Leoric... Leoric, can you hear me?
Merklynn? Is that you?
Yes indeed it is... I've come before you through your dreams...
But why? What's going on?
To tell you of a secret... Something I've kept from you, the other Spectral Knights, the Darkling Lords, or even anyone else, until now...
What is it exactly?
Many years ago, even long before the fall of technology, I discovered something... An ancient gateway built and created by beings from a far-off world...
Indeed so, tis a bridge between worlds... And through this gateway, I saw another world, so alike and yet unlike ours...
Do you mean...?
Yes, another planet across the galaxy and the universe... Almost an inverse of our own, where science continues to thrive but magic is almost rare if not non-existent... A dark place where greed and corruption thrive deep in its shadows...
What must I do?
It must be kept hidden... If the Darkling Lords or any other force of evil find it, it would mean a greater war at stake...
Where may this gateway be?
Far underneath my shrine, deep within the Iron Mountain...
Very well then, I shall go and find it...
Good, now go soon, Prince Leoric of New Valarak... And may the Three Suns of Prysmos shine eternal rays of luck before you, though I fear that time itself may not be with us on our side...
Location: Somewhere on the planet Prysmos
Beneath the storm-shrouded yonder, a somewhat large and holographic alien-looking lion dashed across the nearly mountainously ranged terrain, panting hard with breaths of heat. A flash of lightning lit the scene if even for a brief moment. What hints of wind there would be were barely an obstacle to this creature. His mind raced with him as well, knowing full well of what he would be looking for, where to look for it, and why.
Soon enough, the holographic lion-esque creature leapt and scaled up to the peak of the Iron Mountain, upon which the shrine of the ancient mage Merklynn resided. Swiftly slipping his way through and inward, the valiant lion found a cleverly hidden passageway far downward into the lower depths of the mountain, trekking down the seemingly endless flight of stairs, presumably carved from the very mineral rock material of the caverns within. The lion's bright blue glow emitted an aura that lit up the otherwise darkened catacombs.
Then at last, the holographic beast finally made it all the way down to the very bottom depths of the mountain's innards. With sparkles of light, the lion-like creature began to morph as he soon stood upward to his two back feet. Then the light died down as his true form was revealed, a male dark-brown-moustached humanoid donned in bright blue and cyan knight-like armour with a wide hexagonal shape on his chest with showed the holographic emblem of a lion's head.
Looking around the vast chamber, he stared up and observed the large and gigantic metallic arches that circled all around with a long glassy bridge inside them. This bridge and these arches went seemingly far enough before stopping at the dark of nowhere. Perhaps this would indeed be the very bridge between worlds that the wizard spoke of, how it would work is another mystery to be solved.
Just then, a reverberated chuckle caught the knight's sudden attention, forcing him into a state of alert. "Ah, there you are, Leoric," a rather dark, sinister, and all-too familiar voice called. "Right where we'd expect you to be".
Swooping down from high shadows like vast predatory birds, several holographic beasts ambushed the knight, surrounding him from any and all corners. A brownish-yellow lizard and a bright-purple beetle scurried their ways down the rocky walls. A blood-red gorilla swung his way about and downward from several stalactites in the ceilings before slamming upon the ground with a chest-pumping roar. A bright grey and red pterosaur-esque creature swept down and landed with a piercing screech like a frumious banshee.
A rocky and spiked ball of dark blue and bright red rolled and tumbled down like a snowball going down a hill before uncurling and unfolding to reveal a sneering and snivelling creature that resembled a mutant armadillo of sorts. A violet and magenta shark growled and levitated down in a swaying motion as if swimming through the dry cave air. Then at last, a dark sickly green and blue grotesque mollusk-like beast with a spiky shell crawled its way into view and into the light.
As the seven freakish holographic animals surrounded the knight, they too began to morph one by one into humanoid beings of varied height and statures but all were wearing similar armour in colour schemes very much like their animal totem forms. As the seven dark knights slowly approached the lone warrior while pulling out each of their weapons, the knight in bright blue himself brought out his own weapon, a smooth metallic whip just as long as, if not much longer than he himself would be. Standing firmly within the centre of the chamber with his eyes staring with defiance, he whipped his mighty weapon back and forth, here and there, at the menaces closing in onto him.
"You really think that metal string of yours is gonna be enough to save your own skin?" The mollusk knight in dark green and blue grinned and stepped forth, with light brown hair and beard, nearly sunken eyes, and wielding a long dark golden double-bladed axe of intricate design.
"Darkstorm!" The spectral knight leader, named Leoric, recognised the green and blue knight in particular, huffing and sightly scowling. "I should've know it was you and your Darkling Lords who would bring such chaos like this upon here".
"If so, then may you also be just as guilty of leading such chaos to here," the darkling lord, named Darkstorm, retorted. "Especially when you left behind your land practically leaderless, and therefore defenceless, for me and my army of Darknights to sneak through and turn inside out. Of course, we soon found out where you were and were going to, thanks to Mortdredd and Cravex, of course". He pointed to two of his fellow Darkling Lords, the beetle knight in purple holding a scythe-sword and the phylot knight in grey and red holding a short bulky axe, respectively.
"How dare you invade the Capital, even without threat or warning!" Leoric scowled. "You realise you've angered all of the kingdoms of Prysmos with your pointless rampages! Even as we speak, the other Spectral Knights should be heading here very soon enough".
"Oh we know, those Spectral friends of yours," the lizard knight in brown and yellow, Reekon, wielding a toothed sword, grinned wickedly. "But would they even make it here in time?"
"Even if any of you manage to defeat and slay me, they'll put a stop to you," Leoric continued to defy these enemies.
"Slay you?" Darkstorm scoffed off. "I need you, we need you". He put quite the emphasis on 'we'. "We're here with a deal".
Normally and initially, Leoric didn't see Darkstorm, his rival and arch nemesis, as the sort of individual who would be quick to making any deal. At this moment, other thoughts got in the way of his mind, especially upon hearing of the Darkling Lords and their Darknight army attacking his home city, the place of which he and his fellow Spectral Knights would reside in. And even Merklynn himself after having communicated with him through their minds and dreams.
"Where's the ancient mage?" Leoric demanded, while still trying to maintain a stern form and nature. "Where are my mother and father?"
Rolling his eyes, Darkstorm didn't answer the question right away, if not at all, much to the further irritation of Leoric,
"We'll leave these squalid little piles of obsidian and onyx stone you call kingdoms, if not the whole planet of Prysmos, if you do something for us..." Darkstorm offered as calmly as he could.
"Where... is... Merklynn?!" Leoric emphasised, his tone raised further.
Just then, the hulking gorilla knight in red, Cindarr, swung his chrome-gold club-mace at Leoric, forcing him back with a tumbling grunt. Then the shark knight in violet and magenta, Virulina, the sole female member of the Darkling Lords, holding a sharp tooth-shaped shield with her right arm and a harpoon with her left, delivered an elbow bash right onto Leoric's back, forcing him further down to his hand and knees.
"This bridge can be used as a gateway to another world," Darkstorm explained. "A world without magic, a world where science still lives on, a place where we could live like gods among mortal men. Send us there and we'll take our men and leave you be. What do you say?"
"If you at least tell me what you did to Merklynn..." Leoric grunted after a big of coughing. "And my parents".
"Oh, it's not what we did," Darkstorm scoffed under his breath. "Leoric, Prince of New Valarak, leader of the Spectral Knights. All that power, and what do you do with it?"
"To preserve peace, order, and justice," Leoric spoke back. "To protect those in need who may not be able to protect themselves".
"If so, then you mayn't have done a very good enough job at it," Darkstorm continued to retort. "After all, you did lead us to the location of this ancient gateway, whether you knew so or not".
"Merklynn protects it," Leoric spat and huffed a long breath.
"Not very well or any better either..." Reekon commented.
"Did..." Leoric paused. "Did you kill him? Did you have the audacity to murder the mage without any mercy?"
"Oh no," Darkstorm corrected. "That would be too easy and obvious. Better and even crueler to leave your enemies alive while they watch helplessly".
As he heard this, Leoric found his mind to be penetrated by the thoughts of both his parents, the current rulers and monarchs of New Valarak, and even his mentor, the mage Merklynn, being held completely against their wills. Forced to suffer through unimaginable tortures. If even someone as powerful as Merklynn can be subdued and kept captive, something must be wrong here. Leoric knew that the Darkling Lords must have some sort of advantage, how and what it may be he was yet to find out.
"From what we managed to learn and find out from that old man wizard, he apparently bestowed the secrets behind the gateway unto you," Virulina said as she leered over Leoric. "Including how to make it work".
"Indeed," Darkstorm nodded. "We're making this choice as easy as we possibly can, Leoric. Activate this portal and you'll never see us or our army ever again. Refuse and you'll die, along with all you fight with and fight for. You'll never get a better deal than that".
Getting up to his feet, Leoric walked over a dust-covered monitor as it lit up. Its design looked almost like the Prsymosian technology from the Age of Science. Tapping and pressing a few buttons, he then grabbed a wide handle and heaved it down with a crank, causing a bright swirling vortex to open up within the bridged gateway.
As the seven Darkling Lords stood side by side, gazing with ranged expressions, some with bemusement and curiosity, others with dark glee and excitement, including the grinning Darkstorm. "This is it," he muttered simisterly. "On the other side, there's an entire world with no magic". As he raised his arms as if to embrace what may lie ahead of him, his dark chilling tone soon turned loud and bombastic. "A world to call our very own!"
"You deserve no world to call your own," Leoric spoke back as his armour and body tensed, filling with justified anger. A dominating roar filled the chamber as the lion emblem on his torso leapt free, becoming a full-on holographic lion-like creature as the humanoid form of Leoric himself seemed to evaporate into glittering fractures of light.
Sneering and snarling, the lion form of Leoric pounced forth, right between the Darkling Lords and their dark destiny, and attempted to slash at the foes. While the Darkling Lords stood their ground and tried to swing and poke at the beast, Leoric went for Darkstorm first, pinning him down and nearly restraining him with claws.
"If you kill me, my fellow lords will kill you," Darkstorm growled.
"No life is worth a kingdom or an entire planet," Leoric grunted back.
In turn, the other six Darkling Lords surrounded and went forth for Leoric, hoping to restrain him as well while giving a chance for Darkstorm to crawl free. But Leoric remained physically unswayed and undeterred, resisting their pressuring force. Just then, Cindarr went back before darting forth at all the individuals, shoving and heaving Leoric while taking the other Lords with him. All of them were flung together into the very portal itself, disappearing at once before the gateway shut off entirely once more.
To be continued...