Contract of the Dark


In the previous episode, Necros managed to survive Raphael’s attack, though he is severely injured. Raphael plans to keep him alive and across town, readers voted for Cross to confront Mother Rune and Drekken.

Episode 18

“It looks like I have finally found you,” Cross speaks with a voice full of hate.

To whom he calls for is a lovely young girl that has been possessed by an ethereal creature of unbridled darkness, Mother Rune. She stands alongside her faithful warrior that will one day lead her army of children on the human world, Puppet Meister Drekken Fellmind. Where Cross finds them is a place devoid of humans this late into the night. Hiding among a sea of trees and foliage, the enemy has taken refuge in the depths of Central Park. Street lamps glisten along the utterly empty streets, casting an eerie reflection of the group across the lake. Mother Rune, enemy to humanity, faces him with a peculiar look.

“You, you seem familiar,” she says, looking deep into the crimson eye that is exposed beneath the layers of cloth. “Are you by chance one of my children?”

“I have finally found you,” Cross speaks coldly.

“I am but a man,” he answers her, “A man that has come to see your downfall, monster.”

Cross reaches for the metal pole fastened to his back. The steel staff slips out easily, allowing him to twirl it between his fingertips. Weight added to one end by a cross-bar allows it to spin with fervent force. Although it is a simple weapon, Drekken shivers at the sight of it. His chest throbs where it ran him through.

“A man,” Mother Rune purrs as the words leave her lips. “Drekken, my darling child…”

“Yes, Mother?” he asks, but his eyes do not leave the weapon Cross holds.

“Show this man that our race is not to be trifled with,” she orders.

Whether it is his pride as a karayan or fear of defying Mother, Drekken obeys and attacks. His hands spin the spools of garrote wire hanging from his belt. Grabbing a length of the razor-thin thread, he charges. Quick on his feet he manages to get to the blind side of his one-eyed opponent. Twirling his fingers, he wraps the string around the metal weapon. Pulling it taut, he hopes for his wire to slice the poll to pieces. However it does not, the metal staying in place. It appears to be made out of a stronger metal, allowing it to shake off the attack. Now both men are locked in a struggle.

Cross pulls his weapon back, reeling Drekken along with the strings. The karayan loses his footing, falling forward. His descent is stopped with Cross’ knee, as he drives it into his gut, making the puppet master airborne. Fellmind is sent through the air, but his strings are still lassoed around Cross’ staff. He pulls his rod back, dragging Drekken along. When the karayan comes toward him this time, the cloth-faced assailant drives his elbow into the back of Drekken’s head. The Meister crashes into the ground face first.

Far from finished, Cross rips his pole free from the entanglement of strings. Like he has done before, he drives the end of the weapon into Drekken’s chest, penetrating the heart. Fellmind thrashed in pain, but his body did not go limp like last time. Instead, he pushes off of the mysterious fighter, rolling away to safety. He gets back to his feet, the weapon still embedded in his chest.

“Despite your posturing as superior,” Cross snarls, “I can make you bleed all the same.”

Mother Rune, who has been watching her child be beaten makes a remark, “Drekken, sweet child, it is time to stop these games.”

Her words seem to create a change in him, as he answers, “Yes, Mother…”

Ripping the weapon from his chest, he tosses it to Cross’ feet. The gaping hole heals instantly, much like his kin Necros was able to do. Knowing that the battle is far from over, Cross kneels to pick up his weapon. He notices his body is moving incredibly slowly, as if he were in a pool of tar. Drekken, on the other hand, appears to move as swift as lightning, closing the gap between the two of them in the time it takes Cross to blink. The karayan kicks Cross in the chest, knocking him onto his backside.

He tries to get up, but the Puppet Meister makes his body heavy, slowing his movements further. The Meister steps over to the slowed Cross. He proceeds to unfurl several lengths of his deadly string. Before Cross can stop him, he has already ensnared his left arm in the garrote wire. A devious grin spreads across Drekken’s lips, as he pulls tight. The limb is shredded to pieces, as gears and wires spill out onto the ground. Shards of metal scatter everywhere, leaving the mechanical arm in disarray.

“Ah, so that is how you broke through my powers the first time,” the puppet master sneers. “But it appears you are helpless now.”

Like so many before him, Cross feels his body disobey what his brain commands. It has a new master now, following the orders of the Puppet Meister. He falls to his knees, and hangs out his arms as if he were locked in a pillory. The force that Drekken controls forces Cross’ head down, preparing for an execution. Rather than his strings, the puppet master decides to take the staff lying on the ground. He finds it fitting to use Cross’ own weapon against him.

“Before I kill you, I am dying to know who you are behind these bandages,” he laughs, as he pulls off a piece of the cloth.

It loosens, and begins to unravel. Bit by bit it reveals the identity of the enigmatic fighter who calls himself Cross. As the last piece of the rags falls to the ground, it shows a face of a man who has been affected by the decaying hand of Necros. The left half of his face is nothing but bone, gray from the elements. The skull’s socket houses the red karayan eye that glares up at him. The other half remains that of a young man with hair as dark as a raven’s feather.

“Beta,” Drekken says, looking down at him. “I thought Necros killed you.”

Cross says nothing, only stares.

“Oh yes, it is Omega now, right?” he jokes, “Or perhaps I should call you Cross. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. You are about to die.”

Taking the staff in hand, Drekken thrusts it into Cross’ heart. He grits his teeth from the pain, but does not make a sound. Then, his head slumps into his chest.

“The last brother is put to rest,” Mother Rune speaks softly, sadness fluttering in her voice.

Drekken smiles now that he has finally finished his adversary, but the celebration might be premature. He hears the sound of growling coming from the wound. Looking upon the corpse, he sees that the staff looks as if it is getting pulled deeper into Cross’ chest. A gnashing sound of metal grows louder, along with the snarling of some horrid beast. The cloth of Cross’ shirt tears away as the set of fangs over his heart consume it and the staff.

Erupting from his stump of an arm is an appendage that takes the place of the missing limb. It is a grotesque arm covered in armored plates of an insect, several feet longer than the human counterpart. Three claws make up the hand. Everything happens too quickly for Drekken to react, as the hand burrows into his stomach. He thrashed from the pain, but Cross holds him tight.

“Do…you think…you can…stop me?” Drekken snarls.

“No,” Cross answers. “I have no intention of killing you. It would be a waste of a food source.”

Drekken is clueless as to what Cross means, and it is too late to stop it. He begins to feel it in the depths of his body, something crawling, something living, something devouring. It grows by the second, causing his body to swell. Drekken starts to scream in pain, as one of Cross’ monsters consumes him from the inside. With the little time he has, he makes an attempt on Cross’ life. He uses his Meister ability to hold the monster hive so that he can slice off his head. His swollen fingers reach for more thread, and get a handful. But that would be his final action, as the creature bursts through his body as if he were a husk.

The creature appears to be a fusion between the Chinese Dragon of the zodiac and the gruesome centipede. Hundreds of the legs allow its snake-like body to curl around Cross. Quills at its back lift and lower along the armored hide. Its face is the long lizard-like snout but with long pincers on either side. The creature, with eyes of a golden crimson, looks from its master to its foe, Mother Rune. It lets out a hissing roar.

“What do you intend to do now, Mother?” Cross asks, as he picks up the cloth from the ground, re-wrapping his bandages.

Mother Rune only smiles, as the ground around her appears to open up. The crater forms beneath her feet, creating a pit that leads to oblivion. Darkness seems to spew from it, as if the shadows were alive. From within these depths, thousands of crimson eyes open up, staring at the light of the world, eagerly awaiting their mother’s call.

Looking from the pit where her children dwell to Cross, she answers, “Destroy…”    Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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