Twilight of the Gods
July 22th, 2019 AE, 1:25 PM
With a bellowing battle cry, the Astrean Army charged towards the demons that flooded the streets. Jaden and Revan sprinted ahead of the crowd, neck and neck like runners at a track meet. Their hearts pounding through their chests as their fear and adrenaline drove them closer to the demons. They were now speeding trains ready to run right over Kaiser’s army. After Jaden made the first strike, both sides collided halfway down the street in an explosion of bloody combat.
While each soldier fought back a demon, the Champions took down dozens of them on their own. Jaden and Revan blew through the beasts as they sliced them with their supercharged swords. Jesse shot swarms of them dead with his revolvers, adding to the cloud of gunpowder that permeated the air. Kaylah swiped her spear around herself like a propellor as it sliced through the monsters’ throats. With Darek bashing their bodies into the ground with his enormous blade, the Champions had already taken down hundreds of demons in less than a minute.
Back at Crucis Circle, Astra focused all of her energy into her summoning spell. Knights of Astrelm were gathered in front of her, cutting down any demons that came too close. As the Princess focused on her invocation, she tried to block out the sounds of demons and fired gunshots.
“Oh gods of Aeos, give me strength.”
With her prayers, the four Crystal Stars appeared around her, hovering round and round like hands on a clock. The almighty stones radiated with divine power that resonated with her own, surrounding her in a halo of golden light.
As the Champions continued to hold back the monsters, two red Sarclopses appeared in front of them, carrying blades the size of tree trunks. With a single swing, they each swatted away handfuls of soldiers like mere insects. In response, Jaden waved twin beams of light from his swords, mowing down the other demons blocking the way. He then hopped onto the roof of a wrecked bus and rushed towards one of the red giants. Leaping over its head, Jaden drove his blades into its eye, causing the beast to fall on its back.
“Darek, sword!” Revan shouted with his arm stretched out.
Hearing his partner, Darek hurled his weapon at the Prince. Catching the blade in midair, Revan imbued it with his armor’s magic as he leaped towards the second Sarclops. He then drove it into the beast’s eye like an ax, releasing a lethal shockwave that burned through its body. With the two giants dead and their path clear, the Champions advanced further into the heart of the city.
“How much farther until we reach the Citadel?!” Jaden asked out loud.
“About five more blocks!” Revan answered. “We’re almost there…”
Revan was suddenly cut off by the sound of the street exploding in front of him. The Champions took cover behind some rubble as beams of light came raining down from above. Jaden looked past the smoke to see a couple of Prometheans firing at them from turrets on the rooftops.
“Astra, how much longer?!” Revan shouted into his communicator.
“I’m going as fast as I can!” Astra answered, trying to maintain her focus.
“Well, we need you to go faster!”
All the way down the road, large mechanical towers began rising up into the skyline. As these monoliths elevated themselves, their steel maws opened and exhaled a swarm of bullets. These were the hives for the Kaiser’s Promethean Army.
Out from the towers emerged waves of corrupted automatons firing at the Champions from the other end of the street. Some of them were even outfitted with jetpacks, so they were firing their guns from high in the air. Even Promethean Giants appeared from these outposts, shooting at us with their deadly lasers.
“Guys, we got more guests!” Jaden announced into his earpiece.
“Shields!” Revan shouted.
Responding to his command, the other soldiers raised their shields and took the heavy fire. However, that didn’t protect them from the turrets’ destructive blasts. With every passing moment, they were blowing away dozens of Astrean soldiers.
“I’ll be right back.” With a short burst of energy, Jaden shot up into the sky and soared over his enemies.
“Stand back guys, it’s about to get hot!”
As Jaden flew past them, he released a magic barrage that annihilated Kaiser’s minions in a trail of explosions. The soldiers who remained shot up at the Ark Knight, who drew their fire away from his allies. Though he managed to avoid their bullets, a swarm of winged Karloks flew up and chased him through the air like locusts.
With the enemy forces distracted, Revan saw an opening to strike back.
“Jesse! Kaylah! You’re up!” he announced.
“Roger that!” he answered.
Jesse covered his mouth with his bandana as if to keep his breath in his throat. He then took out an energy capsule and threw it up into the air. The device burst with a flash of light that both twins jumped into. Out from the haze, the duo emerged riding on the back of Jaden’s motorcycle, now armed with an array of automatic weapons.
“Oh boy, this thing really moves!” he exclaimed.
Kaylah held on tight to her brother as he rode down the boulevard towards Highland Square. Jesse fired a pair of explosive cannons into the mechanical hive at the center.
The explosion rang through the square like the bells of a striking clock. The tower went up in flames before it crumbled to the ground. Drifted halfway around the square, Jesse raced through the ravaged streets of Newtown, shooting at demons with the bike’s new machine guns. In response, many of Kaiser’s airborne troopers swooped down from the skies and shot at them. Kaylah took out a gun of her own and released a salvo of bullets on the mechanized seraphim.
In front of them, a Promethean Giant appeared at the end of the street, charging its cyclopean eye with explosive energy. Jesse swerved away from the beam as it raced through the air. They couldn’t turn around, and the rest of the road was blocked off by enemy soldiers. There was nowhere else to go but forwards. Both twins fired their hookshots at the building behind it. They shot upwards as the bike collided with the mechanical beast in a fiery blast.
The two of them ran across the rooftop, cutting down all the demon soldiers in their path. They ran up to a massive turret shooting down at the Astrean soldiers. Jesse immediately put a bullet into the soldier operating the machine. With his sister guarding his back, he commandeered the turret and pointed it at the demons.
“Now we’re talkin’,” he whispered.
Jesse unloaded a stream of red blasts that consumed the demons on the streets below. He then fired plasmic arrows into the skies, shooting down the Karloks chasing Jaden through the air.
* * *
Though it seemed like the skies were clear, the Ark Knight was nearly struck down by a serpent made entirely of flaming darkness. He looked over his shoulder to see they were being shot out of Zadon’s massive aura. The Destroyer’s spirit launched more of these serpents out of himself like eldritch tentacles.
These burning serpents shot themselves through the Astrean airships, lighting up the sky with balls of fire. One of these demons turned around and crashed into the tower where Jesse and Kaylah stood. The duo had narrowly avoided the explosion as they swung down to the streets with their hookshots. Their shaky landing left them both lying injured on the boulevard. Though the two of them could handle their minor scrapes, Jesse suffered a blistering burn on his right leg.
“Jesse!” Kaylah shouted. “Hold still!”
She took out one of her potions in an attempt to treat his wound. But another nearby explosion drove Kaylah to shield his body. They both took cover in the rubble as more demons filled the streets.
* * *
Jaden continued to soar through the skies, dodging the phantasmal dragons in pursuit of him. Though he sliced through their heads with his swords, they quickly reformed without slowing down. Unlike ordinary demons, these beasts were made purely of the Destroyer’s energy.
The dark serpents finally wrapped themselves around Jaden. He felt their evil energy dig into his body like thorns on a rose. They then thrust themselves onto the streets, slamming the Ark Knight into the pavement.
* * *
Meanwhile, Darek and Revan continued to fend off the demons from the ground. Though they had made their way past Highland Square, the Champions both blocked by a swarm of ravenous Karloks. Revan released a barrage of energy that killed each beast with one shot. But with both hands in front of him, he fired a massive death ray that vaporized the entire flock of demons. Having left himself open for an attack, a lone Karlok attempted to sink its lithic teeth into the Prince’s skull. Lucky for him, Darek whacked the beast aside with his greatsword.
“That’s what you get for showing off!” Darek cracked.
Their banter was cut short by the sound of the Destroyer howling once again. He and Revan hurried to the end of the boulevard, where Jesse and Kaylah met up with them. Kaylah had finished applying her potion on her brother’s wound and used his bandana as a bandage. With the help of his sister, Jesse rose back up, ready to jump back into battle.
“Guys!” Jesse shouted. “What’s happening now?”
“I don’t know,” Revan answered. “Ready yourselves!”
Three of Zadon’s serpents flew down at the Champions, howling at them with their flaming fangs. After shielding themselves from the impact, the Champions were surprised to see they had instead struck the ground in front of them. The demons burst into a giant black cloud, but they were not dead. Instead, they appeared from the mist, now merged into an enormous, three-headed dragon with obsidian scales and fire spewing from its three sets of jaws. They had united to form a Hydrax, guarding the gates of the Citadel with a stream of flames.
“HIT THE DECK!” Darek shouted.
The four Champions dodged the demon’s attack as they moved to opposite sides of the street. Jesse and Kaylah used their guns against the Hydrax as they rushed closer to it. Darek ran up and drove his sword through one of its necks. The colossal serpent slithered up the castle gates and breathed another heavy blaze. Invoking his shield, Revan shielded his friends against the dragon’s flames. The beast ceased its attack, only to find the Prince of Astrelm unscathed. Diverting all his armor’s power into his arms, Revan released a torrent of explosive blasts on the foul serpent. In the face of such harsh power, the Hydrax collapsed onto the street below.
The Champions looked up to see the Destroyer’s shadow once again rise from the Citadel. Its three glowing eyes shined brighter as it arched its head towards the sky. The spirit of Zadon howled to the heavens, and the fallen demons suddenly returned to their feet. With the Destroyer’s power, all of their wounds had miraculously healed like it did Kaiser. Even the Hydrax grew its third head back. The reborn devils proceeded to slaughter the Astreans. About a third of their army had already been brutally killed, and without them, the demons were quickly overpowering the survivors.
“Damn it, we’re losing!” Revan yelled. “Where the hell is Jaden?”
The Hydrax stretched its heads over the Champions and prepared to incinerate them all. But before it could, a blue energy ball shot through one of the dragon’s heads. Jaden was back in the air and rocketing towards the Hydrax. The demon turned to the Ark Knight and blew its flames at him. Barreling away from the flames, he charged his swords and sliced through the demon’s second head. Jaden landed on the ground as the third head tried to devour him. Though he held its mouth open with both swords, the Hydrax began to fill its maw with more fire. Revan fired a blast of energy into the dragon’s left eye before it could incinerate Jaden. The Hydrax recoiled in pain and released its flames to the skies. The Prince and the Ark Knight cut through the Hydrax’s third head, killing the beast once again.
“Are you guys okay?” Jaden asked.
“Yeah,” Darek answered, “but I’m not sure how long that’ll last!”
The Champions turned to the sound of the demonic army swarming towards them. A multitude of horrific creatures crawled towards them in a wave of pure darkness. Their monstrous faces bobbed up and down like corpses in the ocean. They were all witnessing was the rattling death march of the demon parade. This nightmarish vision threatened to drive them all mad with fear. The sound of their cries echoed through the rotten air, producing the unhinged laughter of Hell itself.
“There’s too many of them!” Jesse stated. “How do we beat this!”
“We can’t!” Kaylah admitted. “We’re fighting Death! There’s no way we can beat Death!”
The Ark Knight could feel Astreans throughout the city getting ripped apart by the monsters. Sensing their auras, Jaden felt more of their lights give out with each agonizing second. As more and more of his comrades faced oblivion, he couldn’t help but think they were just fending off the Inevitable. Time seemed to slow down around him as the hand of Death snuffed the life out of them until there was no time at all.
“Probably not,” Jaden said out loud. “But I’m not going down without a fight!”
With both swords in hand, the Ark Knight stared down the Army of Darkness marching towards him. He was willing to take them all on at once if he had to. He had dreamed it would end this way when he was a kid, and he had been prepared himself since. Even if there was absolutely no chance of victory, he continued to stand tall in the face of oblivion.
* * *
Astra fought to maintain her focus as the demons closed in on her. They had all but wiped out the soldiers guarding her, but the ritual still wasn’t finished. The monsters starting banging their fists against the holy barrier around her. Their hideous faces, hellish shrieks, and wild hammering distracted as she desperately tried to complete the summoning.
Astra felt all their dark energy flooding the city around her. She couldn’t even see past the golden sphere protecting her. However, way beyond that evil horde, she still sensed him.
She saw his energy shine a beacon out through that sea of darkness, and she could feel its warm glow. She could feel his heart beating, and it was beating fast.
She knew he was in danger.
Astra flew over the parade of demons in an arc of gold, vaporizing them all with a rain of fire. Her trail of energy painted a rainbow of light across the sky. The Champions were all nearly blinded by her ethereal glow as the Princess touched down in front of them. In the face of her amazing power, Jaden knew for a fact that she was the strongest of them all.
“Oh, gods of the stars, please hear my cry! Lend us your strength in this hour of need, so we may save our world from the Destroyer’s wrath! Join us now in this mortal realm so we may banish this evil from our home! I call on you, in the name of the planet Aeos, grant me your light and show us the way!”
She raised her right hand as she spoke, and a rainbow of light shot into the sky. The holy firework exploded in a ring of gold, releasing the Aeons from their eternal slumber.
Valon descended from the heavens, armed with shining silver and hair flowing like wings on a pegasus. With his almighty bow, he shot bolts of lightning down on the towering darkness. Talus then emerged from the earth, carrying the mountains themselves on his back. He charged towards the Citadel in a thunderous assault, his mighty fist striking the barrier with titanic force. He was followed by his brother, Iblis, who rose into the sky like a phoenix. His hair a crown of flames, the fiery djinn shot a solar blast into the wall of shadows. Next, the goddess Azura shot out of the Capitol River, bearing a silver trident and hair as blue as the seas. Riding in on a whirlpool of water, she fired a beam of ice into the barrier, encasing the dome in a layer of ice. The four gods towered over the frozen castle, looking down on the Princess before vanishing once again.
Harnessing the power of Astraea herself, Astra forged arrows of purifying light with an ancient, golden bow. The Goddess used this Bow of Light to banish the darkness that plagued the realm ages ago. Armed with her Divine Weapon, she soared into the air and shot through the crimson wall with an Arrow of Light. The evil barrier shattered like a snow globe and faded into a shower of golden particles. The shroud of darkness surrounding the Citadel vanished with the roar of a dragon. As their eyes readjusted to their surroundings, the Champions were stunned to see Astra proudly standing beyond the gate. With the stars in her eyes and the wind in her hair, she appeared to us as an Angel of Life.
This moment didn’t last long, though, as the Princess began to fall backwards. The Ark Knight bolted into action and caught her just in time. He could sense that much of her energy was spent on her summoning spell. So much so that she blacked out before she fell into his arms.
“Astra?! Astra, please! Wake up!”
Raindrops of light cascaded down her radiant cheeks. Her eyes twitched open; the sun reflected in them like the ocean. She smiled brightly, waking up to the sight of his face. Just like she was there for him, Jaden was there when she woke up. Their moment was cut short as they remembered what laid before them.
The Citadel spiraled into the heavens, eclipsing the twilight and casting a titanic shadow. Looking at this stone tower reminded me of the hand on the Celestial Clock, which now seemed to mark their final hour. Giant, metal beams sloped down from the main tower like roots from a tree. This was the heart of Astrelm, where the darkness sprouted from the seed of the Destroyer. Even now, his true form was hibernating inside, waiting with Kaiser to awaken.
After Jaden helped her stand back up, Astra unsheathed her blade towards the Dark Lord’s ivory tower and shouted, “Charge!”