Tales of the Hashashin: the Phantom Dancer and the Endarkened Ones
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May 30th, 2013, 12:47 PM
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Chapter 27: The Rifts of Life
The clouds had moved aside, allowing the first crimson beams of the morning Karnos to illuminate the city, and along with it, the square in which Shango and his allies had spilled the blight, poisoning the ground. The chemicals had changed its brown colour to black; under the crimson light, this monstrosity the voidborns had created fit the descriptions of the Dark Cult's 'World after the Cataclysm'. No snow could top the heat that was coming from the area and no smell could cover its horrible stench. Signs spread across the edges of the black scar, warning the first citizens to encounter them about the death that was lurking. The hours passed and the light of Karnos faded, replaced by the early morning sun; yet the square looked just as much horrifying.
Shango was watching over the site from a rooftop, sitting on his ankles. The slight breeze made his cape wave along with it, the slow topping on his shoulders as it fell at a slow pace. His cloak warded off any cold, thankfully, and the spirit he was holding on his hands had taken the form of a harmless flare; enough to heat his hands up.
Just as he thought he was glad Tristana wouldn't get to see this, she took on her physical form and opened her eyes. "Tristy," he muttered, still looking forward and smooched on her forehead. Her blue eyes searched for his, but he had them focused on some Pidgeys who flew right into the square, landing on the black ground. They chirped, unaware of the danger - they would soon be infected. Shango panicked, seeing them flying away; this way the whole town would be infected by the plague. How couldn't he had seen this? He suddenly hoped Zorthan was sane enough to create a not so lethal plague. As if that could be modified...
"Hmm?" Tristana poked her chin in an attempt to make him look at her; but his eyes were fixed on the yonder, where the birds had flown.
"I'm awake," she announced, looking at him sideways in hope of attracting his attention. But his attention was still focused elsewhere. It always bothered her when he was lost in thoughts like that, and now that she couldn't see his expression, she couldn't determine what he was thinking of exactly. "I'm okay, thanks," she said a little louder than needed, clearly disturbed. Shango finally looked down, as if still lost in thought, but the spirit was looking away. A faint, kindhearted smile had formed beneath his mask.
"Goddess," he called out, knowing she was always flattered by the not too metaphorical adjective, "you did a wonderful job, you make me proud." Saying that, he gently run his two claws from her head to her back. The look he received was intense, but she wasn't angry; Shango was able to determine her feelings for him just by looking at her eyes. He quickly looked at the crowd down the street, feeling uneasy under her stare. The words she didn't speak then sufficed for the effect, but Shango was grateful for her silence at that moment.
The symbol of the templars struck out to him down the street - the black heart with the crossing blades. Templars were investigating the cause of the fuss.
About bloody time,
Shango thought, getting up from his position. Tristana flew off his hand to hover above his head; he continued to stared down the crowded street, tightening his fists.
"Come on, Tristy," he said in a low voice. He raised his hand, motioning her to follow with his claw. "We've got places to be."
Later that day, on another one of Myriapolis' rooftops, Zaunix, Hector and Zorthan were standing firm with their eyes skimming through the crowd that was gathering in front of the Dark Cult's Cathedral. The snow had now stopped falling, clearing the view entirely; a stone template was placed in front of the Cathedral and templars had begun taking positions all around the area.
They only looked away when they heard light footsteps on the stone of the roof behind them. Shango approached and stood by them, glancing at the crowd.
"It seems that they relocated," Zorthan noticed.
"You don't say?" Hector sat down and brought one hand to his forehead.
"Our plan has worked, gentlemen," Shango said, not forgetting the plan was purely his.
"How are we going to get to them?" Zaunix raised a scythe, pointing at the template. Shango's eyes were drawn to the highest point of the Cathedral's building, where the Aerodactyl-gargoyles were standing guard under the circular red window. A sword-like stone was tearing the sky apart above the window, accompanied with many smaller ones that made the building look like wearing a crown.
"Leave the Judge up to me," Shango said, still staring at the building intently. "On my signal, you and Hector distract the templars surrounding them. Zorthan will have to make sure the two teleporters are put out of commision before joining in."
The voidborns stayed silent for some moments.
"What of the Executioner? What will be the signal?" Zaunix was the most curious one. His questions amused Shango, who slightly grinned.
"You will know when it's time to strike. As for the Executioner... the Hashashin will take care of his fate. Take your positions before our game arrives."
"Hold on a minute," Hector protested, "why do
have to do all the planning?"
Shango turned look at him. "Because I'm the most capable one. Any more questions?"
After a silence that lasted only one second, Shango turned to the Reuniclus; he had taken his mutated form, red fluid flowing through the veins between his body and hands. "Zorthan, make sure you approach them from behind."
Zorthan's metallic chuckle made Shango cringe from its intensity. "I can make them stop existing by snapping my fingers, boy."
Shango smirked his eyebrows, as he wasn't used to being called
He momentarily wondered just how old this Reuniclus was; he barely knew anything about Zorthan.
Zaunix stepped between them to get attention. "I usually do the planning, but your plan seems good."
"Let's make it be, then. Free this city of the templar grasp."
With no more words, Shango lept forwards, tumbling to the ground and stealthily blending with the crowd. He could feel the people's anticipation and anxiety, but his was a different kind.
With a slight move of his hand, he pushed his ears inside his hood to avoid being recognized.
Eyes on lookout for the white hoodies, he stayed hidden until he spotted the Hashashin and subtly moved towards them; they had taken a position near the back of the crowd, where they were hidden by the shadows of the houses. From that point, they had perfect view of the Cathedral and its template. Typical of the Hashashin to be so calculative.
"Well done, shadow," Enzo said, slightly mockingly as Shango approached them. He ignored his comment.
"I will target the Judge and my...
will keep the templars budy and silence the teleporters."
"Aww..." cooed Crystal in an expression of mock hurt, "all that's left for us is the Executioner?"
"How the heck are you gonna get to the Judge?" Enzo asked abruptly.
"From the Cathedral."
"But it's impossible to climb..." he muttered, without looking at it; they had studied well, Shango thought, and the thought had crossed their minds as well.
"Not for me."
"So arrogant..." Crystal said in a low voice, rolling her eyes; Shango could see through the darkness of his hood easily. "You remind me of somebody I know."
Enzo grabbed her shoulder softly. "Knew," he corrected her. Shango kept perfect calm, knowing they wouldn't be able to find out it was him.
"When the Judge dies," he interrupted them harshly, "you go after the Executioner. Understood? Great."
Before any of them could speak, he turned away and headed towards the house closer to the Cathedral; his cape waved behind him as a strong gust of wind blew through it. Moments later, he was on top of the roof closer to his target building. Of course, even the Pokemon with the strongest jump couldn't reach the Cathedral from there, but Shango had another route in mind; the route he took to follow Jericho and Desmondius inside the building a while ago: the rocky cliff.
Clinging onto the cliff, the thought of what he was going to do made his heartbeats faster. If he didn't execute this properly, he would die on the spot. He moved sideways on the face of the cliff towards the Cathedral with ease; climbing up at a point, where he would be able to jump to its tower with the bell. This time, didn't jump down, but he hung from the tower's sides before he dropped himself on the stone roof. In front of him, the circular swords formed the crown, tearing the air with grace.
"Pointless decorations..." he muttered to himself as he hugged the middle one, which was the highest. The sword was hiding him from the other side, where the crowd awaiting the execution was; he peeked at them a few times to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
He pulled himself up, hugging the sword and making his way up to its peak. It seemed as if he was close, but it always turned out that there was more to climb. The wind had gotten more vicious as Shango elevated, and the view from up there was majestic - he could see all of Myriapolis. When he finally made it to the peak, he balanced himself on his ankles with ease and looked around with curiosity outmatching his slight fear of falling from somewhere so up high. The clouds had almost covered that part of the sky, slightly veiling his view of the ground. But the clouds were soon carried away, revealing the ground. Lots of Pokemon had gathered around the Cathedral, staring at the template, where the Judge and the Executioner had started doing their job. Shango's keen eye detected the two white hoodies that had taken positions not too close but not too far from their target; Zorthan's bulky figure was briefly seen to the left, but Shango lost sight of him early. Zaunix was nowhere to be seen, and Hector was hiding behind the first line of the crowd, ready to pounce on the templar line.
His heart jumped as he noticed Pokemon on the roofs, and by taking a closer look, he could identify them as templars. Pokemon who fought from distance, mages no doubt. Shango cursed for not having predicted this - his plan was anything but flawless. The plague would cost some lives, but this precaution the Executioner and the Judge took could ruin their hole plan.
As he was thinking that, one of mages was swallowed into nothingness. He raised his eyebrows, fixing his eyes on the spot. It seemed completly empty, except a faint, distant purple glow of some kind of destructive energy was waving around.
Shango took his eyes to the next mage, who was swallowed quietly into the void; before the body had disappeared completly, he was able to see a Scythe pressing againist a throat, silencing the victim. A grin spread across his face. He liked Zaunix.
A pile of dead bodies had started forming aside from the template, which was perfectly aligned with Shango's position; the Sigilyph's image resonated in his mind. Judge Kayle's psychic voice was reaching his ears, along with the cries. Also, a yawn came from his pocket; Tristana had woken up from her after sleep. He pulled her out gently, and she let out a squeal when she looked down.
"Where's the ground, Shango?!"
He stayed silent, now looking at the Sigilyph gently flapping his wings; Tristana looked down again, letting out another squeal.
"Don't tell me you're gonna jump!" she cried. He nodded quietly.
"Shango! You'll get yourself killed... Don't do this, please!"
But Shango wasn't listening. He felt the wind's direction, evaluated the Judge's movements on the template and braced himself. A strange calmness had overcome him, and he wasn't afraid anymore. He looked at the dark sky, the clouds, his green eyes flashing behind the mask of the Phantom Dancer. The moment was filled with nothing but concentration on his target, his mind being on a state of peace despite Tristana's continuous warnings. He took the leap in a sudden movement forward, his feet leaving the tip of the Cathedral's highest point; he spread his arms wide to prevent his body from rolling into the air.
His cloak was racing behind him, cape opening wide like a torn parachute againist the wind, making him seem like a giant golbat.
The ground, the template, the crowd, all got closer to him within seconds - he saw the Sigilyph turning around, sensing what was coming; Shango landed on him, his claws immediately sunken into the Judge's round body. Pushed to the ground by tremendous force, the Sigilyph died on the spot.
Chaos ensued right after - shouts and screams were heard from the crowd and the templars, psychic explosions, heavy steps. Shango shot himself up, eyeing the Rampardos who was standing beside him on the template. The two white hoodies climbed up from each side, ready to assault Executioner Van Alsum, but an explosion of darkness pushed them all back; the Rampardos had grown black wings, the wings Shango had seen in Jericho's fort. The power of the voidborns, right there, in front of him. Shango's eyes met with the monstrosity, and he instantly recognized a darkstar's vibe of power. Time had stopped entirely and he was drawn forward, not in the substance level but in the field of supernatural. A colorful, mostly black rift was descending onto the Rampardos from the sky, and Shango noticed that another one, his rift, was engulfing him. It had a massive black scar above his head and many more, smaller ones closer to his hood. He could feel that, inside these rifts, memories of a life were flowing with the present, and that the black scars were the connections of his life with the stone of destruction. The Executioner's rift was completly black, as if his whole life was filled with a darkstar. A thought occured to Shango, despite the halt of time that was shocking: this Rampardos had been created by the darkstar itself, made to destroy - that's why he was an Executioner.
Shango discovered he could dive into his opponent's memories, just like he had done with the Prophet of the Dark Cult. A whole life flashed in front of his eyes, it wasn't his and he could not relate to the images, but at a point (he wasn't sure when), he saw the figures of the Endarkened Ones forming a circle in what appeared to be the Wastelands of Stygia; Shango recognized the area from the grey sand. In the middle of the circle, the magnificent, dark glow of a floating stone radiated, engulfing the circle in its power. He could also see the Rampardos watching, as if Shango wasn't seeing this through the Executioner's own eyes. After that image, he noticed all the random images that flashed in front of his eyes contained the Rampardos - he was looking at his memories from a different angle.
The recent memories of the Executioner flashed, childs crying, streets and snow stained with blood, the crowd screaming and the templars silencing it; an intense wave of nether power rose into Shango's mind, forcing him to kneel and clutch his head. His eyes were closed to ward off the tension and he gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the pain on his head and on his right arm.
When his eyesight was restored, he quickly glanced at his aching arm, pulling the sleeve of his cloak down; it was entirely covered in liquid darkness, as if he had just touched a darkstar. He slowly raised his head to see the Rampardos fallen on the ground, no wings attached, his eyes turned white. The two Hashashin were standing at both sides of the template, stunned by what had happened; the liquid darkness had left a stain on the Executioner's rock head - Shango's claws had pierced through it as if it was made of paper. After about one second, the darkness dispersed into the air, leaving the red and white fur of his hand fully exposed. He quickly hid it under the sleeve, jerking his head towards the Hashashin in an expression of fear they could not see.
"Shango?" Crystal gasped, Enzo taking two steps back at the same time. Shango felt the heat of his body become one with Tristana, who had dove inside his cloak during his confrontation with the Executioner. But by doing that, she had slightly moved his sash, revealing the insignia of the Hashashin that was fastened onto it.
Tristana squealed into his mind, and he quietly agreed, launching himself from the template and running straight into the screaming crowd. The Cathedral's bell was ringing like crazy, its sound travelling to all Myriapolis and echoing into Shango's ears, making him feel dizzy.
He bolted through the crowd, pushing Pokemon away from his way. He felt a stinging pain on his right arm and his mind was dazed by the events of this execution. Glancing behind him, he saw Crystal and Enzo chasing after him. He was aware that it was beyond difficult to shake an Hashashin, especially if you were a voidborn, so he went searching for Zaunix and the others; he eventually spotted Hector and Zorthan fighting side by side, but the templars outnumbered them by far - a sea of black had cornered them. Shango removed the mask and grabbed his hood, releasing a flamethrower. The stream of fire razed every Skuntank on the way, setting them on fire, making way for Shango to rush into the maze and go on a fury of swirling claws on the templars; thus creating an opening which Hector and Zorthan saw. Shango put on his mask again and motioned for them to hurry.
Then something weird happened. White stripes ran across the ground and the air, forming perfect cubes. Shango's movement slowed down greatly; he noticed the same was happening to everybody but the Reuniclus, who levitated towards him with incredible speed.
Shango could identify this move; it was being taught in the Academy of War as a technique of speed manipulation, mainly usable by psychics.
Hector was shot forward by a blast of psychic energy, being launched out of the trick room. Shango tried his best to get out of there as soon as possible, as the Skuntanks begun chasing them. Turning around, he faced the Hashashin who stood before them; he thought only a miracle would save them now. Not that the Hashashin were hostile, but if they found out he was alive, Nightingale would be getting word. Or maybe it was already too late; the Shadow Hunter would be able to infiltrate their memories and find out. Then an idea crossed his mind: what if that memory was erased?
He glared at the Pokemon in the white hoods, raising his aching right arm instinctively. Time halted once again, and two rifts appeared above the Hashashin's heads. Shango, familiar with the procedure now, dove straight into them, their memories flashing in front of his eyes just like what had happened with the Executioner. Most of the images were random and Shango couldn't grasp their meaning, but what he was looking for surfaced at once; he saw himself, a Pokemon of medium but strong build in a black hoodie; his sleeve was up, revealing his red and white arm with the two sharp claws extended. Shango kept the series of images regarding this memory in his mind, and with a single thought, he shattered them into pieces that were scattered all around their rifts.
He was abruptly brought back into reality, the sound of the bell and the screams of the running crowd filling his ears once again. The Hashashin were standing in front of him, as if struck by lightning. Shango thought he was sad he could not let them know he was alive somehow, but he steeled himself and ran away, following Hector to a road that was soon flooded by the templars chasing them.
The templars had lost sight of them momentarily, and as Shango was about to jump on a sign and from there on a roof, he was abruptly pulled into a dark alley by what seemed to be a furry monster. He fought back for a while, before the scent went right through his nostrils.
He raised his head in slight complain to see a grand, reassuring smile on the Ninetails' face. He opened his mouth, but she told him to shush and glanced outside the dark alley; the templars bolted by, not even turning to look at their hiding spot.
"So, Phantom Dancer," she smiled at him, and he was immediately drunken by her charm; he was starting to think the power she had over him was bad, but at the same time, he didn't want to care. "Are you an Hashashin?" she asked in a carefree tone, her warm tails still wrapped around him. Shango's dizzyness all faded away, to be replaced by fuzzyness.
"No," he muttered, his pupils dilated as ever.
he wanted to add, but the phrase didn't surface, thankfully. He had this paranoid fear that she could tell who he was by the pace of his heartbeats.
"What reasons did you have...?"
"I fight for freedom. Justice. Liberation," Shango cut her off, smirking for some odd reason, but she could see none of it. Her ruby eyes flashed and her smile, which seemed genuine, grew bigger.
"Intriguing..." she said in a low voice, pushing Shango againist the cold wall; she pressed againist his chest with one of her front feet. "And why is it that you're hiding your face behind that mask?"
The dead end again. Shango subtly tested the power of her tails, but he saw there was no escape. The only thought that crossed his mind, a crazy one, was to kill her on the spot. But was his identity really important to be kept secret? He would never kill a jewel like Claire. Besides, she was beautiful, and she was impressed... why not let her know?
"Because I'm supposed to be dead," he said, as his last chance of her letting go of the matter of the mask.
"Oh?" she leaned in, her snout entering his hood; he could feel her slow, hot breath on his neck. "Were you betrayed by anybody?"
The realization that she knew hit Shango like a tidal wave. He raised his hands and deattached the mask of the Phantom Dancer off his face; she had backed off a little, so she could see him whole. His expression revealed nothing but kept, unquelled fury. He saw no surprise in her expression, but a spark of success - the Countess was happy she was right. The silence that ensued between them was filled with tension, but Shango didn't know if this situation favored him or not. Thinking of it now, he knew nothing of the Countess. How she knew all this stuff about the Hashashin and the voidborns.
He grabbed her front foot that was pressuring his chest and put it away. "Are you happy now that you found out?" his voice was not filled with anger, it was as plain and simple and he could make it be. She looked down; Shango thought she was looking like a child being scolded at, but once she looked back at him, her expression was playful. She didn't seem to be affected by his anger.
"Why, Shango? How?"
"First," he said, raising his claw to point at her, "you tell me how you are so informed about the voidborns and the Hashashin."
She stared at him for a second, her face immovable. "I manipulate Desmondius," she said bluntly. The hint of brutal seriousness and honesty in her voice intimidated Shango. "He tells me everything about his connections with the Endarkened Ones."
Shango smirked his furry brows, his lips becoming a firm line. "
Is that why you married him in the first place?
Why do you want to be involved in all this?"
"I married him to quench my curiosity," she said, answering to both of his questions. "Now, tell me. Why are you hiding? Or rather, I will tell you. Oneiro is corrupted and wants out out of the frame."
Shango nodded slowly, subconciously raising his hand to shove his ears out of his hood's holes. Her beautiful smile had calmed him down greatly, despite the subject of the conversation. He felt fuzzyness overcome him again, the heat returning to his body.
"You know..." she started saying, having a cute, seemingly innocent expression, "speaking of Desmondius... he has been harassing me. I think he has found out about my intentions, dear Shango..."
So, that's why she wanted me to 'take care' of him... why not, after all? He's a member of the Endarkened Ones. He would die sooner or later.
"I never knew you could pull off such moves," Claire continued, referring to the Phantom Dancer's achievements in the executions. She blinked her eyes seductively. "Surely, somebody of your class would never fail such an easy task."
Shango didn't want to admit it, but her words made his chest inflate with pride; if she was really admiring him, he was on the right path.
"You know what," she spoke, before he could, "let us discuss this... elsewhere. It is quite cold in here."
He threw her a look of doubt, thinking there was no way she was cold. But he didn't complain, only smiled slightly infatuated and let her take him away from the cold alley.
"I'm surrounded by capable Pokemon who don't need me in battle. If they get themselves bloodied, and I am clean by the end of the battle, how long before they start questioning my bravery?"
- Garland Fordring, leader of the Exathian Gold Tribe
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