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Chapter 15 – Abyss Unleashed
The stormy waves washed upon his broken body, trying to crush him and prevent him from fulfilling his destiny. Noxallis, with the last ounce of his strength, threw himself ashore and stretched out on the jagged rocks. He turned to his back and stared at the dark clouds above: their threatening visage promised a great storm, but there was no sign of rain coming aside from distant, low thunders.
Noxallis was shivering from the cold as the wind bit into his flesh, and he would’ve passed out had an odd feeling not groped at his brain.
He sensed a glooming darkness in the corner of his eye. He looked to the right, but nothing was there. He felt a shadow towering above him; snapping his head at the source, he saw nothing but barren hills beneath a grim sky. Forcing himself up with great effort, he finally set his eyes on the goal: a jet-black obelisk with an impossibly smooth surface stretching towards the sky, as if attempting to pierce the rain-laden clouds.
My purpose… I’m almost there. Noxallis tried to slither as fast as possible, but he kept falling flat after several feet of progress. His battle with the humans left him exhausted, and now that they had miraculously survived his last spell, they’ve been harrying him for days on end. If he had stopped, they would’ve caught up to him, and thus he swam and swam all day, using the remainder of his power to survive.
Noxallis glanced back to see that familiar shape appearing on the horizon, heading straight for him and his key to salvation.
“Xssssssssssssssshhhhhh! NOOOO! You won’t… *cough* you won’t take it from me!”
Fired up by his hatred he began crawling on the coarse soil. His skin was dry and cracked from the constant swimming near the water’s surface where he was exposed to the scorching sun, and now the rocks ravenously tore at his scales as he approached the obelisk, leaving a bloody trail behind.
After what seemed to be hours, he reached the towering structure. Using it as support he pulled himself up and concentrated on the prophet trapped inside. It was so powerful that he found it immediately.
Just a few words and it can break free…
As Noxallis chanted in his language he felt the tall object shaking already: the presence inside stretched against the walls of its prison.
Noxallis’ power was slipping away and darkness was dimming his sight when the plinth finally broke. Just like in his vision, the obelisk broke in half; its top piece came crashing down on the opposite side. Noxallis fell back, being no longer able to hold himself, and watched the finale of his victory on his back. The whirling energies slowly emerged, crackling with charge and power, before coalescing above the broken remains of the pillar. For a moment, it started to expand, only to shrink back a heartbeat later. The first breath after millennia of imprisonment… I know that feeling. Noxallis smiled, but that smile froze on his face when the orb spotted him – or at least he felt it watching him. A panic surge overcame him and he wanted nothing else more than to be as far away from this place as possible.
But escape was never an option: it took the energy a blink of an eye to swoop down and fly into him.
The similarity to his vision ended there… utterly and abruptly. He jolted from the excruciating pain that was so intense that it almost blew up every nerve in his body. He tried to squirm, to convulse, to vomit, but he couldn’t move. The worst part was when he started to feel the transformations occurring, which redoubled his torment. His insides were burning and yet freezing cold, his skin maddeningly itched but he couldn’t scratch it. His eyes still obeyed, and he could see his body elongating, growing, but worst of all, he saw tentacles and fins forming. He blacked out with that horrid picture in mind.
And there he stood face to face with the intruder. The battle for his body ended, but the battle for control was about to begin… and his mind was the battlefield. The monstrosity was covered in semi-darkness, but it seemed serpentine-looking with draconic features dominating its muzzle.
A dripping sound echoed in the space. The creature was either salivating or water gushed from every pore of its body.
“THANK YOU FOR FREEING ME.” Its voice was the abyss of the ocean surging up to flood and kill everything. “BUT NOW YOU MUST DIE.”
Noxallis had no time to scream, as the creature bit on him immediately. The beast’s strange, watery teeth continuously crunched and snapped on him. He was dying. His soul was dying: pierced, ripped apart, and mutilated in the horrible maw.
“Th-ankh yh-o… bhro-thekhhrs.” Noxallis was choking on the imagined, spectral blood of his mind, but in his last moments he thought of those who had rightfully betrayed him all those years ago, for they saved the krait people from utter destruction at the hands of a nightmare. The light of his mind was extinguished and Noxallis was snuffed out of existence.
He opened his eyes. Rising from the ground, he measured the transformed body of the infant vermin that he had just perfected. He determined that it would serve well for now, at least until his master rose and gave him back his old form.
Turning around he assessed the place… it was the very shore where he was defeated. He remembered floating beings with appendages or dark wings, stout two-legged things with hair on their heads, as well as other creatures. They chased him here, through ocean and earth after his master had gone to sleep. Here they prevailed, destroyed his body and locked him in this wretched obelisk. But now all their sacrifices were in vain.
Something caught his aqueous eyes. A wooden structure swimming out on the sea, clearly coming his way.
He grinned. The time has come to continue what was interrupted.
The Kraken’s Dream trembled.
“Did we run aground?” Kanaxai asked Demetrius who was steering the ship at the helm, but the first mate shook his head.
“We’re still moving. Must’ve been a current or a larger wave.”
The quake repeated again, now even stronger.
“Does anyone see something below us?” Demetrius shouted to the crew. Several of them bent over the railing and stared at the foaming waters.
“Something’s forming just beneath us. Looks like currents and spinning with increasing speed.”
Kanaxai squinted to make something out of the shore that was enveloped by a curtain of rain. They were basically blind and the last thing they saw was the Corruptor breaking the obelisk.
“Captain!” The naga elder called to him, her voice shadowed by fear. “Thisss musst be another trick. We have to get away from here. Now!”
“Out with those paddles and begin rowing! Let’s head farther south where we can safely…”
Just behind the ship’s stern a crevice of sea opened. Far greater than natural maelstroms, it pulled the Kraken’s Dream with tremendous force, intending to swallow it in whole and send it to the bottom of the sea.
It would’ve won had the crew not started rowing seconds after its opening. The ship slowly gained distance, but the whirlpool didn’t give up so easily: all of a sudden tentacles made of shimmery-looking water erupted from its hollow core and grabbed the vessel. Kanaxai and his men charged to the sides and started cutting off the limbs of water but those reformed every time. Still, for the brief time they were truncated they couldn’t drag their prey back, allowing the rowers to get the ship several feet further from its doom.
More tentacles rose and started to attack those aboard, bashing them or flinging them overboard.
Kanaxai was still chopping the accursed things when a scaly, clawed hand took hold on the rail just next to him, followed by another. Kanaxai’s eyes went wide but the tentacle he let alone for a moment bumped into him and sent him flying. The last thing he saw was a spiked shell appearing on the deck…
Breathing was impossible. Kanaxai instinctively turned onto his belly and started coughing up the staggering amount of water that he had swallowed unconsciously.
The world was blurred all around and the salt of the seawater pinched his eyes and burned his throat. Weakly, he straightened up and realized he was luckily washed ashore. He felt like death as the half-healed wounds on his shoulders ached with renewed pain, while a few dozen new injuries seared and soared all over his body.
He glanced back to see the Kraken’s Dream breaking even further away. The last two tentacles that still clang onto it were mutilated and torn.
Good… at least they will survive. Hope rose in Kanaxai’s heart as he stumbled forward on the desolate shore, still coughing at every third step. I… must… find my way… back to them.
Somewhere up at the end of the slope he fell to his knees. To prevent collapsing entirely he had to lean on his hands.
“I DO NOT REMEMBER YOUR KIND FROM BEFORE.” For a moment, Kanaxai thought Zhu Hanuku had returned, but he realized that this voice was like the sea in the most destructive hurricane: cold, harsh and inexpressibly cruel. Kanaxai, out of fear, could barely lift his head, but when he finally did he cursed himself for being the curious fool he was.
In front of him the Corruptor stood – or what was once it. Thirteen feet tall and at least twenty feet long, its whole body was covered with newly grown spikes and fins. Out of the backside of its lowers arms tentacles sprouted out that his clawed hands held like whips. The fangs in its maw grew thrice as big and the whole muzzle looked slightly draconic now. But the most foreboding of all was the strange, cyan-colored water that poured and dripped from every fiber of its body – even what might have been its veins glowed with cyanide light. Its eyes looked like they were constantly crying the odd liquid.
“BUT IN THE END, IT DOES NOT MATTER. YOUR FATES ARE THE SAME… THE ABYSS WILL CONSUME YOU ALL.” The creature raised its whip-holding hands when a spear made of bone struck it in the side. The foul water gushed to the ground.
The transformed Corruptor hissed and roared in frustration, searching for the attackers with its nightmarish eyes.
More and more spears flew towards the beast who irritatedly cracked its whips at the projectiles, destroying most of them. However, a few still found their marks, making the creature bleed more of the water.
Adrenaline surged into Kanaxai and he finally broke free of his stunned fear, making a run for his mysterious rescuers.
“Human! Take this spear and fight!” A hoarse voice snapped at him and a moment later a bone spear with the blade pointing skywards was thrown to him.
Kanaxai caught it with ease, whirling it in his hands to an offensive grip.
The unexpected aid came in the form of angry-looking turtles walking on two legs: they were the kappa, loyal servants of the great Zhu Hanuku.
Of course… so they came to the help of the ship as well… Kanaxai, sadly smiling at the memory of the Kraken spirit, joined the loose lines of his new allies. Thank you, Zhu. You saved our lives a second time, and now from the other side even.
For seconds the Corruptor stood puzzled in the growing pool of water, glaring at its foes through the corrupt water-veil. Slowly, it started into a wicked laughter and launched itself in the air. From above, its deadly tentacles lashed at those below, grinding them, tossing them into the sea, or ripping them apart. Kanaxai dodged left and right while the kappa fell all around him. The corrupted snake landed behind them and was already pulling its whips back to unleash a horizontal strike that would’ve cut the survivors in half. One whip came in low and several kappa lost their lower body, while the other came in moments later at the height of a man. Kanaxai and the last three kappa ducked, although one still lost the tip of his shell.
I guess the only way to kill this beast is to cut it into pieces… and to do that…
He looked at his last allies.
“I need to get one of its tentacles!” He shouted over the raging storm, still evading the whip slashes.
“Are you insane, human!?”
“It’s the only way! But I need help!”
The kappa nodded and waved at his two friends. Understanding the task and its price immediately, all three of them charged ahead.
One hurled his spear at the snake’s head, and the javelin perfectly burrowed into one of the crying eyes.
The Corruptor went into a frenzy and struck whatever it could while shrieking with an unearthly sound. A lash killed two of the kappa and so only one remained – the one who gave Kanaxai the spear.
Kanaxai ran forward, setting his gaze on the right tentacle. His chances were better than ever now that the monster was half blind and focused on the sole survivor of the diversion team. Standing just below the flailing arm now, he cut off the whip with the edge of his spear, yelling with all his pent-up rage. The Corruptor screamed and tried to crush Kanaxai with its arm, but the man was quicker and jumped out of the way. The long tentacle still thrashed on the ground when Kanaxai picked it up. It was light, thin and followed every move of its wielder. He didn’t understand what made it so lethal, but the whole thing buzzed, reminding him of the electric eels of the sea; just a thousand times more deadly.
Kanaxai pondered no longer and turned the weapon against its previous owner; the first slash severed its right arm, the second cut off the entire length of its tail while the third cleaved it in half diagonally. Out of all wounds the corrupt cyan-colored water poured and splattered in large quantities. The lower half convulsed for a few seconds before shivering to stillness, but the upper one still had one arm and the head. With its last breath it lashed the other tentacle-whip in the height of Kanaxai’s waist. Kanaxai managed to drop to his belly but the kappa could neither jump that big nor lie without the slash removing a big chunk of his back.
“We meet again sooner than I thought, Zhu.” The kappa said in a silent whisper as the tentacle neatly severed his head from the neck.
Kanaxai sprung up and brought down his own whip at the half-dead Corruptor, cutting it in two vertically. Its separated sides tried to move, but they soon stopped completely. All parts, even the whip in Kanaxai’s hands, hummed for a second before melting into corrupt water.
Kanaxai screamed in pain as a few droplets of the water seeped into a wound on his hand. He remembered that when he had fallen on his knees and caught himself with his hands he accidentally bruised off the skin on a sharp rock. The flesh had already taken on an unhealthy purplish red color around the cut.
The clouds above were breaking up already, letting in warm sunlight through a hundred cracks. The rain turned into a light drizzle and out on the sea the maelstrom closed and the sea was normal again.
Kanaxai wearily searched for the Kraken’s Dream and soon found it with his eyes: his beautiful ship moored further to the south as planned.
“I’m going home…” He whispered with a faint smile on his face. The walk back to his family and people was long, but the thought of living down the rest of his life in peace made it endurable. If only his hand didn’t hurt so badly…
… of the first part. After more than three months of (mostly) weekly updates, I can announce that we have reached the closing chapter of the first “season.”
Now that Guild Wars 2 is less than a week away – and due to other, personal reasons – I will stop updating Age of Deceit for a time. But Fear Not This Hiatus, if everything goes well, it will last only a couple of months (three at most), which gives me plenty of time for things to settle down.
Oh, and once we get closer to the restart of Age of Deceit, keep your eyes peeled for a pretty wicked surprise!
Thank you for bearing with me this long, dear Reader. If you’ve got something on your mind – criticism, feedback, etc. -, please leave it in the comments below. I believe it would be the most appropriate time – now that we are at half-time – to do that!