TEARS OF THE DRAGON
The Prequel to "And Ye Shall Be As Gods"
The colossal superweapon, the orbital battleship Udjet, was falling, numerous fires dotting its golden exterior and thick, black smoke trailing from them. Around the inverted pyramid buzzed a multitude of Vallanir's humanoid war-machines called Gears, scouring the Udjet for any trace of functionality, their deadly fingers of green light terminating on the surface of the superweapon and doing nothing but chipping off an infinitesimal amount of outer hull armor. But they had been victorious, though they hadn't seen it yet. And they will be dead in under a minute.
Serapis lay broken, its glowing innards exposed and flickering currents of light crawling over its injured body. Inside its Operator Pit, a bloodied woman gritted her teeth and willed Serapis to move. The foremost of the Testament Angels was damaged beyond repair, and one of the two most powerful weapons in existence that was supposed to either activate or destroy the Udjet couldn't do anything. Serapis had failed; and with it, she.
"You should've thought better than attempting to destroy the Covenant Core all by yourself, Elereine," the voice boomed across the chamber of the Covenant, heart of the Udjet. All around them were crystalline spires, but it was dominated by the single sphere, glistening like water, floating at the center of the cavern. It was the Covenant, and it was her target. "No one can stop my plans for rebirth now."
She glared at the other machine, called Sakhmet. It was Serapis' twin, and just as powerful, but she hadn't been able to defeat it. Its Resonant was simply too powerful. "Kill me, Sahaquiel. Kill me now… I do not wish to see the end of the world."
"You must see it, Elereine," a maddeningly calm voice said. "You should see it, for you will be the first woman of the world after the apocalypse. You will be by my side, and we shall populate this miserable world of beings not even Angels could have imagined. We will rule."
"You're sick, Sahaquiel." There was contempt in every trace of her voice. "I will kill myself before that happens."
Sakhmet floated ever closer to the Covenant. "You cannot. You are already bound to me, Elereine. Once I plunge this sword of mine, the Kusanagi, these pathetic insects will be annihilated, and only you and I will survive. The world will tremble before the might of the Udjet."
"NO!" She gripped the control orbs tightly, willing Serapis to stand up with the remaining Faith she still had. Just once more, Serapis. Just this once… please heed me… "I won't let you—"
There was surprise in the other Resonant's face, and then he cackled insanely. "You're too late, Serapis! I-WILL-PREVAIL!!!"
An unseen energy exploded from Serapis as it leaped, shedding its armor, glowing pure white and enveloped with threads of energy. Elereine reached out for Sakhmet, and Serapis' bladed arm tried to do as she wished, but there simply was no time. Distance scaled down and only a heartbeat separated her from Sakhmet and its gigantic sword. But it was done.
Sakhmet flourished its sword, held the hilt with both hands, and stabbed it right at the Covenant Core. "Now!"
All time stopped. And then it happened.
"You failed, Elereine! YOU HAVE FAILED THE WORLD!"
What…? What…! This isn't true…
I am dreaming… yes that's it… but… what… what really happened? How did this… happen?
She blacked out, trying to remember.
"There it is," an excited voice of the Dragon's Hammer division scout, piloting a Gear, reported to Elereine. The Lotharian forces were busy keeping off the Gears of Vallanir from interfering with the Udjet, and they were right on schedule. Elereine glanced on the digital clock inside the Operator Pit. T-minus thirty-one minutes. She swore to herself. She couldn't waste any more time.
"I see it," she said calmly. It did little to calm herself, or to prevent the butterflies in her stomach from fluttering any further. She was as afraid as the next man, but they had a job to do, and she was the only one who could prevent the Udjet's destructive power from annihilating the human race. The Udjet was a superweapon, an orbital battleship researched and developed by Lotharia in their resistance against Vallanir's Purge. The other races had already been exterminated, and only the remnants of the Elven forces and those of Lotharia stood in Vallanir's way of total world domination. The Elves made it possible for Lotharia to commune with the Testaments, the sentient blocks of crystals that were sent as the symbol of the pact between the world and heaven after the battle of Ragnarok, and to use their power to create the Udjet and its two Keys. The Udjet's core, called the Covenant, fused all Lotharian technology with the magical knowledge of the Maridor Elves, and its power was undisputed. It was the last resort of the Lotharian alliance; the Udjet was claimed to be able to destroy the Vallanir capital city and the entire region around it with a single shot.
But Elereine knew that the Lotharians had deliberately misinformed everybody, even the Elves which were their allies. Even as she was thinking, the Lotharians have readied their entire space fleet, evacuating all their citizens for a cataclysm they knew will happen once the Udjet had been awakened and used. All life on Midgard would be extinguished, and the world would never be the same again. It was an apocalyptic weapon, and Lotharia did not show any qualms that everything should be destroyed. It was a clever deception, a devious lie, and as far as she knew, it was working.
And that was her duty. Her duty to stop the end of the world. And its weight wanted her to scream, to run away, and vomit. This was too important for her to fail, and she felt as if she was bearing the weight of the world on her back. She won't fail. She absolutely would not!
"Let's go," she said on the command circuit. "Form up on me. IFF check."
The others called an affirmative or positive reply, and went into battle formation. Her Testament Angel, the latest in Gear design, used a Testament Core thought to be only the Udjet's exclusive area, led the way with its outstretched wings and bladed arms. The two Testament Angels in existence, this machine and its twin, Sakhmet, were originally configured to be the Keys to the Covenant. Only they could awaken it, and direct its devastating power—that, or stop it once it gets out of hand.
And there lies another problem. Sakhmet was in the hands of a madman. Sahaquiel Silvermoon, the one who had wanted her for as long as she could remember, and had sold his soul to be with her. He was telling her of his plans for Rebirth, and the Lotharians' plan of annihilation coincides exactly with his. He would eradicate all life on the planet, and start anew—with her as the mother.
She thought she'd be damned first before she'd allow that to happen. She narrowed her eyes and charged forward; her comrades knew what they had to do.
"To the Dragon's Wing," she declared, letting the others hear her. "Rally to the Dragon's Wing. Fight for the Dragon's Wing, my brothers!"
The division heard her, and echoed her. She was the only hope of mankind now, the only one able to destroy the Covenant and stop the Lotharian's madness. They had to trust her. "The Dragon's Wing," they responded, her determined spirit filling them. "We are standing by, Dragon's Wing. We will fight for you."
"Copy that." She smiled. Then it was time for work. Around her, the Gears of both Lotharian and Vallanir Imperial forces tangled with each other as the Udjet pressed on. The early morning sky was filled with exploding machines, flying shrapnel and lancing beams of light that tried to find their targets. The Udjet was uninjured, and the Lotharians were fighting back desperately. To her division's two o'-clock, the last of Vallanir's air fleets was approaching, firing all their cannons at the Lotharian bombers trying to down them, and launching their remaining interceptors and Gears at the hope of stalling the Udjet before it could reach Swordshold, the imperial capital. The morning sky above Vallanir was a mass of confusion, of death, of obscuring smoke and smoldering debris that fell to the earth. It was chaos. The Gears and fighters alike seemed like flies feasting on the inverted pyramid that was the Udjet.
The division hared off, finding Lotharian defenders for them to kill, as Serapis glowed with power while Elereine poured all her Faith into it. Her wings stretched out, then became as two poles of light that shifted their orientation and fell on Serapis's shoulder. Their ends pointed right at the Udjet. Serapis' wings could also become its main weapon, the Arc Cannon, a pair of powerful beam launchers that were more powerful than any fixed beam weaponry in existence. The flow of Testament energy whirled around it like a hurricane, spinning about the Arc Cannon in a visible display of white light.
Elereine gritted her teeth as Serapis vibrated with power, and the light that emanated from her was blinding. Inside the Operator Pit, she saw the charge gauge of the Arc Cannon, and she waited for it to reach full charge. She hadn't used it before, but she had to, now.
A little more… The bar reached eighty percent. Serapis was shaking now, trying to contain the energy that its Core was producing. Ninety percent. Elereine could feel heat snaking to her, and she feared she could not hold it any longer. Ninety-five. She wanted to scream. Her aim was off due to the shuddering of Serapis' frame. Everything was a blur.
T-minus twenty-four minutes.
She thought of him. He had saved the world, all the while risking his life. And now the world that he had saved is to be destroyed of purely human hands. Is this it? Is this what he had fought for? Is this the meaning of his sigil, of earth as it is in heaven?
No, she decided.
A thick white light, thrice as large as Serapis itself, exploded forward of the Arc Cannon. A flaming brilliance of energy, it raced for the exposed hull of the Udjet, consuming everything that were foolish enough to stand in its way, and its dazzling display even made the sun dim in comparison. The fiery lance of pure energy raced on, oblivious to anything but its target.
And it did find its target. The beam impacted right on the Udjet's outer armor, after overwhelming everything around and in it, and made an explosion more reminiscent of water splashing on pavement than a spectacular eruption that could be expected from such kind of display. But the energy wasn't wasted at all; more than half of the beam's power bored right through the armor, melting and disintegrating everything in a radius of more than three hundred feet in all directions. As the dust and smoke cleared, as the shocked opposing forces resumed their fighting, the way into the Udjet was laid bare with a hole about a hundred feet wide, enough to have the entire division go in and attack the Covenant.
But she had to do it alone. Only the Testament Angels could enter the Covenant Chamber, and all those who were not would immediately be destroyed. It was a mystery known only by its creators, but there was no time to wonder about it now. She had a job to do.
"I'm going in," she reported, breathlessness on her voice. "Wait for me here. I will stop the Udjet; that I promise."
Expectant voices rose out from the surviving members of the Dragon's Hammer. "We trust in you, Dragon's Wing. Destroy it for us. Save the world."
"I will," she whispered, as Serapis bolted for the hole she had drilled, to confront her bitterest enemy.
She opened her eyes amidst pain that wracked her entire being, seeing Sakhmet floating in front of the Covenant. She couldn't defeat him, she realized with horror. If she couldn't—who would…?
Who would…?! The world would perish… and she had failed all of who still lives. She had damned herself beyond redemption.
"You should've thought better than attempting to destroy the Covenant Core all by yourself, Elereine."
"Kill me, Sahaquiel. Kill me now… I do not wish to see the end of the world."
"You must see it, Elereine. You should see it, for you will be the first woman of the world after the apocalypse. You will be by my side, and we shall populate this miserable world of beings not even Angels could have imagined. We will rule."
"You're sick, Sahaquiel. I will kill myself before that happens."
"You cannot. You are already bound to me, Elereine. Once I plunge this sword of mine, the Kusanagi, these pathetic insects will be annihilated, and only you and I will survive. The world will tremble before the might of the Udjet."
Sakhmet's ring behind its back pushed outward, its spikes protruding, and currents of energy spun all around the Testament Angel. Its sword pulsated with power that throbbed and glowed.
"I won't let you—"
"You're too late, Serapis! I-WILL-PREVAIL!!! Now!"
"You failed, Elereine! YOU HAVE FAILED THE WORLD!"
For what seemed like forever, Elereine opened her eyes, blood, tears and sweat caked on her face, her hair heavy with dirt and her lips cracked. She blinked. There was ice and fresh-fallen snow everywhere. Slabs of dirt and rock, either man-made or not, were scattered everywhere, and dust was still falling like sleet on the ceiling. She sat up straight. The canopy of the Operator Pit was open and shattered, and her instruments were damaged. And at the center of the cavernous room, where she failed the world and destroyed everyone, and damned herself, the Covenant still stood, rotating lazily, watching her, winking at her, knowing her failure.
She cried, and cried, until she thought she must be going mad, then blacked out again.
When she came to, she stood up, got out of the Operator Pit, and tried to find her way out of the Udjet, sure that no one would've survived. There was a knot on her stomach that could not be removed just by retching, and she moved limply, taking hold of cold walls and dilapidated equipment. She stared up at the Covenant looming over her, a sphere of the essence of Testaments four times as large as Serapis. When she remembered, tears fell down, but she brushed them away angrily.
Silence permeated everything. Snow was still falling, and a dim light like that of an overcast sky could be seen from here. She climbed the debris, wounding herself, but she was past that to care anymore. She wanted to die, but she just wanted to see the world that she had destroyed in her weakness. She wanted to see it to remind her of her failure to the bowels of hell where she would be going. She wanted to punish herself with it, at least.
And when she had seen, had taken it all in that she had exhausted all her despair and tears, had seen the world where no one stirred… she ran to the Covenant, naked, insane with grief. She could not die; it was her curse. She could not die till the end of time. It was her curse, her gift—but then it was a punishment she had willingly taken for him. And when she had herself plunge to the depths of the abyss of the Covenant, from then on to die and to die again, only the last glimmer of his memory stood between total madness and her humanity.
"Forgive me, Yuki," she said with her tears. "Forgive your Elexa Dragonwing…"
And then, there was nothing.