AN: I apologise for the lateness of this chapter but events past few months had been unprecedented, to put it mildly, there may be a break again soon in the future due to impending exams, as well as managing into a new job, so keep the story on alert would be my advice and my thanks to anyone following this.
Chapter VI: The Cycle
Leo arrived, again on time, and with the humbleness and self-acceptance of inferiority Mumm-Ra had expected of the cats. Though he had acknowledged that Leo was exceptional for a cat that was why he was his second in command.
Though, no matter how good he had proven himself to be, he will always be second.
'I have the report as you requested Lord Mumm-Ra, Tygrus has located the warstone and is taking steps to secure it'
'It was to be expected, but the news is good enough for me. It is only half of the goal'
'My Lord?' Leo was caught off-guard, the cat may have the idea that he was changing his agenda as he saw fit but if Leo had such a view then he was very wise to keep it to himself.
'The stones once gathered will be made to usher in an unprecedented era of order and...Peace.' He claimed. 'The grandeur of this cannot happen here on a mere vassal of the ancient spirits, sucj an unfitting throne for their return. Only a world, limitless, of all resources known, is best suited to them. It is a world the ancient spirits gave to me, located in a galaxy at the edge of all existence, where the stars are young and the worlds are new. The right setting, for the birth of a true empire. You, Commander, are to lead my forces into this world.'
The large viewing screen flashed and shown a world unlike the others, the atmosphere shone a deep blue, there was a good mix of ocean and rich green earth. It was an earth type.
'Leo noted the rarity of such a world 'The third of its type we've come across'
'Indeed Commander, this Third Earth as you call it, is what the inhabitants proclaim as Eternia'
'You know of these 'fools' My lord?'
'None of your concern, your function is to listen and act'
Leo bowed and said nothing, the tyrant smirked. 'Very good. Before the warstone can be united with the great sword of plun-dar, we must cleanse this world of opposition. The cats will spearhead this campaign. Perform well enough Commander and this will be your world, under my supervision of course.'
'Can we not wait for Tygrus?'
'He is loyal, without question. If there were any opposition who dare stake a claim do not worry your hard work has ensured that there is none for anyone to turn to' Mumm-Ra thought he saw the Commander flinch at the reminder, he assumed his subordinate had no regrets over the 'elimination' of several worlds. Yes 'some' were gone but countless still remained, it did not matter if there was no life on them because life will come under the guiding hand of the ancients and every world will be born a devotee to his power, as well as the ancients.
He looked again at the cat and spoke darkly 'Is there something on your mind Commander'
'You posses three stones and a unbested fighting force in the universe, victory is certain but every animal has his purpose-' Mumm-Ra nodded, agreeing to the quotation that he himself gave to Leo long ago, Leo was speaking up with confidence, he started slowly but as he carried on his argument he regained that composure that Mumm-Ra felt he lacked just a minute ago. 'With that in mind I need Tygrus, his purpose helps mine, which in turn helps yours.'
'I have taught you well' Mused the Tyrant 'But the spirits will not wait, nor shall I. You and the cats are gifted to the better of the lesser, never forget what is expected of you, that?'
'Servitude is life'
'As it shall always be. Now go and prepare the animals, I don't want disturbances this time Commander; I expect examples to be made. Any 'problem' is to be spaced. It will save me the trouble of calling the rats to clean up what the collar bombs usually leave behind'
'Commander; one more thing'
'Yes My Lord?'
'Start with the lizards first'
Leo said nothing, his face was blank, the look obedient, but if his commander really did show emotion then what would it had been? The cats were without doubt his greatest creation. They hid their honesty behind objective and scheming. A subtle, cunning and manipulative breed, able to adept themselves in whatever comes their way, unlike the other ones...
Now he gave himself to his masters, addressing them as he had always done before, with promises and promises.
'My Masters, everything is in place, the warstone is in my grasp and the request of your new world and hub of your empire will be achieved. I will bring my forces and these eternians; the remnants of Ma'at will die, I will sacrifice every last animal to see this deed done! And when Eternia is burned down to it's ashes will your mighty empire be reborn. Eternia will be renamed 'Infinita' the rebirth of our way, the way of Isfet! Our glories will be epic and ever-living! They will be built over the bones of the wretched followers of the Ma'at!'
'A worthy speech' Said one Ancient from its avatar of stone.
'Yet it is all said from one who has yet to accomplish anything' Said the second avatar, the council of stone all had something to say towards their minion.
'I can assure you all, I have not faltered' Protested Mumm-Ra, the response was deafening.
'This entire journey has been nothing but a set of faltering steps by you!'
Each time one spoke it's eyes glared with a fury of red, a red of boiling blood of rage.
'Your faltering has now been retraced back to the source of our goal, back to what we should have had to begin with!'
'And so now begins your redemption, reward us good servant with Grayskull'
'Great spirits I can assure you a mere baby will not be hard to handle.'
'FOOL! That mere baby you failed to take so long ago has become a man, and more. His bodily shell has gone long ago, his essence and power live on, guarded and looked after by the very one who thwarted you!'
'I can assure you all, I was unprepared, it was my fault entirely, at the time!' He was on both knees and hands to the floor, kneeling completely, alone in these chambers amongst power that was greater than his own, he was nothing but Mumm-Ra the pitiful. Pity did have it's uses, swaying his dark masters that he was still loyal, even begging to be given more chances to show for it, and he was still here because of it. His masters were showing signs of impatience more so now the end goal was near'
'Enough excuses, too much time have been spent recouping the stones and the steps to where we should have been long ago. Grayskull's soul will be your act of penance. You will need assistance. A champion'
'Champion? I can assure you that I am most able'
'This is not for you to decide. Servant'
Mumm-Ra knew he lost the right to voice his opinion on this, for now he had no choice but to accept this 'spy' that they call 'assistant' He knew better as he became witness to the summoning.
'Harbringer of Fire, Awaken'
'Listen to your Masters. Obey our word'
'Alight our rage in flames once more'
'Come Pyron. Champion. Follow our word once again!'
Eyes of the terrible statues lit up, the reddish flames concentrated and angled their vision in the centre, just before Mumm-Ra where their powers were unleashed. Mumm-Ra in rare moment nearly feared he would be replaced that the fire would consume him entirely but the fire did not spread, instead it built up on itself, towering to a height nearing his own. It maintained the humanoid figure till fire became metal and...flesh. Greenish gold armour strapped on his chest, decorated with spikes for intimidation then practical, though the spikes weren't really needed when Pyron's mask was taken into account, it was of the same colour but slit opening for the eyes and there were several. His breathing sounded inhuman, and felt the exhaled aura of heat from it's breath. Heat from a hellish fire. It's red cloak just about his it's unusual hind goat like legs, furred with burnt skin and it's feet were heave hooves. Yet it's upper body had the flesh and muscle of a human, and a powerful one for that as well.
It said nothing, but slammed the spear to the ground and looked up to wait for command. His words were silent but his actions shown servitude.
'This is our champion, you are our assistance to him' Mumm-Ra wasn't being told directly he would be relegated of position but it was clear they weren't going to let him act unsupervised also.
'Servitude is life' Said Mumm-Ra with a bow of obedience, when in truth it was the only way he could hide his show of disgust.
'I see it' She whispered, low enough for the ear piece to pick up her confirmation, speed, power were the actions of Cheetara, signs of a true hunting cat but the actions were only as good as her timing. She moved slow, creeping alongside rocks, laying low, hiding and buying some time. She saw the number of the infantry the lizards had, they possessed several large two legged mechs as sentry while the troops were brought down to the ground by sleek platforms of metal that levitated from the air down. She mused it was more of this technology, still she imagined the operating system must be basic just as their advance guns still had the same mechanism of a trigger. She hid again as the earth shook, one more giant mech marched past, the gun port pointing around looking for something to lock, to kill.
She frowned, she had no intention of being anyone's kill, she raised her head a little and peeped, many of the crafts were stationing themselves outside the abyss, they could had chosen to fly straight in but either it was because they were setting up a parameter before going in, or were taking an overly prudent approach, paraphrasing Panthro's dramatised stories: 'Too much bureaucratic 'something something' decisions' albeit a heavily edited one.
'Should I strike now?'
Not this again. If the situation wasn't hazardous she would put her hands over her face and pray for the two to stop overruling each other. She was talking to Panthro who had a more qualified understanding as how to approach this, but Tygra interrupted the discussion by com from his own ear piece.
'No we don't! We wait for their general'
'Why should we? They have so many numbers that they can get on without one'
'But they do not have an infinite number of leaders, you win battles by breaking the chains of command'
'And whilst were busy trying to cherrypick targets Lion-O could be needing out help, we can't leave him'
'Have faith in your king'
'I'll just have faith in him'
This was getting petty now, as Cheetara answered back shutting up either party. 'Tygra has a point' Siding in his defence 'I can't see them hanging around forever next to that fuelling tank for their machines. We should take it whilst their standing their without regard'
'Be careful Cheetara'
'Hold on a sec!' Snapped Panthro, exasperated at his exclusion 'We can't afford to blink first'
'But we can't afford to keep waiting and they keep building up. I'm going in'
There was a long silence but Panthro did respond. 'Fine' The tone of his responce was anything but that. It didn't matter to Cheetara, she got an agreement nonetheless.
'Right. I'm going in!'
Switching the piece off, she thought on impulse her action, she thought on the go and the time to strike in her opinion was as good as now. The mech that walked past was still walking away, it gave her an idea and with a twirl activated her staff. The staff from the magical forest of Magi Oar came to life. Literally. It's base stretched and gripped with root like hands over it. It was a large size but what she lacked in strength was more than made up by speed as she started to spin.
The first cycle was a warm up as she flexed her toned build into moving the large stone, with a heave and grit of teeth the object made its first orbit round her, then as she had control of the motion, she accelerated it. The spin was fast, the third was faster but neither was her desired speed not till the fourth and fifth spin where it blurred around her but her training and instinct were fully aware of the surroundings despite the blur. She tensed her grip tilting onto her back ankles and slid the awesome speed produced off from her, to the rock that was now catapulted from her staff. The shot was perfect as the mech that patrolled past her earlier stopped as the projectile made a thundering thump upon its strong alloy surface. It turned, saw her and marched with green lights of energy emitting from its cannons.
Cheetara, showing she was taking her target seriously, waved at it first before bursting into her natural speed, a speed that danced round the mech's firepower, the ground shook with varying degree, sometimes the strikes were close to troubling her but none threatening. It was strange that she would contemplate pity to the lizards as she weaved round each futile shot, they were persistent but seem to develop or been rewarded for their commitment. Lion-O may have a point about them being just a means to an end, but his safety was paramount and as a cat deep down she relished the speed, the flirtation of death as she raced around it. It could almost be considered an sensational experience, Jaga gave her the patience a cleric needed but he couldn't take away the reckless element once her speed was in motion. The sounds of heavy metal striking the ground became notably louder; knowing without looking that another of the titan sized Mechs had marched into the action.
The more the better she mused.
She didn't plan on having a second mech trail her but it was a bonus in itself as she started running into the direction of the tankers. She never ran straight, she would had got there far before the others, instead she zig-zagged and continued her dance with their arsenal running around just at the limit of their weapons range, baiting their pilots to folly and tempering their fury in return.
The environment felthotter the usual from the discharged heat from the weapons, the pressure also from the ever limited space as the ornaments and energy shots were gradually narrowing her free movement. If they were co-ordinated they may have had a good chance to break down her running speed but the lizards had shown themselves to be lacking formation and precision when it came to dealing with her and here they were sloppier than usual. In a rare moment it nearly cost her as a shot of green bladed projectile wizzed past her from behind, still at a high tempo she saw that the other lizards at the tanker were assembled out of panic rather than discipline and began firing depending who got to the front first. She moved closer in tagging the two large mechs with her. It was becoming a challenge, but like all her challenges it would be over in a matter of seconds.
Panthro watched, he looked tense this was not how he planned it. He painstakingly setup several explosive devices he spent hours designing, small enough to fit into Cheetara's pockets, and they would had been perfect for the exposed fuel tanks but instead she did it her own way, the arrogant impulse of youth.
'Look at her go' Beamed Tygra.
An arrogance not noted by their own, Panthro with the visor in his hands remained professional in keeping his cool but they were handicapped as it was without Cheetara risking herself, and their chances but he knew what she was doing or he like to think he did.
'I thought I told you to scout with Dobo and the cub, this cave isn't going to be our new residence!'
'It's large enough to hide us all'
'But we need to keep going further in and far from sight'
'Good job we got the dog'
'Dobo' Panthro corrected, and he was starting to be quite serious over the correction. 'Stick with him and the cub, I can handle myself'
'I'm sure he doesn't need me to fetch us something'
Panthro lowered the visor and stared at Tygra, it was a look that made the adopted prince forget that past the fear of water and heights was a cat that was three times his build and muscle. Panthro did not look kindly at him. 'Don't you ever say the F word when he's around'
'What? You mean, Fe-'
'Yes. That. For someone who considers himself king you need to be considerate of your tongue when speaking to others, as well as your own kin'
'Father never had any concerns with 'sensitivity' of his words'
'I can think of a hundred families who wished he did' It was a blunt statement that prompted some ire from Tygra.
'What's that suppose to mean?'
'Do you know the hardest part of a general is? It's not the battles, not fearing where you may be hit. It's having to say 'I'm sorry' for the families, who waited the return of their sons and daughters, the look and tears in their eyes when they learn that there will be no long march back from the hills far away. I have led out warriors by the masses to battle, everyone past the town gate went to their ends with bravery and strength, but I never led anyone back home. Your father was a great king, brave, fearless but his posturing gave more him more enemies afar, and at home.'
'Home? How can you say that?' He demanded clarification unsure if Panthro was implying treason that the cats weren't together as one. Panthro's reply was unapologetic and revealing.
'By everytime I say sorry and see the look in their eyes afterwards. It isn't gratitude I'll tell you that, the Queen knew that and if she were still alive am sure your father would had as well. Be respectful, if we lose Lion-O you will be next in line but there'll be no future for all of us if you keep up that attitude'
Tygra paused, he eased his frown and his posture became lax and his temper lost it's fire when his mother was mentioned, it was almost as if the inner child who saw the trauma of her death resurfaced into his body once more.
'I have to ask, between you and me. Did it all change when my mother passed away?'
'We were all never the same after that, we all weren't but it affect him greatly. I dare say if the Queen was still lived we may never had the problem with the lizards we had today.' Panthro saw genuine glipse of sadness from the young prince and acted to reassure him.
'She was a wonderful person, even as a Queen. Don't feel like your to blame'
'Oh, I don't I promise you' Tygra was quiet after that but Panthro had no intention of asking what was meant by it.
A distant escho of an eruption of sound ringed lightly in the air, Panthro switched his focus to the battle and zoomed the visor to the best scale, he could see Cheetara as well as the aftermath. 'Not how I would done it but still' He fell quiet the silence was a short foreshadowing of dread, the visor was moved to a more upward direction. Panthro had caught something.
'What is it?'
'I briefly saw someone, from the cliff tops. Cheetara...'
The earlier encounter with Mumm-Ra had humiliated and angered Slithe, in turn he was distant, scouring at electronics that held no real importance whatsoever, to his men it was worse, they were his own afterall and should be following his orders, only for that winged narcissist to overrule his orders and make him look a damm fool, and who had to take the blunt of that anger? His own men again because that bird Mumm-Ra's pet, too stupid or uncaring that who it was that destroyed his city in the first place. Yet he could scowl away from it all or he could try to be at the side of Vultaire's actions, at least direct him to a good decision. The line was drawn at seeing himself as an 'advisor' All Slithe cared about right now was to get the cats dead as quick as possible and for Mumm-Ra to retrieve his 'trinklets' which meant the bird would had outlived his use.
'Oh, Slithe' The call was condescending, the vulture was fluent in arrogance and playing down Slithe's reputation as a general and instead calling to him as if he was a stray stupid lost creature. 'I have an observation class for you' The other lizards onboard stayed quiet, they saw for the first time Slithe having to restrain his temper, some swallowed their fear as he saw his muscles feed on the adrenaline of his anger, fists clenched tightly with the cracking of hard bone knuckles heard throught he still silent bridge, but Slithe's face was blank, he had swallowed his fury.
'Why how many errors do I have to pick out this time?'
'Oh no errors, but perfection. You see I neatly assembled your misfits into a fine columms of detachments in waiting.'
Slithe took a short look, then turned his crtticsism sharp but restrained. 'Next to the fuel tankers? Are you mad?'
'I am Mumm-Ra's favourite, not a mad beast. That simple green yolk you call your kin had no concept of formation, I had them all neatly standing ready for orders. Drills sharpen the dull mind though they needed many of them in this case'
'The lizard army does not need an armchair instructor telling them what to do.'
'Please can you say that further away from me, your breath reeks of ill manners'
'I want them away from those fuel tanks. Now! You cannot leave those tanks in the open!'
'The great Mumm-Ra' The vulture quietly frowned as Slithe appeared to mimic his speech 'He' Resuming with his self appraisal 'Has weapons more than capable to take down any pesky missiles from the cats toy tank and'
The sudden sound of energy projectiles shelling into the ground turned the two into the window shared by mutual concern to what was going on, they saw green energy weapons firing into the ground, targeting someone. They just caught the yellow blurred trail of speed of the figure but it was obvious.
'Who..what is that?'
At least it was to Slithe.
'Get them away from the tankers. NOW!' Vultaire could not understand how things in his own head, his own world could not be intuned with this. The problem was evident, that this world was not in line with his, and was fuming at Slithe's actions as he turned to one of his kin. 'You rely an order for that pilto to stop firing! No firing from ANYONE till-'
'Delay that' Vultaire clicking back into the situation. 'The target isn't going to stand still'
'Are you dumb or something? Those weapons are close to triggering off the tankers by'
'Pfft, what's the cat going to do stand in front of one and dodge at the last second?'
'She doesn't have to, the shockwaves from those blasts will rupture the casings!'
'And everyone will drown in liquid thundarian, oh no! Thwarted again!'
'You don't get ity, thunderain in liquid state is highly-'
With a click of his fingers the vulture ignored Silthe and got the attention of th lizard on the relay station.. 'New orders my simple friend, we have the cats
'A cat' Corrected Slithe to no avail.
'We have the cats on the run' Was the inistance 'Tell the pilot, no, tell everyone to keep firing. And have cameras, live feed, forwarded to Lord Mumm-Ra. I want him to see what you could not accomplish Slithe.'
'I can't believe am saying this but Grune was more competent then you, and HE'S A CAT!'
'I informed all on the field to concentrate firing 'sir' and live feed is being sent now' Another boom was followed, it made the lizard jittery, Vultaire wasn't fazed.
'Excellent, begin my audio narration, Mumm-Ra must hear the officer addressing this assault, so no one can claim it as their own'
Slithe had no complaints 'Oh, by all means this is your operation. General'
'You have audio, General...'wingmaster' '
Silthe raised an eyebrow, Vultaire was defensive. 'Sometimes General is not enough of a title to reflect someone like me...oh are we on? Excellent; Lord Mumm-Ra, master of power, wise without question, I your dutiful servant am showing you the art of 'finesse' Behold the immient demise of the cats live for you to see'
The ship was far above the ground, so it was telling by itself that it received a tremor by the shockwave from below, an immense force of noise and air brushed past the ship, with silver twisted canisters flying past the windows. Vultaire fell silent, Slithe showed no smugness, he left with a matter of fact statement.
'I best leave this to you, 'General' '
Mumm-Ra was in thought, though charmed slightly by her puppet who did her upmost to please him.
'You seem in thought, my Lord'
'And so I should, my child' Said the red caped Tyrant with a stern and clearly unamused look from his wrinkled appearance, he selected mute on the vulture's ramblings. 'For now I am close, so very close to getting it all but I know I must be careful, Lion-O is alone but not unarmed. And yet' He got tired of watching the main screen in his chamber; it had shown him lizards hurrying around, panicking, waving their guns amidst the explosions from fuel tanks that were lowered near the abyss. And their mechs struggling to shoot down that female cleric only to hit each other was a disgrace. It was if anything a documentary of imbeciles. Without hesitation he changed what was on the screen to the assembly of the Thundertanks, at least that was going accordingly.
'You never informed me how you got them active'
'You are here only to be told'
'I thought you be happy, he walks with two collectables'
'Oh I know' he said with a smirk 'But the Cub-King is desperate, desperate to balance the power, just as i am eager to take it. I cannot allow more misgivings from my generals, Slithe in particular, he only lives because the number of his kind are still plentiful.' His eyes took another look at the facade of the live feed present 'At present' He fell quiet thinking back on the risks within that dark opening to the beneath. 'The abyss holds mazes and traps, i know it will, and even if the lizards and my generals overcome such defences their accomplishment with Lion-O is what i doubt. Though do not fret my dear'
His red eyes gazed at the screen, the screen was footage of the cells from inside his pyramid, cells that once contained an endless number of animals, all using their skills to overrun any planet that the Ancients or he himself requested. There were all abandoned, but it was the top one on the right that caught his eye, he remembered what were in that cell, and now they will return but under a different cause. He turned to his puppet and smiled with smirking lips of arrogance and callousness. 'Lion-O's sentence was passed, now comes his executioners'
Cheetara retreated to some cover, she outran the explosion long ago, the destruction rumbled on but she imagined it to be immense and casualty level, considerable' Still a new plan would had to be formed, this was a delay initself, Mumm0Ra would likely sacrifice the entire lizard population to get those stones, proving in his own sick fashion that the cats were indeed masters of genocide. She crouched lower and gripped her staff tighter, she felt what Panthro would go 'goosebumps' the Adrenaline of battle was over the focus of a cleric was needed she felt exposed somehow as if something from the sky singled her out, narrowing her down with eyes of it's own. She heard a whisper, a tiny one, voice of old with the tone of a mentor. A simple word but full of caution as it breezed past her ears like a soft wind.
Jaga? Did she just imagine her voice or did he come to her somehow just as he did to Lion-O. Then she felt the 'eyes' again stalking watching her, she looked from one spot, then to hte next, it was as if the sky was watching her because it felt it was everywhere. She focused hard, she trained the sensory to anticipate and briefly she caught a shadow in the light, a blurred image of a figure, tall like her and slender before it zipped out of sight with it's cape.
There was someone else, who was fast, perhaps as fast as her.
I know who you are, but you are yet to know me
Cheetara froze, where did it come from, she then heard an electronic voice, Panthro via the comm..
'Cheetara, there's someone there'
'Panthro I know, I can...hear her'
The voice was unusual, there was no echo, the voice didn't seem to travel across the landscape, it was clear, a cold evil in tone and felt close as if it was coming from her own mind.
Small rocks scuttled, in the back, maybe fifty feet away, she turned once the scuttle had heard. Someone was just standing there.
So slow It mocked.
Another sound was heard before it zipped away, frantically Cheetara turned and it was just gone, she had to remain calm.
'There, to your left!'
Again it was gone just before she try to lay eyes on whatever it was.
You know so little
'I know you're a coward who's just trying to be scary'
'Panthro' She whispered to the comm. 'How is she moving this fast?'
'She just keeps vanishing and resurfacing, I can't tell if it's because of pace or something else, but take my advice and get out of there'
'I can't. I know she's not the only one, I feel something else is near'
'Get out of there. NOW!'
Your friends cannot help you
It heard her, somehow, again the voice was close speaking from her mind it seemed, it was intrusive it was as if it was in her head, was it reading her mind. Was that how it was anticipating her, or was it for once in a very long time she was against someone with pace like her own.
A soft thud of feet hitting the ground was heard, it came behind and this time the figure waited Cheetara had never seen this animal before, light brown skin with black hair from the back down. Her hands striped in a skin of black and white, the leggings and top exposing only toned stomach was black and mysterious in fashion but striking it with menacing by her cold lifeless eyes. The cape was light in weight but the neck of the cape obscured her lower face, censoring the rest of her exotic look. It held a staff resembling a diseased branch, long, twisted and sickly.
'Your fast' Admitted Cheetara
This time she heard the voice of this mysterious creature speak to her, but the cape hid the movement of the mouth but the words were clear.
'And you are disappointing, I had expected better from a cleric' Her eyes narrowed, the stare was unsettling almost piercing into her. 'Only you're not a cleric'
Surprising there was a chuckle from the reclusive figure, but it was an arrogant one 'I am a Lunatak, and if you were a cleric you would know that is there word for terror!'
Her pace was astounding, even as Cheetara tried to anticipate it she was taken aback by the sudden speed and barely had the reflex to strike out her staff against hers, but in self defence for already Cheetara was on the back foot of this 'Lunatak'
AN: If anyone is interested in the designs of the 'Lunatak' (or more to it her actual animal race) the design work is on my deviant page 'thebritwriter' or simply google deviant and my deviant name. Thanks for reading so far.