Chapter 2: Dust in the Wind
“Seeing that his Kingfisher Mecha was critically damaged, Jesus one-inch-punched the visor of his cockpit open and rocketed into the UMHv using his god powers. He smashed through the windshield and kicked Wail in the face. Wale lurched from his seat to attack Jesus, only to receive a spinning backfist. Jesus pressed the self-destruct button and blasted off through the open hole in the windshield. Realizing they had no other choice, the whales activated their whale lord powers and abandoned their giant Asgardian mecha. They flew up into the sky, spiraling around each other.
‘ULTIMATE WHALE COMBINATION!’ they yelled in unison as their purple and red energy auras merged together. An explosion of power sent shockwaves through the land, temporarily stunning Jesus. Now, instead of the two whales, there was one giant gorilla whale (The 1954 version) with a chicken hat and a pink bow tie hovering in the air in the full-lotus meditative posture with one hand raised, the back of the hand facing outward, signifying pimp status and one hand pointed down to the earth signifying stability and balance. Lord Whaile summoned his death chakra energy and warped towards Jesus, intent on ending the battle with victory for Odin’s glory. Just as he was about to--"
“Oh thank god you’re here!” Ryssa exclaimed as she charged through the door.
The vampire growled and shook his head. “I guess she really wants to hear the end of that story.”
The bartender shrugged. “So far it’s one of your best stories. You tell it almost like you were there!”
The vampire and the bartender fell silent and locked eyes. It was as if they both felt they knew something the other did not, but neither wanted to risk losing that advantage by offering more information. They studied each other intently, searching for some sign of vulnerability to disclose hidden secrets. Before long, they had completely forgotten why they were staring at each other. It had devolved into a staring contest of epic proportions.
“I’m pretty sure you blinked,” the bartender declared at last.
“Though I can’t really tell because of those ridiculous sunglasses.”
“Fair enough,” said the vampire. “Even though I’m pretty sure your other eye blinked under that fancy eyepatch, I’ll concede this time.”
“Delightful!” The bartender reached across the bar and flicked the vampire on the nose (as is customarily dictated by standard tournament rules for staring contests).
“So are you going to finish the story?” Ryssa was begging now.
“Not tonight, there’s at least a couple chapters left,” the vampire responded smirking.
“You’re writing a book?”
"I’m not, but never mind that. Bartender?”
The bartender poured a glass of greenish alcohol from a mason jar labelled ”Blargyargs Green Drank" and slid it over to the vampire. The vampire gazed intently at it and the liquid began to bubble quietly.
The bartender turned to Ryssa. “So how is your shoulder?”
“The vampire totally forgot to take the bullet out because he was too busy tattooing “tramp stamp” and a cute little butterfly on my arm. I just had one of my lab technicians take the shrapnel out for me the next day at work. I do R&D on weapon systems for the FOC clan so I just said I got shot testing the new silenced miniguns.”
“Ahh yes. Munchies, Doc, and Nacho come here often. My bar was in the southwest corner of their turf last time I checked.”
“How do you check?”
“Well, FOC stands for ‘Fists of Cannabis,’ so you really just go until you stop seeing large pot leaves spray-painted on every other billboard in sight.”
“I suppose that is true. Last time I had to design an armored van for them, I made it black. They sent it back, asking me to change it to green and paint pot leaves all over it. Damn stoners. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time they--”
“GRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWRRRRRRR!” The vampire was clenching the sides of the bar so tightly that his already pale knuckles went a shade whiter. The glass had only a few drops of green left in it and they were boiling off fairly quickly. When the glass was finally dry, it tipped over and rolled slightly.
“Tawk tat yugh furgin drurrrgg,” the vampire slurred victoriously before blacking out and loudly slamming his head on the counter.
The vampire twitched violently, took a deep breath, murmured to himself about being the best, slapped his palms on the bar, and pushed himself up.
“Soooooo... Khvarikx when we last saw him was presumably dead, correct?” He said with absolute clarity.
Both of the others nodded.
“For what seemed like eternity, he was trapped in a dream. He wandered a meadow full of cheerful fairies and humans dancing together, singing songs of happiness about love and friendship. A beast of war such as himself would normally find this annoying and disturbingly aggravating, but Khvarikx felt strangely pleasant. He wondered if this was how his life would’ve been if he was created like all the other dragons.”
The fairies were climbing on him like a jungle gym or a slide at a park. Two of them managed to make their way to his head and crown him with a wreath of daises and sunflowers. He grinned lazily and hissed out a puff of rainbow colored smoke. As he watched them dance around his war-tempered body, he felt like he finally had a home. Then he heard it. A faint echo of a scream. Then an explosion in the distance.
For the longest time, he had thought he was only imagining those sounds as flashback from his time as a violent dictator, but this time it was clearly real. Then he heard more: thousands of voices screaming in agony and fear; thousands more joined the chorus every second. He grimaced, closing his eyes and trying to cover his ears with his claws. Soon it felt like every single human being who had ever lived was standing in a circle around him, screaming in pain. And then, just as suddenly as they had arrived, the voices departed.
He opened his eyes. He blinked several times. Somehow he had ended up on the moon. The grey landscape dotted by craters was so easily recognizable, but he had not even thought of visiting the moon since the time he killed Aevynha.
“This is just strange,” he muttered to himself. Due to the lower strength of gravity on the moon, he really didn’t even need to use his wings. He crouched and pounced, ready to float through the air like a balloon on a small child’s birthday. However, gravity pulled him back down much faster than he had expected.
“Wow, I’ve gotten fat.” He said, closing his eyes and shaking his head. Then he looked down at his body. What he saw shook him to his core. The sleek black scales that had adorned his body were now white and cracked. The frame which used to be packed with muscles like the rock was now thin and fragile. Panicked, he searched the sky, looking for earth; he needed gold to replenish his strength. If anything attacked him in this state, he would easily die and he was not yet ready to give up his life so soon after finding out it was still his to give. He spun around, kicking up a cloud of ash and dirt. A full moon hung over the horizon, illuminating the vast, desolate wasteland.
His pupils contracted as they focused on the glowing white orb. That’s when he realized what had happened. Possessed by the demon goddess, he had single-handedly eradicated all life on earth. All his followers were nothing more than dust in the wind and a dragon without a kingdom is just another wyrm. He needed to fix this catastrophe and restore his empire to glory, but he had no idea how.
“So if he killed everyone, how are we all alive today?” The bartender asked mockingly.
“Time-travel, obviously,” replied the vampire.
The bartender handed the vampire a juice box of rum. Ryssa and the bartender watched closely, waiting to see what kind of odd method the vampire would use to drink his beverage. The vampire licked the juice box several times before he started contently sipping on the straw. After finishing his beverage, he hissed loudly at it, stood up from his chair, and proceeded to sit down on the stool directly adjacent to it.
The vampire cleared his throat, performed a number of vocal warm-ups, flipped a coin, frowned at the result, and then continued the story. “In case you hadn’t put the pieces together yet, the moon was the first time Xijan Ol used her power. The only reason life existed there was her sister Aevynha. The logical solution for our dragon lord would be to go find Aevynha, but he killed her long ago. His only option was to discover the key to transmogrification. From there, once he reached a transdimensional state of physical presence, he could warp between universes until he found the origin reality of the gods where Willow, the time goddess remained. It took him many long years for the thought to cross his mind, but when it did, he immediately began training his mind to embark upon this quest. He toiled relentlessly for centuries, cleansing his soul to become a pure being, free of material ties to any one plane of existence.”
Khvarikx knew that he was finally ready to start his fate-bending quest of epic proportions. He began to slowly float away from his body, his astral body materializing and taking form while at the same time growing more abstract. He spun and rolled, dancing through empty space, playing with the concept of zero gravity. He was only a few feet off the ground, but, due to the fact that he was in a pseudo dream-state, the laws of physics had all but disappeared. When he was sure that he had transferred all of his consciousness from his body to his projected form, he spiraled upwards and used his pinkie talon to carve a large circle into the air. He reached out with his other claw and grasped the center of the circle. He pulled back, tearing a sheet of spacial construct out of its natural place and letting it float past him. Where the sheet was, there was now a seemingly endless shadow tunnel winding through countless forks, flips, twists, and turns. Oddly, somehow, you could still clearly see the exit on the far side.
Khvarikx glided into the abyss, fizzled into nothingness, and then re-materialized coming out of the labyrinth. He found himself floating towards what appeared to be a star. Sensing a presence of life on the other side of it, he sped up, turned, and drifted through the void, eyeing the back of the star. Sure enough, there was a large chunk of the star that had solidified and formed into a giant basin with pockets of islands and boiling seas. Khvarikx warped down to the surface for a closer look. He found himself in a city full of skyscraper resorts with swimming pools on every level. The majority of these skyscrapers were built on the sides of active volcanoes which continued to spew lava without fail. He narrowed his eyes and looked closely at the creatures inhabiting the planets. They were imps. Hordes of slimy incompetent imps. He shuddered. He had only used imps twice and both times he killed them out of frustration almost immediately. Was this where they all came from?
“Mr. Dragon, Sir, is that you?”
“Merp??” A wave of terror washed over Khvarikx. Were imps not capable of completely dying? Did they just respawn here and await a summoning?
“Merp didn’t recognize you at first because you’re white, but then Merp saw your weird eyes and Merp knew it was you!”
Khvarikx choked. He wanted to kill Merp more than anything, but his physical form was still trapped on earth. If he tried to strike the imp while in this projected astral body, he would just rip another hole in reality and open the next random portal.
“What is this place? I thought imps were allergic to extreme heat and water.”
“When we die in service of our masters, we get sent here where we can enjoy the blessed sacraments of fire and water without pain and death! That’s why imps act so dumb,” Merp explained, gushing pride at the clever technicality that his race had taken advantage of and literally turned into a religion.
“Merp just wanted to go to heaven to be with his girlfriend, Derp!”
“You are all little bastards and I hope this star explodes and kills you all.” Khvarikx swung his claw, tearing through Merp and creating a new portal. From Merp’s perspective, the dragon just vanished, but Khvarikx felt like he had slaughtered the little goblin more thoroughly than the first time.
The next universe that our protagonist arrived in opened up into a landscape of large red, purple, and black crystals of various heights. The largest ones were colossal purple columns reaching through the clouds to some unknown purpose. Perhaps it had to do with the consistently purple sky all around? As he walked along the surface he noticed that some type of creature actually built houses into the lower sections of the crystal structures. He admired the skilled craftsmanship and the expansive walkway system connecting some of the houses.
Suddenly, a sharp pain snapped him out of his admiration. He look down at his arm to find a pale, slightly humanoid creature with red bug eyes, black tentacle ears, webbed claw hands, and a number of long scales protruding from the base of the neck down to its tail. It removed its fangs from the dragon’s arm and faded back to its physical form, landing firmly on the ground. It spat out blood and hissed.
“You were already possessed by a demon. Gross. At best, you’re a carrier now. That literally does not help us one bit,” the creature complained.
“What do you--”
“Where are you going? You going somewhere? Where you from?” The creature was clearly bossy, but aware of something big.
“I’m from Aevynha’s world and I’m trying to find Willow.”
“Why did you stop here? Aevynha’s world is #5 and Willow is on #12. Are you stupid or something? Just keep cycling through; there are only 17 systems.” The creature stopped.
“You had to go through the imp world, didn’t you?” It turned around and walked away laughing hysterically.
It spun around to say something else, but was interrupted when a gigantic centipede-like rock monster hatched out of a crystal, devoured the pale, slightly humanoid creature, and promptly exploded into a large group of smaller rock centipedes. As they began to disperse, a flock of either alarmingly gargantuan insects, or relatively small alien blue whales with wings descended and began to devour the newborn critters. A horde of cat-sized salamanders sprung out of their many hiding places in the blackened soil, breathing generous amounts of napalm and thoroughly incinerating all other combatants. Khvarikx shook his head and vanished through the portals of space and time.
“Is that the planet where vampires came from?” Ryssa asked.
“That part of the story comes later,” the vampire replied coldly, smiling about an evil plan of some sorts. “Khvarikx passed through several other worlds without any major occurrences. Nothing important to the story happened until system #12, so I will just skip ahead to that...tomorrow night.”
“SMOKE BOMB!” The vampire disappeared in a cloud. “Oh crap, that’s tear gas.”
He coughed wildly and staggered to the door. Unable to open it, he produced a ridiculously over-sized sledgehammer from his cloak and smashed the door to pieces along with most of the surrounding wall. Even after thoroughly destroying the front of the building, he somehow believed that he had failed in his mission to create an exit. He threw down the hammer in defeat, walked to the bathroom, and climbed out through the window, disappearing into the night.