Chapter 2:

Meet The Family

The Blood Of Palken

  The world of Palken is a dark and distant world of rocks and mountains. It’s a world of death and of power. A world ruled by the oldest and most fearsome warriors in existence. One such ruler was the great dragon of stone, known only as the Lord Dragon. The Lord Dragon was so immense that he hasn’t left his mountain in nearly thirty years. Looking at it, you’d think he and the mountain were one and the same. The dragon’s scales had taken on the same substance as the volcanic rock as he’d sat for decades with his tail wrapped tightly around its base.Bookmark here

 The Lord Dragon’s two children stood before him. His daughter Ember closely resembled his human form only she had ashen gray skin and black, bat-like wings. She was seething with the fiery anger of her family’s blood. An anger her father could remember feeling all too well. His son Rox however, looked like a jagged chunk of granite with arms and legs. Half of his face was covered by a steel mask, the other revealed a set of wickedly sharp teeth that gave him a menacing visage. His looks hid a surprisingly level head though. The danger to the Lord Dragon’s peace was Ember. Bookmark here

  “It isn’t your place to question Father!” Rox shouted.Bookmark here

  Ember’s face contorted violently. “Our clan’s realm should be larger! We should rule all of Palken, the other Titans are no match for you. It would be as easy as feasting on newborn prey. If you could be bothered to leave your comfortable mountain that is!”Bookmark here

  The Lord Dragon’s rage boiled over and the ground shook. There was a loud creak, then rocks began to crash and crumble from the base of the mountain. Ember was too slow to realize what was happening. In the blink of an eye the Lord Dragon’s massive tail whipped forth and struck her in the chest. Ember crumpled into the rocks behind her. Bookmark here

  “Damn you Father.” She choked the words out through a blood filled throat. Bookmark here

  “Get her out of here!” The Lord Dragon bellowed. Bookmark here

  Two Palken dragged her away. Bookmark here

  “I apologize for my sister’s outburst.”Bookmark here

  “Rox, you aren’t responsible for others. And I don’t need any sycophants either. Those days are behind me.”Bookmark here

  Rox nodded his head but didn’t respond. He’d heard all of this before but his father was damned scary, he’d never stop apologizing. Not after the last punishment he received anyway. Bookmark here

  “Do you agree with Ember? Do you think we should conquer? Do you think our clan isn’t strong enough?”Bookmark here

  “No, Father. I think we should leave the other clans alone.”Bookmark here

  “Well answered, son. I conquered this land long ago and I’m content with what I have. As long as I rule our clan will never again set forth on a war of conquest.”Bookmark here

  “Father, I think most of our clan is behind Ember though. The Palken aren’t generally a peaceful race, they want to fight.”Bookmark here

  “I know, the bloodlust is strong.”Bookmark here

  “I’ve heard some say that your time on Earth made you soft.”Bookmark here

  “Perhaps, I haven’t left my mountain since I last left.”Bookmark here

  “Why?”Bookmark here

  The Lord Dragon looked off in the distance and stayed silent for a moment. Rox could see he was contemplating something. Bookmark here

  Finally he turned to his son. “Rox, I want you to observe your sister. She’s lost my trust.”Bookmark here

                                                                          ~~~Bookmark here

  The cavern was tightly packed. Ember stood on a raised platform down in the front. She was backlit by the river of magma that flowed through the mountain, she was equal parts terrifying and beautiful. Rox was nervous. The body language and the grumbling created an atmosphere of violent tension that felt much like the air did before the volcano erupted. Bookmark here

  At that moment the crowd surged forward and an unfortunate soul was shoved into Teer, one of Ember’s generals. Teer wasn’t as large as some Palken, only about six and a half feet tall, he looked like a massive crocodile on two legs. His tail was long and spliked and his jaws were many and fine tipped. Put simply he was a ferocious being and there was a reason he was a general. Teer snarled and in one swift movement lifted the pathetic thing and ripped it in half, then began biting at the ripped part of the upper torso as he threw the lower into the excited mass. There was a wave of shrieking and a struggle before mighty Strup fought them all away and triumphantly chomped a bite off of his prize. It was only a matter of time before they all ate each other. Palken packed too tightly was never a good idea. Bookmark here

  Rox put a little more distance between himself and the crowd. Bookmark here

  Ember merely smiled. She was happiest when something was dying. Bookmark here

  “Ember, are you going to tell us what we’re doing in this cave?” Strup yelled between bites. The mighty Strup towered over many at a full eleven feet. Like Rox he appeared to have been made from stone but if one was granite then the other was darkest onyx, where the only light found flashed across his teeth. Bookmark here

  “Because the Lord Dragon has no ears here.”Bookmark here

  “Hahaha...” Teer let out a low, creepy, gravelly laugh. He had fallen out of favor with the Lord Dragon some years before and ever since he’d been following Ember around like a loyal hound, impatiently waiting for his revenge. He always knew that she had the fire. Bookmark here

  Ember continued, “The Palken are warriors, killers,” the crowd cheered, “we’re meant to overcome and eat our enemies. Not sit around the rocks eating each other while waiting for the fight to come to us! It’s disgraceful. We, the clan of the great Lord Dragon, mightiest of Titans, should be above all!”Bookmark here

  The crowd cheered again but Strup didn’t look convinced. “You think the Lord Dragon cares if he has a clan to rule? He’ll kill the lot of us for going against him.” Those closest to Strup hissed with jealousy as he spit morsels on them. Bookmark here

  “He won’t leave the warmth of his mountain!”Bookmark here

  “I heard he sent you flying just today.” Strup laughed. Bookmark here

  “Only his tail detached.”Bookmark here

  “Only his tail!” Strup shouted at top volume. “What do you think he’ll do with the rest of his body?”Bookmark here

  “I didn’t know you were a coward Strup.” Teer growled. Bookmark here

  Strup stepped forward and pounded his chest with his free hand and brandished his food in the other. “Don’t forget it was I who made a meal of your father!”Bookmark here

  Teer pounded his own chest in response. “My father was weak!”Bookmark here

  In that instant the two warriors were on top of each other, growling and punching, tearing and biting. The crowd loved it. So did Ember, but she didn’t want to lose two of her strongest. Bookmark here

  “Enough!” Ember’s skin began to glow white hot and ash fell from her wings. The air around her shimmered and a blast of intense heat knocked the combatants to the ground. “Anyway Strup, there is wisdom in your words. That’s why I propose we leave Palken.”Bookmark here

  The fire in Rox’s blood turned to ice. Bookmark here

  The grumbling turned to curious whispers. Bookmark here

  “Leave Palken? And go where?”Bookmark here

  “Earth.” Bookmark here

  Strup’s interest was piqued. “You have a gate?”Bookmark here

  Ember smiled again and snapped her fingers. The snap seemed to echo unnaturally as four of Ember’s minions entered the cavern, their backs bent under the strain of the large portal they carried. The gate was a large oval made of bone. It was fifteen feet high by ten feet wide, it sat in a shallow copper basin that was scrawled with the ancient runes of Palken. “I do.” Behind them crawled an elderly human male. He was draped in heavy chains.Bookmark here

                                                                      ~~~Bookmark here

  Rox ran into the courtyard at the base of the mountain. “You were right not to trust her Father.”Bookmark here

  The Lord Dragon nodded. “Will she march into the realm of Klytas?”Bookmark here

  “No. She’s going to Earth.”Bookmark here

  “Where did she get a gate?”Bookmark here

  “I don’t know but she had a human too. The gate’s open.”Bookmark here

  “How many Palken have gone through?”Bookmark here

  “I didn’t think to count them. Ember’s got a small army though. There has to be nearly four hundred.”Bookmark here

  “Four spikes, the insolent brat is smart enough to still fear me at least. Does she think that she’ll be out of my reach?”Bookmark here

  “Will you go to Earth Father?”Bookmark here

  “No.”Bookmark here

  “What? Surely you don’t mean to leave her be? The devastation she’ll cause...”Bookmark here

  “Don’t be daft Rox.”Bookmark here

  “If you won’t go then who will?”Bookmark here

  “You.”Bookmark here

  “Okay, I’ll take a spike with me.”Bookmark here

  “No. You can’t take any of our warriors to Earth.”Bookmark here

  “Father, my blood is pure, but Ember and her army, that’s too many. I’ll need at least a spike to fight alongside me.”Bookmark here

  “What do you think will happen if you bring more Palken to Earth?”Bookmark here

  Rox looked at his father, lost in confusion. How did he expect him to beat his sister? Bookmark here

  “If you bring more Palken they’ll just join Ember.”Bookmark here

  “You’re right, there’s too much fun to be had amongst the humans. What will I do against four spikes alone?”Bookmark here

  “You won’t be alone.”Bookmark here

                                                                            ~~~Bookmark here

  Ember sat perched on the spire of the Holy Church Of The Redeemed. If she knew anything of human theology she would know that she created the perfect image. A demonic looking gargoyle silhouetted in the sun watching the beginning of Hell on Earth. Of course Ember knew nothing of Christianity, so her as an ideal symbol or perhaps even an idol for a later generation, was entirely lost on her. She’d never even heard the word harbinger. There was one thing she understood though, that she had the power of a god. In the street below, Ember’s army flowed from the door to Palken. Bookmark here

  The destruction was immediate, the warriors of Palken were unstoppable. They overturned cars with ease, any person within arms reach was dead in an instant, eaten or just left as a puddle of mush in their wake. The warriors began to spread out in every direction and the city filled with screams.Bookmark here

                                                                              ~~~Bookmark here

  “Mmm! Ralphie makes the best blueberry pancakes in town.” Erica was very satisfied. She’d been looking forward to this for the past few days, ever since Paul suggested they have breakfast on their next date. They’ve only been together for a few weeks but she was starting to get that special feeling. Bookmark here

  “He sure does. They were huge, I won’t be eating again until tomorrow.” Paul rubbed his stomach happily. “So what do you want to do with the rest of the day?”Bookmark here

  “Hmm, I’m not really sure. What do you want to do?” Erica laughed to herself, Paul hated when she turned his questions around on him. Bookmark here

  “Come on Erica... you choose.”Bookmark here

  “Gimme some options at least!” She said playfully. Bookmark here

  “I don’t know. Before I met you I didn’t really do much of anything.”Bookmark here

  “Except go to conventions?”Bookmark here

  Paul’s face turned red. “Except go to conventions.”Bookmark here

  “Don’t be embarrassed. We wouldn’t have met if you didn’t.”Bookmark here

  “Your cosplay game was on point.”Bookmark here

  Erica smiled. “I had help.”Bookmark here

  Paul smiled too. “I could tell. It was pretty obvious it was your first con.”Bookmark here

  “Yeah it was a little bit awkward. I must’ve posed for a million pictures.”Bookmark here

  “Ha! Two million, easy.”Bookmark here

  “You were the only guy I spoke to that day who didn’t ask for a pic.”Bookmark here

  “Yeah, I was jealous. We were both wearing sailor uniforms and you looked way cuter.”Bookmark here

  “Aww, I liked you right away too!”Bookmark here

  “I didn’t say that.” Paul couldn’t stop himself from letting a slight “tee-hee” escape his lips.Bookmark here

  “So anyway my little goofball, where are we going?” She really loved messing with him.Bookmark here

  “Unghh, I don’t know. The aquarium?”Bookmark here

  “Eww fish. Lame, Paul.”Bookmark here

  “Yeah, yeah, I knew it as soon as I said it. Let’s just get out of here and walk around for a while.”Bookmark here

  “Great idea!” Truth be told, Erica couldn’t care less how they spent their day.Bookmark here

  As soon as Erica’s feet hit the pavement she could feel something was off. Call it women’s intuition, call it a sixth sense, call it what you will, but Erica’s gut was never wrong. She grabbed Paul’s arm. “We have to get off the street.”Bookmark here

  “What?”Bookmark here

  Erica didn’t try to explain, she just yanked him down the closest alley. An explosion went off in the distance. Frantic screams came into earshot. Bookmark here

  “What the hell?” Paul was starting to panic.Bookmark here

  “Let’s just keep going. We’ll go to my place, it’s not that far.”Bookmark here

  That last remark was factually accurate but the further they got from the diner the further from home Erica felt. The screams had multiplied and intensified and explosions were booming throughout the city. They had managed to stay safe by sticking to the alleyways but something was coming for them, Erica could feel it. Bookmark here

  “Hurry.”Bookmark here

  Behind them a garbage can tipped over seemingly on its own and rolled across the alley. Erica and Paul turned around as it came to a stop. Nothing happened. Bookmark here

  “Whew,” Paul sighed, “that scared the hell out of me.”Bookmark here

  “Me to...” Before she could finish her response, something crawled out of the can. It stood up and stared at them, it was unlike anything they’d ever seen. It resembled a goblin except its features were less humanoid and it appeared to have a gooey sheen to its purple skin. The thing let out a low growl and bared its fangs. Bookmark here

  Erica slowly backed up, pushing Paul behind her. “Run!” She was quicker so she got ahead almost immediately. “Run!” She yelled again. Bookmark here

  The thing uttered another growl then leapt after them. It raked its claws across Paul’s back and brought him to the ground. The thing looked gleeful as it bit a small chunk out of his arm and Paul watched in horror as a piece of his flesh was eaten. Bookmark here

  “Ahh!!! Erica help!”Bookmark here

  For a moment Erica was frozen in place. She could do nothing but watch through tear streaked eyes as her new boyfriend was eaten right in front of her. Bookmark here

  “Erica!” Paul cried. Bookmark here

  Paul’s voice echoed throughout her head. Erica slapped herself hard across the face and looked around for anything she could use as a weapon. About three feet from Paul was a broken cinder block. She grabbed it and bashed the thing in the side of the head. It stumbled but didn’t fall. Bookmark here

  “No!” Erica screamed. She wasn’t going to let this thing kill them. With all of her might she heaved the cinder block at its face. This time it went down. “Ha!” Erica picked up her blunt instrument and proceeded to smash the thing’s face into pulp. Bookmark here

                                                                          ~~~Bookmark here

  The door to Palken had grown quiet. The entire area was littered with bodies and broken glass, car fires dotted the street. The sight that greeted Rox as he came through could only be described as carnage. Or, if you’re a student of theology, it looked a whole lot like the apocalypse. Bookmark here

Joe Gold
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