Sedusa slithered forward as best as she could, the weight of Zanaria hoisted on her shoulders. He was feverish, and parts of his body were still red or marked with smoldering runes. Sedusa knew she had to get him somewhere safe, away from the demonic influence that was exercising itself on Zanaria. She looked into his face again. He was muttering something. “I’m the rebel. Spare Liako…my fault…outcast…all my fault…demon…the fire…Nyoki.” And then abruptly he screamed. Sedusa was not sure of what she had heard, but she already felt sad about him. She could empathize with him; after all, she had been an outcast too. She pulled him closer and tried to move forward. She looked behind, just for a minute, to see the great demon being nailed to the ground by tendrils…from…from something else. Sedusa couldn’t begin to describe it; a vague dark shape, large but nebulous. But the demonic energy it seemed to emanate was terrifying. She saw it bend down and throw the first demon several paces away. For a moment, she faltered, wondering whether she should try to help the first demon too. It was a moment too late. The darkness turned, and its empty glare caught her in its sights. There was something like dark lightning, and before she knew it, her path was being blocked by not just the shadow Zanaria, but also a shadow mermaid that looked awfully familiar. The hair was grey and black, and she also had a shadow N-Uke slung around her. The shadow Sedusa pulled her N-Uke forward, and slowly but surely began to play it, the fret pointed awfully close to Zanaria and Sedusa.
“Watch out!” The Angel’s warning came just in time, as Vlad jumped out of the way of Isaac’s sudden spontaneous combustion. Isaac seemed to become a living fireball, burning and flaming. To Vlad, it appeared that Isaac did not have any control over what was happening. It did not matter anyway. Within seconds, Isaac’s fire swelled till it could remain contained to him no longer. It burst like some sort of pregnant leech, and from within the fire jumped four shadow things.
“I see it now.” Mike yelled, “I understand what’s going on.”
“Glad you figured it so early.” Vlad’s tone was not sweet.
They ducked out of the way of another of Isaac’s flares, and regrouped to take a closer look at the shadow creatures. Sure enough, there was a shadow for each of them; the Angel, Vlad, Isaac and Mike. Crexnettle was flying somewhere above them. The shadows each began to walk towards them. Shadow Isaac started to prepare a mean little fire; Shadow Angel, dressed in jet black, including the wings, bared his teeth; Shadow Vlad flexed his stone arm, which was a violent purple; Shadow Mike had already split up and was circling their group.
Vlad was worried, “We need a miracle to get through this.”
The Angel responded, “I’m fresh out of miracles.”
Mike spoke, in a completely flat tone, like he knew it might be the last thing he said, “The embodiment of evil. Feeding on our life energy to replicate us. I think that this ‘darkness’, it wants to replace us with its own shadow doubles and have them sent to our reality. But it needs us to break onto our plane. It needs us.” Mike finished with a small shiver.
The Angel, spoke slowly, understanding what Mike was getting at. “It’s feeding on our ethereal energy to fuel its own dark minions. But…we can fight it, if we don’t give it the energy. That’s why Autumn’s void kept us safe for a while.”
Vlad asked, as Isaac flared again, “Well, how do you propose we do that? Isaac here seems to be bursting with energy.”
The Angel sighed. He did not like taking these tough calls. It was very unlike him. At length, he spoke, “I can feel it now, a subtle thread, something that’s connecting those shadow creatures out there. Someone very powerful and very evil is pulling all the strings here. But I also sense we can break the thread. It’s flimsy, it’s attached to…to…It’s connected with Isaac’s thoughts, it’s driving itself from him.”
Mike gasped, realization dawning on him, “Are you saying we should…”
Before Mike could complete, the shadow Isaac sent his fireball to them. Vlad deflected it with his stone arm. But he couldn’t stop the shadow Angel who had lunged for his throat. His teeth were at Vlad’s throat, but before he could bite, the real Angel dragged his double away from Vlad. Isaac flared again, and his counterpart tried his best to fry Michael, but as the flame approached him, he literally split in two halves and rolled away in opposite directions. The Angel threw his double in the path of the shadow Isaac’s flame, and the shadow was nearly incinerated. There was a sound of crackling and popping. In the brief moment that the Angel had before he was attacked by the upper half of shadow Mike, he yelled, “Vlad, use your stone arm and knock Isaac unconscious. Break the link of his thoughts. Quickly before…” and then he was thrown to the ground by the shadow Vlad, his stone arm pummeling into the Angel like a freight train. Vlad had heard the Angel, and he was incredulous, but he trusted the Angel. He had precious few seconds, as Isaac flared again. Vlad could just see his body writhing out of control on the inside. Vlad steeled himself, then pounced into the flames, and as lightly as he could, punched Isaac’s head with his stone arm.
Blessed relief flooded Isaac’s mind. Where a few seconds there had been boiling rage and fiery emotion, there was now, calming, soothing nothingness. Isaac fell, the flames around him dying. With a terrific scream, the shadow creatures dissipated, as if they had been nothing more than dust. The Angel rose, clutching his sides. “Good work Vlad.”
“I just hope I didn’t injure him too much. Was there no other way?” The Angel was not sure how to answer this, and so he did not.
Almost on cue, a massive beam of radioactive sonic energy streaked across the plains a large distance from them, the explosion so bright that they could see it even at that distance. Vlad and the Angel spoke simultaneously, “Sedusa.”