April 30, 2012
My hands clenched into fists so tightly they creaked. As Hannah entered Klich’s black Darcarre van, it felt like a kidnapping, but looked more like an innocent girl going on her first date with ‘the bad boy.’
She waved back at me, but I just wanted this to be over. I could tell she was crying, but the Splinter Darcarre couldn’t have cared less and they shut the side door of the van with a loud slam.
I could have used hearing some wise crack from Ethan at this point, but he was gone forever. As I watched the black van depart, I couldn’t help but think that Hannah was too.
“Damn it,” I said under my breath. A few of the folks we had rescued lingered about, but none dared to disturb me. Soon my rigid stance sent them wandering away.
The wind blew my hair against my face and I sighed. Only my bike and I remained in the empty dirt lot outside of Telluride. A poster spoke of an upcoming festival, but such normal thoughts and activities were no longer part of my existence. For better or worse, I’d become a hero. A Stalwart.
With that came certain responsibilities. No one had trained me for this life or forced me to do it. I fought on because I knew I needed to, I had to. Sometimes it made me feel better, but not now.
I gazed at the towering spine of The Rockies. Two states to the north an evil festered. I’d learned more about Drake on my journey than when I had actually worked with him. He wasn’t of my Earth, not really. But this didn’t keep him from wanting to own it, torture it, and destroy it.
Vincent Drake had become Vile Darken and would be the most powerful villain I had ever faced.
I need something to take my mind off of this crap.
With a roar, my bike started up. I cast one last look at the mountain where Ethan had given his life to help free us from Edgar’s evil goals.
“Screw it. I’m coming for you Vile.”
The bike tore onto the highway heading north leaving just dirt and dust behind.
April 23, 2012
The loss of Ethan hit us both hard. Hannah cried into the night. Her sobbing could be easily heard as I paced in the living room of the luxurious hotel room one of the people we rescued had provided us.
She came out of the bedroom with tears streaming down her face. “Oh Jack, I just can’t believe Ethan’s gone.”
“I know, despite how annoying the little turd tended to be, he sure grew on you after a while.” I took her in my arms. “We have all gone through a lot. In the end, we became a good team.”
“And now I feel like its over,” she cried.
“I know honey, but the rest of us have to go on.” She hugged me like she was trying to give me the Heimlich and then said, “It’s not just Ethan. Jack, there’s something else making me sad. It’s tearing me apart.”
I stiffened. “What else is going on?”
“Oh Jack, it’s awful.”
I grabbed her by the shoulders and moved her back so we could see each other’s eyes. “Hannah, tell me. What’s going on?”
“It’s the Darcarre, Jack I…”
“What did they do to you? Did you curse you or taint you somehow? I swear I’ll kill every last one of those pukes if that’s what it takes to-”
“No, no Jack. It isn’t like that. I…well, you know how the Splinter Darcarre have declared war against their own kind and the rest of the Dark Alliance?”
“Yes, but what does this have to do with-”
She placed a delicate hand over my mouth. “The powers, our powers, want to take advantage of this. They feel that if we can form an agreement of sorts with these Splinter Darcarre and maybe a few other Xemmoni races, like the Dyevils, it will not only keep them from attacking us when we need our strength to most, but with their help we could have at least a chance of winning or at least holding our own against the Darken Empire.”
“They want us to work with Xemmoni?” I felt stunned. “Who wants this?”
“You’d probably rather not know. But since I’ve already been working with the Darcarre, they figured I would be a natural choice to try to stay involved and fortify this alliance.”
“But what about Vile Darken? Isn’t destroying him the most important thing?”
“Yes, it could be, but this potential forging of an agreement between the Stalwarts and certain Xemmoni stretches across multiple worlds. In the end, this could be the one thing that saves us.” She looked up at me. “I’m being promoted and giving more responsibly than I ever imagined possible. I should be happy, but I feel so sad.”
“I still can’t believe this. I have to fight Darken. Just when I need more help than I ever have, these ‘powers’ want to take away my only remaining ally?”
She grew more serious and regained some of her composure. “Jack, this is your quest. I think we both now that you started this alone and in the end you’re going to head into this final chapter alone.”
Icy fingers crawled up my spine and Hannah hugged me again as I shivered. Despite having her in my arms, I don’t think there was ever a time in my life that I felt more alone.
April 9, 2012
Before the good fortune of sending Edgar over the cliff could even sink in, I heard Ethan scream like the devils of hell were tearing him apart. I looked on in horror as the remaining four Darcarre drove their daggers into my ally again and again.
“Ethan!” I shouted and was about to run toward him, when I remembered the Consciousness Crown. It could be my only chance to save him! So turning, I headed back toward where I had knocked the crown off of Edgar’s head. I reached the edge of the cliff only to see that Darcarre bastard Dick had already beat me there and was placing the crown over his head.
“Ha Primus, you have only done me a boon by, what, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
I hated to see the crown go, but kicking Dick over the ledge was the only thing I could think to do before he placed the crown on this head.
I went to race back to Ethan, but it was too late. Three Darcarre hovered over my dead friend grinning in triumph.
Self doubt plagued me. Maybe if I had headed here instead of going for the crown, he might have made it. I took out my frustrations by beating the last three wounded Darcarre to death with my bare hands.
A minute later, I was covered with their blood and panting over their dead bodies. And that was how Hannah found me when she ran up to our position along with Klich and Ink.
“Jack, Jack, all the other Darcarre are either destroyed or have fled. The people of Telluride have regained their… oh no! ETHAN!”
She raced to our dead friend’s side and tried to cure him over and over. “Come on Ethan. Don’t give up. Oh Ethan. Damn it. Ethan!”
My hand lightly touched her shoulder and that was all it took for her to launch herself into my arms. Like a damn breaking, her tears poured over my bare chest. “Oh Jack, it has all been so horrible, but it can’t end like this, it just can’t.”
Some of the people of Telluride were gathering around, but none dared to disturb us.
Fires both big and small burned. Their twisted pillars of smoke were caught and torn apart by the strong mountain winds. All around us bodies both human and otherwise oozed their life juices onto the old mining camp.
The Consciousness Crown and everything else was gone. We had nothing to show for our trying adventures other than our lives and some of us didn’t even have that.
Hannah still cried. “It can’t end like this.”
I hugged her and tried to whisper words of encouragement into her ear, but all I thought was, it could end like this, but this isn’t the end, my battle is still far from over. Looking toward the north, I knew it was time for me to return to my home town and face my destiny. Drake, my only unfinished business, either he would go down or I would die trying to eradicate his filthy evil from the world.
But that day would not be today and as the abused people of Telluride watched, I lead my woman away from the scene of death.