Wiseman ran his palms over the crystal ball, and through it revealed the goings on in Crescent Valley. What it showed put the court ill at ease; less because a promising general had fallen, and more for the fury it would inspire from their master.
Lord Nihilex did not disappoint, and stormed across the obsidian tiles. They cracked under his feet, and rattled loose the stalactites. His bellows carried through the tunnels, and into the mouth of the Abyssal Realm.
“Of all the clumsy, inept sycophants to march through these halls, this one grates me the most!” he roared. “To think that I had hopes for Curs’tac, picking off the entire Fang Force one by one, only to be betrayed by his own foul smell!”
The absurdity was too much, and prompted the shadow conqueror to kick over a table, then the candle holder, and to brush all the cups from a nearby table. His servants, and his children, cowered in his wake. To even breathe out of turn might set off a chain reaction they may not survive.
“I’ll instruct our next generals to shower, Father,” Vultera said. The harpy shook so much that a rain of feathers fell from her body.
“See that they do. Bring me the highest grade of industrial soap you can find! Send all our forces to bathe immediately!”
Dozens of feet scrambled. Only one remained – Wiseman, as he tended the crystal ball, and the swarm depleting at Fang Force’s hand.
Lord Nihilex turned up his noseless face. “Unleash Curs’tac’s titan form,” he said.
Wiseman started the incantation, reciting words older than speech. Mystic energies swirled and funneled into the crystal ball, and into the still raging battlefield where the crab’s remains lay.
Their limbs weighed like sledgehammers, and dragged when they moved; though that didn’t stop Fang Force from entering the fight. Broken, beaten and aching all over they lashed at the freaklings, dusting them two, three, more at a time. No matter the state of their bodies, the vampires burned to protect their home. Nobody was safe until the monsters were back in the recesses.
Blue Fang dispelled the remnants; the others spent all their strength demolishing his leftovers. The freaklings didn’t stand a chance, and soon retreated into shadowy portals.
Lindsay fell to her knees and laughed, but not out of joy. “We won,” she said.
The warriors gathered, tarnished but still standing. The vampires smirked behind their masks.
“You know, I feel pretty good all of a sudden,” Green Fang said.
The mood changed, however, when dark clouds circled in the sky. Deep, ominous thunderings echoed from the belly of the storm approaching at breakneck speed. Bolts of fury took aim at the field of battle.
Lindsay groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Lightning struck the fallen general. His remains lifted from the ground, and reconstituted before starting to expand. Soon Curs’tac stood at the height of traffic lights, then eye to eye with the tops of buildings. Crescent Valley was at equal scale, and at his mercy.
“He’s back!” Curs’tac roared, rattling windows. “Bigger and badder than ever!”
Red Fang steeled herself and called to the ether. “Fang Familiars, hear me,” she said. “Aid us in our time of need!”
The sky parted, and from the blue emerged five great machines; Red Bat, Blue Wolf, Yellow Beetle, Pink Spider and Green Cougar. Fang Force did not stand alone.
Of all the squalid dungeons tucked beneath the stronghold, the coldest and most miserable was reserved for Fantom. There the prince sat in the dryest corner – comparatively dry, at any rate – and pondered his fate. Lord Nihilex barely tolerated him at the best of times. It would come as no surprise if he were left to rot.
He scoffed at his plight. Since Lord Nihilex entered his mother’s circle of influence his outbursts became custom, as did the punitive aftermath. What Queen Lacuna saw in him was beyond mystery. How could one ever love such an impetuous, myopic brute?
All he had in that chamber were memories. Not even the echoes of the court reached so deep, despite Lord Nihilex’s volume. Perhaps it was a blessing, as it allowed the prince to cast his thoughts back in time.
It had been an age and more since seeing his mother; so long that her face had faded from memory. She was Queen Lacuna, with majesty formed in primordial terror; she who ruled vast swaths of the Abyssal realm, and birthed an heir by sheer force of will.
Voices from millenia gone by drifted through his thoughts, of a boy less than a thousand years old.
“Please, Mother! Lord Nihilex is a bloodthirsty opportunist!”
The Abyssal Queen turned under many veils. The silhouette of her stained lips appeared in darkness deeper than the void. She smiled a tight, toothless smile, and with her talons cupped her son’s insubstantial features.
“Perhaps you fear my suitor a usurper of your future throne,” she mused in words plumed like smoke. Though her meaning remained clear, a lesser being might wonder if she’d spoken at all.
Fantom shook his head. “Never! Queen Lacuna is immortal! She is unending! Mother, I serve you until my last, but you will go on. You don’t need a… a petulant warlord with delusions of grandeur to-”
“Still your tongue,” she said. Her non-words blew a fowl breeze. The Queen drew his head to her lap.
“Trust the wisdom of your Queen,” she continued, “and be thankful that you are my son. A lesser being would be stripped of his consciousness and cast among the freaklings.”
Fantom nodded. “Yes, Mother.” Family or not, such was the punishment for questioning a goddess.
Queen Lacuna placed a talon under his chin and guided him upright. Though he’d forgotten much of her face, the sense of her remained fresh. One look was as much a balm to his suffering as it was a dagger. Comfort and oblivion rested in her grasp, as they should.
“You are my most favored,” she whispered. “You are my son; the distillation of your Queen’s essence. For that reason, you are most worthy.”
He sighed with relief that carried him for thousands of years. No matter how dire the situation, or in what dark dungeon he landed, his mother’s regard rang true; even when Lord Nihilex sat on the throne, Fantom trusted the future.
Leaping into the sky, the heroes met their mechanical companions and intercepted their cockpits. Clutching the controls, each guided their familiars into inevitable merging. Blue Wolf and Green Cougar formed the legs, Yellow Beetle the torso, Pink Spider the arms and shoulders, and Red Bat the chest and head. The robot’s incredible weight shook the earth; the combined warrior known as the Fang Empress.
She peered across the city and to Curs’tac, standing at intersecting roads. The machine bore her claws; the monster snapped pincers wide as a football fields.
“This time, Curs’tac,” Red Fang barked, “you’re going down for good!”
“He can’t hear you,” Green Fang said.
Blue Fang grunted. “Let her have this.”
The Fang Empress charged, shattering the asphalt with her steps. She raised her arms to the highest heights, and brought them down with a swipe. Curs’tac blocked with a pincer, his renewed shell more than able to repel his attacker.
His other limb slashed the robot across the midsection, sending sparks flying. Fang Empress stumbled and landed on the corner of a building. It found its balance, leaving only cosmetic damage to the offices. The occupants inside were the most shaken.
Red Fang gripped the control stick. “We need to finish him before he levels the city!”
Pink Fang turned to his teammate. “Cassius, can you still sense his weak spots?”
“I can smell them from a mile away,” Blue Fang said.
“Then guide my hand,” he said. “Lindsay, charge at him.”
The Fang Empress barreled along Central Avenue with fists balled tight. Her thumbs, made up of the palps of the Pink Spider, protruded inward. She ducked another blow from the monster, and jabbed her digits into the soft flesh of Curs’tac’s sides. Power, like a spider’s venom, surged through him. The monster flailed and screamed. Fang Empress plunged her thumbs deeper, driving to reach what Curs’tac had in place of a heart.
Blue Fang leaned over Lindays’s console, and added his weight to the control stick. “Pull!”
The machine tore at Curs’tac’s body, ripping free one of the barnacle encrusted plates. White, pulpy flesh dripped with goo.
Red Fang groaned. “Oh, man. That’s gross…” She was almost sick in her helmet
“Now’s our chance,” Blue Fang said.
Fang Force attended their controls and brought the Fang Empress back to her feet. The robot raised her arm into the air, summoning a sacred weapon from the ether. A long, curved blade, offered itself by the hilt. Fang Empress claimed the weapon, and held it aloft. Supernatural forces charged the metal, readying the final blow. She thrust the blade into the stomach of the crab.
“Great Fang Striker!”
Curs’tac fell over the piercing tip. Elemental power coursed through him, from the top of his head to the tips of his pincers. His shell cracked; flesh erupted into flame, then exploded into a cascade of fire, reducing the once mighty general to dust.
The battle was over. Crescent City was at peace once more. The five heroes breathed a sigh of relief.
Red Fang threw her arms around Cassius and Drake. “We couldn’t have done it without you guys,” she said.
The two grunted. They didn’t need words.
To be continued…