Hellfire Catharsis Prologue

Well, hello all. This is it. This is THE story I've been waiting to write.

Hellfire Catharsis began a long time ago, when I was discussing fanfic with someone and they asked me, "Why don't you write your own original fiction?"

I immediately said "It's too hard!" and went back to writing crappy fanfic. Eventually, however, I took their advice to heart, and began crafting the story you see here today. It was terrible back then. It was filled with badly done characters and bad, all-over-the-place plotting. But I worked on it. It's gone through over 5 revisions that completely altered the plot-line as you see it. And now, I will unleash it on the world.

This is a BIG project. I plan for it to be about 6-8 books, I still haven't pinned it down yet.

But that's for the future. Let's get this show on the road.

By the way, this is the first time I ever tried writing in present-tense for 100% of a story. I would appreciate any constructive criticism on this aspect

/

The orange-haired youth runs.

That is the only way to describe it. It is the act of running boiled down into its barest components and unleashed at full throttle. There is no need for extraneous adjectives. He is running as fast as he possibly can. Nothing stops him as he barrels through the desolate and dark streets of the town he's in. Where he is, he as no idea. All he knows is that he must run as fast as he can conceivably can, otherwise he will die.

He curses his lack of planning as he flies through abandoned alleyways. The desolation, the smell, the tiny flickers of light from broken streetlamps, the unevenness of the cobblestone all meld together to paint the twisted scene he runs through. Truly, a mad playwright is laughing right now. Indeed, one is laughing right now, but not as he expected...

He does not stop to catch his breath, even though he has been running for well over 6 hours without the tiniest hint of a break. His clothes are stained with sweat, and his breath hot and heavy as he stumbles while running. His running doesn't have the clean-cut and perfectly molded form of an Olympic runner—rather, it is the messy and maladroit run of someone who is terrified of dying, and knows very well that he will die if he relents even the slightest.

He reaches the end of the street he in on. Tired, he quickly falls onto the ground, exhausted. He fumbles through his clothes, pulling out a small bottle of an orange-white liquid. He quickly downs it in one gulp, knowing that it will hurt immensely, but he does so anyway. It is a potion of Awareness, and it's what's keeping him from collapsing from over-exertion.

He sighs and takes stock of his situation. "Damn...so, I took out that one guy for that person, and then I nearly got killed thanks to Markus discovering me...now I've been running my ass off for a long-while."

He looks up into the air pensively.

I want to protect the world one day...I want to take out those who feel like committing wrongs against the world! One day, people will sing the praises of Enselm Staccato! Dammit, Ema, one day they'll do that! I won't stop till that day comes!

What a foolish dream. Yet he holds on to it this day, even though he is nothing more than a man willing to take on any mercenary job. It keeps his stomach full and ensures that he can defeat those who do wrong, but it's not what he wanted...it was never that.

Enselm pulls out a sword from his back, a simple yet elegant short sword made out of steel, ornately decorated with orange motifs. It is his Acies—a weapon that allows magical potential to be fully realized. Latin for many things, "Acies" in this sense is used for its meaning of "army"-implying that someone with one can stand up to even an army single-handedly.

In truth, nearly any person in the world can use magic. But only a few—ones like Enselm himself, can use it at a power level high to attack and alter the physical world with it to a meaningful degree. One can consider it both a curse and a boon if they are one of the few—the "mages" who can use and abuse the horrid potential within magic.

Enselm himself specialized in wind magic. Well, he never really had a choice. He was born as a wind mage and there was never going to be any way to change that.

He has taken out the sword for no particular reason. But a reason soon appears. The ground beneath him starts to shake.

He dodges merely a tenth of a second before a massive spike of rock shoots out of the ground with a calamitous sound. SHIT! Not here! Tired from his previous running, he stumbles as he lands on the ground. Had he delayed his jump by even a tenth of a second, he would have been skewered to death by that spike.

A boy clad in green is standing on the top of it, posed as if he was just minding his own business. His hair is completely white as paper, and in his hands lies a massive yet thin sword, called Steinschwert. Compared to Enselm's, it is certainly at least 1.5 times as long. With a frame like that, it's capable of pure carnage from but a few swings.

"Long time no see, Enselm." The boy taunts him from the top of the spike, which has destroyed the road it shot through completely. He licks his lips in pure anticipation of the carnage he will inevitably get to cause. His frame is thin, but magical power makes judging someone's strength difficult.

"Markus.." Enselm grimaces from his teeth. This situation is nothing but bad for him. He can't hope to match Markus while he's this hurt. Even simply holding him off will be impossible, as Markus is personally striving to kill him. He won't stop until Enselm is dead. No amount of money would ever convince him otherwise. Enselm grimaces, knowing he must fight anyway.

Markus jumps down from the spike and lands with a thud on the cobblestone. The lights from the nearby houses and businesses now had his features in full view—his pretty-boy face, his white hair, his perfectly-proportioned body. Markus was as much a natural attractor of women as he was a psychotic warrior. Not to say that Enselm himself wasn't also highly attractive to most, but he tended to be running for his life rather than lazing around and chasing women. "Let's do this, Enselm. You may have run far, but my Rock magic allows me to go through the ground at an extremely quick pace. I was following you the whole time, Enz! Jesus, I thought you'd run till you died! I'm glad to see you've decided to let me kill you."

Enselm holds up his Acies, his pose ready to fight even if his body isn't. "I'll never let you kill me, bastard!"

Markus stifles some giggles with his hand. "Heh...heh heh! HAHAHAHA!" He can barely contain his laughter as he watches the obviously outmatched Enselm try to get into battle position. "You're about to fall over from over-exertion! How can you even try to match me?"

"We'll let that be determined on the battle-field..." Enselm may have been outmatched, but he never gave up no matter what happened. "You do know that this is an illegal battle, right? We'll be hunted by the Mage Police if they find out about this."

"Well, I'll just get off scott-free then, given how I'm a member of them! Oh, I just remembered. I'm supposed to arrest you, not kill you. Oh man, that's too bad. Well, whatever. Let 'er rip!"

Enselm holds his sword up in a defending position. "You first, Marx."

Marx twitches at the sound of his real name. "Don't...call...me...THAT!" His parents, obsessed fans of Karl Marx, had deigned him with such an unfortunate name. He had been glad he left them permanently.

He rushes forward at incredibly high-speed, slashing at Enselm. His previous stance enables him to block it fully, but not without pain. The clash of Steinschwert and his Acies creates a mass of sparks, each one grinding through the air as the two swords make contact.

Enselm holds his ground, even as the attack sends him staggering backwards. Marx stabs his sword straight into the ground, and it merely goes through it like it isn't even there. That is his ability as a Rock mage—the ability to subvert the natural laws of the ground and rock.

Enselm quickly jumps out of the way as the sword comes out of the ground right beneath his feet. Truth to be told, his whole body aches right now, but he cannot afford to complain about pain at all for the moment. All that mattered was not dying to Marx's unending assault. Marx scoffs and rushes in for the kill. His style is non-existent, but that doesn't matter when he offers no choice of counterattack. Enselm blocks his attacks with great difficulty, getting knocked-off balance with each one, as sparks fly from each one of Marx's hits. In truth, the fact that Enselm hasn't been hit once is incredible given his current condition.

Marx's hits are un-relenting, allowing for barely even defense as he slashes with an absolute lack of style or technique, supplementing it with nothing more than sheer power as he layers on blows like a thick glaze over a pastry. Enselm can only hope he will relent in the slightest way. Marx's blows have an almost savage pulchritude to them—at times it looks as if he is swinging around two swords instead of one.

A decisive blow manages to clip Enselm in the chest. The minor shock from receiving it makes him drop his guard, something he pays for dearly as Marx smashes him in the chest with a fist encased in pure stone.

Enselm is sent flying backwards, the wind knocked out of his lungs. He smashes into the ground and slides for a good 30 feet, tumbling over himself and finally skidding to a stop. He can barely breathe, and his vision is blurred immensely. He can't even hope for a chance to escape now, not when he is barely capable of staying awake.

But he does.

He somehow, against all odds, manages to find the strength to get up. Something fleeting flashes in his mind as he pulls himself up through sheer willpower. It's a fleeting image of a girl with blond hair.

Ema...I'll find you someway, dammit...I don't care how much shit I have to take, or how much I keep getting set back...I won't stop until I find you. Because that's what friends...are supposed to do..

Enselm stumbles to his feet, his entire shirt bloody from his hit. Marx looks on in shock. There is no way Enselm can hope to be standing after that blow with his current condition.

But he is.

Enselm looks at him with nothing but determination in his eyes. "My name is Enselm Staccato. I am 17-years-old. I've done a lot of bad things in my life. I've killed people for money, even if they were crooks and murderers themselves. But I'm not going to let you kill me, dammit. I made a promise to a girl...that one day, I'd take out those who commit evil!" He holds out his sword as if he dared to try attacking. "And I ain't gonna stop until I manage to achieve that goal!"

"That's...a foolish dream."

"It's the only thing that's kept me alive to this day." Enselm knows that he is running on the last of his magical power, and that if he can't end this battle quickly, he'll die. But he accepts that.

Before Marx can say anything, he's crushed in the chest by a massive blow. Enselm has cleared the distance of 30 feet in less than a second—but that's exactly what's expected of a Wind mage like himself. Marx regains his composure and goes for the offensive again. Enselm meets him in the middle and the two exchange titanic blows that shake the very air around them.

They exchange more in rapid succession, each one well aware that relenting for a second will result in failure. The metallic clangs of the two swords meld together to create an orchestra of metal, each one clash being the impassioned playing of merely one violinist or cello player, but together, they create a paradoxical arrangement, a clash of ideologies, of philosophies, strung together in a never-ending torrent of metallic music. Their swords are the conductors—they are the musicians, engraving two completely different songs of two completely different ideologies, that combine to create a duet, twice as beautiful as each virtuoso's solo efforts.

To the girl watching from the buildings above, it is beautiful.

Pointless, full of folly, and not how the two men who, with a few others, were supposed to save the world, should act, but beautiful nonetheless.

She sighs at their idiotic fight. She really should stop it right now, but she wants to let them fight for just a little longer. That way, she can see their true abilities and determine the best course of action.

Marx and Enselm play their little orchestra for a little longer, letting their clashes do the speaking. The girl smirks at their fighting. "Its funny—you can tell a lot about two people from how they fight. Some may say that fighting is barbaric...but there's a way to speak with sword swings and spear thrusts..." The clanging of their metallic players does not stop until both are exhausted. At this point, Marx has pulled out his second sword, Bodenschwert, and is using both swords like a mad berserker.

Enselm can barely stand at this point. His whole body is aching horrendously, his legs feel as if they are on fire, and his vision is blurry. Blood stains both his and Marx' shirts. The sweat on his chest makes it feel a good 20 degrees hotter than it actually is.

She decides to end their little duet. With a grace unbefitting her massive onyx armor, she jumps down from the building she is observing from and lands on the ground with a thud. Enselm and Marx both ready their swords at the newcomer, but she puts up her hands to stop them.

Her features are hard to tell in the dim light of the street, but it can be seen that she has short black hair with slight bangs over her right eye, and is clad from her neck to toe in massive black armor with a cape as crimson as blood. "Stop this idiocy at once."

"Who...are you...?" Enselm asks, breathing heavily.

"Who I am is a matter for another time. What I have come to say, is that this is not what you two are meant for."

"What do you mean?"

She stands as rigid as a steel beam—there would be no way to tell if she is hiding ulterior motives, with a face a poker player would kill for. "Enselm Staccato, and Marx Überschall, you two are far more important to this world than you may think. I cannot say very much, as I don't know myself...but your purposes in this world are far more massive than this petty fight you are committed to."

"Just what the hell are you talking about?" Marx asks her, readying his sword for battle.

She lightly twirls her hair in her fingers. "I merely ask that you two hit the city of Stone in Britain. You two should know the place, it's one of the new cities built after the World War of Magic."

Marx' eyes light up at the mention of the place. "You don't mean..." He looks to be deep in thought. "...Damn, that blond-haired guy was right." He turns away from the other two. "...I'm leaving for there. Enselm, let's call a truce on this fight...for now. There are much more important matters to be dealing with." He runs off into the darkness.

Enselm collapses on the ground, relieved that he doesn't have to fight Marx anymore, though also confused as to why he quickly called off the battle. "He's normally a battle-hungry psycho..."

The girl catches his voice on her ear. "Hm?"

Enselm looks over at her imposing figure. "Marx. That guy. He's always roaring for battle. It makes no sense for him to call it off because of some words."

"He realizes the stress of the situation. It would do you good to follow in his footsteps."

"Why does it matter?" He rubs his aching back and tries to get into a better position. "I'm just a terrible mercenary. I'm not important to the world at all." His voice is wistful. "I'm just a person trying to make ends meet. I don't have any family—my mom is living back in France, and my dad disappeared when I was a kid, I barely know my uncle, and everyone else is dead. I have no friends—Ema left me a long time ago, Abcde cut herself off from me."

"There will be more casualties if you do not go." She turns to face him entirely. Her massive armor makes her look like a complete demon—someone above normal humans, who could crush him in an instant. He certainly didn't want to piss her off. "I'm not saying that you have to be the one to do this. Anybody could. But...you have a personal stake in this."

"In what? I don't even know what 'this' is!"

She sighs, knowing she must resort to her final trump card to get him to comply. "Enselm, your father is in Stone." She says it matter-of-factly.

Enselm's doesn't respond for a few seconds. "Father...FAAAAAAATHER!" He jumps up with a speed inappropriate of his previous injuries, his eyes alight with energy—and malice. "Father, you will tell me everything...about Ema, about my mother...I've waited 12 years for this, father!"

"I knew that would get you to move. Come, we'll take a train there. An airplane would be too dangerous."

She secretly smiles to herself, now that she has finally convinced Enselm to go onto her side. "The Hellfire Catharsis is now in phase 1 of its construction." She says to herself, too low for him to hear her. "Just as things were planned. The Magnum Opus of the Earth has begun. Soon, this planet will act out its dying breath."

She comtemplates what she has just said. "...But some actors in this opera refuse to allow that to happen. They will rage against the very author of this world—this universe—itself, and rewrite this denouement." Chuckling to herself, she wonders if this world will run the same as it had before. "How poetic."

...But she feels annoyed that she cannot simply tell him exactly how this massive opera will play out.

After all, those from the future cannot meddle with the past.

/

Prologue END