Chapter 9:

The First Echo of Tempered Steel

Setting Sun Story: Beta

The Deacons’ High Tower - The Liberators - 10:30 AM

The interior of the Deacons’ High Tower resembles a courtroom. The front half of the room leading in from the door, is a large flat surface, with a circular etching at its center; upon which is in white, the wide armed man, the symbol of the Savior. Behind this symbol, the rest of the room raises up into platforms and rows of wooden desks.

The walls, denying the round shape of the exterior, create an octagon, and fitted on each is a metal torch; always burning. Embedded in the ceiling, opening the room up to feel much larger than it is, is a giant skylight, drawing in the image of the sky’s orb, the red moon.

Kneeling before the pews, all in attendance but one, are the Liberators: Taron, Zalach, Erin, and Jun. No longer are the two New Bloods in uniform, but now are dressed for combat.

Designed to resemble feathers, Erin’s torso and arms are cloaked in layers of steel, running down and lifting every six inches or so, arching outward like waves or hard frills.

Along his legs are flat protective pads, integrated at the knees and on long elements of his pants. He wears heavy combat boots, great for face stomping.

On his back is a long-sword, loosely strapped by belt to be easily manipulated and drawn from any necessary position.

Keeping light, with the advantage of fighting from a distance and remaining quick up close, Jun’s armor is slick crimson leather. It reaches from tight around her neck, where she can pull a cloth up as a mask, down to her knees.

She walks in small, ankle high dancer’s shoes, and wears black fingerless gloves, with a reflective silver-like metal protruding around the wrists.

Tied at her hips are four chakram, bladed rings that after being twirled around an arm or finger, can be thrown to easily cut through bone. Grabbing them tightly won't allow the blade to slip against the palm, allowing her to wield them as close range weapons as well.

A spare is attached on each side. They clack and clank whenever she runs, as if eagerly waiting to be thrown.

Having spoken to Arrabelle, Zalach has retrieved his precious great-sword, which rests hilt up at his side.

On Taron’s back is a spear. It carries the same pointed design as his wolf armor, and bears a trigger at the back-hand’s grip, opening and closing the far blades of the spearhead, turning it into a hook.

On his waist is a satchel, inside, the wrapped object presented to him the night before.

Watching over them are the Deacons. In their eyes burn a ferocity, a deep gaze brighter than all else. As is tradition, the red of their vision seems to bleed into their red robes with gold hemming laced upon the sleeves and down their sides. Such a sinister presence drowns out any other features.

Together they stand as one, watching, like a symphony of flames on any horizon.

“Chosen few, a perilous circumstance has fallen upon Baustas,” opens the Head Deacon in a low, rumbling tone.

The Head Deacon wears with pride a bald head, small nose and boundless ear-to-ear smile that remains tucked just beneath the surface on this day.

“On the hour, the Deacons have received word of enemies marching toward the city. In the last week, they’ve broken through every encampment to the North and South.”

Taron looks up from his position, as the pupils of every face turn to him.

“Why was I not informed of these movements?” Taron asks, breaking formation.

The Head Deacon squints down at him. These two have been in coordination for thirty years.

Taron stands. “I could’ve put a stop to this! If I am as you proclaimed, the Chosen One-!”

The Head Deacon does little more than shake his head.

“One man cannot stop an army, or have you forgotten what birthed the Savior’s higher form? Your duty had lay here, making sure the Liberators were prepared,” the Head Deacon says in a calm demeanor. “The Deacons’ Society is much greater a force than even still today you credit it, oh Chosen One.”

While Taron struggles to continue arguing, Jun looks over to Erin.

“Did you catch a word of that?” Erin whispers to her.

She shakes her head, but peers past him, to the empty space where Rain should be.

“You think Rain’s okay?” She whispers back.

“Honestly, he could use it.”

“Erin!” She says a little too loud.

Zalach pushes her, knocking her off her knee. He laughs at what the New Bloods deem out of place.

As she regains her balance, Erin leans back over, watching the Deacons carefully to see that they’re still in conversation with Taron.

“All I’m saying is that he could be knocked down a peg or two,” Erin whispers confidently.

“He could’ve died, I thought you were better than that...”

“Please, he’s too stubborn to die that easy,” Erin finishes. Jun is in disbelief.

“To think I let you come over today,” Jun utters. Erin raises an eyebrow.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asks, beginning to forget where he is.

“And why won’t you tell me what those lights coming from your wind-” He’s cut off before he can finish. Jun blushes.

“If we could have your most valuable attention?” the Head Deacon asks, looking over to the New Bloods.

They both swallow, nodding attentively.

“The truth of the matter is such: we couldn’t, and still yet cannot stop an assault on the walls of Baustas, and most certainly not the local perimeters,” the Head Deacon announces.

Their attention turns to panic.

“War will break out in this sacred realm. Nobody can halt this but you six, chosen by the Savior.”

Jun balls her fist in an attempt to stop her arm from shaking. A city such as this, one that had done so well to protect her, to grant her new life. Even in the wake of this sudden news, she’ll never let it die.

Erin looks over to her, hoping to sap just an ounce of her courage. He sucks in air through gritted teeth and open lips.

“You can count on us,” Erin says as he finds the bravery to speak out. The Head Deacon’s eyes return to Taron.

“Troublemakers indeed. But I can tell… the Savior has smiled upon these children, Chosen One.”

Southern Main Road - Taron - 11:05 AM

“I can only hope that’s enough for them,” Taron says to himself, standing in the center of the cobbled street, removing the spear from his back and readying it.

As civilians are ordered by allied soldiers to flee past them toward the most protected zone of the city: the North, Zalach walks around Taron’s back, and throws his great-sword over his shoulder, planting himself on Taron’s right.

“Talkin’ to yourself, old man?” He says jokingly.

Zalach extends a hand onto Taron’s shoulder.

“I pray the Savior has granted them with enough strength,” Taron sighs.

“Hey! I trained one of ‘em!” Zalach says, pulling his thumb to himself and puffing out his chest at Taron.

“Jun’s skills show promise everyday,” Taron responds.

“Your daughter’s too,” Zalach finishes with a more serious tone, side-eying Taron as he readies himself as well. “Speaking of her, you think she’s gonna be okay?”

Taron doesn’t respond. Zalach exhales argumentatively.

Giant patches of blue light descend as the artillery attacks begin above, painting the rows of houses along the South End in strange grays and purples as it slaps at the red of the sky.

“It’s starting,” Zalach confirms.

The seasoned warriors watch it continue in silence, unable to act against it.

As a sound like a giant hollow tube being rushed with air explodes overhead, the strikes begin to fall inward on the fortress.

The other soldiers look toward the sky in disbelief as the bright blue draws away from the traditional light of their red sanctuary.

“Oooh man. Years of work, down the drain,” Zalach says, looking up.

Around them, though not stirring their instincts, the balls of blue that pelted what seemed to be a barrier in the sky, now drop to the streets, exploding on contact with the ground.

“Eyes up, Zalach,” Taron breaths, his eyes trained on the front gate some hundred yards away.

As Taron brings his helmet down over his head, his eyes locking in place with the hollow shell of the wolf, Zalach decides that it is time to cut the jokes.

“It’s a pleasure to be the front line with ya, boss.”

“Mm,” Taron acknowledges. He hesitates for a moment, then finally…

“Are you ready for your going away party?”

“Taron! So out of character,” Zalach responds in a sarcastic lecturing voice.

A smile growing on his face, he hunkers down.

“I’m right beside you.”

“And I, you.”

The Southern gate, once thought unmovable, a relic of a world long past, suddenly shakes.

Afterward, in a split second, the world outside pours in. Smoke sucks into the city as the door is blown wide open, leaving Taron and Zalach blind.

For a few moments there is nothing more, only a similar sound booming elsewhere to the East, echoing across the metropolis.

Taron spots something amidst the black billowing, a single blue light beaming in.

“Brace yourself!” He yells.

Zalach tightens his grip. Emerging beside the sole light, two more spawn and press through, as breaking the smoke behind them, flying machines hovering a few feet from the ground speed down the road.

“That’s new,” Zalach observes calmly. “Hey, one for each of us!” He says, glancing over to Taron and smiling.

In no time, the speeders are only feet away. Standing on them like jet skis, are riders, dressed in large white trench coats strapped with blades to act as small lances; an outfit completed with round goggles. 

They crank the throttles, turning up the potency on blue lines that pulse and carve through the shape of the machine, causing the light to move down from the handles to the emitters at the bottom.

The one heading for Taron takes the lead, an aura of blueish mirage expelling from it.

“I’ll leave these to you,” Taron recommends, pointing his head toward the other light coming from the smoke.

The first rider reveals his short blade from behind his back. It too is white, with a glowing blue gem encrusted in the center of the hilt.

“Isn’t that…?” Zalach starts before Taron takes off.

After stepping forward a few feet, Taron ducks down beneath the speeder, his ponytail barely missing a slice from the oncoming blade. As his body interacts with the emitters, the speeder is given a large tremor, tossing the rider off of its back.

If not for his immense strength, such down-force would’ve left Taron’s head in the ground.

He runs onward, leaving the two riders to face Zalach.

“You are something else, boss,” Zalach admits.

As the still mounted soldier comes his way, Zalach draws a circle with his foot, and with a bright burst of green light, signs a Wind symbol below him. With it, that green light somewhere inside, blossoms deep down in his sword.

He kicks his foot into the ground, blasting off a burst of Wind that carries him toward the rider.

Without time to react, the rider faces the oncoming blow of Zalach’s blade. In a last ditch effort, he white-knuckles the controls and pushes down, trying to force the speeder below Zalach’s range of attack.

He fails.

Cleaved in the face by the low swing of exotic, green-tinged steel, he is launched into the wall of a nearby home. 

Zalach looks back, hoping to finish off the other soldier, but finds the rider surrounded by an army of allies behind him, cheering on the chosen ones, ready to help.

Now just before the gates, Taron watches the blue. Like a lighthouse ushering in a coming storm, soldiers step into the city in its guidance.

With excess garnish, their armor flows beautifully out into white coats, covering whitened steel chest plates with large neck-guards, every one of them engraved with immaculate spiraling designs.

They march in unison, holding their blades to their faces, working together to expand the glow of the blinding gems. The leader of this charge is far bigger than any mere man.

The hefty mass is veiled over in a thick white sheet; bulging out at his heavy armor’s edges. He and his like brandish large axes, the source of the spotlight in the smoke.

Behind him are two followers, and behind them, an army of immeasurable size.

“How do we activate it?” the first follower vaguely asks his partner and leader.

The leader remains silent, his sluggish movements reminiscent of some earthen golem or automaton.

“I’m sure it’s already in effect,” the second follower says, leaning over.

“Good, then we should be able to make quick work of-” the first follower starts, only to look forward and find the Chosen One, Taron, already rushing him down.

The follower is defended by the ax carrying leader, but the effect has already begun. As he aims to bring his weapon in front of him, his adrenaline spikes and his vision tunnels. He drops his blade to the ground, clutching his right wrist.

The blood coursing through his body becomes something between liquid and solid, coagulating and pushing against his skin and bones. He feels his insides break apart, tear, shred and snap, then finally turn to mush.

Before Taron’s eyes, unable to look away from the metamorphosis despite the heaving brute of a warrior in front of him, this grunt, so cruelly placed at the front line, has his body worked through; everything beneath the surface seeming to melt and reform uncontrollably. In a heartbeat, the soldier becomes something else.

Author's Note- 

It's time for those ugly scene headers to finally be useful! Everything from here on out takes place overlapping one another, so watch out for those to keep track of the timeline!