Okay... I could definitely live without this headache...
Malus hoped the tone of his thoughts would make the voices shut up, but they just kept blabbering away. Memories, images, conversations, and arguments that didn't belong to him flitted about in his thoughts. Argus was silently simmering while Celosia voiced what she would be doing to him if they were tangible, Kuromori was arguing with Avion about what the cloud looked like above Malus' head, and Pelagia was commenting loudly that that same cloud was definitelya tomato shaped scorpion. After that, Argus broke away from his silence and irritably said that Pelagia was definitely a bumbling idiot. This caused most of the Colossi to go silent and the Masked One to vocally burst into tears. Then all the Colossi began yelling at Argus. Well, except for Phalanx, who just commented calmly that the Sentry's words were completely unnecessary.
Malus concentrated on thinking his own thoughts, tuning out the angry voices. When the Colossi were just an indiscernible buzz, the Titan relaxed and looked up at the sky. While the clouds in front of him were normal and sunny, a slight turn of the head revealed that there was a looming dark mass behind him. Malus shivered and looked forward. He was preoccupied enough with what he was doing. The voices and the thunderstorm didn't help with his concentration at all.
Ever since Valus had first been felled, the Titan had been working at corroding Dormin's mental defenses. There were now gaping holes in the unseen shield around the Light. This allowed the captured life-forces of the Colossi to partially flow freely over the land, in the form of spirit-like voices. The voices could enter the mind of anyone... except for the Wanderer. Avion had already shared with Malus that the boy's thoughts were corrupted beyond hope by Dormin. Maybe even to the point where he had lost all sight of his goal, and was simply a puppet of the evil Colossus.
But that did not matter now. What mattered was that the Light's defenses were weakened. Not to the point where Malus could release his brethren with a snap of his fingers, but to the point where the incantation of a lesser being could shatter that dark shield. You ask, "Well, why not the Titan? Why does he not have the power while a 'lesser being' does?". Quite simple, actually. Malus did not knowthe incantation! Did I ever tell you Colossi were all-knowing?No? Good! Moving on...
Most shamans and priests, however, knew every demon dispelling trick in the book. It was pretty much their job. This was important for the Titan's backup plan, as he knew very well now that a group of Wandering people was racing toward the Colossus Valley at top speed on horseback. It had taken his powers combined with Phalanx's to sense minds so far away, but the result filled Malus with hope. One of the minds was that of a shaman, one that knew how to re-contain Dormin under precise circumstances if the need arose. As for the rest of the Titan's backup plan... that will be revealed in time.
Malus' concentration was broken again as Phalanx began trying to get his attention. The Titan couldn't help but sigh in frustration.
"What isit, my Dragon?"
I just wanted to let you know that I sense the Wanderer and Agro are beginning to head here from the Great Temple.
That is the horse's name. After delving into that unusually intelligent creature's mind, I find it respectful to call her by name.
Did you not know? The boy's horse is a mare. It is Wandering custom for their people to ride and own horses only of the opposite gender. They believe women exude a calming love that tames and endears any stallion, while men evoke a flame in mares that makes them hardier and undyingly loyal to their rider. Either way, they still tend to say 'good boy' as praise. The whole custom is very sexual in nature. It's all very strange, in my opinion, but this topic is useless. What I was meaning to tell you is that the boy's emotions are very... unstable.
"What do you mean by that?"
Though he has been surrounded by a dark cloud for some time, his emotions seem to be leaking past now. Apprehension... Grief...Extremeguilt... I believe by this point all the Wanderer has done is getting to him.
"So he is weak?"
No. With every Colossus felled, Dormin transfers a small amount of the captured life-force to the boy. You could have defeated him easily before Dirge was killed, but our dear Sand-Serpent's added strength was the turning point. Now... the Wanderer is a force of power, darkness, and in a way, insanity... I wonder though, Malus. Why do you not know of these things already?
"I have been... preoccupied."
An irritated voice spoke up from the background.
Preoccupied shmoccupied. Phalanx, would you besokind as to allow me to blast this infuriating feather-bag to bits? I'd ask Malus, but he'sbusy...
Logically, Kuromori, you can't blast her to bits.
Well, first of all, you and Avion are both dead...
Also, it would be wrong. This spiritual connection we all have should make you closer and help you see eye to eye... Not add to your usual petty squabbles.
So will you apologize and end this immaturity?
Malus sighed again and focused on the mountains in front of him. He could feel now the not so distant presence of two lives. The Titan continued to concentrate on the approaching horse and rider.
Eventually, the two minds came to a stop where Malus knew there was a special door barring the boy's path. It was meant to only admit those who were worthy of seeing the Titan. In the times before, when there had been people, the doors had always been wide open. Everyone in the land was considered worthy. But ever since the Quake, the doors had been shut. Malus was almost hopeful they would stay closed when he heard the distant groan of hinges that hadn't moved for centuries.
"So he is worthy..."
"What do you mean, Argus?"
Remember that sword your Child created?
"Megami forged many swords. She showed each of them to me, though."
Well... remember the sword that she created in the Light Garden?
"Ah, yes! I remember her asking Celobia and Celosia to help her take everything she needed up there. I recall Meg going on about capturing the Sun's light and Dormin's power within a sword to create the ultimate weapon. For protection, of course. That girl hated violence and war, but she loved to create swords..."
Yeah, yeah... the point is, the Wanderer has it.
Malus was slapped out of his nostalgia.
Apparently, the one person who escaped the Valley took the Sun Sword with them. Somehow the Wandering people must have gotten a hold of it, and now that boy is using it to kill us all off. It can also open those doors, so worth is just completely out the window.
The Titan ignored Argus' further talking about how the Wanderer was using the sword, and instead looked back a small memory.
"Why the long face?"
Malus was slightly concerned. Usually Megami was ultra talkative and happy when showing him a new sword. Now she just sat with legs crossed on the Titan's furry shoulder, holding the newly created Sun Sword in her lap, with a pensive look on her face. Meg looked up at the Titan's face, her dark brown hair whipping everywhere in the breeze.
"This one isn't like the others. Instead of sitting in a case in one of the temples, being admired... This sword is going to do more. It's going to break many apart, and do bad... but maybe it will unite them, too..."
The girl then chuckled to herself.
"Oh, you should just ignore me. I've been in that sunny garden for way too long. So what should my next project be?"
Malus realized he was being yelled at now. By all of the Colossi, actually. They were telling him to pay attention to the boy.
The Titan refocused on the two lives that were now making their way up the stairs to the bridge that went across the ravine that divided the mainland from the base of the Dias. He knew the bridge had lost many blocks and it was extremely unsound. But that did not stop the horse and rider. Malus heard the bridge falling apart and focused on the two minds carefully. Finally, there was one last crack as the final block fell, and a heartbreaking cry that echoed up to the Titan soon after it.
Malus transferred his concentration solely to the Wanderer, ignoring the faint pulse of life that still drifted from the bottom of the ravine. Phalanx quietly told the Titan that the boy was feeling immense pain now, and to expect anything. But as the grieved mind began its climb up the Dias, Malus couldn't help but remember the Dragon's words from earlier.
...men evoke a flame in mares that makes them hardier andundyingly loyalto their rider...
"Hmm... perhaps there is something to that custom..."
The Titan's musing was interrupted by a crack of lightning from above. Malus looked up to find that the thunderstorm was suddenly directly overhead, and rain was pelting into his eyes. Everywhere around him was dark, except for the fifteen columns of light that shined eerily in the distance.
"Well isn't this a wonderful setting for a final battle...?"
That time, all of the Colossi had shouted in unison. And as Malus returned his focus to the Wanderer, he could understand their concern. The boy had just finished climbing one of the ladder-columns that led up to the top of the Dias, and was now standing on it's very edge, hundreds of yards from the Titan.
Among the enraged yet encouraging shouts of his brethren, Malus growled menacingly and loudly so the Wanderer could hear it. He had not realized just how menacing he sounded, as waves of terror instantly radiated off of the Titan's distant, small foe. Flexing his hands, which were incredibly flexible compared to the other human-esque Colossi, Malus allowed the energy that crackled in his bracers to flow to his fingertips. With an inaudible sigh of determination, the Titan lifted his right arm, poised to attack, and waited for the boy to come into range.
There was a long pause. Wind blew fiercely over the Dias, flowing through the tunnels that ran through the immense stone structure. The tunnels, and the barracks built around them, were made to protect Malus' people from assaults by forces as strong as Colossi. There had originally been wooden and weak stone buildings everywhere, but by now they had crumbled and vanished.
The Titan watched the Wanderer carefully for what felt like an hour. Finally, though, the boy moved. But he did not move forward. He moved downward, onto his knees. A sudden torrent of emotions and images crashed over Malus, breaking out of the dark shield.
There was a girl, whose face had been shown to the Titan by Kuromori and Celobia, that was being forced away from the viewer. As a man in a shaman's cloak held her above the ground, one hand under her knees and one around her shoulders, other men that looked like warriors crowded around the two. They jeered at the girl as they ripped off her outer cloaks and jewelry. From the way the view was erratically bobbing about, it was obvious the boy was frantically trying to get to her, but being restrained. The girl gave the Wanderer a look of terror and resignation as the shaman carried her into a large tent, and the flap closed behind him.
This memory was simpler. All it consisted of was the boy carefully wrapping the dead girl, who now wore nothing but a simple white dress, in a large black sheet. How she died or where they both were was not clear, as everything was extremely blurry. The boy was probably crying.
There was a large splash as Agro fell to the bottom of the ravine. Everything was now tinged in a distorted darkness. The Wanderer cried out his beloved mare's name, staring down at the river that seemed miles below. Stone blocks from the now destroyed bridge slowly sank out of visibility. After a minute, the boy stood and turned to look up at the Dias, whose top also seemed miles away. Malus heard an only slightly audible, "Well, there's no turning back now..." as the image started to move forward.
Now, the memory was not really a memory. It was the Wanderer looking up at the Titan with absolute terror. He was muttering "Holy shit this thing is going to kill me." over and over at super speed. But as the realization that the Titan wasn't moving hit him, he felt extreme confusion. It was probably this on top of the terror and grief that made the boy crack.
Malus didn't budge from his position, his arm stayed steadily pointed at the Wanderer, ready to strike. Meanwhile, the other Colossi muttered quietly in his ear.
Ha, coward! The sight of our Titan has brought him to tears!
Poor dear... Dormin's control has clearly damaged him beyond hope...
What are these memories? Who was that girl?
My Titan, you should pay attention. If my presumptions are correct, the boy will only come back to his senses stronger than before.
Ooh, those light columns in the distance lookpretty!
Shut up, Pelagia!
Oh, don't start thisagain,Argus. Let our Masked One think what he wishes.
Malus paid attention to Phalanx's words the most. As he watched, the boy who had been helplessly crouching on the ground with shoulders shaking was now standing up. A wave of fierce determination hit the Titan before the dark shield returned, and the Wanderer stepped forward.
When the boy was at the top of the steps that came to Malus' Dias, the other Colossi informed him quietly that he was in range.
Fire! Fire! Kill him!
The Titan let out a single bolt of energy from his hand, and it landed quickly and forcefully in front of the Wanderer, throwing the boy backwards several yards. When the Wanderer rose, he looked around, finally running up the steps and to his right. Malus fired, but the shot was blocked by a fallen column.
He has found the tunnels! There was an opening to them next to that column!
Don't hesitate, my Titan! Continue to throw your energy at that wretch, and perhaps the earth will fall on top of him before he comes to the first barracks!
With Phalanx's help, Malus followed the boy's life under the ground, firing bolt after bolt at him. It was to no avail, though. Soon the Wanderer came out to the barracks. There was a pause as the boy investigated and climbed the blocks that allowed him to leave the safety of the hole. But the Titan could not blow him away. There were strong remnants of the shields that protected Malus' people who were not able to enter the barracks. They stood unbreakably in front of each hole in sets of three and four, and each set had another entrance to the tunnels to the Titan's left.
Becoming visible to Malus, the Wanderer hurried the short distance from where he exited the hole to where he pressed up against the back of the first shield. There was another pause before the boy suddenly rushed to the second shield. The Titan's bolt did not land in time, and neither did the other bolts as the Wanderer ran to the third and forth shields, then slipped down into the tunnel entrance. Malus fired rapidly at where the life was.
Once more the boy became visible, but not in the next hole. He was at the side of the Dias, looking over the ocean from a small series of stone shelves. Unfortunately, the Titan could not fire on the boy because the protective shelves that stuck out of the Dias were lowered out of shooting range. However, he knew that there was a gap in the protection near where the shelf came to the next tunnel entrance. So Malus waited for the Wanderer to shimmy across the shelves. When the boy was visible, the Titan instantly fired.
A yelp sounded over the Dias as the Wanderer quickly rolled into the entrance, escaping the bolt by inches. Several of the Colossi groaned, startling Malus. He had almost forgotten they were still there.
How did that...thing... get out of that one?!
He is smart and agile, you fool. How do you think he managed to kill us all?
So you're taking his side, Phaedra?
Of course not, Kuromori. I'm merely stating fact.
Shush, Malus is concentrating!
Soon the boy came out to the second barracks, which was only thirty yards from the Titan's feet. When the Wanderer leaped out of the hole and to the protection of the first shield, Malus was able to see the boy in greater detail. Now he could truly see why Kuromori, and all the other more recently felled Colossi, had called the Wanderer a wretch. Through the rain, the Titan could see that the boy was himself covered in darkness, but it was not created by Dormin. No... the darkness was blood. Black, oily, Colossusblood.
The boy rushed to the second shield without being hit, but when he tried to run to the third shield, the greater distance threw him off. All of the Colossi cheered as the Wanderer took a bolt in the side and was rocketed back down into the barracks.
Five minutes passed. At first, the Colossi were quiet. They waited for the boy to come back up, unfazed as he had been every other time he had been struck down. But by the five minute mark, the Colossi were conversing excitedly.
He is not coming up! Phalanx, is he moving?!
No. It would seem the small warrior has been knocked out.
Ugh, you mean he's still alive? Why can't that fiend justdie?!
If I may...
When I was killed, I fell on top of the Wanderer. Before I blacked out, I noticed that he was holding his side in pain, like he had sustained internal injuries.
And once again, the mighty Lion inadvertently kills someone...
I'll kill you, Argus!
Celosia, just leave him be.
Wait! He is rising!
At Phalanx's call, the Colossi went quiet. Sure enough, Malus sensed that the boy was slowly beginning to move towards the blocks that allowed him to climb out of the hole. Everybody watched with held breath as the Wanderer crawled out of the barracks, his demeanor clearly displaying pain. The Titan waited as the boy dragged himself to the first shield and got to his feet, using the strong stone as support. There was another long pause.
Argus proclaimed loudly that there was no way in hell the Wanderer would make it. A chorus of "You're right" sounded in Malus' mind. Only Phalanx was silent, giving all her attention to the boy's weak form.
Startling every Colossus, including the Titan, the Wanderer suddenly sprinted towards the second shield. Because he was caught off guard, Malus was unable to fire a good shot.
He was leading us on! That wretch was never hurt!
I would not be so sure...
I sense he is in great pain again. This time, it is physical. The wound that our dear Lion accidentally gave the boy has been ripped open inside of him. Only fierce drive, determination, and Dormin's will are going to keep him alive long enough to accomplish his task.
Malus was prepared for the Wanderer to move. Yet, somehow, when the boy rolled to the third and final shield, all of his bolts missed. The Titan could only watch numbly as the Wanderer slipped into the final tunnel entrance.
While at first mere disappointment resonated from the Colossi, they soon realized that something was wrong. That Malus was upset.
What is wrong, my Titan?
Yeah, what's going on? Where does that tunnel lead?
Malus could only mumble in reply.
"It leads... to underneath me..."
Every Colossus responded in some form of terror.
Oh, that's not good!
Well, this is crappy at best...
What can he do?! What can we do?!
B-But... once the boy was on us... r-reached us... there was no hope... we... we were doomed...
The word "doomed" echoed in the Titan's mind. As the Wanderer ran up the steps that led out of the tunnel, Malus growled to himself.
"No... I am not doomed..."
The Titan could now hear sounds of heavy footsteps on the first level of his armor, around his ankles.
Malus, why onEarthis your armor like this?! It's horrible!
Yeah, just look at it! It's like it'ssupposedto let people climb up!
Looking down at his skirt-like armor, the Titan nodded.
"Well... yes. If I had to shout down to any human who wanted to talk to me, their eardrums would be broken, and my voice would be permanently hoarse. My armor was designed to be climbed by intricate layers. So if somebody wished to speak with me, they would climb the levels to my waist, then I would raise them by hand to my shoulder."
There was a chorus of "I see", as the boy slowly continued his journey upward. If Malus concentrated, he could start to hear the Wanderer groaning in pain with each notch ladder climbed, and breathing heavily as he circled the levels looking for a way to continue onward. Finally though, the boy came to where the armor ended, at the Titan's waist.
Ha! What's he going to do now, huh?
He's got nowhere to go!
Squish him with your hand, Malus! Squish him!
"But he'll just dodge, I know it..."
Have faith, Malus! You're starting to sound dejected!
"And I should take advice on how to handle myself from a lot that's dead?"
... point taken...
Malus, watch yourself!
The Titan looked down frantically.
"What?! What's happen- GAH!"
Startled by the pain that flared from the armor-less point on his back, Malus reached his left hand behind him and tried to place it where the pain was. But some mysterious force, likely created by Dormin, kept the Titan from touching his back. Just as he gave up and started to return his arm to its normal position, Malus heard a sudden cry of pain and felt pressure on his palm. The Titan quickly raised his hand in front of him to investigate.
Clinging for dear life, with teeth clenched in pain, the Wanderer was what Malus found on his hand. It was what he expected, but the Titan couldn't help but be held aback.
Don't just stand there! Twist your hand so he falls off!
Oh, be quiet. You heard him, he doesn't want to hear from a lot thatdead...
Argus, you're just going to make him feel guilty, and it won't help the situation atall...
As Malus began twisting his hand, he quietly mumbled,
"Yes, thank youAvion."
The Titan curiously watched the boy struggle to crawl over his hand with each twist. Eventually though, the Wanderer seemed to have had enough. With another yelp of pain, he rushed onto the stone bracer that covered Malus' lower arm. He quickly looked up to see the unprotected band of fur that was just below the Titan's glowing energy bracer on his upper arm. Malus had little time to shake before the Wanderer stabbed the spot.
In an act of instinct, the Titan growled and tried to place his right hand on the wound. Once again the mysterious force kept him from making contact. He only had his hand there for a few seconds, but it was enough time to let the boy weakly leap onto his palm.
Malus began twisting his right hand while he listened to the other Colossi converse.
Isn't there anything he can do?
There must be something!
Phalanx, do you have any ideas?
How can you be so calm?! This is terrifying! We don't want our Titan to join us!
In our lovely Eagle's words, it would not help the situation atall.Fear is meaningless in the face of disaster. Only courage and common sense can solve the problem.
Oh, and that sure helpedyou...
That is beside the point.
I believe the term isinsidethe point...!
Shut up, Pel-
Not you too, Kuromori! Leave him alone!
Malus continued to twist his hand, shaking his head at the fact that somehow the Colossi had once again managed to get distracted.
He is getting angry.
Phalanx was right. Hot frustration was starting to radiate off the Wanderer. In a sudden movement, the boy raised his sword and plunged it into Malus' hand with a shout of,
The nerves in the Titan's hand numbed, causing it to stop moving. Without pausing to think, the Wanderer began firing angry volleys of sharp sticks from an odd wooden thing at Malus' head. Sticks bounced off of his face and right shoulder without causing damage, but when one of them dug itself into the Titan's sensitive, furry left shoulder, that was it.
With a growl, Malus once again instinctually reached for the sore. This time, no mysterious force stopped him. The boy stumbled from the Titan's hand onto the fur and temporarily clung to it as he caught his breath. Malus shaking his shoulders did not seem to faze his dangerously close foe. After a few minutes of unsuccessful shaking, the Wanderer finally stood and ran to the Titan's head. With one leap he was instantly on the fur of Malus' vital.
With each stab, the boy shouted something, and the Titan shook his entire body in vain.
"This is for Emon!"
"This is for my tribe!"
"This is for that journey through the mountains!"
Stab. Growl. Shake.
"This is for Dormin!"
Stab. Growl. Shake.
"This is for all those fucking lizards I had to eat!"
Stab. Growl. Colossi shout. Shake.
"This is for all the Colossi that didn't deserve me!"
Stab. Growl. Colossi shout. Shake.
"This is for all the Colossi that DID deserve me!"
Stab. Roar. Shake.
"This is for Agro!"
Stab. Roar. Weaker shake.
"And this... is for MONO!"
A final stab. A final roar. A final, very weak shake.
Malus held his hand to his head, trying in vain to keep in the blood and energy that kept him rooted to the land. However, he realized quickly that he had no energy left. And with that, he collapsed. His skirt-like armor cracked under his weight, but kept him standing. His upper body limply fell to the side. The dismayed, crying voices of the Colossi began to fade from the Titan's mind.
Megami... I hope our enchantments work... I hope your insight has saved us... And I hope the last time I see sunlight was not a mere hour ago...
The last thing Malus recognized before he blacked out was the Wanderer sighing and collapsing onto the comforting fur of the Titan's shoulder.
Dormin was absolutely ecstatic. Irreversibly, unchangeably ecstatic.
The twisted Light did not even notice Malus' life force joining the others. They did not care that every bird, lizard, tortoise, fish, eel, and plant in the land had suddenly become gravely ill, except for in Their garden. All They knew was that They were free.Nobody, as far as They knew, was going to keepThem from becoming free. They did not care, They did not fear. They didn't even suspect that somebody would even come to try and stop Them.
Oh, how surprised They would be...