Chapter 9: I Will Always Love You
The gates were open wide, but nothing was coming through. Night had fallen and the rainstorm had only intensified. Whatever waited on the other side was completely camouflaged by the deluge. It had been three hours since the gates opened, but no one dared make a move. They could all feel the evil presence lurking in the dark, biding its time. Bacon himself was even stirred. He had never felt such a malevolent energy in his entire life. Not even his alternate self could be this hellacious.
A bolt of electricity illuminated the sky, revealing a dark figure rising up at least four or five times taller than the wall itself. Bacon thought his eyes were playing tricks and he squinted, desperately peering into the blackness of the atmosphere. Another flash of lightning struck the ground and then remained, crawling aimlessly around the blood-soaked battlefield with its arcs acting almost as spider legs, occasionally striking down stragglers from Bacon’s army. Its tail stayed fixed in the cloud it originated from, only moving slightly as the cloud drifted along. Another two bolts joined it in its quest to eradicate the survivors followed by several more in the next couple seconds. However, Bacon hardly noticed because his eyes were fixed on the colossus looming over the battlefield, now made visible by its electric tendrils.
The creature was clearly some type of dragon, but its body was built with a more humanoid design than most. More strange than its skeletal system, the beast only had one wing. Entirely bone with no webbing, the wing was completely vestigial, but horrific in a bizarre way. Twisted and crooked spines ran down its back and along its limbs, rattling and shivering as the monstrosity yawned and stretched, slowly waking up from its brief little nap.
“What are you?” Bacon asked, stunned in awe of the giant.
“The left wing of Khvarikx,” the creature responded in a soft, warm voice.
“Where did you come from?”
“The left wing of Khvarikx.”
“What do you mean? What made you?”
The Left Wing paused, sizing up the tiny bacon strip with her faintly glowing, steely grey eyes. She sighed, contemplating her answer. Lost in the moment, she extended her oversized, useless wing and shook it in a twitching manner for some random reason. She sighed again, then took a deep breath.
“The left wing of Khvarikx.”
“Is that all you know how to say?”
“You troll,” muttered Bacon, getting more frustrated and curious by the moment. A faint scream rang out from one of the soldiers as he fled from the lightning creepers in terror, but all in vain as he was caught and fried without mercy.
"I'm not a troll. I'm the left wing of Khvarikx."
“What does that even mean?” demanded Bacon, now quite irritated.
Arukoru shook his head. He knew exactly what she meant. Dragonscales had been used for centuries to spawn minions; it wasn’t a stretch to believe that whole limbs could be used too. What bothered Arukoru was the way dragons process emotions and concepts. Dragons had extra brain-like organs throughout their body for different functions. For example, a dragon’s understanding of life and appreciating life’s value comes from a region behind the ears. Khvarikx’s set of these processors weren’t activated when he came into the world as a young hatchling. They didn’t actually turn on until they were triggered sometime during the possession by Xijan Ol. The capacity for evil and enjoyment of utter chaos comes from a chain of mini-processors running through the bone marrow in the wings. If this creature was truly created from one of Khvarikx’s wings, it would literally be the living incarnation of all evil stereotypes ever imagined.
“Atialysis, you know what needs to be done,” Arukoru said to Bacon’s sheathed sword.
The sword flew out of the sheath and into Arukoru’s open hand as the Left Wing took a step forward, causing the earth to tremble to its core.
“I mean no harm, my dear guests,” the creature said, placing a castle-sized claw on the steel wall and leaning down to crouch face-to-face with the three leaders of the rebel army. While she sounded friendly and sincere, her words were taken without trust as her lightning bolts brought another screaming death to one of Bacon’s followers.
Arukoru completely ignored the monster and spoke to Atialysis again, “This is what our clan was meant to do. This is what you were created to do!” He turned to Bacon, “When I do this, my soul and the soul of this sword will join into one ultimate spirit being. We will kill this vile foe, but we will most likely die in doing so. Remember us!”
“I’m so lost right now,” a dazed Erik stated.
Bacon shot a sympathetic look at Erik and then returned his gaze to the salamander warrior that had taught him how to fight and then led him down this road to redemption. “Is there another way?”
The Left Wing raised her other claw above the three and a toothy smile cracked her lips as her talons glided through the clouds.
The salamander shook his head again, solemnly, but with a hint of optimism. “Sometimes, size does matter. Go on from here. Fight your former self and defeat him. It is your destiny, just as defeating this creature is ours,” he said, gesturing to the sword in his hand.
The giant dragon tightened her pectoral muscles and initiated her claw’s descent back down to earth.
“Goodbye, Atialysis,” said Arukoru, “I will always love you.”
Arukoru roared and slid the sword through the front of his chest and out through the middle of his spine. He flashed a yellow glow and levitated as he started to grow to immense size, crackling energy and deflecting the incoming attack from the Left Wing. Soon, he was matched to her size and hovering above her, his blue spots now glowing yellow. His awkward salamander body was replaced with what could only be described as a weresalamander on steroids... lots of steroids. Not to be outplayed, she levitated to his elevation and eyed him warily.
“Nope, nope, nope,” said Erik, slinging his axe over his shoulder, “nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope,” he continued, casually sprinting away from the conflict like a soccer mom on her morning jog.
“The two giants beat each other senseless for almost an hour before the salamander manage to rip off and impale the dragon with her own wing,” summarized the vampire at the end of his lively portrayal of the legendary duel which involved punching himself in the stomach repeatedly and flipping nearly every chair and table in the bar.
“Wow, that was really intense. You’re really good at getting into the story,” said Ryssa cautiously, noticing that the vampire was still fixated on her chair after trying to flip it several times already.
The vampire broke his stare and sat down heavily on the side of the old pool table (much to the hissing disapproval of the purple lizards), panting and covered in blood, sweat, and tears. The bartender tossed him a full bottle of rum to quench his thirst. The vampire nodded gratefully, sliced the top off with his blade-like fingernails, and poured the brown liquid over his head.
“Oh yeah. That feels fantastic.” He shook himself wildly like a black lab emerging from a lake on a hot summer day.
“So Arukoru didn’t die?” asked the bartender.
“Not from the Left Wing,” the vampire began to respond, but stopped. He didn’t remember mentioning the salamander’s name. Or did he? He didn’t remember if he remembered. Holy flatbread tacos I’m drunk. Druuunkkkkkk. Drunk drunk. Dunk tunk dunk drunk. The vampire suddenly sobered up with a start. “Is it wrong to refuse free tacos on Tuesdays?”
The other two stared in complete silence for a moment.
“How could you?” concluded Ryssa after an intense inner dialogue.
“Very carefully,” replied the vampire, narrowing his eyes suspisciously.
Arukoru had returned to his normal form and was now lying in a pool of his own blood. The yellow glow was completely gone and the only thing left of the bizarre showdown was the fact that Atialysis was buried in Arukoru’s spine and vital organs.
“Oh damn. That really hurts,” he said weakly.
“Hang on, Arukoru! You’re going to live through this, I promise!” Bacon cried.
“Doubtful. I kicked that harpy’s ass no problem, but this sword has got me pretty messed up.”
“Don’t worry, I can fix you up! You’re coming with me to the end!”
“This is the end. The end of my story. Your story may not have an ending soon enough for this old lizard to see it.”
“...but, Arukoru... you’re an amphibian...”
“WHAT?” Arukoru choked on his blood.
“Hold on let me take care of this.” Bacon pulled the Atialysis out and laid the blade down beside him.
“WHHHAA-AA-A?!? Why would you d-do that?” croaked Arukoru.
“What? Do what?”
“Pull the blade out! You--*blood hiccup*--you’re supposed t-to leave it in until...” Arukoru trailed off gargling blood.
“It’s like... the f-first thing they teach you in first aid...” he whispered faintly.
The violent thunderstorm had finally given way to a barren night and now all Bacon could hear was Arukoru’s labored breathing. Each time his chest rose and fell, it was accompanied by painful wheezing and bubbling. A moment later, he could hear nothing. Once again, Bacon found himself overwhelmed by the sound of silence, deafening him and weighing heavy upon his heart. He looked to the blade which had served its masters so long to the very end of their noble bloodline.
The crispy warrior sighed wearily, “I guess it’s just us now, huh?” he asked, gazing at the blood coating the fine steel of the ornate sword.