"So glad I haven't been wiped from your MEMORY!" Dirge said, swatting Dameon over th...
"Dirge," Dameon whispered quietly.
"So glad I haven't been wiped from your MEMORY!" Dirge said, swatting Dameon over the control panel with his last word. Dameon's chains snapped and he flew into one of the machine's pillars and crumpled into a heap on the floor. "It's been so long I thought you'd have forgotten me, old friend!"
Dirge leaped into the air and touched down gently on the ground in front of Dameon's exhausted form. He was different-looking. The old Dirge's skin had been a sickly yellowish color, but this one's was white and leathery. He wore different pants as well; these were black as well and armored, much different from the old baggy burlap garments he wore before. His skull was still the same silvery mercurial color, but his eyes were pulsating, like they were just windows into an aquarium of yellow sludge. And this Dirge actually wore shoes! Heavy, gunmetal-grey boots that thumped when he walked. He knelt down and grabbed Dameon's chin with his cold metal claw and forced his face to meet his own.
"You look good, Dameon," he said, his eyes pulsating liquidly with a yellow light. "Pity it's taken you this much time."
Dirge stood up and turned to the rest of the room, his mechanical skeletal grin penetrating the moral comfort of everyone upon whom it fell. He locked eyes with Kyasha.
"Well," he growled lustfully. In an instant he was next to her throne, kneeling with his face just inches from hers. "And who might you be my pretty?"
Kyasha stumbled off of her chair and quickly leapt to her feet aggressively.
"Don't make me laugh," Kyasha rolled her eyes. "You couldn't handle me..."
"Oh, a challenge!" he mused. "How charming..."
He stood to his feet and made his way back to the middle of the room.
"I'll deal with you later," he said quietly.
"Forgive me, Lord," Oxide's voice came from behind Dirge. The tall abomination turned to face him.
"Oxide!" Dirge said happily and walked over to him. Oxide knelt and bowed his head as Dirge approached. "Rise, rise my friend! You need not reiterate your loyalty; I have known you long enough to consider you an ally."
Oxide rose to his feet. "Very well, Lord. I aimed not to insult you. Better safe than sorry."
"Wise man, one of the many reasons I keep you around," Dirge laughed. "Where is Grimlock?"
"Up there," Oxide pointed to the lifeless creature upon the table in the center of the machine.
"Oh heavens! He's dead! No! Oh merciful lord why? Why him? Take me! Take me instead!" Dirge wailed as he stumbled up the steps. He fell, landing on the top few steps and being just out of reach of Grimlock's body. He clutched for him with his metallic claws, but he could grip nothing but air. Then he turned back to Oxide, laughing. "How am I doing? They say the most difficult part in acting is separating yourself from the character...were my tears realistic enough?"
"You were smashing," Oxide said with a clap and a laugh. Dameon grimaced.
"If he wasn't so dangerous, I'd think he was a circus clown," he chuckled to himself.
"But anyway," Dirge said, his happy tone fading to one of boredom. He waved his claw over his shoulder and Grimlock immediately jolted up, gasping and choking. "There we go! Good as new!"
"What? Where?" Grimlock stuttered, glancing around quickly. Dirge rapped his knuckles against the floor of the steps.
"Morning sleeping beauty," Dirge said. Grimlock's eyes widened.
"My Lord..." he whispered. He tugged at the manacles locking his wrists to the machine. "I am too weak...to break these chains..."
Dirge stood up and waved his claw again. The manacles immediately snapped open and Grimlock fell to his knees exhaustedly. Dirge kneeled down to him.
"You have done well, Grimlock," he said with a smile. "Have no doubt; your suffering will be repaid in kind."
"Thank you, Lord Gride," Grimlock panted, forcing himself to his feet.
"Call me Dirge," Dirge said as he turned on his heel and trotted down the stairs merrily. "I much prefer it. Now! Where are all of my good old friends? Bring them before me!"
The Carnians jumped to their feet and quickly released the passed-out Eveser and Cyllea from their chains, dragging them into the center of the room. The seemingly lifeless corpse of Darrow was also brought over as were Kane and Teya, still bound and huddled together.
"Ahh! My old friends!" he said, sitting on the floor in front of the unconscious dragons. He darted his head back and forth between the two, eagerly expecting their arousal. When they remained asleep, he began to get frustrated. "Wake up!"
He touched both of them on the forehead and instantly their eyelids snapped open!
Eve's tired eyes had to focus to keep out the intense light from above. He squinted and blinked until he could make out a shape...then a face...then the details...
"Dirge..." he whispered. He stared into his eyes, the eyes that had haunted him since their last encounter. The eyes that had killed his love once before.
"In the flesh!" Dirge exclaimed. He turned to Cyllea. "It's wonderful to see you again Eveser. It really is...even after you beat me to a pulp, lit me on fire, threw me through a building, and finally blew me into little itty bitty bits of microscopic Dirge-dust, I really missed you!"
He turned to Cyllea with a devious grin.
"And you as well, my scaly ashen-skinned beauty," he said. "It's been too long..."
He reached his claw out to her. Her features turned hostile in an instant and suddenly her malicious jaws snapped around the space where Dirge's hand was moments before! He leapt to his feet and shook his hand around.
"God damn!" he cried, looking over his hand. "You people are INSANE! What's wrong with you guys?"
"What do you want Dirge?" Eveser snarled angrily.
"What do I want?" Dirge repeated exasperatedly. "I just came back from being basically dead! I don't even know what I want! Jeez...you guys are always so edgy..."
He shook his head again and turned his attention to the other members of the group.
"Oh!" he said when he sat down in front of Kane and Teya, both betraying their calm façades by shaking like leaves in the wind. "Hello! I'm Dirge; I don't believe we've met!"
Kane's face hardened and he protectively nudged himself forwards slightly in front of Teya.
"No hello?" Dirge asked, cocking his head. "I guess manners are a hard thing to find these days. I know you already Kane; I have seen you here and there over the course of this adventure. And you Teya darling...I've especially seen you..."
"Let me go and I'll give you something to see," Kane said with a growl.
"Will you now?" Dirge said with a chuckle.
"Kane!" Eve shouted, pulling himself into a sitting position. "Kane don't!"
"Very well then," Dirge said and stood up. He waved his claw at Kane and the bindings became undone. Kane shrugged them off and stood up as well, staring aggressively at his opponent. "Challenge accepted."
"KANE!" Eve shouted angrily. "Sit the fuck back down NOW!"
"No," Kane said quietly and continued to glare at Dirge. "He's the enemy we've been fighting all this time. Grimlock may have been his puppet, but he's the hand behind it all. Everything that happened, all the people who were hurt were hurt because of him...I'm going to finish this...right now..."
Dirge laughed. He doubled over and struggled to keep breathing through his laughter. Kane's ear twitched slightly...
There was a quiet swoosh and Dirge looked up just in time to see a feathered fist collide with his face at mock ten. Dirge was knocked back violently; he slammed into the opposite wall with enough force to shake the masonry of the palace!
"Kane...Kane alright...you've hit him...sit back down...please, Kane, please," Cyllea begged as the rubble began to stir...
"That..." Dirge's voice emanated from the debris, sounding irritated. "...Was unexpected."
A mechanical arm extended from the rubble and then slammed down onto one of the blocks of stone. With a tired growl, he heaved himself from the pile and stood his full height, his eyes pulsing quicker and with more intensity.
Kane huffed and scratched the ground with his claws. He shook his wings and spread them hostilely.
"You have a lot of fight in you gryphon," Dirge said. "I might actually have some use for you..."
"In your dreams," Kane snarled. He heard Teya from behind him.
"Kane..." she whispered. "Do what Eve said..."
"I'm going to end this," Kane remained consistent, his eyes serious as they locked with Dirge's.
"I could use a gryphon like you," Dirge said, beginning to approach the gryphon with open palms. "What would you say if I told you that I could give you everything you've ever wanted...everything you've ever dreamed of? And all for something as simple as a word? What would you say?"
"I would say you're a liar and then continue to hit you," the gryphon said and huffed.
"Maybe you need a taste..." Dirge said and straightened out and held his palm towards Kane. Instantaneously a beam of white light shot forth from his claw and directly into Kane's forehead! Eve, Cyllea, and Teya leapt against their bondage in surprise and anger, but could not break the restrictions as Kane fell to the ground, the beam continuing to wash over him. "...Of what it is that you're missing..."
Dirge approached him, holding his claw out. He knelt next to the gryphon and rested his claw directly on his head.
"Do you see? Do you see the wonders I can give you? What is your inspiration to stay with them? What have they given you? Friendship, family, a home? Bah!" he threw his other arm out, as if to toss away his words. "I can give you all of that...and more. All you need to do is take my hand..."
Kane made small stuttering noises from under Dirge's claw, moaning occasionally and gasping.
"Take my hand..." Dirge reached out and held his claw next to Kane's. "Just think of it, all of this will be yours...take my hand, that's it..."
Kane's paw weakly raised, much to Eve's horror! He, Cyllea, and Teya watched as Kane struggled to lift his arm towards Dirge's cold grasp.
"No...Kane no!" Teya cried. "Think of everything we shared! All the love we have! Is this worth it? Is this worth...me?"
"Ahh yes, of course," Dirge said, smiling. "Think of your woman, Kane! How would you like to have her? All to yourself? With no one ever to ever come between you! Or...perhaps...you do not want her...?"
A blank look came over Teya's face, one of shock and dismay.
"Yes...you want more than she can offer, oh I can tell..." Dirge leaned down and whispered into Kane's ear. "She is only one...she is nothing compared to what I can provide you with. Your heart's deepest, darkest desires, all of the things you're too weak and afraid to acknowledge...all of these things that you cannot even dream of but know you can't be complete without...there is no such thing as boundaries where I come from..."
Kane's shaking paw suddenly became like stone as he reached up and grabbed the skeletal claw above him...
"Yessssss my Lord..." Kane hissed, staring up at the ceiling through wide, bloodshot eyes.
"Kane..." Eve whispered. Kane sat up and turned to his ex-allies. "How could you?"
"Easily..." Kane said his eyes still wide as ever and still pulsing with veins. "Eve...you don't understand! You haven't seen what I've seen! I know you think he's the enemy but--"
"He IS the enemy!" Eve shouted furiously. "Whatever he showed you is a lie! He'll kill thousands of people, Kane! What don't you get about that?! Thousands of people will die!"
"Eve I know...I hear you I really do..." Kane said his head bowed. "But honestly...who cares?"
"Kane..." Cyllea whispered. "They're innocent..."
"Seriously! Who the fuck cares?!" Kane asked, his head darting up intently. "They aren't us; they'll never be us, why should we even bother risking OUR lives for theirs? It makes no sense! They're just...people...who honestly cares if they die?"
"I do," Eve said furiously. "And they do. And their families do. And all of those people who are just going about their lives the best they can DO NOT DESERVE TO DIE LIKE THAT!"
Eve became furious.
"Maybe one day you'll understand like I do," Kane said with a sigh. "Maybe one day you'll get that they don't care about your sacrifices. They might here and there, but in the long run, the only thing they are is a giant rolling pin. You're the dough. They will beat you down again and again and again until there's nothing left of you and then that's it! That's it. THAT'S IT EVE. Nothing! Death is cold and life is meaningless. So why not avoid the one and live the other like a king? That's what I've done."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing..." Teya's voice said sadly from behind him. "Who are you?"
"Who am I?" Kane asked, turning to her. "I'm Kane. Same as I was ten minutes ago. Who are you?"
"I'm the woman who thought she loved you," Teya said and buried her face in her sleeve. Kane's eyes went glassy and he turned away, sighing.
"I suppose you want them dead, Lord?" Kane asked, his eyes beginning to tear up in the corners.
"No," Dirge said distantly, as though he was staring through this creature that stood before him. "No...you've done enough."
"Very well," Kane said and walked over to the wall. Dirge walked up to Eve and kneeled down again in front of him.
"You see, Eveser?" he asked. "I have won. Admittedly I wished this would have gone smoother, seeing things like that never makes me feel successful. But you brought this on yourself, brainwashing him, making him believe those lies that the world will always be there to catch you when you fall...you're wrong..."
"No Dirge," Eve whispered, his head bowed to his chest. "You're wrong..."
Dirge cocked his head.
"You don't understand...you don't understand that the world SHOULDN'T be there to catch you when you fall. We're here to save this world, either from itself or from the scum that tries to destroy it. It's there to prove that love and beauty and hope will always grow if nurtured...like a piece of art. We are its guardians. We are here to protect love and beauty and hope, not to have it protect us. We don't need thanks, we don't want praise, and we sure as hell don't wish we were somewhere else or better off. This is our charge, this is our life..."
Eveser raised his head. Dirge could see his eyes glowing brightly with passion.
"And THIS is our payment," he said. There was a small clink as the metal chains keeping him bound fell to the floor. Dirge's eyes stopped pulsing.
"Oh dear," he said moments before he was slammed through the opposite wall and out into the throneroom! He lay in a crumpled pile for a moment before laughing and then rising to his feet as though he were on strings. Eve rose to his feet as well and stared at Dirge.
Dirge turned to face his newly freed enemy, still hovering slightly above the ground. "Eve, I've been waiting for this for so long! Come on! Let's see if you've got what it takes to beat me again..."
Eveser roared and leapt at his enemy with blinding speed! Dirge vanished right before Eve's fist connected with his metal face. Eve stopped all movement and listened until he heard the quiet swooshing of a fist through the air.
With a duck and a sidestep, he swung his fist into the chalky skin of Dirge's stomach! Dirge was flung back into the ground. He used the momentum of the strike to flip himself back into a standing position, ready again for battle.
Dirge swung his foot towards the dragon's head, but it was blocked. Eve wrapped his arms around the skeletal monster's leg and grinned as he tossed him to the other end of the room.
Dirge floated until both feet touched down gently, then he turned to face Eveser. When he looked behind him, his face connected with the intense strike of a tail being swung at breakneck speed!
The hit planted on his cheek and sent him spinning into the stone floor. He stood up again, not even a scratch on him.
"This is beginning to feel like last time," he said with a quiet tone of condescension in his demonic voice. "You beat me into the ground, I get back up...we just haven't gotten to the part when you transform and beat my face into the dirt again..."
"We're getting there," Eve said with a smile. "Don't you worry one bit..."
"Only this time, I have some new bargaining chips!" Dirge said, motioning to the captives in the other room. Eveser growled. "And twice the power I had back then...a result of my pure Carnian host."
"Then you'll fall twice as hard," Eve smirked. Dirge grinned malevolently and began walking towards him.
"We shall see, dragon, we shall see," Dirge said quietly. Eveser leapt at him, but was struck down as soon as he got close. Dirge raised his claw towards him and Eve instantly felt as though he were constricted by some unseen force!
Dirge raised his clenched fist and Eve rose off the ground, floating in the air. He looked around rapidly and tried to flail his limbs, but Dirge's grip was too strong.
He was slammed into the walls, the ceiling, the floor, even the pillars that held the roof up! Eve flew like a ragdoll after the first few hits. Dirge laughed as he held his hand in the air, bringing Eve up almost to the ceiling, then unclenched his fist...
Eve plummeted to the ground, falling like a sack of bricks. The force of his collision with the stones sent up a cloud of dust that wafted over the room. When it cleared, everyone could make out his unconscious form lying motionless against the ground.
"Oh...did I kill him?" Dirge asked, beginning to inch closer to the dragon's body...
"Eveser Dimonis, Vessel of Bahamut," Eve could hear the voice in his head speak to him. He opened his eyes and looked around. He was no longer in the throneroom with Dirge; he was in complete darkness, with only one light shining down on him from above.
"Yes...I'm here," Eve said, trying to communicate with this omnipresent voice.
"Listen to me," the voice said. This time was different, this voice sounded deeper and more distinct. It was definitely male, an older voice, like one who'd been wizened by time. It was much different than the voices that he had heard before. "This is a battle you must not win. Although you have the power to destroy him, the Most Dark must survive for now. I will lend you my power to free your allies and escape. If it is used against the Most Dark, it will be taken away from you."
"But why? He'll kill so many people...why can't I destroy him?" Eve asked, looking around.
"Yes, many will lose their lives because of his survival. But many more will die if you attempt to destroy him. To end his existence, you must embrace my full power," the voice said. "You are not ready for that yet, but you will be. Soon. We will meet soon. But for now, raise yourself from the ground...raise yourself and save your friends."
Eve's eyes opened slowly as a large shadow descended on him...
His eyes widened and he rolled out of the way just in time to avoid Dirge's immense boot slam down where his head was moments before! He rolled to an aggressive crouching position.
"Good! You're alive!" Dirge said happily. He held out his claw and there was a large mushroom of smoke and dust that erupted from around him. Eve covered his eyes with his forearm, shielding him from the wave surrounding him. It began to settle, but when Eve looked again he could see an object in Dirge's claw, something large and...circular...
Dirge gave an angry cry and Eve leapt to the side just as a silver streak shot out of the smoke past him! It zipped through the air and made a metallic whirring noise as it soared. Eve looked around warily, expecting what was to come.
His gaze shot behind him and he leapt into the air as the metallic object hurtled past him again! As he looked down into the still prevalent smoky cloud, he could see the streak slicing through the air in search of him.
The smoke finally cleared and Eve touched back down to the ground. The object had stopped its search and had returned to Dirge's claw, where Eve could clearly stare into its shining surface.
"So, you came packaged with all your accessories," Eve said with a grimace.
"Indeed!" Dirge marveled at his ring-blade. "I've been so long without it; it seemed too good to be true!"
With that, he grinned maliciously at Eve and then hurled it once again in his direction! Eve ducked low to the ground as the blade whirred over his head, barely grazing the tip of his wing.
As the ring began to double back, Eve realized that from his position he couldn't move fast enough to avoid it! The blade zoomed towards him as Eve clenched his eyes shut...
But even with his eyes closed, he could see a bright flash of green light permeate his vision.
He opened one eye slightly to see Dameon airborne, holding the blade tightly. The ring vibrated and pulled him in all directions, trying to escape his formidable grip, but Dameon just grunted and held on as tight as he could.
"Go Eveser! Take him down!" he shouted. Eve nodded resolutely and turned towards Dirge with a fire in his eyes.
He pushed off from the ground and leapt at Dirge, boosting himself with his wings until he slammed into him full speed. Dirge made an exasperated choking noise as he was ripped from the ground and sent flying into the castle wall!
The wall crumbled and Dirge soared out into the air, outside of the palace. He flipped through the air like a toy, hurtling away from Eve and from the palace. He glanced around once or twice and then held his claws out behind him.
He stopped dead in the air and focused his gaze at the palace. Eve could see the fury in his eyes from the hole Dirge had just made in the wall. There was a metallic grinding noise as Dirge's teeth began shooting sparks and his jaw twisted sideways, his rage taking hold of him.
"Insects," he muttered. In an instant, he was right in front of Eve! He raised one finger up to the stunned dragon's forehead and lightly tapped him...
Dameon had to release the ring-blade and jump out of Eve's way as he exploded past him and crashed into the wooden door of the throneroom. The door splintered around him and dented where he had struck it, sending shrapnel across the room.
Dirge floated through the hole and landed gently on the throneroom floor without a sound.
"Ants," he said quietly and held his claw out towards Dameon, who was thrown backwards against the wall as well. "All of you. You are like gnats to me, buzzing around my head like insignificant flies..."
His voice was deeper, more malevolent now. It sounded like there were two voices, one deeper and one higher, both in harmony with eachother.
"Eveser Dimonis, Vessel of Bahamut," Eve heard the voice say in his head as he closed his eyes.
"Yes?" he thought back softly.
"Go to your friends, bring them together," it said. "You shall live through this."
"Alright," he whispered to himself. "Where will we go?"
"It does not matter," it said. "As long as you are together...standing for what you believe in...there is nothing that can harm you..."
"Together..." Eve whispered. He felt air rush across his scales, a cool breeze gently prickling at his face and chest. He opened his eyes and saw the ground below him moving, and moving fast. He had Dameon in his grasp, carrying him past Dirge and through the long corridor into the machine room.
He saw his friends; Cyllea, Darrow, Teya, Holi, Dameon, Dexter, and Kerrigan, all huddled together in front of the machine. Surrounded by Carnians, he saw them shaking in fear. He couldn't help but smile.
If they only knew how much stronger they were right now...together...
Then he touched down, the wind in his ears dying down as he turned to face Dirge once again. He held his chin high and stood proudly in front of his closest friends as the monster approached them through the corridor.
Eveser had just enough time to turn and look at Kane, who was standing behind Oxide, Grimlock, and all of the other freaks who comprised the Carnian legions.
"Kane," he said out loud in a deep voice. The voice was soft and warm, but Kane felt it cut like ice... "Never lose sight of who you are. Never forget who loves you, no matter whom or what you make yourself out to be. Never forget..."
And then Dirge was there. Eve turned to face him with a glare in his eye. He turned to his friends behind him and smiled.
"Stay together," he whispered.
"FACE MY POWER!" Dirge roared and held both of his arms forwards! There was an immense whooshing noise like something being sucked into a vacuum and a wide black beam of light that shot forth from Dirge's outstretched appendages.
Eve's features hardened as his feet dug into the stones. He leapt up on his back legs and spread his wings. He held up his front legs and kept his wings out like a predatory kite.
The blast slammed into his paws, making a searing hissing noise. Eve grunted and forced himself forwards. His resolve remained undeterred, unshakable, as his body shook from the force of the attack.
Dirge's laughter could be heard over the rushing noise of the beam, like a waterfall. Eve couldn't force it back, and he couldn't hold the beam forever...
Then he felt a small hand on his back...
He turned his head and looked down to see Kerrigan looking up at him. Her small hand pressed against his scales, giving him a new sense of courage. He pushed with all of his might and forced the beam back slightly!
Cyllea shakily stood up and also stood on her back legs, pressing her front paws against Eve's shoulders. Eve's heart began to beat powerfully, hardening his will and driving the beam back even further!
Then he felt more hands and paws press against him as a bright light began to burn at his paws. They felt warm as he pushed against Dirge's evil with everything that he had left!
They moved forward, driving the black beam of light further and further back into Dirge's claws. Dirge's jaw opened slightly as a look of worry washed over his features.
"Get over here you idiots!" he cried to Grimlock and the others. "Help me!"
Grimlock and Oxide moved behind Dirge and put their rigid claws against his chalky skin. They pushed against him, trying as best they could, but they could not hope to stand against Eve. Dirge cursed and snarled viciously.
"Get away you fools!" he screamed. "I'll do this MYSELF!"
He bellowed and forced one foot in front of him...
His metal feet clanked as they stomped against the stones, forcing himself ever closer to Eve and his friends.
Eve's eyes narrowed as he realized that his enemy was still stronger than anything he had faced before...he was no pushover...
But he could not fail, not when so much was on the line...
His muscles rippled and tensed as the warmth in his paws grew to a fiery heat! His eyes popped open and he roared, pushing the beam back another few inches towards Dirge.
Dirge's eyes widened as the two grew closer. His metal palms had become cherry red from the heat of the energy, and his oozy eyes gritted in pain.
Eve made one final, powerful push and clasped Dirge's claws oh so familiarly. They were searingly hot, his paws, wrapped around the equally scorching skeletal digits of his enemy.
The beam was no longer a beam, but was now a burning light in between the two's clenched palms. It emanated from the small gaps between their hands and hummed violently.
"You...don't have a...single...chance, dragon!" Dirge growled and pushed, forcing Eve to take a step back.
"You're right..." Eve said with a smile and pushed back. He felt his friends still pushing against him, empowering him with their love. "I'VE GOT SEVEN!"
Then Eve gripped Dirge's claws as tightly as he could and drove his entire force downwards! Dirge's eyes pulsed rapidly, his knees beginning to buckle under the mighty force of the black dragon. His feet slid weakly across the stones as he tried still to fight back, shouting and roaring in rage.
"No!" Dirge cried. "No! No!"
He knelt on the stones as the weight of the beam drove him into the ground. Eve could feel his grip weakening...
"NOOOOOOOO!" Dirge screamed as his grip finally gave out completely! The black light exploded forth from Eve's paws, showering Dirge and engulfing him.