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Fantasy Thriller Adventure

I sat up in my bed, jolted by the sounds of the alarm. The constant ringing echoed in my room, and my stomach turned. I have only heard this alarm during drills, and they were always announced ahead of time. That has been the policy before I was old enough to participate, ever since the Brigand stepped up their attempts twenty years ago.

Declan ran into my room before I could get fully dressed. His breath labored as if he had just finished running a race. He looked at me with wide eyes, the rest of his face blank. "Come on, kid." He started grabbing my gear and shoved it into my bag. "We have to move."

I hated when he called me kid. I haven't considered myself a kid in years. "Is it real," I ask, already knowing the answer.

“It’s real.” He shook his head. “A full-on assault.”

I finished throwing on my clothes and slung my go-bag over my shoulder. I didn’t have to ask who was physically attacking us because I already knew who ordered it. The Brigand would never attack us directly, but they were not above conscribing others to attack. They preferred subterfuge, but they have been getting desperate lately.

The Brigand sought one item, an object I once thought of as fictional until tasked with guarding it. My parents told me the fairytale many times as a lad. A mystical land called Earth we could travel to by portal. A powerful crystal was torn from the center of Demiurge, and an intrepid wizard hired the Brigand to retrieve it. The heart was vital for his plans to become immortal. Unfortunately for him, the Council of Wizards code strictly forbids seeking such a power.

The council sent an army of their own to stop the Brigand, my ancestors' army of humans, from Earth. But the fierce battle continued for weeks, and the council ultimately feared we would be unsuccessful, so they sealed off the portal. 

As we walked out the door, I instantly recognized my escort team, two on the right and two on the left. Their job entailed getting me to the vault or die trying. It was strange having men willing to die for me, but I knew the truth. They would not be dying for me but the Heart of Demiurge.

           The team on the right started walking forward as I filled in behind them. The other two stay behind, walking backward, scanning the streets and buildings. Their firearms were sighted in.

I could hear explosions and screaming as we walked briskly down the dusty road. Declan walked next to me, his radio thick with chatter.

"Gates are down. They are coming in." Said a voice over the radio. "We got creepy crawlers."

I have seen these so-called creepy crawlers from the high gates of the Citadel. Some were as tall as ten men. They had many legs and big sharp teeth. My mom used to say they reminded her of spiders—a creature from the Earth fairytales. A spider was a small beast, but people were afraid of them. The lore made very little sense. How can the same brave heroes that fought to defend the heart be frightened of a tiny creature barely capable of breaking the skin?

The vault was not far from my house, a layout by design. My birthright consisted of guarding a crystal the size of a golf ball. As such, I was never more than a hundred yards from the building. Our entire village held the same goal essentially, but for me, it was different. Only three people on the whole planet were permitted to even see the object, but soon I would be holding it.

           The doorway to the building was clear, but creepy crawlers were coming down the street in both directions. My security team told me to ignore the threat and retrieve the heart. As I ran towards the door, I could hear them firing behind me. I wanted to stay and fight, but I did not train for a fight. Instead, I practiced running and disappearing.

***

The seat rumbled under me as I moved forward, hovering above the broken wasteland below me. I have been on the move for days. Not a choice. Stopping would give them time to catch me. Disappearing was not as easy as I imagined. Ever since fleeing the Citadel, I have been succeeding at running. But running was not a long-term solution.

My vehicle started making a clicking sound days ago. I couldn't explain the nature of the click, but I knew it was detrimental. I needed a vessel capable of navigating this harsh environment for an unlimited amount of time without stopping. Special powers from the crystals imbued the vehicle. Unfortunately, only one man knew how to fix it, and he likely died in the Citadel battle.

I looked at the terrain ahead. There were deep canyons and rocky hills. This world has been subjected to the most extreme mining for thousands of years. It has been strip-mined, open-pit mined, had mountain tops removed, and even had deep tunnels cut into it. The miners were essentially searching for the same thing, crystals containing magical powers. Demiurge primarily consisted of rocks and these formations. You could look across the fields and see them just lying there. Of course, the deeper you went, the more potent the crystals. As a matter of fact, the crystal in the heart of my vehicle came from this very land.

The vehicle's main crystal was the size of a teenager. It controlled the hovering, a necessary function, as land vehicles often get swallowed by this environment. One minute you are going over a hill, and the next, you plummet into a deep tunnel. Hovering itself can be jarring due to the constant fluctuations of ground height. It will make you sick in minutes. However, this car used a laser-guided system to map out the terrain as far as possible and adjust the height to stay above the most prominent variations of peaks—the process allowed for a smooth ride, with minor adjustments taking place over a distance.

I was not naïve enough to believe I lost the Brigand. But I hoped I at least put some distance between us. The clicking grew louder and sped up considerably. I tried to ignore it and instead looked up to the sky. What I saw did not make me feel any better. It glossed over with a thick fog of many colors. Rain was rare on Demiurge. My father would say it happened once an earth year. We measured time in Earth years at The Citadel. Demiurge had no day or night of its own. This planet's sun died out years ago. Magic kept it alive, suspended in space, with eternal daylight and always the perfect temperature. I often wondered why the magic could not stop the rain, but I didn't fully understand how it all worked. None of us did.

My mother would talk about Earth often as if such a place really existed. A special place where the rain was just water. Not only was it harmless, but it helped sustain life. Obviously, another earth fairytale, passed down to inspire hope. But here, we lived in a constant state of fear, and the thought of a perfect world inspired us to keep going. On this mystical planet, Earth, it rained at odd intervals, the frequency depending mostly on the location. It rained enough to cover the majority of the planet in water. I couldn't imagine living in such a place. A place where the precipitation did not absorb the magic from the crystals as it went into the sky. A world where the water did not have a permanent effect on those brazen enough to allow it to touch their skin.

At times great heroes gained their power from our rain. It could endow humans with magical properties allowing them to be stronger and faster than any creatures that hunted us on this chunk of rock. My father hoped for such power when he stepped into the downpour. Just days before a significant battle, several of our warriors volunteered to gain special abilities. But no powers were obtained. Instead, they were all dead by the end of the week, suffering from indescribable mutations, or at least I was told they could not be described. It was just as likely nobody wanted to explain to a six-year-old the details of his father's agonizing death. My mother disappeared an earth year later, once again during the rains.

The clouds above were growing darker, with swirls of green and blue. Some gold streaks were moving through them, which looked like dull lighting frozen in place. Just weeks ago, there were brighter colors-pinks and oranges vibrant enough to hurt the eyes. Now they darkened as if mixed with black ink. I knew what this meant. The rain was coming soon, and I operated a vehicle on the verge of a catastrophic breakdown, or it so it sounded.

I kept moving, not daring to stop. The local creatures would stay at bay, not liking the whirling sound of machinery, and the Brigand would wait until I stopped to perform an attack. They were patient.

I thought about my friends at the Citadel, probably all dead by now. For hundreds of years, the Citadel protected the heart of Demiurge without incident. But there was a new urgency to the fight. Something has pushed this conflict into full gear. But, before I could finish the thought process, I saw something that sent a shiver down my spine.

The first drop of rain hit my windshield. Initially, it looked like a bug splattered on the glass, leaving behind a wet blue smear. But a green splash appeared next to it, then a pink one. Soon more than a dozen tiny dots of color smacked against my windshield Then, the colors mixed and swirled, making it hard to see anything ahead of me.

Seeing wasn’t necessary. The showers did not fool the lasers, so it would keep on course.

I stood up in the cab and looked down as far as I could. I Never drove in such a deluge before. As the liquid pooled in the rocks below, the air cushion from the vehicle would push it out and up, causing a spherical upside-down waterfall, filled with vibrant colors, all mixing as they shot up and fell back down to the rough terrain. The liquid may be instant death, but it looked amazing.

My attention was affixed to the rainfall, not on the large hill off to the right. I almost missed the lens flare, but I caught it in my peripheral. It remained for only a moment, but I knew what I saw. Someone was out there, most likely with a scope-mounted firing device. I did not think they were getting ready to fire on me. More likely, a member of the Brigand, making sure to track my location, even in the monsoon.

Of all the moments for the vehicle to finally fail, this was the worst. The Brigand had my exact location, and I could not move due to the storm outside. Nevertheless, now the clicking increased in speed tenfold, right before stopping entirely. I could feel the nose of my vehicle start to tip forward as I went towards the rocks below. I was only a dozen feet in the air but high enough to cause the impact to be jarring. A splash of colorful muddy water flew up in front of the windshield, then settled back down around the body of the fallen vessel. The rainstorm intensified, pounding against the windshield as if trying to get it. In the distance, I saw several light flairs. Not a single scout like I initially thought. Instead, the Brigand was in force, which meant they were ready for their final move.

I took the heart of Demiurge from my pocket and held it in my palm. Amazingly, something so small could be so powerful. But, of course, only powerful if you know how to unlock its potential. Unfortunately, I did not have such knowledge, nor did I have a weapon capable of holding such power. I considered throwing it out the window into the sloppy mess caused by the multicolored rain. With any luck, it would end up at the bottom of some cavern. Locating it could take months, but they would find it.

There were no instructions for the crystal, and I had no idea what would happen if I swallowed it. I knew it would not break down in my body, a substance so durable that the pressure of a planet couldn’t crush it. My concern was not in destroying the crystal, quite the contrary. If I could extirpate it now, I would. Better than it finding the hands of evil. I mainly worried about what it would do to me. I realized my chances of a quick death are slim to none, but it does not mean I am willing to go through a prolonged and agonizing one. I stop thinking about it and shove the crystal into my mouth. I swallow hard, forcing it down my throat with one of my fingers. For a moment, I fear I will choke, but I manage. However, I do not want to think of passing this thing if I do survive.

Light flairs again, this time closer. I grab my own looking glass. Indeed, it seems like a human in some mechanical suit. I imagine its protection allowed them to traverse in the rain. Their accouterments are as impervious to its magic as my vessel. I see a dozen of them, and they will be on me in less than half an hour. I wonder how long I can withstand torture if it comes to that.

I looked at the surrounding area. Creatures were already coming out of the caves and crevasses. I take my eyes from them and look around. My cabin must have something in it I can use. Then my eyes affixed to my armor, built for battle, not for being in the rain. Its thick leather could stop some attacks but would not do much against these creatures or Brigand weapons. They were known for dipping their daggers in poison. I would imagine using a sleep toxin was ideal in this situation since they can't question dead men.

On the other hand, it could keep the rain from touching my skin, maybe long enough to find a tunnel. I strip and suit up. Then I rip swaths of material and tuck them into any chinks of the armor that may allow water to slip. Finally, I find a thick plastic bag and turn it into a makeshift poncho. Now it was time to find a tunnel. Luckily, the ship's computer system still worked, and it highlighted a void to the north.

The vehicle's door opened with a hiss. I could see creatures getting closer, but they flinched at the sounds the entryway made. They did not like to hear technology. I trudged towards the void, keeping my head down.

The volley pounded against my suit. I felt some moisture after only taking half a dozen steps. I wasn't sure how bad, but I kept moving regardless. I jumped into the tunnel and kept heading down until I found a clearing. Water covered the ground's surface, but it was not higher than my ankle, so I had time before it would reach a dangerous level. Finally, I sat down and removed the plastic bag and the headgear. I could feel streams of water running down my face. But, I did not feel any special powers. I sat in the dark tunnel, wondering if this would be my tomb.

My head swam with thoughts of my possible demise, so I didn't hear his suit as he approached me. Perhaps I was in shock from my current situation. But my obliviousness allowed him to strike before I could react. He aimed for my arm. The leather armor could have been butter for all the knife cared. It cut through it just as quickly as it passed through the air. But I did not feel the expected pain of my muscle being torn from the bone. Instead, I heard metal shattering.

I stand up and push the man in the suit. He goes flying across the cavern, crashing into the side, his mechanical armor breaking apart. Water poured into the tunnel, engulfing his body. He screamed and clutched at his face. The skin was dripping off like wax from a tilted candle.

He was not the only member of the Brigand to enter the cave that night. None of them would leave alive. If the rain gave them special powers, then they were minute compared to my own. The origin of my abilities could be the rain or the crystal sitting in my Belly. Regardless, I felt invincible. 

After dispatching the last assassin, I walked back out in the rain, letting it flow across my skin. I no longer feared its touch, and I realized I had no desired to disappear. Instead, it was time to take the fight to them.

September 24, 2021 15:30

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