Playtime II: Island of Evil

Recently I posted an early draft of one of my novels, titled Playtime, on these message boards. I hoped to get feedback on it so I could improve it, as it is one of many novels I hope to publish one day, and…well, there was one reply that picked over the first chapter that I posted. @Vexus_Prime had quite a bit to say, I can tell you that.

I haven’t gotten any replies about the finished product (I have posted every single chapter from that novel). This could be because people haven’t read the whole thing yet, which I’m okay with. However, I see that it has more than 400 reads as of right now, which means that a fair number of people are actually reading it.

So just for fun, I’m gonna post the sequel to my novel. As the title of this topic indicates, the full title is Playtime II: Island of Evil. I don’t know how much you enjoyed the first installment, but if you did enjoy it, then you’ll probably like this one. I’ll post Chapter 1 ASAP.

Chapter 1

The four Elemental Masters entered the Great Creators’ chamber where they resided in their colossal silver control sphere. This was inside the realm of the Great Creators, where the Elemental Masters had been created.

The Elemental Masters had just come from their most recent victory. They had been dispatched to deal with a cult of evil beings that wanted to awaken the primordial being Shadow to take over the world and envelop it in shadow. The Elemental Masters had managed to kill the leader, Tenebris, and disband his cult. But then Tenebris’ second-in command, Prohahka, had survived and gathered an army of Kakkarak to carry on where he had failed. It had looked like all was lost, and Prohahka would succeed in reawakening Shadow.

But right around the time Prohahka came for revenge, the Outsider had came. The Outsider was a human boy from another world named Hunter Brooks. His world was what he called “the real world,” as the one the Elemental Masters lived in was actually a dimension that was created by a machine that had scanned a plethora of Hunter’s siblings’ toys and created a dimension based on them. The machine had been built by Hunter’s father, and then Hunter accidentally activated it and got sucked into the dimension it created.

Though Hunter didn’t believe he was the Outsider at first, he went along with the Elemental Masters on their quest to stop Prohahka. The portal to the Great Creators’ realm where the primordial beings Light and Shadow slumbered required six keystones to open, all of which had been stolen by Tenebris’ minions and then scattered across the world. Ultimately, Prohahka had stolen all of the keystones, but thanks to the courage of Hunter Brooks, the good guys had won the day, killed Prohahka, and sent the Kakkarak packing.

Now, there were only four of the original twelve Elemental Masters remaining. Six of them had gone rogue, and two of them had been killed. The remaining Elemental Masters were Pyras, master of fire, Hydras, master of water, Terras, master of earth, and Glacias, master of ice. They were now returning to the Great Creators’ chamber to report their own victory.

“Welcome, creations,” said the foremost Great Creator. There were nine Great Creators sitting in a line of chairs, looking down at the Elemental Masters kneeling before them. The one in the middle was sitting on a chair that was taller than the others, almost like a throne. As such, he was ranked highest among the Great Creators.

“Hello, Great Creators,” said Pyras. “We return to you in triumph, as we have saved the world from the forces of evil.”

The Great Creator cocked an eyebrow. Unlike most of the entities in the Mechanicle universe, the Great Creators were organic beings. They all had bald heads, thin eyebrows, and long white robes, giving them the look of Asian monks. “Are you certain you have succeeded in your mission?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Pyras. “We’re sorry that only a third of us have returned to you, but we accomplished our mission. We were able to usurp the cult that worshipped Shadow. Tenebris and Prohahka are both dead.”

The foremost Great Creator shook his head. “On the whole, I think not,” he said.

“What do you mean?” Hydras asked. “Prohahka was impaled by her own sword, we just saw!”

“She was indeed,” said the foremost Great Creator. “You will never have to worry about her again. But you do have to worry about Tenebris.”

“We killed him, too,” said Terras. “He and Tathai were crushed by a wall.”

“You seem to be forgetting who Tenebris is,” said a second Great Creator. “He is a shapeshifter whose natural form is a cloud of energy. What you fought was Tenebris’ pure energy encased in armor. He could not have been killed by having a cave’s wall fall on him.”

“But if he’s not dead, then where was he when Prohahka was hunting down the keystones?” Hydras asked.

“He is currently searching for a way to reawaken Shadow,” said the first Great Creator. “Unfortunately, I can only think of one way that he can do that.”

So could Pyras, and he dreaded the idea. “We-we’ll have to stop him,” he said.

Terras cleared his throat. “Do you think we’ll need…you know…him?” he asked.

“Hunter already went back to his world,” said Pyras. “We probably can’t count on any more help from him.”

“Oh, but you will be needing his help soon,” said the foremost Great Creator. “He doesn’t know it, but he hasn’t fulfilled his destiny yet.”

True to what the Great Creators said, Hunter was blissfully unaware. He was continuing to live his life in the real world. It had been two weeks since he had had his adventure in the dimension his father’s machine had created, and he was doing much better than he had before. Prior to his adventure, he had been reeling from spending six months in jail and was failing in school. He had been discouraged by how badly he was doing, and was sure he wouldn’t get into any good colleges or jobs later on.

But his adventure in the dimension had taught him the importance of working hard to accomplish your goals and not letting past mistakes ruin your life. Now Hunter was giving his all in school, and his grades were improving faster than even he thought possible.

With all the good things he got out of his adventure, though, there were still some bad things. Hunter’s dad’s machine had created a dimension from the toys that Hunter’s twin siblings Isaac and Ellie owned. The toys all had some form of backstories attached to them, and those backstories had been merged to form the dimension Hunter had entered. There were brave and kindly heroes, such as the knight Merek, the caveman Glug, the princess Ariana, and all of the Elemental Masters. But they had all had to face off against dark villains; Brintoco, the king of the Kakkarak, the evil sorcerer Lord Vulcon, and most of all Prohahka. Prohahka had been the most terrible being Hunter had ever met-and he had seen some shady characters while he was in jail. Every other night, Hunter would have nightmares involving these villains coming back for revenge. They were so intense, so scary, that Hunter almost wished he hadn’t had his adventure.

It didn’t help that Isaac and Ellie were still pushing him to play toys with them. Hunter didn’t mind playing with the good guys so much. Even though they were made of plastic and had all the blatant action figure joints, they still resembled the heroes that Hunter had known. But the bad guys resembled the villains Hunter had had to deal with, and it brought back very painful memories. And if there was one scenario Isaac and Ellie liked to play out, it was the good guys having a war with the bad guys.

And it wasn’t just playing with the toys, either. When Hunter had left the dimension his dad’s machine had created, he had came out lying on his siblings’ bedroom floor, right as Isaac and Ellie were coming back in. The twins had seen the machine running and suspected what had happened, but Hunter denied it. When their parents had questioned them, Hunter had insisted that he had seen his dad’s machine in Isaac’s and Ellie’s room and went in to take it back down to the lab. He knew that his parents would never believe his story.

Well, the Brooks parents may have brushed it off, but the littlest kids didn’t. They were convinced that Hunter really did create a new dimension, and they wanted to hear all about it. In order to shut them up, Hunter told them everything that had happened, from the city of Voyo, to Dino Valley, to Princess Ariana’s castle, to Lord Vulcon’s kingdom, and back to Voyo again. Isaac and Ellie found these stories very entertaining, and they made Hunter tell them almost every day. Of course, whenever he did, Hunter would wink at his parents, so they would think that Hunter was merely telling his siblings what they wanted to hear.

It all came to a head one Friday evening. It was February now, and the Brooks family was starting to get their Valentine’s Day decorations out. And, in their play, Isaac and Ellie were incorporating many more love stories. Hunter was forced to watch as they made Princess Ariana kiss Prince Handsome, and have random policemen fall in love with the bank teller. Weirdest of all, Isaac had Pyras and Hydras start to like each other and kiss.

“Uh, I don’t think they’d want to kiss each other,” Hunter said as he watched Isaac bump Pyras’ head against Hydras’.

“Why not? It’s Valentine’s Day,” said Isaac.

“First of all, Valentine’s Day isn’t for another ten days. Second of all, I have met everyone in Mechanicle, and I don’t think any of them feel that way about each other.”

“You didn’t meet everyone in Mechanicle,” said Isaac. “You said that Tenebris had been killed before you visited that dimension.”

“Well, you guys know all about Mechanicle,” said Hunter. “If anything, you should know that they don’t love each other.”

“We know they don’t fall in love in the comics,” said Ellie. “We’re just having fun.”

Hunter shrugged. “Well, however you wanna play,” he said as he took a villager and made it walk up to a Voyo building. “At least you didn’t have to live it,” he muttered under his breath.

“Why do you always say it was scary?” Isaac asked.

Hunter sighed. Both Isaac and Ellie thought of Hunter’s adventure as a virtual reality game where he couldn’t really get hurt. They still saw the characters from Mechanicle (and their other beloved toylines, for that matter) as action figures and harmless toys. Since they had only seen these characters in toy form and on a screen or page, they could not grasp them as real. Therefore, Hunter’s stories had the same effect as any storybook at bedtime.

“Because it was scary,” said Hunter.

“But you were brave,” said Isaac. “You killed Brintoco, and Lord Vulcon, and Professor Tick-Tock, and Prohahka.”

“I didn’t even meet Professor Tick-Tock,” said Hunter. “And I only killed one of those guys.” When Isaac and Ellie didn’t respond, Hunter spoke again. “Maybe you should go into that dimension. Then you’ll understand.”

Of course, Hunter’s comment wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. He was just trying to get his siblings to see his point of view. But if he had known what effect it would have, he never would’ve said it.

End of Chapter 1…

Chapter 2

Isaac was very curious.

He and his sister had read all about the Elemental Masters and the other Mechanicle characters in the online comics, and had checked out books from the school library, and even played a handful of online games. He had loved reading about their backstories and their personalities, and had sometimes dreamed of visiting the Mechanicle world himself.

And now, his brother was saying that he had actually gone to the Mechanicle world, along with the worlds where his other toys were from. Isaac had been so jealous, and had wanted to hear every minor detail about the adventure. But unfortunately, Hunter was insisting that it was scary. Isaac and Ellie hadn’t believed him. They didn’t see what could be so scary about meeting the Mechanicle heroes. And when Hunter told them that maybe they should go into the dimension themselves…

So after dinner that night, Isaac got himself and Ellie alone in their room. “Ellie,” said Isaac, “We should go into the dimension where all our toys are real.”


“Yes,” said Isaac. “Hunter said we should go into the dimension so we could understand what it’s like.”

“Well, are there still bad guys in there?”

“No, Hunter killed them all,” said Isaac. “There’s only good guys. We should go into Dad’s workshop and go into the machine.”

Ellie sighed. “Well, okay,” she said.

Just then, there was a knock on their bedroom door. “Hey kids,” their mom said as she opened the door. “Dad and I are leaving now.”

“Where are you going again?” Ellie asked.

“To see Newsies,” their mom answered. Mrs. Brooks and her husband had a thing for Broadway musicals, and they had recently bought tickets to Newsies. “We’ll be back late tonight, after Hunter goes to bed. Be good for him. We’ve got macaroni and cheese cooking on the stove for your dinner.”

“Bye Mommy,” Ellie said as she hugged her mother.

“Have a good night, Sweetie,” her mom said as she kissed her daughter on the forehead. “And be good!”

After the Brooks parents left, Hunter took over making dinner. When he, Isaac, and Ellie were eating their bowls of macaroni and cheese, Hunter noticed that the twins kept glancing at the door to the basement, where their dad’s workshop was. “So what is it you guys wanna do tonight?” Hunter asked.

Isaac opened his mouth to say he wanted to go into their dad’s machine’s dimension, but Ellie spoke up. “We could play a game,” she said.

Hunter looked at the microwave clock. There was still an hour and a half before Isaac and Ellie had to go to bed. “Sure, we could do that,” said Hunter.

So after dinner, the three of them played a few rounds of Chutes and Ladders before the kids had to get ready for bed. But while Isaac and Ellie were brushing their teeth, Isaac leaned aside and whispered to Ellie. “We gotta go down into Dad’s workshop,” he said.

“But Hunter won’t let us,” said Ellie.

“Then we’ll sneak downstairs,” said Isaac. “While he’s watching his big guy movie.”

Whenever the Brooks parents went away for the night, Hunter would take the time to watch one of his “big guy movies”-that is to say, movies that he was old enough to watch, but Isaac and Ellie weren’t. He would always wait until after they went to bed to watch whatever movie he wanted to watch.

Tonight, it was The Matrix. Only ten minutes after his siblings went to bed, Hunter popped his tape into the VCR. As he was watching his movie, he didn’t notice Isaac tiptoeing down the stairs. Isaac slipped into the kitchen and beckoned Ellie to come down. Ellie started to tiptoe down herself, but she sneezed halfway down.

“Uh, shouldn’t you be in bed?” Hunter asked, looking up from the TV screen.

“Drink of water,” Ellie lied automatically.

Hunter sighed. “Fine,” he said. Ellie rushed into the kitchen with Isaac.

“Okay, we’ve got to be quiet,” Isaac whispered to Ellie. He crept up to the door that led to the basement and slowly turned the doorknob. The door’s hinges creaked, but luckily it was drowned out by the noise from Hunter’s movie.

Isaac and Ellie crept downstairs and entered their dad’s workshop. There were shelves full of various inventions-a package opener, a remote-control tank, a candy dispenser. But the one they were looking for was laid on the central worktable. Their dad had tinkered with it some in the weeks since Hunter had used it, but he’d mostly abandoned it to work on other projects. Now it was pretty much just gathering dust.

“There it is,” Ellie whispered.

“Now we just gotta activate it,” said Isaac. He looked over the control panel on the side of the machine and pressed a button. Immediately, the top of the machine unfolded and expanded until it had formed the rim of a portal. Isaac pressed another random button, and a vortex of blue energy appeared in the middle of the portal.

“Whoa,” said Ellie. “You actually did it.”

“Yes, I did,” said Isaac. “Now, how do we go into the…”

Before Isaac could finish his sentence, Ellie had curiously reach out towards the portal. She gasped as she saw her hand dissolving into dust. She tried to pull her hand out, but she was being sucked in. Isaac tried pulling his sister away from the portal, but he got sucked in, too. The twins dissolved into brown dust as they entered the portal and left the human world.

Before long, Isaac and Ellie woke up in the dimension that they had been itching to visit. Like their brother had before them, they materialized in the middle of a street in Voyo. They woke up and saw the tall, futuristic buildings surrounding them, and the passing Mechanicle villagers that had stopped to stare.

Isaac rubbed his eyes. “Is this…Voyo?”

“It is,” said a random, purple-masked villager, who Isaac recognized as Nutara. “And who are you?”

“I’m Isaac,” said Isaac, standing up. “And this is my sister Ellie.”

The purple-masked villager exchanged glances with another villager, who wore an orange mask. His name, Isaac and Ellie knew, was Hewlie. “Isaac and Ellie…why do those names sound familiar?”

“I think the Outsider mentioned them,” said Hewlie. “They were his brother and sister.”

“Are you talking about Hunter?” Isaac asked.

“Hunter! That was his name!” said Hewlie. “The Outsider who came to save us from inescapable doom!”

“Yeah, he told us about it,” said Isaac.

“How did you come here?” Nutara asked.

“The same way Hunter did,” said Ellie. “Our dad’s machine.”

“What are you here for?” Nutara asked. “I’m honestly curious.”

“We were just coming to see the Elemental Masters, and our other toys,” said Isaac.

“That’s right, we were made from your toys,” said Hewlie.

“Where are the Elemental Masters?” Isaac asked.

Hewlie shook his head. “Sorry to say, but they’ve already gone back to the Great Creators,” he said.


“They did stay in Voyo for a while,” said Hewlie. “They helped us get our lives back on track after the Kakkarak invasion. And they had to deal with some Kakkarak stragglers, too. They just went back into the realm yesterday.”

“Well, at least we’re meeting you guys,” said Isaac.

“What are you guys doing, anyway?” Ellie asked.

“Hewlie and I were going out to the beach in the north,” said Nutara. “We were going to finally launch our boat that we’ve-”

“-been working on for several months,” Isaac finished for him.

Nutara stared at him. “Why, yes, we have,” he said. “How did you know about that?”

“Because we read your comics on our computer,” said Isaac. “The next comic isn’t out yet, so we don’t know if your boat works.”

“Well, if you come with us, then you’ll find out,” said Hewlie.


“Sure, if you wanna come,” said Hewlie.

“Yes, we’d love to go!” said Isaac.

“Well, then, come this way,” said Hewlie.

Nutara and Hewlie led Isaac and Ellie out of the city and up a dirt road that went northward. They went toward a sandy yellow beach, where waves splashed against the shores and the sun shone down on the sand. There was a lighthouse a few miles down, and a few humans sunbathing.

“Our boat’s right over here,” Nutara said, indicating a long, canoe-like boat that was made from both metal and wood. “We’ve been working on it for the past few weeks, and we haven’t had a chance to launch it until now.”

“Hop in,” Hewlie said. The boat was big enough to carry four fully grown humans, so four child-size people-two of whom were actually children-added up to a perfectly safe weight. Isaac and Ellie sat in the middle while Nutara got in front with an oar, while Hewlie started pushing the boat into the water. As the boat slid off the sand and started to float in the water, Hewlie hopped in and started rowing from the back.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” said Nutara. “Ever since we heard there were other islands beyond the mainland, we’ve dreamed of discovering all those islands.”

“You mean Nui-Barr, and Dumah, and Mahra-” Isaac started.

“Probably not Mahra,” said Hewlie. “I mean, we might try to find it, just to help make the maps we wanna make, but we’re not setting foot on it.”

“Let me guess-because it’s where the rogue Elemental Masters are imprisoned,” said Isaac.

“Yes,” said Hewlie. “Any potential danger on any of these islands-we don’t want a part of it.”

“Neither does Hunter,” Ellie muttered to herself.

The four of them didn’t talk much for a little while. Between Nutara’s and Hewlie’s rowing, and the oceans’ current, they were crossing the ocean pretty fast. Before they knew it, the companions had put three miles between them and the land behind them.

“How much longer?” Isaac asked as he looked back at where they had been.

“We’re not sure,” said Nutara.

Isaac shifted in his seat. He was starting to get uncomfortable with the boat bobbing about in the waves-which, granted, weren’t that rough, but Isaac still had his land legs. “Well, I hope we get there soon,” he grumbled.

Half an hour later, they passed through a cloud of fog. While they were going through the fog, the waves underneath them started to get rougher. Nutara and Hewlie started paddling harder, in an effort to get out of the rough area. But as they got farther, the waves started slapping against their boat’s hull harder.

“Maybe we should’ve worn life jackets,” Ellie said as she tasted bile.

“We’ll be fine,” Nutara replied. But, as if in answer to his jinx, the boat tipped a little too far to the right. All four of its occupants toppled into the water as the boat flipped upside down.

“Oh no!” Isaac said as he dog-paddled like mad. The past summer, his mom had taught him and his sister how to tread water in the town swimming pool. But he had never tried to tread water in an ocean full of stormy waves. He could feel the waves tossing him about, barely even letting him take gulps of air.

Nutara swam toward his upturned boat and climbed onto it. He looked up and saw a big, dark shape coming through the mist. “Guys, I think someone’s here to save us!” he cried. Everyone looked as a medium-sized coast guard rescue ship sailed into view. It was flashing its lights atop its crow’s nest, indicating that it was here to save the day.

Two crew members looked out over the edge and saw the kids and villagers floating in the water. Isaac immediately recognized them-and their ship-as staples of the City’s coast guard playset that he owned. “Hang on, kids,” one of them called as he and his friend threw out four red-and-white lifesavers. Isaac quickly grabbed the one closest to him, as did Ellie. The coast guard guys reeled them in and pulled them onto the deck of their rescue ship. “Are you kids okay?” the first coast guard guy asked.

“Yes,” Isaac answered.

“Good,” the second coast guard guy said as he and his friend reeled in Nutara and Hewlie. “What were you doing out here?”

“The Mechanicle villagers were taking us on an adventure,” said Isaac. “We were going to find all the islands.”

The first coast guard guy cast Nutara a disapproving glance as the villager was lifted onto the rescue ship’s deck. “Well, you were going too close to Mahra,” he said.

“Wait. Mahra?”

The coast guard guy beckoned as the fog parted. It revealed an island in the distance, coated in an apron of evening fog. The island had a tall central volcano surrounded by jungle, and a medium tan beach. A few miles away from the rescue ship was an ocean platform supported by thick stone pillars, like an oil rig.

“That’s Mahra?” Hewlie asked.

“Yes, it is,” said the second coast guard guy. “The second we saw you heading in this direction, we followed. We can’t have any more people disappearing in these waters?”


“We’ve had reports of various boats and ships going near Mahra, only to never return,” said the first coast guard guy. “We couldn’t let you meet the same fate they did.”

“Same fate?”

“We don’t know what it was, but it can’t be good,” said the second coast guard guy.

He could not have been more right. As he was forming the last word of his sentence, another vessel came drifting through the mist in their direction. It was shaped like a large fishing boat, except this one was gunmetal gray with the cockpit in the middle being black. It had torpedoes mounted on the sides and a rotating missile launcher on the back.

The first coast guard guy’s eyes widened. “Is that what I think it is?”

“I think it is,”the second guy answered.

Unfortunately, so did Isaac. But before he could say the name of who the huge speedboat belonged to, the boat fired a torpedo at the rescue ship. “Move!” the first coast guard guy shouted. “Get off the ship!” He slapped life jackets onto both Isaac and Ellie and threw them over the edge. The twins hit the water so hard, they actually sunk under.

Up above them, the rescue ship exploded as the torpedo hit it. The force of the explosion sent a wave of water against Isaac and Ellie as they popped back up. The two were slammed against another wave, their life jackets being the only things keeping them from sinking.

Disoriented, Isaac looked around. The huge speedboat was turning away, heading in the direction of the ocean platform. Pieces of the rescue ship were floating everywhere, with no sign on Nutara, Hewlie, or the coast guard guys. The only people left were Isaac and Ellie, with no boat and no one to come rescue them.

“What do we do?” Ellie asked Isaac.

“I don’t know,” Isaac replied.

End of Chapter 2…

Chapter 3

Hunter was so glued to his movie, he hadn’t noticed that Ellie never left the kitchen. In fact, by the time the movie was over, he had pretty much forgotten about Ellie coming down to get a drink of water.

After Hunter took out the VHS tape and put it away, it was time for him to go to bed himself. As he was going upstairs to get ready for bed, he was surprised to see Isaac’s and Ellie’s bedroom door open. This was weird, he thought. Usually, they kept it closed during the night when they were sleeping. Hunter went to close the door, but when he glanced inside the room, he noticed something very disturbing. Neither Isaac nor Ellie were in their beds.

“Isaac! Ellie!” Hunter called. “Where are you?” No answer. Suddenly, Hunter remembered Ellie coming down to get a drink. “C’mon, guys, you should be in bed right now,” Hunter grumbled as he went down the stairs. He poked his head into the kitchen, but neither Isaac nor Ellie was there. However, the door to the basement was wide open.

“What the heck?” Hunter wondered as he went down the steps to the basement. Why would Isaac and Ellie sneak into the basement at this time of night? Were they playing hide-and-seek, or wanting to look at their dad’s inventions, or…

Hunter froze in his tracks when he saw the scene in the basement. Isaac and Ellie were nowhere to be seen, but their dad’s machine, the one that had created the portal to the dimension where Hunter had had his adventure, was sitting on the central worktable. The portal rim was fully opened and was running a portal just like the one he had seen before.

It only took Hunter five seconds to realize what had happened. “Oh no, no, no!” he groaned. “Why did you do this? Why?” Isaac and Ellie had been so tired after they had played Chutes and Ladders, Hunter had been certain they’d be asleep by the time he went to bed. But nope-they had been planning to sneak downstairs and enter the dimension. Hunter felt really stupid for not seeing through Ellie’s fib about getting a drink.

But what could Hunter do? The machine didn’t have a button for taking a person out of its dimensions, so Isaac and Ellie would have to use the portal in Voyo’s city square. But would they know to do so? Hunter had told them how he had came back to the real world, hadn’t he? No, even if he had, they’d still get lost in the wonder of seeing all their favorite toys coming to life.

“Oh, why is it always me who has to deal with these things?” Hunter groaned. His parents would be home within an hour or two, and they would be furious if they found out what had happened. They would ground Hunter for being negligent, and when Isaac and Ellie returned, they’d get punished even worse.

And besides, there was real danger in the dimension. Even though Hunter had seen the demises of several villains, he knew Isaac and Ellie possessed even more “bad guy” toys. If those ones were still out there, then he didn’t want his siblings to be in their crosshairs. Hunter didn’t want them to be killed, not only because his parents would have his hide, but also because, even though Isaac and Ellie could be pretty annoying, they were his brother and sister.

There was only one course of action. Hunter had to go and find them. He hoped they had stayed within the boundaries of Voyo, but he had a feeling he wasn’t going to be so lucky. Nonetheless, he had friends in Voyo, and in the City, and in the kingdom of Anthrall. His friends would surely be willing to help him find his siblings.

Hunter took a deep breath and touched the portal’s vortex. Of course, touched is the wrong word. Since the vortex wasn’t solid, Hunter couldn’t physically touch it. But, as he stuck his hand into it, he could feel himself disintegrating. He closed his eyes, bracing himself for when he woke up in the streets of Voyo.

Sure enough, not long afterwards, Hunter woke up on the street of Voyo where he had spawned before. Just like he expected, several villagers had stopped to look at the Outsider who had just appeared in the middle of the street. “The Outsider’s back!” said a gray-masked villager.

“Yes, I am,” said Hunter. “Where are my brother and sister?”

“Your brother and sister?”

“Isaac, and Ellie,” said Hunter. “Have you seen them?”

“Yes, we have,” said a green-masked villager. “They went with Nutara and Hewlie to try out their boat.”

“Their boat?”

“Nutara and Hewlie were going to finally test out their boat and discover the islands beyond the mainland,” the green-masked villager explained. “Isaac and Ellie went with them.”

Hunter gritted his teeth. “How long ago was this?”

The green-masked villager shrugged. “A few hours.”

“Do you know when they’ll be back, or-”

“No, we don’t,” said the green-masked villager. “Do you need them, or-”

“Yes, I do,” said Hunter. “Are you sure you don’t know how long they’ll be gone?”

“We’re sure,” said the green-masked villager. “They talked with Turan and got permission to-”

“Turan approved of this?” Hunter asked. Turan was the village elder of Voyo, and as such, the boss of the place. “He let my siblings-”

“No, he didn’t,” said the gray-masked villager. “He gave Nutara and Hewlie his permission to go voyaging out to find the remote islands, and your siblings just happened to tag along with them.”

“Well, where’s Turan now?” Hunter asked. “I need to talk to him.”

“He’s at his hut, talking with Tyler Kane,” said the gray-masked villager.

“Who’s Tyler Kane?”

“He’s an explorer,” said the green-masked villager. “He came to learn about the island of Mahra, because he’s mounting a quest to the island.”

Hunter shrugged. “Well, I need to talk to Turan,” he said. “He has to know about my siblings.”

Hunter left to go and find Turan’s hut. He navigated the familiar streets, going in the direction he knew Turan’s hut to be. He passed the city square, which housed the pedestal on which the portal stood. The portal had taken Hunter back to the real world before, just as it had taken the Elemental Masters back to the realm of the Great Creators. Hunter wasn’t sure how that worked; why everyone but him had gone to the realm of the Great Creators on entering that portal. His best guess was that it took people to whatever world they had came from. Hunter had came from the real world, so the portal took him there; the Elemental Masters had came from the realm of the Great Creators, so it took them there. As to why Prohahka had tried to use the portal to enter the realm…well, maybe the rest of the Mechanicle beings were created in the realm, too, hence why the portal took them there.

Anyway, as Hunter was passing the city square, he saw the portal pulsing with energy, just like his dad’s machine did. At first he shrugged it off as another tick that the portal had to it, but then he saw four beings step out of the portal. Hunter immediately recognized them as Pyras, Hydras, Glacias, and Terras. When the four Elemental Masters stepped out of the portal, their gaze fell directly upon Hunter. “The Elemental Masters!” Hunter exclaimed as he changed course. He walked up to the pedestal to greet the Elemental Masters. “You can-”

“Hunter, you’re back!” Hydras said as she looked down on Hunter.

“I am,” said Hunter. “And it looks like you’re back, too.”

“We are,” said Pyras. “We visited the Great Creators, like we intended to, but they told us that our mission was not over yet.”

Hunter stared at him. “What a coincidence. I could use your help right now.”

“With what?” Pyras asked.

“It’s my brother and sister,” said Hunter. He explained how Isaac and Ellie had snuck into their dad’s basement and activated their dad’s machine, and then gone off with Nutara and Hewlie. “I have to find them,” Hunter finished. “If my parents find out that they went missing…”

The Elemental Masters exchanged glances. “That’s…really serious,” Pyras forced out.

“It is,” said Hunter. “I was just going to tell Turan what happened, but-”

“Funny, we were going to go to Turan, too!” said Terras. “We were going to tell him what the Great Creators told us.”

“Well, what did they tell you?” Hunter asked.

“How about we go to Turan?” Glacias suggested. “It might be better to discuss it there.”

“Good idea,” said Pyras.

So the five of them went down the street to Turan’s hut. It was considerably smaller than the other buildings in Voyo, and was built more like a tribal hut. Hunter entered the hut to find Turan standing at a table with a human explorer. Turan glanced aside, saw Hunter, and widened his eyes in excitement. “You’ve returned already?” he asked.

“Yes, I have,” said Hunter. “And so have the Elemental Masters.”

Turan and the human explorer turned to look at the five newcomers. “I take it the Great Creators sent you back?” Turan asked.

“They did,” said Pyras. “And who is this human?”

“The name’s Tyler Kane,” said the explorer. His features were hard to place-maybe Australian. He had stubble that was so uneven, it was like dirt particles on his face. A brown Australian slouch hat sat diagonally on his head, casting a shadow over his forehead. He wore a dark tan long-sleeve ■■■■■ made out of a fabric that people used to wear in the 19th century. On his waist was a black utility belt with a pistol, a small pickaxe, and every adventuring tool under the sun. His thick brown, wrinkled trousers went all the way down to his battered leather boots.

Hunter looked Tyler up and down. “Who are you, Indiana Jones’ cousin?”

Tyler cocked an eyebrow. “I can’t say I’ve ever heard of this ‘Indiana Jones,’” he said. “My father was Richard Kane, the greatest explorer ever.”

“Well, what brings you here to Voyo?” Pyras asked.

“My father’s gone missing,” said Tyler. “He left on a top-secret quest to the island of Mahra, but he never came back. It’s been almost a month, and no one’s heard from him. I’m mounting an expedition to find him, and since Mahra is from the Mechanicle world, I’m asking Turan what he knows about the island.”

“I’ve never set foot on the island myself,” Turan admitted. “But I do know that it’s where the Great Creators left the Spear of Life.”

“The Spear of Life?” Hunter asked.

“It is a weapon of great power, capable of resurrecting a dead being, or awakening one from a magic-induced slumber,” said Turan. “The Great Creators forged that spear in case one of the primordial beings killed the other, and the other needed to be revived. After they put Light and Shadow to sleep in their realm, they entrusted the spear to a tribe of islanders living on Mahra.”

“My father was very fond of those islanders,” said Tyler. “He visited their island many times, and he would always bring me back artifacts they had made. He always tells me stories that the islanders told him.”

Hunter knit his eyebrows together. “Weren’t Nutara and Hewlie going to discover the islands beyond the mainland?” he asked.

“They were,” said Turan.

“Oh no,” said Hunter. “The islanders aren’t hostile to newcomers, are they?”

“They aren’t,” said Tyler. “Why?”

“Because my brother and sister are with Nutara and Hewlie,” said Hunter. “They used my dad’s machine to come into this dimension, and then they went off with those two villagers.”

“Hm,” said Turan. “Well, Nutara and Hewlie are able to handle themselves. Your siblings should be safe with them.”

“Actually, if they went to Mahra, then they might be in danger,” said Pyras.

“What makes you say that?” Tyler asked.

“When we were with the Great Creators,” Pyras explained, “They told us that, contrary to what we believed, our mission in this world is not complete. It turns out that Tenebris survived being crushed by a wall and is now seeking out the Spear of Life. He’s on Mahra right now, enslaving the islanders and trying to force them to give up the spear.”

“How could he have survived?” Hunter asked.

“Tenebris is a shapeshifter,” said Hydras. “He has the ability to create armor for himself, but in his natural form, he’s a cloud of energy. Killing him isn’t as easy as we thought.”

“But it gets worse,” said Terras. “Mahra is also the place where the rogue Elemental Masters were imprisoned. If Tenebris has broken them out, then that means he has-”

“Wait. Rogue Elemental Masters?” Hunter asked. “Since when did Elemental Masters turn evil?”

“Since Tenebris tempted them into joining his side,” said Pyras.

“But…how could he do that?” Hunter asked.

“Well, I’m pretty sure I told you that there were originally twelve Elemental Masters sent by the Great Creators, yes?”

Hunter nodded. “Except I saw Aeras and Electras die,” he said.

“Yes, they were killed in our recent battle,” said Turan. “But before that, there were six Elemental Masters besides the ones you have met. They fought alongside their brothers in the war with Tenebris. But, after Tenebris created the Rahrok, and the Rahrok killed Claritas, there grew unrest among the Elemental Masters. Some were discouraged and felt that they could not win, some did not trust Pyras and saw him as an ill-fit leader, and many felt that the Great Creators had abandoned them. Well, Tenebris and Prohahka were able to play off their emotions and manipulate six of the Elemental Masters into joining them."

"The now-turned Elemental Masters were able to get into Voyo and steal the keystones that powered the portal to the Great Creators’ realm,” Turan continued. “That was their first mission-to cut this world off from the Great Creators. Well, their treason was discovered, and as punishment, they were sent to a prison set up on Mahra. Claritas’ cult had one of its members go there to serve as a jailer.”

“Wow,” said Hunter. “So…what were their elemental powers?”

“Time, sound, magnetism, iron, poison, and speed,” said Pyras. “You may not think of some of those as elements, but they are just as powerful as we are.”

“And if they’re on the loose with Tenebris, then may the Great Creators help your brother and sister,” Glacias added.

A surge of panic filled Hunter’s heart. “We-we’ve gotta save them!” he exclaimed. “We’ve gotta get to that island and find Isaac and Ellie!”

“And the Spear of Life,” Pyras added. “Tenebris wants to use it to awaken Shadow. And you know why we can’t let him do that…”

Hunter nodded his head. Light and Shadow were both primordial beings in the Mechanicle universe, each embodying the two oldest and most powerful elements. The two of them had both wanted to take over the world and cover it with their own element, leading to a conflict between the two. The Great Creators had had to put both the primordial beings in an unending sleep, so that they wouldn’t end up killing one another or escaping into the world to take over. For if one of them took over the world, and enveloped it in light or shadow, then it would tip the balance of the universe and eventually cause it to unravel. And neither of them could die, either, for that would have the same effect. Both Light and Shadow had to remain slumbering in the realm of the Great Creators, embodying their elements while not shaking the balance of the universe.

“But how do we get to Mahra?” Terras asked.

Tyler cleared his throat. “You can come with me, if you like,” he said.


“Of course,” said Tyler. “I’ve got a whole crew setting up a ferry boat as we speak.”

“Sounds good,” said Hunter.

“What’s your name, by the way?” Tyler asked.

“I’m Hunter,” said Hunter.

Tyler blinked. “Hunter Brooks?” he asked.

“That’s me.”

Tyler’s eyes went as wide as pizza pans. “The Hunter Brooks? The Outsider who went toe-to-toe with Prohahka herself?”


“Well, then, why do you even need my help for traversing Mahra?” Tyler asked.

“Uh…because I’ve never-”

Tyler smiled playfully. “I’m messing with you,” he said. “Now come on. I’ll take you to my boat.”

End of Chapter 3…

Chapter 4

Tyler led Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Glacias out of Voyo and toward the northern shores. They went a slightly different route than Isaac, Ellie, Nutara, and Hewlie had gone, one that went more northeast. They came to a small marina consisting of a wooden dock, a hot dog store, and a store where they sold boating tools.

Parked at the dock was a fire boat, a police boat, and a pontoon boat. There was also a concrete ramp leading into the water, designed for a boat trailer to be backed into the water to deploy a motorboat. Moored at the ramp was a small ferry boat.

“I take it that’s our boat?” Hunter asked.

“It is,” said Tyler. The boat was about seventy feet long, with a ramp that extended forward onto the land. The cockpit was shaped more like a truck’s cab and was set at starboard towards the middle, like an aircraft carrier’s. On the ferry was a 4X4 jeep like the ones safari guys drive. Several men were milling about the ferry, carrying supply crates around.

“Oi! Tyler’s back!” one of the men said when he saw Tyler coming.

“Yes, I’m back,” Tyler said as he approached the ferry. “Are we ready to go?”

“We are, now that you’re here,” said the man.

“Great,” said Tyler. “And Johnny, we’re bringing some guests along with us. We’ve got the Elemental Masters, and the Outsider himself coming with us.”

Johnny looked at Hunter with admiration. “Wow,” he said. “What are they coming with us for?”

“They’ve got business on their own on that island,” said Tyler. “Now, let’s get this thing going.”

Tyler’s men finished loading up the cargo for their journey, and everyone boarded the ferry. The boat’s driver started up the engines, and they were off and running. Hunter stood at the bow, looking over the raised ramp. He could see nothing but ocean going to the edge of the horizon, with no masses of land to be seen. “How far away is the island?” he asked.

“Turan was sort of vague on that point,” said Tyler. “But I’m sure we’ll be there within an hour or two.”

Pyras walked up next to Hunter. “So what is the deal with your siblings?” he asked. “Why did they come here?”

“They probably just wanted to meet you guys,” said Hunter. “I’ve told them what happened last time I was here, but it seems like they don’t understand how dangerous it really is. They’re still obsessed with playing with their toys, and reading the comics about those toys. They don’t think of you as actual, real people. Whenever I tell them that certain things were scary, they just shrug it off.”

“But why would they shrug off the things that inspire terror?” Pyras asked.

“Because they’re stupid,” said Hunter. “They’re used to just closing the book or turning off the TV when things get scary. Or…” Hunter trailed off as a thought occurred to him.

“Or what?”

“I just realized something,” said Hunter. “Earlier today, I had to play with them again. My parents always make me play with them, even though I’ve outgrown playing with toys. And today, while we were playing, we were having another conversation about my adventure, and I told them that maybe they should come into this dimension, because then they’d understand.”

Pyras and Tyler exchanged glances. “That’s…a stupid thing to tell them,” said Tyler.

“I know,” said Hunter. “Maybe that’s the real reason they decided to sneak into our dad’s lab and use his machine. And now I have to go and find them, because I always have to be the one to deal with them!”

“Isn’t it your responsibility to take care of your brother and sister?” Pyras asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t want that responsibility,” said Hunter. “I don’t want to be the one who always has to play with them, or help them with their homework, or walk them to their swim practice, or whatever.” He glared over the edge of the ferry at the choppy waves. “And I especially don’t want to be the one who has to go to this island and find them before Tenebris does.”

Pyras nervously cleared his throat. “Speaking of Tenebris, there was something else I wanted to tell you,” he said.

“What is it?” Hunter asked.

“Well, I’m not sure if you’d really want to hear it right now,” said Pyras. “I know you’re stressed about your siblings, so-”

“Does Tenebris have the rest of his cult members gathered back together, or something?” Hunter asked.

“Not that we know of,” said Pyras. “Actually, this may or may not pertain to Tenebris, but…”

“Now I’m curious,” said Hunter.

Pyras pursed his metal lips. “You remember how you, as the Outsider, were destined to save us from the ultimate evil?”

“Of course.”

“Well, the Great Creators told us that you haven’t fulfilled that destiny yet.”

Hunter felt his heart wilt. “So…Prohahka wasn’t the ‘ultimate evil?’”

“Apparently not,” said Pyras. “I hate to dump this on you, because you’re already stressed about having to deal with responsibility-”

“Actually, that makes sense,” said Hunter.

“Excuse me?”

“I probably should’ve told you this before, but…” Hunter took a deep breath. “When I was fighting Prohahka, she said she could see into my future.”

“How did she obtain that power?”

“She said she obtained it from the portal enhancing her powers, or something like that,” Hunter answered. “She said she saw into my future, and she said that my world would eventually be covered in shadow, and terraformed into a shadow planet.”

Pyras’ eyes got narrower and narrower with every word Hunter said. “Your planet, covered in shadow,” he said.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “That sounds like what you said would happen if Shadow were to escape the realm of the Great Creators and come into this world. At the time, I thought Prohahka was just trying to dampen my spirits, but now…”

“You said that your world would be covered in shadow, not ours,” said Pyras.

“I don’t know how it would work,” said Hunter. “But I know that I don’t want it to happen.”

“Whatever the case, there’s only one way to prevent it,” said Pyras. “We mustn’t let Tenebris get his hands on the Spear of Life.”

Hunter looked out at the horizon again. Up ahead was a large patch of fog, which, even in the mid-afternoon, was clouding the view of the ocean that lay ahead. “It’s gonna be me who has to kill Tenebris, isn’t it?” he asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Pyras answered.

Hunter folded his arms across his chest. “Frankly, I don’t want to have to face evil again. I just want to find Isaac and Ellie, hug them, and then slap them.”

Tyler chuckled. “No lie, those were the exact words my father said when I was a child and got lost in an ancient Mayan tomb.”

“Get real.”

“Well, with the names swapped out, of course,” said Tyler. “But it’s the same idea; deep down, you still love your family members.”

Hunter rolled his eyes. He didn’t feel like arguing right now, but in his mind, he knew that he did not love Isaac or Ellie. He remembered back when they were born, and then all of a sudden everyone from Hunter’s extended family was coming to shower them with gifts. For some reason, Hunter was put off by all the heaping piles of baby toys and grown men kitchy-kooing. And then the babies grew into toddlers, and later little kids, who ran all through the house whining about how they were hungry or wanted to watch TV or needed to be wiped. In short, all their lives, Isaac and Ellie had existed to drive Hunter nuts. And now he was expected to save their ungrateful lives.

Well…ungrateful may have been a little harsh. Hunter remembered what a terrible enemy Prohahka had been-one who he wouldn’t have let harm anyone. And Prohahka was second to Tenebris, who had been so evil, his name alone became feared among the people of this world. The thought of him harming anyone-no matter how annoying they were-disturbed Hunter. As much as he despised his siblings, he wasn’t going to let them fall victim to Tenebris’ reign of terror.

The ferry entered the fog that covered the ocean ahead of them. The fog clouded their vision, preventing them from seeing anything more than ten feet away. “We’re getting close,” said Tyler. “Turan said that Mahra is surrounded by a cloud of fog.”

Hunter surveyed the ocean surrounding them. “You don’t think they got lost in the fog?” he asked. “Maybe they’re still-”

“Not if they washed up on the island,” said Glacias.

Hunter saw only misty fog surrounding them, but for some reason, it felt like they weren’t alone. The place gave off an eerie atmosphere, as if someone or something was watching them through the mist. Hunter half expected an enemy ship to come in their way, or a sea monster to pop up and eat them. But nothing scary came out of the mist.

One of the crew members came up to Tyler. “We’ve gone off all our maps,” he said. “We’re officially in uncharted territory.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Tyler. “If Turan didn’t know exactly where Mahra was, I don’t think anyone does.”

“Well, maybe we’ll be able to draw up a map,” said a passing crew member. “Assuming we get back alive.”

“Hey now, Jacques,” said Tyler. “Think positive, like my father always said.”

“I’m serious,” said the crew member. “Literally every ship that’s came this far north lately has never came back.”

“Every ship?” Terras asked.

“Well, they didn’t stop coming back until, two, three weeks ago?” the crew member wondered aloud. “Then again, it’s not like every route goes through this area.”

“But why did they stop coming back?” Terras asked.

Hunter looked up to see a large, dark shape coming through the mist. “I think we’re about to find out,” he said as his heart jumped. He and everyone on the ferry watched as a huge, black-and-grey speedboat with torpedoes and a missile launcher drifted out of the mist. It was pointed straight at the ferry.

Standing at the helm of the speedboat was a man dressed in a white button-up lab coat and dark orange pants. His coat had four pockets and an orange logo sewed to the left of his heart. He had wild black mad scientist hair with fiery orange streaks going through it. But his face was the weirdest part of his appearance. His left eye lacked eyelashes or an eyebrow, and was permanently narrowed. His right eye was gone, replaced with a bionic eye. The bionic eye was more like a camera with a yellow lens, with thin metal plates covering the right side of his face and holding it in place. It made him look like some kind of cyborg.

“Well, well, well,” said the mad scientist. “That’s two boats in the same day.”

“Two boats?” Hunter ran up to the edge of the boat. “You mean another boat came through here today?”

“Yes,” said the mad scientist.

Hunter’s eyes widened. “I knew it. Isaac and Ellie did come here!”

The mad scientist ignored Hunter and scanned the rest of the ferry. “Wait a second,” he said. “Those are Elemental Masters!”

“Elemental Masters?” a gruff voice from the speedboat’s cockpit asked.

“Yes, they are,” said the mad scientist. “The boss wanted us to give them the special treatment if they showed their faces. You know what to do for that…”

The guy inside the cockpit flipped some switches. The missile launcher mounted on the back of the speedboat folded up and retracted inside the boat’s hull. In its place rose a net shooter. The boat’s operator took careful aim and fired a net at the ferry. The net flew out towards the ferry’s deck and ensnared Hunter, Terras, and Glacias inside. The force of the net blast knocked the three of them over the edge and into the water.

Hydras angrily stepped up to the bow. Before the mad scientist could do or say anything, Hydras thrust her hand out and summoned a tidal wave to drench the mad scientist and his boat. The boat didn’t sink, but it did rock violently and cause the mad scientist to sway like a balloon in the wind. “You didn’t get all of them!” he shouted. “Ensnare the other two!”

But Hydras wasn’t going to let that happen. She closed her eyes and concentrated her powers. The water around the mad scientist’s speedboat started to swirl in a circle, forming into a whirlpool. The boat’s operator tried to steer the boat out of the whirlpool, but the whirlpool sucked it in. Panicking, the operator retracted the net shooter and brought the missile launcher again. He pointed it at the ferry as best as he could, and fired.

“Get off!” Pyras shouted as he tackled Hydras over the edge. They dove into the water just as the missile hit the deck of the ship, causing it to explode. When the smoke cleared, there was very little left of the transport ferry.

Meanwhile, since Hydras had lost her concentration, the whirlpool died down. The huge speedboat was still rocking, but it managed to right itself. The mad scientist looked at the few pieces of the ferry that were still floating and scowled. “Well, at least you ensnared two of the Elemental Masters,” he growled. “Pick them up, and let’s get them back to base.”

The net that had ensnared Hunter, Terras, and Glacias was equipped with buoyant attachments, allowing it to rise to the surface of the water with ease. The boat’s driver retracted the missile launcher and, this time, brought up a robotic crane arm. He piloted the boat closer to where the net was floating, reached out with the crane, and lifted the net out of the water and onto the speedboat’s deck.

Inside the net, Hunter, Glacias, and Terras were spitting out water and struggling against their bonds. “Who are you?” Hunter asked as he saw the mad scientist walking up to him.

The mad scientist leaned over Hunter. “My name is Dr. Evileye,” he said. “And you are trespassing in a restricted area.”

“What do you mean, restricted?” Glacias asked. He tried to reach his double-bladed weapon, but the net was wrapped around him too tightly.

“I mean that you aren’t allowed here,” said Dr. Evileye. “And a certain associate of mine has ordered me to put to death any Elemental Masters that show their faces.”

Hunter, Terras, and Glacias exchanged glances. An associate who had him patrolling the waters around Mahra, wanted any Elemental Masters dead? Gee, who could that have been?

End of Chapter 4…

Chapter 5

Pyras, Hydras, and Tyler Kane floated in the ocean among the debris left by the destroyed ferry. They had been the only survivors of the explosion, as all of Tyler’s crew members had either died from the explosion itself, or drowned in the water.

“I don’t know who that was,” Pyras said, “But-”

“Dr. Evileye,” said Tyler.


“I’ve heard of him,” said Tyler. “He used to be a secret agent, but he defected after his squad abandoned him on a mission. Now he works day and night to take over the world and defeat the agents.”

“I think he’s working with Tenebris,” said Hydras. “Why else would he be destroying all the boats that come in the vicinity of Mahra?”

“Unless his base was located at or near the island,” said Tyler.

Pyras kicked hard to keep himself afloat. “Well, it’s too bad we can’t do anything about it,” he said. “Here we are, floating about in the ocean with no one to save us.”

Tyler looked up at the sky and saw a reassuring sight. “Well, then, what’s that?” He pointed to a large navy blue helicopter that was flying in their direction.

Hydras squinted. “It doesn’t look like a coast guard helicopter,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean they can’t help us,” said Pyras. While still treading water, he held his hand above the water and summoned a flare from his palm. The flame burned brighter than a candle and went fifteen feet high-enough for anyone to notice.

Whoever was piloting the helicopter saw the flare and hovered over the area where Pyras, Hydras, and Tyler were floating. The helicopter was about fifty or sixty feet long, with a body big enough to carry a car inside. It had two rotors on top that spun in different directions, a machine gun mounted on the right of the cockpit, and a missile launcher on the left. As the helicopter lowered down to the floating survivors, its side doors slid open. A winch extended out of the helicopter and lowered to pick up the survivors. Tyler, who was closest in range, grabbed onto the hook. “Pull me up!” he called.

As the winch raised Tyler into the air, Pyras and Hydras grabbed onto his ankles. The winch brought the three of them up into the helicopter, where there was a rack of spy equipment and a few people sitting on a bench. “Thank you,” Tyler said as he dripped all over the helicopter’s floor.

“No problem,” said one of the people sitting on the bench. There were four of them, all dressed in skin-tight navy blue jumpsuits, with a small gray lightning bolt logo printed high on their chests. They wore utility belts with grappling hooks, pistols, and comlinks.

Pyras heated himself up to evaporate the water droplets on his body. As the water was evaporating, he took a glance at the speaker. “Hey, I know you,” he said.

Tyler looked between Pyras and the spy he was talking to. It was a lithe, strong woman with serious black eyes, lightly tanned skin, and brown hair that swept past her mid-back. She was obviously a high-ranking spy, as the lightning bolt logo above her right breast was surrounded by a ring of gold. “You know her?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, I do,” said Pyras. “She’s the leader of the secret agents. She and her agents were supporters of Claritas and her cult who worshipped Light. We fought alongside each other in the war with Tenebris.”

“My name is Agent Kylie Krout,” said the female spy. “And I take it you’re Tyler Kane?”

“Yes,” said Tyler.

Kylie nodded approvingly. “I’ve met your father,” she said. “He told me all about you.”

Before Tyler could respond, Hydras spoke up. “You’re here to find Dr. Evileye, aren’t you?” she asked.

“I am,” said Kylie. “Have you had an encounter with him?”

“Yes, just now,” said Hydras. “He took our friends and went back to his base.”

Kylie’s eyes narrowed. “I take it you’re referring to the other Elemental Masters?”

“We are. And also-”

Kylie turned and poked her head into the short hall to the cockpit. “Agent Jackson! Get us to Dr. Evileye’s base!”

“Roger that,” the pilot said as he got the helicopter moving again.

“So,” said Kylie, “What brings the Elemental Masters and Tyler Kane to this part of the ocean?”

“We’re going to the island of Mahra to stop Tenebris,” said Pyras. “It turns out he’s still alive, and he’s searching for the Spear of Life to awaken Shadow.”

“And I’m here to find out what happened to my father,” said Tyler. “He went on an expedition to Mahra a few weeks ago, and no one’s heard from him.”

Kylie frowned. “Are you sure he hasn’t gotten lost?”

“No, he promised he’d be back a few weeks ago,” said Tyler. “If he hasn’t came back by now, then that means he’s in trouble. And I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”

“Well, we can always ask Dr. Evileye a few questions,” said Kylie. “Then again…how long ago did your father go missing?”

“Well, he left for his quest a month ago,” said Tyler. “It was only supposed to last a week, tops, but…”

“Then it can’t have been Dr. Evileye,” said Kylie. “It’s only in the past three weeks that boats that went in this area started going missing.”

“We think he’s working with Tenebris,” said Pyras. “Tenebris must want him to prevent anyone from going to the island, so he won’t have any competition in finding the Spear of Life.”

“Well, it sounds like finding Dr. Evileye’s base is the next step,” said Kylie. “We’ll rescue the remaining Elemental Masters, capture Dr. Evileye and his goons, then get on that island to stop Tenebris.”

One of the three additional spies spoke up. He was a man with a blonde crew cut. “I forget, how many more Elemental Masters are left?” he asked.

“We’re rescuing two of them,” said Pyras.

“Why can’t they use their powers to escape?” the second spy asked. He was a young one-mid-twenties maybe. He had tousled black hair and wide brown eyes.

“Dr. Evileye probably used a specialized net to capture them,” said Pyras. “He said Tenebris wanted him to give them the ‘special treatment,’ so he probably gave them magic nets that sucked out the Elemental Masters’ powers.”

The pilot spoke over the intercom. “Agent Krout, I have Dr. Evileye’s base in sight,” he said.

“Good,” said Kylie. “Agents, get ready.”

Dr Evileye’s base was a large ocean platform located about a hundred miles off the coast of Mahra. It was supported by four thick concrete pillars that were set into the ocean floor, much like an oil drilling platform. The platform itself was two hundred square feet, with defense turrets on all sides, a large flaming torch up top, and a docking port for Dr. Evileye’s speedboat to be lifted up onto the main base level.

At present, Dr. Evileye was standing on his boat as it was lifted up into the main base. The lifting mechanism hissed as it came to a stop and Dr. Evileye stepped off. The various henchmen milling about the base stopped when they saw that their master had arrived. “He’s back!” said one orange-suited henchman.

One henchman came running up to Dr. Evileye. He wore an orange jumpsuit like the rest of them, along with a large metal helmet shaped like a motorcycle helmet-except the bottom of his face was covered by a large, toothed mouthpiece like the lower jaw of some meat-eating ape. “Sir, I’ve got some great news,” he said. “We’ve finished-”

“Save it,” said Dr. Evileye. “We’ve got more important things to attend to.”

“But sir,” said the henchman, whose name was Iron Jaw. “This is the weapon you’ve spent months designing! And we finished assembling it while you were gone!”

“I’m thrilled,” said Dr. Evileye, “But today, I’ve came back with Elemental Masters that need to be dealt with.”

Iron Jaw’s grin was barely visible under his enormous mouthpiece, but it was evident from the crinkles around his eyes. “Ah, yes,” he said. “I take it we’ll be feeding them to the sharks?”

“Indeed we will,” said Dr. Evileye.

“No!” Hunter shouted from inside the net that was still on the boat’s deck. “You can’t do this to us!”

“Oh, yes, I can,” said Dr. Evileye.

Suddenly, a nasty thought occurred to Hunter. “You-you didn’t do this to Isaac and Ellie, did you?”

Dr. Evileye frowned. “I’m sorry, who?”

“My brother and sister,” said Hunter. “They came here earlier today, and-”

“Oh, those kids in that little boat with the villagers from Voyo,” said Dr. Evileye.

Hunter’s heart leapt. “So they did come here!”

“Yes, and we blew their boat out of the water,” said Dr. Evileye. “Nothing was left after our torpedoes had been fired.”

Hunter’s heart sank as quickly as it had leapt. “Are you saying you killed them?”

“You said it, kid, not me,” said Dr. Evileye. “Bring a transport!” he said to a passing henchman. “We’ve got some hungry sharks waiting for us.”

As Dr. Evileye’s henchmen loaded the net containing Hunter, Glacias, and Terras onto a 4-wheeled transport, Hunter felt guilt gnawing at his soul. What would his parents say when they found out about this? They would be furious with Hunter for not preventing this from happening, even though there was nothing Hunter could’ve done.

He just didn’t understand it-whenever he was in charge of something, he would always get in trouble when it went wrong-even if it wasn’t his fault. Like the time when he had borrowed an old Polaroid camera his dad had had in college, and it was stolen by the school bully. Hunter had been forced to pay for a new camera, even though the bully stealing the camera was out of his control. Or when Hunter had obeyed his mom’s request to wash the car, and then Isaac had smeared mud all over the door and Hunter had ended up getting the blame.

Hunter just hated this responsibility! Why was it him who had to keep watch over a pair of kids who could slip out of his fingers faster than grasshoppers could? Why was it him who had to track them down when they got lost? And why was it him who had to be the Outsider and defeat this bad guy Tenebris who was supposed to have been defeated already? It was just too much! In a weird way, Hunter was almost glad he was gonna be fed to sharks. If he was dead, then at least he wouldn’t have to deal with any more responsibility.

The transport brought Hunter, Glacias, and Terras to a circular chamber in the middle of the ocean base. It had a crane dangling over a thirty-foot-radius pool, with water sloshing around six feet below the brim. Swimming around inside the pool were two Great White Sharks, each of which had cybernetically enhanced jaws and tails. The sharks were skimming the surface and peeking out of the water, as if they knew that a meal was coming their way and were anticipating it.

“So that’s what the ‘special treatment’ is,” said Terras when he saw the sharks.

“Ah, so these are our captives,” said the henchman operating the crane. This one was completely normal from the waist up, but where his legs should be were eight robotic leg attachments.

“Indeed,” said Dr. Evileye. “Get the crane ready, Spyderlegs. We’ve got a meal for our sharks.”

End of Chapter 5…

Chapter 6

Dr. Evileye’s henchmen barely even saw the helicopter coming. The agents’ helicopter came flying through the clouds, firing away at the base’s defense turrets. “It’s the agents!” Iron Jaw shouted. “Shoot them down!”

The orange-suited henchmen got to firing away-some manning defense turrets, some just shooting with their handguns. The helicopter was so swift, and so agile, it dodged almost all of the laser fire. The pilot-Agent Jackson-pulled a trigger and returned fire, toasting the henchmen with vicious laser fire.

Inside the helicopter, Kylie loaded her pistol. “Alright, agents,” she said. “Pyras and Hydras will rescue their comrades, while we find and capture Dr. Evileye. Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said all three of the spies.

“Right,” Kylie said as the helicopter floated over the edge of the base. “Let’s move!” The helicopter opened its side door for Pyras, Hydras, Kylie, and her three agents to jump out onto the base’s deck and engage the gathered henchmen. They shot down a couple of henchmen before the orange-suited bad guys managed to stand their ground and start shooting back. The agents ducked behind random storage crates, sniping from their hiding places.

Pyras and Hydras hid behind a fallen cannon turret. Pyras peeked around the corner and saw that the henchmen were much more focused on shooting at the agents than they were the Elemental Masters. “Stay with me, Hydras,” Pyras commanded. He tore around the corner and charged through the small group of henchmen. Surprised, the henchmen turned their guns on Pyras. But they didn’t respond fast enough to stop Pyras from swinging his sword in an arc that killed four henchmen in one swing. Hydras followed behind him and blasted the henchmen with a powerful jet of water.

“Stop right there!” one of the henchmen shouted. He was equipped with a robotic arm with a huge chainsaw attachment. “No one gets past me, Chainsaw!”

Hydras responded by whirling toward Chainsaw. Chainsaw thrust his saw extension forward, only to have Hydras parry it with one of her axes. She forced the saw to the side and buried her other axe in his chest. Chainsaw’s eyes rolled up in his head as he fell backward.

“Forward!” Kylie commanded. She and her agents came out of their hiding places and charged forward once more. Pyras and Hydras charged, too-in the direction of the chamber where Dr. Evileye was about to feed Hunter, Glacias, and Terras to the cyborg sharks.

Pyras and Hydras burst into the chamber and found a scene that was just as bad as they imagined. Dr. Evileye was watching as the henchman called Spyderlegs operated a crane that lowered a net that held Hunter, Glacias, and Terras into a mini-aquarium that housed two cyborg sharks.

Pyras lit his sword on fire. “I don’t think so,” he said. He shoved Dr. Evileye aside and ran for the crane’s control cab. Spyderlegs saw him coming and started lowering the net even faster. The net came into biting range of the sharks, and they immediately started snapping at the tasty morsels inside the net.

Just in time, Pyras lunged at the crane’s cab and jerked the control stick upward. The crane lifted the net into the air again as Pyras and Spyderlegs started wrestling each other for the controls.

Hydras sheathed one of her axes and hefted the other one. She threw her axe like a tomahawk at the dangling net. The axe went right through the ropes of the net, and it slipped out of the crane’s claw’s grasp. Hydras ran for the rim of the pool and leapt at the freed net. The weight of three people should’ve been too heavy for just one Elemental Master, but adrenaline can work wonders. Hydras grabbed the net as it fell for the water and landed on the other side of the pool with the net dipping into the water. Hydras furiously yanked the net onto the deck, loosening its bonds as she did so.

“No!” Dr. Evileye protested. “Do you have any idea what Tenebris will do to me?”

“Oh, he’s not going to do anything to you,” Kylie said as she entered the room with her gun raised. Her three agents followed behind her, all of whom had their guns pointed at Dr. Evileye.

“You’re under arrest,” said one of the agents. He had a black crew cut and smooth stubble.

“And so are you,” the black-haired agent said to Spyderlegs, who was being forced into a corner by Pyras.

Dr. Evileye’s lips pursed tightly as he raised his hands. As pathetic as this way of going out was, he couldn’t do anything with three guns pointed at his face.

“Well, thanks for rescuing us,” Hunter said after he, Terras, and Glacias had wriggled their way out of the net.

“Anytime,” said Pyras.

“Get these guys to the prison pods,” Kylie said to her agents. The agents escorted a handcuffed Dr. Evileye, Spyderlegs, and Iron Jaw out of the chamber and to the helicopter. Kylie turned to Hunter and said, “You didn’t mention that you had a human with you.”

“I thought we did,” said Hydras.

Kylie frowned. “I take it he’s one of Tyler’s crew members?”

“No,” said Hunter. “My name is Hunter Brooks. You may have heard of me, since I’m the Outsider and all.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of you,” said Kylie. “I’m guessing you’re here to help defeat Tenebris?”

“Well, I was here to find my brother and sister,” said Hunter. “But it looks like Dr. Evileye got them before he got me.”

“Did he say that he killed them?”

“Well…no, actually not,” Hunter admitted. “He just said he torpedoed their boat, and-”

“I’m not surprised,” said Kylie. “Dr. Evileye almost never surveys the damage he does. He just shoots his targets, then moves on.”

“So your siblings could still be alive,” said Pyras.

“Are they still floating around in the ocean, or-”

“They’ve probably washed up on Mahra by now,” said Terras. “But if they have, then we’d better hurry. If we don’t find them, then Tenebris and the rogue Elemental Masters probably will.”

“Didn’t you say that there’s a tribe of islanders on the island?” Hunter asked. “If they found them, then it wouldn’t be so bad.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Terras agreed. “But I’m sure Tenebris has either enslaved or killed every last one of them.”

Hunter cursed. “Well, then, why are we just standing here?” he asked. “We have to get on that island now!”

“I can take you there,” said Kylie. “As long as you don’t mind me going with you to-”

“Of course,” said Hunter. “The more help I have, the better.”

“Right,” said Pyras. “Everyone, to the helicopter!”

It was at about this time that Isaac and Ellie both washed up on the shore of Mahra. After getting torpedoed at sea, the two of them had stayed together by holding hands while their life jackets kept them afloat. The waves had gradually carried them toward the island of Mahra, until they could see the beach in greater detail. Once their feet started brushing up against the sand below them, they started walking toward the beach.

“Ugh,” Ellie groaned. “I’m all wet.”

“Me too,” said Isaac. “And did I mention that I peed?”

“Yes, you did,” said Ellie.

The kids took their life jackets off and laid them on the sand. “So what do we do now?” Ellie asked.

“I think we’re on Mahra,” said Isaac. “Maybe we should explore it.”

“But how are we gonna get home?”

“There’s the islander tribe,” said Isaac. “Maybe they’ll have boats we can use.”

The two of them walked across the beach and into the jungle, walking very awkwardly in their sopping-wet clothes. What really stunk was that every time they brushed against a tree or a shrub, a stick or a piece of bark would stick to their skin.

“Look! Roads!” Isaac said as they came to a clearing in the trees. The ground was covered in undergrowth, but a dirt road was still distinguishable. “I think this will take us to the islanders!”

Isaac and Ellie followed the road through the thick, dense trees. They were hoping to run into an islander sooner or later, but the only creatures they saw were dragonflies and large beetles that crawled through the plants growing out of the ground.

“Are we going to an islander’s village?” Ellie asked.

“I think we…” Isaac trailed off when he saw four figures walking the road up ahead. They seemed to be approaching them. “Islanders! Up ahead!” Isaac started to walk faster and faster, breaking into a run. “Hey!” he called to the people up ahead. “We need…”

Isaac trailed off when he realized that the people he was running toward were not islanders. They were Elemental Masters. They had stopped when they had seen the two kids coming their way, and were now regarding them curiously. “What’s going on here?” the central Elemental Master asked. This one was female, with yellow-orange armor, a jagged sword in a sheath on her waist, and a circular mask that had twelve small niches evenly carved around the edges.

“You…you’re not islanders,” said Isaac.

The lead Elemental Master snorted. “Well, we most certainly are not!” she said. “We are Elemental Masters-”

“I know,” said Isaac. Looking between the four of them, he recognized who they all were. “You’re Clockas, master of time,” he said to the yellow-orange Elemental Master. He looked to the Elemental Master standing to Clockas’ right. This one had electric blue armor, a mask with two protrusions pointing downward, and a calm and collected look in his eyes. Between that, and his “cool guy” posture, he could’ve been the lead singer in a rock band. “And you’re Sonas, master of sound,” said Isaac.

Sonas’ face barely even twitched. “Of course I am,” he said, hefting his huge battle sledgehammer over his shoulder.

Isaac turned to the third Elemental Master. This one was a very light grey, just a few shades above white. “You’re-”

Before Isaac could finish, the Elemental Master took off in a blur of light grey light. The blur ran two figure eights around Isaac and Ellie and came to a stop right where it had started. “Momentas, master of speed,” the Elemental Master finished as he brandished his two silver katana.

“And I’m Attractas, master of magnetism,” said the final Elemental Master. This one was female as well, with purple armor, two sickle-like hooks for weapons, and a mask face that was split down the middle. One side was a light purple, and the other was a darker shade.

“And who are you?” Clockas asked.

“I’m Isaac. And this is my sister Ellie.”

“What are you doing here on this island?” Sonas asked. “And how in the name of the Great Creators did you get past Dr. Evileye?”

“We floated here,” said Isaac. “We’re looking for islanders to give us a boat.”

Clockas looked between Sonas and Attractas. “Dr. Evileye obviously didn’t bother to check if he had really killed them,” she said.

“So what do we do with these human kids?” Sonas asked.

“I say we send them off this island,” said Attractas. “Get a boat and-”

“We will do no such thing,” said Clockas. “If they spread word to anyone on the mainland, then Tenebris’ plans will be exposed.”

The word Tenebris set off an alarm in Isaac’s mind. “These are bad guys,” he told Ellie. “We-we gotta get out of here!”

The kids turned and started to run away, but Clockas saw them. She snapped her fingers, and Isaac and Ellie immediately froze-mid-run. They tried to move, but their muscles had stopped. They could still feel the sensations of them pulling and relaxing, but they weren’t moving. Time had been frozen around them, for that was one of Clockas’ abilities. As the Elemental Master of time, she had control of time around any given subject. She could speed up or slow time around them, freeze time around them, or reverse time around them. Right now, Isaac and Ellie had been paused, so to speak.

“You know you could’ve just had me run after them, right?” Momentas asked.

“Yes, I could’ve,” said Clockas. Shrugging off his question, she said, “But we can’t have these kids running around on the island and potentially ruining our plans.”

Attractas looked Isaac and Ellie up and down. “There’s something different about these kids,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Sonas asked.

Attractas paced around both Isaac and Ellie, studying them like a paleontologist would study a preserved dinosaur skeleton. “I don’t think they’re of this world. It’s almost like…”

“One of them is the Outsider?” Clockas rolled her eyes. “Come on. They can’t be.”

“I know they aren’t,” said Attractas. “But they probably came from the same world as the Outsider did.”

Clockas looked at Isaac and Ellie again. She couldn’t explain it, but she could see what Attractas meant. It wasn’t that they were fully organic beings and wore humans’ clothing-Clockas had seen plenty of people like that on the mainland. It was that Clockas, and every other Elemental Master, had a sixth sense for this sort of thing. They could tell when a being was not of this world, or not created by the Great Creators. Clockas had heard the stories of how the Outsider had came from a different world, and that this world was a dimension created from a plethora of kids’ toys, and how those toys had belonged to the Outsiders’ brother and sister. She didn’t have any proof, but Clockas suspected that the brother and sister in question were standing paused before them right now.

“I think Attractas might be right,” said Clockas. “If these two are like the Outsider, then they may pose a threat to us.”

“I say we bring them before Tenebris,” said Sonas. “I think he might-”

“Why, yes,” said Clockas. “That is exactly what I was about to suggest.”

Isaac and Ellie heard every word of the conversation-and they didn’t like it. They tried furiously to keep on running, but Clockas’ powers were too strong. All of a sudden, Clockas snapped her fingers again, and time unfroze. Just like that, Isaac and Ellie were running again. But they didn’t get very far before Momentas pulled out a thick rope and ran circles around Isaac and Ellie. Before they realized what was happening, Isaac and Ellie had been bound up by a rope and had fallen flat on their faces. “Oh no, no, no,” said Momentas. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“I wonder what Tenebris will think of you,” Clockas said, grinning cruelly.

End of Chapter 6…

Chapter 7

The agents’ helicopter flew toward the island of Voyo, looking for a place to land. Jungle stretched as far as the eye could see, with the canopy blocking out any view of the ground below. The only parts of the island that weren’t covered in trees were the beaches and the volcano in the middle of the island. They couldn’t really land on the volcano, so Agent Jackson decided to land on the nearest beach.

“So this is the island that my father was so fond of,” Tyler said as he stepped out of the helicopter. He had waited behind during the battle at Dr. Evileye’s base, so it felt good to finally get out of the helicopter. He stood on the beach and soaked in the humid air from the nearby jungle, the bright sun shining overhead, and the salty smell from the ocean.

Hunter looked from one side of the beach to the other. He saw a pair of discarded life jackets lying on the sand forty feet away. “Guys, I think those were Isaac’s and Ellie’s life jackets!”


Hunter ran over to the life jackets to get a better look. They were of a small size, built to fit around a first-grader’s body. Hunter looked around for footprints, but there weren’t any. The tides had long washed away any impressions left in the wet sand, and the dry sand was too uneven to make out any footprints.

“Well, at least we know your siblings are here,” Pyras said as he, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, Kylie, and the four spies came up to him.

“You guys don’t know anything about tracking, do you?” Hunter asked.

“I know some stuff,” said Tyler. “I can’t know for sure how long ago your brother and sister washed up here, but if we go into the trees, then I might be able to find some clues.”

So they started toward the trees, hoping that they would find some sign of Isaac or Ellie. But as the sand was turning to dirt, they heard someone calling out to them. They turned to see a tall, biomechanical warrior running in their direction. His color scheme was mostly black, with a rusty gray chestplate and shoulder armor. On his head, he wore a helmet/mask combination that was so round, it was almost spherical. On top of his helmet was a tall, sharp ridge shaped like a scythe blade welded to the helmet. In his hands, he carried a long scythe with a thick, sharp blade attached to the end.

“Pyras! Terras! Hydras!” the warrior called. His voice was a deep baritone with a growling undertone.

The four Elemental Masters turned to face the warrior. “Scythax,” said Pyras. “It’s been a while.”

“Yes, it has,” said the warrior. “I take it you’re here to deal with Tenebris?”

“We are,” said Pyras. “And to find a few of our friends’ family members.”

The warrior looked at the seven humans accompanying the Elemental Masters. “So you’re travelling with humans…” he said.

“Oh-we need introductions,” said Hydras. “This is Tyler Kane, and Kylie Krout. And this is Hunter Brooks, the Outsider.”

The warrior nodded. “I’ve heard of all of you,” he said.

“This is Scythax,” said Glacias. “He was part of Claritas’ cult that worshipped Light and fought with us against Tenebris. He’s the jailer for the rogue Elemental Masters that are imprisoned here on Mahra.”

“Was,” said Scythax. “Tenebris came into my prison, disguised as one of my guard robots, and he freed all of my prisoners. He and the rogue Elemental Masters destroyed all of my guard robots and forced me out of there.”

“I would’ve thought they’d have killed you,” said Terras. “Not that I’m complaining.”

“Oh, they tried,” said Scythax. “But I was able to escape. I’ve been living undercover in the jungle ever since, spying on my enemies and plotting ways to deal with them. But I’m glad you’re here to help.”

“Hold on,” said Hunter. “I’m not here to fight Tenebris or whatever. I’m here to find my brother and sister.”

“Your brother and sister,” said Scythax.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “They’re both six. Have you seen anyone or anything wash up on this beach in the past few hours?”

“The only activity on this beach today was your helicopter landing,” said Scythax.

“Well, then, haven’t you seen anyone who isn’t an islander or rogue Elemental Master roaming around the jungle?”

“I actually did,” said Scythax. “It was a human boy and girl, six years old like you said. The boy was wearing a gray ■■■■■ and blue shorts, and the girl had a purple nightgown.”

“Yes. That’s them!” Hunter exclaimed. The attire Scythax described was exactly what Isaac and Ellie were wearing when Hunter put them to bed earlier that evening-in his world, anyway. Here, in this dimension, it was currently early afternoon.

“Ah,” said Scythax. “Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but they were found by four of the rogue Elemental Masters. I watched as they bound them and took them off to Tenebris. I would’ve tried to rescue them, but they outnumbered me.”

“Well, then, where did they take them?”

“Probably back to Tenebris’ stronghold,” said Scythax.

“Then we have to go there,” said Hunter. “Can you show us the way?”

“Of course I can,” said Scythax.

“Right,” said Kylie as she turned to her agents. “Agent Jackson, you and the other agents get back to the helicopter and bring our captives back to the mainland.”

The young black-haired agent spoke up. “Uh, maybe we should go with you to-”

Kylie made a tsk-tsk sound with her tongue between her teeth. “Agent Giles, did you just question an order from your squad leader?”

The young agent pursed his lips, but forced out, “No.”

However, Kylie still felt compelled to answer his question. “If we keep our big helicopter sitting on the beach, then Tenebris will know we’re here. If Scythax saw us landing, then who’s to say Tenebris or the rogue Elemental Masters didn’t? Besides, if they come and break Dr. Evileye out of his prison pod…”

“C’mon, guys,” said Agent Jackson. “We’ll come back for them.”

As the agents went back to the helicopter, Scythax led Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, Tyler, Terras, Glacias, and Kylie into the jungle. They trudged their way through the thick, green undergrowth. “You see, after Tenebris broke the rogue Elemental Masters out of jail, he converted the jail into a stronghold for himself,” Scythax explained. “And they’ve been enslaving the native islanders.”

“But they haven’t been successful, I’d imagine,” said Pyras. “The islanders swore sacred oaths to the Great Creators, that they would not divulge the Spear of Life to anyone. I can tell you, even I have never been entrusted with that information.”

Hunter turned to Tyler. “Did your dad ever find anything out?”

“He did not,” said Tyler. “Once he learned how important the protection of the Spear of Life was to the islanders, he refrained from asking about it, though he still harbored a curiosity.”

“Although,” Terras added, “There are rumors that the islanders hid the Spear of Life underneath their island, protected by a guardian more powerful than an Elemental Master.”

“Hogwash,” Glacias scoffed. “Those are just legends villagers tell to make each other’s eyes grow big.”

“Every legend has a basis on fact,” said Tyler. “That is something I have learned through trial and error.”

“Which raises the question,” said Terras. “What inspired this legend?”

“We’ll have to find out when the time comes,” said Pyras. “Right now…” He trailed off as Scythax held up his hand to stop them.

“Are we getting close?” Hunter whispered.

“We are,” said Scythax. “Stick right with me.”

They started climbing a series of hills where the trees started to thin out. As they reached the crest of the hill, they found themselves overlooking a large, tree-less valley. The valley was taken up by a fairly large stronghold made of wicked dark gray metal. The fact that it used to be a jail was obvious; the main building was large and shoddy with no windows, and it was all surrounded by thick concrete walls. Its overall appearance wasn’t as malevolent or “pure evil” as Lord Vulcon’s fortress had been. But it did have a front gate in the shape of Tenebris’ upper torso, arms, and head, which wasn’t a good sign. The gate’s statue depicted Tenebris reaching his arms out over the burning torches that stood on either side of the gate, as if he was using his powers to keep the flames burning. The head sculpt up top was as big as a baby killer whale, made from pitch-black metal and depicting a face so menacing, so fearsome, it immediately told any passerby that the guy in charge of this place was not one to cross.

“So that’s it,” said Tyler.

“It is,” said Scythax. “This should show you just how much of an ego Tenebris has.”

Pyras squinted at the stronghold. “Where does he keep the enslaved islanders?” he asked.

“In the former jail,” said Scythax. “I’ve spied on the rogue Elemental Masters, and it seems that they like seeing the enslaved islanders in the same predicament they were once in. Especially Clockas, and Sonas, and Toxas.”

“We-we have to save them,” said Hydras. “We can’t just let them rot away in jail!”

“We won’t,” said Pyras. He motioned for everyone to get in a circle. “Okay, troops, I have a game plan,” he said. “Scythax, Terras, Glacias, and Kylie, you go and free the enslaved islanders. Hydras and Tyler, you and I will accompany Hunter to find and rescue his brother and sister. That is, unless they have already joined the enslaved islanders.”

Hunter nodded. “Sounds good,” he said.

Tyler loaded his pistol. “I’m with you, bub,” he said.

“And once we’ve done what we have to do, we flee,” said Pyras. “We’ll rendezvous right here, on this hill. Everybody clear?”

There was a murmur of assent. “Right then,” said Pyras. “Let’s go.”

Hunter looked at the stronghold once again. Isaac and Ellie were both in there. Hunter was going to go in there, snatch them from the clutches of Tenebris, hug them both, and then slap them across the face for getting him into this mess.

The eight of them immediately charged down the hill and toward the open gates of the stronghold. Not surprisingly, there was only one rogue Elemental Master patrolling the front area of the stronghold. It was another female one, with poisonous green armor and a spiked flail for a weapon. It was Toxas, master of poisons. She froze in her tracks when she saw the charging group of heroes coming for the gates.

“Intruders!” she shouted as she started swinging her flail.

Unfortunately for Toxas, no one was in the vicinity. Pyras and Terras went right for her, ready to take her down. Toxas swung her flail at Terras first and knocked his combat drills out of his hands. She thrust her hand out at Pyras and sprayed him with a torrent of corrosive liquid that knocked Pyras off his feet. Pyras groaned in pain as he hit the ground. Toxas’ corrosive liquid was eating its way at his armor, threatening to reach the organic heart inside of him. Seeing this, Hydras stopped to spray Pyras with a shower of water. The water washed away the corrosive liquid, but Pyras will still feeling pain.

Meanwhile, Terras was still doing battle with Toxas. Toxas summoned an even bigger jet of poison to throw at him, but Terras was ready. He stamped his foot, and a slab of earth grew out of the ground and shielded him from the blast. Terras dove and somersaulted his way to his discarded combat drills, scooping them up and coming to a stop in a crouched position. As Toxas swung her flail at him, Terras spun his drills like mad and stabbed his right drill at the flail’s spiked ball as it swung toward him. Terras knocked the spiked ball backward, and it smashed into Toxas’ face. Disoriented, Toxas stumbled backward and fell over counting stars.

“You okay?” Terras called back to Pyras, who was still lying on the ground with Hydras looking over him.

“I’ll be fine,” Pyras insisted. “Just go. Help everyone else!”

Terras joined Glacias and Kylie in following Scythax to where the enslaved islanders were being held. The four of them ran toward the main jail building, which could only be entered by a small door on the side. They entered the door to see a line of about eighteen prison cells, each of which had a cluster of islanders locked inside. In the middle of all the cells was a door leading to an interrogation room.

“Scythax? Is that you?” one of the imprisoned islanders asked. He, along with the rest of the islanders, was about the height of a Voyo villager, with green metal plating, a mask carved from wood, and deep blue eyes.

“It is,” said Scythax. “We’re here to break you out.”

“And once we get your cells open, get out of this stronghold,” Terras added. “Get as far away from here as you can.”

“Enough talk, let’s get to it,” said Scythax. “Kylie, if you’ve got any lock picks, now’s a good time to use them.”

Kylie immediately got to picking the lock on the nearest cell, while everyone else used their own methods to break the cells. Glacias froze the lock on one cell in ice, then sliced through the lock with his sword. Terras used his drills to drill through the lock on another cell door.

The group had broke through five of the cells when an Elemental Master stumbled out of the interrogation room. He was a dark gray with dashes of black visible under his armor plating. His mask was rough and hard-edged, like a chunk of metal taken from a deposit. In his hands, he carried two large metal fists like those rubber Hulk fists kids play with. Except these were made of a hard, heavy metal that could crush through solid rock.

“What’s going on-” the Elemental Master broke off when he saw the islanders running from their escaped cells.

Terras started spinning his drills again. “Titanias, master of metal,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”

Titantias ground his teeth. “You’ve got some nerve showing your face here, brother.”

“You lost the right to call me brother a long time ago!” Terras said as he charged Titanias. He sent his drill hurtling toward Titanias’ chest, but Titanias was quick to respond. He grabbed Terras’ wrist and threw him against the wall. Titanias stomped over to Terras and repeatedly slammed his fists into him like Donkey Kong pummeling the ground.

It looked like Titanias would kill Terras, but Scythax stepped in. He swung his scythe at Titanias and hooked it around his arm. Scythax yanked Titanias away from Terras and hammered his torso with the butt of his scythe. Titanias swayed on the spot, but he was barely fazed. He clenched his fists as tight as they would go, and his whole body turned a darker shade of gray. Titanias turned his whole body into a solid, unbreakable metal. He charged toward Scythax, ready to flatten him into a metal pancake. But Scythax dove aside like a bullfighter and watched as Titanias slammed into the prison wall. He hit it so hard, cracks traveled up the wall and onto the ceiling. A piece of stone fell onto Titanias’ head and shattered into tiny pieces.

Titanias lost his concentration, and his body reverted back to its natural state. Scythax swung his scythe like a pickaxe and slammed it into Titanias’ chest. Reeling from the pain, Titanias fell against the wall as another chunk of the ceiling broke off and landed on top of him.

Meanwhile, Glacias and Kylie had entered the interrogation room and saw both Clockas and Attractas standing at a table, looking over a map. The two of them had heard the ruckus outside and drawn their weapons, and now they were facing both Glacias and Kylie.

Glacias was brandishing his double-bladed sword, but then his eyes fell upon the map on the table. He could immediately see that it was a map of Mahra, with various landmarks labeled in the language of the native islanders. If he could just get that map…

The keen eyes of Clockas followed Glacias’ gaze. “Oh, I don’t think so,” she said. She waved her hand, and time reversed around Glacias. He ran backward out of the room, directly to the spot where he had been right before he had charged in. Once Clockas had released Glacias, he started running in again. But Clockas was ready this time. She thrust herself in his way with her sword brandished, ready to impale Glacias. Glacias forced himself into such a hard stop, he slipped and fell. Clockas raised her sword over her head, ready to bring it down on Glacias. But Kylie, seeing this, pulled out her gun and shot Clockas in the back several times. The shots didn’t penetrate Clockas’ thick metal armor, but they inflicted pain nonetheless. Clockas angrily turned toward Kylie, who loaded her gun again.

But before Kylie could shoot, Attractas jerked her right combat hook backward. Kylie’s gun flew out of her hand like it was attracted to a magnet. Shocked, Kylie looked over at Attractas. “That’s my power,” Attractas explained. “Magnetism.”

Kylie pulled a taser out of her belt, but Attractas was ready for that, too. She telekinetically yanked it out of Kylie’s hand, sending it flying across the room. Attractas charged at Kylie and swung her hook at her. Kylie ducked out of the way and rolled under Attractas’ legs. She came up behind the rogue Elemental Master and kicked her in the back. Not bothering to look back, Kylie scooped up her discarded weapons and grabbed the map off the table.

“No!” Attractas protested. “Put that map back!”

Clockas, who had been advancing on Glacias again, heard Attractas’ words and whirled toward Kylie. She snapped her fingers, and time around Kylie froze. Kylie froze mid-step, still holding the map in her hand.

Glacias ground his teeth as Clockas turned back toward him. “You like freezing people so much?” he asked. “Then maybe you should be frozen yourself!” Before Clockas could respond, Glacias willed a huge block of ice to form around Clockas. Clockas strained against the ice, but it was too thick. At once, time around Kylie un-froze, and she started running again. Attractas tried to get in her way, but Glacias came from behind and slammed the flat of his blade against her head. Attractas grunted in anger and turned toward Glacias. Before Glacias could make another move, Attractas thrust out her left hook. Glacias, whose body was mostly made of metal, was hit by a repelling magnetic force from Attractas. Glacias was thrown across the room and into the wall, not too far from where Titanias had hit.

Attractas started to advance toward where Glacias had fallen, but she had forgotten about Kylie. Kylie came right up behind her and slapped a pair of handcuffs on Attractas’ wrists. Kylie then shot Attractas in the face, right in the middle of her forehead. The shot didn’t fully penetrate Attractas’ mask, but it hurt a lot no less. As Kylie ran out of the interrogation room, Glacias conjured a wall of ice inside the entrance.

“There,” said Glacias. “That should keep them in there for a while.”

Kylie looked around. “Is everybody out?”

“It looks like it,” said Scythax as he helped Terras stand up. After defeating Titanias, the two of them had got to busting open the rest of the cells. The last of the islanders were now fleeing the jail building, heading back out to the jungle where they belonged.

“Good,” said Kylie. “I got their map, too.”

“Excellent,” said Glacias. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Should we get Pyras?” Terras asked.

“Yes, I think so,” said Glacias. “We can’t afford to leave him behind.”

“But what about Hunter?”

End of Chapter 7…

Chapter 8

Hunter, Tyler, and Hydras made their way through the stronghold, hoping to find Isaac and Ellie in there somewhere. “Where are my siblings?” Hunter asked.

“Well, if they were brought to Tenebris, then they probably went to his throne room,” said Tyler. “Assuming he has one.”

“I think he does,” said Hydras. She pointed to a small one-story building that was built directly behind the main jail building. It was built from dark gray bricks, and had several black spires on top.

Hunter faltered when he saw this building. “Is that…”

“It probably is,” said Hydras, sensing what Hunter was thinking. This building had to be the place where Tenebris had his throne.

“Are-are we too late?”

“Only one way to find out,” said Hydras. She kicked down the front door of the building and looked from side to side. Sonas and Momentas were both standing guard at the door, and they were surprised to see Hydras kicking her way in. But before either of them could respond, Hydras blasted them with jets of water so powerful, they went flying into the wall.

Hydras stepped aside as both Hunter and Tyler entered the building. Hunter’s heart leapt when he saw both Isaac and Ellie standing bound before Tenebris’ throne. “Isaac! Ellie!” he exclaimed.

“Hunter?” Isaac asked.

“Oh, I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Hunter. He started to run toward his siblings, but he was cut off by a loud, deep voice from ahead.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the voice boomed. It had a deep echo and an underlying growl to it. It sent images of the dark lord Sauron through Hunter’s mind, resonating right down to his bones. Hunter looked at the being sitting on the throne, who he had heard so much about ever since he first came to this dimension, and had hoped he would never have to come face-to-face with. Hunter had thought nothing could be scarier than Prohahka, but he was wrong.

Tenebris was ten feet tall, with a biomechanical body built like an Olympic athlete-one that had gone evil. His legs were as thick as stacks of car tires and plated with dark gray armor, and his torso was shaped like a tornado of darkness. Even though it was mostly made of metal, his pectoral area was so thick, it could’ve been seen as an eight-pack. The dark gray armor on his torso surrounded a dark crimson gem in his chest, pulsing as if it were his heart. His arms were even thicker than his legs, with spikes protruding from his shoulders and tubes going down to his wrists. His hands were like big black tarantulas, and his fingers ended in talons so thick and pointed, they looked like oversized fingernails. In his right hand, he held a long spear with a sword-like blade that was thick and sharp enough to cleave a couch in half.

But by far the scariest thing about Tenebris was his face. Unlike most Mechanicle beings, his mask seemed to be one with his face, as its mouth, eyeholes, and brow seemed to move naturally. Its cheeks were angled downward, giving it an arrowhead shape. Its eyeholes were shaped like slits, exposing wicked crimson eyes underneath. The mask/face was so full of hate, so full of evil, it would’ve made anyone cringe in fear. In fact, Tenebris’ presence alone was so malevolent, just being near him froze Hunter’s heart inside his chest. This guy was more dangerous that anything Hunter had ever faced. He could bend metal like it was rubber, create shockwaves, change his form to anything he wanted, bend shadows to his will, and heal himself of almost any physical harm. If he started a fight, he would be the one to finish it.


“Who are you?” Tenebris asked, regarding Hunter with his deep red eyes.

“He’s our brother!” said Isaac. “He’s the Outsider!”

The eyebrows on Tenebris’ mask rose in surprise. “So, the Outsider finally shows his face in my territory,” he said. “I knew this day would come, even with Dr. Evileye protecting my island.”

“It’s not your island!” Tyler shouted. He was just as terrified as Hunter was, but he was channeling that strong emotion to his advantage. “It belongs to the islanders!”

“No, it isn’t,” said Tenebris. “It may have been once, but those days are over. Once I find the Spear of Life and awaken Shadow, he will have control over the entire world. And he will give me, the one who brought about our world’s new ruler, control over any land I want. And I might just choose this island.”

Hunter, who was starting to regain his senses, blurted out, “I don’t care where you want to rule. Just give me my brother and sister!”

Tenebris smiled cruelly. “Compassion for your family members. Just like every other ‘good guy.’”

“I’m serious! I need them!” Hunter edged his way closer to Isaac and started to untie his hands.

Sonas, who had already recovered from being thrown into a wall, got to his feet and gripped his sledgehammer. “They belong to us!” he said. “We found them in the jungle, and we intend to use them as slaves on our island.”

“No,” said Hunter. “You can’t do that.”

“Oh, yes we can,” said Tenebris, taking a step toward Hunter. What little courage Hunter had crumbled away, and he took a step back. “I own Mahra now. Everyone and everything on this island-even you-belongs to me.”

“We’ll never be your slaves!” Ellie shouted.

Tenebris smiled in the meanest way possible and caressed his spear in both hands. “Ah, human children,” he said. “So simple-minded, and headstrong, and loud-mouthed, and yet entertaining. I do hope Shadow keeps you around when he takes over the world. Nonetheless, if you won’t work for us, then we’ll have to go with the other option.” Tenebris patted his spear’s blade in his hand, and it suddenly seemed to gleam. “I’m sure Shadow will appreciate a sacrificial victim or two.”

Well, that was enough for Hunter. “That’s it!” he shouted. “These two are coming with me!” He grabbed Isaac and Ellie and started to drag them toward the exit. But Sonas had other ideas. He slammed his sledgehammer into the ground, and a soundwave rippled through the throne room. It was a loud and sudden sound-like a sonic boom. Hunter scrunched his eyes shut and covered his ears as they echoed with a booming noise that was amplified by how small the room was. At first the pounding in his eardrums built up as the sound resonated, but after a few seconds, it trailed off into a whining sound. All background noise faded away as the whining filled Hunter’s eardrums. He could still see Tenebris, Hydras, and Sonas moving their mouths, but he could hear no voices.

Hunter felt a tap on his shoulder and looked to see Tyler mouthing, come on! We have to get out of here! Hunter grabbed both Isaac and Ellie and took them with him as he and Tyler ran.

Hydras, who had not gone temporarily deaf from Sonas’ soundwave, did not even bother to stay and fight Tenebris. She had tried to stand alone against him once before, and she had almost lost the fight. The only reason she hadn’t been killed was because Pyras, Aeras, and Terras had showed up in the nick of time. And right now, none of them were there to save her. So Hydras fled the scene.

“STOP THEM!” Tenebris shouted. He ran after them with his spear in hand, with Sonas right behind him. Momentas, who was just starting to come to his senses, got up and followed.

Outside, Hunter, Isaac, Ellie, Tyler, and Hydras were making a beeline for the stronghold’s front gate. Ahead of them, they saw Terras, Glacias, Scythax, and Kylie leaving the jail building. Scythax and Terras went over to where Pyras lay and helped him stand up. Seeing their comrades running to join them, they nodded and made for the front gate.

But as Terras, Scythax, Pyras, Glacias, and Kylie left, Toxas stirred on the ground where she had fallen during her fight with Terras earlier. As she stood up, she found herself facing Hunter, Hydras, and Tyler. Her eyes narrowed as she saw that they had Isaac and Ellie with them. “Oh, I don’t think so,” she said as she swung her flail.

Tyler, who had had his eardrums shaken by Sonas’ soundwave, didn’t need to hear Toxas’ voice to know that she wasn’t gonna just let them go. He aimed his pistol at her chest and fired. The shot didn’t kill her, as he expected, but it still inflicted pain. Toxas doubled over as Hunter, Isaac, Ellie, Tyler, and Hydras slowed to a stop. Before anyone could make any moves, Hunter saw a light gray blur coming from the right. He didn’t even have time to do anything to stop it. Momentas darted right past Hunter, picked up Isaac and Ellie, and ran off with them.

“No!” Hunter shouted, though he couldn’t hear himself talk. He made a move to go after Momentas, but Hydras stopped him in his place. She mouthed at him that they had to get out of there, but Hunter shook his head. “I came here to save them! I’m not gonna let them go!”

“You’re going to have to,” said Hydras. “We’re not going to be able to fight Tenebris on our own!”

“But-but I-”

“Look out!” Hydras tackled Hunter out of the way as Toxas swung her flail at them and missed by inches. Tyler tried to shoot at Toxas again, but his now-empty gun just clicked uselessly. Tyler slid the gun back its holster, pulled out his miniature pickaxe, and chopped at Toxas’ face. Tyler and Hydras both took the chance to drag Hunter kicking and screaming towards the front gate.

At first, Hunter couldn’t believe his friends were doing this to him. The whole reason they were here in the first place was to rescue Isaac and Ellie, and now they were leaving just like that. But when he looked back and saw Tenebris, towering over Sonas and Toxas and staring at Hunter with hatred, he started to understand why they were leaving. Tenebris was just too powerful for just him, Hydras, and Tyler to take on by themselves. And even if they could defeat him, his rogue Elemental Master servants outnumbered them two to one.

But at the same time, Hunter felt a hole of guilt forming in his gut. He had came all this way, suffered so much, to save his brother and sister, even though he didn’t like having to deal with this responsibility. Why had he even wasted his time if he couldn’t do it? Why did it have to be him who had to do all this? Just why? For the millionth time that day, he wished he had destroyed his dad’s machine when he had the chance.

End of Chapter 8…

Chapter 9

Clockas and Attractas were both worried.

After returning to the stronghold with the two human kids, they had been accosted by Titanias, who told them that earlier that day, he had raided an islander’s house and found a map of the island. Sonas and Momentas had taken Isaac and Ellie before Tenebris while Clockas and Attractas went into the jail’s interrogation room to examine the map with Titanias. Looking over it, they had seen that it mapped out the entire island and was inscribed with writing. But they hadn’t gotten very far before Terras, Glacias, Scythax, and a female agent had came in, freed all the enslaved islanders, and stolen the map.

After Attractas broke Clockas out of the block of ice Glacias had frozen her inside, she immediately asked if Clockas was okay. “I’m fine,” said Clockas. “But what will Tenebris say?”

“What do you mean?” Attractas asked.

“I mean, he’s been searching all over the island for the Spear of Life, while we’ve been trying our hardest to break the islanders,” Clockas explained.

Attractas’ face fell as she realized what Clockas meant. “And now our enemies have stolen our map and let the islanders free-on our watch!” she said. “Tenebris is not gonna be happy…”

“Of course he won’t be,” said Clockas. “He’s probably gonna throw us in jail again.”

“Really? That would be very bad,” said Attractas.

“It would be,” said Clockas. “Unless he blames it on the people who attacked us in the first place.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Attractas. “But still…”

“Let’s just go and tell Tenebris what happened,” said Clockas. “Hopefully he’ll show us some mercy.”

So Attractas followed Clockas out of the jail building and into the stronghold’s courtyard. As they went, Attractas hoped that Clockas was right. She had tried her best to defend their stronghold, and yet she had still been overpowered. She really didn’t deserve to be locked. She had spent so much time sitting in the jail here on Mahra, with only her cellmates’ company and Scythax, along with his robot guards, keeping an eye on her. Every hour, the only thing she could think of was everything that had led up to her getting thrown in jail and how foolish she was to turn on her Elemental Master brethren.

Of course, none of the rogue Elemental Masters had wanted to turn against their brethren. They had came to this world as a twelve-person team to defeat Tenebris, sent by the Great Creators. But as they fought in the war, conflict grew among the Elemental Masters. Clockas hadn’t trusted Pyras as a leader and believed she should be in charge. Sonas and Toxas, who were closest to Clockas, had agreed. And as the war had gone on, no matter how pivotal the Elemental Masters’ victories were, Tenebris’ forces would always come back as formidable as ever. The Elemental Masters had prayed to the Great Creators for help, but the only answers they had ever gotten was that they were more than capable of defeating Tenebris.

It certainly didn’t help that not long after, Tenebris created the Rahrok. He had found six monster worms and used his shadow powers to mutate them into six fearsome creatures who possessed elemental powers of their own. Each of them was born to defeat two Elemental Masters, and lived only to inflict pain on innocent people.

The six Rahrok had assassinated Claritas and almost killed the Elemental Masters. It was at that point that many of the Elemental Masters began to feel abandoned by the Great Creators. They did not see the point of continuing to fight when the odds were against them, and their creators did not care about them.

It hadn’t taken long for Tenebris and Prohahka to learn of this. Since Prohahka could see into people’s minds, she was able to poke around in the Elemental Masters’ thoughts and determine how they could be manipulated into joining them. Tenebris had played off the emotions of Clockas, Sonas, Toxas, Momentas, Titanias, and Attractas to talk them into stealing the keystones from the portal inside Voyo. After doing this deed, the six rogue Elemental Masters had sworn loyalty to Tenebris and renounced the Great Creators.

Their next task had been to sell their brethren out to Tenebris. Pyras, Hydras, Aeras, Terras, Electras, and Glacias had been lured into a trap where Tenebris, Prohahka, the Rahrok, and the rogue Elemental Masters were waiting to kill them. Fortunately, the good Elemental Masters had been saved by a group of warriors from Claritas’ cult and escaped the trap. They had immediately set to rounding up the rogue Elemental Masters and sentencing them to jail. Clockas, Sonas, Toxas, Attractas, Momentas, and Titanias had been transported to Mahra, where Scythax was their jailer.

Their time in jail was not a pleasant one. As they whiled away in their cells, the rogue Elemental Masters had mulled over everything that had happened. In the cases of Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas, the turn of events had stoked their hatred for the Great Creators and their former Elemental Master brethren. Momentas and Titanias had reflected on what had happened and wondered what they could’ve done to actually win the war and avoid getting thrown in jail. But for Attractas, things were different. As she sat in her cell, she realized that after what she had done, the Great Creators would definitely have abandoned her. Especially when the news reached her ears that Tenebris had been defeated and his cult disbanded, she wished she hadn’t turned to Tenebris’ side.

Of course, when Tenebris came to Mahra and broke them out of the jail, the rest of the rogue Elemental Masters were grateful toward him and retained their loyalty. Attractas was glad she had been broken out of jail too, but she was doubting her loyalty to Tenebris. The only reason she continued to serve Tenebris was out of fear that she would be killed if she rebelled. She had contemplated escaping the island once, but Tenebris had smartly hidden his own boat and burned the boats that belonged to the islanders. Attractas had no way of getting off the island-and even if she did, where would she go? No one would welcome her back in Voyo, and she was certain that the Great Creators had spit upon her name for her actions in the past. In short, she could only live out her existence as a slave of Tenebris.

Clockas and Attractas entered the courtyard to see Tenebris standing alongside Sonas, Toxas, and Momentas. The human kids, Isaac and Ellie, were lying tied up at Momentas’ feet. “Tenebris, we have some bad news,” said Clockas. “We were attacked, and our enslaved islanders were set free.”

Tenebris scowled. “Who did this?”

“It was our former Elemental Master brethren,” said Toxas. “I tried to stop them, but they were too much for me.”

“And there’s more bad news,” said Attractas. “Titanias had a map of the island he was showing us, that we could’ve used to find the Spear of Life. But the people that attacked us stole that, too.”

Tenebris shook his head in disappointment. “Just like how the Outsider tried to-”

“Wait. The Outsider?” Clockas asked.

“Yes, the Outsider,” said Tenebris. “It turns out that these two are his younger siblings. He led Hydras and a human adventurer into my throne room to try to steal the kids from us. Foolish move, on his part. He’s only alive because Hydras and that other human dragged him away.”

“You missed your big chance, Tenebris!” said Sonas. “You could have pursued and killed them! Why didn’t you?”

Tenebris looked at the little boy and girl that were bound before his feet. “Because he seemed rather…passionate about rescuing his brother and sister,” he said.

“It seems he has the same weakness that many humans have. A weakness we could potentially exploit in our quest against him.”

“But he and his pathetic friends have the map of the island!” said Clockas. “And if the islanders have escaped, then they’ll probably help them find that spear!”

“Oh, I have an idea,” said Tenebris. “I don’t think the Outsider will be able to refuse the offer I have in mind…”

By the time Hunter and Tyler had regained their hearing, they had been reunited with their comrades back on the hill where they had agreed to meet up. Hunter was relieved to see that all of his friends had survived the raid on the stronghold. Pyras’ torso was corroded from Toxas’ acid blast, but otherwise he was fine. Everyone else had made it through with facial bruises and/or small armor dents.

“So I take it you didn’t save your brother and sister,” said Pyras.

“I tried, but I couldn’t,” said Hunter. “I…I couldn’t have.”

“Hey, you did what you could,” said Tyler.

“Besides, it wasn’t a total waste of time,” said Kylie. “I stole a map from the rogue Elemental Masters.”

Everyone gathered to look around the map. It showed a bird’s eye view of the island and all of its landmarks. The landmarks were all labeled with a language unlike any Hunter had seen before. It was made of circles and hexagons.

“I know this language,” Tyler said as he looked over the map. “My father taught me to read it.”

“Well, what does it say?” Kylie asked.

Tyler read over the strange language. “It’s just labelling the volcano, and the temple to the Great Creators, and the islander villages,” he said.

“Does it say anything about the Spear of Life?” Hydras asked.

Tyler squinted at the map. “It looks like it does,” he said. “It says the temple holds the secret to the Spear of Life.”

“Oh wow, we are lucky that we stole this map before the rogue Elemental Masters could decipher it,” said Pyras.

“I wonder if my father found this,” said Tyler. “Maybe the islanders let him look at it, and then he decided to go to the temple to see what the secret to the Spear of Life was.”

“It seems like our next step is to go to that temple,” said Pyras. “If we’re lucky, not only will we find the Spear of Life, but we’ll also discover Richard Kane’s fate.”

“I know the way to the temple,” said Scythax. “Follow me.”

The eight companions made their way through the jungle. As they walked, Hunter couldn’t keep his eyes off the ground. He felt humiliated by what had happened at the stronghold. Not just because he’d failed to rescue his siblings, but also because he’d been so powerless against Tenebris. Why was it him, of all people, who was entrusted with the responsibility to save this world from the ultimate evil? He hated being the Outsider. He hated being dragged on these adventures to find these magic items while being chased by an all-powerful evil warlord. He hated how everyone looked up to him like he was George Washington or someone when really, he was just a kid.

As he walked, a question entered Hunter’s mind. “Hey Pyras?” he asked.

“Yes, what is it?” Pyras answered.

“Do you ever…you know…wish you weren’t an Elemental Master?”

Pyras looked at Hunter like he just said he’d like to go scuba diving with a Great White Shark. “Now why would I wish that?”

“Well, just-don’t you ever get tired of having to fight every bad guy in the world? Don’t you ever wish you could just be like a regular villager?”

“I wasn’t created to be a regular villager,” said Pyras. “The Great Creators made me to be an Elemental Master, a hero of-”

“Yeah, I know that,” said Hunter. “But what I meant was, don’t you ever get bogged down by how hard it is to be a hero? Because I just…ever since I got here, I’ve been forced to go with you on every adventure, and do things that are way beyond me. I just hate all this responsibility.”

“Ah,” said Pyras. “I see your problem.”

“Well? Do you feel that way?”

“Not quite in the way you feel it,” Pyras admitted. “There have been times where I felt overwhelmed by my responsibility, and wished that someone else could do all this for me. But then I reminded myself that if I didn’t do my duty, then innocent lives would be slaughtered. And if I abandoned my duties, then I would stand accountable before the Great Creators.”

Kylie spoke up. “And what do you think my boss would say if I didn’t do everything in my power to stop Dr. Evileye, and he took over the world on my watch?”

“Or if Scythax didn’t keep the rogue Elemental Masters locked up,” said Hydras. “Claritas wouldn’t be happy with him, if she were still alive.”

“What we’re trying to say,” said Pyras, “Is that we all have responsibilities that we have to fulfill. You don’t have to like your responsibility, but it’ll be best for everyone if you fulfill your responsibility.”

“But what if I can’t?” said Hunter. “I just tried to save my brother and sister, and I couldn’t do it with all of you guys at my back. And killing Tenebris…forget it!”

The left side of Terras’ mask dented inwards-the equivalent of him sucking in one cheek. “Who said anything about you killing Tenebris?”

“You guys have said that I, the Outsider, am the one who’s supposed to save the world from the ultimate evil,” said Hunter.

“There’s a lot of gray area in that,” said Terras. “By beating Tenebris to the Spear of Life and preventing him from awakening Shadow-that would be like saving the world.”

“Won’t Tenebris try to, you know, get revenge?”

“He might,” said Pyras. “Though, since his intentions in the beginning were to awaken Shadow, then you will have stopped him.”

That argument didn’t hold water with Hunter. But he couldn’t think of anything to say in response, so he just shook his head and continued walking. He just didn’t know anymore. This whole situation was such a mess. It sounded really bad, but Hunter almost wished Tenebris had killed him back at the stronghold. At least if he were dead, then he’d never have to deal with any of this hard responsibility anymore.

End of Chapter 9…

Chapter 10

The temple was located towards the north of the island, about twenty miles away from Tenebris’ stronghold. Hunter and his entourage had walked a little over half that distance by nightfall.

“We should probably make camp here for the night,” Tyler said as they came into a small clearing.

“No,” said Pyras. “We should keep moving in case Tenebris is following us.”

“Night is the best time to travel,” said Terras. “If Tenebris and his rogue Elemental Masters are trying to find us, then they won’t be able to see us in this darkness.”

“Of course, that means we can’t see them, either,” said Tyler.

Pyras sighed. “Everyone, time is of the essence. We must-”

“Alright, alright, we’ll keep going,” said Tyler. “I don’t even have any of my tents or sleeping bags anyway.”

So they trekked even farther into the jungle, aiming to put less distance between them and the temple. But they were all tired from spending the past six hours walking through a rough jungle, and in Hunter’s, Tyler’s, and Kylie’s cases, their faces were soaked with sweat.

“Do…do Mechanicle beings need sleep?” Hunter asked as he wiped his brow for the millionth time.

“Not really. Why?” said Pyras.

“Just asking,” said Hunter.

Hunter wasn’t known for having an accurate internal clock, but if he had to take a guess, he’d say it was 9:30 or 10:00 P. M. right now. This was usually the time when he’d be going to bed-especially after a day of physical activity like this. It felt like Hunter’s limbs were gaining weight as he walked, and even his back was starting to hunch a bit.

Hunter was pretty relieved when the path opened up into a clearing where an islander village was built. There were about a dozen huts and a couple of shrines to the Great Creators. “There,” said Hunter. “We…we should stop there for the night.”

Everyone else murmured agreement, and even Pyras was ready to admit that they had done enough walking for one day. The eight of them entered the village and all found a hut to sleep in. “I’ll take first watch,” Pyras said as Hunter entered one of the huts. There wasn’t much inside the hut-just a cot-like bed, a table littered with sticks and stones, and a few tools laid against the wall. The bed didn’t have a blanket, and the pillow was so flat it might as well have been a pancake, but it still felt great to lie down. Hunter was so tired from everything that had happened that day, his eyes closed before he even had time to think about it. And just like that, he drifted off to sleep.

Hunter was awakened early the next morning by someone gently shaking him. “Alright, alright, I’m getting up,” Hunter murmured. It was something he said to his parents all the time when they woke him up for school.

But when his eyes fluttered open, he did not see his mom or dad standing before him. Instead, there was a short, four-foot-tall islander standing beside his bed. He was built from a lime green metal and wore a wooden mask on his head. His mask had baseball-sized holes that revealed his blue eyes, and had even larger holes on the cheeks. Through the holes, the sides of his brown, shriveled face were visible.

“Rise and shout, human,” said the islander. “You gotta get out and get moving.”

“Who are you?” Hunter asked.

“My name is Velta,” said the islander. “I’m one of the island natives.”

“I can tell,” Hunter said as he got out of bed. “We’re not trespassing on your territory, are we?”

“Not really,” said Velta. “We’re migrating to the northern side of the island, so we’re abandoning the middle and southern villages for the time being. I’m only here to gather up some tools we might need.”

Hunter stepped out of the door and saw that the sun was already in the 8:00 position. “We’d better get moving,” he said. “Thanks for waking me.”

“No problem,” said Velta.

Tyler and Kylie came up to them. “You’re Velta?” Tyler asked.

“Yes,” said Velta.

“Are you familiar with Richard Kane?”

Velta’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, Richard Kane,” he said. “The subject of so many arguments and debates in the past few weeks.”

“What are you talking about?” Tyler asked. “I thought he was friends with you guys.”

“He was,” said Velta. “Until he entered the temple to the Great Creators.”

“Isn’t that where you have the Spear of Life?” Kylie asked.

Under his mask, Velta gritted his teeth. “You’re trying to get me in trouble here,” he said. “If any islander divulged the secrets of the Spear of Life to a non-islander, then we would be burned at the stake before the entire population of islanders.”

“But why did my father go into the temple?” Tyler asked.

“No one is sure,” said Velta. “Most people think that he, as an archaeologist, got a little too curious for his own good. But everyone has been arguing over exactly what happened to him. Some think he died in the temple, others think that he survived and left the island soon thereafter. None of us has any solid evidence, as only our chieftans are allowed in the temple. If anyone else goes in there, then they will suffer painful consequences.”

“But we have to go into the temple,” said Kylie. “We have to find the Spear of Life before Tenebris does.”

“Yes, I’ve heard all about your conflict,” said Velta. “Well, I’m sorry, but the rules of the temple apply to everyone-islanders and mainlanders. I don’t have a defined theory of what happened to Richard Kane, but I doubt he came out of that temple unscathed.”

“Well, that’s the real reason I’m here,” said Tyler. “To find out what happened to my father.”

Velta smiled. “Well, I hope you do find answers,” he said. “And I also hope you defeat Tenebris.”

Hunter cleared his throat. “I know you can’t tell us anything, but…what is it you have in that temple guarding the Spear of Life? We’ve heard that there’s a guardian-”

“No, no, we don’t have any creatures residing in the temple,” said Velta. “Our rules apply to living creatures, too.”

“Oh,” said Hunter. “I guess the rumors weren’t true after all.”

Velta’s eyes narrowed. “I think you’ll have to see for yourself,” he said. Before he could spill any more beans, he turned and walked away.

Not long after, the group of allies were on the road again. Scythax continued to lead, while Hunter, Tyler, and Kylie told Pyras what Velta had said. As they talked, Hydras, Terras, and Glacias listened in as well.

“I’m still convinced there’s a guardian somewhere,” said Hydras. “The islanders aren’t expecting sacred rules to hold back people like Tenebris, are they?”

“Maybe there’s a monster chained up in front of the temple,” Tyler suggested.

“There isn’t,” Scythax said from ahead. “I’ve seen the temple myself.”

“It might not be a monster that’s protecting the Spear of Life,” said Tyler. “I’ve been to lots of lost temples, and almost all of them have had some sort of booby traps. If the islanders really wanted to protect the Spear of Life, they would surely have rigged the temple with tricks and traps.”

“That might explain why your father never left the temple,” said Glacias. “He might’ve-”

“No!” said Tyler, the word coming out harsher than he’d intended. “I can’t give up on my father. I have to believe he’s still alive. I didn’t come to this island just to find out that he got killed by some stupid booby trap.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but sometimes you just have to face the inevitable,” said Glacias.

Pyras cast Glacias a stern look. “That’s enough, Glacias,” he said.

“But I-”

“No,” said Pyras. “Tyler cares about his father very much, just like how Hunter cares about his brother and sister-”

“I don’t care about them,” said Hunter. But as the words came out, he felt a flower of guilt blooming in his heart. “I just-I mean…I do, but I don’t, but I do…” He trailed off.

“If you don’t care about them, then why are you trying so hard to rescue them?” Hydras asked.

“Because I don’t want Tenebris to kill them,” said Hunter. “It’s always me who’s responsible for them when my parents aren’t around, so if I lose them like this, then I’ll be screwed.”

“Yeah, no, you love your brother and sister,” said Tyler. “I can just tell.”

“I never said I loved them,” said Hunter.

“You don’t have to say it,” said Tyler. “Everyone loves their family members, no matter what.”

“It’s true,” said Pyras. “Do you think that I harbor feelings of hatred toward the Elemental Masters that went rogue?”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Hunter asked. “They switched sides and are serving the guy who you were meant to fight against.”

“They did,” said Pyras. “I am not proud of their deeds in any way. But we were created together, and we shared many adventures before their betrayal. My brethren and I have to fight against them now, but it pains us to do so.”

“I used to be very close to Attractas,” said Hydras.

“And look at my father and I,” Tyler added. “When I was a kid, he wouldn’t let me go on every adventure with him, and I didn’t like that. But when I got older and realized he was doing it for my safety, I was ready to forgive him.”

“Besides,” Kylie added. “Isaac and Ellie are kids. They probably didn’t know better than to wander all the way out here. When they get older, they’ll fully understand what they did wrong. They’ll be thankful for you saving them, and by that point, you’ll be ready to forgive them.”

Hunter lowered his head and closed his eyes. “Okay, you’re right,” he said. “I guess, deep down, I do love Isaac and Ellie. And I would be pretty upset if Tenebris killed them.” Suddenly, a disturbing thought occurred to him. “Wait. What if…what if Tenebris kills them while we’re off looking for the Spear of Life?”

“I think Tenebris’ main priority is to find the Spear of Life,” said Terras. “Maybe he’ll just put the kids on the backburner for the time being.”

“But…maybe a few of us should go back, just to be sure,” said Hunter. “While the rest of you go find the Spear of Life.”

“I disapprove,” said Pyras. “It’s much too dangerous to split up on this island.”

“We split up on the mainland, when we were looking for the keystones,” said Hunter.

“The difference was that the mainland was much larger than Mahra, with more places we could go, and with many more allies we could go to. Here, it’s just us and the islanders,” said Pyras. “Besides, if you couldn’t attack Tenebris’ stronghold and save your siblings before, what makes you think you can do it if you try again?”

“I just-I can’t let them die,” said Hunter.

“I’m terribly sorry,” said Pyras. “But I think your highest priority right now, as the Outsider, should be to retrieve the Spear of Life. Hopefully, after we have beaten Tenebris to our prize, you will be reunited with your brother and sister.”

It definitely was not what Hunter wanted to hear. But he knew no one would go back to the stronghold with him, and going alone would be suicide. But as they trudged through the forest, Hunter worried that he might not see his brother or sister again.

End of Chapter 10…

Chapter 11

They reached the temple in the early afternoon. The temple was built into the side of a hill, with an entrance made out of a medium-gray stone. There were columns on either side of the door that had the shapes of the Great Creators carved into them. Vines grew all over the temple’s entrance.

“This is it,” said Scythax.

Tyler rubbed his hands together. “My home turf,” he said.

“No kidding,” said Hunter. The temple was giving him some serious Indiana Jones vibes.

“Remember,” said Pyras. “The Spear of Life awaits us in this temple, but the islanders put lots of things in place to stop anyone who tries to get it. Be very careful.”

He lit his sword on fire and held it like a torch as he entered the temple. He hadn’t even gone ten steps when a pair of swords swung down from the ceiling like some giant pair of scissors. Pyras, almost reflexively, held up his own sword and blocked the larger swords from chopping his head in two. “Case in point,” he said.

The rest of them followed Pyras as he proceeded with caution. Hunter was half expecting a boulder to drop down and crush them at any moment, but it didn’t happen. Well, okay, maybe there were arrows that shot out of the wall. But that didn’t happen either. Then…would there at least be a pit? Or was Hunter thinking too much of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark?

After the tunnel had gone for about thirty feet, they came to a fork in the tunnel. The tunnel split in two different directions, each of which led down an identical tunnel. “So…which way?” Hydras asked.

“I vote right,” said Kylie.

“I vote left,” said Glacias.

Pyras stepped toward the left tunnel. “Well, maybe we should at least have a look at-” He broke off when he heard a rumbling sound. In the tunnel where they had came from, a stone wall rose out of the ground and blocked the exit. Under their feet, a crack appeared in the floor as the room split in two. The two halves of the room began rotating in opposite directions and moving farther into the temple. One half had Hunter, Pyras, Kylie, Hydras, and Terras, while the other had Tyler, Glacias, and Scythax.

As Hunter’s room portion moved while spinning, Hunter saw a bunch of other spinning room portions going around him as his companions disappeared. Hunter realized that the fork in the tunnel they had came to had been the beginning of a maze. And that maze was now shifting and rearranging itself to confuse them.

“When are we gonna stop?” Hunter asked.

“I don’t know,” said Terras. “If I can-” He broke off when their room portion suddenly came to a stop. He, Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, and Kylie were thrown off their feet, with Hydras and Terras falling on another portion that was still spinning. As their companions watched, Hydras and Terras spun into the darkness and out of sight.

“Why…why did we stop?” Hunter asked.

“Probably as part of the rearranging,” said Kylie. “It had to stop so some of the other pieces could get in place.”

As she said it, the sound of stone grinding against stone started to die down. All around them, a new maze section shifted into place. When the process was over, Hunter, Pyras, and Kylie were standing with their backs to a curved wall and facing three dark tunnels, each of which was equally dark and mysterious.

“Whoa,” said Hunter. “Those islanders must have been top-notch engineers.”

“They were,” said Pyras. “Much more than most people give them credit for.”

Kylie heard a scuffling noise coming from the right tunnel. Acting on reflex, she pulled out her gun and pointed it at the tunnel entrance. “What is it?” Pyras asked, tightening his grip on his sword.

“I…I thought I heard something…” Kylie replied, staring into the dark tunnel.

“Here’s a bright idea,” said Hunter. “Maybe we don’t take that tunnel.”

“Agreed,” said Pyras.

“Let’s go down…the center one.”

Kylie lowered her gun. “Works for me,” she said.

Pyras’ flaming sword lit the way as they walked through the center tunnel. As they walked, they continued to hear scraping, slithering, and scuffling noises. Kylie, who was used to operating in dark, quiet places, was holding onto her gun every step of the way and pointing it at anything she thought she saw move.

“You think maybe those are the others?” Hunter asked. “Those noises?”

“Could be,” said Pyras. “Though if they heard our voices, they’d be running to greet us.”

They went through so many forks and crisscrosses between tunnels, Hunter lost count of how many there were. In fact, he was certain that they ended up going through the same tunnel twice at some point. The whole thing felt like the maze activity books he used to do as a kid. He’d always use a pencil to trace his way through a maze that was printed on paper, and find himself stumped until he looked in the back of the book for the solution. He wished really badly that there was a solution to this maze, because he was getting tired of walking in circles.

At long last, the trio came to a corridor that didn’t curve or extend to another fork. This one was lit by torches that cast a red glow against the walls. It went farther than the naked eye could see.

“I think we’re on the right track,” said Hunter. “Literally.” He, Pyras, and Kylie began walking down the tunnel to where, they hoped, they would find the Spear of Life.

Suddenly, they heard it again-a scuttling noise. Pyras brandished his sword and Kylie pointed her gun, ready to fight whatever was coming. But to their shock, a little brown rat came running down the corridor and past their feet. As it ran, its feet made the very same scuttling sound they’d been hearing all through this maze.

“You’re kidding me?” Kylie asked. “After all we’ve been through, it’s just a little rat?”

Hunter shook his head. “Bullsh-”

Luckily, he didn’t get to finish his word. For that was when an even louder rumbling noise started. Cracks started to appear in the ground under his feet, and pieces of the floor started to fall out of place and into a deep chasm below.

“Run!” Hunter shouted. He, Pyras, and Kylie broke into a sprint as the ground behind them caved in and fell. Hunter ran harder than he’d ever ran in his life-and that included the time in Dino Valley when he’d been chased by a hungry Spinosaurus. As he ran, he thought of his P. E. teacher at school, Coach Rodriguez. Coach Rodriguez was always getting on Hunter about how he took too many walking breaks while running the mile, or not pushing himself when playing soccer, or whatever. Hunter wished Coach Rodriguez could see him now, running for his life and going faster than he’d ever gone before.

But no amount of adrenaline could stop Hunter’s muscles from turning to fire. Looking ahead, he only saw more tunnel. He ground his teeth as he put on an extra burst of speed, praying that the end of the tunnel would come soon. And when he saw the end of the tunnel, he felt an enormous surge of relief. He slowed himself down as the crumbling noise behind him started to die down. As he finally came to a stop, Hunter toppled to his knees and collapsed like a rag doll. HIs whole body was aching and tired, but especially his legs. If they had just fell off right that instant, he wouldn’t have felt it.

“Well,” said Pyras, swaying on his metal legs. “That…was dangerous.”

“You said it,” Kylie said as she leaned on the wall. Her own legs were shaking like crazy, and her hair was strewn all over her face. “Now where’s that spear that we’ve been looking for?”

Pyras surveyed the spot they had stopped at. The tunnel had reached a dead end, with virtually nothing in the room at all. “I…I don’t see the Spear of Life anywhere,” said Pyras.

“Oh come on!” Hunter groaned. “Do you mean to tell me that we had our boat torpedoed, and then got chased off at Tenebris’ stronghold, and then went through that maze, just to find nothing at the end of all this?”

“Wait, I don’t think it’s nothing,” Pyras said as he looked at the wall. There were smooth pictures and islander writing engraved into the wall, telling a story that was only readable by someone who could understand the islanders’ language. “I don’t think the Spear of Life was ever in this temple. I think this is a clue to where is really is.”

“Well, it’s a cinch Tyler isn’t here to read it,” said Hunter. “And we won’t be able to go back and find him, because…” he pointed at the hallway they had just ran through. The floor had completely crumbled away, revealing a chasm so deep, the bottom wasn’t even visible.

“Didn’t Tyler go on the same maze piece as Glacias did?” Kylie asked. “Glacias could create an ice bridge across.”

“Or Terras could summon an earth bridge,” said Pyras.

Hunter sighed in relief. “Well, I’m down for just sitting here and waiting for them.”

“I think we all are,” said Pyras.

They waited for what felt like hours. The burning pain in Hunter’s legs started to die down as he lay against the wall. He stared out over the edge of the floor, down into the chasm that had been exposed by the crumbling floor. He wondered how far he’d fall if he fell down there, and what might lay at the bottom. Maybe there’d be water, or solid ground, or lava. Hunter had no way of knowing.

After much too long of a wait, they saw a patch of white spreading across the chasm towards them. Hunter squinted and made out two figures coming their way. “I think that’s Glacias!” he said.

Pyras looked in the direction Hunter was looking. “I sure hope he has Tyler with him,” he said.

Fortunately, Pyras’ hopes turned out to be true. The duo did indeed consist of Glacias and Tyler, both of whom were walking carefully to avoid slipping on Glacias’ ice bridge. “Hey guys,” said Tyler. “Did you have trouble in the maze?”

“We did,” said Pyras. “And then we had to outrun the crumbling floor.”

“I can see that,” said Tyler. “And I can also see that you found a mural showing the volcano on Mahra.”

“Volcano?” Hunter asked. He hadn’t really taken a good look at the pictures on the wall, but now that he looked closer, he saw that they depicted the tall volcano that stood in the center of the island of Mahra, and a stone chord that led downward to a circular room with an etching of a spear inside of it.

“Yes,” said Tyler. He read over the runes that were written labeling the pictures. “It says that underneath the island’s volcano, there lies a stone chord that goes under the island and leads to an undersea cave.”

Hunter looked at the picture again. “So the Spear of Life isn’t in this temple. It’s in that cave!”

“Then we’d better find our way out of here,” said Pyras. “Except, if the cave is underwater, then that could be a problem.”

“I’ve got a breathing mask,” said Kylie. “And if Hydras’ element is water, then she might not have any trouble.”

“She cannot breath underwater,” said Pyras. “But she might be able to manipulate the water and create an air bubble for the rest of us.”

“How about we worry about getting out of this temple first?” Glacias suggested.

“And finding Hydras, Terras, and Scythax?”

“You’re right,” said Pyras. “Let’s go.”

The five of them walked across the bridge of ice Glacias had created. They went through the same maze that they had been through before, somehow making even more wrong turns than they had the first time. They prayed to the Great Creators that they would find their missing companions in the maze, but it did not happen. The only things they saw that weren’t themselves were a rat or two scuttling around the maze.

After so, so many twists and turns through the tunnels, they finally came to the mouth of the tunnel where they had started. They had worried that the exit would still be blocked by the stone mechanism that had rose there before, but to their surprise, it wasn’t. The stone door looked like it had been hit with a battering ram, with pieces of it scattered all over the tunnel ahead of them.

“You think Terras could’ve done this?” Hunter asked.

“I think so,” said Pyras. “He’s probably waiting for us outside.”

No one needed any prompting. They stepped through the smashed door and proceeded toward the exit. As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they saw three figures standing there waiting for them. Much to their delight, it was Hydras, Terras, and Scythax.

“Hey guys,” said Hunter.

“Welcome back,” said Hydras. “I take it you got lost in the maze as well?”

“We did at first,” said Kylie. “But then we found what we were looking for.”

Terras looked between all five of them. “I don’t see the Spear of Life anywhere.”

“That’s because we didn’t find it,” said Tyler. “It turns out there’s an undersea cave that we get to by going through a stone chord under the volcano.”

“Great,” said Hydras. “We’re going to have to go all the way back to the volcano and then figure out where the stone chord entrance is.”

“It’s not that far,” said Scythax. “If we walk for the rest of the night, we’ll reach the volcano by morning.”

Hunter groaned. “I don’t think I can walk for the rest of the night.”

“I don’t think any of us could,” said Terras.

“Well, if you guys need to rest for the night, there’s an islander village just west of here,” said Scythax. “It might not be abandoned like the last one, but as long as you don’t tell them that you entered the temple, they might let you sleep there.”

“Yes, please,” said Hunter. “Let’s do it.”

End of Chapter 11…

Chapter 12

Just like Scythax predicted, the nearest islander village wasn’t abandoned. There were a few islanders walking among the huts, presumably going on night watch. Pyras and Scythax talked to the islanders, and they agreed to let them crash there for the night.

Hunter was directed to a hut that was almost identical to the one he’d slept in last night. He was kind of disappointed that this one’s bed didn’t have a blanket, either-and the pillow was only a tad thicker than the previous one.

As tired as he was, Hunter couldn’t get himself to sleep. He had had this problem for as long as he could remember. It had been really bad when he was Isaac’s and Ellie’s age, forcing his mom to prescribe melatonin. He had stopped taking melatonin when he was ten or eleven, as that was when he started falling asleep without taking any medicine. But there were still the nights where Hunter’s consciousness just refused to slip away. This was one of those nights.

Hunter was so frustrated by his body keeping itself awake, he decided to get out of bed and go for a walk around the village. As he left his hut, he could see Hydras standing on the other side of the village, keeping watch. He decided to go in the other direction and head toward the village’s well. He figured he could get himself a drink of water while he was on his walk.

As Hunter was lowering a bucket of water into the well, he heard a voice calling his name. “What?” Hunter looked all around him, but no one was in the vicinity. All the islanders had retired to their huts for the night, and Hydras was much too far away to have been the speaker-not to mention that her voice sounded nothing like the voice he had heard. Hunter shook his head and got to lowering the bucket again, but then he heard the voice again.

“Who’s there?” Hunter asked. He squinted at the trees, sure that that was where the voice had come from. It had sounded awfully familiar, as if-

“Hunter! I’ve found you!” the voice called. Could it be…

“That sounded like…” Hunter muttered as he ran into the trees. He heard the voice call his name several more times and followed it through the trees. He came into a clearing and was surprised to see his brother Isaac standing in the center of it.

“Hunter! I found you!” said Isaac.

“Isaac!” Hunter ran up to his brother and embraced him tightly.

“Ow! Hunter, be careful!” Isaac squealed.

“Sorry,” said Hunter. “But oh boy, it’s so good to see you again!”

“You too, brother,” said Isaac.

Hunter’s smile faded slightly. Since when did Isaac call him “brother?”

“How did you escape?” Hunter asked. “And where’s Ellie?”

“She’s still in the prison at my stronghold,” said Isaac. “And so am I.”

“Wait. What are you…”

Hunter only saw Isaac’s expression for one moment, but he would never forget it. The look was unnatural-one that Hunter wouldn’t have believed any six-year-old could make. His eyebrows knit together furiously, and his smile cruelly broadened. Right before Hunter’s eyes, Isaac suddenly began to change. His skin hardened and became a dark metal. His limbs thickened as he grew to three times his height. Even his face melted away to reveal a scary face that was all too familiar.

“Hello, brother,” Tenebris said in his regular voice. Evidently when he shape-shifted into another person, he gained that person’s voice.

“You-you’re not my brother!” Hunter cried. He turned and ran back the way he came. But he had only gone three feet when it happened. Time seemed to slow down around him. He was still exerting the normal amount of energy he’d use for running, but he was moving at the speed of a snail. That could only mean one thing…

Clockas stepped out of the trees, followed by Sonas and Toxas. “I wouldn’t run if I were you,” she warned.

Hunter tried to speak, but Clockas’ power was slowing every bodily function down. His mouth moved ever so slowly, and his voice came out sounding like, “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii……………………………”

Tenebris stepped closer to Hunter. “Let him go, Clockas,” he ordered. Clockas snapped her fingers and relinquished her powers. As Hunter’s running reverted to its normal pace, Tenebris stuck out his foot and tripped Hunter. “So, your name’s Hunter Brooks, am I correct?” Tenebris asked. “How have your travels been?”

Hunter pursed his lips. “Better than spending any time with you,” he said.

“I can understand that,” said Tenebris. “But, as surprising as this may be, I’m not here to kill you or any of your companions.”

Hunter stood up. “Yeah right, and I’m a Great Creator in disguise,” he said.

Sonas raised an eyebrow. “You are?” he asked.

“I was being sarcastic!” Hunter snapped. “I was meaning to say that Tenebris was-”

“-being completely serious,” Tenebris finished for him. “Have you noticed I don’t have my spear on me?”

For the first time, Hunter realized that Tenebris wasn’t carrying that spear. “But…what is it that you want from me?”

Toxas sighed. “I told you we should’ve brought a white flag,” she said.

“I have an offer for you,” said Tenebris.

“Nope. Not interested,” Hunter said as he made a move to leave the clearing. But Tenebris stepped in his way, looking down on him with those deep red eyes.

“Hear me out,” Tenebris commanded. “If you comply with my deal, then you will get to see your brother and sister again.”

Hunter pursed his lips. “Alright, let’s hear it,” he said. “But if it involves one or both of them dying, I can tell you right now, I ain’t gonna do it.”

Ignoring Hunter’ comment, Tenebris started talking. “So from the way it looks to me, you and your companions have the map of the island, and are getting closer to finding the Spear of Life.”

“We are,” said Hunter. “But I’m not telling you were it is.”

“I don’t have to know,” said Tenebris. “But this is where my offer comes in. I will turn over your brother and your sister, completely unharmed, in exchange for the Spear of Life.”

“Come again?”

“I will not try to stop you, nor will the rogue Elemental Masters. You will retrieve the Spear of Life and bring it back to me, and then I will put you, your brother, and your sister on my personal boat back to the mainland-”

“You have a boat?”

“Of course,” said Tenebris. “How do you think I got here from the mainland? I still have my boat, stored in my stronghold. Give me the Spear of Life, and I will give you the boat for yourself and your siblings to use to get home.”

“But-but why would I do that?” Hunter asked.

“Just think of all this,” said Tenebris. “Everyone thinks you’re the Outsider, and they’re dragging you on all these adventures and through so much danger. Can you count the number of times you almost died since you came to our world?”

“I don’t think so,” said Hunter.

“Exactly,” said Tenebris. “This position is hard and dangerous. Just think, you could leave it all behind and return to your normal life. All you have to do is give me the Spear of Life, and I will give you the chance to leave this so-called responsibility behind.”

Hunter hesitated. “People are gonna get hurt, aren’t they? If you awaken Shadow?”

Tenebris shrugged. “That, I cannot guarantee.”

“But seriously. Turan said that the universe will be unravel if there’s an imbalance between light and shadow-”

“Oh, no, no, no,” said Tenebris. “Shadow wouldn’t want to spread his element everywhere if it’s going to unravel the universe. Besides, even if what Turan said is true, then the Great Creators would figure out some way to put the universe back in balance.”

Something wasn’t sitting right with this deal. Tenebris had probably twisted things in every which way to convince himself nothing was wrong. Hunter knew that if Tenebris did awaken Shadow, then Shadow would show no mercy to this world. He would do anything, to anyone, to cover the world in shadow.

But then again, Tenebris brought up a good point. If it did come to that, then the Great Creators could surely find a way to restore balance to the universe. And besides, they might be able to put Shadow back to sleep before he escaped from their realm. Sure, Tenebris could just use the Spear of Life again, but the process would then repeat until the Elemental Masters found a way to defeat Tenebris for good. Heck, the Elemental Masters would surely be able to stop Tenebris from using the Spear of Life in the first place!

“Come on now,” said Tenebris, as if sensing Hunter’s thoughts. “Think back to before you came to our world, back when I was just a harmless toy in your brother’s collection. You didn’t have to worry about me, or Prohahka, or any rogue Elemental Masters or Rahrok or Kakkarak, or anyone in this dimension. You and your siblings were free of danger. You can have those days back.”

Hunter did remember those days, before he had stolen that bag of chips and then got arrested. It truly had been a carefree life, with the most dangerous things being his dad’s inventions going wrong and the teachers at school lecturing him for not doing his homework. He had much preferred that life to the life of the Outsider, trekking through bad guys’ backyards and narrowly escaping death on the hour. If he could just have his old life back…

Tenebris looked Hunter straight in the eye. “Do we have a deal?”

Hunter pushed away the nagging in the back of his mind. “Alright,” he said, holding out his hand. “But remember, you can’t-”

“I swear, on the Great Creators with Shadow as my witness, that no harm will come to your brother or your sister if you honor your end of the bargain,” Tenebris said as he gently shook Hunter’s hand.

Hunter nodded with satisfaction. “It’s a deal,” he said.

“Excellent,” said Tenebris. “Now, this is where I leave you to continue your quest.”

“We’re not moving right now,” said Hunter. “We’re sleeping in that islander village.”

“We knew that,” said Clockas. “He means that we’ll let you go in peace.”

“And also wish you luck,” said Tenebris. “I have been told that the Spear of Life is guarded by something that is very…protective.”

“Do-do you know anything about it?” Hunter asked.

“I wish I did,” said Tenebris. “But if a quarter of the things I’ve heard are true, then it’s unlikely that all of your companions will leave alive.” Tenebris, Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas turned and walked out of the clearing, leaving Hunter to ponder that scary thought.

As Hunter walked back to the islander village, he started to doubt whether he really should have done what he just did. But he pushed those thoughts into his subconsciousness. He’d make his exchange, take Isaac and Ellie home, and then be free of all the troubles in this world. He’d be back in his old life, with no worries whatsoever.

Hunter left the trees and entered the village outskirts. “Hey Hunter,” Hydras said as she saw him coming. “What are you up to?”

“Just-just going for a stroll,” said Hunter. “Couldn’t sleep, so-”

“None of us should be wandering alone,” said Hydras. “You least of all.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” said Hunter. “I-I won’t go alone next time.” He made absolutely sure he didn’t look Hydras in the eye as he went back to his hut. He laid on his bed and resumed his struggle to catch the Z’s.

End of Chapter 12…

Chapter 13

Attractas was at her breaking point.

She had spent so much time in the belly of the beast, serving under Tenebris’ evil thumb because she had no other choice. She had been itching to break free and escape back to the mainland, but she had no way of doing so. Tenebris had hidden the boat he’d used to travel to this island, and none of the Elemental Masters knew where it was. And Attractas couldn’t try to rebel, either, because then it would just be her against five of her brethren and Tenebris. The circumstances forced her to act along with her brethren, being a witness to terrible crimes and sometimes even being conned into doing certain crimes herself. From time to time, she seriously considered killing herself to escape the pain.

But Attractas knew that the Great Creators wouldn’t want her to take away her own life. So instead, she forced herself to stay in the belly of the beast. It was all she could do to not let it slip that she didn’t like serving Tenebris, and to perform all of her tasks to Tenebris’ satisfaction. She felt really lucky that she and Clockas had got off so easy after they had lost their map to their enemies.

To Attractas’ surprise, Tenebris had actually had another idea in mind-one that involved exchanging the human children, Isaac and Ellie, for the Spear of Life. Attractas knew that Tenebris would use the Spear of Life to awaken Shadow, and Shadow would lay waste to the world. Attractas had been hoping that the Outsider and the good Elemental Masters would find the Spear of Life before Tenebris did, but now that Tenebris was trying to manipulate them…

That was it. Attractas couldn’t take anymore. She had to act somehow. With Tenebris, Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas gone, and with many hours left in the night, the time was perfect to do what she was about to do. While Momentas was out scouting for any islander stragglers, and Titanias was building an extension to Tenebris’ throne room, Attractas entered the building that housed the jail cells. She walked down the hall to see Isaac and Ellie both huddled in a cell toward the end of the room.

“Hey, kids,” Attractas said as she approached their cell.

“What do you want?” Ellie asked.

“Listen to me very carefully,” said Attractas. “I am going to let you out of this cell. And when I let you out, you two need to go south to the beach where you came from.”

“Why?” Ellie asked.

“Because Tenebris wants…to kill you,” said Attractas. She had no time to explain the full version of what Tenebris was going to offer to the Outsider.

“But-we don’t want him to kill us!” said Isaac.

“No, you don’t,” said Attractas. “So when you get to the beach, just-just try to find a place to hide. If you can.” She immediately pulled out a key and inserted it into the lock. She quietly turned it and unlocked the cell door. “Be very quiet, and follow me,” she told the kids.

Isaac and Ellie wisely did as they were told. Attractas peeked out of the jail building’s door and looked left and right. Titanias and Momentas were nowhere to be seen. “C’mon,” she told the kids. Attractas led Isaac and Ellie through the stronghold’s courtyard and out the front gate. She took them about a hundred yards south into the jungle before she was sure she could let them go safely.

“Okay,” Attractas told Isaac and Ellie. “Keep going that way until you find the beach.” She pointed southward. “It’s not that far away. And once you get there, go along the shoreline until you find a place to hide.”

“We will,” said Ellie.

“Good,” said Attractas. She stood there and watched as the kids went off into the jungle. She hoped that the Great Creators would protect them, that they wouldn’t be recaptured by Tenebris, Clockas, or any of the other rogue Elemental Masters. Better yet, Attractas hoped that the Outsider would find them first. Then he wouldn’t have any reason to comply with Tenebris’ deal.

But for the time being, Attractas had to return to the stronghold. She knew Tenebris would be furious at his captives escaping, but as long as Attractas played innocent, then she’d be fine. At least, for the time being.

The next morning, Pyras woke everyone up to start walking again. Hunter joined Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, Kylie, and Scythax as they got ready to go.

“Good morning, Hunter,” said Pyras. “I take it you got a good night’s rest?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Hunter.

“He went for a midnight walk,” said Hydras.

“You-what?” Pyras said indignantly. “That…that was very dangerous! You could’ve ran into-”

“Tenebris, I know,” Hunter replied darkly, almost finding the irony funny. “I won’t do it again.”

“Good,” said Pyras. “Now, let us begin our journey.”

The eight of them entered the jungle once more and spent the rest of the morning trekking toward the volcano. By about lunchtime, the trees were thinning out as the ground turned to volcanic stone.

As they reached the edge of the forest, Hunter saw the volcano for the first time up close. He had seen fleeting glimpses of it the whole trip, but had never given it a good look until now. The volcano was obviously active, with smoke billowing out of the crater on top and fire glowing red-hot against the rim. The volcano was probably three hundred feet high and shaped like an upside-down ice cream cone. The sides were rough and slippery, and there were various tunnels going into the base of the volcano.

“Ah, the volcano,” said Tyler, looking at it the way a kid would look at a mountain of Lego bricks. “My father told me all about this thing.”

“Yeah? Did he?” said Scythax.

“Yes,” said Tyler. “He told me that he and his islander friends spent a lot of time exploring the tunnels in the base.”

“Is that where we’ll find the stone chord that leads underwater?” Hunter asked.

“Most likely,” said Scythax.

“Wait, if the islanders don’t want anyone finding the Spear of Life, then why were they okay with Tyler’s dad going in those caves?”

“Probably two things,” said Tyler. “One, my father probably didn’t know about the stone chord. Two, they understood his thirst for making discoveries, so they probably figured they could send some guides with him to make sure he didn’t go into any tunnels that led to the stone chord.”

“How would they have done that?”

“Probably told him that certain tunnels were too dangerous, or went into dead ends,” said Tyler.

“Except we don’t have anyone here to stop us from going into certain tunnels,” said Pyras.

“And underground is my home turf,” said Terras. “Let’s go.”

The eight of them entered the first tunnel they saw. Tyler and Kylie pulled out their flashlights to light the way, and Pyras lit his sword like a torch again. The tunnel intersected with several other tunnels, all of which led to a large chasm in the center of the volcano. At the bottom of the chasm, lava bubbled in a pool that easily ten times as big as the shark pool in Dr. Evileye’s base. Directly in front of the ridge they were standing on was a switchback that gave access to at least three levels of caves and tunnels.

“Let’s get to it,” said Hunter.

“But stick together,” said Pyras. “I don’t want us to get separated like we did in the temple.”

The eight of them descended the switchback and started poking around the first level of tunnels. After an hour of searching, they concluded that every tunnel either dead-ended or circled into a tunnel they had already explored. They went down to the second level, but that one yielded similar results. The only tunnel on the second floor that wasn’t a complete disappointment was one that was blocked off by a pile of collapsed rocks. Terras, using his earth powers, was able to clear the rocks away, but all that lay behind was a smaller pool of lava.

By the time they descended to the third level, they were starting to get tired of staring at dark volcanic rock. Since Pyras, Hydras, Glacias, Terras, and Scythax were biomechanical beings, they couldn’t sweat. But Hunter, Tyler, and Kylie were so sweaty from all the walking and exposure to hot lava, they might as well have been walking in the rain. Pyras led the group into a tunnel that went straight at first, but soon curved downward. The eight of them followed the tunnel down as it twisted in a corkscrew and leveled out at the end. They followed the tunnel until they came to a deep, seemingly bottomless chasm.

“I think this is it,” said Pyras.

“How are we gonna get down there?” Hunter asked.

“I have an idea,” said Kylie. She pulled out a grappling hook and aimed it at the ceiling. The grappling hook dug into the stone and locked itself in place. Kylie hopped over the edge and carefully belayed herself down the side of the chasm. “Here, take this,” she said, tossing a comlink to Hunter. “I’ll tell you when I reach the bottom.”

Hunter peered over the edge as Kylie went farther and farther down. The chasm was so deep, he wondered if it led directly to the center of the earth-well, the version of earth that this dimension was set in. It was about the time that Kylie vanished from sight that Hunter heard his comlink buzz. He pressed a random button on the side, and Kylie’s voice suddenly came out of the speaker. “I’ve reached the bottom,” she said. “It’s all water.”

“You mean this goes directly to the bottom of the ocean?” Hunter asked.

“Yes,” said Kylie.

Hunter looked up. “Are you guys hearing all this?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Pyras.

“Uh-huh,” said Tyler.

“Tell Kylie I can dive down into the water and create an air bubble for all of you,” said Hydras.

“Okay, Kylie, Hydras is coming down,” Hunter said into the comlink.

“Wait,” said Kylie. “Won’t she die when she hits the surface of the water?”

“Water is my element,” said Hydras. “It won’t hurt me.” She kneeled over the edge of the ridge like an Olympic swimmer getting ready to dive off a block. She dove over the edge and into the chasm, getting swallowed up by the blackness as she fell. Hunter didn’t even hear a splash from below.

“That’s cool,” said Tyler. “But how are the rest of us gonna get down?”

“I think I can take care of that,” said Glacias. He extended his double-bladed sword and focused his power through it. White water vapor flowed out of the edge of the sword and went around the edges of the chasm. As it went, it solidified into an ice slide that spiraled down through the chasm. “There,” said Glacias. “I’ll go down first, in case I need to extend the slide even further.”

Glacias sat on the top of the slide and pushed himself until he started sliding down. Hunter, Pyras, Terras, Tyler, and Scythax followed (in that order). Riding down the slide felt a lot like going down the playground slides at Hunter’s old elementary school. The only difference was that the slide felt much colder. As Hunter slid, the friction caused his butt to warm up, and the mild heat spread to the ice. By the time he was halfway down, Hunter’s shorts were wet.

As they neared the bottom, Hunter could see the water that Hydras had dove into. Kylie was still hanging over the edge, waiting for her companions to make it down. Hydras, who was sticking her head out of the water, said, “Hold your breath for as long as you can. I’ll create a pocket of air.”

Hunter had no idea how she was going to do that, but he was ready to hold his breath. He fell off the edge of the slide and splashed into the water. The water wasn’t as cold as he expected, but it still took a minute to get used to the temperature. He watched as everyone else came coming down the slide, and Kylie released her grappling hook.

“Alright,” said Hydras. “You guys might want to swim down.”

“Swim down? Why?” Scythax asked.

“You heard her! Swim down!” Hunter commanded, thinking of Finding Nemo. He took a gulp of air and dove under the water. He looked around the underwater environment, and could see barely anything. There were some big shapes that he could make out, but it was too dark to see any details. Hunter swam about ten feet down before he looked up to see what Hydras was doing.

Up above, Hydras was tapping into her water elemental powers and manipulating the water around her. She willed the water in the bowl of the chasm to dip down as if it were forming a whirlpool. The water level dipped down twenty feet, pushing Hunter down even farther. Hydras willed a strip of water to form over the top, creating a pocket of air. Concentrating, she lowered the pocket of air to the ocean floor, which was about a hundred feet below the surface. As Hydras’ feet touched the bottom, the air pocket took the shape of a dome on the ocean floor. The dome was big enough to house three or four elephants.

“That was awesome,” Hunter said as he brushed a stray piece of seaweed off his shoulder.

“Yes, it was,” Hydras said, trying her best to keep her concentration. “I can keep this going for a while, but don’t try to distract me. If something comes, it’s gonna be you guys who have to fight it.”

Tyler clicked the button on his flashlight, but it wasn’t working anymore. “Great,” he said. “Kylie, is your flashlight waterproof?”

“It should be,” said Kylie. She clicked her flashlight, and it lit up and illuminated the sea floor in front of them. “Now, where are we going to find that undersea cave?”

“It can’t be far,” said Pyras. He lit his sword on fire and looked all around. They were surrounded by seawater, clumps of seaweed, and fish swimming around their air pocket. Pyras would’ve thought that, since they were in the middle of an island, that they wouldn’t just drop into the middle of the ocean. Surely the island would have some kind of foundations of stone, or else it wouldn’t be an island at all.

But as far as the eye could see, there were no rock walls. Looking up above, Pyras could see a rock ceiling with the hole where they had came from, but there were no visible walls on any sides.

“It has to be down here somewhere,” said Scythax. “This is probably an undersea cave in itself.”

“Well, I don’t see the Spear of Life anywhere,” said Glacias.

“Then I guess we’d better start looking,” said Pyras.

End of Chapter 13…

Chapter 14

Hydras was able to walk while holding down the dome of air, but she needed Glacias or Scythax to guide her. The group went straight across the ocean floor, hoping that they’d find the Spear of Life, or at least the edge of this undersea cave.

Hunter looked all around them as he walked, wondering if the Spear of Life’s guardian was lurking around here somewhere. He remembered what Tenebris had said about how not all of them might leave this cave alive, and now that he was here in the cave, he was more apprehensive than ever. Who-or what-could be waiting down here for them?

The answer came with a large, dark shape heading for their air bubble. “Uh, guys?” Hunter said, frozen with fear. The shape was the size of a great white shark and too dark to make out any details-but it was swimming right for them.

Tyler and Kylie loaded their guns and pointed them at the shape. “Is that the guardian?” Tyler asked.

Pyras whirled in the direction. “I don’t-” Before he could answer, the dark shape came right into their air bubble and fell to the ground. Now that it was in the light, Hunter could make out many more details. It turned out to be just a regular fish, albeit a very large one. It had blue scales, long pointed fins, and a small toothless mouth. Aside from its size, there was nothing threatening about it whatsoever.

“Ah,” said Hunter.

“It was probably just curious about our light,” Pyras said as he pushed the fish back into the water. “I doubt whether this is the guardian that the islanders put in place.”

“Sorry for crying wolf,” said Hunter.

They continued along the ocean floor, trying to ignore the shapes of the large fishing swimming around them. It reminded Hunter of the time his family had went to an aquarium where it had a glass tunnel going through a tank full of sharks, rays, and fish. It was as if they had been inside of an underwater environment in that aquarium. And now, Hunter was in the middle of a real undersea cave.

After some time, the group of companions found themselves against the cave wall. “So I was right,” said Scythax. “We are in the undersea cave.”

“The Spear of Life has to be down here somewhere,” said Hunter.

“But how big is this cave?” Terras asked.

“I wish I knew,” said Tyler. “If the place wasn’t so dark and waterlogged, I’d be able to tell how big it is.”

“Let’s just go along the wall,” said Hunter. “Maybe the Spear of Life is hidden inside one of the walls.”

They went along the circumference of the cave, hoping to find a niche or even a small shrine where the Spear of Life that might be hidden. They went about eighty feet before they found something that was…interesting. It was a four-foot-wide tunnel that went right into the cave wall and went for twenty feet. At the end of the tunnel, the water shimmered and floated like there was a glass case at the end of the tunnel. Strangest yet, there seemed to be light coming from the end of the tunnel.

“I think that’s it,” said Hunter.

“Single file, everyone,” Pyras instructed. He went first, flaming sword held at the ready, while Hydras went in behind him. Hunter, Tyler, Kylie, Terras, Glacias, and Scythax followed behind.

At the end of the tunnel, Pyras came face-to-face with where the water was held in suspended animation from the tunnel beyond. As Hydras’ air pocket came into contact with the edge of the waterline, it seemed to open up and become one with the air in the tunnel beyond. “Okay, Hydras,” said Pyras. “I think we’ve found another air pocket.”

Hydras breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh good,” she said. “Now I don’t have to keep holding back the water.”

“Do it just a little longer,” Pyras said as he stepped beyond the waterline. Hydras did the same and held her pocket of air back so Hunter, Tyler, Kylie, Terras, Glacias, and Scythax could pass the waterline. Once Scythax had crossed, Hydras relinquished her powers for the first time in the past half hour. “Oh, what a relief,” she said.

“But what’s creating this air pocket?” Kylie asked.

“I’ll bet the Great Creators helped the islanders create this place,” said Glacias. “They may have given this cave a pocket of air so that the guardian of the Spear of Life could breathe.”

“But he wouldn’t have to breathe air, if he was a shark or an octopus or something,” said Hunter.

Pyras shrugged. “True that,” he said. “But this has to be where the Spear of Life is. Why else would there just be a cave that magically keeps the water out sitting at the bottom of the stone chord from the volcano?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Hunter.

They went down the tunnel, which was lit by lightstones embedded in the walls. It went past several corners until it opened up into a large, dome-shaped room. The walls of the room were engraved with cravings of the Great Creators, Light, Shadow, and all twelve Elemental Masters.

In the center of the room stood a vast, spider-like being. The spider stood at twelve feet tall and was about twenty feet across with its legs spread out. It had four thick, muscular legs, each of which was tipped with a large, dagger-like point. The spider’s body was stocky and roughly rectangular, and was big enough to ride like a horse. A thick neck with a metal spiked collar wrapped around it protruded from the area between the two forelegs. At the end of the neck was a large, bronze head shaped like a T-Rex head that had smashed headlong into a brick wall. The toothy jaws were big enough to swallow a Labrador Retriever whole, and the red slit-shaped eyes were full of hate.

Riding atop the monstrous spider’s back was the strangest Mechanicle character Hunter had seen yet-and he had seen some pretty strange Mechanicle characters. The figure was about the size of an Elemental Master and was hunched forward. His armor was a sickly shade of gray, and he wore a tattered black cape. His feet were wicked claws, and his hands were like talons. His head was shaped like a half dome, with the curved part being his face. He had red eyes like two laser lights and massive pointed teeth that almost seemed too big for his mouth. There was a long spine that started at the base of his skull, split in two, and went down both his arms.

“Well,” said the strange figure. “I see I have even more guests.”

Pyras brandished his sword. “So you’re the guardian.”

“Of course I am!” the figure said indignantly. “You think that this thing would just be left in here for anyone to collect?” He raised the weapon he carried in his right hand. It was a long spear that glimmered with golden energy. The spear’s handle was made of dark, chocolate brown wood, and its point was forged from a hard golden metal. The spear radiated pure energy, almost as if it possessed some kind of magic power.

Hunter blinked. “Is that-is that the Spear of Life?”

“You twit,” said the being atop the monster spider. “It is the Spear of Life! The object that I, Vezarki, was tasked with guarding. I bred my pet Karthos so he could help me guard the spear!”

“Karthos?” Hunter asked. “Is that that big spider’s name?”

“It is indeed,” said Vezarki. “Bred from a Kakkarak and a worm like the ones that Tenebris mutated into Rahrok. Karthos is forever loyal to me, and will protect me with his life!”

To emphasize the point, Karthos stamped his left foreleg and snarled at the eight companions gathered before him. Hunter, Hydras, and Tyler all took a step back. “Look, we need that spear,” said Pyras.

Vezarki snarled. “They told me you would say that,” he said.

“I know, but we’re Elemental Masters!” said Pyras. “We were sent by the Great Creators to retrieve the Spear of Life so we could-”

“Oh, you know I was supposed to be an Elemental Master myself?” Vezarki asked.

“Wait. What?”

“Yes,” said Vezarki. “I was the first biomechanical being that the Great Creators crafted with elemental powers in mind. But apparently I didn’t turn out the way I wanted, so I was cast down here, with no powers whatsoever, deformed as the twisted being you see before you. Of course, the Great Creators made up for that by making me the Spear of Life’s guardian, so I have that to thank them for.”

“Okay, nice sob story,” said Hunter, pushing his fear aside. He stood defiantly before Vezarki and Karthos, knowing that the fate of his brother and sister would be determined by the outcome of this conflict. “But the Great Creators need that spear to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.”

“How am I to know that your hands aren’t the wrong hands?” Vezarki asked.

“Because we want to bring the Spear of Life back to the Great Creators,” said Pyras. “Tenebris wants to use it to awaken Shadow so Shadow can take over the world. Which sounds better to you?”

Vezarki craned toward Pyras. “Neither,” he said. “For I have been ordered to give the spear to no one. Not you, nor the adventurer that came here before-”

“Wait. Adventurer?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, a human adventurer like you,” said Vezarki. “Except he looked a little…older. He said he was just a traveller from the mainland, curious to discover every corner of the world.” Vezarki smirked evilly.

Tyler’s face changed color faster than a traffic light. “That-that was my father!” he cried. “What did you do to him?”

“What I had to,” said Vezarki. “I was ordered not to let anyone leave this cave alive.”

Tyler gasped. “You killed him, didn’t you?”

“I did indeed,” said Vezarki.

Tyler’s shock was quickly replaced with anger. “YOU KILLED MY FATHER! I’LL KILL YOU!” He pointed his gun at Vezarki’s face and pulled the trigger. Vezarki brought up a large shield shaped like two axe blades stuck together, which he carried in his left hand, and blocked the bullet.

“Sic ‘em,” Vezarki said to Karthos. Karthos roared at the eight companions and stomped toward them.

“Scatter!” Pyras urged. All eight of them ran in different directions as Karthos chomped at the place they had been standing a moment before. Tyler ended up underneath Karthos’ belly and fired several more gunshots into his chest. The bullets barely had any effect on Karthos, serving mostly to make him angrier.

Karthos turned his attention to Glacias, who was swinging his sword like a bo staff. Glacias swung his sword at Karthos’ right foreleg, only to have Karthos parry it with his claw and force Glacias onto his knees. Glacias sidestepped the clawed leg and swung the bottom blade of his weapon towards Karthos’ head. Glacias summoned a large ice spike that flew towards Karthos’ head like a blowdart. The spike slammed into Karthos’ forehead and left a dent in his skull. Karthos angrily snapped at Glacias again, only to have him prance out of the way.

Behind Karthos, Hunter and Pyras were watching as Vezarki stood atop Karthos’ back. The warrior’s feet were still planted in the exact spots they had been this whole time, as if they were held there by little pins. Vezarki was pointing the Spear of Life at Glacias and Hydras (who currently had Karthos’ attention) as if he was commanding Karthos to attack those specific people. If they could just get the Spear of Life from Vezarki…

“Pyras, can you throw me up there?” Hunter asked.

“I can try,” said Pyras as he sheathed his sword. “But you’d better brace yourself!”

Pyras crouched down and laid the backs of his hands on the ground. Hunter planted both his feet on Pyras’ hands as Pyras lifted him into the air. Hunter wobbled a bit, but kept his balance. Pyras carefully lifted Hunter behind his head, then threw him right at Karthos’ back. Hunter slammed into the edge of Karthos’ body and climbed on top. Karthos was moving around so much, it was like trying to rock-climb in an earthquake. But Hunter managed to get on top to face Vezarki.

“Get off of my pet!” Vezarki growled when he saw Hunter facing him. He jabbed the Spear of Life at him, but Hunter dodged. He grabbed the spear just below the point and tried to wrench it free of Vezarki’s hand, but Vezarki had an iron grip.

Meanwhile, Kylie had gotten Karthos’ attention. The giant spider-like monster was backing her against the wall, threatening to bite her head clean off. Kylie had tried shooting Karthos and tasering him, but nothing had any effect. Kylie was forced to reach into her belt and pull out a hand grenade. Her supply of hand grenades was very limited, but this was just the sort of emergency she’d need one for. She pressed the button on the side of the grenade, then pitched it at Karthos. The bomb exploded right in his face, causing the most pain anyone had inflicted upon him. Karthos recoiled in pain and bucked so hard, Hunter lost his balance atop his back. Vezarki took the chance to swing the Spear of Life hard to the right and throw Hunter off Karthos’ back.

Terras was watching all of this from near the chamber’s exit. “Hang on, guys,” he warned. “I’m gonna create an earthquake!”

“Are you crazy?” Hydras asked. “You’ll kill us all!”

Ignoring her, Terras powered up his twin combat drills and dug them into the floor. The whole chamber rumbled to its very core. Everyone except Terras began vibrating where they stood. Tiny pebbles fell from the ceiling as cracks travelled up the dome-shaped walls. Vezarki looked up just in time to see a large chunk of rock dislodging from the ceiling. He leaped off of Karthos’ back right as the rock fell on top of his pet spider.

Vezarki looked back to see Karthos pinned under the rock. The hybrid spider’s body had been crushed, and his head and legs stuck out lifelessly from under the rock. Vezarki bellowed out in rage at the sight. “My pet!” he roared. “You killed my pet!”

He didn’t even have time to lash out. Scythax, who was nearest, swung his scythe at Vezarki and hooked the blade around the Spear of Life. Vezarki angrily slammed his shield into Scythax’ chest, creating a chink in his armor. Scythax retracted his scythe and hammered the butt of it on top of Vezarki’s head. Vezarki shook off the pain and lashed out with the Spear of Life. Scythax barely dodged the blow and readied his scythe again. But as he was swinging it toward Vezarki, Vezarki blocked the strike with his shield. He thrust the Spear of Life forward and buried it in Scythax’ chest. Scythax’ eyes widened as his body lost its strength and fell backward. Vezarki yanked the spear out as Scythax landed spread-eagled on his back.

Vezarki turned around to see Tyler Kane running for him with pickaxe in hand. “You killed my father,” Tyler seethed. “I’ll kill you!” He swung his pickaxe toward Vezarki’s face, but Vezarki swung the Spear of Life and knocked the pickaxe out of Tyler’s hand. Tyler immediately held up his gun and shot Vezarki in the face. Vezarki doubled over from the pain, letting his guard down. Tyler picked up his discarded pickaxe and buried its blade in Vezarki’s face. Vezarki swayed on the spot and fell dead upon the floor.

Hunter and Pyras ran up to Scythax, who lay dying on the floor. “Scythax, stay with us, Scythax,” Hunter urged.

Scythax weakly looked up at Hunter. “I…I’ve done what I had to do,” he said. “I led you to the Spear of Life. You’ve got what you came here for.”

“But the Spear of Life-we can use it to bring you back to life, can’t we?” Hunter asked.

“No,” said Scythax. “I…I’ve fulfilled my duty.” The light left his eyes as he died.

“Is he dead?” Tyler asked.

Hunter nodded sadly.

Tyler yelled in rage and kicked Vezarki’s dead body. “This cold-hearted murderer,” he growled. “My father probably didn’t even know the Spear of Life was in here. He probably just came down here to explore! And now we’ve lost Scythax!”

“Calm yourself, Mr. Kane,” said Pyras. “Scythax’ sacrifice was not in vain.” He picked up the Spear of Life from Vezarki’s dead hand. “We have what we came for.”

Tyler scowled. “I guess you’re right,” he said.

“So now what?” Hydras asked.

“We bring the spear back up to the surface,” said Hunter. In his mind, he was already trying to think of how he’d sneak away from his companions with the Spear of Life. Hopefully they’d stop at another islander village, and Hunter could scarper before anyone realized.

“I can radio the rest of my squad,” said Kylie. “They can come here in their helicopter, and maybe even bring some people to help rescue Hunter’s brother and sister.”

“Who could help us?” Tyler asked.

“Well, there are some knights from the kingdom of Anthrall that could help,” said Pyras.

“Or Glug the caveman,” said Hydras.

“How could a caveman help us?” Kylie asked.

“He knows how to fight,” said Hydras. “And he’s got a pet T-Rex.”

Kylie scratched her head. “I’ll ask Agent Jackson what he can do about that,” she said.

“Well, then, let’s get back up,” said Pyras. “We can go back to the beach, so it’s easier for Kylie’s squad to find us.”

“Well, then, let’s go,” said Hydras. She was already bracing herself for the strain of holding an air pocket again.

End of Chapter 14…

Chapter 15

Tenebris was furious.

He, Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas had returned to their stronghold in triumph, as Hunter had accepted Tenebris’ deal and had promised to bring him the Spear of Life in exchange for an unharmed Isaac and Ellie Brooks. But when Tenebris had gone to check on the jail cell where the kids were being held, he was shocked to see that they were gone.

“What is this?” Tenebris boomed. “Where have our captives gone?”

“They’re gone?” Clockas asked, sticking her head into the room.

“They are!” said Tenebris. “How-how did they do it?”

Clockas scowled angrily. “It must’ve been one of our brethren,” she said.

Tenebris’ eyes narrowed. “Gather everyone up,” he said. “I think I’d better ask a few questions.”

Clockas left to gather the other rogue Elemental Masters, while Tenebris looked closer at the cell where the kids had been imprisoned. The lock hadn’t been busted, and the door’s hinges were perfectly intact. There wasn’t a hole in the floor, either-not that Isaac and Ellie had had any resources to dig a hole to escape. The only explanation was that Attractas, Momentas, or Titanias had freed them.

As Tenebris left the jail building, Clockas came up to him. “We’re gathered,” she said.

“Excellent. Get in line,” Tenebris growled. He looked over at Sonas, Toxas, Attractas, Momentas, and Titanias lined up in a straight line facing him. All five of them were looking at Tenebris in a curious, yet fearful manner. Tenebris scanned their expressions, but he saw no eye twitching or lip trembling that would’ve indicated a guilty conscious.

“Now, you are all aware that we had two human children in our possession,” Tenebris began. “You all heard my plan to use them to bargain with the Outsider. But now I return, and they are gone.” He paused to glare at the Elemental Masters. “One of you was responsible.”

Sonas sputtered indignantly. “We were with you when you went out to make the deal with the Outsider!” he said. “We couldn’t have-”

“Silence, Sonas,” said Tenebris. “Just because you came with me, doesn’t mean you couldn’t have slipped them out before you left. Besides, not all of you accompanied me. We did leave Momentas, Titanias, and Attractas in charge of the stronghold.”

“It wasn’t me!” said Momentas. “I was on patrol, like, the whole time!”

“On patrol, you say?”

“Yes,” said Attractas. “He was looking for any islander stragglers that might’ve been hanging around.”

“Interesting,” said Tenebris. “What about you, Titanias?”

“I was hanging around here, with Attractas,” said Titanias. “We were watching over the stronghold.”

“Oh,” said Tenebris. “So it was one of you.”

Titanias’ eyes widened. “I didn’t say that,” he said.

“But you could’ve been thinking it,” said Attractas. “For all we know, you could’ve snuck into the jail building and freed the kids and then let them out into the jungle.”

Titanias looked at Attractas. “I didn’t do that!” he said.

Tenebris shook his head. “If only Prohahka were here,” he murmured. “She’d see into all of your minds and determine who was guilty.”

“It has to be Attractas,” said Titanias.

“Where’s your proof?” Attractas asked.


“Back off, Titanias,” said Sonas. “It could’ve been any of us.”

“Including you!” Momentas shot back.

“But it wasn’t me!” Sonas yelled.

“How do we know that?” Momentas asked.

“Because Toxas was the one who forgot her flail, so she had us stop and wait for her to go back and get it,” said Sonas.

“Which I did!” said Toxas. “Without even going near the jail!”

“What if Clockas did it?” Attractas asked.

“I did not!” Clockas snapped. “You all know that I am loyal to Tenebris and would never do anything behind his back!”

“Like I said,” said Titanias. “I believe it was-”

“Enough arguing!” Tenebris shouting, drawing everyone’s attention to him. This interrogation was not going the way he planned. “I now see that gathering you all together was a huge mistake.”

“What, are you gonna question us all individually?” Sonas asked.

“Perhaps,” said Tenebris. “But you know what? All this time we’ve spent arguing, those kids could’ve gotten anywhere by now. What we need is to find them!”

“But where would they have gone?” Toxas asked.

“Maybe they went to the north, looking for their brother,” Attractas suggested.

Tenebris thought about it. “Hm,” he said. “I say we split up. Sonas, you take Titanias and Toxas to the north. I’d say tread a five-mile radius around this stronghold. Clockas, Momentas, Attractas, you three come with me. We will search the southern shores.”

“You heard him,” said Clockas. “Let’s get going.”

Tenebris turned and made a beeline for the stronghold’s front gate, with Clockas, Attractas, and Momentas following behind him. He was ready to tear the entire forest down if he had to. Isaac and Ellie were his bargaining chips to get the Spear of Life, and if he came to the Outsider empty-handed, then he most likely wouldn’t get the Spear of Life. He had to find those kids.

Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, and Kylie left the cave where they had fought Vezarki and began moving across the ocean floor again. Their hope was to find the spot where they had came in and go upward, but then they realized that they didn’t even know where they had landed. “Okay, guys,” said Hydras. “I’m going to lift the air pocket until we get to the ceiling. You’re all going to have to tread water.”

Below Hunter’s feet, water started to trickle through the bottom of the air pocket as Hydras began to lift it with her mind. It was as if Hunter was standing inside a bathtub that was slowly filling up with water. After about a minute, the water at Hunter’s feet had risen to his chest. He felt his feet rise off the sea floor as Hydras lifted the now spherical air pocket up toward the cave ceiling. Before Hunter knew it, the air pocket had reached the top of the undersea cave.

“Okay,” said Hydras. “Now we just-we start going around looking for the hole.” She willed the air pocket to move along the cave roof, not going in any particular direction. As she went, Hunter, Pyras, Tyler, Kylie, Terras, and Glacias all tread water while swimming forward to stay inside the air pocket. They looked in all directions as they went, hoping to see a hole in the cave’s roof. But the cave was so dark, it was impossible to see anything.

After what felt like ages, they saw the cave getting lighter ahead of them. “Is that it?” Terras asked.

“Probably,” said Hydras. She willed the air pocket to move towards the lighter sea, hoping that she could finally be free of this burden.

But as they went closer to the light, they could see that it was actually not the hole in the roof they were looking for. They had been going down a tunnel that led out of the undersea cave and into open water. Smaller fish were swimming about, and there were beams of light cast through the water.

“Ah,” said Glacias. “So that isn’t the bottom of the chasm where we came from.”

“Maybe we should-” Tyler started. But he was cut off when Hydras’ air pocket went off the edge of the cave ceiling. Water spilled into it like it was a bowl. Hydras didn’t even have time to react before all the air she had trapped within the water bubbled up towards the surface.

Hunter’s heart missed several beats as his face was instantly submerged. He screwed his eyes shut to prevent water from getting in his eyes and felt around. He felt a hard metal hand grab onto his.

“Swim up!” Pyras said, though his voice was barely audible underwater. He pulled Hunter upward as he started kicking like crazy. Hunter, getting the memo, started kicking and paddling himself.

It was an uphill battle. Hunter had never been that strong of a swimmer, and he had no idea how deep he was. He obviously wasn’t deep enough to be crushed by all the water above him, but he could still feel pressure on his skull. The pressure decreased gradually as he ascended, but his lungs started running out of air real quick. Hunter put an extra burst of energy into swimming, desperate to reach the surface and refill his lungs.

At long last, Hunter broke the surface. He gasped deeply, feeling the pleasure of air filling his lungs once more. He blinked his eyes and looked around. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, and Kylie had all made it too. “You all right?” Pyras asked.

Hunter nodded. “I am now,” he said.

Hunter looked around. They were floating at sea about three hundred feet from the shores of Mahra. Hunter assumed that they were on the south side again, since he could see Dr. Evileye’s sea base in the opposite direction from the island. “We-we gotta get to shore!” Hunter said as he continued to tread water.

The current helped push them toward the beach, but it still took them half an hour to wash up on the shoreline. When they did, Pyras laid the Spear of Life down onto the sand. Now that they were in broad daylight, it didn’t seem to glimmer as much. But it was still a majestically designed weapon that radiated pure power. “Well, there it is,” said Hunter. “The source of all the trouble.”

Kylie was already speaking into her comlink. “Yes…and if you could bring some extra agents, that would be great,” she said.

Tyler sat down on the sand and stared at the rising tide. “I just can’t believe Vezarki killed my father.”

Hunter stepped up beside him. “I’m sorry about that,” he said.

“All this time, I’ve been wondering what happened to him, and I went all over this island looking for him,” said Tyler. “But now…there wasn’t even a body.”

“It’s okay,” said Glacias. “We’ve all felt sorrow when we saw our friends and comrades die.”

“Hunter, you saw how Aeras and Electras died,” said Pyras.

“And Scythax died just now,” said Hunter. “I just-I didn’t think he could die. He seemed so tough. It was like he was Aragorn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Hercules all rolled into one.”

“I don’t know who any of those people are,” Tyler said as a tear rolled down his cheek. He tried to wipe it away, but another tear fell out of his other eye.

“Hey, it’s okay to cry,” said Hunter. “Everyone hurts from time to time.”

“I should’ve gone with my father,” said Tyler. “I should’ve stopped him from going into that cave. I should’ve-”

“You shouldn’t blame yourself,” said Pyras. “Would your father want that?”

“If I could’ve prevented it, then yes!” said Tyler.

“But you couldn’t have prevented it,” said Pyras. “If you were with your father, you likely would’ve shared his fate. You wouldn’t have been able to get us on your boat and bring us here.”

“Kylie could’ve taken you,” said Tyler. “And then you could’ve just ploughed through Dr. Evileye’s base without going through any of that trouble.”

“But I couldn’t have read the writing in that temple,” said Kylie. “We really needed you for this.”

“Tyler, stop beating yourself up,” said Hunter. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You’re probably right,” said Tyler. “But once we get back to the mainland, I’m holding a funeral for my father. And you’re all invited.”

“Speaking of getting back to the mainland…” said Pyras.

“I radioed Agent Jackson,” said Kylie. “He said he’d gather up all the agents he could find, and then come here in our helicopter.”

“Great,” said Pyras. “Now we just have to make sure Tenebris doesn’t find us until then.”

Hunter looked up and down the beach. “But where could we hide?” he asked. “I don’t see any caves…” He trailed off when he saw two figures coming around the corner of the beach about a quarter mile away. At first he thought it was a couple of rogue Elemental Masters, or even islanders, but looking closer, he saw that he was wrong. They were shorter than islanders, and were dressed in familiar clothing.

Hunter’s heart rate sped up. “Could it be…” He started in the direction of the two figures, wondering if this could possibly be true. Then he stopped, remembering what had happened at the previous islander village.

“Could it be who?” Kylie asked.

“It-it’s nothing,” Hunter insisted.

“No, seriously, who?” Kylie asked.

Hunter opened his mouth to respond, but then he saw the two figures running in his direction. They must have seen Hunter. “You’d better be prepared,” said Hunter.

“For what?” said Glacias.

As the two figures came closer, Hunter could stand it no longer. He started moving toward them again, going faster and faster until he broke into a run. He kept running, until the faces of the two people came into focus. Like Hunter suspected, it was his siblings Isaac and Ellie. The two of them slammed into Hunter’s legs like miniature charging bulls, wrapping their arms around him. “Hunter, we found you!” said Isaac.

“Yes, you did,” Hunter said warily. “Is…is that really you?”

“It’s us!” said Isaac.

Hunter thought for a moment. “What’s our dog’s name?”

“We don’t even have a dog,” said Ellie.

“Then it is you,” said Hunter, returning his brother’s and sister’s embrace.

Tyler, Kylie, and the Elemental Masters came up behind them. “So those are your siblings,” said Glacias.

“Yes, they are,” said Hunter. “I don’t know how they escaped Tenebris’ stronghold, but-”

“Attractas let us out,” said Isaac.

“She did?” Hunter asked. “I thought she was a bad guy?”

“I thought she was too,” said Ellie. “She must’ve decided to turn good.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a trap?” Pyras asked.

“Yes,” said Isaac. “Attractas said that Tenebris wanted to kill us, so she let us go.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” said Hunter. “Now we just gotta wait for Kylie’s helicopter to come get us, then we can take the Spear of Life-”

“The Spear of Life?” Isaac asked. “You found the Spear of Life?”

“Yes,” Hunter said, taking the Spear of Life from Pyras. As he took it, its magical aura seemed to multiply tenfold. The spear was now reading into Hunter’s mind, much like Prohahka had. And the strange thing was, Hunter could sense emotion inside the spear. It was almost as if it had a mind of its own.

“This…this feels strange,” said Hunter. “It’s like the spear is thinking, and I can hear its thoughts.”

“It does that to all who touch it,” said Pyras. “It lets you see its thoughts.”

“It…it has a mind of its own?”

“Sort of,” Pyras explained. “It doesn’t think, per se, but it has memories and emotions. It can’t stop anyone from using its power, but it can sense what’s going on around it, and it can remember things it saw in the past.”

“I don’t think it approved of Vezarki using it to kill Scythax,” said Hunter. “Or Tyler’s dad.”

“You’re probably right,” said Hydras. “And it definitely won’t like being used to awaken Shadow.”

“Well, we should…” Pyras trailed off when he heard someone or something coming through the trees. Everyone looked to see Tenebris stomping out of the jungle, spear in hand. He was flanked by Clockas, Attractas, and Momentas.

“Hello, Outsider,” said Tenebris. “I see you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain.”

End of Chapter 15…

Chapter 16

Hunter had not expected it to play out like this. His hope was to sneak off to Tenebris’ stronghold and make the exchange there. But instead, Isaac and Ellie had been set free, and now Tenebris was here, presumably looking for them. Worst of all, there were Elemental Masters here-good and evil. That would make things all the more complicated.

“Tenebris!” Pyras shouted. “Kids, get behind us!”

“Silence, Pyras!” Tenebris shouted. “These kids belong to me-at least, for now.”

“What are you talking about?” Pyras asked.

“You know, Outsider,” Tenebris answered, looking Hunter straight in the eye.

“Yes, I do,” said Hunter, feeling self-conscious of his companions watching him.

“But I, uh…”

“What is he talking about?” Hydras asked.

“It’s-guys, please, it’s not what you think,” said Hunter. Panic was rising to a crescendo in his heart like never before. With the Elemental Masters standing right here, there was no way he’d be able to make this exchange with Tenebris. They would swipe the Spear of Life away, and then Tenebris would end up killing Isaac and Ellie.

“Give me the spear,” said Tenebris. “Remember our agreement.”

Pyras sputtered. “What do you mean, ‘agreement?’”

Tenebris smiled evilly. “You tell them, Outsider.”

Hunter turned to face Pyras, Hydras, Tyler, Kylie, Terras, and Glacias, all of whom were looking at Hunter incredulously. “Tenebris, he-he came to me last night,” he forced out. “He offered me Isaac and Ellie for the Spear of Life, and-”

“And you took him up on it?” said Pyras.

“Well, no wonder we didn’t run into him trying to beat us to the Spear of Life!” said Glacias.

“Hunter Brooks, have you forgotten the consequences of Tenebris using the Spear of Life?” Pyras asked.

“Guys, listen, I can explain everything!” said Hunter.

“Save it,” said Pyras. He turned to face Tenebris, but Clockas reacted faster. She brandished her sword and called upon her elemental energies. A dome of yellow-orange energy appeared over Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, and Kylie, slowing their movements down to almost zero.

“That’s better,” said Tenebris, casting Clockas an approving glance. “Now give me the spear, or say good-bye to your brother and sister!”

Hunter hesitated. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Pyras fighting against Clockas’ power, trying to scream at Hunter to refuse Tenebris’ bargain.

“So you hesitate,” said Tenebris. “I guess we know what this means for your siblings…” He nodded at Momentas, who rapidly grabbed Isaac and Ellie, held both of them in a headlock, and held his katana against both their necks.

“Stop!” Hunter cried. He handed the Spear of Life to Tenebris, who happily took it in his left hand.

“Yes,” Tenebris said maliciously, caressing the Spear of Life like it was the largest diamond in the world. “Well, a deal’s a deal. Momentas, let the kids go.”

Momentas dropped both Isaac and Ellie to the ground. “I thought you were going to kill us!” said Ellie.

“We will not kill you,” said Tenebris. “That was our deal.”

“But Attractas told us you wanted to kill us!” said Ellie. “That’s why she let us out of the jail!”

Tenebris had been opening his mouth to say something, but broke off when he heard Ellie’s second sentence. He turned to look at Attractas. “So it was you,” he said, his voice dripping with fury.

“Oops,” said Ellie.

“I should’ve known it was you!” Tenebris roared. “You-you’ve been acting fishy this whole time we’ve been looking for the Spear of Life!”

“Tenebris, I-I can explain,” said Attractas.

“Oh no you can’t,” said Tenebris. “There is no excuse for being a traitor!” On the last word, he slammed the flat of his spear’s blade into Attractas’ chest. Attractas fell backward onto the sand, dropping both of her combat hooks. Tenebris stood over her and raised the Spear of Life over his head, intending to stab her with it. Attractas raised her hands and focused her magnetic powers, telekinetically restraining the spear with all her might. Tenebris grunted in pain as he tried to fight Attractas’ powers, but it was no use.

Attractas suddenly rolled to the side and relinquished her powers. Tenebris brought the Spear of Life down so hard, it lodged itself in the sand. Attractas picked up one of her combat hooks and whirled to face Clockas and Momentas. Momentas was the first to react, running at Attractas as fast as the blink of an eye. But Hunter, seeing this, stuck out his foot and tripped Momentas. Momentas fell flat on his face and glared up at Hunter. “Curse you, Outsider!” Momentas growled.

“No, curse you!” Attractas said as she magnetically lifted Momentas into the air. She saw Tenebris yanking the Spear of Life out of the sand out of the corner of her eye, and then threw Momentas into his face. The force disoriented Tenebris and knocked him off his feet, but he was quick to recover. He shoved Momentas aside and got to his feet. He stormed toward Attractas, ready to tear her from limb to limb.

Right then, Pyras finally managed to move his leg out of the energy dome. He had been near the edge of the dome when Clockas created it, and despite the time powers slowing him down, he had gradually moved his right leg across the boundary and onto the sand on the other side. Now that one of his limbs was out, Pyras worked that one hard to pull the rest of his body out. He freed himself from the energy dome and charged Tenebris. He summoned a torrent of flame hotter and thicker than anything a jet engine could emit, and shot it at Tenebris. Tenebris raised his own spear and the Spear of Life to block it, but they only absorbed some of the heat. The flame incinerated Tenebris, scorching his armor and bringing pain to the organic parts underneath. Tenebris dropped both of his spears as he doubled over.

Hunter directed Isaac and Ellie away as Clockas charged Pyras. The two clashed swords, dueling each other. Clockas tried to snap her fingers to freeze Pyras in place, but Pyras was faster. He hurled a fireball from the tip of his sword and hit Clockas in the chest with it. Clockas cried out in pain and lost her concentration on keeping the energy dome intact. The energy dome flickered and disappeared, giving its occupants full range of movement once again.

“Curses!” said Tenebris.

“I’ll take the Spear of Life somewhere safe,” said Momentas. Before Tenebris could respond, Momentas had snatched the Spear of Life and sped off so fast, it was a miracle he didn’t break the sound barrier. “Oh, no you don’t,” said Attractas. She thrust out her hand and pulled Momentas back with her magnetic powers. Momentas’ eyes widened as he flew backward and landed in the sand at Attractas’ feet.

“Why?” Momentas asked, feeling faint from being brought to a stop after moving so fast.

“That’s ours,” Hydras said as she snatched the Spear of Life from Momentas.

“No, it’s ours!” Tenebris boomed as he took the spear from her.

“Give that back!” Hydras yelled. She started after Tenebris, but Momentas got to his feet and stood in her way. He drew both of his katana and engaged Hydras. Momentas crossed his katana across his chest and swung them at Hydras in a scissoring manner. Hydras backflipped out of the way and came up on both her feet. She swung her axe and knocked one of Momentas’ katana out of his hand. Momentas swung his second katana at Hydras, only to have her parry it. Hydras shoved Momentas’ sword arm aside and brought her second axe forward. She lodged the axe in Momentas’ chest, killing him. She wrenched her axe out as Momentas fell lifeless onto the sand.

Meanwhile, Tenebris and Clockas were facing Pyras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, and Kylie at the same time. As Hunter watched, he was sure that the good guys would overpower the bad guys and win. But instead, Tenebris raised the Spear of Life, along with his own spear, and slammed them into the ground. Using the magic spear and his own power, Tenebris summoned a massive shockwave that rippled all across the beach. It was so powerful, it sent everyone who wasn’t Tenebris or Clockas crashing to the ground. The nearby trees swayed so hard, their roots were shaken loose, while the water was sent back into the ocean. The water built up into a set of waves that were almost thirty feet tall.

Clockas saw this and saw an opportunity. She focused her time powers toward the waves, making time around them move faster. The waves swept toward the beach even faster, as if they were a VHS tape being fast-forwarded. They caught up Hunter, Isaac, Ellie, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Attractas, Tyler, and Kylie and swept them out into the water. The waves’ victims tried to swim back to shore, but the waves formed a rip current that took them even farther away from the beach.

“Good work,” said Tenebris. “Now, let’s go back to the stronghold.”

It took a long time after Tenebris and Clockas left for the waves to die down. As Hunter waited for the waves to return to their normal state after the shockwave, he struggled to help Isaac and Ellie stay above water. It was an enormous relief when the waves finally washed them onto the shoreline once again.

“There,” said Hunter. “Now we’re safe.”

Pyras was lying on his side a couple yards away. “Hunter Brooks,” he forced out. “What were you thinking?”

“I-I had to do it,” Hunter replied, though he was no longer sure of that. Ever since he had made the deal with Tenebris, he had been convinced that this was the only way he’d get his siblings back. But now that he’d made the exchange, and it wasn’t exactly a diplomatic affair, he was starting to regret his choice.

“Hunter, I understand that you love your brother and sister,” said Pyras.

“He doesn’t love us,” said Isaac. “He never wants to play with us, and he always-”

“Yes, I do,” Hunter said, hugging his brother once again. “I know I’m not always nice, but deep down, I really love you.”

“But if you’re willing to give up the safety of our world for them,” Pyras continued, “Then that’s not-”

“Pyras, it wasn’t just about getting my siblings back,” said Hunter. “Tenebris also told me he’d send me and them on a boat back to the mainland, and then we could go back to our world.”

Glacias scoffed. “Well, we can see that he went back on that part of the promise,” he said.

“He and Clockas were trying to get rid of you guys,” said Hunter. “I just happened to be caught in the waves.”

“But why would you agree to leave this world behind?” Pyras asked. “You have a responsibility as the Outsider. You’re supposed to rise up against Tenebris and defeat him.”

“That’s the thing!” Hunter said, his voice sounding louder than he’d intended. “I don’t want any of this responsibility! I just want to get back to my old life, before I went to jail and then got whisked away to this dimension! I don’t want to be the Outsider anymore!”

“Hunter, I know you don’t like to go up against Tenebris,” said Pyras. “But you have to. We talked before about how we can’t shrug off responsibility, didn’t we?”

“But this is your responsibility as much as it is mine,” said Hunter. “The whole reason you guys exist in the first place is to deal with threats like this. I’m just a kid.”

“A kid who was capable of travelling through Lord Vulcon’s kingdom, and across the island of Mahra, and battling Prohahka and Tenenbris and coming out alive,” said Pyras. “You’re an asset to us. But because you didn’t want to help us, you gave Tenebris the very thing he needed to plunge this world-and maybe even yours, based on Prohahka’s vision-into eternal darkness.”

Hunter hung his head. Pyras was right. Hunter was a fool. He should have declined Tenebris’ offer to exchange many lives for just the lives of his brother and sister. Better yet, he could’ve told his friends about it, and they could’ve set up some kind of trap. But instead, Hunter had lost Tenebris’ chess game, and Tenebris was probably waking up Shadow right now.

Attractas cleared her throat. “Excuse me, but we should probably go after Tenebris now,” she said.

“And why should we trust you?” Terras asked.

“Because I’m on your side now,” said Attractas. “Besides, I know where Tenebris plans to perform the ritual to awaken Shadow.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” said Attractas. “First, he’s probably going to gather the other rogue Elemental Masters. The rest fanned out to find Isaac and Ellie after I set them free. And then, he’s got a temple to Shadow not too far from his stronghold. The temple gives him a direct pipeline to where Light and Shadow are asleep in the Great Creators’ realm, which he’ll use to channel the Spear of Life’s power.”

“Well, I guess we know where we have to go,” said Pyras.

Hunter turned to Isaac and Ellie. “You two should stay here,” he said. “With Tyler, or Hydras, or-”

“-or with you,” said Tyler.

“Excuse me?”

“I think you’ve done enough,” said Tyler. “You came here, you found both of your siblings. That’s what you wanted so bad, wasn’t it?”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“You didn’t care about anything else, did you?” Tyler asked.

“Of course I did!” Hunter barked. “I just-I didn’t want to…”

“Well, then, maybe you could just stay here and keep your siblings safe,” said Tyler. “Heck, maybe you could even signal Kylie’s helicopter and let them know where we went?”

“So…you’re just going on without me?” Hunter asked.

Pyras thought deeply. “We’re…not forcing you to come with us,” he said. He brushed off the wet sand sticking to his metal body and went off down the beach. Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Attractas, Tyler, and Kylie followed him and barely made eye contact with Hunter.

Hunter felt an empty void fill his heart as he watched them leave. What had he done? His friends hated him, Tenebris had came out on top in this conflict, and Hunter, Isaac, and Ellie were stranded on an island with no way of getting off. Hunter wished he could go back in time and do things differently. Too bad Clockas was still on the bad side, and her abilities didn’t extend to time travel.

Isaac nervously spoke up. “We’re…sorry,” he said.

“Why are you sorry?” Hunter asked.

“We’re sorry we went into this dimension,” said Isaac. “We’re sorry we got captured and you had to rescue us.”

“No, it’s my fault,” said Hunter. “I mean, I accept your apology, but I made bad choices too. I should’ve bucked up and had a better attitude about all this responsibility.”

“So what are we gonna do now?” Ellie asked.

“I don’t know,” said Hunter. “I just…I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe you should go and help your friends,” said Isaac.

“But what about you guys?” Hunter asked. “I can’t leave you here alone.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to go with you,” said Ellie.

“Fine,” said Hunter. “I’ll let you come with me.”

“But what if Tenebris has already awakened Shadow?” Isaac asked. “If Shadow awakens, then we won’t be able to stop him. The only person who can actually fight him is Light.”

“Wait a minute…” Hunter said, an idea forming in his head. “The only person that can fight him is Light…”

“Yeah, because Shadow and Light are the two most powerful people in Mechanicle,” said Isaac.

“Exactly,” said Hunter. “Which is why I have an idea.”

End of Chapter 16…

Chapter 17

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, Tyler, and Kylie followed Attractas as she led them through the jungle to the temple to Shadow. They went in the general direction of Tenebris’ stronghold, but their target was a little to the west of the stronghold. The temple was built in an area that was full of rolling hills and dense trees.

“Okay, we’re getting close,” said Attractas. “The temple’s not an enclosed building, so Tenebris and the rogue Elemental Masters will be standing right out in the open.” They crossed another hill and came into view of a small valley between hills. The “temple” built in the middle of it all was more like a shrine that consisted of an altar, a sculpture of Shadow standing victoriously over Light, and a couple walls flanking the sides. Tenebris was standing in front of the altar, with Clockas, Sonas, Toxas, and Titanias standing before him.

Pyras turned to Tyler and Kylie. “Do you still have ammunition for your weapons?”

“Yes,” said Tyler.

“Good,” said Pyras. “You two can go on top of that hill and give us cover fire.” He indicated a hill just to the side of the temple. “Hydras, Terras, Glacias, you’ll join me to charge them head-on.”

Terras started spinning his drills. “Let’s get them.”

“Attractas, are you with us?” Pyras asked. He still didn’t trust Attractas as far as he could throw her (which, granted, wasn’t that far, but still).

“I’m not with Tenebris anymore,” said Attractas. “And you know what they say-my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

“Good to know,” said Pyras. “Now, let’s roll.”

Tyler and Kylie went off toward the hill where they would snipe from, while Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Glacias, and Attractas began running down the hill, ready for the ultimate showdown with Tenebris.

Tenebris was facing the altar, chanting an incantation that would activate the temple’s pipeline to where Light and Shadow slept in the Great Creators’ realm. Tenebris said the words with reverence, but in his heart, he felt elated. This was what he had been trying to do for a long time, only to be thwarted by the Elemental Masters time and again. But now, thanks to the Outsider’s willingness to bargain, Tenebris had what he needed to accomplish his goal, and the Elemental Masters wouldn’t be able to stop him.

“And I, Tenebris, creator of the Rahrok, patron of Shadow, future ruler of Mahra, do open this temple to the sleeping place of Light and Shadow, so that Shadow can be awakened,” Tenebris finished, spreading his hands out before him. He could feel spiritual power emulating from the temple, doing the very thing it was built for. “Now, Titanias, you know what to do,” said Tenebris.

Titanias stepped forward with the Spear of Life in hand. He had volunteered to use the Spear of Life’s power, since Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas had refused to do it. They knew that, if they were to use the Spear of Life’s power, then they would be giving up their lives. The Spear of Life may have been powerful, but its power had its drawbacks. Bringing someone back to life or awakening them from an unnatural sleep-especially if said someone was a primordial being-would require the user to give up their own life force to generate enough energy. Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas had all wanted to live to see Shadow’s reign, but Titanias didn’t care so much. He understood that sacrifices had to be made for the greater good.

Titanias stepped up to the altar and held the Spear of Life against the altar. “Farewell, friends,” he said. “Prepare to serve under Shadow.”

Titanias closed his eyes as he prepared to give up his life. But before he could tap into the Spear of Life’s power, he heard someone shout from behind. He opened his eyes and saw the sight of his life. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and Glacias were running down the hill towards the temple, ready for a fight.

Tenebris cursed. “How many times do I have to get rid of you upstart pests?” he roared.

“You can’t get rid of us,” Pyras said as he raised his sword. “Defeat us as many times as you like, and we’ll still come back.”

“Kill them all!” Tenebris ordered as he drew his spear. “Titanias, use that spear!”

But Pyras wasn’t going to let that happen. As his comrades engaged Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas, he rushed toward Titanias with sword lit on fire. But as he was running, Tenebris stepped in his way. “You stay away from him!” Tenebris growled as he swung his spear at Pyras’ face. Pyras parried the strike and stepped backward. He started to conjure a torrent of fire like the one he’d made on the beach, but Tenebris was ready. He grabbed Pyras by the face and pinned him to the ground.

“You fool,” Tenebris said, looking down at Pyras hatefully. “This time, victory is mine.” He pointed at the altar, where Titanias was vibrating as he held the Spear of Life. Titanias started losing his color as a sphere of golden energy grew out of the tip of the Spear of Life. The sphere glowed brighter and brighter as it increased in diameter, until it was the size of a basketball. The sphere exploded into golden dust that drifted upward in the air like a helium balloon. As the Spear of Life stopped glowing, Titanias went limp and fell to the ground.

“He-he didn’t,” said Pyras, praying that he hadn’t seen what he thought he’d seen.

Tenebris smiled malevolently. “Oh, he did,” he replied. “Very soon, Shadow will descend upon this world and rule over all!”

Hydras, Terras, Glacias, and Attractas stepped back in horror. “I can’t believe it,” said Hydras.

Pyras ground his teeth. “Well, we’re not backing down,” he said as he wrenched himself free of Tenebris’ grip. He quickly stood up and brandished his sword. “It doesn’t matter what you do, Tenebris,” he said. “The Great Creators created us with one single purpose in mind: to combat the forces of evil. Well, we are never gonna back down. We will continue to fight, even after we’ve lost. We will fight against you, Tenebris, even after it’s all over. It doesn’t matter if we die in vain. All that matters is that we fight for peace, justice, and balance, even if it kills us.”

Tenebris smiled at Pyras the way a nasty school board member would smile at a student who made an empty threat to sabotage the school system. “Ah, Pyras, the noble Elemental Master of fire,” he said. “He talks so big, yet his words mean nothing. How would you even begin to-”

“Actually, his words mean everything,” said a new voice. Everyone looked to see none other than Hunter Brooks coming down the hill. He walked with his head held high and his chest puffed out, like he was either proud or confident. He was eyeing Tenebris with a trace of hate, but none of the fear that he’d possessed before. One would think that Hunter had a secret weapon to kill Tenebris and put Shadow back to sleep somehow-and they wouldn’t be far off.

“They will indeed fight,” said Hunter. “They’ll find a way to thwart your plans, and they’ll carry it out.”

Tenebris couldn’t believe his eyes. Wasn’t part of their deal for Hunter, Isaac, and Ellie to hightail it out of here after they had made their exchange? “You-you are wrong!” Tenebris shouted. “Now that Shadow is awakened, nobody can stand in his way!”

“No one,” said Hunter, “Except Light.”

“Light is slumbering in the same method Shadow was!” said Tenebris.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “But we can change that.” He eyed the Spear of Life.

Fortunately, Pyras got it. “Do you mean to say that we’ll awaken Light as well?”

“Bingo,” said Hunter. “And he’ll fight Shadow until the Great Creators can find a way to put the both of them to sleep again.”

Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas exchanged glances. “That’s-that’s a terrible plan!” said Toxas.

“You know nothing, Outsider!” Clockas snapped. “Even if your idea does work, using the Spear of Life will kill whoever uses it!”

“I know,” said Hunter. “Isaac told me.”

“You-you’d give up your own friends?” Tenebris asked.

“I do not want to,” said Hunter. “In fact, I’ll do it myself if I have to. But it’s better for one person to die than for an entire world to be laid to waste by a malevolent being.”

Pyras, Hydras, Attractas, Glacias, and Terras were starting to understand Hunter’s plan. “Perhaps this could work,” said Pyras.

“NO!” Tenebris roared. “Do not let them near the Spear of Life!” He, Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas all stood their ground.

“CHARGE!” Hunter cried as he ran forward with the five good Elemental Masters. The first enemy he ran into was Clockas. She started to wave her hand to manipulate time around Hunter, but Hunter was ready for that. He quickly punched her in the face, causing her to lose her focus for a second. Hunter karate-kicked Clockas in the chest, sending her falling on her butt. Hunter ran past her and toward the ground where Titanias had dropped the Spear of Life. But before he could get there, Tenebris stepped in his way, with the Spear of Life in one hand and his own spear in the other.

Behind Hunter, his comrades were locked in combat. Hydras and Attractas had gone for Toxas, while Terras and Glacias had faced Sonas. Toxas began to swing her flail, but Attractas magnetically yanked it out of her hand. Cursing, Toxas blasted a torrent of green poison at Attractas’ face. Hydras shoved Attractas out of the way as she blasted a powerful jet of water at the oncoming poison. The two jets of liquid met in midair, sending thick sludge flying everywhere. When the two Elemental Masters had stopped, they eyed each other hatefully.

As Hydras advanced on Toxas with her axes raised, Attractas glanced behind herself and saw Hunter facing Tenebris. “Hydras, I-”

“I got this,” said Hydras. Attractas nodded and took off.

Meanwhile, Terras and Glacias were tag-teaming Sonas. Terras launched himself at Sonas with his combat drills spinning, but Sonas was ready. He slammed his sledgehammer into the ground and emitted a sonic boom. The force of the sonic boom hit Terras with the force of a charging bull and sent him falling backward. Sonas marched on him and raised his sledgehammer, but Glacias was faster. He came up behind Sonas and froze him in an enormous block of ice.

“You okay, Terras?” Glacias asked.

“I’m fine,” said Terras. “You-you go help Hunter!” Without hesitation, Glacias left Terras’ side and joined Attractas in rushing for the spot where Hunter and Tenebris were staring each other down.

At the moment, Hunter was taking a step back. “You overconfident fool,” said Tenebris. “If Pyras couldn’t defeat me on his own, what makes you think you can?” He drew the Spear of Life back, ready to stab Hunter.

But Tenebris wasn’t ready for the new arrivals. He felt an unseen force yank the Spear of Life out of his hand, and he looked up to see Attractas and Glacias coming up behind Hunter. Attractas had used her magnetism to summon the Spear of Life, and she now held it in her hand.

“Give me that back!” Tenebris shouted. He grabbed at the Spear of Life, but Attractas ducked and rolled under Tenebris’ feet.

“Go long!” Attractas shouted as she threw the Spear of Life toward the altar. Hunter and Glacias immediately ran after it. Tenebris whirled around to stop them, but he came face-to-face with Attractas. Attractas hooked both of her combat hooks around Tenebris’ spear and tried to yank it out of his hands. Tenebris pulled against her and ended up pulling her combat hooks out of her hands. As the combat hooks went flying, Tenebris knocked Attractas aside with his spear. He tromped toward Hunter and Glacias, who had already gotten the Spear of Life.

Glacias was the one holding the Spear of Life. “Back off, Tenebris!” he shouted as he froze Tenebris in a block of ice. “That won’t hold him for long,” he warned Hunter. Indeed, the block of ice was already cracking. “You hold him off,” said Hunter. “I’ll use the-”

“No, I’ll use it,” said Glacias.

“No, I should do it!” said Hunter.

“Do you realize that you’ll die if you use the Spear of Life to-”

“You’ll die, too!” said Hunter.

The ice block cracked loudly. “No time to argue,” said Glacias.

Hunter pursed his lips. “Fine,” he said. He turned his back to the altar as Glacias stepped up to it. Hunter summoned all of his courage and adrenaline as he stepped forward to face Tenebris. The block of ice shattered like glass as Tenebris broke out of it. He started to charge at Glacias, but Hunter stopped him. “Stand down, Tenebris,” said Hunter.

Tenebris glared at Hunter. “What has gotten into you, human boy?” he spat as he swung his spear at Hunter. Hunter ducked to avoid it, but Tenebris was fighting to kill. He slashed his spear downward, hoping to slice Hunter in half, but Hunter grabbed the spear just below the blade and held it back. “I gave you a chance to leave all this behind! Why didn’t you?”

“Because I am the Outsider,” said Hunter. “I don’t like fighting you, but if I don’t fulfill my responsibility, then innocent people will suffer, and I’ll be accountable for it.” He put on an extra burst of strength and pushed Tenebris’ spear so hard, the blade smashed into Tenebris’ face. “And I won’t leave until my job is done.”

Right then, there was a burst of golden light. Hunter and Tenebris looked to see Glacias swaying on the spot as golden dust floated into the air. “It…it is done,” Glacias said as he went limp, dropped the Spear of Life, and fell onto the ground.

“No-you-you can’t have!” said Tenebris.

“Yes, he can have,” Hunter said as he let go of Tenebris’ spear and dove to the side. As he skidded to a stop beside the altar, Hunter sat up and looked Tenebris in the eye. “And now I’m-”

“You cannot kill me!” said Tenebris. “I am energy contained in armor. No mundane weapon can me!”

Hunter looked at the dropped Spear of Life. “No mundane weapon, huh?” He reached out and grabbed the discarded Spear of Life. As he did, he felt its power once again, and he could sense its emotions agreeing with his desire to kill Tenebris. The Spear of Life may not have thought in words, but it didn’t need words to convey that it was no mundane spear, and if it could give life, it could also take. Tenebris knew this, too. And when he saw Hunter stand up with the Spear of Life in hand, he actually looked uneasy for a moment. “You-you won’t…” he trailed off.

Hunter stood up with the Spear of Life in hand. “Yes, I will,” he said. He swung the Spear of Life at Tenebris’ body, but Tenebris parried it. Hunter stabbed at him, but Tenebris blocked that, too. Hunter brought the spear in a roundhouse move that aimed for Tenebris’ side. Tenebris held out his own spear to block it, but the Spear of Life’s blade cut right through Tenebris’ spear’s handle. Tenebris looked down in shock at his broken spear, then back at Hunter. Tenebris growled and raised the bladed half of the spear. He brought the blade down in the hope that he’d kill Hunter, but Hunter reacted quicker. He stabbed the Spear of Life directly into Tenebris’ chest, allowing it to focus all of its energy into sucking out Tenebris’ life.

Tenebris froze as if he was under Clockas’ powers, too stunned to react to being impaled. He dropped both halves of his spear as the color drained from his eyes. “No…no…no!” Tenebris cried as his life was taken away from him. As Hunter pulled the Spear of Life out, a thin golden mist drifted out of the hole where Tenebris had been stabbed. As it drifted out, the mist lost its color and dissipated into nothing. Tenebris’ body, now a mere shell of armor, limply fell to its knees and crashed to the ground.

Hunter turned and looked at the battlefield behind him. Pyras, Hydras, and Terras had forced Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas into a back-to-back circle, and now they were all looking at Hunter standing over Tenebris’ dead body. “You-you killed him!” said Clockas.

“Yes, I did,” said Hunter.

Clockas growled. “Well, you’re not gonna get us,” she said. She waved her hand and reversed time around Pyras, Hydras, and Terras. The three Elemental Masters backed away from the other three, returning to the positions they had been in just before they had forced the rogue Elemental Masters into the defensive circle. Sonas and Toxas took their chance to make a move. Sonas sent a powerful blast of sound at Hydras, causing her to stagger as if she’d been hit by an invisible fist. Meanwhile, Toxas swung her flail and sprayed toxic waste at Pyras and Terras. The two of them were barely able to dodge the splash of poison.

“You said Elemental Masters will never give up until they win,” said Clockas. “Well, we’re Elemental Masters too.” She stepped forward with her sword raised, but faltered when she heard a loud mechanical whirring noise. Every head turned to see a large blue helicopter flying into view. Hunter immediately recognized it as the helicopter that Kylie had used to rescue them from Dr. Evileye. The helicopter hovered above a nearby hill and fired its weapons at the rogue Elemental Masters. Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas scrambled to avoid the shots, barely avoiding the laser fire.

“Clockas!” Sonas urged. “Slow down time around the lasers!”

“Are you crazy?” Clockas asked. “I can’t even concentrate right now!”

Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas exchanged defeated looks as the helicopter paused its firing. Clockas looked up at the agents’ helicopter hatefully. “It never fails,” she said. “Our enemies always manage to find something big and powerful to defeat us.”

Toxas nervously cleared her throat. “Not that I like it, but perhaps our best option would be to retreat,” she said.

“You’re right,” said Clockas.

“Oh, you’re not going anywhere,” said Pyras as he lit his sword on fire.

“No, let them go,” said Hunter. “There’s already been way too much violence.” Pyras reluctantly extinguished his flame.

Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas turned and fled the valley. As she was running, Clockas cast one last glance over her shoulder. “This isn’t over,” she said. Then she, Sonas, and Toxas ran over the hill and out of sight.

Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, and Terras backed away as the helicopter landed in the middle of the valley. The side door opened to allow Kylie to step out, along with her three agent squad members. “Well, Hunter, you actually managed to kill Tenebris,” said Kylie.

“Yes, I did,” said Hunter.

Pyras spoke up. “Kylie, why weren’t you and Tyler giving us cover fire like we planned?” he asked.

“I got a radio call from Agent Jackson,” said Kylie. “I had to go back to the beach where the helicopter was headed. And right as I was leaving, Hunter came with Isaac and Ellie. He told Tyler to keep an eye on them while he went to join the battle.”

As Kylie was saying it, something caught Hydras’ eye. “Hey, there they are,” she said, pointing. Tyler Kane was coming down the hill with Isaac and Ellie following behind.

“Did we win?” Tyler asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter.

Isaac and Ellie gasped when they say Tenebris’ dead body lying on the ground. “Did-did you kill him?” Isaac asked.

“I did,” said Hunter, holding the Spear of Life like an American flag on a pole.

“So, are you going to wake up Light now, or what?” Tyler asked.

Hunter’s face fell. “Ah, about that…”

“Glacias already did,” said Attractas. “And he, well…”

Hunter looked at Glacias’ corpse, lying spread-eagled beside the altar. “He gave up his life,” Hunter said forlornly.

“Oh, Glacias,” Pyras said as he went up to where Glacias lay dead. “You always were a noble warrior.”

“I remember when the Rahrok first came, and he saved me from Pyrok,” said Terras.

“Or in Dino Valley, when we were getting the keystone there. The way Glacias fought those raptors…” Hydras added.

“I used to argue with him a lot during the war with Tenebris,” said Attractas. “I’m starting to regret that now…”

“Yes, we’ve all shared memories with him,” said Pyras. “We shall take him back to Voyo with us, and lay him alongside Aeras and Electras.”

“And then will we go home?” Isaac asked Hunter.

“Yes, we will,” said Hunter. “That is, assuming the Great Creators do indeed put both Light and Shadow back to sleep.”

“I’m sure they will,” said Pyras. “But for right now, we must leave this island.”

“What about the rogue Elemental Masters?” Tyler asked. “Won’t they, you know, try to attack the islanders?”

“We’ll send someone back to capture them,” said Pyras. “And this time, we’ll lock them in the prison in Voyo.”

“And then they’ll know how it feels to be locked in there,” said Terras.

They loaded Glacias’ body inside one of the helicopter’s prison pods. It felt odd, since the prison pods were meant for holding captive bad guys, but the helicopter’s passenger area was pretty crowded as it was, so they had to make room somehow.

As everyone was taking their seats inside the helicopter, Attractas looked at Pyras. “Does this mean you’re accepting me back into your team?” she asked.

Pyras exchanged glances with Hydras and Terras. “I think she’s good,” said Hydras. Terras nodded agreement.

“Well, it seems that you’re regaining the trust of your brethren,” said Pyras.

“Even-even though I…you know…renounced you and the Great Creators?” said Attractas. “Even though I now renounce that renonciation?”

“It’s okay,” said Hunter. “We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. Even me.”


“Of course,” said Hunter. “Did you know that back in my world, I got arrested for stealing a bag of chips?”

“You did?”

“Yes, I’m not proud of it,” said Hunter. “But I’ve worked past it. Pyras here taught me not to let my past ruin my future.”

Attractas smiled. “Well, I know I’m gonna learn from my past,” she said.

As the helicopter took off and flew out over the ocean, Hunter looked back and took one last look at Mahra. On that island, he had gone through many trials and hardships, but ultimately, it had changed him for the better. He had found new friends in Tyler, Kylie, Scythax, and Attractas. He had single-handedly defeated Tenebris himself. And, most importantly, he had reunited with his brother and sister, realized his love for them, and learned the true meaning of responsibility. Just like his last adventure, these were valuable life lessons that he would never forget.

End of Chapter 17…

Chapter 18

The helicopter took them all the way over the ocean, and straight back to Voyo. Agent Jackson landed the helicopter right in the city square, just near the pedestal that held the portal. “Well, here we are,” Agent Jackson said from the front.

The helicopter’s side doors opened, allowing Hunter, Isaac, Ellie, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Attractas, Tyler, and Kylie to exit. They stepped out of the helicopter to see a huge amount of villagers gathering to see who the helicopter had brought. “It’s the Elemental Masters!” said one villager.

“Did you defeat Tenebris?” another villager asked.

“Yes,” said Pyras.

The crowd parted to let Turan step to the front. “Welcome back, friends,” he said. “I see that one of our rogues had a change of heart.”

“Yes, Attractas has rejoined us,” said Pyras.

“And, if you’re wondering, no, I did not find my father,” said Tyler. “He…he was killed.”

“That is unfortunate,” said Turan. “I’m sure he would’ve been proud of you for helping to retrieve the Spear of Life.”

“Yes,” said Hunter. “That we did.” he held up the Spear of Life for everyone to see. “And I got my brother and sister back.”

“Excellent,” said Turan. He looked between the four assembled Elemental Masters. “I take it Glacias didn’t make it?”

“No,” said Hunter. “He had to sacrifice his life. Tenebris had awakened Shadow, and I realized that the only way to stop Shadow from coming into this world was by awakening Light so the two of them could fight each other until the Great Creators figured out a way to put them to sleep again.”

Turan nodded in approval. “How clever,” he said. “But, sadly, it means we now must grieve for Glacias.”

“Yes,” said Pyras. He nodded at Kylie, who opened up the prison pod that held Glacias’ body. Attractas used her magnetism to lift Glacias out and carry him in front of Turan. “How about we lay him to rest with Aeras and Electras?”

“I think Glacias would approve of that,” said Turan.

They spent some time reopening the area underneath the portal’s pedestal, where the bodies of Aeras and Electras lay, and putting Glacias in there. When they were done, Hunter, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas faced the tomb. “We will not forget your courage and sacrifice,” said Pyras.

Isaac tugged on Hunter’s arm. “Can we go home now?” he asked.

“Well, I mean, the Great Creators will put Light and Shadow back to sleep, right?” Hunter asked.

“I am certain that they will,” said Turan. “They’ll probably use whatever method they used to put them to sleep before-and at their first opportunity, too. If Light or Shadow is killed, then it’ll throw the universe out of balance and eventually unravel it. The Great Creators will not let that happen.”

“Okay, then, I guess my work here is done,” said Hunter.

“So can we go home?” Ellie asked.

“Yes, of course,” said Hunter. “Let’s go up to the portal.”

“You’re leaving already?” Tyler asked.

“Well, I mean, I do have to get home,” said Hunter. “My parents are probably wondering where me, Isaac, and Ellie are-assuming they’re home from that Broadway musical.”

“We understand,” said Pyras. “Just as my brethren and I will have to return to the Great Creators, you will have to return to your family.”

“But I’ll come back to visit you sometime,” said Hunter. “That is, if you’re okay with it.”

“Of course we’re okay with it,” said Tyler. “You’re, honestly, a great guy.”

“Maybe you should consider joining the Secret Agent Training Academy,” said Kylie. “We could always use new cadets.”

Hunter smirked. “I’ll give it some thought,” he said rather jokingly.

“She’s right,” said Pyras. “I think that, even in your world, you could try for something like that.”

“You really think so?” Hunter asked.

“Of course,” said Pyras, stepping closer to Hunter. “I probably should’ve said this sooner, but I’m proud of you. I know what you struggled with back there, and I know it wasn’t easy.”

“But I figured it out,” said Hunter. “And here I am now, with both my siblings and my destiny fulfilled.”

“Destiny fulfilled?” Ellie asked.

“I’m the Outsider, who was destined to save this world from the ultimate evil,” Hunter explained. “Which I did, by killing Tenebris and thwarting his plans.”

“But can we please go home?” Isaac asked.

Hunter shook his head. “Sorry guys, but I gotta appease my brother and sister,” he said.

“Farewell, Outsider,” said Turan. “May the Great Creators bless your life going forward.”

Hunter, Isaac, and Ellie stepped up onto the pedestal and faced the portal. “So, guys, when we get home, we’re gonna have to get you in different pajamas,” Hunter said. “The ones you’re wearing right now are all stinky from the sweat, and sand, and seawater, and everything.”

“You mean we’re going to bed?” said Isaac.

“Of course,” said Hunter. “Aren’t you tired from that big adventure we just had?”

“I guess…”

“But don’t worry,” said Hunter. “In the morning, we’ll have fun together.”


“Yeah. We’ll play catch outside, watch TV, maybe even play toys.”


“We’ll have to get a good night’s sleep first,” said Hunter, emphasizing the point. But then he smiled at both Isaac and Ellie. “But in the morning, we’ll all play together.” Isaac and Ellie grinned in approval.

And together, the three of them stepped into the portal that would bring them back to the real world.

And so ends Playtime II: Island of Evil. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and if you have any feedback to share, then feel free to share it with me.