The text below is based on Guild Wars lore but is purely fan-fiction. Click here for Chapter 12.
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Chapter 13 – Freedom and Sacrifice
The Kraken’s Dream silently glided on the sea, not far off the coast. Its sails were unfurled although there wasn’t much wind to catch at the moment. Most of the crew were resting in the deck below with a few playing cards on the main deck.
Demetrius, the first mate and captain in Kanaxai’s absence, leant over the railing and stared into the distance, watching the horizon that divided the colors of jade and cyan. Out on the sea people couldn’t know when a leviathan would suddenly attack without any sign beforehand, but Demetrius simply marveled at the beauty of the incomprehensible, capricious sea. He just realized that deep down he actually meant the tease he told Kanaxai about cruising away with the ship and never returning. He would have never betrayed his clan or his Captain, but the prospect of leaving everything behind and living only to the sea was tempting.
They had only left the pier a day ago, almost right after the Captain had helped them loading the cargo in, but the winds were rather unfavorable and so they passed the shores of Maishang Hills only about two hours ago.
A tiny whirlpool that formed a hundred strides from the ship caught Demetrius’ attention. Then a second, a third, a fourth… in the end there were six of the little swirling phenomena. He bent over the rail and focused his sight: the whirlpools posed no threat to the ship, but their sudden appearance made him nervous.
Out of the six vortexes six transparent tentacles emerged, followed by the long head of a spectral kraken: Zhu Hanuku burst out the waters, anxiously flailing with his limbs. Demetrius knew that the great kraken wouldn’t appear if it was not for something urgent. He decided to alert the crew with a mighty yell.
“All hands to the deck!”
He heard rumbling coming from the inside the ship, then footfalls rushing up the ladder. The two men and women who played cards instantly aborted the game and appeared beside their commanding officer, staring at the incredible sight with admiration. While the rest of the crew lined up, Zhu Hanuku gently but hastily floated closer to the ship.
Demetrius, there is little time to explain. Turn the ship around and sail back to Maishang shore immediately. The spirit’s booming voice sounded of worry and urgency. Kanaxai and his warriors are in danger.
“You heard, Zhu! We’re going back to the hills!” Demetrius said, although he didn’t even need to give commands as the crewmembers were already working in full unison at full speed to steer the ship back to where it had come from. “Bring out the paddles, or else we will never get there in time!”
I can provide you the necessary wind, Demetrius, but go on with the rowing… at least you will get there sooner.
“What’s going on, Zhu? Why is the Cap’n in Maishang anyways?”
The last of the Corruptors has resurfaced, but Kanaxai’s men have been trapped. Keelaiah herself warned me to come, while she is giving them the strength to keep fighting.
The winds were already bellying the sails and combined with the steady, rhythmical pulls of the paddles the Kraken’s Dream was cleaving through the jade-colored fabric of the sea.
You will be there shortly with this speed. I will hurry ahead and attempt to aid them. With his last word spoken, the immortal sea spirit disappeared with a crack of thunder.
Demetrius ran forward to the bow and forced his eyes on the faraway shore.
The defense ring held for the moment. Naga and human together formed a formidable team, especially when both were empowered by the goddess of war. However, even their combined, bolstered strength could not hold out for long against the relentless assault of the Corruptor’s crazed minions. Kanaxai now knew that the Corruptor’s atrocities exceeded his estimations: the malign snake brainwashed numerous tribes and villages, not just a few. It was no wonder he couldn’t maintain full control over so many all alone.
A naga with torn head fins interrupted his pondering by thrusting at Kanaxai with a Luxon sword. Kanaxai simply ducked and, while the attacker was imbalanced, hurled his left axe into the broad, serpentine neck, piercing it with the tip of the double blade. To his right a sane naga bashed in the head of her controlled brethren with a crude shield. Kanaxai was overjoyed that they were withstanding the brutal, constant assaults so well. Even if they keep coming like this, we can still hold them off… they have to run out eventually.
But his heart sank the moment he heard the concert of agonized screams of men and naga coming from the other end of their position. He spun around to see the enemy pushing into their ring, hacking and slashing left and right. They somehow found the weakest point in their living wall and kept the pressure on it until it broke.
Kanaxai wound through the distance with long leaps and got to cutting down those that broke in. His retaliation sent naga flesh flying in all directions. He thought the naga on their side were probably offended a bit, but they knew all too well that it had to be done. Their very survival depended on it.
For the moment, with his timely intervention they could push back and close the gap in their lines. On the top of the hill, however, what seemed to be the final, albeit largest wave was amassing already, hissing and scowling at the small group below.
“We won’t survive thisss! Dwayna have mercy on our soulss!” A naga wailed in the back lines of the stand.
“Don’t give up so easily!” Kanaxai yelled. “If we don’t stop them here, they will move on to slaughter our peoples everywhere! We have no choice but to fight to the last ounce of our might, to the last warrior and weaken the Corruptor and his forces as much as possible!” Kanaxai’s men roared and even a few naga seemed to be more determined now. “Help is coming. Keelaiah promised us and she’s with us at this very moment. What does the Corruptor have? Dark magic that’s already failing him!”
The roar repeated, now from every throat and twice as fierce as before. The united forces readied themselves for the end, awaiting the tide that would wash upon them like a tsunami.
“Captain… what is he doing?” Kanaxai looked at Cyrus first whose face was darkened by fear, then followed his gaze to the Corruptor.
Now that the last of his brainwashed soldiers slithered down the hill and were ready to throw themselves into the chaotic cluster of warring men and naga, the sorcerer realized he could end it all with one brutal explosion of magic – both his minions who outlived their usefulness and became a nuisance maintaining control over and his frustrating foes. For that end, he was drawing power from the depths of his being to fuel a spell a hundred times more destructive and lethal than the one that nearly killed Kanaxai. However, in order to survive he had to release his soldiers one by one; regaining the energies he used to keep them under control.
On the shore below the naga that were vicious and bloodthirsty became confused and disorganized, dropping their weapons and staring at their bloodstained hands.
“STAND DOWN!” Kanaxai yelled as strong as his vocal cords allowed him. “Everyone stand down! They are free again!”
The defenders looked warily at the confused snakes who had been their deadly foes just seconds ago, but they didn’t attack. Some of the newly freed began asking questions from those who were on the defensive.
An unearthly crack sounded from the hill. The Corruptor – now on the verge of collapse – finished charging his spell; the floating orb of writhing energies silently spun at impossible speeds between his hands… and he released it.
Everybody ran. However, they all knew it was futile, since the orb was coming in fast and the distance it had to travel was short; there was not enough time and no way at all to get into safety – not when the Corruptor wanted to make sure they all perish.
The enormous explosion deafened everyone in the proximity, some were even knocked down by a weakened shockwave, but no one felt their skin melting off. No one went flying, no one lost a limb and no one died.
Kanaxai, still stunned and shaken by the fact that they were all alive, turned back to see what happened exactly: the destructive, blinding sphere still seethed in the air like an angry star wanting to expand and bring ruination, but it was confined by an invisible force. On second look, however, he realized it wasn’t invisible at all. Although difficult to spot from the light of the explosion and the glare of the noon sun, six transparent tentacles encompassed the raging sphere, keeping it caged. Kanaxai followed the dim lines of the kraken back to the head and saw that Zhu Hanuku was in pain. His ear still rang from the explosion, but the deep, painful moans of his old spirit friend were still audible – faint, but audible nonetheless, evoking sorrow in the hearts of every living being that heard them.
Gradually, the luminosity of the sphere decreased, and with it the scorching heat that still radiated through Zhu Hanuku’s firm arms slowly dissipated. In the end, aside from the charred, boiling sand below there was no sign of the disaster that had almost transpired. The Kraken spirit collapsed on the shore. His limbs weakly twitched and the moans started to become more and more distant.
Kanaxai rushed to the spirit’s side and stared into the blurry eye that narrowed with each passing moment. He fell to his knees.
“Zhu!” Kanaxai cried and the kraken managed to open his eyes fully again. “Don’t leave us, old friend!”
I’m not going to die, Kanaxai. His voice was like the slight breeze coming from the sea at dusk. A little dark magic won’t stop me.
“You had me worried right there.” Kanaxai said, letting out a great sigh of relief now that it was over.
But I must leave for the spirit world now… I’ve depleted the energies that were given to me to interfere with the physical realm. If I don’t return now, I may fade completely from existence.
“I understand. How long will you be away?”
For years… your son will be the next Captain by the time I regain my strength to return.
Zhu Hanuku’s words struck deep in his soul, but he accepted them. This was merely a farewell for a longer time.
You must destroy the Corruptor immediately, Kanaxai. His intents are darker than a starless night. If he is to succeed…
“He won’t. I promise.” Kanaxai said as he looked at the top of the hill but the Corruptor was long gone. The now-free naga and a few of the human survivors vehemently searched for his tracks.
I know you will do everything in your power to stop him but be cautious. His form seemed to exhale deeply, and small streams of ethereal matter were being blown away by the wind, taking them towards the sea. I… I did not feel the power I warned you about… this creature wields a different form of magic. Old and powerful, but not the same. That elusive other could still be out there. The streams grew in both intensity and number: Zhu Hanuku was ready to rest now.
“Thank you for everything, Zhu Hanuku. Until we meet again when I’m an old man… goodbye, friend.”
I cannot wait for that day. May both the gods and the spirits be with you, friend.
With that the breeze picked up the last bits of the great kraken’s spectral matter and carried them in the sea’s direction. Kanaxai watched the tiny wisps for as long as he could, until they entirely disappeared. But he didn’t take his gaze off the sea. He stared at it in the hope of it clearing his mind. It was in that stare that he spotted a larger figure riding the waves: a ship. Not just any ship, as it was the Kraken’s Dream. Kanaxai could recognize it from miles away even if it banded together with all the other ships of the Luxon Armada.
From behind, an older-looking naga female approached him. Kanaxai turned around to greet her.
“Thank you for freeing usss, Captain.” The naga said. “I’m the last elder here. All the otherss were slain in the battle.”
“I’m glad we could help and I’m sorry for your loss… but our victory came with a heavy price for everyone.” He gestured at the corpses of men and naga.
“Indeed it did. But we can avenge all of them. I know where the Corruptor iss headed.”
“You do?” Kanaxai’s brows jumped up to his forehead in surprise.
“Yesss.” The elder let herself smile. “He wanted to learn the location of a grim obelissk that our people shun. While we were ensslaved, he extracted that information from uss. I can lead you there, but it will take long if we go on foot.”
“That won’t be a problem.” Kanaxai turned to face the sea and pointed at the growing wooden construct among the waves. “We’ve got our ride incoming. A mighty one.”
The Kraken’s Dream sailed with remarkable speed. The winds were blowing hard and favorably, propelling them towards their destination. Many on board believed it to be the divine will of the gods and it was very much likely to be the case indeed.
Kanaxai stood on the stern of his ship with Demetrius on one side and the naga elder on the other. By the time the ship had anchored down they were mostly done with burying their dead – all graves placed on the hill in defiance and remembrance of the Corruptor’s evil. The crew had still helped in finishing the work while they had listened to the telling of the dreadful events. After every fallen had been buried, the naga elder talked to her people. She let everyone who wanted to have his or her revenge on their tormentor to join. Many did, however, the wounded, the old, and several parents wanted to return to their villages to check on their hatchlings – it turned out the Corruptor didn’t enslave the younglings since he had believed that raising them in the spirit of his lies would serve just as well if not better – and rebuild. And so the vessel left the shore an hour ago.
Demetrius stepped right beside him, his eyes downcast.
“I can’t believe Zhu’s gone.”
Kanaxai put his hand on the first mate’s shoulder.
“Zhu is alive, but had to return to spirit world to regenerate.”
“I know, but to think we won’t see him for so long…”
“But we will see him, and that’s all that matters.” Kanaxai glared at the dark clouds on the horizon, thinking of the dark surprises that still awaited them. “Let’s make that occasion grander by showing him the severed head of this Corruptor!”