to the castle in Dragonreach. With his shortcuts on the way back down he could cut some time off getting back to the Hub. It would take him maybe half a day, maybe a little under. It would take him another half a day from the Hub to get back to his village in Overwood. The whole trip would leave him with a day to spare but he felt no need to dawdle in Dragonreach – especially at night.
A number of hours later he was in front of the portal to the Rift Hub. His ribs ached and he gingerly rubbed a palm across them in an effort to dispel the pain. Those ghosts sure could pack a punch and the landing hadn't exactly been soft. Perhaps he could get the village healer to give him something when he got back if they still hurt by then.
He entered the portal.
The Rift Hub itself was a very dull place. Doors lined its circular walls at regular intervals and Vexx wandered over to the one he knew led to Overwood. The doors were unmarked except for numbers and Vexx had long ago memorised which number door led where. He stepped onto a plate in front of the door and it opened with a pneumatic hiss, revealing a glimpse of Overwood through its archway. He walked through.
It was still night though dawn was not too far off, perhaps only an hour or two. Vexx went slowly, sticking to whatever cover he could find. He would fight if necessary but he'd rather avoid jarring his ribs if he could help it.
Fifteen minutes later a noise from the foliage made him freeze behind a tree, his back against the rough bark. His eyes swept the area as much as they could without his body moving a muscle. He was tense, his senses strained to the max, keeping his breathing as light as possible.
Two blood red pinpricks of light shone from the darkness of the woods a dozen feet in front of him. The eyes moved closer by a foot, slinking low to the ground. Two more pairs of eyes appeared, one either side of the first. All three advanced slowly.
The eyes on Vexx's left suddenly disappeared before bursting back out of the darkness headed straight for his face. He ducked to the left and saw a ragged shadow with claws fly by with a hungry growl. When it landed past the tree it vanished into the dark once more with an angry screech. The other two, also enraged that their prey had dodged, followed the first and sprung at Vexx, their red eyes blazing madly.
Vexx quickly jumped further to his left and rolled, springing to his feet and whipping around to face the enemy. He was being hunted by a pack of Shadowcreeps. It was a small pack, only three, but even one was tough to handle because of the tactics they employed. How were you supposed to fight something that could melt into the ground as a shadow and leap at you from any angle with surprising speed?
Every dark patch on the ground was a potential enemy. As much as Vexx wanted to fight, he knew he was in over his head. With an unhappy snort he turned and ran, weaving between trees to present a harder target. The village was still several hours away at a run and he was hoping the Shadowcreeps would fall back or give up when at least one of Astara's two suns rose.
The Shadowcreeps howled and snarled, their cries mingling to become a sinister hunting dirge, driving Vexx onward. After about twenty minutes the young Valdar was panting. After half an hour he was grimacing, forcing himself to ignore his aching ribs and the stitch in his side. He was slowing down now and his hunters could sense his fatigue. They started howling afresh after ten minutes of almost silent pursuit.
The leader of the pack shot forward silently and hurled itself through the air at Vexx's unprotected back. Vexx sidestepped at the last moment; the Shadowcreep's claws raked through his hair. Quick as a flash the teen sliced upwards with the Talons. He felt the slight jolt as the Talons connected and the Shadowcreep hissed in pain. It landed awkwardly and melted away into the shadows.
Vexx regretted shooting that Hobbletrod in Dragonreach now. The War Talons didn't have quite enough power stored for him to begin shooting energy blasts again. Slicing the Shadowcreep had restored a fraction of the lost energy but nowhere near enough. Hopefully the other two would be more wary now that they had seen what he did to their companion.
He was wrong.
The two remaining pursuers screeched in outrage and doubled their speed until they flanked the young Guardian. They pounced simultaneously. Instead of trying to outpace them Vexx stopped short and backpedalled a step or two.
Their eyes widened in surprise. Instead of colliding, as Vexx had hoped, they flowed around each other. They sprung again the instant they touched the ground.
Vexx mentally swore and braced himself, holding the Talons in front of his small body like a shield. The impact forced him to skid backwards several feet though he refused to let them knock him down. He grunted as sweat trickled down his brow and into his eyes, not daring to wipe it away.
The Shadowcreeps suddenly pulled back. Vexx stumbled forward at the sudden absence of force and they wasted no time in swooping in, claws outstretched. He had barely begun to duck when one of the Shadowcreeps scored a hit, leaving four deep cuts along his upper right arm.
Vexx grit his teeth and went into a forward roll, the claws of the second Shadowcreep missing him by a hair. With the ease born of lots of practice he sprang to his feet immediately and went into a sprint, eager to put as much distance between himself and his hunters as quickly as possible.
Red eyes glittered with bloodlust as they scented blood in the air. The injured hunter watched as its two pack members scurried off without it, eyes narrowed with hate and unabated hunger.
He could not sustain his sprint for long – he was tired and injured and dawn was still way too far off for his liking. He stumbled almost two hundred metres later, falling to one knee. His vision kept blurring in and out of focus and he held his gloved left palm over the gashes in a vain attempt to stem the blood flow.
The hunters closed in.
Vexx turned around so they'd have less chance of hitting his unprotected back. Two dark patches were visible gliding along the ground and Vexx spared a swift glance at the sky. It was beginning to lighten. It was slight, but he took comfort in the fact.
The Shadowcreeps split to the sides to try their flanking manoeuvre again. The one on Vexx's left pounced a split second before the other. It was all the time the young Valdar needed, even in his sorry state.
His left arm swung up with the speed of a striking snake, palm open and metal clad fingers curved skyward. The hit caught the Shadowcreep under its bony chin. Vexx had put a considerable amount of force behind the swing and it was evident as the hunter's head was shorn from his neck with a flash of sizzling energy.
In the same move Vexx angled his body so his momentum carried him around. His metallic claws, now empty as the Shadowcreep's head had evaporated in a wisp of black smoke, was aiming straight at the second hunter's rage filled eyes. Its last thought was that of a brief spark of pure agony and the sight of crackling blue-white that filled its vision.
With both Shadowcreeps now evaporated and the third in no condition to pursue him, Vexx allowed himself a tiny smirk. The Astani War Talons were now recharged and he unconsciously guided some of the energy to his right arm. Covering the gashes with his left palm once more he slowly began walking.
The village came into view a little over an hour later. He had plodded on, only his stubborn determination and fierce willpower keeping him on his feet. Vexx made it to the tree line before finally succumbing to the fatigue and blood loss.
Voices; murky and indistinct, but definitely voices. They reached his ears as though time had been slowed down, slurring the words enough to make them incomprehensible. His head felt light and fuzzy and his thoughts swam through a pool of molasses.
Voices meant there were others around, right?
His brain took a minute to slowly mull over this statement of fact before deciding that yes, it must be true.
He wasn't alone. But, if there were others here, then who were they? He didn't feel up to figuring out who was nearby by trying to match voices with faces in his mind. Vexx's eyelids began to flutter open and he groaned at the effort the simple action took.
The voices suddenly changed pitched, becoming softer and...expectant? Vexx forced his eyelids open and blinked to try and dispel the blurriness that enveloped everything. As his brain pulled itself from the dark, the slurring words became clear and Vexx realised they were calling his name. He raised a gloved hand a few centimetres and weakly waved it.
"Vexx? Vexx, can you hear me?" a female voice asked.
He turned his head slightly towards the voice and saw the village healer, an elderly woman with dark grey hair marred by a few white streaks. The gently curving stripes that marked her cheek fur were also streaked with white and led to her rich brown eyes that radiated worry.
"Come on, dear," she crooned softly, gently pushing his bangs out of his eyes.
He gave her a shaky smile to show that he could indeed hear her. The old woman returned the smile, some of the concern disappearing to be replaced with relief.
"How do you feel?" she asked. She put a hand against his chest as he made to rise, lightly pinning him to the bed.
He stared at her in confusion though she didn't remove the restraining hand. His muscles ached and the gashes on his right arm stung like hot iron brands had been pressed there. His right fist clenched as he tried to ignore the pain.
The healer caught the slight movement and clicked her tongue. "I had to mix a few rather potent herbs together to create a salve for those cuts. They were swollen and discoloured, and I hate to think of the filth on the claws of whatever did that. I have no idea how long you were wandering around with that injury, though it was long enough to become infected. The pain is good – it means the salve is doing its job," she explained.
Vexx glanced at his arm and saw it was covered with bandages. A pungent smell rose from the bandages and he wrinkled his nose in distaste, earning an amused chuckle from the healer. It was then that Vexx remembered the other voices. He glanced beyond the healer and saw four more villagers; the healer's apprentice, the village chief, the chief's son and Rak.
"Good to see you awake, young Guardian," Chief Thorso said formally. He was a stocky Valdar, his dark brown hair just beginning to grey. He was well respected though his son, Torla, had become a spoiled brat after Yabu was defeated.
Rak was staring at Vexx with an unreadable expression on his face. Torla nudged the older and taller boy in the ribs and received a glare in return. The younger turned away, muttering under his breath. He may have been the chief's son, but Rak was the leader of the two and Torla was little more than a bully who quailed under the rule of someone bigger and stronger.
Vexx returned the stare and nodded. Rak's eyes widened.
"Really? They are there?" he asked with a small amount of excitement. Of course he was excited – his plan was coming together right before his eyes.
Vexx nodded again, feeling his own thrill of excitement. This was his chance!
The healer raised an eyebrow as Vexx's heartbeat sped up a bit under her palm. She had yet to remove her hand and did not intend on doing so until she could be sure her patient would not try and get up.
"Wow," Rak murmured. "Tell me later, okay?"
Vexx nodded again, though the 'telling' would involve a lot of questions on Rak's part and a lot of nodding or otherwise on his. Obviously Rak wanted them to sort this out by themselves. Maybe he was simply shy to hold up his part of the deal in front of any adults right away.
"Vexx needs rest," the old healer said firmly, pinning the chief and two boys with a stare that brooked no argument. Rak walked out silently with Torla trailing behind him like a sulky puppy.
Thorso made to follow but he stopped in the doorway and turned to Vexx. "Get well soon," he said, a genuine note of warmth suffusing his voice.
Vexx nodded once more. He was finding it very difficult to keep his eyes open.
"Sleep now and restore your strength. We'll give you something to eat when you awaken," the elderly woman said softly. She used the hand not resting on Vexx's chest to run her fingers through his hair.
Vexx let his eyes close.
The apprentice, Shei, a timid girl several years younger than Vexx, sidled up to the bedside. She was short, as most Valdani were, with a mop of curly brown hair tinged with red. Her hazel eyes were fixed on the boy in the bed. Shei was studying him, as though looking for an answer to an unknown question.
The healer, feeling Vexx's heart slow to a more peaceful rate and hearing his breathing deepen, finally removed her restraining hand. "He's asleep. What is it you want to ask, Shei?"
The child started, wondering how the old woman knew she had questions. "W-well...I was j-just wondering... What do you think happened to him, Grandma Kiar?" she asked in a soft voice, afraid that if she spoke louder she would disturb the Guardian.
The old woman, called 'Grandma' by most of the younger ones, let a sad sigh pass her lips. She ran her fingers through Vexx's blue-black hair again, smiling as he turned his head into her motherly touch. "He was fighting the darkness that still remains in our world," she replied simply.
"Shadow monsters?" Shei breathed in fear, staring at Vexx in awe.
"Darkness comes in many forms, child. Monsters injured him, but he is fighting against a darkness far stronger than evil shadow creatures in the wild," she said cryptically. Kiar stared at Vexx with such pity that Shei felt compelled to hug the elderly woman.
Shei turned her face upwards from the folds of Kiar's simple home-spun dress. "What do you mean, Grandma?" she asked, completely confused.
"Cast it from your mind, Shei. All you need to worry about is helping me make some more salve, okay?" Kiar said, giving the young girl a mock stern stare.
Shei stepped back hastily. "Right away, Grandma Kiar!" she chirped, mindful to keep her voice down. She walked out of the room as quickly as she could without making too much noise.
"Ah, to be young and innocent in the world," Kiar said wistfully. She was still running her fingers through the young warrior's hair.
Vexx looked so peaceful. His usual scowl was gone, erased by his relaxed state of mind, and the difference was astounding. Kiar's gaze became full of sorrow.
"I wish you didn't have to fight..."
A/N: Well, what do you think? This is my first Vexx story, though I did start writing another. I did actually play through Dragonreach for this, stopping here and there to type away - and that stupid yellow ghost really did attack me a few seconds after I entered the hall, though it didn't knock me down and I didn't kill it; I ran XD. I made up all the villagers. If any of them resemble someone's characters then I apologise; it's completely coincidental - I've really only read two Vexx stories.
If you don't know how to pronounce their names:
Rak – exactly as it is (like back)
Thorso - exactly as it is (Thor-so)
Torla – Tor (like for)-la
Shei – Shay (like day)
Kiar – Kee-arr (like key and far)
I tried a distinct style for this – just a little experiment. Every few paragraphs there was one short line. I want to know if those short lines added more power to the sentence so...if you could tell me that would be great!