‘There are too many stairs!’ Sarah whined as she began to fall back from the group ‘When are we going to reach the top?’
‘Soon,’ Amber reassured her as she paused to regain her own breath ‘But they’re going to be a lot of obstacles in our way so you’re going to need a lot of stamina. You never know what she’s put in the higher levels of this forsaken tower.’
‘Aw, man!’ Sarah took a deep breath and continued ascending the staircase ‘This tower is bloody too tall! Who would design such a place anyway? When I find them, I’ll kill them.’
‘The Queen herself or her demons?’ Amber suggested ‘I don’t think you’ll be able to kill them though.’
‘Oh, I suppose…’ Sheela kept on pausing, leaning against the wall to regain her breath.
‘If the dress is too heavy then rip the underskirt off to lose some weight,’ Vienna suggested as she caught up to her.
‘No, I don’t want to ruin something so close to Siegfried,’ Sheela shook her head ‘It’s his deceased mother’s wedding dress after all. I shouldn’t ruin something that close to him.’
‘You don’t have a crush on the weirdo, do you?’ Vienna raised an unimpressed eyebrow.
‘Of course not!’ Sheela snapped ‘It’ll be rude. And besides, it’s a pretty dress, I don’t want to ruin it.’
‘Now is not the time to fuss about dresses!’ Amber called down from her place on the staircase ‘I had to give up my food to a bull minotaur and I didn’t complain about that!’ Sheela took a deep breath and continued ascending with Vienna.
‘These stairs just go on and on and round and round,’ Sarah panted as she sat on one step ‘How long have we been climbing?’
‘I don’t time these things,’ Amber said crudely ‘Besides, I see the entrance to the next floor.’
‘Hooray!’ As soon as all the girls had reached the next barely lit floor, the staircase entrance slammed shut after them, making Sarah yelp sharply at the sudden sound. Sheela turned to look at it and crouched down, her hand glowing as she examined the spot where they had come from.
‘Automatic lock trapdoor,’ she muttered mostly to herself and sighed, standing up and glaring at it ‘I believe it will remain shut until the previous obstacle is conquered again. I suppose we can’t go back now.’
‘Aw, but Saphira can’t catch up with us that way unless she has two other people!’ Sarah protested and stomped her foot in a foul mood ‘Why does this Queen have to be so mean? It’s just not fair!’
‘Sometimes we need to leave people behind in situations like these,’ Amber rolled her eyes ‘I had to leave Xeann behind and I still had to tackle a whole labyrinth full of minotaurs and riddles that I didn’t even understand and don’t forget that sabre tooth tiger that nearly had me for his lunch.’
‘Why did Nan had to let you go ahead on your own?’ Vienna asked as Sheela tried an illuminating spell to see what the next obstacle was ‘It seems a bit unfair to make you go through all that on your own.’
‘Oh, she had to fight a Titanoboa while I had to go ahead,’ Amber shrugged ‘Big snake of about thirty feet I would say. Plus Xeann gave me some encouragement to make me feel positive. I’m afraid to say it didn’t really work.’
‘Crikey,’ Vienna said as she stared ahead with wide eyes ‘Thirty feet long? Blimey, that’s just about the size of…!’ A loud clanking sound abruptly stopped her train of thought. The torches along the stone walls suddenly lit up to give the girls better light and Sarah screamed as a humanoid creature stood in the middle of the room, head down. Sheela stumbled back with wide eyes, her hand on her heart as Vienna and Amber froze when they realised how scary this thing was. Sheela dragged them back to the wall where Sarah had her back flat against it. Sheela’s hand shot out to cover Sarah’s mouth to stop her from screaming again.
‘Don’t make any sudden movements or sounds or she will attack us,’ she breathed as the figure swayed on the spot ‘If she sees us, we’re going to get killed rather brutally.’ Sarah was breathing rather raggedly in shock and nodded fearfully, indicating to Sheela that she was feeling a bit better after the shock. Amber felt her breath quicken as she stared at the figure in horror.
‘What is it?’ she asked quietly, keeping her breathing steady ‘It certainly doesn’t look friendly.’
‘It’s a Human Weapon,’ Sheela murmured ‘No. LX, the Diamond Bruiser. She belongs in the Forbidden and Unknown Category. The Queen sure has her contacts.’
‘How do you know that this is the Diamond Bruiser?’ Sarah asked while looking over to her sister, shaking like a leaf.
‘She has LX embedded into her bicep,’ Sheela nodded to the silver LX tattooed into the Human Weapon’s left bicep ‘I know a few of the Human Weapons in the world, the scientists that had made them sent out information to civilians during the time we were in conflict with Aurallion so we could steer clear of them, and I believe the Diamond Bruiser is one of the deadliest.’
‘Why is that?’ Vienna asked while staring at the Diamond Bruiser’s physique ‘It doesn’t look so bad.’
‘Take a good look at her knuckles.’ Amber took one good look at the Diamond Bruiser’s knuckles and held her breath when she saw diamonds sparkle in the place of the knuckles.
‘I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of her punches,’ she said with a harsh swallow.
‘You wouldn’t want to give her punches either,’ Sheela said ‘They replaced her skin and hair with thick wired mesh.’
‘Oh my God, why would someone want that done to them?! That is like so horrible, that’s just, eww…’ Sarah exclaimed and went quiet as she was hushed by the other three girls. The Diamond Bruiser suddenly stopped swaying and stood straight. The girls’ eyes widened as her long braid, made out of wired mesh too, that had been coiled on the floor rise above her head like a scorpion’s tail, the diamond tip sparkling in the dim light. The Diamond Bruiser widened her stance and braced her fists, ready to fight, her diamond knuckles glistening ominously. The girls flattened themselves even more against the wall, afraid to go forward to try to fight her.
‘Just keep calm,’ Sheela bit out slowly to the other girls as she kept her eyes on the Diamond Bruiser ‘No-one can ever survive a fight against a Human Weapon. They were made to fight and win wars.’
‘What exactly do you mean when you called it a Human Weapon?’ Amber asked quietly.
‘She was once a human before she became the Diamond Bruiser.’
‘The poor thing,’ Vienna cooed quietly and crouched down when the Diamond Bruiser snapped her masked head in her direction ‘It must be in a lot of pain if she has all the wired mesh on her body.’
‘The scientists that made the Human Weapons only took volunteers,’ Sheela breathed as her heart began beating faster and she placed a hand over it in an attempt to calm it ‘So really, don’t feel so sorry for her. She or he and the other ninety-nine Human Weapons knew what they were getting into.’
‘Or he?’ Amber looked up at Sheela with a frown.
‘Yeah, they have changed genders while making Human Weapons.’
‘Sarah!’ the girls shouted at Sarah and Sarah placed her hand over her mouth when she realised how loud that had been. The girls split ways when the braid suddenly lashed out as the Diamond Bruiser charged at them. The diamond tip got embedded into the stone wall that had been behind them and the Diamond Bruiser began thrashing about violently to try and dislodged herself. The girls ran to the other side of the room, pressing themselves against the wall again.
‘Is there any way to beat her?’ Vienna asked.
‘There is a way to shut her down,’ Sheela said as she caught her breath ‘And that’s by saying her real name.’
‘What’s her real name then?’ Amber asked.
‘I don’t know! They didn’t release that much information on the Human Weapons! They kept the real names secret so they wouldn’t be stolen!’
‘Well clearly this one got stolen, how did she know about this one?’ Sarah asked as she kept a close eye on the Diamond Bruiser’s movements.
‘The Human Weapons were proved to be far too dangerous and because they can’t be destroyed they got sealed in different parts of Ethylias,’ Sheela explained ‘The Diamond Bruiser could have been found on this island or somewhere else where the Queen has been before. You need to say the title of the Human Weapon to get them working under your command. I suppose she had some help from her demon friends in finding her. Good choice, I might add…’
‘Right so we just need to say her real name to shut her down, huh?’ Vienna raised an eyebrow and closed her eyes ‘Well it shouldn’t be too hard, I know a lot of names. …Annabelle!’ The girls jumped when the Diamond Bruiser yanked her braid out of the wall and turned to them. Sheela held her breath.
‘Every time you try to call her name, she will react negatively if it’s the wrong name,’ she whispered to Vienna.
‘Daisy!’ Sarah tried, despite the warning. The Diamond Bruiser raced forward, a fist raised to punch them. The girls split ways again and the Diamond Bruiser punched the stone wall, making a large dent.
‘You two go ahead!’ Vienna shouted to Sheela and Amber as they were closer to the staircase ‘Sarah and I will try to take her down!’
‘Are you quite sure about that?’ Sheela raised an eyebrow ‘You’re going to be here with Sarah.’
‘I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me!’ Sarah gave a thumbs up and yelped, ducking when the braid came flying towards her and began running away ‘I’ll just slow you down up ahead anyway!’
‘Good point…’ Amber jumped when brick went flying everywhere as the Diamond Bruiser yanked her braid out of the wall harshly. Sheela began fiddling with her hair nervously. ‘But you’ll get killed!’
‘These things don’t know anything but killing!’ Sheela shrieked ‘I’m not leaving you here alone!’
‘It’ll be fine, I’m here!’ Vienna waved her hand and changed into her feral wolf form ‘Susan!’ She jumped out of the way to dodge a punch when the Diamond Bruiser turned to her abruptly. Amber grabbed Sheela by the wrist and dragged her up the staircase that circled the room where they had a view of Sarah and Vienna fighting the Diamond Bruiser. Sheela did try to tug Amber back down the staircase but Amber was stronger, dragging her up the stairs. Until they reached the doorway, Sheela would nearly scream if Sarah nearly got hit. Amber grimaced as they passed into the next room.
‘Lucrecia!’ Sarah tried her mother’s name to shut down the Diamond Bruiser and ducked to narrowly miss getting punched in the face ‘No? What about Sarah?’ She scampered around the room when the Diamond Bruiser swung another punch and tripped over her braid. The Diamond Bruiser stood over her, braid up and ready to strike Sarah. Sarah curled up, bracing for impact.
‘Bianca!’ The Diamond Bruiser lifted her head as Vienna called another name and received three claws to the face. The nails went into the mesh and scratched the little skin the Diamond Bruiser had underneath. She stumbled back as Vienna howled in pain when one nail got snapped off her paw. Sarah took the chance to tackle Vienna to the other side of the room while blood seeped out of the mask.
‘Aw, poor wolfie,’ she cooed and blew on Vienna’s cracked nail ‘Don’t worry, it’ll grow back…I think.’ Vienna shrunk into her tame wolf form, having Sarah hold her paw and whined pathetically. A tear went down her cheek as Sarah pressed a kiss to her paw and looked up at the Diamond Bruiser. ‘Shame on you! You made a young child cry! What do you have to say for yourself?’ The Diamond Bruiser remained silent, focusing mainly on her face under the mask that was bleeding.
‘It’s impossible,’ Vienna whimpered as the Diamond Bruiser recovered, blood on her wired mesh hands, and turned to them, ready to attack again, her braid raised to attack them at any moment ‘There are thousands and thousands of names in the world and her name could be anything!’
‘Wait, Sheela said that it could be a guy as well,’ Sarah remembered ‘It could be a guy’s name!’
‘That just expands our name choice!’ Vienna grumbled as she took her paw back and jumped out of the way when the Diamond Bruiser began charging towards them ‘Damnit, if only we can get some clues to what her name could be!’ Sarah managed to get out of the way, narrowly missing getting struck by the braid. Sarah breathed a sigh of relief and looked at her with a determined face.
‘Richard!’ she tried a male name. It was one of the biggest mistakes she could have ever made in her life. It seemed to anger the Diamond Bruiser and Sarah ducked to avoid getting hit by the braid. She didn’t see the punch coming hurtling towards her until she saw the ominous glint of the diamonds.
CRACK! Vienna’s ears flattened and her eyes widened when she saw the contact and heard Sarah’s jaw breaking. She winced in sympathy as Sarah fell over backwards and landed heavily amongst the rubble from the stone walls. Her jaw dropped and she quickly turned into her human form.
‘Holly, Brianna, Hayley!’ she chanted. The Diamond Bruiser took her attention off Sarah immediately when she heard three wrong names and her braid swung in Vienna’s direction and buried itself at her feet. Vienna jumped onto the braid and ran up it, jumping and kicking the Diamond Bruiser in the back, knocking her over in the process. She landed by Sarah who was curled up in the corner with blood pouring out of her mouth. ‘Sarah, are you alright?’ she asked while placing a hand on her shoulder. Sarah sobbed and tears dripped down her cheeks as she looked at her. She then shook her head slowly, indicating that she wasn’t alright. Vienna morphed into her feral wolf form, picked Sarah up, jumped onto the staircase away from harm and carefully lay her down. ‘Just rest, I’ll distract her more,’ she said as she jumped down to the Diamond Bruiser and ran to one side of the room ‘Joanna, Janine, Katherine!’ She jumped to avoid getting hit by the braid and ran up it to kick the Diamond Bruiser in the face. Sarah just lay on the floor, closing her eyes and slipping into a deep sleep full of nightmares.