In the previous episode, Rune accepted Drekken’s offer to join the dark side and live while Aaron rejected it and ran away with a stranger named Cross. When asked if Aaron should trust this mysterious man, readers voted that he should.
Rune is left alone with Drekken’s corpse. A dead glaze covers his eyes as he continues to stare at her. She begins to doubt her choice of staying with him instead of running away with Aaron and that man named Cross. The look of betrayal in her friend’s eyes continues to haunt her, truly heart-wrenching. Just remembering it causes her tears to well up. She hugs herself, letting a sob slip out.
Drekken’s body thrashes, causing her to jump and let out a shrill scream. The fog of death that plagued his vision fades away. The gaping hole where his heart used to be begins to close, as muscle and tendons latch to one another, forming a new organ. Breath of life catches his lungs, as he takes a heavy gasp of air. Rune becomes so frightened by the sight of his revival that she shrieks. Unable to contain her fear, she turns to run away. At the door, her body freezes. Every muscle in her body refuses to obey her mind. The only conclusion she can make is that she is caught in Fellmind’s power. She is bound by the strings of the Puppet Meister.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Drekken growls; glaring at her with eyes that burn like fire.
Beads of sweat roll down the side of her face, a shiver running down her spine. With her body completely paralyzed she cannot turn to speak to him, so she cries out, “I-I’m sorry, you just scared me.”
An eerie silence fills the room, but not for long. Rune shivers even when she hears Drekken roar loudly with laughter. Moments later, her body is given back to her. She falls flat on her face, her nose throbbing painfully against the wooden floor. Getting back up, she turns to Drekken to see the young man grinning merrily. For a minute, he reminds her of Aaron.
“Sorry,” he apologizes, rubbing the rigor mortis from his joints. “I guess you’re not used to seeing someone come back from the dead.
“No,” she squeaks, watching Drekken get to his feet.
“Yeah, it freaked me out the first time too,” he admits, helping her up. “Anyways, we better get going.”
Rune’s expression becomes grim, “Going? Do you mean after Aaron?”
Drekken shakes his head, “No, the others will probably find him. My job is to bring you to Mother. I’m sure she’ll be happy to meet you.”
Aaron lets out a loud yawn, unable to get any sleep from the night before. Since his escape from Drekken, he has been making his way back to New York City. He and Cross have parted ways, or rather Cross disappeared the moment they were safely away. The only bit of information the mysterious karayan gave the young one was a bit of advice: to go seek out Raphael Fantassa. At first, Aaron did not trust the rag-faced man. He realized that he had nowhere else to go though, so he decided there was no harm in visiting the mad scientist.
Even though he left at night from his suburban home, it is already midday when he reaches downtown. His memory of the city is hazy to say the least, so he finds himself lost a number of times. After hours of trying to retrace his steps, he finally gets directions from a passerby to Rankin Corp’s Research Center. A few wrong turns later, he finds himself standing in front of the metal building in complete disarray.
The large metal door that once stood at the entrance is lying on the floor, blown in by an incredibly destructive force. Inside is no better. The floor is littered with glass from the ceiling lights, many of which are hanging only by electrical wires. They continue to flicker, often sending the corridor in complete darkness, before shedding light once more. Aaron cautiously steps down the hallway, prepared to meet whatever caused this destruction.
Rounding a few corners, he finds the metal door that leads to Raphael’s personal lab. Like the door that stood outside, this one is in rough shape. A human shape hole has been burned through the steel, granting Aaron easy passage.
Though inside the lab, he finds it to be completely untouched by the turmoil that afflicted the rest of the facility. All four walls are covered with various machines, each working tirelessly to produce readings that Aaron could not begin to comprehend. As he looks around the room, he spots Raphael standing over a metal table littered with notes. Raphael frantically writes down formulas on the papers, trying to unlock some mystery.
“Raphael,” Aaron calls.
Fantassa whirls around, recognizing the voice of the young Fellmind. When their eyes meet, Aaron is shocked. Raphael’s eyes have changed from their deep blue to a crimson hue. He shares the eyes with Aaron, with all karayans. Noticing the reaction, the young scientist cannot help but grin.
“I see you’ve noticed,” Raphael says with a snide smile.
“How…when…?” Aaron gasps, utterly dumbstruck.
“Upon Gamma’s passing,” he answers. “The amount of blood our good friend Strider gave was more than enough to fill the child’s body. After the transfusion was a failure, I decided not to let it go to waste.”
Raphael flaunts his control over L Strider’s former ability. His hand ever so gently caresses the table that is basked in shadows. It begins to bend, shaping to match what he envisions. The metal ripples like water, as the young man reaches in and grabs ahold of a walking stick, completely made of the silvery metal. Soon after, the table returns to its original shape, completely unaltered by the odd power. With his walking stick in hand, Raphael hobbles over to Aaron.
“What happened to your leg?” Aaron asks, noticing the limp as Raphael approaches.
He glances to his left leg, “A few nights ago I was visited by a nasty karayan named Necros.” Kneeling on his other knee, he rolls up his pants to show that the leg is gone. It has been replaced by a metallic prosthesis of his own design. “A single touch caused my entire leg to rot away, leaving nothing but the bone.”
“How did you survive that?” Aaron asks, unable to take his eyes off the metal replacement.
“Cross came to my help,” Raphael groans as he gets back to his feet. “He crossed paths with Necros before and knew what needed to be done. In return, I gave him a new arm.”
“Do you know who he is?” Aaron asks.
“Can’t say that I do,” he answers, “He just showed up and gave me some insight. It seems that this entity called Mother is ordering karayans around to kill everyone involved with the mess Omega created.”
“I know,” Aaron says; he and Raphael walk as they talk. “My brother says he serves Mother as well. And it seems these karayans have incredible regenerative abilities.”
“I noticed that too,” Raphael sighs, leading them to a door adjacent to his lab. “I’ve been trying to kill Necros, but nothing seems to be working.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” Aaron asks.
Raphael opens the door, leading the young Fellmind into a smaller room. Like the lab, machines scour the walls, reaching from the floor to the ceiling, all operating simultaneously. Large tubes sprout from the ground, feeding a strange blue liquid into a tank standing at the center of the room. There, floating in the tube is an unconscious human, hooked up with many wires, and fixed with a breathing apparatus.
“Aaron,” the mad scientist smiles, “Say hello to Necros…”
In the depths of darkness, Drekken leads Rune down into the nest of karayans to meet Mother. The young girl shivers as thousands of crimson eyes watch her every move from the shadows. The tunnel seems to stretch on forever, spiraling down into the depths of oblivion. Light at the entrance fades with every step, plunging them in darkness. Drekken does not utter a word to her, as she quickens her pace, hiding herself behind him. Deeper they travel, until only the glowing red eyes of the karayans serve as their light.
Their endless descent finally leads them to the main nest, where they find themselves standing over a bottomless pit. Hanging over the hole to nothingness is a being that appears to be made of pure darkness. She slithers across the black threads that hold her above the nest. Her blood red eyes stare at Rune, who seems to shake like a frightened dog.
“Welcome home, my child,” she says to Drekken, her voice as cold as ice.
“Thank you, Mother,” he answers, bowing his head. “I have brought you one of Alpha’s children.”
“Only one?” Mother ponders, disappointment in her tone.
“My twin brother, Aaron, would not cooperate,” he confesses.
“And did you extinguish him?” she asks.
Drekken pauses, finding it difficult to speak, “He…well…he…uh…escaped.”
Mother’s blood red stare burns with anger, causing him to shudder. Then her fearsome gaze turns to Rune. At that moment, the young girl wishes she ran away with Aaron.
“You, child of Alpha,” Mother speaks with a soothing voice, her anger quickly fading.
“Y-Yes,” Rune says, still frightened.
“You come here, wishing to be cleansed with darkness,” she says in a motherly tone. “I will gladly give you my gift, but will not do so by force. Only with a contract will you be reborn as one of my children. So, I ask you this, sweet child: will you open your heart to darkness?” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.