Approx. 2800 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
Hoderon and Hanyo had escaped the EYE of TERROR and now walked a war torn landscape, one of many like it in the WARP. Time had little meaning where they were, but they felt they had been walking for a quite awhile, the landscape becoming craggy, with many dangerous ravines and large pointed rocks. Hoderon began remembering this place. He changed his direction of travel, Hanyo following him, until, over the next rise, they spotted it:
It was as if a flat, two-hundred-meter, circular, disk had been picked up by a giant and slammed in place, right in the middle of the rocks and crags. In the center, was a dark golden pedestal with a large, elaborately-designed war axe sticking in it. Around the pedestal were four teams of six powerful warriors, each armed with similar war axes, the guardians.
Hoderon finally recognized it: “The Gorechild.”
“Is it one of the objects?” Hanyo, thought, then corrected himself. “It can’t be. It has no structure?”
“It IS one of the objects, Hanyo. The pedestal--known as the Pedestal of Invincibility, IS the structure...and, as the named implies, is considered indestructible.” Hoderon grinned. “But, it doesn’t matter. No one has ever defeated the guardians.”
“No one?” Hanyo was surprised only a little. “Why wouldn’t they just bring--”
“An army?” Hoderon continued grinning. “That won’t work. See the circle that surrounds it. Only one person can be inside the first circular ring at any one time. Any others are repelled.”
“So one person has to face all twenty-four guardians at the same time?” Hanyo grinned back. “The guardians could never be defeated that way.”
Hoderon sighed. “Well, I don’t think it works like that. But, the challenger will have to face many of the guardians at once.”
“So, it’s like a challenge, where the...”
Hanyo stopped talking when he saw Hoderon stand up and get up on a higher rock. He stood looking at something. When Hanyo joined him, he saw it too. There was a lone warrior walking up and into the circle.
“Who is he, Hoderon?”
“I don’t know.” He stared in wonder. “I’ve never seen armor like that before.”
The challenger wore a full helmet covering his entire head; it had two flat, rectangular, designs attached to each side of his helmet, except at the top, where they curved inward like horns would, but still remained flat. The rest of the body was covered with armor, the same color as the helmet, a dark, muddy, red, the lower leg armor thicker than the upper leg armor. There were skull emblems on the knees, waist, and on each side of the helmet. He had a large shoulder pad on the right side of his armor, only; Hoderon gasped when he saw the emblem on it.
“KHORNE. He has the emblem of Khorne on his armor!”
“What armies are those?” Hanyo had never heard of them before.
“The World Eaters.” Hoderon continued to stare. “You’ve never heard of them because they are controlled by the Demon Lord, Skalathrax.”
“Wouldn’t that mean he should be controlled also?”
Hoderon looked at Hanyo gave him a very affirmative. “YES.”
“I don’t know.” He pointed at the challenger. “Look...he removes his armor.”
“He has to. He cannot go further into the circle with protective armor.” Hoderon took a deep breath. “He REALLY IS going to challenge the guardians for the Gorechild. I can’t believe it.”
“Who is he? Do you know, Hoderon?”
“I’ve never seen him before. To my knowledge...he’s a complete unknown.” Hoderon’s eyes widened. “He has a strange aura about him. He wields a large, curved, sword, and...something else in a square holster on his belt...neither of them look like they are from the WARP. But it can’t be!”
“Look...” Hanyo was amazed. “He’s starting the challenge.”
Suddenly, in glowing letters above the circle, the words, “KHÂRN...the challenger.” appeared.
“I’ve never heard of that name. Khârn.” Hoderon was quickly becoming just as amazed as Hanyo.
The letters disappeared as the four groups of powerful, humanoid guardians, marched around to face the lone warrior. When they stopped, each group stood within a red, glowing, rectangular box etched into the floor of the circle. The forward group on the left prepared themselves, ready to kill, almost salivating with insane eagerness. Another rectangle appeared in front of them, but was only big enough for one guardian to fit inside, a symbol which Hoderon picked up on.
“He gets to fight the first group one at a time. See.” He pointed.
One of the guardians in the first group suddenly stepped forward, touched the solo red glowing rectangle then charged quickly, fast and powerful.
From their vantage point, they watched as Khârn effortlessly stepped aside, then easily dodged two more blows from the guardian; almost at the same time, he stuck with his sword, cutting off the guardian’s leg, then spun making a second blow. They watched as the guardian’s head dropped off its shoulders and rolled across the ground, its body toppling over like a fallen tree where it lay on the designed circle of the challenge floor. A couple seconds later, its body sank into the ground, its black blood filling in part of the imprinted floor designs.
The other guardians proceed to attack, one at a time, each one being easily defeated by the lone warrior in much the same way, a magnificent display of swordsmanship and skill.
Khârn stood back from the other guardians, like he was resting, but only for a short time. The guardians in the right forward rectangle waited, chomping at the bit, eager to fight.
The solo rectangle had become larger, one that could hold two warriors. When Khârn stepped forward, two guardians charged.
This time the lone warrior had to work harder, dodging and blocking at the same time. He moved so fast, it was hard to see his moves. One of the guardians suddenly lost his weapon arm, the other one Khârn dodged then stuck, slicing at a downward angle through its neck all the way down to its heart. As it fell over, he beheaded the other one. Then stood ready.
Hoderon knew he had once been a powerful and skilled warrior. He wanted to forget it. But, never had he, or anyone he’d known, been this skilled. They watched as Khârn eventually defeated all the guardians of the second group, then stood back to rest.
It was unimaginable to know what was going through the minds of the remaining guardians, or if they were even able to think at all. The group of guardians on the left became ready, more so ready than any of the others so far. They swayed back an forth, ready to pounce with glaring red eyes. The two guardian rectangle became large enough to hold three.
But, Khârn waited calmly, eventually kneeling down to mediate for awhile. Time clicked by slowly, if this was the real Universe, about five minutes. Then he stood up and focused. The area of the circle where the challenger needed to step inside to start the combat was a little darker than the rest of the circle.
As Hoderon and Hanyo watched, Khârn stepped into the circle, then out again, keeping an eye on the guardians. He stepped in, then out...in, then out.
Hoderon watched two of the guardians; they had stepped out of their rectangle in their anticipation, edging forward a little at a time until three of them were almost all the way out. When the red glowing outlines in the circle turned orange, Khârn was ready.
“What does that mean?” Hanyo noticed the change of color the same as his partner did.
“I don’t know.”
Then the fight began, three guardians charging.
This time Khârn had a much harder time of it. He was nicked several times, two bloody wounds, until one of the guardians lay beheaded. The other two guardians wounded Khârn only once before they were slain. But, Khârn was quick to recover and was ready for the other three, who all tried to rush him before they thought he was ready; but, it was a mistake as the first one lost his weapon arm while the other two ran into each other. The last two were dispatched quickly. Khârn then returned to his resting spot.
The lone warrior had definitely been wounded several times. But, how bad, and how it would it affect his fighting, they didn’t know. The one thing they did know was that the three-sized rectangle had changed to six.
“He’ll never defeat all six at once.” Hanyo exclaimed.
“I think I’ve heard about this.” Hoderon explained. “Long ago, there have been challenges here. But, they never have been able to defeat all six. NEVER. Eventually, they all just gave up.”
When Khârn stood up again, like he was ready, Hoderon took notice of the glowing, once-red, now-orange, rectangles. He tried to think of what that meant as far as the challenge was concerned. The last six guardian swayed, ready to fight. He noticed that they were more spread out, some of them almost totally outside the rectangle--like the rules of the challenge had changed.
As Khârn stood focusing on the last six guardians; he had a sly look on his face...like, he also knew the rules had changed. But, he didn’t break the rules--they did. He tricked them!
Then he grinned, like he was getting ready to fight, but not with his sword. With his left hand, he drew the weapon from the holster. Khârn then fired the plasma pistol, three shots, putting large holes through two of the guardians’ hearts, the third one, blowing its head off. He then holstered the smoking pistol and prepared to use his sword.
Now Hoderon knew: Since the guardians had broken the rules, that allowed Khârn to break them also. He could’ve killed all of them with the plasma pistol, but stood ready, apparently wanting to finish the challenge fairly. And that weapon--it definitely wasn’t from the WARP!
Khârn was hyped, filled with the thrill of victory. When the last three guardians attacked him, it was like their weapons could find no place to hit him, missing. One guardian, then the other, then the last, fell to the floor, headless.
As Khârn dropped his sword and drew his plasma pistol, Hoderon figured it out again. The pedestal was indeed indestructible--but ONLY to the weapons of the WARP. The pistol was NOT from the WARP. When he fired, the pedestal broken open, then Khârn walked up and claimed the Gorechild, holding it up over his head victoriously, the axe’s jagged chain blades speeding up until they were just a blur.
In the distance, Hanyo spotted the EYE of TERROR, then got Hoderon’s attention. They both ran to the opposite side of the circle, then watched the EYE as it remained stationary, like it was just observing.
Khârn had returned to where he left his armor, and had quickly put it back on. He began running over to the other side of the circle, perpendicular to where Hoderon and Hanyo were. He continued on to just short of several crevices, entrances to the abyss, a place of darkness within darkness, where demons resided. Now Hoderon knew what was up. The Gorechild was a powerful weapon, powerful enough to destroy a Demon Lord if wielded by the right person.
It was like Khârn’s voice could be heard all across the WARP as he called forth the Demon Lord, Skalathrax, challenging him for ownership of the World Eaters. He held the Gorechild in a straight line behind him, ready. When Skalathrax came out of the abyss, Khârn was near, closing the gap quickly before the Demon Lord could see the Axe.
But, Skalathrax remained confident, shouting to Khârn: “I gave you access to some of my troops and you lost them. YOU CAN HAVE NO MORE!”
When the lone warrior remained silent, taunting, Skalathrax roared and charged. But Khârn was already close, close enough to strike first as the blade of the Gorechild sliced up through the Demon Lord’s crotch, coming out of its shoulder near its neck. Its body disintegrated, sending its soul back into the abyss, its essence badly reduced, where the demons it had tormented during its vicious rule, began to torment him in revenge.
But, Khârn was not finished. He stood and called forth the Bloodthirster, the Greater Demon of Khorne...and made a deal. Next, he called forth the Armies of the World Eaters and ordered them to return to the Fortress of Khorne, a place they had once resided before being enslaved by Skalathrax. He took a small force with him, about thirty soldiers, and hastily returned to where he obtained the Gorechild.
When Khârn returned to the broken pedestal, he stood tall and held up the Axe again, this time toward what looked like an opening in the WARP. The thirty soldiers that followed him stood close by his side, wearing only the tunics of Khorne, unarmed. In a short while, the opening widened and they were all gone. Then almost as soon as they had left, approximately two thirds of them returned, right back on the same spot...only now the soldiers were wearing battle suits similar in color and design as Khârn, each carrying a large pistol, and a black axe. Khârn then led them on a forced march toward an unknown destination.
Hoderon couldn’t believe it! Every object in the WARP had left a hole in the Universe from one world to the next, a passageway that could only be used if someone from the WARP possessed the matching object, which Khârn just obtained. But, how someone could actually use that passageway in the way he just observed, that was inconceivable. He would need a link to the real Universe, something, or someone on the other side who knew where the passageway was IN the real Universe. And even then, they would need a special kind of POWER to do it with...something that simply didn’t exist in the WARP.
Hoderon sat with Hanyo thinking, trying to put together all the clues he had just witnessed. At this point, Khârn was the key to this mystery. He had led his personal troops on a force march, then they disappeared, teleporting someplace. Where did they go?
The only hunch Hoderon had was since Khârn seemed like an honorable warrior, maybe he had gone to a place he thought had something to do with honor...to capture another object.
He knew of a place, a structure called, the Paragon of Illusory Honor, made up of a circle of eight ornate, marble, columns. Once the eight guardians were defeated and the columns destroyed, a Badge would appear, the object. It symbolized the ruse powerful leaders would use to fool men, and even women, to fight for them, throw away their lives in a futile war--telling them it was for honor, when, in the end, it was all for nothing, a cheap badge, the reality of what those leaders considered their lives were worth.
By the time Hoderon and Hanyo had arrived at the Paragon of Illusory Honor, the battle was over. With the EYE of TERROR in the distance, Khârn claimed the Badge, but unlike the Gorechild, he left it where it was, something that made Hoderon realize the Gorechild was different than the other objects. Khârn then used the Gorechild to create a WARP opening, in which he stepped through, taking all but ten of his soldiers with him.
Only a short time seemed to pass...then the Badge disappeared through a small opening in the WARP, like it had been claimed by an invisible hand. When Khârn returned, he left again the same way, taking the remaining soldiers with him, the structure remaining as he had left it, in ruins.
Hoderon had now figured it out: Khârn, himself, and his equipment, were part of both worlds somehow. The EYE of TERROR, since it wasn’t from the WARP, remained the only thing POWERFUL enough to help him do what had just happened: transfer beings to and from the WARP. Hoderon had to only guess at why the objects where taken, figuring that for each object Khârn had taken into the real Universe those objects would give him the ability to maintain a certain amount of WARP souls there.
Even though Hoderon didn’t fully understand it, he knew that was the only reasoning behind what he had witnessed. However, finding a way to stop it, or even to warn people in the real Universe, that was something he couldn’t figure out...no matter how much he wanted to.