Isaac felt weak and tired. The effort of battling his double and keeping up the firewall had been too much. The fire seemed to burn within his body, begging for release, but he knew better. He nearly collapsed, but found strong hands supporting him. He looked up into the benevolent eyes of the Angel. Isaac steeled himself and stood up. The Angel meanwhile, was leading him away from the creature on the ground, keeping his eyes fixed on his own double, writhing in pain in Isaac’s fire, bleeding white swarms of tiny creatures.
Eventually, they reached the others. By this time, Isaac had recovered from his momentary weakness completely. The Angel spoke, “Hey, how do you feel?” Isaac replied, “I’m fine. But I don’t think that’s going to keep him down.” He gestured towards where the sizzling form of his darker self lay. The Angel nodded, then said, “I hope it was okay of me to invite you here. I did not want another altercation between you and Zanaria.” The Angel breathed, waiting for a response from Isaac. When none came, he continued, “I thought I‘d get you better acquainted with these people. This is the Count Vladislau Rokkhans, Rushyan landowner and brilliant in hand-to-hand combat, as a certain Blüddhounde will testify.” Count Vladislau bowed regally and said, “Please, call me Vlad.” The Angel smiled and pointed at the mermaid, “Sedusa, the siren who plays a mean riff.” Sedusa nodded gruffly, her fingers wavering on her N-Uke. Isaac could feel the waves of power coming off of the guitar-like weapon. The Angel was now looking at the raptor piecing its two halves together. Before the Angel could say anything, the raptor extended his paw and said, “Mike Craw, piecemeal raptor at your service.” Isaac preferred to nod, his experience with claws not being too pleasant so far. “And this fine undead bird is Crexnettle.” The bird merely screeched. “And I am the Angel of Torn Skirts. Well, I used to be…” His voice trailed off. Isaac finally replied, “I’m Isaac. I’m what you would call a pyrokinetic. I can control and channel fire…well, sort of.”
The silence that followed was punctuated with crackling sounds from Isaac’s wall of fire. Finally, Sedusa spoke in a low voice, “So, if we’re done with the pleasantries, what the seaserpents are we supposed to do? Got any ideas, firefly?” Isaac’s eyes narrowed. “All I know is that I just got attacked by a shadow that looked a helluva lot like me, and seemed to be pretty much impervious to anything I do to it. I’m just as confused as you are, fishwoman.”
Sensing the tension, the Angel stepped in. “Isaac, it’s not just you who had a double. I saw a version of me that I didn’t particularly like either. Now, it’s only natural to assume that perhaps each one of has an …” The Angel took a deep breath, knowing how clichéd he was going to sound, “… an evil twin in this place. Probably with the same talents or powers we possess. Anything else we know?” Isaac replied, his tone flat, “We know that if you do destroy them, these weird white insects come out of them, like they’re bleeding, but it doesn’t seem to kill them. They just come back stronger later.” The Angel looked directly at Mike and asked, “Any ideas?” After a little thought, Mike responded, “If my theory is correct, we are on some sort of alternate plane. The shadow creatures that you keep seeing seem to constitute the negative chi or life…well, death-force of this plane. Perhaps, they are able to mimic us, replicate our forms. My guess is they want to kill us and feast on our energy.” He ended cheerily. Isaac merely said, “Oh, that doesn’t sound too horrible. Why don’t we get lunch first, and then take these shadow-creatures down?” A few coughs that sounded like repressed laughs swept through the group. Mike merely stared at Isaac.
And with amazing precision, Crexnettle gave one of his unearthly screams, flapping his wings at something in the distance. A gigantic figure loomed, bathed in fire and darkness, the glint of metal armour flashing across it. The figure was armed with a huge broadsword, gleaming in the strange light around it. With this blade, the giant was hacking through swarm upon swarm of shadows, repelling the swarms till they formed a giant circle around him. The giant roared and set at the shadows again, and with a single swipe he cut a deep gash through the shadows. Sedusa whistled in surprise, Isaac stared. The Angel spoke in what was barely a whisper, “Oh boy, this is exactly why I warned you about that one.”