Chapter VII: The Great Neptune Skirmish

Alarms rang in the night, men and children alike rose from their beds all at once. One by one, they saw the horrific sight that they had feared for generations. Projectiles fell from the sky and rained upon the city, mixing with the cursed rain that fell on them. Fires erupted up around the houses and wooden structures collapsed in flames upon villagers that ran in a blinding fear. Plutoon was up like a shot, he woke Don Zhargn and the Emperor and they all ran to the armoury. Plutoon mounted his white horse and raised his sword.

            “Bear arms men! Now is the time to display your valour!” he looked down the street, and gasped. For the maiden to whom he had opened his heart, now rode headlong into the chaos. “Wait! Pursue that unit at once!” The Neptunian Cavalry roared down the city and out onto the plains. They charged towards the enemy’s great host without fear or doubt. Plutoon saw, through the darkness, the shape of the maiden and further ahead another, more sinister shape. Anton Zyphell raised his spear to the sky, lightning beamed down from the heavens and through the dark weapon. “Zyphell! All men, hold position” horses skidded in the ground, turf was churned up like a knife riding across butter. The butt of Zyphell’s trident struck the ground and a ring of energy emitted across the plains. The ring approached the cavalry and as it touched the first horses, they vaporized in a flash of light. The riders fell to the hard ground, scarred but not defeated. Soon, the entire cavalry was horseless and on the ground.

            “Worthless scum!” sneered Zyphell “Charge the enemy! Take Plutoon’s head and bring it to me undamaged! I believe it will go nicely on my mantelpiece!” Zyphell’s army charged forward, Plutoon’s troops cried out in a blare of rage and charged too. The two giant forces met and exchanged blows; soldiers on both sides fell to the ground. Plutoon swung his sword elegantly and swiftly caught an attacking arrow. He thrust it through the stomach of its former bearer and flipped over the falling body. Looking down the battlefield, he spotted the dreaded General crossing blades with the unit he pursued. Zyphell swung his spear over her head, catching soldiers with it whilst still failing to cut down his enemy. “You’re pretty good! But don’t get cocky!”

            “I won’t be intimidated!” screamed the young maiden. She wielded her own spear violently and clashed with Zyphell’s a dozen times per second. She whirled through the air and knocked her enemy off-balance. As she raised her blade for the kill, Zyphell evaporated into black smoke. “Is trickery all you are good for? Fight like a soldier!” Zyphell re-appeared behind her and knocked her aside.

            “Trickery? I’ll show you trickery you good-for-nothing swine!” Zyphell twirled his spear over his head and brought it down. The head of the spear clashed with a long sword, Zyphell’s eyes looked up the blade and to its bearer. “Well, well! Zanton Plutoon! We meet again”

            “This ends now!” summoning all the power he could muster, Plutoon blasted a dragon-shaped energy bolt into Zyphell and he flew backward through the air. Plutoon leapt towards his foe and raised his blade, but Zyphell’s was there. They clashed weapons and fought backward towards the city.

 

            In a large balcony, draped with regal curtains and carpeted in the finest material, Emperor Xhine sat and watched as the two armies tore each other to pieces. He caressed the tip of his cane and stroked his thick beard. Don Zhargn entered holding his family’s crossbow. He bowed and Xhine waved his hand.

            “My lord, Plutoon has engaged the enemy commander” he reported, Xhine looked up at Don

            “Then we must help him as best we can” Xhine stood and rested his large, oafish body on his cane. “Go to the south wall, use your father’s crossbow, shoot Zyphell down with one blow!”

            “My lord, such an act would be dishonourable” Don protested, “It would anger the Heavens against us!” Xhine looked round at him.

            “And denying a direct order from your Emperor angers me!” he bellowed, “Leave my presence! Shoot the scum down, I shall be watching” Don bowed and left, arming his father’s crossbow as he went. “Common swine” cursed Xhine under his breath. He had changed, his eyes were darkened and his beard was grizzly. The good man within him was dead, Zyphell had drained him of every ounce of that man. All that remained was a man controlled by fear. He snatched a glass of wine from his servant and pushed them to the ground. After gulping down the wine in a single shot, he threw the glass violently at the servant’s head and ordered it to be refilled. The shaking man bowed and hurriedly left, clutching his skull.

 

             Don sneaked across the wall clutching his crossbow. Plutoon and Zyphell were in plain view, but moving so fast. He’d never seen anyone move that fast before. Slowly he raised his weapon and directed it as close as he could to Zyphell. In his balcony, Xhine leant forward in a deepening anticipation. The trigger was pulled; the bolt released and tore through the air. Zyphell sniffed the air and twirled aside as the bolt struck the ground.

            “Hmm, but an inch from death” Zyphell said quietly. He looked up to the wall and spotted Don. Raising his trident, he threw Plutoon to one side and leapt through the air at an incredible speed. The wall cracked as his armoured feet struck the concrete and raised his blade. His mad eyes darted suddenly from his target to another; he smiled sinisterly and kicked Don in the nose. He then leapt through the air and landed, once more, in the regal balcony. The Emperor fell backward and cowered beneath Zyphell’s dominant shadow.

            “Mercy, I beg you” Xhine trembled uncontrollably “Have I not served you enough to repay you for this act?” Zyphell stroked his long chin and glared down at the grovelling Emperor.

            “You betrayed me, this carries a heavy penalty!” he raised his long bony finger.

            “Oh no, please!” Xhine closed his eyes. All of a sudden, he heard what he knew to be a scream of pain. The Emperor opened his left eye and then his other eye to see a tremendous sight. Zyphell still had his hand raised, but in the bicep of that arm an arrow now sat. A spring of blood trickled from the wound and Zyphell’s eyes moved down towards his arm. He looked back at Xhine, his eyes glowing with shock, wide with surprise. Then they flooded with rage, he gritted his yellow teeth and raised his spear with his good arm. With another yelp of pain, an arrow struck that arm also. With a yell of naked aggression, Zyphell’s fuming eyes turned to the wall. Glaring straight into the determined eyes of Don Zhargn.

            “Scum! Die!” he leapt through the air and landed, glaring down on Don. Don raised his crossbow and pointed at Anton, who simply raised his spear and shattered it. Don drew his sword and Zyphell knocked it aside, Don trembled violently and hit Zyphell on his heavily armed stomach. “That was the last straw! Now you die!” With a cry of rage, Zyphell impaled Don through the stomach and lifted the screaming soldier from the ground. Lightning flashed and Zyphell’s eyes widened, holding the terrified Don in mid-air, still on the end of his trident. Anton’s sinister smile grew on his face, wider and madder than ever before. He was truly enraged. Plutoon ran towards the stairs on the side of the wall, calling out to his best friend.

            “Don!” he called desperately. He turned to the balcony, to see Emperor Xhine watching intently with, what definitely looked like, a smile on his face “Emperor! Help him! Do something!” Cursing out loud at the lazy Emperor, he drew his own sword and heard Xhine calling after him.

            “Plutoon, if you help him you will no longer have a place on this planet!” threatened Xhine. “You’ll be a traitor Plutoon! A traitor I say!” Ignoring the lord, Plutoon raised his sword and charged onto the wall “Imbecile! Kill him immediately!”

            “We have no arrows my lord, and the men dare not approach Anton Zyphell” reported his bodyguard. Xhine screamed with rage and threw one of his servants from the high balcony and to their doom.

            “Bring forth my sword! I shall dispatch this traitor myself!” A dancer girl brought in a long box and opened it to reveal a large, curved sword. The blade was thick and curved inward to the point, Xhine looked at it in disgust. “This will do no damage! Bring me a hammer!” Another servant brought in a hammer; Xhine snatched it and brought it down hard on the blade of the sword. The outer side shattered into many pieces, leaving the sword’s edge heavily serrated. Xhine raised the new blade to his face and admired it “Deadly” he said quietly.

            On the wall, a sharp bolt of energy ran up Zyphell’s spear and knocked Don from its tip. Before he could fall to the ground, Zyphell moved his blade side to side at an incredible speed, gashing his foe across the waist. Don let out a moan of agony and Zyphell grinned with pleasure, enjoying his pain. With one last cry of rage, Zyphell’s strikes changed direction and he brought it down into Don’s chest. Plutoon let out a cry of denial as his best friend was flung over the battlements and down to the war-torn plains below. Zyphell grinned down at Plutoon’s distraught face, then looked along the wall to see Emperor Xhine heading in their direction. He laughed swiftly and looked down at Plutoon.

            “I’d kill you too, but there’s no point” Zyphell sneered “So, for the last time, I bid you farewell!” he evaporated into black smoke and his army regrouped. Down on the plains, Zyphell reappeared at his mobile command point. “What’s the ETA on the convoy?” he asked his general.

            “They just passed the city and are coming around the corner…now” Zyphell looked around and grinned as his large, skull-shaped weapon rounded the wall. The men stopped fighting, Xhine halted in mid-step to gaze in terror at the weapon that now rolled past them. Plutoon’s mouth widened as he gasped with fear.

            “What, in the name of the Galaxians, is that?!” he said. He looked round at the Emperor, and saw the look of guilt on his face. “You! You helped with this? What is it?” Xhine’s face swelled with rage.

            “You have no business here any longer!” he raised his blade and crossed with Plutoon’s. The two fought across the wall, sparks rose from the swords. Xhine swirled savagely and waved his deadly blade around in Plutoon’s face, cutting his cheek. Plutoon locked his blade in the jagged edge of Xhine’s, then brought it back and snapped the tip from his foe’s weapon. He kicked the Emperor’s large chest and he fell to the floor, Plutoon pointed his sword at his fallen enemy’s throat.

            “What is it?” Plutoon demanded. The Emperor caught his breath and looked up at him.

            “It is why Zyphell is here, the reason for his presence on my planet” Xhine began “But you have no business-” Plutoon moved his sword closer to Xhine’s throat “It’s a Death Ray, capable of melting entire cities, triggering volcanic activity all over a planet. Zyphell is installing it into the hull of Dominator, which is why it is in orbit. He is taking down the schematics of the hull to perfectly hold the weapon, from space he could melt your precious Mercan in one shot”

            “No, no weapon is that strong” Plutoon said loudly, Xhine let out a blare of laughter.

            “You Galaxians think you know it all! You think you have solved every mystery, discovered everything worth being discovered and control the uncontrollable!” he sneered “But now, Anton Zyphell has a lead on you. A lead that could and will draw you into the darkness of the abyss! The Galaxians have failed to maintain order! The new age has come!” Plutoon growled and turned away, staring at the metal giant that was slowly being wheeled towards its master.

            “All units, ignite arrows and fire at the convoy!” he ordered, Xhine stood up and bellowed over him.

            “Do nothing!” he yelled “This filthy traitor is a threat to our way of life!” Plutoon’s face grew angry, it wrinkled with rage and his eyes flashed “He must be stopped before he can destroy us all! He befriended Don Zhargn, and look how he has ended up! Betrayed and murdered! It was all his doing! He must be eliminated!” With a blare of rage, Plutoon turned about and, before he could even scream in pain, Xhine’s head rolled from the battlements and his body slumped to the ground. Plutoon stood, frozen with shock. In the distance he heard Zyphell’s laughter as he mocked him. Then he looked around at the angry army that now stood before him.

            “Well…ignite and fire!” he ordered. One general and a small group of units opened fire on the convoy as it locked into its final preparation position. The troops that fired moved to the wall for a better shot, while the rest of the army stood still. Zyphell stalked around and his high general approached.

            “My lord, final preparation complete. We’re ready for the tractor beam” he reported. Zyphell nodded to him and as the general turned to leave he looked back “Oh and…the enemy commander is seeking an audience with you” Zyphell raised an eyebrow “He wants to make a deal” They both smiled. Zyphell turned to a control board and spoke clearly into a microphone.

            “Activate the tractor beam in ten seconds and counting” he ordered. Green lines of energy began to materialise around the Death Ray, forming a net. Slowly, the machine was lifted from the ground and into the atmosphere. Plutoon cursed as it passed out of range on route to Dominator. He looked down at Zyphell, spotting the commander of his army shaking hands with him. Plutoon put his head in his hands and sighed heavily. The loyal general approached holding a small screen.

            “My battlefield radar is showing that, except for us, the entire Imperial army has defected from our ranks and joined the enemy” he reported “We’ll have to leave the planet and fast. Traitors aren’t welcome on Neptune and we are more than just traitors”

 

The small group quickly ran into the palace and quickly shut down the power. The lights faded, but hundreds of security units quickly entered in the darkness.

            “Seal the exits, capture the assassins” they said. They all split into small groups of two and began their patrols. Plutoon looked round a corner and spotted two guard troops standing by the entrance to the main corridor. He turned to his men and whispered as quietly as he could.

            “We must use the darkness to our advantage” he said “You take a left back there and the rest of us will take them head-on” they nodded and the unit moved swiftly down the corridor. He rounded the corner and took up his position, drawing his throwing dagger and holding it ready for the order to strike. Plutoon moved down the wall and gave the signal. The dagger struck one of the guards in the neck and the other turned and spotted the group. He called out quickly.

            “Intruders! Intruders in hallway three!” the ally general quickly looked at his screen as Plutoon cut the guard down.

            “Zanton! Anton Zyphell is here! Hallway two and heading this way!”  he yelped in pain and Plutoon turned, just in time to see the trident blade being retracted from the now lifeless body. The general flopped to the ground and Zyphell’s long face emerged from the shadows.

            “Hello!” he sneered. Plutoon quickly turned and ran. He roared down the corridor and towards the main exit. “Escape is impossible! Only death awaits you now Plutoon! You’re a traitor, just like me!” Plutoon stopped in his run and looked back, the words circling in his head, mocking him.

            “To bring light into this galaxy, one must often commit acts of darkness” he said slowly “I do not support my acts nor do I seek to justify them. But I know I can change this war” Zyphell laughed loudly.

            “One man cannot make a difference! Surely you know this!” he walked closer, raising his trident “Now, the final curtain call! The perfect finale, your utter destruction!” With a yelp of pain, a large mirror shattered over Zyphell’s head and he shook continuously. The dancer girl delivered a vicious kick into Zyphell’s spine and his body cracked the marble wall.

            “Plutoon, run!” she called. Warrior and slave ran together, holding hands as they approached the hanger door. Plutoon tapped the control panel and cursed.

            “The darn code has been altered! There’s no escape!” he thumped the wall. The girl pulled her hairpin and stabbed it into the panel. It sparked and the door slid open, just as Zyphell rounded the corner. He charged towards them like a raging bull, raising his trident “In, quick!” Plutoon shot the control panel and the door slid shut as Zyphell stormed into it. “Right, we should be safe now” A trident stabbed through the door and it began to shake from its hinges.

            “Go!” ordered the girl. Plutoon looked at her and smiled. Then he drew his sword and pointed it at the door. The wall cracked and sheets of dust dropped to the ground. With a blast, the thick steel door fell to the ground and Zyphell stalked slowly through the gap. A bolt of lightning leapt from his trident and into Plutoon’s sword, blasting it to the ground. He glared into Zyphell’s inhuman eyes.

            “I’m going to make you pay for that!” he cursed. He pulled out two swords, but the maiden put her hand on his. When Plutoon looked at her eyes, he noticed purple smoke and red lines now steamed from them. Her hair broke from the locks and flowed freely. Slowly, she rose from the floor and placed her hand on her heart, as if pulling something from her very soul. A dark sphere, brewing with dark energy, slowly emerged from her chest and was flung elegantly into Zyphell’s chest. He flew across the room and into the wall where the sphere exploded in a flash of blinding light, and golden sparks slowly descended from the epicentre of the blast. Zyphell looked up, terror flooded into his eyes and he scampered across the floor like a terrified rat. He slowly stood and pointed at the glowing maid.

            “What are you?” he screeched. The maiden smiled and moved her hand back towards her chest. That was enough. Zyphell sprinted out the door and into the darkness. When safe, he skidded to a halt and stroked his chin. “Wait! It cannot be!” He turned on his heel and ran back towards the hanger. He was too late, Plutoon’s ship jettisoned from the hanger and roared into the night. Zyphell struck his trident into the steel ground and the floor cracked. He looked to the stars and growled, his eyes thinned “Sister Isabelle!”

The End

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