The sleet came down that January, New Year's Eve rolling around in a sledge of dreariness and misery. From the edge of the street, a shadow moved. And shortly behind, a girl in a black outfit.Nightclaw, where are you?
Just outside the target, Psychout. Where are you?
With Bellona on the roof of the target.
Got it, Psychout. I'll be there.
The girl leaped into the air, the shadows seeming to follow her lead as she grabbed the chain-link fence and flung herself over it, grunting slightly. The icy sidewalk on the other side made her slip slightly, but she quickly regained her footing as her shadows wrapped around her.
She quickly leaped onto the ladder, climbing her way up onto the yet icy rooftop. The harsh January chill echoed slightly, her breath visible in the frosty aether. “Good, alright so Crimson is inside right?” Psychout asked, Bellona nodding as she stood to his side.
“Yeah, I think so. If you had the psychic link open for the two of us that'd certainly be easier though.”
“I'm working it out, don't fret,” Psychout responded, the three pausing for a moment. “Alright, then. You two ready?”
“Ready when you are,” Bellona responded, Nightclaw nodding quickly.
“Let's do this, then.”
Psychout's telekinetic powers stretched out and reached around the two girls as he slowly lowered them from the roof, the two of them facing a window. Nightclaw thought the signal at Psychout, and the two of them raised their feet as they were moved through the air and into the building's top floor.
Nightclaw quickly acted when her body hit the floor, rolling forward as Bellona pulled out her blade and turned her hourglass, time slowing until freezing for everyone except for the two superheroes.
“Alright, is this the right room?”
“I can't tell, Bellona. Gimme a minute, okay?”
As Nightclaw hurriedly looked around, she shook her head slightly. “Nope. Probably very close though.”
Bellona turned her hourglass again, time starting to flow again as the two girls began to walk into the next door. Nightclaw's shadows cloaked the two of them quickly, the hallway behind the door revealing itself to be dark and empty, the few lights along the way flickering slightly.
“Looks like the coast is clear,” Nightclaw said, the two walking softly through the hall. “Where is it...?”
The door was labeled simply with a symbol of fire, Bellona nodding as she pushed the door open silently. Quickly behind, Nightclaw followed, the light glow of the lamps along the walls of the circular room leaving only the very center dark.
“What is this... this isn't what I was expecting...”
The door slammed shut as Nightclaw muttered that, the girl's eyes panicking as her shadows vanished. The torches dimmed to darkness and she felt the presence of Psychout's mind vanishing quickly, the powers over shadows seemingly gone.
“Bellona, can you use your time freezing?”
“It's not working here either, whatever this is it's canceling out my powers just like the hallway!”
The two stood back to back as they glanced around, the two of them looking around the now dark room. And then slowly, in the center of the circular room, a glow began to emanate from a large torch.
“Whom stands before I?
“I-I am Ariel Smith, angel-host of Micheal.”
“My name is Bellona Serafina, angel-host of Gabriel.”
“Angel-host? Yes, that would be appropriate. This is Tosev III, isn't it?
“Who are you?” Bellona asked as she stepped toward the large torch in the center of the room, the heat of it suddenly vanishing before intensifying.
“You... you're...” Ariel thought that it had answered, but it was not the case.
“Who are you?” Bellona pressed, but there was no give.
The silence hit the room hard, the two shivering as the heat of the fire slowly turned into coldness, the flames growing as they absorbed heat to grow more. These flames were not normal, nor were they earthly.
A portal opened suddenly, Kyosu flying through it without a hint of warning.
“Kyosu!” Bellona shouted, rushing towards her fallen friend, Nightclaw quickly following behind her friend.
The portal stayed open though as the man's eyes opened slightly, groaning. “What... where am I?”
“You mean you didn't open that portal?” Bellona asked, a bright flame roaring to life to the side of the center flame. Another one appeared slowly, the three having an instinctive reaction by closing their eyes or looking away.
When they looked back, they found before them their three angels were in three torch flames, around the central one. Whatever this room was, it was aware of the angels that the three held.
“Celestia!” Kyosu shouted, his instinctive concern for his angel coursing through him. While he knew she was far more powerful than him, seeing her seeming to be imprisoned at all set him to rage. The flame grew brighter around her as Kyosu forced himself up despite the injuries he had, Bellona backing up slightly.
“Kyosu, it's fine – I came here of my own accord, bringing you with me.”
“Why?” Kyosu asked, Celestia pausing. She sighed softly, the other two angels obviously not as calm as she was, Gabriel yelling something that was muffled.
“Gabriel! What did you do to him!?” Bellona asked as she raised her eyebrow, taking her sword from its sheath and stepping forward.
The captured angels paused for a moment, the voice's raw auctoritas rippling through their souls.
“I have no desire to harm. These fravashi are not imprisoned out of malice, they are imprisoned for their benefit. Fire is coming, from all ends of the Universe. Time is reversing. And all must return.
“Return to what?” Ariel demanded, grabbing Bellona and stopping her as the older angel-holder had been about to march up to the strange containers. “Now isn't the time, Bellona.”
“Just let me handle this, okay?”
“What's gotten into you, Ariel?” Bellona asked, raising an eyebrow. “You're not this assertive...”
Ariel just glowered at Bellona, the woman nodding and stepping back as Ariel stepped forward. “Who are you, and what to what must all return?”
“I am the manifestation of the Third King of Risson. For over a hundred thousand years, I have slumbered until being discovered by the people of this world, and only now I awake as I have seen what must happen. Fire is coming, and all must return – return to the depths of which they came, to where the beginning lays. To Fravash, the world of the fravashi.
“Why must they return?”
“Tosevi, that I cannot tell you. If I could, I would.
“So... you're taking our angels? You're taking them back to Fravash?”
“Yes, more or less. It is for the sake of the Universe though, you must understand.
“But what if they don't want to return? What if they want to stay and, and fight this thing, whatever it is?”
“Then they shall die.
Ariel shook her head softly, and closed her eyes. She didn't understand, it made no sense – how would them returning save the Universe, how would it help anyone? “But you can't take them against their will, even if it is the case they'll die.”
There was a pause, and the voice seemed to sigh almost. It wasn't, of course, an actual sigh. But it was the closest a disembodied voice could come to a sigh.
“Ariel, what are you doing? Whatever this is, it's able to contain an angel... I doubt it's going to just listen to you...”
The Third King of Risson began to talk once more, but it was quickly interrupted from a loud eruption of noise. Ariel and Bellona turned to see Kyosu falling to the ground, a man laughing as a burst of flame roared through the portal entrance.
“Jacques!” Kyosu shouted as he pulled himself to his feet, the man walking through with his arms crossed, the lack of his hand easily visible. It was as if it were a a cape of flames descended down from his back, where his feet stepped flames starting gently.
“Ah, Kyosu. I didn't think I'd find you this easily, but I'm not complaining. Being able to kill you is more than enough for me to be happy.”
“Jacques, this isn't the time!” Bellona shouted, Ariel not sure who this stranger was but quickly feeling a bit defensive over her friend. Shadows moved around the room, the manifestation of the king seeming to react in a positive manner, the glow from him growing in brightness but with a kinder glow.
“It begins, it begins!
“I don't care who you are, but if you want to hurt Kyosu you're going to have to answer to us.”
“Hah, you think I care? With my power, this... this glorious, exquisite power, I can beat yo' collective punk asses all the way to Hell,” Jacques laughed, the flames around him seeming to independently swirl around him, the manifestation in the center of the room laughing madly, as if a coping mechanism against it.
Bellona started to turn her hourglass, but from it there was a burst of flame. The woman dropped her sword and it clanked as it hit the ground. Kyosu willed the portal closed, and when it didn't his eyes widened in fear.
“I'm so sorry, Kyosu.”
Kyosu turned to Celestia in a single, swift movement as Ariel was sending a shadow after Jacques, covering the man's eyes and blinding him. He panicked briefly, before realizing he was still something to be reckoned with.
“What do you mean, Celestia?”
“I brought him here.”
Kyosu shook his head – it couldn't be, why would she after what Jacques had done to her?
And from the shadows came the angel, laughing as his cold, dark body began to burn brightly. Jacques and Ariel were sparring with their powers. A shadow cloak, a burst of flame.
And when the bright burning flesh of the angel Abaddon finally began to burn a bright white, the laughter of the manifestation of the Third King of Risson ceased. Jacques and Ariel were sparring still, the shades she could control directly were blinding him occasionally enough to make him pause. Quickly, during one of his pauses, Bellona had grabbed her sword, turning the hourglass.
But time didn't stop, at least not instantly. The reaction was delayed, and when it finally happened Bellona consciously excluded certain individuals.
“Ariel, is the psychic link working?”
“I don't know!” Ariel shouted back, the sudden pause of Jacques' movement throwing her off slightly. But she quickly adjusted. “I'll see-”It's working, I'm on my way.
Got it, Psychout.
“He's on his way, Bellona!”
Kyosu watched as Abaddon's glow intensified, the angel lifting himself off the ground and ignoring those around him.
“Bellona, can you extend your power over onto the King of Risson and that angel?” Ariel asked, Kyosu starting to slowly move towards Bellona and Ariel, feeling helpless as he realized his angel had betrayed them. Bellona paused, and shrugged from her lack of knowledge, focusing harder than before. To lock a timeless being in a specific time might be possible, even if she was completely unsure.
“How could you?” he asked Celestia, watching her the whole time as he moved back. “I trusted you, you said I reminded you of someone, that you were a nurse...”
“I'm sincerely sorry, Kyosu...”
“Who did I remind you of anyways?”
Kyosu paused, Celestia sighing. “I am sorry, Kyosu. I hope you understand why I must though.”
And then in a strange action, the containers vanished. The manifestation of the King of Risson slowly vanishing into nothingness, the angels coming with him as if space had made a hole where they were. Thankfully, though, the powers were not stripped from the three there as if they had, it would have been far too late for them to save themselves.
The doors opened, Psychout hurrying in as Bellona smiled. “Took you enough time,” she said, as he nodded.
“So why don't we just kill him with your sword like this?” Psychout asked, Bellona pausing.
“Well, I don't know how that'd work... I mean, we could, but his angel could...”
“That's not an angel,” Psychout said calmly, as he glanced at the hovering shape of Abaddon. “Let time go again!”
“Just do it, he might be timeless but he still talks with sound waves that aren't.”
Bellona nodded, and turned her hourglass.
Instantly, the sound of his talking rippled through the air. It was incomprehensible at first, several minutes worth of words roaring through the air at once. And then, slowly, Abaddon paused.
“What are you?” Psychout demanded, Abaddon cracking his neck and laughing.
The heat from his body rippled through the air in waves, Jacques lunging now at Kyosu. The boy had no time to react, the gangster's flames rippling through the air and at him.
It was a sudden blow to the side from Ariel that had saved Kyosu, the girl having kicked Jacques in the side. Jacques fell to the floor, the flames around his body growing with his rage. “Bitch, I'll teach you a lesson.”
“No you won't,” Kyosu said as he stepped to Ariel's side. Jacques smiled, cracking his neck, before suddenly lunging forward with flames – but the flames sputtered out, Abaddon holding out a hand and the flames that were wrapped around Jacques seemed to become like strings on a puppet.
“What the- hey, let me go! What the hell, Abaddon?”
“It is time you learn your place, human.”
Jacques stammered, as Abaddon's heat began to increase again. Alarms began to go off, the doors to the room slamming open. A few soldiers, with the Aequalian symbol (The letter A made out of swords, an olive branch around it. The falling star last chapter was only for Special Ops) on their arms came in, their leader shouting orders.
And instantly, they burst into flames, Abaddon laughing as Psychout grabbed Bellona, backing the two of them up nervously. Kyosu and Ariel were panicked, Ariel glancing at Psychout. “What do we do?” she whispered, Psychout struggling to find an answer.
“Fire has come, foolish mortals. And I, I am its hand in this world.”
“I thought you were on my side, bastard!”
“Learn. Your. Place.”
The flames around Jacques tightened, burning the man's flesh as he felt his powers surging, his own will to strike out at Abaddon being used to increase the intensity of the flames. And then, his mind snapped. More soldiers poured in, the alarms ringing louder and louder.
Each soldier seemed to only fuel the fire that Abaddon had, the angel-hosts being ignored by him as he was seemingly playing with some of the soldiers, beginning to burn them and then stopping.
“Kyosu, get a portal open!” Bellona shouted, a plan popping into her head. “Open it to the hallway!”
Kyosu nodded, a portal opening in the wall between the two groups, them both sprinting towards it as Abaddon finished off the last of a wave of soldiers.
“Abaddon, let me after those fuckers!”
“As you wish,” Abaddon said with a smile, Jacques dropping to the floor. His body was roaring with flames and rage, Bellona reaching the portal first and leaping through. Psychout was quick to follow, Ariel just reaching it with Kyosu letting out a scream of pain as she almost started through it. Jacques' flames were right in front of Kyosu, the boy patting out a bit of fire on his shoulder.
“Just go, Ariel! I'll be okay!”
“Just go, he wants me! I can't focus on the portal longer!”
Ariel turned, starting to head into the portal. And then she stopped. “No, I'm not leaving you alone.”
“How fun,” Jacques laughed, as Abaddon seemed to watch with interest. Presumably, there was some material in the room preventing his escape – he was hot enough that just standing in the room had Kyosu and Ariel sweating profusely, and the walls seemed to be unaware of the massive amounts of heat.
“So, you bastard, you got turned over by your bitchy angel, just like before. Only this time she won't come back for you. She doesn't need you anymore. Not once I'm done.”
“He's not alone,” Ariel said, Kyosu's focus on the portal breaking. It closed quickly, Ariel's powers on the shadows causing them to manifest around her in bizarre shapes that, had they been cast by real creatures, would have damaged the minds of men easily.
“What are you two going to do against fire? Run away? Blind me?”
“Remember what happened to your hand, Jacques?” Kyosu asked, Jacques swearing and spitting on the ground. The heat in the room evaporated the heat, his own flames helping in that process, before it hit the ground.
Ariel's shadows moved fast, wrapping around Jacques' own shadow and his body, climbing between the flames and covering his eyes. He yelled out, flames roaring through the room from him. Kyosu opened a portal quickly beneath him but he was able to use his flames to propel himself up, levitating.
“Run?” Ariel asked, Kyosu stammering for a moment before nodding.
“That might be a good idea.”
“I thought so.”
The portal under Jacques closed fast, and as the flames from him began to wildly reach out, Kyosu opened a portal under him and Ariel. And they fell through, landing on the ground in the hallway outside of the room with a thud.
“Hurry up, let's go!” Bellona shouted, Psychout down the hallway further.
“Leopald, why is the heat not leaving the room!?”
“It's a strong insulator, I think. But even it'll break soon, I managed to get a glimpse at the mind of that Abaddon fellow – he's not the Fire, but he's bringing it to Earth.”
“What is the Fire anyways? We weren't able to find out from the Third King of Risson.”
“I think I know a way to find out. But we need to get out, Some more soldiers will be here soon, Stoneheart undoubtedly knows what's going on now. Kyosu, can you get us back to base?”
“I can, yeah.”
Kyosu closed his eyes, focusing a portal on a wall, imagining its connection to the wall inside the base they had just outside of Buffalo. His focus was weak but just enough thankfully, the three slipping through the space it bypassed before he did too.
Celestia really had turned on him. She had just left him. Maybe Jacques was right, maybe she wasn't on his side... sure, she was still giving him his powers... but he could tell, they weren't the same. It was like... like a remnant of his power.
The portal shut behind him as the sound of soldiers reached his ear.
Grandark looked down below him, the rooftop the highest point in this strange city of humans below him even, Malach patting his shoulder. “I told you, Grandark. Fire is coming. And now it's nearly here.”
The ashes of the flames billowed through the air, the news helicopters outside the city not daring to come any closer. This had been New York City, a shining example of America, and now the two angels stood on the edge of Malach's vessel. Invisible to the humans below, they saw the destruction that was burning through the city. Flames ripped through the streets, people screamed and died. There was no escape, for the flames wrapped around it. It was a brilliant arson, despite how primeval in nature it truly was.
“So, how do we fight it? Clearly, this is only the act of one of Fire's hands.”
“Of course, if Fire itself was here we wouldn't be watching.” Malach sighed, and shook his head. “I don't know how we fight it, Grandark. I know the human known as Stoneheart may have enough resources to help us, but even with those resources it would be pointless unless we knew how to use them.”
Grandark nodded softly. “I can hear the drumbeats, in the fire.”
Grandark sighed once more. Things were spiraling out of control. He knew the warning backwards and frontwards – Fire is coming. Time is reversing. Return. Return. Return.
“So, what about time reversing?”
“I haven't a clue. Presumably, if we can stop Fire, that won't happen.”
Grandark nodded, Malach shaking his head. Grandark paused, and turned. “Where are you going, Grandark?”
“I need to be somewhere.”
“A friend of mine, you could say.”
And the world around him shifted to black, before returning to him walking into a small office building, Ellie crouched behind a desk that was flipped on its side, the sound of gunshots startling Grandark.
“You couldn't have called me before, Ellie?”
“My angel told me that I was going to need a lot more help, since she's too lazy to let my magnetism work today!”
“Great, well, what the hell are you doing? Where are we?”
“One of the buildings that designed the technology for imprisoning the Archangels, I'm leading a raid, now get the hell down or you'll get shot!”
“Oh, hardl-” A bullet sliced through Grandark's hair, and he quickly hit the floor as if his legs had simply turned to jelly. “Okay, I think they got better at aiming.”
“Alright, well, can you do your sword thing?”
“Yeah, but that's bringing a sword to a gun-” Grandark laughed before grinning. “Oh, you clever, clever girl. You want me to use my swords at long distance don't you?”
“Well, you can kind of... do that can't you?”
Grandark grabbed a hilt from his mouth, pulling out a sword and smiling as Ellie just rolled her eyes. He could, effectively, pull them from any part of his body. But he just preferred to do it in show-offy manners.
After pulling several more swords from his body, he felt slightly weaker but could move them independently of his body, the blades dancing between gunfire and at the soldiers. Seemingly, none of the men there were Aequalians. Which was just as well. His blades sliced through a few, most of the soldiers smart enough to shoot at the swords – breaking some, just holding back others, having no impact on many.
Then there was the explosion. Reinforcements came in for Ellie and Grandark shortly after, wanting to make sure their front wasn't dead.
Mario's fist retracted as he spun quickly. “Oh, really now...?”
The fireball of the explosion didn't reach him but the shockwave did, his body becoming almost a rag doll as he was thrown into a wall. His master plan of going to Canada had completely backfired, and instead he had just been moving around New York. For as big of a city as it was, it was not hard to stay out of the sight of the military. Perhaps, that was part of why though. While a priority, it had more places to hide.
But that didn't matter now as he swore, standing up and wishing he could pop his knuckles for the badass factor. Instead he simply popped his neck, rolling his head. “What exactly was that, anyways?”
“Shit, shit!” a voice shouted as if on cue, Mario turning to see a man pulling a sword from his body, hilt in hand as he leaped over the desk. Swords were floating in the air, some slicing through soldiers with little resistance. It looked almost as if the man was enjoying it.
“Now that'd be a fun power,” he commented, the hole in the wall between the two of them allowing him to rush into that room. He had been simply trying to get out of the building with the secrets on how Stoneheart had captured the Archangels, but if he was going to get out he'd need some help.
“Mario!” Luigi shouted, as he ran into the room, Abel quickly behind him. The soldier at Mario's feet was unconscious or dead, the three couldn't tell as they glanced at him. “What's the plan?”
“Get out of here, looks like someone else is in a bit of a tussle over there,” Mario said, the hole in the wall revealing a man with excellent ability with his powers and a lot of gunfire back and forth.
“Sounds like a plan, Stoneheart's men might be distracted now,” Abel said, Mario nodding as the three started to hurry to the exit on the side, stumbling through and into an alleyway. It was empty, the sound of sirens on either side of it audible though. There was smoke in the air, Mario blinking in surprise.
“Where's all the smoke coming from?”
“No idea, looks like it's drifting in from Manhattan. Can't say for sure. Certainly isn't good.”
“Well, let's find out.”
Mario started to run down the alleyway, and into the street. And then he stopped in his tracks.
It wasn't just Manhattan. The city ahead of him was burning, the entire skyline full of flames and smoke. They were close to the city, but not in the city proper. And what disturbed him, was the feeling that this fire was not natural.
“Well, this is charming,” Mario muttered, Abel nodding slowly. “Looks like we might want to get the hell out of here.”
“Sure does,” Luigi said, glancing around. “Take a car then?”
“Sure, yeah. This one'll do,” Mario said, starting towards a short, tall, black car that had some ash on it, grabbing the driver's door and getting in. Luigi got in the passenger side, Abel getting in the back as Mario hot wired it. Whoever owned it, he figured, wasn't worth leaving it here for.
And he pushed down on the pedal, the car accelerating quickly down the street, the smoke billowing out of the exhaust, joining the smoke already polluting the air.~&~&~ “So, it's begun.”“It seems so, yes.”“I knew it would be a matter of time.”“Of course, of course.”“Are we going to interfere?”“I don't think so, it's not our business yet. It's only on Tosev III.”“Ah, let the Tosevi take care of it.”“Won't it reach us though?”“Eventually.”“We might want to help.”“It won't be a big deal anyways, I say we just allow it to take Tosev. I don't like Tosev anyways.”“Agreed.”“Then we shall watch for now.”
And so it was written, so it was. Fire came, its hands laying waste to the Universe. And slowly, the Fallen Stars rose to its challenge.
This is their story.
OVG RG YVTRM ZMVD