Issue 14: The Paths of the Dead
///HeroNet Update Conclave Tier: I hear there’s a meeting. Elias! This old Yankee wants a word!///
Good Morning New Ashbury! King Arthur and his Court are touring the Earth! Next stop? Our fair city!--NANN Update
Well inst that a sight. Earth, Bardax and Typha residing in the same system. Now that Jupiter has lifted the veil on information flow? It looks like the Highest and the Oversoul have many bases covered. There never was an Uplift Protocol hurdle this time around. Not to mention what the Amache are up to. Good lord! Everyone from my past lives and cycles has been animated. To say the least.--Sleeping In Starlight: Post Convergence Files (Conclave Access Required)
St. Christopher’s Boardwalk
Date Recorded: May 3rd , 5488 A.C
Earth was massive.
By my estimate at least 3 or 4 times bigger than its previous incarnation. With a heavier core. Three hab rings! Elysium shadowed Earth in the Weave. Tarkanan shadowed Typha. Odd that I would greet more family wearing this borrowed face but my brother and I had to remain incognito a bit longer. Explained why Lorain was just off to the side ordering drinks. In public we were just friends.
I could pull that off.
My past exploits of being blind to her advances helped situate us into a familiar pattern. The part of me that still retained my Silver Fox sensibilities snorted at the observation. Please! You two are in a life orbit around one another. But yes! Channel the oblivion rays! Just pretend you are fresh out of the Academy again. With Eddie giving you pointers!
Lorain’s social updates indicated a workaholic.
No time for romance. A surefire way to tell her kidnappers I was long buried in a forgotten Cycle. Sacrificed to the Oversoul to prevent the Nothing from breaching reality. What they planned on doing with the stolen HeroNet nodes? I had a few ideas but Doc was listed as an Orbital. No privy to inner matters of the Protectorate. I get it. Even my father had to send a message for me to King Arthur. Camelot in its full glory. With Avalon residing within the Weave. We’d need the sheer amount of life energy to beat the Nothing.
The first one around the corner to our little bar area was Grandma Ayeer. Merchant Co-head of the clan. No crown. No enforced House rules. Her eyes were glued to Dexter. Grandpa Ayeer pressed a hand to her back to maneuver her inside the bar. The family had rented it out for the day. A whole army of corgis followed. The King’s...no. Elias wasn’t the King anymore.
Prime Arbiter Protector of England.
What a mouthful.
Little John jumped up onto my lap. I gave him a scratch behind the ears.
Still no sign of Mom, Samantha or Jacob. I had read their files extensively. The public ones. This go around they weren't my half siblings. They were Anna’s and Teddy’s. Neither displayed any kind of demi ability but I wouldn't doubt they were active in other areas. Anna’s youngest son was known as the Midnight Crusader. The holo host in question slid into the booth. Her stormy gray blue eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t take you for the nervous type.”
She nursed a long island ice tea between those manicured fingers.
I let out a pent up breath. “I just wish I could be out in the open. There was an advantage to it.” Anna snorted indelicately. One brow rose to her hairline. “Like you’d want all the news officials in your business again. I know how often you had to reel Lorain in. I could see it in her face.”
I raised my glass, “Point made. Certain things were easier.”
Anna turned as her children entered. All three of them.
Samantha let out a cry and made a beeline for me.
V’alkor examined his grandson.
Taking note of how his shoulders relaxed as more family and friends arrived. It was a strange sensation. He could still see both twins as they should be. But ever so often their new physical covers shifted into place. Their hair was dirty blonde. Hazel eyes on both. Nothing out of the ordinary. Dexter pulled at the clan wraps around V’alkor’s biceps. “Not on the waist anymore?”
“Depends on the Clan!”
They had merchant, warrior, builder and Light Sage.
Everyone turned as Eliza dashed out the doorway.
A few moments later the sirens resounded across New Ashbury.
Dexter remained. “It would look highly suspicious if we both reacted at the same time.”
J’dax and M’taris joined him. They had much to discuss.
I was in the air before I realized it.
My Terran Alliance battle armor warped around my frame to hide my identity. I streaked past the Boardwalk. Downtown. To what was now known as the Anchorhead. Void Maiden was trapped under the claws of a 12 foot tall demon made of black, crimson and purple scales. I dived downward and clocked the brute right between his shoulder blades. It reared back. Energy flashed as the barriers redirected his demonic fires away from civilians and buildings.
I kneed him in the gut repeatedly until he released her.
She gingerly got to her feet. I raised the lower half of my visor. I inhaled sharply and blew a torrent of cold air in her direction to put out the fires on her cloak. She took to the sky as Hollows rained down from above. Mighty Mallet burst onto the scene. Carried by a Blue Defender. These took the form of giant flies. I yelled, “Hit me!”
Mallet complied. He swung his signature weapon and off I went. Light as a feather.
I kicked in the suit’s boosters. Sul’s warning bounced around my mind.
I body slammed two giant orange gray flies. The splattered against the city’s shielding.
I caught up to Void. We fought back to back. She was throwing small silver spheres left and right. I wanted to use my lazer vision but settled for launching more micro grav missiles at our foes. I took aim with my rifle. Glad to finally have proper pressure control to trigger each shot accurately. Hollows could take on many different forms. Using the remnants of past souls we hadn't been able to save from the Climb. The Nothing often loved to reshape that essence over and over.
Eventually it would feed upon what it had acquired.
It was why the Dreamweaver had hopped into Thoth’s body. Screams from below drew my attention away from the buzzing behemoths. It wasn't black scrawl. It was a group of half formed cavemen. Their bright yellow eyes flickering against the afternoon sun. Thralls. Dexter and I hadn't been able to cut loose every Universe from the Nothing’s grasp. A yellowed lich lead the formation. Void and I dove nearly at the same time. Her outer skin hardened. We hit the duracrete with a resounding crack. Cave people went flying into white hot electrical barriers. A crack of divine flames hit the Lich dead on. It crumbled into dust.
Arclight landed gracefully. His silver and golden staff at the ready. Smokescreen beside him. My vision doubled. Marshall and Paxon. I sent a volley of blaster bolts into the portals opening before us. I could sense the threads of the Nothing. A knight in old style crusader armor unsheathed his sword. “For Camelot!”
Elias’ red fetched arrows found their mark.
The whole Round Table was here. Old friends and new followed me into the fray. I hooked my rifle to my back as black clad knights came pouring through after the cavemen. Magical energy covered each hand. King Arthur whispered, “Gwen provided the light show. Go to town!”
I cocked my arm back. My fist slammed into the first black plated head I could see. He went flying back into the portal. Mighty Mallet told me later he could hear me humming the classic tune. Men astride purple and black T-Rexs came forth next. Nearly all the Protectorate was here. Magic coursed through my limbs. Mostly as a cover. My father linked in.
//We are going to pretend you are a magical demi for a time. A channeled Host that other magic users can feed their energy into.//
I pillaged my memory for a decent moniker.
The Ethereal Titan. It was just dorky enough to appeal to my sensibilities.
HeroNet updated: ///Welcome to the Orbital Tier Ethereal Titan. Demi Rank 3. Channeler, Flight, Limited Invulnerability///
Proctor Gansys projected himself into my mind.
Lucifer is hiding within the Orbital tier. No one except for old cycle heroes get beyond that. I need you to find out which one he is. Or he could even be a she this go around. All the escapees have human form.
I didn’t think Lucifer would pick female form. He considered us inferior in every way so being a human guy or demi would be beyond slumming it for the likes of the Lightbearer. No, he’d either play the game by being an upstanding citizen or just trustworthy enough to bring down the whole operation. My vision blurred again as Void Maiden landed.
I didn’t dare speak.
No wonder she was in the first tier for the protectorate.
We made the tier system to fool the escapees. Some of us came out stronger from the Convergence. Many volunteered to remain within the 3rd or 2nd circle of the Protectorate. Once you know which is Lucifer? We will promote you both.
A finger trap!
Gansys beamed at me. Indeed!
They had taken a page from my Sleeping In Starlight memoirs.
I circled the area. No more portals.
I wanted to blurt out so much then and there. But I’d have to wait for the unofficial debriefing on the Jupiter. The Nothing didn’t have the power to breach beyond the Physical aspect of the new Multiverse. Not yet. That was a relief. But it could still reach us through its minions. It already had materials from previous cycles. It was why the Dreamweaver had been such an effective tool. A subdued corruption that wilted away people’s defenses.
Brilliant white light washed over me.
Nola walked up. The room was adorned with rugs, chairs, tables filled with a wide assortment of foods. “Deactivate that suit. We have a costume to design!” Void Maiden joined her. Her obsidian helm retracted.
Mom considered me for a moment. “Let’s go for something a bit different this time.”
I zipped about the room. Ate half the food on the table. To buy myself a bit more time.
I returned. Not sure what to do. Mom started taking measurements.
I asked, “So who can fly faster?”
A glimmer of good humor radiated from mom like a 2nd sun. She wrapped the measuring tape around my neck. I blinked rapidly. Not yet. Nope. You will not do this. No.
J’ino passed on the rest of the data to Nola and White Lily. Eleanor hadn’t stopped crowing with delight for over the past 15 minutes. Everyone else was slowly gathering at the Bradley’s Barstone brewery. Eliza was masking her emotions fairly well. A tremor of her hands here and there betrayed the mountain tops about to crumble down. So much had already befallen her twins. Dexter had already had his moment with his father. They had all decided to keep Eliza here until she cracked properly.
Even a paragon like her need a moment to decompress.
J’ino reached up to fix the collar of Eliza’s deep blue flight jacket.
Neither of them had dry eyes by that point.
As we entered the brewery every head turned.
Mom patted my back as every single dog and Bardaxian barreled right into me. Cooper wedged his giant head into my neck and kept it there for the duration. I couldn’t think of anything noteworthy or profound. A set of white vines finally parted me from the dog pile of the century. Augustus jumped onto my shoulder after getting a floating start from Cooper. I scanned the room, “So did anyone keep their original code names?”
Lorain raised her hand, “Only a handful.”
Arthur raised his mug, “Elias and I. Along with Ta’mathon and his Golden City compatriots.” It was a constant round of ale, laughter and massive level of bear hugs. My mother had taken the brunt of my decompression session as she dubbed it. The experienced part of myself that encompassed everything Silver Fox ever did noted it all with a cool efficiency of time and wisdom. At my core I was still Eliza Murphy.
Still able to confide in my family. Even in the face of the Universal mystery at our doorstep. Proctor Gansys called out, “I suggest a gold and maroon theme for your temporary suit you giant flying flag bearer!”
“I’ll add some silver to it!”
In memory of the Paths of the Dead. Another memory clicked into place.
“Oh no.” My parents and Doc scrambled over as they took in my pallor.
Jupiter added, <<Integration of Sleeve Memories complete.>>
I knew now why the Oversoul had partitioned everything. Our memories. The various cycles. I had found out the Nothing’s weakness. Before Abel’s murder. I stumbled over to the bar and put my head in my hands. Doc pressed one palm to the back of my neck. I smiled weakly. Tapped the side of my head. “Just got the rest of my updates.”
We’d have to capture the rest of the escapees.
Then fire the Ninth Circle into the Nothing.
The Highest would lead the charge.
He had more than just a sliver of the Oversoul within him. My father warded the bar further. Everyone stared as my memory of fighting the Dreamweaver flowed outward. Not as Thoth but his first incarnation.
Heaven (Mortal Layer)
Conclave Clearance Required for Memory Archive
I raced down the steps of the silver city.
The sky overhead rumbled with an eerie purple glaze. My simple silver shield slapped against my back as I sprinted. Most of the Demioth guardians insisted upon wielding their A’hta as lightning bolts or spears. I found bashing through the Hollowed Ones with my shield just as effective. This breach was hardly typical. A wave of darklings swept over me. Carrying me away from the heart of the city. Their beady witchlight eyes crackled.
Souls that had been corrupted by the lies of the Dreamweaver. Behind him loomed a greater threat. One my sect had been made to combat. No matter what happened. I had vowed upon my very soul to stop the madness. I had been carried far from those velvet spires. This place was accursed. My spear brother rose from the soot and ash. Before us was the Paths of the Dead.
Forbidden to mortal kind. To the Thronebearers high above.
Pale green sigils blazed upon the opening circle.
Spear at the ready. My brother marched foreward. I fell in behind him. Back to back we advanced to the portal. Demis adhering to the call. To fall upon the shores of the Oversoul. To prevent the Nothing from consuming everything. For if all lights went out? Creation would cease. No more souls reborn through the Ouros. None with the power of the A’hta. Gifts from the Creator himself.
The Dreamweaver’s poison would fade. No matter how many cycles it took.
I cupped my hands together. A bright silver flame spread across my hands.
My Shield was committed.
My eyes burned as the light burst forth.
Hollowed ones quailed as my brother’s spear arced outward into the dark.
Demons scattered as our light encroached upon their hovel.
At the apex of the cliff stood the Dreamweaver. His limbs warped by the power of the Nothing. Hooks pierced his back as it fed upon him. It gurgled, “Give me all the lights of Creation.” The Dreamweaver crafted the Serpent.
An Ouro devised outside the Tapestry.
I knew what we had to do. My brother held his spear at the ready.
Just as the Nothing hoped to infect us? We would throw a chink in his armor.
Arthur stood. His knuckles white upon the hilt of Excalibur.
“Which came first?”
“The Thronebearers. But they weren't enough to combat the Nothing. The Oversoul made the Highest next. Then the demis. Plucked from the heart of Mankind. Then he gave us the Bardaxians and their mirrors upon the Earth.”
Dexter interjected, “To fight this apex of all evil? One has to have the talents of Creation and a line to the heartbeat of mortality. So my sister and I were made to be as Guardians. Born to many races across many epochs.”
Eddie pressed one hand to my shoulder. “What happened next?”
Dexter replied, “The first fall of Creation.”
They had to be shown. I gulped down another ale.
The oily black scales of the Entropy Ouro bright in my mind.
“We pulled a Matarn.”
The Scholar in question considered this statement. “You and Dexter are what then? If not Thronebearers.”
Dad picked up his shot of scotch. “They are the first Demis plucked from Mankind.”
Issue 13: Here
Issue 15: Here
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