Chapter 41: The Trap
At that, the two groups split up. Corso and his group went into the doorway and began to escort nearly five hundred people out to the portal, sending them through. Hannibal and his team, led by Kale, proceeded to the great hall. As soon as they were out of sight of Corso, Hannibal noticed that Kale’s condition was hampering their progress, so he stopped them and asked Amelia to heal him.
Kale looked at Amelia as she stood before him rubbing her hands together. “You’re a Cimmerian, aren’t you?’ he asked as she reached out to touch him.
“Yes and no. Just relax, my friend. This may sting just a bit,” Amelia answered. Kale flinched when she touched him and moaned as his wounds felt like they were on fire for a few moments. Thirty seconds later, she released him with a heavy sigh. Amelia buckled and Selina caught her. “Thank you, sister,” she told Selina.
When Amelia released Kale, all of his pain was gone and his wounds were healed to the point that he could operate normally, which amazed him. He looked at her and marveled. “You must be a goddess to heal like that. Thank you,” he said gratefully.
“I’m no goddess,” Amelia returned as her strength quickly returned. “Just a woman with a special gift given to me by the Ancient of Days, that’s all.”
“Come on,” Hannibal urged them. “We don’t have much time. I’ve got a terrible feeling right now that something very bad is about to happen.”
Kale nodded and said, “This way.” They ran through the keep, stepping over the slain everywhere they went. Five minutes later, he led them into the great hall. It was an enormous room a hundred feet long by fifty feet wide with a cathedral ceiling, complete with flying buttresses. In the center of the room was a large round table. A large balcony overlooked the room on the far end. The slain lay everywhere, numbering nearly fifty. They were scattered over the floor and lying on the table, hanging on the chairs. It was obvious that there was a terrible fight in the room. Kale led them in the room and everyone grimaced at the slaughter.
The moment they entered the room, Hannibal became very uneasy in his spirit, sensing imminent danger. He scanned the room intensely as they spread out. “Keep your guard up,” he warned. “Something’s definitely not right here.”
Kale marveled, saying, “Most of these are soldiers belonging to the Emperor.”
Suddenly, Selina saw movement among the dead and called out, “We have a live one here.” She ran to the movement and saw a young woman ripped to shreds, barely alive. Selina dropped her sword as she knelt down beside the woman, who lay pierced to the abdomen in five places and her left arm was dangling by the flesh only, being nearly ripped off. Her right arm was mangled as were both her legs. Her face was bloody from great claw marks with one eye burst from the claws that rent her. Selina gathered her up and said softly to the woman, “Lay still, young one. Help is here.” The woman moaned as everyone gathered around. Amelia looked at the woman and shook her head sympathetically for there was nothing that she could do.
Kale rushed up, dropped to his knees next to the woman, and breathed, “Anna. You’re alive!”
The woman moaned again and opened her good eye, first seeing Selina’s shrouded face. “I thought I heard a voice,” Anna said weakly. Her complexion was that of death itself.
“You have to save her,” Kale begged Amelia.
Amelia shook her head and said, “It’s too late. Her injuries are too extensive. I cannot help her. To try to heal her now would put me in her position. Minor and moderate wounds I can handle, but when they are this close to death, there’s nothing I can do.”
Kale fumed and retorted, “You have to! She’s my wife!”
Hannibal put his hand on Kale’s shoulder and said, “There’s nothing we can do except make her more comfortable.”
Kale pushed Hannibal’s hand away angrily as Anna saw Kale. “It’s all right,” she told him weakly. “My time’s done. It’s over. I can die in peace knowing that you survived my husband.” Hannibal squatted down in front of her and she looked at him for the first time.
“Oh, be the glory to the Ancient of Days for I have seen His deliverance! I knew you’d come,” Anna breathed weakly.
Hannibal’s heart melted and tears began to stream out of his eyes. He reached out and grasped her good hand, saying, “You have great faith, Anna. Are you afraid?”
Anna closed her eye for a moment and moaned softly before opening it. Then she said, “No, I’m not afraid to die.” Hannibal marveled as she said to Selina, “Who are you? I would like to look into your face before I go to Valhalla.”
Selina uncovered her face and a smile crept across Anna’s mangled face as she looked up into Selina’s feline face. “I’m Selina, his wife,” Selina said referring to Hannibal.
Anna coughed and spit, and then replied weakly, “You’re very beautiful, Selina. Thank you for your kindness.” Selina smiled pleasantly into Anna’s face while Kale sat there, dumbstruck by Selina’s appearance.
Hannibal then asked Anna, “You’re not long for this world, Anna. Can you tell us what happened? Where are Corso’s wife and the council?”
A surge of pain caused Anna to moan and when the pain passed, she answered slowly, “They were taken by the outlander with the beast-men and monsters.” This did not set well with Hannibal as she paused for a moment, and then continued, “We were overrun. The outlander was leading them. They came for the council, including Jennifer. They killed everyone else. There are no others.”
Anna faded away for a moment and Selina shook her gently, saying, “Don’t go, sister. Stay with us.”
Anna came back and Hannibal asked her, “What did the outlander look like?”
Anna moaned softly, “About my height and build, brown hair and the strangest-looking eyes I’ve ever seen. It was the eyes that scared me the most. Evil…a terrible burning evil dripped out of those eyes as he directed the destruction of everything that he saw. He was able to burn people to a cinder with a touch, those whom dared to approach him.” Anna’s life ebbed slowly away as she paused, making one final effort to speak. “Beware. He’s still here with his friends. Bewa....” Her breath escaped through her mangled lips for the last time as she slumped dead in Selina’s lap.
Selina’s eyes filled with tears and she said, “Go, my sister. Valhalla awaits you.” Kale cried out and covered her, clenching Anna’s mangled body to himself.
Hannibal looked down and wept, saying, “Go to your rest, child of the king. Peace has come to you at last.” Amelia choked up and the rest of them turned away to mourned for the brave woman who had lasted so long after such punishment. Hannibal’s face suddenly steeled and he knew whom Anna was speaking of: Lord Hades. He rose and growled, “Hades.” Selina rose, wiping the tears from her eyes while picking up her blade. Hannibal let Kale hold the mangled remains of his wife for a few moments as he assessed the situation. Finally, he touched Kale on the shoulder and said, “We have to go. It’s not safe here; on your feet, Kale.”
Kale looked up at him with tear-stained eyes and saw that Hannibal had been crying for his loss as well. He gently laid the mangled remains of his wife down and kissed her one last time, saying, “Good bye, my love.”
Kale rose and Hannibal said, “She was a brave woman. She survived long enough to tell us what we needed to know. Be at peace, Kale. She’s with the Lord now.”
Kale fought back the tears and grief, saying, “I know. She stood with the council and the elite guard, giving us time to get away. She gave her life so we might live.”
Hannibal patted him on the shoulder and said, “Come, let’s leave this place of death and destruction.” Immediately after he spoke, Hannibal sensed a hideous evil and turned toward the balcony as maniacal laughter began to echo through the room. Instantly, everyone readied their weapons as they backed toward the doors of the great hall. The laughter continued as they suddenly found their escape cut off by twenty of the Emperor’s soldiers lead by Hades’ handpicked gladiator. The two other exits from the great hall suddenly filled with soldiers and two more of Hades’ handpicked team: one being the largest Zarukar of his team and the other, the reptilian Xenian. Each of them had twenty soldiers at their disposal. The three groups stopped at the entrances, not proceeding to attack. Hannibal and his team found themselves surrounded and severely outnumbered. He quickly assessed the situation, noticing particularly the cybernetic nature of the Xenian. The team stopped and turned to the balcony as the laughter ceased.
“Why Beowulf, don’t you like what I’ve done to this place? Isn’t it glorious?” the voice cackled wickedly. Hannibal looked toward the balcony and saw Hades come forward with the feline Xenian, the spider Xenian, and the rest of his team. The spider Xenian held a six foot two woman with snow-white hair and a long tattered leather dress in a lethal grip. All it had to do was close its pincers and she would lose her head.
Kale saw Jennifer in the grip of the beast and he called out, “Jennifer! Are you all right?”
“Ugh…yes, for now,” Jennifer called back.
“Oh, isn’t this precious!” Hades mocked. “You know each other; how fortunate for me.”
Hannibal looked up at Hades and said coldly, “Lord Hades. It’s been a long time, you son of hell.”
Hades bowed slightly. “Yes, it has…too long, my former master. Still, it’s good that you still remember me…your most adept apprentice. But now, I’m not the student, but the master!”
“I can see that, you lousy little shit ass!” Hannibal hissed with his anger growing. “I can only assume Zeus finished your training so you could take my place. Let me guess what he told you to do in order to become a master…to find and kill me?”
Hades smiled wickedly, crowing, “He didn’t have to tell me that because I’ve already willed that eventuality. But my new master has other plans for you, traitor.” Daggers of hate flew from his eyes to Hannibal as Hades paused for a moment, and then added, “I’ve waited all my life for this moment. Now, Beowulf, you have a choice: surrender or be taken by force.”
“What happens to her?” Hannibal asked bluntly, referring to Jennifer.
“She’s going to be a slave to the Emperor’s will, as you will soon be,” Hades retorted venomously. “I know what you’re thinking, Beowulf. You think you can escape this little trap of mine. You were so easy to draw in; so predictable. I knew you’d come here to help these pathetic maggots. But I didn’t know how you would come. You surprised me by your mode of transport. Tell me; are you a true master of the machines and your environment?”
“Why don’t you come down here and find out, child of hell!” Hannibal returned viciously, his anger blossoming. “I don’t fear you or what you can do. I have done things and seen things that you couldn’t possibly imagine. So come on, let’s dance, and see who’s the best, unless you are a coward.” Hannibal’s words bit into Hades’ soul like the very demons he controlled, enraging him.
“You dare to challenge me? I’ll show you who is the best, traitor!” Hades snarled venomously, drawing his sword and leaping off the balcony to the main floor. He somersaulted and landed with one knee down.
As he jumped down, Hannibal told Selina telepathically, When we fight, attack the guard back where we came in. Break through and get away. Tell the others. She nodded and subtly whispered in everyone’s ear what Hannibal ordered as Hades approached Hannibal menacingly.
They began to circle as Hades taunted Hannibal. Hannibal held his sword ready as they circled. In a flash, Hades attacked and Hannibal counterattacked. In spray of sparks, they clashed and at that moment, the rest of his team fell upon the soldiers with the gladiator leading them. Selina pounced with such speed and skill the gladiator had no chance. She swiped with her katana and removed his head with a single stroke before he could blink. As they fell upon the guards, assistance from the rear came in the form of Corso, Joel, Liu, the rest of Hannibal’s guard, and a dozen Cushite warriors. They slaughtered the guards in a matter of a minute. The other two groups saw it and moved on them as Hannibal and Hades sparred with each other. Seeing the opening for escape with the massacre of the soldiers that barred their escape, Hannibal clubbed Hades with his fist, and then swung his sword with such speed that it sang as Hades blocked it with his. Hannibal’s sword shattered Hades’ sword, at which time Hannibal delivered a perfect roundhouse kick to Hades’ jaw, sending him sprawling across the room.
“Come on!” Corso shouted as the other two groups moved in. Hannibal fled as the cyborg reptile and spider opened fire with their arsenal, missing them. Hades rose with fury and called upon his occult power: his eyes glowing as he hurled a fireball at Hannibal. The fireball clipped Hannibal as he raced through the doors, knocking him down.
“Get them, you maggots!” Hades roared and the chase was on. Selina dragged Hannibal to his feet and they raced down the corridors, following Corso and his people. Minutes later, they arrived in the square with a small contingent of Joshua’s men guarding the portal. Soldiers began to show on the walls and poured through the holes and out of every shadow in the square, hundreds of them from every direction.
Nathanael saw what was going on, and became very concerned. Hannibal and his team raced across the square only to be surrounded instantly by fifty soldiers. In the ensuing battle, he and Selina became separated from the rest of the group, who managed to get to the portal. They turned to go back for Hannibal and Selina when Hannibal shouted over the din of the battle, “Get out of here! Close the portal now! CLOSE IT NOW!”
By this time, he and Selina fought back to back with the slain piling up around them. Nathanael assessed the situation and called through the portal, “Come on! We have to leave them behind. There’s nothing we can do.” Those guarding the portal dove through as the army pressed sore upon them. Just as the soldier were about to breech the portal, Nathanael lifted the scepter with great sorrow and grief. The portal snapped shut before the soldiers could cross.
Hannibal saw the portal close and said to Selina, “Looks like we’re on our own.” They cleaved skulls and removed limbs and heads for nearly five more minutes before thirty soldiers swarmed them from every direction. As they pressed upon them, Hannibal’s rage boiled over with his berserker fury going nuclear. The air shimmered around him and Selina as his sword suddenly glowed fiery red. Hannibal’s eyes turned scarlet with a swirling red aura enveloping him. Selina instinctively ducked down behind him as soldiers came from all directions. “Die!” Hannibal roared in his berserker fury. “All my enemies die!” In the blink of an eye, a wall of fire erupted from the ground around him and Selina, pulsing out like a nuclear blast in all directions. It incinerated everything and everyone within fifty feet of Hannibal and Selina while scorching and flattening soldiers out to three hundred feet. The explosion killed sixty in an instant and seriously wounded another eighty soldiers, scattering them like burning embers in a firestorm. But at the epicenter of the blast, Hannibal and Selina remained unharmed by the explosive firewall attack. Furthermore, the blast gave them a brief reprieve in the assault on them.
Hades stared in disbelief at the attack, marveling at what he saw as a devastating magical attack. “Impossible,” Hades breathed. “How can he still call forth the infernal fires without the assistance of the Dark Powers?” As the smoke cleared, the remaining two hundred soldiers in the square hesitated.
Selina stood up and shook Hannibal as he panted deeply. “Are you okay?” she asked urgently.
“I don’t know,” Hannibal admitted, the fatigue showing on him, “I lost control again. I’m just happy I didn’t burn you.”
“You shielded me somehow,” Selina stated as Hannibal looked around at the burning battlefield filled with charred body parts. “And I ducked when I saw the rage overrun you. Can you let that dog off the leash again? We may need it.”
“I’m afraid not,” Hannibal stated, “That last blast drained me. My rage is dying down and I can’t stop it.”
Hades saw Hannibal weakening and roared, “Get them, you slugs! He’s exhausted his power!” A second wave of forty soldiers swarmed Hannibal and Selina from all directions, finally subduing them after losing fifteen more on Hannibal and Selina’s blades. Both of them were disarmed and held with their arms pinned behind their backs as Hades walked up with a very large bruise and boot imprint on the side of his face. He looked at the pile of slain around Hannibal and Selina and was impressed. “Your reputation is very well earned, Beowulf,” Hades commended. “Even your magical powers are as impressive as ever. But as you can see, I have the upper hand now. There’s someone who wants to see you.” The feline Xenian stood beside Hades and was intrigued by Selina.
“Who would that be, the tooth fairy?” Hannibal retorted sarcastically through his fatigue.
Hades’ face twisted with rage and clubbed Hannibal vicious with his fist. “You won’t be so sarcastic when the Emperor gets done with you,” he snarled, nodding to the feline Xenian, who extended his mechanical arm and shot darts into both Hannibal’s and Selina’s necks. It rendered both of them unconscious in seconds. Hades smiled wickedly and shouted to his minions, “The Emperor is going to very pleased with this. Now go and pillage; destroy all that remains. Leave none alive in your wake!” The soldiers shouted victory as Hades’ team prepared the prisoners for transport back to Amacia.
Aragon raged, pacing like a wild animal stamping his feet, infuriated by what had just happened. “We have to go after them!” he roared. “They’d do the same for us!”
Nathanael held the scepter with great grief at what he had done. He just looked down at the ground as tears began to well up in his eyes. The rest of Hannibal’s guard agreed with Aragon, as did Corso, Joel, and Liu.
“You heard what Hannibal ordered before we went through,” Amelia retorted with all the authority and nobility of a princess. “He knew that the potential was there for just what happened. Had we tried to rescue him from that horde, we’d have been taken too and Arionath would have been at their mercy with that door open into our very heart. Nathanael did what he had to do. It doesn’t mean he likes it any more than you do.”
Nicodemus put a caring hand on Nathanael’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. “They’ll be all right. You’ll see,” he told Nathanael. “The Ancient of Days is not going to let them die before the job is done. Just look at it as part of the Almighty’s plan. The prophecies stated this would happen. It’s just another proof that Hannibal is the One.”
Nathanael put his hand on Nicodemus’ hand, replying, “You’re right. This whole incident was for a purpose that’ll be revealed when the time is right.”
“But we can’t leave them to die in the hands of the Emperor!” David insisted.
“No, we can’t,” Joshua answered. “But we have much more pressing things to deal with at the moment.” Just them, an echoing roar was heard off in the distance and the ground shuddered as the Carite bombs sealed the gateway.
“Sounds like Harry has come through,” Nathanael stated.
“Seems so,” Joshua returned.
“But what about Hannibal and Selina?” Aragon repeated insistently. “Someone needs to go after them.”
“Patience,” Nicodemus retorted. “All in good time; first we need to get the people ready to move. Then we decide what to do about Hannibal and Selina. We’ll not leave them to be tortured and die in the clutches of the Emperor.”
“Nicodemus and Joshua are right,” Nathanael murmured. “We must take care of the people first. That’s what Hannibal wanted. Besides, he’s much tougher than you know. So is Selina. We’re just going to have to put them in the Lord’s hands and pray. That’s all we can do at the moment.”
“Well said, my great Lynxian,” Nicodemus agreed. “Well said. Come, we have much work to do.” At that, Nathanael remembered how Hannibal shut the machine down and tapped the pattern with the scepter. It glowed as the pillars slowly sank into the square. Minutes later, preparations were being made to move the people, including the five hundred rescued from Cushar. Word quickly spread among the people about Hannibal’s and Selina’s capture while trying to rescue the remnant of Corso and Liu’s people. The news was discussed intensely amongst the couriers from the other clans and preparations were set into motion by them to launch a rescue while Hades carried Hannibal and Selina as prisoners to the Emperor’s feet in the very heart of darkness.
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