Playtime III: Reign of Shadow

Have you guys read the first two stories I posted on here? Well, here I am posting another sequel. This one is titled Playtime III: Reign of Shadow. It’s the final installment in my Playtime trilogy. And if you enjoyed the first two, then I hope you’ll enjoy Number Three. I’ll post Chapter 1 soon.

Chapter 1

At first glance, Hunter Brooks seemed like just another 14-year-old boy. Virtually nothing went on in his life that would attract the local news’ attention. He lived in the suburbs with his family and spent his days going to school like everyone else his age did. He’d never climbed Mount Everest or set foot on Mars or found the city of Atlantis (then again, no one had ever found Atlantis).

But what people didn’t know was that, in another world, Hunter was a hero. He had grappled with terrible beings and saved innocent lives. The crazy thing was, many of those terrible beings existed in our world as toys.

Hunter’s father, Cornelius Brooks, was an inventor who constructed all sorts of crazy inventions. His latest invention had been a machine that could scan its surroundings and create a new dimension based on those surroundings. Hunter’s younger siblings, Isaac and Ellie, had gotten ahold of the machine and brought it into their bedroom. The machine had scanned the various action figures and toy playsets in their room and created a dimension where all the toys were real people with real lives and, in some cases, real powers.

While trying to deactivate the machine, Hunter had been sucked into this dimension. He found himself among various knights, adventurers, firemen, princesses, spies, and dinosaurs. But what reigned supreme were the Mechanicle toys. Mechanicle was a line of action figures and playsets, with an extensive backstory about biomechanical beings that fought for dominance over the world. The machine had brought the Mechanicle backstory to life and merged it with the backstories of Isaac’s and Ellie’s various other toys.

In this new dimension, Hunter found out that he was the prophecied Outsider who was destined to save the world from the “ultimate evil.” Hunter had doubted in himself at first, but he allied with the Mechanicle Elemental Masters and rose against the villains that threatened the world. Hunter had overcame his self-doubt, found six missing keystones, and defeated the Mechanicle villainess Prohahka.

At first, Hunter didn’t tell his parents about what had gone on. He didn’t think they’d believe him, and even if they did, there was no telling what they’d make of his stories. But Isaac and Ellie had suspected that Hunter had gone into a dimension where their toys were alive, and they were curious. They had needled Hunter into revealing his entire tale, which they enjoyed hearing. Like Hunter expected, his parents were a little weirded out by his stories. But Hunter would wink at them to make them think he was just making things up for Isaac and Ellie’s entertainment.

But, of course, Isaac and Ellie had known that the stories were true. They were curious to see for themselves what the dimension was like, despite Hunter warning them that it was dangerous. So they had snuck into their dad’s workshop and entered the portal. In the dimension, they had ended up getting captured by the shapeshifter Tenebris. Hunter had been forced to go back in to rescue them, as well as put an end to Tenebris’ evil plots and schemes.

Tenebris and Prohahka had both been trying to awaken Shadow, a primordial being who embodied the element of shadow and whose counterpart was Light. Shadow had wanted to escape the realm of the Great Creators, take over the overworld, and engulf it in shadow. However, this would throw the universe out of balance and cause it to unravel. Hunter, along with the Elemental Masters, had fought Tenebris and his lackeys in an effort to stop them. In the end, Tenebris had used the Spear of Life to awaken Shadow, but Hunter had come up with a genius idea. He had awakened Light, who also wanted to rule the world and spread his element everywhere, so that he could fight against Shadow. The intent was that Light and Shadow would fight each other until the Great Creators put them to sleep once more, allowing them to continue to embody their respective elements with no risk of them disrupting the balance.

Hunter had returned to the real world-our world-in triumph. But on returning, he had told Isaac and Ellie not to tell their parents about their adventures in the dimension-or even that the dimension existed at all. He had gone through a lot of trouble to rescue Isaac and Ellie, and he didn’t want either of his parents to go exploring the dimension and get into any trouble of their own. No, Hunter and his siblings were going to keep their experiences to themselves.

But, as they all say, secrets have a way of getting out. The machine Cornelius Brooks had invented was merely a prototype. Cornelius had been collaborating with a fellow scientist and inventor named Gregory Wilson who was also interested in creating new dimensions. Cornelius had been working on this particular model as a way of testing how a machine could create a new dimension, and after months of work, it was getting to a point where Cornelius was ready to show it to Gregory.

But before he could do that, Cornelius needed to do a test run to see if it could work. So one Sunday night, after the kids had gone down for the night, he went down into his workshop where the machine was. He turned on the machine and began tinkering with the computer interface. He pressed several buttons, expecting to activate the machine’s scanning ability. But instead, the machine unfolded its portal rim and activated the swirling blue portal.

“What on earth is this?” Cornelius asked. The scanning process wasn’t supposed to be like this. This should only happen if the machine had already created a dimension from its surroundings. He had never used the machine before now, so he didn’t see how it could’ve created a new dimension already.

That is, unless someone else had used it.

Troubled, Cornelius wondered if his kids had gotten their hands on his machine. He had had Hunter help him assemble it, but as far as he knew, Hunter had never tried to use it on his own. Cornelius couldn’t completely rule out the possibility, since Hunter was home much more than he was, but what motives would Hunter have for creating a new dimension? Yes, Hunter had had doubts about finding his place in the world after being released from jail (long story), but Cornelius found it hard to imagine Hunter creating a new dimension for himself.

Still, Cornelius had heard Hunter talking with Isaac and Ellie about adventures they’d had in a dimension where all their toys came alive. Hunter had assured him that he was just telling these stories to entertain his siblings, but strangely, they had stopped talking about it last week after Cornelius and his wife had left them home alone while they went to a Broadway musical. Cornelius also observed that they stopped talking when he or his wife came into a room, or that they covered for each other much more than they had before. There was something suspicious about it.

Cornelius decided that, in the morning, he would ask his kids if they had been messing with his machine. He thought about punishing them, since they technically weren’t supposed to get into his stuff when he wasn’t there to supervise them. But he decided that, since his machine apparently worked like it was supposed to, he’d just grill them for information and be done with it.

Elsewhere, Hunter was asleep beneath his covers and sheets. He was dreaming of his time in the dimension created by his father’s machine. He dreamed of the Elemental Masters Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Aeras, Glacias, and Electras, and the villagers in the city of Voyo. He dreamed of other people and locations, too-everything he had seen. He’d had dreams like this ever since he’d first got back from the dimension. Sometimes they uplifted him with pleasant memories, and other times they haunted him with scary ones.

However, this time, Hunter was having a dream that was unlike any he’d had before. This was not a reenactment of anything he’d experienced-rather, it was something new. Hunter was standing in the center square of the city of Voyo, facing the portal atop the pedestal. The keystones built into the base of the portal glowed with energy, and a blue vortex swirled into existence in the center of the portal.

“Hunter…” said a deep, wise voice. Hunter looked around, but he saw no one else in the city square. The voice spoke again, reverberating from the portal. It said, “Hunter Brooks…”

“Who’s there?” Hunter asked, looking straight at the portal.

“I am the chief Great Creator,” said the voice.

“You-you are?” said Hunter.

“I am indeed,” said the voice. “I have been watching you ever since you entered our world, and my brothers and I were pleased with the things you’ve done.”

“I know, I did some pretty great things,” said Hunter.

“Yes, you did, but that’s not why I am speaking to you,” said the chief Great Creator. “I am reaching out to you because you have not fulfilled your destiny yet.”

“What do you mean, I haven’t?” Hunter asked. “I killed Prohahka, I killed Tenebris, I woke up Light-well, really, Glacias did it-so that he could keep Shadow busy while you put them to sleep.”

“Well, it seems that things didn’t play out the way you wanted,” said the chief Great Creator. His voice faded away as the blue vortex in the portal darkened into pitch black. Two red eyes appeared within the portal as a new, deeper and scarier, voice made itself heard. It spoke and said, “My time has come…” The temperature in the air dropped by fifteen degrees, and a cold wind blew from the portal. Something was coming out of the portal, and it wasn’t friendly.

All of a sudden, Hunter woke up in a cold sweat. He blinked his eyes and looked around. His rapid heartbeat slowed down to its normal rate as he realized that he was safe in his bedroom. But he could still hear that terrible voice, and could feel the presence of whatever was coming from that portal. As Hunter brushed sweat off of his forehead, he thought of what the chief Great Creator had said. Apparently Hunter’s plan hadn’t worked out the way he’d wanted. He had hoped that Light and Shadow would keep each other long enough for the Great Creators to figure out how to put them back to sleep. It had seemed like the only way to prevent Light or Shadow from escaping the realm of the Great Creators and taking over the overworld. But that voice, that face in the portal…

Hunter knew that it could only mean one thing. He would have to go back into that dimension.

Hunter threw off his covers and rolled out of his bed. He looked over at his clock, which read 11:45. His dad wasn’t still up, was he? Hunter knew that his dad often stayed up late on weekends to work on projects in his lab, but it was Sunday night. Cornelius Brooks usually went to bed before 10:30 on work nights. Maybe, if Hunter went quietly, he could go down into the basement and power up his dad’s machine. The last time he and his siblings had gone into the dimension was a week ago, when their parents were off watching a Broadway musical. They had returned to the real world well before their parents got home, giving them plenty of time to go to bed with nobody being the wiser. (Time moved differently in the dimension created by the machine.)

Hunter turned on the light and looked in the mirror. He was currently wearing a T-■■■■■ and a pair of shorts so thick, they were like jeans with their legs cut off-his typical daily attire that he also wore to bed. Hunter slipped on a pair of socks and shoes and turned off the light. He carefully opened his bedroom door, not wanting to make it creak loudly and wake anyone up. He took a step out into the hall and looked left and right. Everyone’s doors were closed, and the lights were all off.

But before Hunter could head for the stairs, he heard the thumping sounds of someone coming up. He froze in his tracks as he saw his father come up the stairs. “Hunter,” said Cornelius. “What are you doing?”

“I-um…nothing,” said Hunter

Cornelius looked his son up and down. “Why are you all sweaty?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Hunter answered. “Why are you up so late?” he blurted out.

“I was looking at my machine that can create new dimensions,” said Cornelius. “Funny thing, I was planning to ask you and your siblings about it tomorrow morning.”

“Ask us? Ask us about what?”

“Well, I was testing it out, and it seems like it’s already created a new dimension,” said Cornelius. “I know I’ve never used it, but I have heard you talking with Isaac and Ellie about adventures you had in the dimension where all their toys were alive.”

Hunter stood dumbstruck. He had hoped his parents would never find out about what had happened, but he should’ve known they’d find a flaw in his system. He tried to think of a lie, but he couldn’t. “I…it wasn’t me who did it,” Hunter forced out.

“What do you mean?”

“It-it happened a few weeks ago,” Hunter explained. “Ellie got into your workshop and brought your machine up to her room. I saw it in there and tried to put it away, but I activated it by accident. And then I got sucked into the portal, and the rest is history.”

“Aren’t you the Outsider?” Cornelius asked. “I’ve heard you talking with Isaac and Ellie.”

“Yes, I was,” said Hunter. “I…I know you’re not gonna like hearing this, but I had to fight some bad guys in that dimension.”

“Yes, I’ve overheard your adventures with Elemental Masters, and cities and islands and monsters,” said Cornelius. “And how you apparently saved the day.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Hunter. “I just woke up from a dream, where the chief Great Creator spoke to me and showed me a vision of that dimension. I saw…I’m pretty sure I saw Shadow.”

“Who’s Shadow again?”

“He’s a primordial being who wants to take over the world and cover it in shadow,” said Hunter. “Those bad guys I fought-they were trying to awaken him so he could do that. I thought I had stopped them, but apparently I was wrong.”

“So, you’re saying that you’re going to go into that dimension again?” Cornelius asked. “To stop this Shadow character?”

“If I have to, yes,” said Hunter. “It’s my responsibility, as the Outsider. Aren’t you always telling me that I have to do my best to fulfill my responsibilities in life?”

Cornelius sucked in one cheek. “Well, yes, I am,” he said. “But-”

“No buts, please,” said Hunter. “I have friends in that dimension. If Shadow knows that they tried to stop him from being awakened, he’ll probably kill them.”

Cornelius looked at his son with a newfound appreciation. “You’re a noble young man, Hunter,” he said.

“I know,” said Hunter. “Look, if you don’t want me to do it, then just say it.”

“If you have friends, then I do want you to help them,” said Cornelius. “As long as you don’t mind me going with you.”

“What…why?” Hunter asked.

“Because I might be able to help you,” said Cornelius. “And also, I am curious to see what my machine has created.”

Hunter sighed. If there was one thing he knew about his dad, it was that once he had his mind set to something, there was no changing it. Hunter could tell that if he refused to bring his dad into the dimension, then he wouldn’t let him go in there. But Hunter had a duty to fulfill, whether he had his dad with him or not. “Fine, you can come,” Hunter said. “But remember, this isn’t gonna be like that trip to the Everglades we went on last summer. There’s gonna be danger. Real danger. Life-threatening danger.”

“Well, if you’re the heroic Outsider, then we won’t have to worry about that, will we?” Cornelius asked.

“Let’s hope not,” said Hunter.

Five minutes later, they were down in the basement. Cornelius pressed the buttons on his machine that he’d pressed before, and the portal rim unfolded. A blue vortex swirled into existence in the center of it all-the portal that would lead to the alternate dimension. “So I take it you just touch the portal?” Cornelius asked.

“Well, you can’t really touch it if it isn’t solid,” said Hunter. “But yes, you stick your hand into it.” He demonstrated by extending his hand into the portal. He felt the familiar tingling sensation as his body dissolved into little brown bits that spiraled into the portal. Hesitating, Cornelius did the same. Father and son lost consciousness as they were transported to a whole new dimension.

End of Chapter 1…

Chapter 2

Not long after, Hunter and Cornelius woke up in the middle of a streetway in Voyo. Hunter sat up to see the same sight he saw every time this happened; a clear blue sky, tall futuristic buildings, and Mechanicle villagers walking all throughout the street. Except this time, all the villagers were walking in the same direction while being escorted by Pyras and Terras.

A passing villager wearing a purple mask stopped and saw Hunter and Cornelius. “The Outsider’s back!” he said. “With another human!”

“Yes, I’m back,” Hunter said as he got up.

Pyras looked over at Hunter. “Hunter,” he said.

“Hey Pyras,” said Hunter. “Terras.”

Cornelius looked Pyras and Terras up and down. “So you’re those Elemental Masters that my kids like playing with so much,” he said.

“This is my dad,” Hunter said quickly. “Dad, this is Pyras, the master of fire. And Terras, master of earth.”

Pyras looked Cornelius up and down. “So you’re his father, who built that machine that created this dimension.”

“Yes,” said Cornelius. “I never thought it would be used on my kids’ toys, but here we are now.”

“Well, it’s good to meet you,” said Pyras.

“Aren’t there more of you?” Cornelius asked.

“Yes,” said Pyras. “Hydras and Attractas are escorting Turan to the other City.”

“Who’s Turan?”

“He’s the village elder of Voyo,” said Hunter.

“It was him who ordered our evacuation,” said a red-masked villager.

“Evacuation?” Hunter asked. “Is this-is this about Shadow?”

“Why, yes it is,” said Terras. “How did you know?”

“Because I just had a dream vision of Shadow coming into this world,” said Hunter. “That’s why I came here-so I could…you know, save the day somehow.”

“Funny you should say that,” said Pyras. “That’s the reason we returned, too.”


“Shortly after you left, Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and I went back to the realm of the Great Creators to return the Spear of Life to them,” Pyras explained. “They accepted it back, but they warned us that we were unsuccessful in thwarting Tenebris’ plans.”

“But I killed Tenebris!” said Hunter. “And the whole point of our plan was to awaken Light so he’d keep Shadow busy so the Great Creators could figure out how to put them to sleep again.”

“And a very smart plan, since Tenebris had already woken up Shadow,” said Pyras. “But it turns out that it did not play out the way we wanted it to.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Shadow killed Light,” said Pyras. “And now Shadow’s coming toward the portal to our world.”

“But-but he can’t have killed Light!” said Hunter. “It’ll throw the universe out of balance if one of the primordial beings is dead!”

“We know,” said Pyras. “And the Great Creators know that, too.”

“Did they even try to put Light and Shadow back to sleep?” Hunter asked.

“Oh, they did,” said Terras. “They assured us they were working on a way to put Light and Shadow to sleep. But it was taking longer than we thought it would-and it’s too late now. Shadow is gonna come into this world, through Voyo’s portal, any time now.”

“That’s why we’re evacuating the city,” said Pyras. “The Great Creators warned us that when Shadow came, he would summon all of his followers-in other words, the former members of Tenebris’ cult-and kill anyone who had shunned his name. And, unfortunately, many of the villagers in Voyo had cursed Shadow’s name during the war with Tenebris. So we have to get them out of this city before Shadow takes over it.”

Right then, Hydras and Attractas came running up to them. “Hunter?” said Hydras.

“Hey guys,” said Hunter.

“Oh, you have no idea how much we need you right now,” said Hydras.

“Yeah, we know,” said Hunter. “Pyras and Terras just explained to us.”

Pyras looked at Hydras and Attractas. “Did you-”

“Yes, Turan is safe in the City,” said Attractas. “We left him at Sam’s fire station.”

“Good,” said Pyras. “We just need to get the rest of these villagers to the City, so we can figure out what to do from there.”

“Shouldn’t we, you know, try to stop Shadow here?” Hunter asked. “Like, by removing the keystones from the portal so it’ll deactivate and not allow Shadow to come through?”

“Yet another good idea from you,” said Pyras. “But the Great Creators told us that they had looked into the future, and saw that Shadow will come into our world no matter what we do. We can try to alter the future, but our efforts will be in vain.”

“But seriously, why?”

“I would imagine,” said Hydras, “That Shadow would call out to his followers and order them to seek out the keystones, wherever we hide them, and then use them to reactivate the portal.”

Cornelius looked at his son. “Isn’t Hunter the Outsider?” he asked. “He said he was destined to save the world from the ultimate evil, though it seems like there have been a lot of ultimate evils that he had to defeat.”

“There have, but Shadow is the pinnacle of ultimate evil,” said Pyras.

Terras cleared his throat. “How about we worry about defeating Shadow later?” he suggested. “Right now, we should get these villagers out of the city.”

“Good idea,” said Pyras. “Hunter, you and your father should-”

But before Pyras could finish, there was a low rumbling noise coming from the opposite end of the street-in the direction of the city square where the portal resided. An icy gust of wind blew through the street, causing the hairs on Hunter’s back to stand up and his body temperature to lower by fifteen degrees.

Pyras felt it, too. “No, it can’t be,” he said.

Cornelius’ eyes widened. “Is…is that Shadow coming?”

“I think it might be,” said Hunter. It felt too much like his dream. He had wished that that dream was just a dream and not a vision of the future, but he had subconsciously knew he wouldn’t be so lucky.

“We gotta hurry!” Pyras said. But the villagers didn’t need to be told. They sped up their pace, breaking their walk into a run. Hunter, Cornelius, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas followed behind them.

As he ran, Hunter looked over his shoulder. He saw a tall, dark shape rising among the buildings. It went so high, it was impossible to know any exact numbers-but it had to be five hundred feet tall. The shape took on a simple humanoid shape-two legs, two arms, and a head perched on top of a thick torso. The figure was made entirely of solidified shadow. It was blacker than any area of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, with the only parts of it that weren’t black being its two red eyes. The eyes were full of evil, like Tenebris’ eyes, but a much brighter shade of red. They burned like two Eyes of Sauron, surveying the area at the figure’s feet and threatening anyone or anything that they saw.

“Great Creators help us,” Pyras cursed.

“That’s Shadow, isn’t it?” Cornelius asked.

As if in answer, the towering figure spread its arms out and spoke triumphantly. “Hello, overworld,” the figure said in the same voice Hunter had heard in his dream. The voice was the rumble of an earthquake, the growl of a tiger, and the hiss of a cobra, all entwined together in one terrible noise. “Welcome your new ruler, Shadow!” Lightning flashed above his head as wisps of shadow curled from his fingertips. The shadow mist billowed into the sky and began to turn it black. It was as if black food coloring had been poured into a bowl of milk. The blue sky was turned pitch black, with even the sun’s light being dimmed out.

“Behold, my new world of shadow,” Shadow boomed. Even among the black sky, his silhouette was still visible. “Citizens of Voyo, you will now bow to me.”

Attractas worriedly looked at Pyras. “What do we do now?”

“Hunter, you and your father get the villagers out of here,” said Pyras. “We’ll keep Shadow busy.”

“Are you crazy? He’s a primordial being,” said Hunter. “He’ll kill all four of you.”

“Just go!” Pyras urged.

“He’s right,” Cornelius said as he tugged on his son’s sleeve. “It isn’t safe for us here!”

Hunter reluctantly followed his dad and the villagers as they fled the scene. Hunter had never for a moment considered Pyras a fool, but when he looked back, the thought crossed his mind. Pyras had drawn his sword and was marching toward Shadow, with Hydras, Terras, and Attractas on his heels. What insane notion made him believe that they could kill Shadow, even with all four of their elemental powers combined? Shadow was a hundred times more powerful than Tenebris or Prohahka, or any of the Elemental Masters. Even if all twelve Elemental Masters were to combine their powers, it still wouldn’t be enough to kill Shadow. With Shadow already awakened and taking over the world, it was game over. Fighting was pointless.

But all Hunter could do was follow the procession of villagers as they ran for the city gates. They left the gates and immediately went for the other City, where many of the humans in this dimension lived. Hunter looked back, worried that Shadow would see them running and try to make pursuit. But instead, Shadow was looking down at one of the streets below him. Hunter’s heart sank as he knew what was probably happening. The Elemental Masters were surely holding Shadow’s attention, allowing everyone else to escape. Hunter was glad they were buying him time to escape, but he dreaded what might happen to them.

Meanwhile, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas had ran for the city square. As they ran, Pyras shouted, “Begone, Shadow! You aren’t welcome here!”

Shadow looked down at the streets below him and saw the four Elemental Masters running toward the city square. “So there are some Elemental Masters left after all,” said Shadow. “I would’ve thought my pawns would’ve wiped all of you out.”

“Tenebris and Prohahka were no match for us,” said Pyras. He and his brethren came to a stop when the street met the city square. “We’re giving you one warning. Leave this world and return to the realm of the Great Creators.”

Shadow had no visible mouth, but his eyes narrowed at the edges like he was smirking. “An empty threat,” he said. “You are mere ants to me.” Without warning, Shadow knelt down and reached for the Elemental Masters. Attractas turned and started to run, but she wasn’t fast enough. Shadow brought his hand down and clenched his enormous fist around the patch of road that the Elemental Masters were on. Shadow tore the chunk of pavement out of the ground, taking the Elemental Masters with it.

Shadow held the Elemental Masters up to his face. “Let us go!” Terras demanded. He tried to control the earth Shadow had scooped up and make it fight against his grip, but his powers were dampened by Shadow’s grip.

Shadow tightened his hold on them. “You are quite resilient,” he said. “I can see why the people of Voyo hold you in such high honor. But I cannot have you making trouble in my new empire.”

Hydras looked between her brethren. “It was an honor fighting with all of you,” she said. “I hope-”

“Oh, I’m not going to kill you,” said Shadow. “I’m willing to show a little mercy. But I do have a special plan for you.” Shadow turned around and knelt before the portal to the Great Creators’ realm. “Here you go,” Shadow said as he threw the Elemental Masters into the portal.

Immediately after they had phased through, he laid his hand before the pedestal. Wisps of shadow trickled off of his fingers like miniature tentacles and reached for the base of the portal. Shadow removed all six of the keystones and brought them into the palm of his hand, which he clenched tightly.

Shadow rose to his full height once again and raised his voice. He spoke louder than ever, his voice resonating like a sonic boom for miles. “People of the world!” Shadow boomed. “Your new ruler has arrived. Bow before Shadow, the primordial being who embodies the element of shadow!”

End of Chapter 2…

Chapter 3

Hunter heard Shadow’s booming voice as he, Cornelius, and the villagers went for the City. The voice shook him to the very core, making him want to crawl away and hide. Which, in a way, he was doing by fleeing Voyo.

It wasn’t long before they arrived at the City. “Okay, so we all know the plan, right?” a red-masked villager asked.

“We’re gonna go to the police station and ask Officer Janson to relocate us,” said a brown-masked villager. “Just like the Elemental Masters told us to do.”

“So are we safe now?” Cornelius asked Hunter.

“I hope so,” said Hunter. “I know a guy whose place we can stay at.”

“Who is he?”

“It’s a fireman named Sam,” said Hunter. “He helped me out before, when the Elemental Masters and I were looking for the keystones.”

“Ah,” said Cornelius.

“And I think Hydras and Attractas said they left Turan there,” Hunter added. “We should talk to him about what to do.”

Hunter led Cornelius to Sam’s fire station. On arriving there, Hunter saw that the fire station was just like he remembered it. There was a garage for Sam’s fire truck, and two floors to the station’s office. Sam and Turan were both standing outside, looking up at the dark sky.

“Sam! Turan!” Hunter called as he and Cornelius approached them.

Turan’s face brightened when he saw Hunter. “Thank the Great Creators,” he said. “If there’s any time we need the Outsider, it’s now.”

“Hunter? Is that really you?” Sam asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “It’s good to see you, Sam.”

Cornelius cleared his throat. “My name is Cornelius. I’m Hunter’s dad.”

“Are the villagers all evacuated from Voyo?” Turan asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “But the Elemental Masters stayed behind to fight Shadow, and…I don’t think they made it out.”

Turan bowed his head sadly. “Then these truly are the end times.”

“Will Shadow really try to rule this whole world?” Cornelius asked. “Does he want everyone to worship him?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Hunter.

“Will he not let us go through the portal back to the real world?”

“I doubt it,” said Hunter. “If he saw me and knew I was the Outsider, then he’d kill me on sight. We’re just gonna have to try to survive.”

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas were currently in the realm of the Great Creators. They were lying in a heap in front of the portal to the overworld, which was now merely a circle of metal with nothing inside.

Pyras groggily sat up. “Well, at least he didn’t kill us,” he said.

“But now we’re in the realm of the Great Creators,” said Hydras. She and her brethren looked at the landscape surrounding them. The ground was made of a substance that had shine peeking out from behind caked-on dirt, but it was so rough, it was hard to tell if it was metal or stone. They were surrounded by a thick, bluish-gray mist that obscured most of the gray sky above.

“What do we do now?” Terras asked.

Pyras hesitated before speaking. Even though he was the leader of the Elemental Masters, he didn’t always know exactly what to say or what to do. But one of his tricks was to tackle a problem one step at a time, and try to show confidence that everything would work out in the end. “I think the first thing we should do is get in touch with Hunter,” he said. “Make sure he got the villagers to safety.”

“Good idea, but how do we do that?” Hydras asked.

“The Pool of Communication,” said Pyras. “It lets you see someone in another realm and talk to them.”

“Oh that’s right,” said Terras. “I almost forgot about that.”

“Hopefully it’s around here somewhere,” said Pyras.

“What does it look like?” Terras asked.

Pyras tried to remember what the Great Creators had told him. He had never actually seen the Pool of Communication, but he had heard a handful of descriptions. “It should be a pit of smooth water,” said Pyras. “With…some nice plants growing beside it.”

“Right,” said Hydras, looking around. “It’s not anywhere near the portal to the overworld, is it?”

“I’m not sure,” said Pyras. “Everyone, spread out and look for it.”

All four of them went out in different directions. They circled the area around the portal, not knowing exactly what they would find. They had never taken the time to fully explore the realm of the Great Creators, since they hadn’t been assigned to any missions in this realm. And it didn’t help that this whole realm was shrouded in mist, making it hard to see farther than ten feet ahead.

Eventually, Pyras heard Hydras’ voice from behind him. “We found the pool!” she called.

“You did?”

“Yes,” Hydras answered. As she approached Pyras, she conjured a stream of water that trickled from the ends of her axes and left a trail. “Actually, Terras found it first. But he went off to find Attractas, so I came to find you.”

“Where’s the pool?” Pyras asked.

“C’mon, I’ll show you,” said Hydras. “Follow that trail of water.”

Pyras nodded approvingly at Hydras’ clever way of finding her way back to the Pool of Communication. He keenly fixed his eyes on the trail of water as he walked alongside Hydras. “I do hope Hunter is alright,” Pyras murmured.

Before long, the fog thinned out as Pyras and Hydras came to an area that dipped slightly below the surrounding ground. The miniature valley consisted of a set of bright green bushes surrounding a pool of smooth, clear water. The pool was about fifteen feet wide and two feet deep, similar in size to a toddler’s wading pool.

Terras and Attractas were already there. Terras had left a trail of earth protrusions in the ground for himself and Attractas to follow back. “Well, here we are,” said Terras. “Now let’s see if Hunter’s okay.”

Pyras leaned over the Pool of Communication. The water was so reflective and so smooth, it might as well have been a mirror. “O, Pool of Communication,” said Pyras, “Show me Hunter Brooks.”

Ripples appeared on the surface of the Pool of Communication. The water’s color shifted and took the shape of a new image. It was as if the pool was now reflecting something else besides Pyras’ face. As Pyras watched, the Pool of Communication’s surface reflection took on the image of Hunter Brooks standing alongside his father Cornelius, Turan, and Sam the fireman. The four of them were standing in the front yard of Sam’s fire station.

“Hunter!” Pyras called.

Hunter heard Pyras’ voice and looked around. “Pyras?” he asked. He turned his head and saw the source of the sound. From Hunter’s end, Pyras’ face was being shown through a circle of magic mist hovering before him. “Pyras? Is that really you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” said Pyras. “Did you get yourself and the villagers to safety?”

“Yeah, I did,” said Hunter. “I’m at Sam’s fire station right now. Turan is here. And the rest of the villagers all made it into the City.”

“Excellent,” said Pyras. “Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and I are in the realm of the Great Creators right now.”

“So…you’re not dead?” Hunter asked.

“No, we’re not,” said Pyras. “You’re seeing me through the Pool of Communication right now.”

“Right,” said Hunter. “So…what do we do now that Shadow’s taken over?”

“Well, I’m sure that all of the former members of Tenebris’ cult will be rallying to Shadow and helping him rule the world,” said Pyras. “I think you’d better try to fight back.”

“What about you?” Hunter asked. “How are we gonna get you back?”

“Don’t worry about us,” said Pyras. “We’re going to go to the Great Creators and ask them what to do. You just need to defend yourself against Shadow’s followers.”

Hunter reluctantly nodded. “I-I think I can organize a resistance,” he said.

“A resistance?” Cornelius asked. “How can you form a resistance without any Elemental Masters?”

“There’s other people who can help us,” said Hunter. “Hopefully they’ll answer the call.”

“Excellent,” said Pyras. “I’m going to leave now, with the other Elemental Masters. But I’ll let you know when we’ve made progress.”

“Good luck,” Hunter said right before he turned away.

The image in the Pool of Communication faded away, leaving only the water’s reflective surface. “Will Hunter really be able to lead a resistance?” Attractas asked.

“Of course he will,” said Pyras. “He has the qualities of a good leader. I’ve seen them in him.” He faced his brethren. “What we need to do right now is return to the Great Creators.”

End of Chapter 3…

Chapter 4

Clockas was elated.

After the battle in which Tenebris was killed, she had fled the scene with Sonas and Toxas by her side. They had seen the Outsider kill their master, and Glacias use the Spear of Light to awaken Light to stop Shadow from escaping the realm of the Great Creators. Conceding defeat, the rogue Elemental Masters had decided it was better to abandon this battle.

Not long after, they had gone back to the area to search for their enemies. But, not surprisingly, the Outsider, the Elemental Masters, and their allies had left the island. Clockas had thought, well, two could play at that game. She, Sonas, and Toxas had torn up Tenebris’ stronghold and the surrounding area looking for the boat Tenebris had used to get to Mahra from the mainland. After several days of searching, they finally found the boat and set sail for the mainland.

While they were crossing the sea, Shadow had escaped into the overworld. How did the rogue Elemental Masters know? Because the sky had darkened. The sunlight had been waterlogged with pure shadow, leaving a pitch-black sky. When this had first happened, Sonas and Toxas had gaped at the changing sky. “What’s going on?” Toxas asked.

“I think I know,” said Clockas. “I think Shadow escaped the realm of the Great Creators.”

“He did?” said Sonas. “I thought the Outsider woke up Light and then the Great Creators put both Light and Shadow to sleep.”

“Glacias used the Spear of Life, not the Outsider,” said Clockas. “And yes, that was their plan. But Shadow must have defeated Light and then came into the overworld.”

“So…what are we going to do?” Sonas asked.

“We’re going to go to Shadow and present ourselves to him,” said Clockas. “We fought so hard to bring him back, and we’re going to join his empire.”

“Are you sure he won’t kill us, since we’re Elemental Masters?” Toxas asked.

“Not if we’re members of Tenebris’ cult,” said Clockas.

After several hours, the boat washed up on the shore of the mainland. Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas left their boat behind and went toward the city of Voyo. As she walked, Clockas felt a rush of pride and excitement. Ever since she had joined Tenebris, she and her rogue brethren had fought many battles and endured many hardships to awaken their true master, Shadow. She knew that Shadow knew of what she had done for him, as even in his slumber, Shadow heard the prayers to him and could see what his followers were doing. Since Clockas had done so much to help Tenebris reawaken Shadow, Shadow would hold her in high honor.

As the three rogue Elemental Masters neared Voyo, they saw a group of dark beings coming from the west. They immediately recognized them as the Pirikdi. The Pirikdi were a race of monstrous beings that taken up a pretty big chunk of Tenebris’ cult following that had worshipped Shadow. Tenebris had had some rogue villagers that had worshipped Shadow, and some non-Mechanicle beings, but most of Tenebris’ followers had been Pirikdi.

After Tenebris’ original defeat, the Pirikdi had returned to the westward lands where they had came from. They hadn’t shown their faces since, leading many to believe they were gone for good. But here they were, having heard Shadow’s voice summoning his followers and heeding the call.

“I never thought I’d see the Pirikdi again,” said Toxas.

Sonas shuddered. “I always hated those things,” he said.

Clockas had to admit, she wasn’t too fond of the Pirikdi either. They were biomechanical beings, like everyone else in Mechanicle, but they were unlike anything else the Great Creators had put to life. They were the same height as an Elemental Master, with clawed feet, spikes traveling down their shoulders and spines, and downturned mouths in permanent scowls. Most were colored blue, but there were some black, white, green, and red ones mixed in. They all carried thick, curved swords in their taloned hands. But, for all their scariness, they were a force to be reckoned with in battle.

“Well, we’d better get used to their company,” said Clockas. “Because Shadow’s gonna have us living alongside them.”

Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas entered the city of Voyo. To their surprise, there weren’t villagers milling about the place. Shadow must have killed them all when he first came-and, hopefully, he’d taken care of the other Elemental Masters while he was at it. The Pirikdi were trickling into the city and headed straight for the city square, ready to bow before their new ruler.

Clockas headed for the city square, too, with Sonas and Toxas following behind her. It had been so long since she’d last been in Voyo, the place felt foreign to her. And yet, despite all that had happened in the time since, Clocka still knew the streets like the back of her hand. She was surprised at how quickly it took her to find the city square.

In the city square, Shadow was kneeling down before a black-armored Pirikdi that was bowing before him. “O, great Shadow,” said the Pirikdi. “I am most honored to serve under your rule!”

“I am glad to hear that,” Shadow said as he cast an approving glance at the Pirikdi. “What might your name be?”

“I am Skirmisk,” said the Pirikdi. “The chief of the Pirikdi. One of Tenebris’ biggest supporters, before he died.”

“Ah, yes,” said Shadow. “It’s a sorry shame that Tenebris had to lose his life. If he were with us now, I would honor him will my very existence. But, as it is, I will make you the lieutenant of my new army.”

Clockas cleared her throat. “Have you forgotten about us?”

Shadow and Skirmisk looked at the rogue Elemental Masters. “Elemental Masters?” Shadow asked. “I thought I dealt with them all!”

“It’s okay,” said Skirmisk. “They’re on our side. They swore loyalty to Tenebris.”

Shadow’s right eye grew in size as if he was raising an eyebrow. “Is this true?”

“Of course it is,” said Clockas. “We were with Tenebris on the island of Mahra. Our teammate Titanias gave his life to awaken you.”

Shadow nodded approvingly. “So you are those turned Elemental Masters Tenebris told me about in his prayers,” he said. “It sounds like you did a lot to help him.”

“Yes, we did,” said Clockas. “And with all due respect, I feel I would make a better lieutenant than Skirmisk.”

“Hey, whoa, whoa!” said Skirmisk. “I’m the chief of the Pirikdi! It is I who command them!”

Clockas snapped his fingers, and time froze around Skirmisk. Skirmisk tried to move his body, but every limb was paralyzed. “Do you have any powers? I don’t think so!” said Clockas.

“Enough!” said Shadow. “Clockas, let Skirmisk go. The both of you can be lieutenants for me. Skirmisk, you can retain your command over the rest of the Pirikdi. Clockas, you have command over your Elemental Master brethren. You two can share command over everyone else who joins my empire.”

Clockas unfroze Skirmisk. “Fair enough,” she said.

“Excellent,” said Shadow. “Now that the two of you are civilized, I have a task for you.”

“What is it?” Skirmisk asked.

Shadow opened his hand, and six glowing keystones fell to the ground. “The keystones to the portal to the realm of the Great Creators,” he said. “I need the two of you to find a place to hide them in this city, and be sure to protect them with your lives.”

Clockas nodded. “We can do that,” she said.

“So let me get this straight,” said Cornelius. “You called all those people here so they could all defeat Shadow, so you and I can go home?”

“Well, sort of,” said Hunter. He and his dad were standing inside Sam’s fire station. Hunter had sent out phone calls to the various friends Hunter had in this dimension, asking them all to come and join Hunter’s resistance. Hunter and Cornelius were currently waiting for them. “They’re coming here to kind of…form a resistance against Shadow. We’re gonna fight back against Shadow until the Elemental Masters come back.”

“But isn’t it dangerous to fight Shadow?” Cornelius asked. “If the Elemental Masters couldn’t defeat him, then how can you defeat him?”

Hunter hesitated. “I…I understand your point,” he said. “But we’re not really trying to kill Shadow. We’re just trying to fight back against his minions and prevent them from taking over the rest of the world. We’re holding out while the Elemental Masters go to the Great Creators and figure out what to do.”

“Ah,” said Cornelius. “Well, hopefully your friends can keep their war going while you and I slip into that portal and go home.”

“Dad, these are my friends here,” said Hunter. “If I ran out on them in the middle of all this, then I’d be a bad friend.”

Cornelius slowly nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I just want you to be safe in all this.”

“I will be,” said Hunter. “I hope.”

Just then, Sam came into the room. “Hunter, they’re here,” he said.

“Where are they?”

“Waiting outside,” said Sam.

“Good,” said Hunter. He, Cornelius, and Sam exited the building and saw the people waiting outside. As Hunter saw the newcomers, he felt happier than he’d felt in a while. There were the three renowned knights from the kingdom of Anthrall-Merek, Barda, and Fendrel, who Hunter had met on his quest for the keystones. There was Tyler Kane, the Indiana Jones-esque adventurer who had travelled with him to the island of Mahra. There was Kylie Krout, a secret agent who was the leader of a squadron of spies. Her four teammates were standing off to the side. And there was Glug, the stupid yet well meaning caveman who lived in Dino Valley.

“Hey Hunter,” said Tyler. “Things are getting really bad, huh?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter. “Turns out things didn’t play out in our favor after all.”

“Big bad black guy,” said Glug. His speech was so primitive, he could never form full sentences. However, he could understand the speech of everyone talking around him, and he was usually able to convey what he was thinking fairly well.

“Yes, Shadow is a bad guy,” said Hunter. “Worse than Prohahka, or Lord Vulcon, or Brintoco.”

Cornelius looked over the three knights. “Are you knights?” he asked.

“We are indeed,” said Merek.

“Then…how did Hunter call you using a phone?”

“The message didn’t reach us through a phone,” said Fendrel. “A messenger came to us with a scroll.”

“Well, I looked in Sam’s phone book, and it told me to call a phone office that was near the kingdom of Anthrall,” said Hunter. “And I told Merek, Fendrel, and Barda to pick up Glug on their way.”

“So…is it just us against Shadow’s forces?” Tyler asked.

“No,” said Kylie. “While my team and I were getting ready to come here, we called in some other people we know.”


“The Alien Defence Corps,” said Kylie. “They’re a group of troopers who fight against alien invaders. They aren’t here yet, but Commander Max said they’d come in full force.”

“And our King is already preparing his armies,” Barda added.

“Well, we’ll take any help we can get,” said Hunter. “I just hope the Elemental Masters are doing okay…”

End of Chapter 4…

Chapter 5

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas left the Pool of Communication and continued through the realm of the Great Creators. It was still covered in thick mist, making it hard to see where they were going. They knew that if they went straight away from the portal, then they would find the control sphere. But, in their search for the Pool of Communication, they had completely lost track of the portal. They had tried to retrace their steps, but they just ended up going in circles.

“I just wish we had internal compasses that pointed to the control sphere,” Terras grumbled after what felt like hours of walking.

“Or even a map,” said Hydras.

Pyras sighed. “Well, it’s a shame that there aren’t any beings who live here and might be able to point us in the direction.”

“Are you sure about that?” Hydras asked.

“Well, yes,” said Pyras.

“Haven’t you heard the rumors among the villagers of Voyo?” Hydras asked. “A lot of them think that the Great Creators created many beings that didn’t turn out the way they wanted them to, so they just let them run amok in their realm.”

“Don’t believe them,” Terras scoffed. “Rumors are just lies spread around to make people’s eyes grow big.”

“Agreed,” said Attractas. “If we haven’t run into anyone or anything by now, I don’t think we ever will.”

“But many rumors have a basis in truth,” said Hydras. “And we don’t even know how big this realm is. For all we know, there could be someone watching us through the mist right now.”

Her comment merely made the atmosphere even creepier. As the Elemental Masters made their way through the mist, they worried that someone or something would be watching their every move. If it was a friendly soul, then it wouldn’t be so bad. But if it was a twisted monster that the Great Creators had thrown out, then they’d be pounced on any moment.

After many silent minutes, the mist started to clear out. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas found themselves descending a ridge that led down into a deep ravine. In the ravine, there was a colony of humanoid beings conversing with one another.

“Okay, we’re definitely going in the wrong direction,” said Terras.

Pyras eyed the creatures in the ravine suspiciously. They had a mostly humanoid stance, though they leaned forward slightly. They all wore different colored armor over black bodies-some were red, some were blue, and some were dark gray. Their large bat-like wings stuck out from the spots on their backs where a human’s shoulder blades would be. Each of them had a shriveled, shrunken face with wide orange eyes, vampire-like fangs, and short protrusions at the top of their heads that pointed backward like ears. Many carried large, metal tools that were shaped like giant scythe blades.

“I don’t think we can trust these people,” said Pyras.

“I’m with you,” said Hydras.

“Maybe we should-” But before Pyras could finish, one of the bat monsters cast a glance at the top of the ravine. It saw the four Elemental Masters and hissed angrily. It waved its scythe blade at them and hissed some more, attracting the attention of the other bat monsters around it.

“Uh-oh,” said Terras. “I don’t think they’re friendly.”

The bat monster that had noticed them flapped his wings and flew toward the Elemental Masters. This one was different from all the rest, with his poisonous green armor and fangs that were so long, they stuck out of his mouth even when his mouth was closed. He flew directly in front of Pyras and glared at him. “What are you doing out here?” he snarled.

Pyras slowly reached for his sword. “We’re looking for the Great Creators,” he said.

The green bat monster scowled. “What do you mean, ‘looking for the Great Creators?’” he asked. “You’re the great and powerful Elemental Masters! You should be able to find them on your own!”

“We got turned around,” said Hydras.

The bat monster scoffed. “You can’t even find your way through the realm where you were created, and you still call yourselves Elemental Masters? Just who do you think you are?”

Annoyed, Pyras closed his hand around his sword’s hilt. “Who are you, anyway?”

“I am Mutantrix, the chief of the Vampirix,” said the bat monster. “Not that you would care.”

“Uh…why would we not care?”

“Because nobody cares about us!” Mutantrix growled. “We should be honored, because we were the first beings the Great Creators ever created. But no, they kicked us out of their control sphere just because we didn’t turn out the way they wanted. And, meanwhile, everybody treats you Elemental Masters like gods just because you have powers!”

“Look, it’s rough all over,” said Hydras. “We’ll just-”

But before she could finish, Mutantrix unexpectedly jabbed his scythe blade into Hydras’ chest. “Did you think you could just show your face on territory where you’re unwelcome?” he snarled.

Pyras, Terras, and Attractas drew their weapons. “What was that for?” Pyras asked.

“We’ve been dreaming of this day for ages,” said Mutantrix. “We’ve seen you all high and mighty among the villagers of Voyo, hailed as heroes even though you weren’t even the first beings to have been created!”

“But…if you’ve been in this realm all this time, then how do you know that?” Terras asked.

“We have our ways,” Mutantrix answered as the rest of the Vampirix came up behind him. “And now, we’re going to dispose of you and take our rightful place as heroes of the universe!”

Pyras, Terras, and Attractas formed a protective line against Hydras, who was wincing in pain and clutching her wound. “I’d back off if I were you,” Pyras warned.

Mutantrix did not obey. He and the rest of the Vampirix charged the Elemental Masters with their scythe blades raised. Pyras, Terras, and Attractas immediately fought back. Pyras lit his sword on fire and blowtorched the first three Vampirix that came his way. Terras spun his combat drills and drilled directly through one of the Vampirix’ chests. Attractas used her magnetism to pull several Vampirix’ blades out of their hands and send them flying, sending them flying.

But they were outnumbered ten to one. More Vampirix kept coming, each just as nasty as the last. Pyras sliced the head off one of them, but another immediately pounced on him and pinioned him to the ground. Nearby, two Vampirix were advancing on Hydras, ready to bite her heart out. Hydras was summoning her strength to lift one of her axes and spray a little water, but it intensified the pain in her chest. She doubled over, dropping her axe. The Vampirix both grabbed Hydras, one on each side, and pinned her to the ground.

Pyras pushed against the Vampirix that was pinning him down, but he found that the huge bat monster was much stronger than he was. The Vampirix’ fanged jaws snapped closer and closer to Pyras’ face, spitting out a few drops of drool as they did so. Pyras angrily heated his body up, causing steam to rise off his armor. The Vampirix squealed in pain as Pyras’ armor suddenly burned it. Pyras took the chance to grab his dropped sword and stab it into the Vampirix’ chest. He rolled aside as the bat monster fell to the ground.

But just as Pyras stood up again, Mutantrix stabbed his blade into Pyras’ back. The blade went all the way through his torso, its point bursting out of his chest. The blow shocked Pyras to his very core, stopping his heart and causing him to forget how to move. His sword fell to the ground as he swayed on his feet. “Die, Elemental Master!” Mutantrix hissed. “Die before your superiors!”

Mutantrix kicked Pyras to the ground and held his scythe blade high. But before he could bring it down, a shadow passed over him from above. Mutantrix looked up to see a newcomer descending towards the battlefield. The newcomer was riding a flying board that resembled a shield. The newcomer was a biomechanical being, his body greatly resembling an Elemental Master. He was six feet tall, sturdily built, and clad in shining gold armor. His mask was pearl gold, with three ridges on top and a smooth finish. The newcomer carried an oddly familiar spear in his right hand.

“Need some help?” the newcomer asked Pyras. Pyras frantically nodded with what little energy he had left. The newcomer immediately flew his flying board/shield all around the battlefield, slamming into Vampirix and slicing their heads off. The Vampirix that were left immediately flew after the newcomer, trying to knock him off his flying board. But the newcomer threw his spear like a javelin and impaled all of the Vampirix on his tail in one throw.

The newcomer turned his flying board around to retrieve his sword. But as he flew, Mutantrix jumped in his way and grabbed the end of the flying board. The board upended at the sudden ■■■■■ in balance and sent the newcomer flying. He skidded to a stop right where his spear had fallen, picking it up and getting to his feet instantly. He advanced on Mutantrix with his spear raised.

Mutantrix wasted no time in assaulting the newcomer. He swung his blade at the newcomer’s neck, but the newcomer was quicker. He parried the strike and whacked Mutantrix in the chest with his spear’s handle. Mutantrix stumbled backward and immediately went on the defensive when the newcomer attacked him. The newcomer dueled Mutantrix, backing him towards the edge of the ravine.

As the ground started to slope downward, Mutantrix could feel his feet slipping. He frantically fought even harder, hoping to find one-just one!-opening in the newcomer’s attack pattern. But no such opening came. The newcomer was toying with Mutantrix, deliberately riling him up so that he’d become reckless. And it worked; Mutantrix angrily thrust his blade at the newcomer’s chest, hoping to impale him. But he acted so impulsively, he wasn’t ready for when the newcomer stepped aside and let Mutantrix dart forward past him. Mutantrix stumbled and fell flat on his face, dropping his blade. The newcomer immediately stabbed him in the back and focused all his power through the spear. He sucked the life force out of Mutantrix, leaving him an empty shell of a dead body.

The newcomer pulled his spear out and looked at the Elemental Masters he’d just rescued. Terras and Attractas were both standing over the wounded Pyras and Hydras, who were both rapidly losing their strength. “Thanks for the help,” said Terras. “But our friends are still hurt.”

The newcomer smiled. “Oh, no worries,” he said. “I can take care of that.”

“Who are you?” Attractas asked.

“I am Animas, Elemental Master of life,” said the newcomer.

Terras and Attractas exchanged glances. “An Elemental Master of life?” Attractas asked.

“The Great Creators never said anything about a thirteenth Elemental Master,” said Terras.

“That would be because my body was created just a day ago,” said Animas. He knelt over Pyras and Hydras and placed one of his hands on each of them. He focused his power again, but this time in a different way. Instead of draining life, he was allowing life to flow through himself and the beings he was touching, healing their wounds and giving the wounded Elemental Masters strength. As power surged through them, Pyras and Hydras could feel their strength returning and their pain subsiding until it was a thing of the past. By the count of ten, they were in the same condition they were in before the battle.

Pyras looked at Animas again. “You-you’re a new Elemental Master?” he asked. He looked at the spear Animas was carrying and was struck by how familiar it looked. The shape of the blade, the color…where had he seen it before?

“I am,” said Animas. “I’ve been travelling the realm of the Great Creators ever since I created this body for myself. I’ve seen-”

“Wait. You created a body for yourself?”

“That’s right,” said Animas. “I sensed the war, the conflict going on in the world around me. I was tired of sitting around and letting others protect me, so I decided to play a role of my own.”

“Ooookay,” said Pyras. This so-called new Elemental Master seemed a little off his rocker. Everyone knew that Elemental Masters were created by the Great Creators-they weren’t just lowly beings who decided to give themselves new bodies. And the Great Creators had said that the only thing in the entire universe that had control over the element of life was the Spear of Life. While it was very powerful and had some degree of its own sentience, it was still an inanimate object that had to be wielded by another being in order to use its power. There were no Elemental Masters of life, until now.

“Do you at least know where the Great Creators’ control sphere is?” Terras asked. “We’ve been going in circles trying to find it, and-”

“Of course I do!” said Animas.

“Can you take us?”

“I will indeed,” said Animas. “Anything to help my fellow Elemental Masters.”

Pyras looked Animas square in the eye. “Are you sure you know this realm like the back of your hand?” he asked.

“Most of it, yes,” said Animas. “There are some places I haven’t gone, like the Insextix swamp, or the Matarr village. But I can definitely take you to the Great Creators’ control sphere.”

Pyras sighed. “Fine,” he said. “But we’re short on time here. You’d better not delay us.”

“I will not,” said Animas. “Just follow me.” He picked up his flying board, hefted it in his hand like a shield, and set off into the mist. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas followed, unsure if they could really trust this new Elemental Master.

End of Chapter 5…

Chapter 6

Hunter, Cornelius, Turan, and the assembled resistance members waited for a little while, but the Alien Defence Corps didn’t show up. They knew they couldn’t wait, though. They knew that many of Tenebris’ former cult members had assembled in Voyo by now, and Shadow would be sending them out to conquer the surrounding area. Since their City was the nearest major settlement, that would likely be their first target.

To prepare for any possible invasion, they decided to put people on lookout. Merek, Barda, and Fendrel rode their horses out to the city outskirts to act as patrols, while Sam called Officer Janson and had him send some patrol cars out to moniter the inner city streets.

As everyone set up their defenses, Hunter felt more confident than he might have expected. He watched as Glug helped Kylie and her agents set up a barricade on Main Street. The caveman, for all his dim wit, was working very well with the spies. Kylie would hand Glug a piece of equipment and tell him what to do with it, and Glug would follow the instructions. It warmed Hunter’s heart to see all these people, from such different cultures and backgrounds, banding together in a time of crisis and working together against the odds. Sure, he had seen Isaac and Ellie mix together princesses, firemen, dinosaurs, aliens, and Mechanicle guys in their various play schemes, but here in this world, all those guys were real people, with real lives that they wanted to protect. And what better way to protect their society than by joining forces?

“It seems to me you have some good friends here,” Cornelius said, walking up beside his son.”

“Yes, I do,” said Hunter. “They’re all willing to fight for me. I’m lucky that I found these friends.”

“Do you know what kind of forces Shadow will send?” Cornelius asked.

“Not really,” said Hunter. “I don’t know too much about what kind of beings that were a part of Tenebris’ cult before. I mean, there was Lord Vulcon, and Prohahka. And I think Dr. Evileye was a supporter of him. But we’ve defeated all those guys, so…”

“I’m not just talking about one bad guy,” said Cornelius. “I’m asking what his armies would be made of.”

“Like I just said, I don’t know,” said Hunter. “I mean, they’ll probably be Mechanicle people, but…”

“Well, I thought you’d know,” said Cornelius. “You’re the one who’s been all over this dimension, and met everyone that used to be one of Isaac’s or Ellie’s toys.”

“There’s more Mechanicle backstory that I haven’t found out about from my adventures,” said Hunter. “Really, it’s Isaac who knows a lot about it. He’s the one who goes onto the computer and reads about all the characters’ backstories.”

“And you don’t?”

“I haven’t really had time to,” said Hunter. “Besides, I feel like I know what I need to know. Elemental Masters, good. Tenebris, bad. That’s the gist of it.”

Cornelius nodded in understanding. “I see what you’re saying,” he said. “Just out of curiosity, how are you going to fight whatever comes and attacks?”

“Well, whenever I get in a fight, I mostly just improvise,” said Hunter. “Just dodge the bad guys’ swords, use whatever I can find to fight back.”

Cornelius chewed his lip. “I don’t like the sound of that,” he mused.

“Why do you-” Hunter broke off when he saw Tyler running up to them. “Is someone attacking?”

“Yes!” Tyler shouted. “It’s-it’s about a dozen Pirikdi. The knights are already fighting them, but-”

“We’re on it,” Hunter said. He took off down the street towards the City outskirts, with Cornelius, Tyler, Glug, Kylie, and one of the spies following behind him.

The six of them raced to the edge of the City, which was mostly made of suburban houses and empty streets. The knights Merek, Fendrel, and Barda were fighting on horseback against twelve spiky dark blue-armored warriors with permanent scowls.

“What are those?” Hunter asked.

“Pirikdi,” said Tyler as he loaded his gun. “The nastiest beings to have ever come from Mechanicle!”

Merek swung his sword and decapitated one of the Pirikdi. Almost at once, another one came out of nowhere and shoved him off his horse. Merek frantically got to his feet and dueled the Pirikdi. The young knight was backed right into Fendrel’s horse’s path, startling the horse and causing it to rear up on its hind legs. Fendrel slid off the horse’s back and landed in a heap on the ground. Meanwhile, another Pirikdi who was fighting Barda stabbed his sword into the horse’s belly. Barda was forced to dismount his steed as the horse swayed on the spot and fell dead.

The three dismounted knights were forced into a back-to-back circle, surrounded by the remaining Pirikdi. “Ha ha, pathetic knights!” said a black-armored Pirikdi, who was the leader of them all. “You thought you could-”

He was cut short by a gunshot. All eleven Pirikdi turned to see that Tyler had fired his gun at them. He had missed, but he’d still got their attention. “Kill them!” the Pirikdi leader shouted. All of the Pirikdi raced forward to attack the newcomers.

Tyler, Kylie, and the extra spy fired gunshots that downed three Pirikdi, but there were still more. Glug let loose a guttural roar and began dueling one of the Pirikdi with his spear. The two warriors slashed and stabbed at one another until Glug found and opening and stabbed the Pirikdi in the chest.

Hunter stepped forward to help, but Cornelius grabbed him by the shoulder. “Son, you don’t have anything to fight with,” he said.

“Well, I can find something!” Hunter yelled as he tried to break free of his dad’s grip.

Cornelius’ eyes widened as he saw a Pirikdi running toward them with sword raised. “Look out!” he cried as he shoved his son out of the way. The two of them barely dodged as the Pirikdi’s sword connected with empty air. The Pirikdi angrily swung his sword again and missed Hunter and Cornelius by inches.

“Just let me fight him,” Hunter growled as he wrenched himself free of Cornelius’ grip. He grabbed the Pirikdi’s sword wrist and pushed against him. The Pirikdi roared and punched Hunter in the face with his free hand. Hunter, fazed from the pain, loosened his grip on the Pirikdi’s wrist. The Pirikdi brought his sword forward and slammed Hunter in the face with the flat of his blade. Hunter stumbled backward and tripped over the curb.

Hunter shook off the pain and looked up at the Pirikdi, who was raising his sword to kill Hunter. Hunter was just about to roll out of the way, but he suddenly felt someone grab him by the shoulders and pull him backward. Hunter looked up to see that Cornelius was the one dragging him away.

“Dad!” Hunter exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

“Saving your life,” said Cornelius.

“I had it under control,” Hunter grumbled as the Pirikdi in front of his was shot from behind. As the Pirikdi fell down dead, Hunter saw that it was Tyler who shot him.

“Get up,” said Tyler. “We have to keep fighting!” He gestured to the rest of the battlefield, where everyone else was locked in combat. The extra spy had been killed by the black Pirikdi, who was currently dueling Merek. Kylie was stationed behind a set of shrubs, sniping at the oncoming Pirikdi. Glug, Fendrel, and Barda were all dueling Pirikdi soldiers of their own, but it seemed like everything was balanced in the Pirikdi’s favor.

“We need to-” Cornelius started.

“No!” Hunter snapped. “We’re not running away from this!”

“I’m not suggesting we run away,” said Cornelius. “I’m suggesting we find some real weapons to fight with.”

“I don’t know if there are any,” said Hunter.

Merek continued his duel with the black Pirikdi. The black Pirikdi clashed with Merek’s sword so hard, the sword was knocked out of Merek’s hand. The knight frantically backed away as the black Pirikdi advanced on him. It looked like any moment he was going to swing his sword and cut off Merek’s head. He would’ve, too-but he faltered when he heard the rumbling noise. It was soft and low, as if something big was coming. Everyone else on the battlefield froze in their tracks as they heard the noise. They all exchanged glances, wondering what it could be.

The answer came when a large, electric blue vehicle came barreling around the corner of the street. It was built like that trailer vehicle from The Lost Word: Jurassic Park, with two separate components held together by an attachment in the middle. The frontmost section was obviously the driving module, with a broad cockpit and four thick driving wheels. There were laser cannons mounted on the sides and a cluster of missile launchers on top. The back section was a four-wheeled mobile lab. It had a door at the back for crew members to access it, and a couple of extra cannons fixed on the sides. On the top, there was a miniature landing pad that housed a small one-person fighter jet that looked like something out of Star Wars.

Kylie grinned at the sight. “The Alien Defence Corps! We’re saved!”

The massive rolling vehicle came to a stop in the middle of the street. The missile turret on top swiveled, and Hunter saw that there was someone operating it from a seat and control panel mounted on the back. The operator took careful aim and fired a volley of missiles at two of the Pirikdi. The missiles exploded on contact, leaving very little of the Pirikdi.

“What in Shadow’s name?” the black Pirikdi asked. He watched as a side hatch in the vehicle opened up and four blue-armoured spacemen ran out. They immediately started shooting at the remaining Pirikdi, taking them down one by one.

“No!” the black Pirikdi cried. He turned and tried to run away, but one of the spacemen started shooting at him.

Another spaceman saw him running and held his hand in front of the spaceman that was shooting. “Don’t shoot him,” he commanded. “We’ll take this one captive.” The other two spacemen ran after the black Pirikdi. One of them pulled out a pair of handcuffs and pressed a button on them. The handcuffs hovered out of the spaceman’s hand and flew after the black Pirikdi. The handcuffs darted through the air as if they were attracted by a magnet. The cuffs clamped themselves after the black Pirikdi’s wrists and immobilized him. He tripped and fell on his face as the two spacemen caught up to him.

Kylie stepped up to the black Pirikdi. “Well, well, if it isn’t Skirmisk,” she said.

“I knew it was Skirmisk,” said the spaceman that had commanded Skirmisk to be captured. He took off his helmet to reveal the face of a middle-aged man with a dark brown crew cut, permanent creases in his cheeks and forehead, and thick eyebrows that were permanently arched.

“Commander Max,” said Kylie. “I’m so glad you’ve come.”

“It’s my pleasure,” said the spaceman. He looked at Hunter and Cornelius. “So this is the Outsider and his father?”

“Yes,” said Hunter. “And you’re the Alien Defence Corps?”

“We are,” said the spaceman. “My name’s Commander Max. Meet my Alien Defence Corps.”

The rest of the spacemen took off their helmets to reveal their faces. The guy who had been manning the vehicle’s missile turret dismounted his post, hopped to the ground, and took off his own helmet as the vehicle’s driver exited the vehicle. “This is our soldier, Eddie,” Max said, pointing at a spaceman who had smooth blonde hair, thick sideburns, and a pointed chin.

“‘Sup,” said Eddie.

“This is Evie, our pilot,” said Max. He pointed at a female spaceman-well, really, a spacewoman-with a short brown ponytail and thin eyebrows that were permanently knit together.

“That’s my jet, on top of our mobile command center,” said Evie.

“I’m Mikey. I’m the rookie,” said the third spaceman-the one who’d tried to shoot Skirmisk as he ran away. He was clearly the youngest of the bunch-late twenties, maybe. He had black hair that was swept to the side, smooth cheeks that lacked stubble, and a confident smirk on his face.

“His proper name is Michael,” said Max. “But he prefers Mikey. And our gunner is also our computer specialist Dennis.”

The gunner saluted Hunter. “That’s me,” he said. “If you need to hack into a computer or reprogram your robot, I’m your man.”

“And that’s our scientist, Freddie,” Max finished, pointing at the mobile command center’s driver. Freddie was the only one who was not clad in an electric blue space suit. Instead, he wore a white lab coat and white horn-rimmed glasses. He had shoulder-length brown hair, a ferret-like face, and a thin body frame underneath his lab coat.

“So it’s a Pirikdi we’ve captured, huh?” said Freddie. “I’ve always wanted to do some tests on him.”

“Sorry Freddie,” said Max. “But I think this guy might have…some things to tell us.”

“What do you mean?” Skirmisk asked. “I’m not hiding any information you’d be interested in!”

“Yeah, well, we’re going to ask you a few questions,” said Max. “Troops, take him into our lab.”

Eddie and Dennis took Skirmisk and dragged him toward the mobile command vehicle. “What kind of questions are you going to ask him?” Hunter asked.

“Well, you want us to help you thwart Shadow’s plans for a hostile takeover, correct?” Max asked.

“Correct,” Hunter confirmed.

“Skirmisk might be able to tell us about Shadow’s plans,” said Max. “If we know where he plans to strike next, then we’ll know where to set up our defenses.”

“Good plan,” said Cornelius.

Hunter, Cornelius, Merek, and Tyler joined Max as he, Freddie, Dennis, and Mikey went inside the mobile command base’s lab. Inside, they locked Skirmisk inside a transparent blue prison pod and plugged it into a computer.

“Okay, Skirmisk, start talking,” said Freddie as he started flipping some switches on his computer. “What do you know about Shadow’s plans?”

“Nothing,” said Skirmisk. He pounded on the edge of the prison pod, but he didn’t even make a dent. “Just let me out, please!”

“You lie,” Hunter said, looking Skirmisk straight in the eye. “Where’s Shadow gonna strike next, and who does he plan to send?”

“I don’t know,” said Skirmisk. “No matter what you ask me, I cannot answer it.”

Hunter sighed. “I never thought I’d be saying this, but I wish Prohahka were here,” he said. “She could poke around in his mind and see everything he knows.”

Merek shuddered. “I’d rather have to deal with Prohahka again than Shadow!” he said.

“I’m being serious!” Skirmisk shouted. “All I know is that Shadow sent me and some of my Pirikdi underlings on a reconnaissance mission to the City. We certainly weren’t counting on you to come and slaughter us.”

“We’re keeping you alive, remember?” said Max. “And you were going to slaughter the civilians of the City.”

Skirmisk sighed. “Well, that’s all I know about Shadow’s plans to expand his empire,” he said.

“What about the city of Voyo?” Hunter asked. “What’s he done to it?”

“All of us Pirikdi are taking over the villagers’ homes,” said Skirmisk. “When I left, there were actually more coming.”

“More Pirikdi?”

“No, more of Tenebris’ followers,” said Skirmisk. “Like those Elemental Masters, Clockas, Sonas, and Toxas.”

Hunter felt scissors snipping his heartstrings. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.

“He’s not kidding,” said Freddie. “I’ve got a lie detector machine scanning his speech.”

“There are more Elemental Masters?” Cornelius asked.

“Yes, there are,” said Hunter. “These ones went rogue and joined Tenebris. Trust me, they’re bad news.”

“I thought we left them on Mahra?” said Tyler.

“They found Tenebris’ boat and used it to come back to the mainland,” said Skirmisk. “And then they barged in on Shadow promoting me to be the lieutenant of his armies, and Clockas begged for attention and Shadow made me share my lieutenant role with her.”

“Well, that’s three more enemies we have to worry about,” said Hunter. “Who else is assembling?”

“Well, it’s mostly just Pirikdi,” said Skirmisk. “But apparently someone figured out how to manufacture more Vihkal robots, because they started coming in as I was leaving. There’s a handful of Kakkarak coming, too.”

“Oh, not the Kakkarak,” Hunter groaned. He had had to deal with the Kakkarak on his first excursion into this dimension, and he had not enjoyed the experience. The spider-like monsters had been serving under Prohahka and Brintoco, ruthlessly aiding in the search for the keystones. Hunter had thought the last of them had fled to the lands where they’d came from, but apparently they liked the idea of serving under Shadow. As for the Vihkal…he’d never heard of them.

“What else has Shadow done to Voyo?” Merek asked.

“Nothing,” said Skirmisk.

A red light went off on Freddie’s computer. “Are you sure about that?” Dennis asked.

Skirmisk pursed his lips. “Yes,” he said, though the look in his eyes made it clear he was lying.

Max placed his hand on the edge of the prison pod. “You’re lying. We can tell.”

“You don’t understand!” Skirmisk forced out. “Shadow threatened death if I or Clockas revealed the information-”

“Then it’s a good thing we’re not Shadow, and we’re not threatening death,” said Max.

Skirmisk sighed. “It’s…about the keystones,” he said.

“What, did Shadow have them taken all over the world?” Hunter asked. “Are we gonna have to go on a wild goose chase to find them again?”

“No, actually not,” said Skirmisk. “Clockas and I were in charge of protecting them, and we locked them in Voyo’s treasure vault.”

“Voyo has a treasure vault?” Cornelius asked.

“Yes, for sacred items like prayer stones and tablets given to Turan from the Great Creators,” said Skirmisk. “Clockas and I left the keystones in there under armed guard. Shadow didn’t want anyone to steal them.”

“Why would he keep them hidden like that?” Cornelius asked.

“The Elemental Masters,” said Hunter. “He already banished them to the realm of the Great Creators. He probably deactivated the portal and hid away the keystones so nobody could try to bring him back.”

“But I thought the whole point was that the Elemental Masters couldn’t defeat Shadow,” said Cornelius.

“They’re going to talk to the Great Creators, right?” said Merek. “Maybe Shadow figured they’d do that, and he doesn’t want them to come back with whatever weapon the Great Creators give them to kill Shadow.”

Hunter sucked in one cheek. “I think I know what our next mission is,” he said. “To steal those keystones.”

End of Chapter 6…

Chapter 7

“That’s gonna be really dangerous,” Turan said when he heard what Hunter’s plan was.

“That’s what I said, too,” said Cornelius. They were all back at Sam’s fire station. Hunter, Merek, Fendrel, Barda, Tyler, Max, Kylie, Glug, and Cornelius had all told Turan and Sam what Skirmisk had said, and that they planned to steal the keystones from the Voyo treasure vault.

“Look, I know there’s a whole city full of bad that we have to get through,” said Hunter. “But if the portal isn’t powered up, then the Elemental Masters can’t come back. Besides, my dad and I will need the portal powered up if we’re ever gonna get home again.”

“So we’re just gonna get the keystones and power up the portal?” Fendrel asked.

“No, we can’t do that,” said Barda. “If we do, then Shadow will just take them out again and put them somewhere else.”

“Exactly,” said Hunter. “We’re just gonna take them and keep them for ourselves for now.”

“So…how are we gonna get into Voyo?” Tyler asked.

Hunter looked at Turan. “Are there any secret ways in?” he asked.

“There is one,” said Turan. “A hidden tunnel in the city defending walls, that leads to the city’s forge where we make weapons and tools.”

“Is the treasure vault anywhere near there?”

“I’m afraid not,” Turan answered. “It’s several blocks away.”

Hunter pulled his lips into a tight pout. “Then I guess we’ll have to improvise,” he said. “Anyone have any big flying vehicles that could come pick us up so we can escape?”

“There’s Evie’s jet, but it can only hold one person,” said Max.

“My squad could use our helicopter,” said Kylie. “Provided Shadow doesn’t see us and knock us out of the sky.”

“We’ll just have to radio you when the time comes,” said Hunter. “And I feel like there should only be a handful of people sneaking into the city.”

“I should go,” said Sam. “I’ll bring tools to break through any locks they have in that treasure vault.”

“I can go,” said Max. “And I could radio one of my corps members to have Kylie come get us.”

“Sounds good,” said Hunter.

“I’ll go with you,” said Cornelius.

Hunter knit his eyebrows together. “I don’t think so,” he said.

“Why not?”

“It’s just…” Hunter wasn’t sure how to word what he was thinking. He hadn’t forgotten that, during the Pirikdi battle, Cornelius had interfered and totally threw Hunter off his game. If it wasn’t for Tyler, Hunter would be dead right now. Hunter didn’t want his father following him through Voyo and being all worried about Hunter’s “safety.”

Cornelius sensed what his son was thinking and sighed. “Hunter, I’m sorry for what I did during that last battle,” he said. “But I was trying to help protect your life. You were fighting an armed Pirikdi with just your bare hands. I was worried that you’d-”

“Dad, I can handle myself,” said Hunter. “Really. I was in the exact same situation, right before I killed Prohahka.”

Cornelius sighed again. “Son, I understand that you’re good at using your hands to fight,” he said. “But right now, I just want to offer you advice to go into battle with a weapon of your own. If you do that, then you’ll take down the Pirikdi or Kakkarak or Vihkal much quicker.”

It was Hunter’s turn to sigh. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll borrow a laser gun from the ADC,” he said.

“Good,” Cornelius said, casting a warm smile. It was the same smile he cast when one of his kids showed him an art project they’d made, or a school paper they’d gotten an A on, or a chore they had finished. Usually, Hunter liked seeing that smile. But now, for some reason, it had less effect than usual.

Max cleared his throat. “So, if I understand correctly, we’ve got myself, Hunter, Cornelius, and Sam going into Voyo,” he said.

“Yes,” said Hunter.

“Okay,” said Max. “I’ll have Eddie and Evie with Kylie, ready to respond to my radio call when we need to be picked up. Kylie can fly her helicopter, and Evie can use her jet to act as Kylie’s wingman. How’s that for a plan?”

“A pretty good one,” said Hunter.

“Then let’s all get ready,” said Hunter.

Everyone turned and left to get ready for the secret mission. But as Hunter was leaving, Turan stopped him. “Hunter, can I have a little talk with you before you go?”

“I guess,” said Hunter.

Turan looked Hunter straight in the eye. “Hunter, I can tell that you and your father have some…issues.”

“I mean, we kind of do,” said Hunter. “I’ve told him why I have to fight these battles, and he says he understands, but he’s still all worried about safety.”

“As any good parent should be,” said Turan. “I have seen Cornelius looking at you. He is looking at you the way a father looks at his kid. Cornelius sees the baby he raised from infancy to the strong young man you are now. And to him, you will always be his baby that he has to protect. I’m not saying you have to like it, but that’s the way it is.”

“But I’m not a baby anymore,” said Hunter. “I don’t need my parents hovering over me everywhere I go and constantly telling me what I can and can’t do.”

“Perhaps not,” said Turan. “But your father’s words still have worth to them. He is older and wiser than you are, and he wants to offer his advice. He knows that everyone benefits from advice from their elders, and he is trying to fill out that elder position. Growing older means moving out of your parents’ home and gaining independence, but that does not mean you should push your parents away entirely.”

“I mean, I don’t want to do that,” said Hunter. “I love my dad, and my mom, and my brother and sister. It’s just that…”

“The point is, you should be a little more appreciative of your father and what he does for you,” said Turan. “All he wants is to help you succeed in your goals. You said he understood why you fight for your friends in this dimension, so I’m sure he wants you to win the war against Shadow. You just need to be patient with him, and take his advice to heart, and accept his help.”

Hunter slowly nodded understanding. “I-I’ll try to be patient with him,” he said. “Hopefully we can undertake this mission with no unnecessary drama.”

“Oh, you will,” said Turan. “I know you will.”

About twenty minutes later, everyone was ready to go. Hunter, Cornelius, Max, and Sam all hopped in Sam’s fire truck so they could drive to the mouth of the secret tunnel into Voyo. Meanwhile, Eddie the ADC soldier and Mikey the ADC rookie were waiting with Kylie and her secret agent squad, ready for when Commander Max radioed them for help. Hunter had a map of Voyo that Turan gave him, with the treasure vault marked in red so Hunter knew where to find it.

Sam drove out of the City, heading for the defending walls of Voyo. He kept a distance of about two hundred feet as he drove around the city, heading for the location Turan had given him. The secret tunnel’s entrance would be at the back of the city, between two eighty-foot tall buildings. These would be easy to locate, as most buildings in Voyo were less than forty feet high.

As they drove, Hunter looked out the window and saw Shadow standing in the middle of Voyo, just like he’d been before. Hunter knew Shadow couldn’t see him, but he gulped at the sight of him. This was a primordial being, one even older than the Great Creators. He was so powerful, he might as well have been a god. If Hunter and his friends crossed Shadow’s path on this mission, they were dead meat. They could only hope that the treasure vault wasn’t anywhere near the city square, and that the helicopter’s pilot could avoid Shadow knocking it out of the sky.

After about a half hour of driving, the two eighty-foot tall buildings were in view. Sam parked his fire truck right at the edge of the city wall, and he, Hunter, Cornelius, and Max all got out. “Well, here we are,” said Sam. “Now we just gotta figure out how to open the door.”

Hunter looked at the wall. He couldn’t make out any outlines or keyholes or anything that would indicate a secret door. To him, the wall just looked like a solid wall. “Did Turan tell you how to open the tunnel?” Hunter asked.

“I thought he told you,” said Sam.

“Well, it’s gotta be around here somewhere,” Max said as he felt all over the wall. He pressed as he felt, hoping to activate a hidden button. But nothing happened.

“Maybe it has something to do with this rock here,” Cornelius said as he indicated a large, couch cushion-sized stone that lay at the base of the wall.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Hunter. He, Cornelius, Sam, and Max all lifted the heavy rock and moved it five feet away. They looked at the spot where the rock had been, but there was nothing but loose dirt.

Sam sighed. “Well, I guess we’d better start digging,” he said ruefully.

“I don’t suppose you have any shovels in that fire truck’s compartments?” Hunter asked.

“No, I don’t!” said Sam. “It’s a fire truck, not a bulldozer!”

“I was being sarcastic,” said Hunter. “Sort of.”

Cornelius shifted the loose soil with his foot. “Who said we needed a shovel?” he asked.

“Well, I mean, it’s kind of-”

Suddenly, Cornelius’ foot hit something hard. At first Hunter thought it was just the foundation of the wall, but the spot Cornelius had hit was a couple feet away from the wall. Curious, Hunter and Cornelius knelt down and used their hands to dig away at the dirt. As they dug, they revealed a round metal handle like the end of a jump rope. The handle was attached to a mechanism in the ground.

“I think we got it,” said Cornelius. He grabbed onto the handle and pulled upward. There was a soft sound of metal scraping against metal as three straight cracks appeared in the wall. The cracks were joined together, forming a door big enough for a person to step through. The section of the wall inside the joined cracks folded inside the wall, revealing a tunnel that went right into the wall.

“Way to go,” said Hunter. “Now, let’s go.” He entered the tunnel, pulling out his laser gun as he walked. Before he had left the City, Hunter and his father had obtained laser guns from the ADC computer specialist Dennis. They had both agreed that, going into a city like this, they should both have weapons of their own.

The tunnel lasted around fifty feet. When Hunter reached the end, he found himself blocked by a round, circular stone. “Okay, we’d better be careful here,” said Hunter. “Someone might be standing right there in the forge.”

“We’ll move the stone slowly,” said Sam. He pulled out one of his tools-a crowbar use to pry open crashed cars-and wedged it into one of the cracks between the stone and the edge of the tunnel. He pushed with all his might, shifting the stone ever so slightly. The stone made a scraping noise as it moved. Sam stopped abruptly, listening for anything that might be going on on the other side. But there were no angry growls or anything that would indicate someone noticing the moving rock.

Hunter reached up and inserted his hands inside the growing crack between the stone and the wall. He pulled against the stone, helping Sam in shifting the stone. Once they had moved the stone all the way out, they found themselves inside the city’s forge. It was a one-room building with a furnace, an anvil with a hammer leaning against it, and a couple of weapon racks inside.

“Well, at least no one was in here,” said Sam.

A red Pirikdi walked in, as if it knew Sam was gonna jinx it. The Pirikdi froze in his tracks when he saw the four newcomers. He opened his mouth to yell for help, but Max shot him in the face. The Pirikdi fell dead in the middle of the doorway.

“Oh no,” said Cornelius. “We’d better hide him.” Cornelius ran up and dragged the Pirikdi out of the doorway. He hid the body behind one of the weapon racks, in the hope that no one would find him for a little while.

“Well, that takes care of that,” said Hunter. “Now, how are we gonna get to the treasure vault unseen?”

“I thought I saw a couple boxes outside,” said Cornelius. “We could hide behind those.”

“But boxes don’t move,” said Sam.

“But we could move them,” said Cornelius. “No one will notice if a box moves an inch every two minutes.”

“I guess that could work,” said Hunter. “Assuming the boxes will fit us.”

“They will,” said Cornelius. “They were about the size of garbage cans-plenty big enough to hide a person.”

“Why would there be big boxes outside a forge?” Max asked.

“Probably to store weapons, or to throw away metal that can’t be forged into weapons,” said Cornelius. “So, are we all good with this?”

“Yes,” said Hunter.

Hunter cautiously poked his head out of the forge and looked left and right. The street was surprisingly empty, with only two Pirikdi and a weird, spider-like bipedal figure. The Pirikdi were walking away from the forge, so they weren’t a problem, but the other figure drew Hunter’s attention. It was as tall as an Elemental Master, with two thick pointed legs and two dexterous arms that were about two-thirds the length of a normal humanoid’s arms. The figure carried two long blades with one large point at the front and a smaller, hooked one at the back. Its body was shaped like an hourglass, but it certainly wasn’t feminine. The torso was mostly thin in the ribcage area, thickening in the areas where the legs, arms, and head were joined with the body. Its head was like a mashup of the heads of the deceased thugs Septra and Brict-a pronounced wolf-like face, two pincer like extensions at the front, and deep red eyes.

Hunter knew this could only be a Vihkal robot. It was currently walking in a straight line down the street, its eyes trained on the road in front of it. Hunter quickly fell back inside the forge, praying that the Vihkal hadn’t seen him. He put his finger up to his lips to let Cornelius, Max, and Sam know not to say anything. He silently counted to sixty before looking out again. When he looked, the Vihkal was gone.

“Okay, we’re good now,” said Hunter. He furtively darted outside and grabbed one of the boxes. The box was made of a light metal with such little density, it almost felt like plastic. True to what Cornelius had said, it was the size of those garbage bins that people leave outside for garbage trucks to pick up. Hunter shoved the box inside and did the same with the other box there was outside.

“Are you sure we can fit in those?” Sam asked.

“It looks like we’ll have to double up,” siad Cornelius.

“Well, let’s do it,” said Hunter. He flipped one of the boxes over and grabbed a sharp tool from a nearby weapon rack. He cut through the bottom and cut a hole for him and his dad to stick their feet through. He did the same with the other box.

“Are we all ready?” Max asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter.

“Then let’s go.”

End of Chapter 7…

Chapter 8

The boxes were about ten feet square, providing enough room to hold two people crouching down. Hunter and Cornelius crouched side by side in their box, keeping the box low to hide their feet sticking out of the bottom. They shifted the box ever so slightly, inching it in the direction of the treasure vault.

Initially, the idea of hiding in the boxes and moving slowly had seemed like a good idea. But, as Hunter waited for a minute between each ■■■■■, he found himself growing impatient. At the rate they were going, it was gonna be an hour before they even reached the treasure vault. As much as he didn’t want to catch the eyes of any Pirikdi or Vihkal, he wished they could use a quicker means of reaching the treasure vault.

But every time Hunter thought about just ditching this idea and making a run for the treasure room, a group of Pirikdi, a pair of Vihkal, or a Kakkarak would walk by. Most of them just passed by the boxes with no suspicion whatsoever, as Hunter had hoped, but every time one of their gazes fell upon the boxes, Hunter held his breath. Every time this happened, Hunter was reminded of why they had to move in the manner that they were doing.

It was over an hour before they reached the treasure vault. It was a small, one-story building with a domed roof and thick black columns set up against the walls. The two front doors were guarded by a pair of Vihkal soldiers, both of whom were scanning the street before them left and right.

“This is it,” said Hunter. “And luckily, there’s only two Vihkal guards for us to fight.” He inched a little closer to the treasure vault.

Cornelius pulled out his laser gun. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” Hunter answered, pulling out his own gun. “We’ll go on three. Three!” Hunter shouted as he knocked the box over and slid out. He got to his feet at once, shooting his gun at the Vihkal. But, unfortunately, Hunter’s aim was about as good as a Stormtrooper’s. None of his shots hit the Vihkal, serving only as a means of getting their attention.

And when the Vihkal saw the crazy human kid shooting at them, they were ready. They brandished their staffs and ran to kill this upstart kid. Hunter fired his gun several more times, managing to knock one of the Vihkal’s staffs out of their hands. But the robot didn’t even bother to pick up his dropped staff. It just charged forward like nothing had happened.

As the Vihkal bored down on Hunter, he started shooting like crazy. He knew he didn’t have very good aim, but at this close of a range, the Vihkal would be much easier to hit. Indeed, Hunter did manage to shoot one of the Vihkal in the chest. The shot killed the Vihkal, causing it to deactivate and fall to the ground. But the second Vihkal was still intact. It pounced on Hunter, making him drop his gun, and pinioned him to the ground. Hunter tried to fight against the Vihkal, but it had an iron grip-literally. It drew its pointed staff back, ready to impale Hunter with it, but it never got the chance to.

Cornelius came out of nowhere and tackled the Vihkal. Cornelius and the Vihkal rolled off of Hunter and wrestled each other on the ground beside him. Cornelius came on top and tried to hold the Vihkal down, but the robot was stronger. It stuck its staff under Cornelius’ armpit and used it as a lever to throw Cornelius off of him. The Vihkal got to its feet and went to finish him off, but it was shot in the head. The robot fell as Cornelius looked to see Max standing with his gun pointed at where the Vihkal had stood. Max and Sam had heard the commotion and gotten out of their box, ready to join in the fight.

“Thanks, Max,” Cornelius said as he stood up.

“Now let’s get in that treasure vault,” said Sam.

The four of them ran up to the treasure vault’s front doors. The doors were locked, but Sam was prepared. He pulled out a lock buster and took out the lock just like that. Once the doors were unlocked, Max kicked open the doors and stepped into the treasure vault with his gun pointed in front of him. He surveyed the interior of the treasure vault, expecting to find more guards inside, but he was wrong. The treasure vault was mostly empty, its space taken up mostly by ancient relics displayed on stands or in display cases.

“Okay, I guess this’ll be easier than I expected,” said Max. “Unless there are more Vihkal hiding somewhere.”

But before they could enter, there was a voice from behind. “Don’t you dare move!” the voice shouted. Hunter, Cornelius, Max, and Sam turned to see Toxas running in their direction.

“Is that one of those rogue Elemental Masters?” Cornelius asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “It’s Toxas, master of poison.”

“Oh, if it isn’t the Outsider,” Toxas said as she eyed Hunter.

“Yes, it’s me,” said Hunter. “What are you doing here?”

“Clockas sent me to check on the keystones,” Toxas said as she swung her flail. “Good thing she did, too. Imagine how Shadow will reward me when he finds that I caught and killed the Outsider.”

Max charged up his laser gun. “You guys go in. I’ll hold her off.”

“Good luck,” Hunter said as he, Cornelius, and Sam darted into the treasure vault.

“You come back here!” Toxas shouted as she ran toward the treasure vault’s entrance.

Max stood in her way and pointed his gun at her. “Back off,” he warned.

“I think not,” Toxas sneered as she started swinging her flail. Max fired six shots at her, but Toxas swung her flail in a circle in front of her like a windmill. Her flail’s chain went so fast, it deflected every shot. Toxas stepped forward and bashed her flail’s mace ball into Max’ side. Max flew off his feet and slammed into a wall. He looked up just in time to see Toxas bringing her mace ball towards him again. Max ducked just in time as the mace ball smashed into the spot where his face had been a split second before. The spiky ball hit the wall so hard, it wedged in there.

While Toxas was distracted with trying to pull her flail out, Max took his chance to pull out his radio walkie-talkie. “Eddie, this is Commander Max. Do you read me?” Max said into the walkie-talkie.

“I read you loud and clear, Commander,” Eddie said through the walkie-talkie’s speaker.

“Listen, we’re at the treasure vault right now,” Max said. He glanced up and saw that Toxas was listening in on his conversation. “Get in Kylie’s helicopter and-”

Max was cut short when Toxas thrust out her hand and shot a jet of deep green liquid at Max’ hand. The walkie-talkie was knocked out of his hand and fell to the ground, dissolving and falling apart from the corrosive liquid Toxas had shot. “Your pathetic friends won’t be in time to save you,” Toxas jibed as she yanked her flail out. She swung the flail at Max again, but he dodged this time. Max dodged two more flail swings before Toxas tried a different strategy. She thrust out her hand again and launched a torrent of bright green poison at Max. The thick, poisonous slop formed a huge, glue-like glob around Max.

It wasn’t even two seconds before Max could feel the poison eating away at his armor. Panicking, he paddled like crazy to get out of the glob of poison. It reminded him of the time he’d fought an alien invader who’d trapped him in a cocoon of silk that he’d had to fight his way out of. Forcing his way out of the cocoon had been like trying to swim in molasses-and the same went for this big glob of poison. But this time, Max’ movements were fueled by adrenaline as he swam for his life. After much struggling, Max forced his way out of the glob of poison and fell to the ground. The outer layers of his armor had been eaten away, but otherwise he was fine. He stood up and shot his gun at Toxas again. Toxas felt the laser bolt hit her back as she started into the treasure vault.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Toxas growled as she whirled around. “What does it take to kill you?”

“More than what you’ve got,” Max replied as he shot at Toxas again. Toxas ducked to avoid the shot and drew her flail back. She thrust it forward with all her might, hoping to smash this insignificant human once and for all. But this time, Max was ready. He dropped his gun and grabbed the flail’s mace ball in both hands as it flew toward him. The force shook Max a little, but he kept his footing. He thrust the spiked ball right into Toxas’ chest, hitting her with the force of an angry football jock. Toxas fell backward, her eyes rattling in her head. Max picked up his gun again and shot Toxas in the face. Once he did so, both of Toxas’ hands fell limply to the ground as the light left her eyes. She was dead.

Max didn’t even have time to celebrate his victory. For as soon as he stepped away from Toxas’ corpse, he heard a loud, booming voice. He turned to see Shadow standing at his immense height, looming over the surrounding buildings, and looking down on him from his spot in the city square. “What’s going on over here?” Shadow asked as he took a step toward the treasure vault.

Hunter, Cornelius, and Sam went through the treasure vault, looking for the keystones. They searched virtually every inch of the building, looking behind every case and table they could find. But there was no luck in the first room.

As they opened the second door, Hunter’s heart leapt. There were the six keystones, all placed on display in a glass case at the back of the room. It should’ve been easy to just run up, smash the glass case, and take the keystones. Except, there was a Kakkarak standing between them and the keystones.

“Oh my gosh,” Hunter said as the Kakkarak clicked its mandibles angrily.

Cornelius shot at the Kakkarak, but the spider-like monster dodged the shots. It launched itself at Cornelius, missing him by inches. Sam pulled out a fire axe and slammed the blade into the Kakkarak’s forehead. As the Kakkarak was squealing in pain, Cornelius shot it again. This time, his shot connected with the Kakkarak’s face. The huge biomechanical spider fell dead upon the floor.

Hunter wasted no time in getting the keystones. He ran up to their glass case and knocked it off its stand. The glass case shattered into a million pieces on contact with the floor, but the keystones remained intact. “Alright, we got them,” Hunter said as he scooped up all the keystones. “Now let’s move out!”

The trio ran past the dead Kakkarak and out of the treasure vault. But as they stepped back out onto the street, they found Max standing there, paralyzed with fear as Shadow looked down on him. “Oh no,” Hunter squeaked as he saw Shadow’s bright red eyes looking down at him.

“So you’re the Outsider,” Shadow boomed. “I’ve heard lots of stories about you from my subjects. It sounds to me like you were a real nuisance to Tenebris and Prohahka.”

“Only because they were a nuisance to everyone else!” Sam shouted.

“But you won’t be a nuisance to me,” Shadow said as he stooped down toward them. “You can fight all you want, but you won’t defeat me. I am more than just a Pirikdi, or a Kakkarak, or even an Elemental Master. I am SHADOW!” On the last word, he raised his arms like a victorious sports player and gathered a mass of shadow over him. The shadow formed a dark storm cloud that rumbled with thunder and flashed with lightning. Shadow balled his right hand into a huge fist big enough to hold a large tugboat and sent it hurtling toward the treasure vault. Hunter didn’t think he’d be able to reach them from the city square, but he was wrong. Shadow’s right arm was partially disintegrating, allowing his fist to shoot off like a missile.

“Move!” Hunter shouted. He, Cornelius, Max, and Sam ran in a straight line away from the treasure vault and towards the city square. They were barely able to make it before Shadow’s fist landed like a meteor and left an enormous crater where the treasure vault had been.

“Where are you, Kylie?” Max asked frantically.

“Look!” Sam answered, pointing to the west. A large navy blue helicopter was flying over the buildings and towards the place where the treasure vault had been.

“Hey!” Hunter shouted, waving his arms in the air. “Over here!”

If whoever was piloting the helicopter heard or saw Hunter, they showed no sign of it. But, unfortunately, Shadow did. He followed Hunter’s gaze and saw the helicopter coming into the city. “Oh, so you think your friends can rescue you,” he thundered. “Well, I think not!” He swiped his left hand at the helicopter. The helicopter veered downward and avoided Shadow’s hand by inches.

Shadow raised his arm to strike again, but then he felt something hit his face like a flurry of paintballs. He looked to see a small, electric blue jet weaving through the clouds and shooting at his face. The shots weren’t powerful enough to do any real harm to Shadow, but they certainly weren’t comfortable. Shadow grunted in annoyance and swatted at the fighter jet, only to miss once again.

“Go, Evie!” Max said as he watched the blue fighter jet weave its way past Shadow. As Evie kept Shadow distracted, the large blue helicopter landed directly in front of Hunter, Cornelius, Sam, and Max. The side doors opened, revealing Kylie, Mikey, and Eddie.

“Did you get the keystones?” Kylie asked.

“Yes,” Hunter said as he climbed inside the helicopter. Cornelius, Sam, and Max all hopped in as the doors closed.

“Okay Agent Jackson, take us home!” Kylie ordered. The pilot fired up the engines again and took off.

Max reached for his walkie-talkie, but then he remembered that Toxas had destroyed it. “Mikey, can you call Evie and tell her we’re safe aboard the helicopter?”

“Can do, sir,” said Mikey. He pulled out his walkie-talkie and spoke into it. “Evie, this is Mikey coming in. Do you read me?”

“I read you loud and clear!” Evie shouted as she furiously operated the controls of her fighter jet.

“We got the keystones. Just-just keep Shadow occupied so we can get out.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing?” Evie asked as she took a deep nosedive to avoid Shadow’s right hand. She flew straight for the ground, then pulled up and flew between Shadow’s legs. As Shadow turned around to find out where she’d gone, Evie forced her jet into a vertical climb. When she was at the same level as the shadow clouds, she turned around and flew towards Shadow’s face again. She pulled a couple triggers and launched a full volley of eight torpedoes. The torpedoes all exploded in Shadow’s face.

Well, now Shadow was angrier than ever. He swatted his hand at Evie’s jet and, this time, hit it with full force. Evie’s jet was thrown out of the sky, flying over the city of Voyo and out toward the surrounding area. Evie fought the controls furiously, but she had no control. The jet burst into flames as it sailed toward the ground.

Oh great, Evie thought as she saw the ground hurtling up to meet her. She wished the jet had an ejector seat, so she could miss the fiery end she was about to meet. She tried pressing the button to open the cockpit, but it was no use. In her final moments, Evie prayed that her sacrifice would not be in vain. Please, let them have escaped, she thought as the jet collided with the ground and exploded. Please let the plan have worked.

End of Chapter 8…

Chapter 9

After almost a whole day of walking, Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and Animas reached the Great Creators’ control sphere. For the entire trek, the former four had been wary of where Animas might be leading them. How he even knew where he was going was a mystery, since the entire realm was coated in mist. But eventually, the mist thinned out to reveal a giant silver sphere big enough to hold a few trillion marbles.

“Here you are,” said Animas. “The Great Creators’ control sphere.”

“Wow,” said Hydras. “You actually knew where to go.”

“I did indeed,” said Animas. “I have a finely attuned sense of direction.”

“Well, then, let’s go in,” said Pyras. He went up to the round, circular door that lay at the base of the control sphere. He laid his hand on the door, and it opened up to reveal a hallway that led into the control sphere. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and Animas entered the control sphere, walking down the hall as the door closed behind them.

At the end of the tunnel, there was a tall, cylindrical room. The floor was marked with symbols that represented each of the twelve elements-fire, water, earth, air, ice, electricity, time, speed, metals, magnetism, poison, and sound. Pyras stepped into the center of the room with Hydras, Animas, Terras, and Attractas behind him. “Great Creators,” Pyras called. “We have returned.”

Heeding Pyras’ words, an ancient mechanism activated. The floor below the Elemental Masters’ feet began to rise. The room they were in was actually an elevator shaft, and the five occupants were all being lifted to the top. The elevator floor came to a stop at the top of the shaft. The five Elemental Masters found themselves in a much larger room than before, one that was in a dome shape. This room was full of lifeless biomechanical bodies-bodies that the Great Creators had yet to finish and bring to life.

The Elemental Masters continued across the room, heading to a hallway that they knew led to the Great Creators’ throne room. As they went down the hall, they could feel an ancient, powerful aura. The aura created a calm, peaceful, and barren atmosphere. It was like they were entering a sacred temple-one that lulled any visitors into a reverent state. This was the place where the Elemental Masters had been created, trained, and filled with a sense of justice and virtue. This place was older than anything else in the universe, and even the most vile beings held respect for it.

The Elemental Masters entered the Great Creators’ throne room, where the nine chief Great Creators were sitting on their seats of power. On their entry, the foremost Great Creator nodded at the Elemental Masters like he had been expecting them. “Welcome, Elemental Masters,” he said. “I trust Shadow was too much of a force for you to handle?”

“He was,” said Pyras. “He banished us here, and we got lost. If it wasn’t for Animas, we probably wouldn’t have found you.”

“Ah, Animas,” said another Great Creator. “Our creation that made itself its own creation.”

“Its own creation?” Terras asked. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, he hasn’t told you?” the second Great Creator asked.

Animas frowned. “I thought I did,” he said.

“You said something about creating a body for yourself because you were tired of having other people protect you,” said Hydras.

“Yes, I was,” said Animas. “I especially despised being in the care of Vezarki, in that undersea cave below Mahra.”

“What are you talking about?” Pyras asked. “Vezarki wasn’t guarding a person. He was guarding the Spear of…” He trailed off when he looked at the spear in Animas’ hand again. Suddenly, it hit him why the spear looked so familiar. It was the Spear of Life! But it still didn’t make sense. Pyras knew that the Spear of Life had some degree of sentience, in that it could possess memories and feel emotions. He could hardly blame it for spending who-knows-how-many years alone in the cave with Vezarki and his steed Karthos. But why was this Elemental Master talking about those years as if he had experienced them?

“Yes,” said Animas. “I am the Spear of Life that you rescued from the island of Mahra. After you returned me to the Great Creators, I could sense the fight going on between Light and Shadow. I saw Shadow kill Light and surge ahead to conquer the world. Well, that was enough for me. I had seen heroism in the Outsider, when he used me to kill Tenebris. I decided that I wanted to serve a hero’s role like he did, rather than depending on others for protection. So I told the Great Creators to bring me into their workshop. I created a body for myself, out of several Elemental Master prototypes that were in the Great Creators’ lab. I transferred my powers and my consciousness into the body, creating a new Elemental Master of life. The result is what you see before you.”

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas exchanged glances. “Wow, I never knew the Spear of Life could do something like this,” said Attractas.

“I must say, I am impressed,” said the chief Great Creator. “My brothers and I never thought of creating an Elemental Master of life, as we thought the Spear of Life was enough. And yet here we are, with an Elemental Master of life in our presence.”

Hydras cleared her throat. “That is really amazing,” she admitted. “But that’s not why we’re here.”

“We already know why you’re here,” said a third Great Creator. “You’re here to ask us how to put an end to Shadow’s empire and restore balance to the universe.”

“Yes, that’s what we’re here for,” said Hydras. “We don’t know how you failed to put them back to sleep after they were awakened, but-”

“We tried,” said the third Great Creator. “We were already brewing a draught that would put them back into their comas. But in the time it took for us to finish it, Shadow had already killed Light. And now, he is doing the very thing that will throw the universe out of balance and cause it to unravel.”

“But how can we change that?” Pyras asked.

“Well, the best thing you can do is bring Light back to life,” said the chief Great Creator. “I believe you already have the means to do that…”

All eyes turned to Animas. “You still have all the elemental powers of life, correct?” said Terras.

“I do indeed,” said Animas. “I can restore life to dead bodies, or suck the life out of living beings, or create a new living being out of the bodies of other beings, living or dead.”

“Okay, then that means we can bring Light back to life,” said Pyras. “But will that restore balance?”

“It’ll prevent it from being tipped too far,” said the chief Great Creator. “As long as both Light and Shadow are alive, the universe cannot be unraveled. But with Shadow in the overworld and covering it with shadow, there is still an imbalance.”

“Is there a way to right that imbalance?” Attractas asked.

“I am sorry, but there might not be a way,” said the chief Great Creator. “Our code of honor doesn’t allow us to put anyone in the overworld to sleep. And if we were to send Light into the overworld, he would get in a fight with Shadow again. If one or both of them were killed, then it would start this whole process over again.”

Pyras sputtered. “So we’re supposed to just…let Shadow rule the world?”

“We do not like it any more than you do,” said the chief Great Creator. “But it is the only way to prevent the universe from unraveling.”

“I can’t believe this,” said Pyras. “All those battles to prevent Tenebris from awakening Shadow to rule the world, and they were for nothing!”

“Even though he’s dead, Tenebris still has what he wanted,” Hydras grumbled. “If he were still alive, he’d be gloating up a storm.”

“Again, I am terribly sorry,” said the chief Great Creator. “But there truly is nothing we can do.”

Pyras sighed. “Hunter is not gonna be happy,” he said.

“Who’s Hunter?” Animas asked.

“He’s the Outsider,” said Pyras. “Before you came along, we made an agreement with him where he’d form a resistance against Shadow’s empire while we came here and found a way to take care of Shadow. But it seems that our plan has failed.”

“So what do we do now?” Terras asked.

“We go back to the Pool of Communication and get in touch with Hunter,” said Pyras. “Hopefully he’ll at least be able to get the keystones back, and then sneak into Voyo and reactivate the portal. That way, at least he and his father will be able to go home.”

“Animas, you know how to get to the Pool of Communication, right?” Hydras asked.

“I do,” Animas answered.

“Well, then, let’s get ourselves there,” said Pyras.

When the agents’ helicopter landed in the parking lot right near Sam’s fire station, Hunter breathed a sigh of relief. While Evie had distracted Shadow and gotten knocked out of the sky, the agents’ helicopter had been able to escape with Hunter, Cornelius, and the keystones. By the time Shadow realized this, it was too late.

As Hunter, Cornelius, Max, Sam, Kylie, Mikey, Eddie, and Agent Jackson got out of the helicopter, their friends came to greet them. “Did you obtain the keystones?” Turan asked.

“We did,” said Hunter.

“And we killed Toxas in the process,” Max added. “That’s one less rogue Elemental Master for us to worry about.”

“Where’s Evie?” Dennis asked.

“She didn’t make it,” said Kylie. “She was knocked out of the sky, and her jet crashed and exploded.”

“Oh no,” said Dennis.

“Yes, Evie is a terrible loss,” said Max. “She was an honorable woman and a great pilot. But, as we are safe with the keystones in our possession, her sacrifice was not in vain.”

“Now we just gotta wait for the Elemental Masters to contact us,” said Hunter. “So we’ll know when we can get into the city again and activate the portal.”

“I wonder if they’ve talked to the Great Creators yet,” said Turan.

“I don’t know,” said Hunter. “But at least we got the keystones.”

“We’d better hide them, just in case Shadow’s forces come looking for them,” said Cornelius.

“Good idea,” said Sam. “I have a safe inside my office you can use.”

“Sweet,” said Hunter. “I’ll go put the keystones in there.”

“The key’s hanging on a hook by the phone,” Sam said to Hunter as the latter entered Sam’s fire station’s office.

The armchair-sized safe was sitting right beside Sam’s front desk. Hunter took the key, opened the safe, and placed the keystones inside. As he was closing the safe door, he heard someone enter behind him. “You did good today, Hunter,” the voice said. Hunter looked to see his dad standing in the doorway. “You think so?”

“Of course,” said Cornelius. “We snuck into the city, stole all the keystones, and defeated one rogue Elemental Master. All under your leadership.”

Hunter smiled. “It was a team effort,” he said.

Cornelius smiled back. “I know,” he said. “But I’m especially proud of you.”

“Well, you did have to save me from that one Vihkal,” said Hunter.

“Right after you killed the other one,” said Cornelius. “Look, son, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry we had some disagreements before,” he continued. “From now on, I’m gonna-”

“No, it’s fine,” said Hunter. “All this time, you’ve just been trying to help me through all this. Just keep doing that.”

“Alright then, I will,” said Cornelius.

The two of them left the fire station and rejoined their comrades. “Okay, guys, we got the keystones locked up,” said Hunter. “Now what are we-”

Right then, a wisp of glowing mist formed in front of Hunter. The mist swirled and formed a large, mirror-like cloud that reflected Hunter’s face. The surface shimmered and showed the face of Pyras, the Elemental Master of fire. “Hunter,” said Pyras.

“Pyras!” Hunter exclaimed. “We were just talking about you!”

“That’s great,” said Pyras. “Listen, Hunter, there’s some bad news.”

Hunter’s heart sank. “What happened?” he asked. “Did the Great Creators reject you?”

“No, they let us come in,” said Hydras as she stuck her head into view of the Pool of Communication. Terras and Attractas joined in, as did a new face.

“Who’s that?” Hunter asked.

“It’s Animas,” said Attractas. “He’s an Elemental Master of life that the Spear of Life created as a body for itself.”

Animas grinned at the sight of Hunter. “Greetings, Hunter!” he said. “I was hoping I’d see you again.”

“Uh…okay…” said Hunter.

“Anyways,” said Pyras. “We asked them how we can defeat Shadow, but they said we can’t. The only way to defeat Shadow is to reawaken Light and send him into the overworld to fight Shadow. But if one or both of them is killed, then it’ll throw the universe out of balance. The only thing we can do is reawaken Light and keep him in the realm of the Great Creators.”

“But-but the universe will still be out of balance if Shadow spreads his shadow all over the world,” said Hunter.

“We know,” said Hydras. “But if we bring back Light, then it’ll at least prevent the universe from unraveling.”

“But we’ve been organizing a resistance and fighting against Shadow!” Hunter exclaimed. “We just got back from stealing the keystones so we could use them to-”

“I am sorry,” said Pyras. “I know you’ve done everything in your power to overthrow Shadow’s empire. But right now, the best thing you can do is launch an assault on Voyo so you and your father can activate the portal and return home.”

“How can we do that?” Cornelius asked. “Shadow’s got lots of Pirikdi and Vihkal gathered in Voyo, and those rogue Elemental Masters. After the ruckus we just made in that city, he’s gonna have tightened up his defenses!”

“I mean, we’ve got the King of Anthrall amassing all of his soldiers,” said Merek. “But I don’t know if it’ll be enough.”

“Glug, don’t you have Rexy?” Hunter asked.

Glug frowned. “Rexy sick,” he said. “Rexy not come.”

“What do you mean, ‘sick?’”

“Rexy ate something bad,” said Fendrel. “Glug had to leave him behind when he came with us.”

“Well, it seems we’ll have to amass even more warriors,” said Turan.

“But where will we find more warriors?” Hunter asked.

“I’ve heard of an ancient ninja clan that lives far to the east,” said Pyras. “Perhaps they could help.”

“No, they couldn’t,” said Tyler. “My father visited their monastery once. He told me that the ninjas do not associate themselves with any conflict beyond their land. In fact, they seldom visit any surrounding areas.”

“Where is this ninja clan?” Hunter asked.

“Their territory is in the mountains,” said Pyras. “East of where Lord Vulcon’s kingdom used to be.”

“Well, maybe we could check it out,” said Hunter. “Assuming Kylie’s up for another helicopter trip.”

“Yes, I am,” said Kylie.

“Perhaps I should go, too,” said Turan. “You may need my help in convincing the ninjas to assist us.”

“Sounds good, I guess,” Hunter said. He was trying not to show it, but his spirits were sinking. The ninjas sounded cool and all, but he didn’t see the point of continuing this war. The whole reason they were fighting to begin with was to give the Elemental Masters some time to find a way to defeat Shadow, but now Pyras was saying that there was no way to defeat Shadow. The ninjas would be able to help get Hunter and Cornelius into Voyo, sure, but then he’d be leaving his friends to die at the hands of Shadow’s empire. Why was he even bothering?

“Excuse me, I’m talking to you!” Max said, snapping Hunter out of his lull.


“I was asking what the rest of us should do,” said Max.

“Well, since this is a diplomatic mission, it might be best if you all stay here,” said Turan. “It should just be myself, Hunter, Kylie, and Agent Jackson going.”

“Alright, that sounds good,” said Max.

“Good luck, son,” Cornelius said to Hunter.

“Thanks, Dad,” said Hunter. “I’ll-I’ll be back soon.”

End of Chapter 9…

Chapter 10

As Cornelius watched Hunter board the agents’ helicopter, he was worried for his son. After Pyras had told Hunter what the Great Creators had said, Hunter had seemed really discouraged. Ever since they had came into this dimension, Hunter had seemed really confident about fighting against Shadow and his forces. But once he heard that he had essentially lost, he had lost all his confidence. Hunter had gone rather halfheartedly with Turan and Kylie on that helicopter. Despite Cornelius’ words of encouragement, Hunter didn’t seem convinced he could convince the ninjas to join his cause.

Cornelius sat down along with Tyler, Mikey, and Merek. “I can’t believe this,” said Tyler. “After all that, Tenebris basically won.”

“I’ll bet he’s laughing at us from Heaven,” said Mikey. “Assuming Mechanicle beings even go to Heaven.”

“Is there really no way to kill Shadow?” Cornelius asked.

“Uh, we can’t kill Shadow,” said Merek. “If he or Light were dead, it would cause the universe to eventually unravel.”

“But wasn’t there that thing called the Spear of Life?” Cornelius asked.

“I mean, yeah,” said Merek. “The Spear of Life can give or take life, or create a new being out of the bodies of living things.”

“Then maybe it could be used to bring Light or Shadow back to life if they were killed,” said Cornelius.

“Uh, yes,” said Tyler. “I imagine that’s exactly how the Elemental Masters are gonna bring Light back to life.”

“Hm,” said Cornelius. “So if Shadow were to die, then-”

“We can’t kill Shadow!” said Mikey. “He’s too powerful. He’s, like, a god! You can’t kill a god! No one’s ever tried to do it, because-”

“Actually, that’s not true,” said Tyler. “There was an ancient pharaoh who wrote an incantation that could kill a god.”

“There was?”

“Yes,” said Tyler. “My father and I spent years researching him and taking notes. His name was Hotep-Ra, and he ruled the Dead Desert in ancient times. They say he possessed great power and could turn people to dust with the touch of his staff. But he wasn’t satisfied with his power, as he wanted to be the most powerful being in the universe. He created a powerful spell that could kill a god. The spell was an incantation written on one of his magic scrolls that he called the Book of Erasing. He planned to use it on the gods of ancient myth, but before he could do so, he fell ill. He died and was buried with his scroll inside a pyramid deep in the Dead Desert.”

“So let me get this straight,” said Cornelius. “In the Dead Desert, there’s a pyramid with a scroll that can kill a god, or a god-like being?”

“I mean, the stories say the scroll could kill a god,” said Tyler. “If it did, then in theory, we could use it on Shadow.”

“Well, then, we should find it and use it against Shadow!” said Cornelius. “We should’ve done it way before now!”

“Cornelius, it’s not that simple,” said Tyler. “They say Hotep-Ra’s pyramid was cursed so that no one would disturb the pharaoh’s slumber. Folks have tried to scope it out and discover what it may be hiding, but everyone who went poking around in that pyramid was never heard from again.”

“But it’s a chance we have to take,” said Cornelius. “I was just talking with my son right before Pyras called us. He told me he recognized that I was trying to help him, and that I should continue to do so.”

“He said that?”

“Not those exact words,” Cornelius admitted. “But that was the gist of it. And I think that, if he knew that there was a way that we could kill Shadow, then he’d want us to seek it out.”

“Would he really want to kill Shadow if it’s gonna unravel the universe?” Mikey asked.

“Well, maybe the Elemental Masters and the Great Creators can find a way to bring Shadow’s dead body back into his own dimension, or whatever,” said Cornelius. “And then they can use that Spear of Life to revive him.”

“Well, I guess when you put it that way…” said Tyler.

“Mikey, you think you can talk Commander Max into letting us take the mobile command base to the Dead Desert?” Cornelius asked.

“No,” said Mikey. “Commander Max would never approve of this.”

“I can take you in my jeep,” said Tyler. “But I’d feel a little safer if someone came with us.”

“I’ll go,” said Merek.

“I mean, I guess I can go too,” said Mikey. “I’ve always had a thing for ancient tombs.”

“Right then,” said Cornelius. “Is there anything you guys need before we leave?”

“I don’t think so,” said Merek.

“Okay then,” said Tyler. “Let’s go.”

Tyler led them to his jeep. It was an old-style, 1930s-esque vehicle with dark brown plating, a windshield that was simply a strip of glass, two seats in the driver’s area, and an open box in the back. Tyler hopped into the shotgun seat, as that was where the steering wheel and gas pedals were located. Cornelius got in the passenger seat up front, while Merek and Mikey hopped into the box-like section on the back.

“You going?” a voice asked. Cornelius looked to see Glug the caveman walking toward them.

“Yes, we’re going on a trip,” said Cornelius. “To the Dead Desert, to get something from Hotep-Ra’s pyramid.”

“You go alone?” Glug asked.

“No, I’m not alone,” said Cornelius. “I got Tyler, and Mikey, and Merek with me. We’ll be back before Hunter gets back.”

“Bye-bye,” Glug said as Tyler pressed down on the gas pedal.

Hunter couldn’t remember the last time he felt this depressed. Sure, his time in jail for shoplifting had taken a toll on his spirits, but there was a difference. In jail, Hunter had been guilty of crime, and was wallowing in his remorse. Right now, he was experiencing defeat. He had battled Kakkarak, Elemental Masters, evil knights, dinosaurs, evil henchmen, Pirikdi, and Vihkal. He had ran higgledy-piggledy all across creation to prevent Shadow from awakening and taking over the world with an iron fist, but he had failed.

Hunter wished Tenebris were still alive. This whole thing was Tenebris’ fault. Hunter wanted nothing more than to smack Tenebris right now-or, better yet, tie him up and throw him into a lake of burning acid.

“Hey,” Turan said. “You shouldn’t beat yourself up like this.”

“I’m not beating myself up,” said Hunter. “I know this isn’t my fault. I’m depressed because all my hard work was for nothing.”

“You infiltrated Voyo and obtained the keystones so you and your father could return home safely,” said Turan. “I don’t call that nothing.”

“But what about you guys?” Hunter asked. “I don’t want to leave you here while Shadow and his followers destroy the world and kill all of you.”

“I am sorry,” said Turan. “But there is truly nothing you can do except return to your world.”

“And we still exist in your world as toys, right?” Kylie put in. “You’ll be able to see us as toys there, and remember the good times.”

“Yeah. The good times before you were all killed.”

Turan sighed. “You’re a great young man, Hunter. Please do not forget that.”

“I haven’t,” said Hunter.

It was silent inside the helicopter for a solid half hour. Nobody spoke until they came to a tall mountain sticking up out of a cloud of mist. There was a staircase of about a thousand steps leading up to the top of the mountain, where a large, Asian-style monastery stood. The monastery was about fifty feet high, with its outer walls arranged in an octagonal shape. Toward the back of the monastery was a large building that was fashioned in the same manner as an ancient Japanese temple. The monastery’s walls were made of white stone, with the roofs made of smooth black tiles.

“We’re here,” Agent Jackson said from the cockpit. “Now where shall I drop you off?”

“Maybe in the middle of that monastery?” Kylie suggested.

“No,” said Turan. “It would be not be very polite to trespass on the ninjas’ sacred ground. We should knock on their front doors.”

Hunter looked out at the vast staircase leading to the monastery’s front doors. “I don’t think I want to climb all those steps,” he said.

“Here, I got an idea,” Agent Jackson said from the front. “I’ll drop you guys off near the top of the staircase.”

“Sounds good,” said Hunter.

Agent Jackson lowered the helicopter right near the stone staircase. He opened the side door to allow Hunter, Turan, and Kylie to hop out onto the stairs. “I’ll just find a place to land,” Agent Jackson called as he closed the side doors. “Good luck in there!” He flew the helicopter away from the mountain and down towards the gorge.

Hunter, Turan, and Kylie climbed up the thirty or so steps between them and the monastery’s front doors. On reaching the front doors, Hunter saw large brass knockers mounted on both of the doors. He took one of the knockers and slammed it against the door several times. It made a low banging noise.

About fifteen seconds after he knocked, the door was opened from the inside. A black-robed ninja stepped through the door to greet the visitors. “State your business,” he said.

“Hi,” said Hunter. “We’re here because we need your help.”

“Our help?” the ninja asked. “We do not associate ourselves with outsiders.”

“Well, I’m the Outsider,” said Hunter. “And this is about Shadow’s takeover.”

The ninja’s eyes narrowed. “Sensei Chen is very troubled about it,” he said. “Ever since the sky darkened, he’s been meditating in his quarters.”

“So…you guys are against Shadow?”

“Of course we are,” said the ninja. “We practice meditation and patience, praying to the higher powers that there will be balance. With Light dead and Shadow spreading his shadow all over the world, the balance has been greatly disrupted. Sensei Chen is especially distressed now, as he knows that there is no restoring the balance.”

Hunter hung his head. “We know that, too,” he said. “But we need your help in attacking the city of Voyo.”

The ninja scoffed. “What makes you think we’d willingly risk our lives in a battle that we cannot win?” he asked.

“Please, it’s for the Outsider,” said Turan. “He and his father are not of this world. They need the portal in Voyo to return to their world. Shadow’s forces are much too great for our amassed forces at the present.”

The ninja shook his head. “I am terribly sorry, but Sensei Chen will not allow it,” he said.

“What will I not allow?” a new voice asked from inside the monastery.

The ninja looked back inside the monastery. “Sensei! You’re out of your quarters!” he exclaimed.

The monastery doors were opened all the way by someone from the inside. The newcomer was an old Asian man with a thin beard, a smooth bald head, and deep black eyes like two gems that you’d find in a rock museum. He wore a black kimono and carried a six-foot-long staff made from bamboo. His arched eyebrows made him look suspicious, but his expression was more curious, like he was wondering who these new people were and how he could train them to unlock their true potential.

“I am indeed,” said the old man, who was Sensei Chen. “And who might these visitors be?”

“My name is Hunter Brooks,” said Hunter. “I’m the Outsider, and I’m-”

“Yes, I know who you are,” said Sensei Chen. “I have seen many visions of you.”

“That’s great,” said Hunter. “But are you willing to help us out?”

“How about you come inside?” Sensei Chen suggested. “We can talk in there.”

Sensei Chen led them into the monastery. All around them, ninjas were practicing various forms of training. Some were fighting against training dummies, some were practicing shuriken throwing, and some were simply doing push-ups and reps. They were so disciplined, they didn’t even give a sideways glance at the newcomer walking past.

“We have been very troubled by the news of Shadow escaping the realm of the Great Creators,” Sensei Chen said as they walked. “We have been undergoing rigorous training, preparing for when his forces inevitably reach our home.”

“But will. You. Help. Us?” Hunter asked.

Sensei Chen shook his head. “We exist only to preserve the balance,” he said. “Launching an attack on Voyo would do nothing to restore the balance.”

“But neither will staying here and doing nothing,” said Turan. “You must help us overcome Shadow.”

“See, there’s your problem,” said Sensei Chen. “The reason for this whole situation is because of the conflict between Light and Shadow. If there are two primordial entities that embody two opposing forces, then there’s bound to be conflict. If I were the one who created the world, I would have created one primordial being to embody both light and shadow. That way, there’d be no conflict.”

Hunter shook his head. “Please, Sensei Chen. We came here for help.”

“I am sorry,” said Sensei Chen. “But we will not violate our sacred ways.”

Hunter opened his mouth again, but Turan put his hand on his arm. “Do not argue with them,” he said. “We are not here to force them to join our cause.”

“But we will wish you luck,” said Sensei Chen. “I do hope you and your father are able to make it home.”

Hunter, Turan, and Kylie walked back to the monastery’s front doors. “Thanks, Sensei Chen,” Hunter said as he opened one of the doors. “I’m glad you support me anyway.”

“My pleasure,” said Sensei Chen.

End of Chapter 10…

Chapter 11

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas followed Animas toward the area where Light and Shadow had fought. Animas said that after he had created his body, his first destination had been the territory of Light and Shadow. He had hoped that somehow he could put a stop to their fight, but by the time he had arrived, Shadow was gone and Light lay dead on the ground.

“Now, between here and Light and Shadow’s territory, there’s the swamp where the Insextix live,” Animas said as they walked. “I haven’t been there myself, but I’ve been told that the Insextix are mostly harmless.”

“What do you mean by ‘mostly?’” Hydras asked.

“They’ll only attack you if you provoke them,” said Animas. “But if what the Great Creators told me is true, then the Insextix are generally tolerant of people that enter their swamp.”

“Then we should be safe,” said Pyras. “But everyone, be on your guard.”

About twenty minutes later, the ground under their feet started to become softer and squishier. The mist started fading away to reveal a steamy green swamp with thick dark trees, slimy green vines, and a terrain made of thick, waterlogged sludge that resembled rotten tomatoes.

Terras sunk his right foot into this mulch and felt it sink down to his ankle. He took another step, and his other foot sank into the ground. He tried to lift his right foot to take another step, but he found that it wasn’t as easy as he thought. He did manage to pull his foot out, but it made a gross sucking sound. “Yeah, this isn’t gonna be as easy as we thought,” he said.

“I would offer to let you all ride my flying board, but it’s not big enough to fit all of us,” said Animas.

“We weren’t going to ask,” Pyras said as he took his first few steps through the swamp. But as we walked, he strained from the extra effort of having to pull his feet out of the mud every time he took a step.

The rest of the Elemental Masters experienced the same problem as they traversed the thick swamp. Walking was something they normally took for granted as part of their daily tasks, but this terrain made walking feel like a chore. It didn’t exactly help that their ears echoed with the sucking noises that came with forcing their feet out of the mud as they walked.

They had gone about fifty feet into the swamp when they heard the buzzing noise. It sounded like a buzzing bee combined with the whining sound of a mosquito. The Elemental Masters looked above to see large, winged humanoid figures flying among the treetops. “Those are the Insextix, right?” Attractas asked.

“Yes,” said Animas. “Remember, don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.”

The Elemental Masters made no attempt to bother the Insextix. But a couple of Insextix curiously flew down to get a better look at them, allowing the Elemental Masters to get a good look at them. The Insextix were human sized, with hard exoskeletons and spindly arms and legs. They had six total limbs-two legs with clawed feet, and four arms with clawed hands. Their heads were mounted on their shoulders like a human’s, but they were shaped like insect heads with pincers, eyes made up of thousands of tiny eyes, and antennae on their foreheads.

“You think they know about Light?” Hydras asked.

“Maybe,” said Pyras. “But maybe we should-” He broke off when his foot made a loud squishing noise when he took a step. Pyras looked down to see that the ground under their feet was getting more watery. They were entering a patch of mud that was a lot thinner and more fluid. Because of this, it was much easier to walk through.

“That’s interesting,” Terras said as he tested out the new ground. The mud sloshed around as the Elemental Masters walked, but they ignored the brown liquid caking on their feet and ankles. All they cared about was getting through that swamp and finding Light.

They were crossing a large patch of watery sludge when it happened. Pyras took a step into the sludge with his left foot, and when he shifted his weight onto that leg so he could take another step, his whole left leg sank into the mud. “Oof!” Pyras grunted as his other leg landed in the mud and started to sink, too. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” said Hydras. “But I think it’s happening to me, too!” Her feet were starting to sink into the ground, even though she was standing in one spot.

“It’s happening to all of us!” Terras said as he, Animas, and Attractas started to sink into the mud. “I think this is quicksand.”

“How-how do we get out?” Attractas asked.

“Just calm down,” Terras said as he sank down to his waist. “If you flail and thrash, then it’ll just make you sink faster.”

“But how do we get ourselves out?” Hydras asked.

“Um…oh, I have an idea,” said Pyras. “Terras, we’ll need you to summon a patch of solid ground underneath us and bring it upward.”

“On it,” Terras said as he closed his eyes and concentrated. The earth below bent to his will as a column of stone rose through the quicksand. The column rose directly under Terras and Attractas’ feet, pushing them up out of the quicksand.

“Thank you,” said Attractas.

“But what about the rest of us?” Hydras asked. She, Pyras, and Animas were still sinking in the quicksand.

“We’ll just have to climb on,” Pyras answered, reaching for the edge of the stone pillar. The pillar was just out of reach, so he had to paddle to reach it. But the paddling loosened the quicksand, causing Pyras to sink even further. “Uh-oh,” Pyras said as he sank.

“Here you go,” Attractas said, extending one of her combat hooks. She channeled her magnetic powers, taking advantage of Pyras’ mostly metal body, and telekinetically pulled him out of the quicksand and onto the stone pillar.

“Grab my spear and pull me out,” Animas said, extending the Spear of Life toward the stone pillar. Terras took hold of the spear’s handle and pulled on it. Animas took Hydras by the hand as he was pulled out of the quicksand.

“Nice one,” said a voice from above. All five Elemental Masters looked up to see an Insextix buzzing down toward them. “I was going to gather my brothers and pull you out, but it looks like I don’t have to.”

“Well, we appreciate your willingness to help,” said Pyras.

The Insextix looked at them again. “I take it you’re Elemental Masters?” he asked.

“Yes, we’re Elemental Masters,” said Hydras.

“What brings you out here?” the Insextix asked. “I heard that you were killed by Shadow.”

“Uh, no, we weren’t,” said Terras. “Shadow banished us to this realm, and now we’re going to revive Light.”

“Revive Light?” said the Insextix. “It’s much too late! Shadow’s already out spreading his shadow all over the overworld, and its tipping the balance of the universe way too far! I am honestly amazed that it hasn’t started to unravel already.”

“Me too, actually,” said Pyras.

“In fact, I’m starting to regret creating a body for myself,” said Animas. “I wanted to be more than just a magic weapon. I wanted to be a hero who fought for justice and the lives of the innocent. And now I come along and find that I’ve lost before I’ve even joined the fight.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say we’ve entirely lost,” said Pyras. “If Light comes back to life, then it’ll at least prevent the universe from unraveling.”

“True,” said Animas. “I take it you’re expecting me to revive Light when we find his dead body?”

“Of course we do,” said Attractas. “How else would we do it?”

Hydras shrugged. “I would’ve said the Spear of Life, but…you are the Spear of Life.”

“Not anymore,” said Animas. “I’m an Elemental Master now. I embody the elemental power of life, and I fight alongside my brethren against the forces of evil.”

“And guide us around the realm of the Great Creators,” Terras added. “That on its own makes you a valuable asset.”

“Yeah, even if I don’t know my way around this disgusting swamp,” Animas said as he attempted to shake a glob of mud off his foot.

The Insextix buzzed his wings. “You said you were looking for Light and Shadow’s territory?” he asked.

“Uh, yes, we are,” said Animas.

“You’re actually going in the wrong direction,” said the Insextix. “All you’ll find here is quicksand.”

“Well, which way are we supposed to go?” Pyras asked.

“To the northeast,” said the Insextix.

“Thanks so much,” said Pyras. “We appreciate-”

“Hold up,” said the Insextix. “You’re still stranded in the middle of a pool of quicksand.”

Hydras looked down. “That’s true,” she said.

“How about my brothers and I give you a lift?” the Insextix offered.

“Yes, that would be lovely,” said Pyras.

Right on cue, four more Insetix flew down from the treetops. The first Insextix joined them as they all landed on the stone pillar. They got behind Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas, took them by the shoulders, and carried them into the air. One of them tried to do the same with Animas, but Animas shook his head. “I can handle myself,” he said as he flipped his shield over. He hopped onto the shield that was now a flying board and took off after the Insextix.

They flew through the trees to the northeast. As they neared the end of the forest, they started to see more mist like what shrouded the areas outside of the swamp. “Are we almost out?” Hydras asked.

“Yes,” said the Insextix carrying her. “In fact, we’re coming to the point where we drop you off.”

The Insextix descended upon a much more solid ground and gently laid the Elemental Masters down. “It’s not gonna be much longer before you’re out of the swamp,” said the first Insextix. “And after you leave the swamp, you’ll be in Light and Shadow’s territory.”

“Thank you for your help,” said Pyras.

“Our pleasure,” said the Insextix. “I hope things work out for you.”

“I think we all do,” Animas murmured as he hopped off his flying board and took it in his hand again.

As the Insextix buzzed away, the Elemental Masters left the swamp and went back into the familiar mist-shrouded landscape. They went for about a quarter mile before reaching the edge of an enormous valley. The valley was about two thousand feet in every direction and was five hundred feet deep. If you could fill it with water, then it would be a rather large lake.

And, lying in the middle of this massive valley, was Light. Though he lay dead on the cold stone ground, he would’ve stood at four or five hundred feet high. His body was made entirely of the color white, which would’ve given off light if he was still alive. Judging by the way he was sprawled on the ground, and how his dark blue eyes were partially closed, it was evident Shadow had killed him by cracking him by the neck.

“So this is it,” said Pyras. “This is where Light and Shadow slept for all those years.”

Animas held the Spear of Life within both of his hands. “My time has come,” he said.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Hydras asked.

“Of course I’m sure,” said Animas. “We came here to bring Light back to life, didn’t we?”

“Yes, but you do know that using the Spear of Life’s power kills its user, right?” said Hydras. “Titanias and Glacias both used it, and it exerted their life forces to awaken both Light and Shadow.”

“I am the Spear of Life,” Animas reminded them. “I embody the power of life in my new body. I’m sure I can survive bringing Light back to life.”

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas stepped aside as Animas focused his powers. Gold light glowed from Animas’ body, shining brightest from the Spear of Life. Animas raised the Spear of Life and pointed it down at Light. A beam of golden light shot from the tip of the Spear of Life, hitting Light’s dead body. The elemental energy of Animas combined with that of the Spear of Life pulsed into Light, slowly reviving him. White light slowly began to glow from Light’s body, growing from a dim glow to a miniature sun. The light from Animas’ body died down as Animas doubled over. He fell onto his knees, leaning on the Spear of Life like Turan leaning on his staff. He weakly looked down to admire his handiwork.

Light’s eyes regained their light and opened all the way. He slowly sat up and looked skyward. “I…I am reborn,” said Light. His voice was deep and strong, but not evil like Shadow’s. Light’s voice was more confident and empowering, like a president speaking at a State of the Union conference.

“Animas, are you okay?” Pyras asked, going up to Animas. Animas was grimacing in pain and barely standing on his knees. It looked like he’d faint any second.

“I…I think I overexerted myself,” said Animas. As he formed the last word, he gasped for air and collapsed on his hands and knees.

“You’re okay,” said Pyras. “Just relax. Let yourself fall asleep.”

“He overexerted himself?” Hydras asked. “He said he could resurrect Light!”

“He did,” said Terras. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Perhaps it takes a lot more energy to resurrect a primordial being than a normal one,” said Pyras. “It seems that the effort almost killed him.”

“I…” Animas began.

“No, don’t talk or do anything,” said Pyras. “You brought Light back to life. You’re a real hero now.”

Animas smiled, then fell unconscious.

“Oh no,” said Attractas. “Is he dead?”

“I don’t think so,” Pyras said as he placed his hand on Animas’ chest. “I can still feel a heartbeat.”

“So, I see that there are Elemental Masters gathered at my doorstep,” Light said, snapping them out of their worry. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas looked up to see Light looking down on them. “What brings you here?”

“We came here to bring you back to life,” said Pyras. “Shadow escaped into the overworld, and he’s spreading his shadow everywhere. We brought you back to prevent the universe from unraveling.”

But Light had stopped listening after hearing the first part of Pyras’ second sentence. “You say Shadow escaped?”

“Yes, but-”

Light’s eyes narrowed. “I must stop him!” he shouted as he climbed out of the valley. “It is I whose element should spread through the known universe!” He ran off into the mist, away from the valley and in the general direction of the portal to the overworld.

Hydras awkwardly turned her head to look at Pyras. “You think we should’ve told him that the portal isn’t activated?”

“Who cares?” said Terras. “We don’t even want him going out and fighting Shadow again.”

Pyras looked down at Animas. “I think our bigger concern right now should be Animas,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” said Hydras. “How are we gonna heal him?”

“I say we bring him back to the Great Creators,” said Pyras. “Perhaps they’ll have some means of nursing him back to health.”

“But how are we gonna carry him?” Hydras asked.

“I’ll take care of that,” said Attractas. She channeled her magnetic powers to lift Animas into the air, hovering several feet above the ground. She willed Animas to move forward as she walked behind him. It made it look like Animas was being pushed by David Copperfield, but it would work out.

“Right,” said Pyras. “Let’s go.”

Shadow was surprised to feel the disturbance.

Ever since he had killed Light, he had felt the balance of the universe tipping in his favor. He knew that the lowly beings that were the Great Creators and the villagers believed that if Light or Shadow died, then the universe would eventually unravel.

Shadow had believed that to be hogwash. He knew that all he wanted was for his own element, shadow, to spread throughout the universe while Light faded into blackness. When Shadow had killed Light, he had already felt the universe tipping in his favor. He had taken the chance to go out into the overworld and establish his empire. He could see his shadow extending to every corner of the overworld, and he planned to go and take over the realm of the Great Creators once he had turned everyone in the overworld.

But now, all of a sudden, Shadow could feel a disturbance in the universe. He had not felt that feeling since his battle with Light. That feeling had gone away when Light died, but now it was back. Shadow was no longer the sole primordial force at work in this universe. Light was, somehow, alive again.

Shadow could not believe it. How could Light have been brought back to life? Could it have been the Elemental Masters Shadow had banished to the realm of the Great Creators? Possibly. The only explanation Shadow could think of was that they had gotten the Spear of Life back from the Great Creators and used it somehow.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been that big of a problem for Shadow. This was exactly why he had taken the keystones out of the portal, thereby deactivating it, and locking the keystones away under armed guard. But the Outsider had snuck into Voyo and made off with the keystones. Shadow feared that, with the keystones, the Outsider would come back into Voyo, activate the portal, and allow Light to come into the overworld to pollute Shadow’s new world with his light.`

Well, Shadow wasn’t going to allow that. He immediately sent for Clockas, the only lieutenant he had left. Skirmisk had never came back from his reconnaissance mission to the other City, so Clockas had became the sole lieutenant of Shadow’s forces. And now Shadow needed her help.

Clockas came with Sonas at her side. “You called for me, master?” she said.

“I have indeed,” said Shadow. “I have sensed a disturbance in the balance of the universe. I cannot explain it, but your former brethren have managed to bring Light back to life.”

Clockas’ jaw dropped. “How can this be?”

“The Spear of Life,” said Sonas. “It has to be.”

“Now, you know that the Outsider has stolen the keystones to the portal,” said Shadow. “Well, we cannot have him coming back in here to reactivate the portal.”

“But-but how would he know that Light was brought back to life?” Clockas asked. “I know my former brethren never knew where the Pool of Communication was, so-”

“Do not underestimate our enemies,” said Shadow. “I need you to gather all the rest of our supporters, and build up defenses all around the city.”

“With all due respect,” said Clockas, “There are not many people left that we can call on. We have all the remaining Pirikdi, Vihkal, and Kakkarak here. Lord Vulcon is dead. Dr. Evileye is being held in a maximum-security prison. The ninjas in the east answer to no one. There’s no one to help us.”

“Well, then, gather up all the Pirikdi that have been slacking in their duties,” said Shadow. “And we still have the blueprints for building a Vihkal robot, correct?”

“We do,” said Sonas. “Some Pirikdi wanted to get rid of them because they didn’t think we needed them anymore, but I stopped them.”

“Excellent,” said Shadow. “Build more Vihkal, and try to get our Kakkarak to breed more. We need all the defense we can get.”

Clockas nodded her head. “We-we’ll do it.”

“Excellent,” said Shadow.

End of Chapter 11…

Chapter 12

Tyler Kane drove his jeep through the Dead Desert. Cornelius, Mikey, and Merek rode in the jeep, watching the passing landscape. The sky may have been dark and clogged with shadow, but the surrounding sand dunes were very pretty to look at. They were smooth and rounded, like giant piles of mashed potatoes. The green cacti and tumbleweeds stood out against the tan sand, looking surprisingly good in the dark.

“Okay, here we come to Hotep-Ra’s old kingdom,” Tyler said as they crossed a rather large sand dune. “There’s not much to it, really. Just a pyramid and a couple of other landmarks.”

Indeed, as they crossed the dune, they didn’t see anything that they were going to write home about. The area was just a small valley between the sand dunes. There was a fifty-foot obelisk with a bunch of Egyptian writing all over it and a circular nest of snakes not too far away. Even Hotep-Ra’s pyramid wasn’t that impressive. It was just…well, a pyramid. There weren’t any fancy colors or statues guarding the entrance-just four rough, faded tan walls leading up to a top that had the point broken off. The only thing that was remotely interesting was the front door. It was an obsidian black and had an Anubis face painted on it.

Tyler parked his jeep right in front of the pyramid. “Now, I’ve never actually been here,” he said. “But there’s probably gonna be some kind of hidden guardian at the gate.”

Cornelius, Tyler, Merek, and Mikey approached the pyramid’s front gate. As they did so, the painted Anubis face came to life and looked to them. “Greetings, travellers,” it said.

“Hello,” said Cornelius. “We’re here for the-” he broke off when Tyler elbowed him.

“All who wish to enter must answer a riddle,” said the Anubis face.

“Okay, let’s hear it,” said Tyler.

“First hint,” said the face. “In my world, there are trees, but no plants.”

“But-but trees are plants,” said Cornelius.

“Second hint,” said the face. “In my world, there are wheels, but no cars.”

“No cars?” Mikey asked. “Are there motorcycles, then? Or spaceships?”

“No,” said the face. “Third hint: In my world, there are books, but no scrolls.”

“I thought ancient people called scrolls books,” said Cornelius.

“Some of them did,” said Tyler.

“Fourth hint,” said the face. “In my world, there are doors, but no windows.”

“Then how do you see out of your house?” Merek asked. “Do you open the door, or-”

“Fifth hint,” said the face. “In my world, there is wood and steel, but no stone.”

“Well, at least you have what you need to make good weapons,” said Merek. “But you can’t build-wait. Are there houses in your world?”

“No, there are not,” said the face. “Sixth hint: In my world, there are dresses, but no skirts.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” said Mikey. “Skirts are part of dresses, right?”

“Not necessarily,” said the face. “Seventh hint-”

“Just how many hints are you going to give us?” Cornelius asked. “Can’t we have some time to think?”

“Very well,” said the face. “If you need any more hints, I will give them.”

“So if there are doors, and wheels, and steel, and wood, but no windows or stone or cars in this world,” said Tyler. “Then…what kind of world would that be?”

“The world that that Anubis face just makes up as he goes?” Merek asked.

“That is not the answer,” said the face. “Seventh hint: In my world, there are no castles or pyramids.”

“Then we’re clearly not in your world,” said Cornelius, gesturing at the pyramid.

“I feel like I’ve heard this riddle somewhere,” said Mikey. “I think Dennis, or Eddie told me it one time.”

“Do you remember the answer?” Cornelius asked.

“They never even told me the answer,” said Mikey. “But they always said that there were no couches or chairs or beds, but there were sheets and roofs and screens.”

“Sheets and roofs and screens,” Cornelius repeated.

“All those things exist in my world,” said the face.

An idea formed in Cornelius’ head. “I think I know the answer,” he said. “Your world is based in double letters.”

The Anubis face nodded. “That’s correct,” it said. The pyramid’s front doors split down the middle and retracted into the pyramid’s walls. A dark passageway that went into the pyramid was revealed.

Mikey stamped his foot. “Now it makes sense!” he exclaimed. “How did I not see this before?”

“I don’t know,” said Cornelius. “Tyler, you got a light?”

Tyler answered his question by pulling out a flashlight and turning it on. The light illuminated the passage’s walls, revealing Egyptian writing and murals. “Let’s go,” he said. “And all of you, stay alert at all times.”

They entered the pyramid, following the light cast by Tyler’s flashlight. Cornelius was fully expecting spears to shoot out of the walls, or the ceiling to come down on top them, or a giant boulder to roll after them, like in an Indiana Jones movie. But nothing happened. In fact, there was nothing to indicate any ancient mechanisms whatsoever. There were golden sarcophagi lining the walls, but nothing else.

At last, the tunnel opened up into a large, dark room. This one had even more sarcophagi lining the walls, with torches mounted on the wall above each sarcophagus. There was a huge, tank-sized scorpion statue in the middle of the room with two beady eyes, claws big enough to pinch a redwood tree in two, and a tail that curved upward and ended in a blunt stinger.

Between the scorpion’s front claws was a large, shiny sarcophagus that was fancier than all the other sarcophagi combined. It was nine feet long, five feet high, and made entirely of solid gold. The gold was so well polished, it cast a bright reflection whenever Tyler shone his flashlight on it. The sarcophagus was inlaid with red, blue, green, and yellow gems at its base. The mask had two diamond eyes, thickly set cheeks, and a headdress made of gold and amethyst. Clutched between the sarcophagus’ hands was a papyrus scroll encased in a tube of pure gold.

“So that’s it,” said Cornelius. “That’s the Book of Erasing a God.”

“Yes,” said Tyler. “But hold up. Don’t go up there and grab it.”

“Why not…oh,” Cornelius said when he looked at the scorpion statue again.

Merek and Mikey looked, too. “But how else are we going to get the scroll?” Mikey asked.

“I don’t know,” said Tyler. “But that statue has to be rigged to slam its tail into anyone who tries to take the scroll. We can’t risk that.”

“Well, then, let me just use my telekinetic powers to summon that scroll,” Merek said sarcastically.

Tyler sighed. “Okay, fine,” he said. “But we have to be careful.”

Merek drew his sword, and Mikey drew his gun, as Cornelius and Tyler slowly made their way towards the sarcophagus that lay before the statue. Tyler gingerly placed his hand on the scroll, dreading the worst. But no one or nothing moved or made any noise. He pulled the scroll out of the sarcophagus’ hands, and nothing happened.

“Okay,” said Tyler. “No one take their eyes off the scorpion.” The quartet backed toward the exit, watching the scorpion statue like hawks. But, to their surprise, the scorpion stayed a statue. Even after they went far enough down the tunnel that they could no longer see the scorpion, nothing happened. The only noises they heard were their own footsteps.

“You mean that’s it?” Merek asked. “But I thought you said no one who came in here ever came back alive?”

“They haven’t,” said Tyler. “Remember-we’re not out of here yet.”

They went down the tunnel, back to the gate where they had came in. But they were in for a rather unpleasant shock. The gate was now shut, with no painted Anubis face there to ask them a riddle. “I think we’ve found out why no one’s ever left here,” said Cornelius.

Suddenly, a ghastly voice spoke and reverberated throughout the hall. “Who enters my domain?” the voice asked.

Cornelius, Tyler, Merek, and Mikey froze with fear. When they didn’t answer, the voice spoke again. “You have stolen my scroll,” it said. “Now suffer the consequences.”

“Consequences? What consequences?” Mikey asked.

Suddenly, a blast of cold air blew through the hall. “Come before me,” the voice said. Cornelius looked to see a dark figure walking toward them. As the figure came into view, his details became more visible. He looked like a famine victim with his stick-like arms, maggot-eaten body, and sickly brown skin. He had cloth bandages wrapped around his body, but they didn’t do a very good job of covering the skin underneath. Worst of all was his head. Cornelius had seen preserved mummy heads at museums before, but the real thing was much worse. This mummy’s head was bald and scabby, having been eaten by maggots over the centuries. His nose had been completely eaten away, leaving a hole between his eyes that, somehow, were still perfectly intact. His mouth lacked any lips, exposing his uneven yellow teeth.

“Hotep-Ra,” Tyler said. He tried to sound confident, but his voice came out rather shakily. Cornelius could hardly blame him. Brendan Fraser’s character in The Mummy would’ve wet his pants.

“Yes, that’s me,” said Hotep-Ra. “And you must be punished for stealing my scroll!”

“But we need it!” Cornelius protested. “Shadow’s taking over the world, and-”

“Did you think I did not know?” Hotep-Ra asked. “Let him rule. He is exactly the type of ruler I would be, if I wasn’t cursed to remain in this dusty pyramid. I wouldn’t even be here, if my priests had properly prepared my body for the afterlife. But here I am, trapped in my old rotting body within the confines of my own tomb.”

“Why can’t you leave through the gate?” Mikey asked.

“You think I haven’t tried?” Hotep-Ra asked. “The gate opens for anyone who can correctly answer its riddles, but it refuses to let me pass. And anyone who enters, heh, shares the same fate as me.” He smiled as he gestured at the sarcophagi lining the wall.

Tyler went pale. “You mean…all the adventurers who came here…”

“Are imprisoned in these sarcophagi,” said Hotep-Ra. “And they are brainwashed into serving me.” He waved his hand, and two sarcophagi on either side of him opened up. Two adventurers stepped out in a daze, as if they had just woken up from a deep sleep. Their skin was mostly intact, and they still wore their brown pants and vests, but they didn’t seem quite human. They moved slowly and limply like zombies, and their eyes were a murky gray. “Behold, my loyal servants.”

Tyler looked at the adventurer on Hotep-Ra’s right. That one had matted blonde hair that swept past his neck, a thick beard, and bushy eyebrows. “Is that…Duke Reeves?”

“Duke Reeves,” said Hotep-Ra. “So that was his name.

“He-he used to be my best friend!” said Tyler. “He and I went and found the lost city of Atlantis together!”

“He did mention something about that,” said Hotep-Ra. “This one was really curious about obtaining the Book of Erasing a God and keeping it under protection in a museum. Well, he’s protecting it all right. Protecting it from you nosy thieves.”

Tyler looked at Duke fearfully. “Hello, Duke,” he said nervously. “Long time no see.”

Cornelius grabbed Tyler’s arm. “That’s not your friend,” he warned.

As if to prove Cornelius’ point, Duke groaned angrily and brought his arms up like a zombie. He trudged toward Tyler, but Merek was ready. He stepped between them and held out his sword. Duke grunted as if to say “Come at me, bro!” and ground his teeth.

Well, Merek took up Duke’s challenge. He raised his sword and sliced off both of Duke’s arms. The two arms fell to the floor as a surprisingly small amount of blood trickled out of the sockets. Duke looked down at his severed arms, then glared at Merek.

Hotep-Ra scowled. “I always hated knights like you,” he seethed. He snapped his fingers, and Merek’s sword turned into a flower in Merek’s hand.

“Hey!” Merek shouted, throwing the flower aside. “That sword was forged for me by my great-uncle!” He balled his fists and stomped toward Hotep-Ra.

“A few years in a sarcophagus outta fix your mind,” said Hotep-Ra. The other enslaved adventurer opened a sarcophagus on Merek’s right, and Hotep-Ra waved his hand in that direction. Merek flew into the sarcophagus as if he was hooked onto a moving train. He hit the back of the sarcophagus and barely had time to react before the sarcophagus was slammed shut.

Cornelius stared in horror at the sarcophagus that now housed Merek. “Please, let us go!” he demanded. “We’ll bring the Book of Erasing a God back after we kill Shadow!”

“I think not,” Hotep-Ra growled as he waved his hand as Cornelius. The last thing Cornelius remembered was his brain jolting into unconsciousness, and everything going black.

“Well, that was a waste of time,” Kylie said as they flew back from the ninjas’ monastery.

“I know,” said Hunter. “All we got was a ‘hope you win.’”

“Now, we must respect the ninjas’ desires,” said Turan. “I am disappointed, too, but I understand their sacred desires to fight only for peace and harmony.”

“I mean, I guess Sensei Chen had a point about balance,” said Hunter. “If there was one being who embodied both light and shadow, then there’d be no conflict.”

“Except it’s much too late for something like that,” said Kylie. “And Light and Shadow existed even before the Great Creators, so they couldn’t have done anything about it.”

“I know,” said Hunter. “It’s just…I kind of wish that could’ve happened.”

“Well, we just have to work with what we have,” said Turan. “And right now, we just need to prepare our forces for one last assault on Voyo.”

Agent Jackson brought the helicopter back into the City and landed right in front of Sam’s fire station. On their landing, they were greeted by Sam, Max, Glug, Barda, and Fendrel. “So the ninjas didn’t want to help us?” Sam asked.

“No, they didn’t,” said Hunter. “Anything happen while we were gone?”

“Some stuff,” said Max. “Eddie and I took Skirmisk to the police station. Officer Janson locked him up in prison.”

“That’s good,” said Hunter.

“And the army of Anthrall is on their way,” said Barda. “They’ll be here as early as this evening. Well, assuming there is an evening in all this dark sky.”

“That’s even better,” said Hunter. He looked around and was surprised not to see Cornelius. “Where’s my dad?”

“We’re not sure,” said Sam.

“He leave,” said Glug.

“Say what?”

“He leave with Tyler,” said Glug. “Steal from pyramid.”

“Steal from pyramid?” Hunter asked. “What are you talking about?”

Glug shrugged. “Don’t know,” he said. “Me just say good-bye.”

“But…why would my dad go with Tyler to steal something from a pyramid in all this?” Hunter asked. “And where the heck is that pyramid?”

“The Dead Desert,” said Sam. “That’s the only place they have pyramids.”

“Well, really one pyramid,” said Fendrel. “The pyramid where Hotep-Ra was buried.”

“Hotep-Ra?” Hunter asked. “What is he, some kind of undead mummy?”

“If the rumors are true, he is,” said Fendrel. “They say he puts to death anyone who enters his pyramid-”

“Uh-oh,” said Hunter. “When did my dad leave?”

“I have no idea,” said Sam. “Glug, do you know?”

Glug cocked his head like he was thinking really hard. “Me not know,” he said. “Today?”

Hunter shook his head. He should’ve known Glug would be of no help. Nevertheless, he had better go and rescue his father. “Agent Jackson, can you-”

“No, I can’t,” said Agent Jackson. “The helicopter’s low on fuel.”

“What about your mobile command base?” Hunter asked Max. “Can we drive it to the Dead Desert?”

“Yes, we can,” said Max. “We’ll leave right away.”

“Oh, Dad,” Hunter muttered as Max went off to gather the other ADC soldiers. “What have you gotten us into now?”

End of Chapter 12…

Man, I have been REALLY lax about updating this page with chapters. Like I said before, I wrote this whole novel a year ago. So I’d better get back on track with adding the rest of my chapters.

Chapter 13

The ADC mobile command base rumbled through the Dead Desert, embarking on a one-way trip to Hotep-Ra’s pyramid. At the wheel was Dennis the ADC computer specialist. The vehicle’s passengers were Hunter, Commander Max, Eddie the soldier, and Freddie the scientist. They were determined to reach Hotep-Ra’s pyramid, bust some heads, and save everyone who had been dumb enough to enter a cursed pyramid.

As they entered the valley where the pyramid stood, Hunter was relieved to see Tyler’s jeep parked in front of the pyramid. “Please, Dad, please still be alive,” Hunter thought out loud.

Dennis drove up to face the front gate head-on. “Ready, Eddie?” he asked.

“Yes I am,” said Eddie. A hatch opened on the roof right above a ladder built into the wall. Eddie climbed onto the mobile command base’s roof and got in the missile turret’s control seat. He took careful aim at the pyramid’s front gate and fired a missile. The missile hit the gate and exploded on contact. When the smoke cleared, the gate was gone, revealing a dark passageway that led into the pyramid.

“Good work,” said Max. “You guys, wait here and keep the missile turret at the ready. Hunter and I are going in.”

Hunter and Max both took heavy rapid-fire blasters and got out of the vehicle. They entered the pyramid and passed all the sarcophagi lined up against the walls. They went straight into the chamber where Hotep-Ra’s sarcophagus laid between the scorpion statue’s claws. “Where are they?” Hunter asked.

“I don’t see them,” said Max.

Hunter’s eyes narrowed. “They’re already dead, aren’t they?” He looked spitefully at Hotep-Ra’s sarcophagus. “Sacrificial victims to Hotep-Ra’s stupid Egyptian gods?”

Max looked at the sarcophagi lining the walls. “Maybe they’re trapped in a sarcophagus?”

“I guess so,” said Hunter. “Let’s start-”

A new voice cut him off. “What have we here?” the voice asked. “More intruders?” The lid on Hotep-Ra’s sarcophagus slid off as Hotep-Ra rose from inside. He stared down Hunter and Max with a wicked, angry gaze. “So you’re here to retrieve your father,” said Hotep-Ra.

“How did you know that?” Hunter asked.

“I could see his thoughts as I locked him away,” said Hotep-Ra. “He was trying to steal my scroll for you. How very touching…”

“What did you do to him?” Hunter asked.

“He is locked away, succumbing to my power,” said Hotep-Ra. “Within a few years, he will serve only me.”

“You-you let him go!” Hunter shouted. He raised his blaster and fired a round of bullets into Hotep-Ra’s body. The mummy doubled over and stumbled backward, but when the bullets stopped, he regained his senses.

“Rise, my warriors,” Hotep-Ra commanded. “And attack!” All around the room, sarcophagi opened up. Old, decayed corpses lumbered out of the sarcophagi, eyeing Hunter and Max with their sickly white eyes. “Tear these intruders from limb to limb,” said Hotep-Ra. “Make sure they don’t leave alive.”

Hunter and Max started shooting like mad Call of Duty players. They mowed down the first wave of zombified people, but more kept coming. These ones reached out with scabbed arms, moaning bloody murder. Hunter whacked one in the chest with the barrel of his gun, but that just made it angry. The zombified person grabbed Hunter by the shoulders and pinned him down on the floor. Two more zombified people bore down on Hunter, ready to tear him apart.

Suddenly, there was a loud booming noise. Hunter looked to see the entry passageway collapsing in on itself. As the dust cleared, the ADC’s mobile command vehicle rolled into view, ready to fire even more missiles.

“How?” Hotep-Ra asked.

“Hand over Hunter’s father now,” Eddie said from the missile turret.

“Why should I?” Hotep-Ra asked.

“Because we said to,” Max said as he shoved off a zombified human. He turned and shot the zombified humans that were holding Hunter down, freeing him of their grasp.

“You really think I would obey orders from a mob that blows down my pyramid?” Hotep-Ra asked. “No, I would not!”

“Then we’ll have to do this the hard way,” said Max. “Eddie, fire!”

Eddie aimed at Hotep-Ra and fired a volley of four missiles. The missiles hit Hotep-Ra head-on, causing an explosion in the middle of the scorpion statue’s claws. The explosion destroyed the sarcophagus, the front half of the scorpion statue, and the withered body of Hotep-Ra. When the smoke cleared, there was no sign of Hotep-Ra. All around Hunter and Max, the zombified humans swayed on the spot and fell over. Having been freed of Hotep-Ra’s control, they were now mere corpses.

“Nice one,” said Hunter. “Now, where’s my dad?”

“I don’t see him anywhere,” said Eddie.

“Everyone, start opening the sarcophaguses-er, sarcophagi,” said Max. Eddie, Dennis, and Freddie all got out of the mobile command base and started opening sarcophagi. Hunter and Max joined them in doing so. Hunter was expecting the sarcophagi to be sealed shut, but they were not. The lids were super-heavy, though, and it took a lot of strength to get them off. Worst of all, Hunter did not find Cornelius inside any of the sarcophagi he opened.

At the other end of the room, Freddie gasped as he opened a sarcophagus. “Mikey? Is that you?” Everyone looked to see Mikey climbing out of the sarcophagus Freddie had just opened.

“Well, no wonder I couldn’t find you anywhere!” said Max.

Mikey looked around in a daze. “What-what happened-where’s Hunter’s dad, and Hotep-Ra?”

“We just killed Hotep-Ra,” said Hunter. “Now we’re looking for my dad.”

“He’s in another sarcophagus,” said Mikey. “I saw Hotep-Ra put him in one about halfway down the hallway.”

Hunter took off down what was left of the passageway out of the pyramid. The sarcophagi had been tossed all over the place in the chaos, some of them even crushed by fallen stone slabs. As Hunter opened the sarcophagi one by one, he prayed that Cornelius hadn’t been in one of the crushed coffins.

To Hunter’s surprise, one of the sarcophagi he opened housed Merek the knight. “Merek! You’re here too!” Hunter exclaimed.

“I am,” said Merek. “Your father came here with Tyler, and Mikey, and myself.”

“Well, where’s my dad?” Hunter asked.

“Over here!” said Dennis as he opened another sarcophagus. “I found him!”

Hunter ran over to the sarcophagus Dennis had opened. There was Cornelius, lying inside and sound asleep. “Dad, I found you!” Hunter exclaimed. He gently shook his father to wake him.

Cornelius’ eyes fluttered open. “Hunter?” he asked. “Is that you?” Before Hunter could answer, Cornelius had sat up and hugged his son.

“Yes, it’s me,” said Hunter. “And why the heck did you come here and get captured by Hotep-Ra?”

“I was here to get the Book of Erasing a God,” said Cornelius. “Tyler told me about it, and I figured we could use it to kill Shadow.”

Hunter’s jaw dropped at his father’s lunacy. “Dad, are you being serious?” he asked. “WE CAN’T KILL SHADOW! WE NEED TO KEEP BOTH HIM AND LIGHT ALIVE TO PREVENT THE UNIVERSE FROM UNRAVELING!”

“No, I know that,” said Cornelius. “I just thought, maybe while Shadow was dead, we could somehow bring him into the realm of the Great Creators, and that one guy-what was his name? Animas?-could bring him back to life.”

Hunter slapped his face with his palm. “Oh, for the love of…” He strained to keep himself from losing his cool. “What makes you think we can just carry a 500-foot tall being through that portal?”

“I don’t know. How could he fit himself through that portal to begin with?” Cornelius asked.

Hunter exhaled deeply. He took several more deep breaths to calm himself down. “Dad, I’m sorry I just yelled,” he said. “It’s just…next time, would you please let me know before you go poking around in a booby-trapped pyramid?”

“I’m sorry,” said Cornelius. “I just thought that this would help fix everything in this world. I…I wanted to help you.”

Hunter sighed. He remembered what Turan had said, about how his father only wanted to help him. Even though Hunter wasn’t happy about having to save his father from an undead mummy, he realized that Cornelius had done it all in his son’s best interests. And besides, saving Cornelius from this pyramid had been much easier than saving Isaac and Ellie from an island where Tenebris and the rogue Elemental Masters reigned supreme. “Well, how about we just get the scroll and go,” said Hunter. “We’ll figure out what to do back at Sam’s fire station.”

End of Chapter 13…

Chapter 14

Hunter, Cornelius, Tyler, Max, Merek, Mikey, Freddie, Dennis, and Eddie returned to Sam’s fire station with the Book of Erasing a God in their possession. Although Hunter still wasn’t happy with his dad for running off like that, he had a feeling that the scroll would have some role to play in this conflict.

Hunter, Cornelius, Tyler, Merek, and Sam all gathered with Turan inside the fire station. “So, it seems that you stole the Book of Erasing a God,” Turan said when they showed him the scroll they had stolen.

“Yes, we did,” said Cornelius. “My idea of killing Shadow and bringing him back to the realm of the Great Creators-could it work?”

Turan stroked his chin. “I mean…” he said. “It’s not a bad idea, but it would be much easier said than done. We’d have to find a way to restrain Shadow, or sneak up behind him and do it.”

“I don’t like the sound of that second idea,” said Hunter. “But then again, nobody has the strength or power to fight Shadow, much less restrain him.”

“Well, nobody except…Light,” said Merek. “But the Elemental Masters haven’t awakened him yet, have they?”

“Maybe,” said Hunter. “I wonder how they’re-”

As if in answer, a swirling orb of mist appeared in front of Hunter. The orb grew to the size of a bathroom mirror, and an image shimmered into existence. The mist showed Hydras and Attractas, both looking into the Pool of Communication. “How do you always do it?” Hunter asked.

“Always do what?” Hydras asked.

“You always use the Pool of Communication right at the time I wish I could talk with you,” said Hunter.

Hydras shrugged. “Probably just a huge coincidence,” she said.

“Where’s Pyras?” Merek asked.

“He and Terras are back at the Great Creators’ control sphere with Animas,” said Attractas. “They sent us here to check on your status.”

“Well, lots of things have happened,” said Hunter. “My dad went off and stole the Book of Erasing a God from Hotep-Ra.”

Hydras scowled. “I’ve heard of that guy,” she said. “I’ll bet it was nasty business.”

“It was,” said Cornelius.

“And if you’re wondering, no, the ninjas did not agree to help us,” said Hunter. “But their sensei-he said something interesting.”


“He said that if he were in charge of the world, then there’d be one primordial being that embodied both light and shadow,” said Hunter.


“Just got me thinking, that’s all,” said Hunter.

Hydras sighed. “Well, we brought Light back to life, if it’s any comfort,” she said. “But it really exerted Animas. The Great Creators are nursing him back to full health right now.”

“It really took that much of a toll on Animas, to resurrect a primordial being?” Tyler asked.

“Apparently so,” said Attractas. “And then I had to use my magnetism to carry him all the way back to the control sphere.”

“But at least he’s still alive,” said Cornelius.

Something nagged at the back of Hunter’s mind. “You said Animas’ powers were to give or take life, right?”

“Right,” said Hydras. “And he can create sentient beings out of other bodies…” Hydras trailed off as she saw the gears spinning behind Hunter’s face.

“Oh my gosh,” said Hunter. “I think I just got an idea!”

“What? What is it?” Cornelius asked.

“Dad, we’re going to need that scroll you stole,” said Hunter. “And Hydras, we’re gonna need Animas for this.”

“What are you talking about?” Turan asked.

“Guys, I know how we can fix all this,” said Hunter. “We’ll need to get into Voyo, open the portal, and let Light come out. Then we’ll have him fight Shadow to the death, and then we’ll use the Book of Erasing a God to kill whoever’s left standing. Then we’ll have Animas use his powers on Light’s and Shadow’s corpses to create a new primordial being that embodies both elements.”

Everyone in the room-as well as Hydras and Attractas-exchanged glances. “That sounds like a bit of a stretch,” said Hydras.

“Guys, please,” said Hunter. “When have I ever steered you wrong before?”

“I mean…” Attractas said. “You did make a deal with Tenebris where you’d-”

“Okay, fine,” Hunter interrupted. “I-I guess that wasn’t a very good argument. But if anyone has a better idea for restoring the balance, then let’s hear it.”

Hydras sighed. “I’ll tell Pyras your idea,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll work.”

“Do you know where Light is?” Hunter asked.

“He went right for the portal when we told him about Shadow,” said Hydras. “He’s there right now, probably trying to figure out how to reactivate it.”

“Good,” said Hunter. “We’ll gather up our army and launch an attack on Voyo. We’ll power up the portal and let Light out to fight Shadow. You guys can take all the time you need with Animas.”

“Good luck,” said Hydras. “I hope you make it.”

“Me too,” Hunter said as the orb faded away. “Me too.”

Right around that time, the army of Anthrall arrived at the City. The army consisted of a couple hundred soldiers, headed up by the King of Anthrall. The army even had a couple of siege towers and catapults, which would come in handy in the upcoming battle.

As Hunter, Cornelius, Turan, Sam, Tyler, Merek, and Max got to organizing the army, their friends called in more help. Kylie called in other secret agent squads from her organization, Glug went back to Dino Valley to gather up his caveman friends, and Officer Janson volunteered himself and a couple other police officers. Even some of the evacuated Voyo villagers volunteered to help fight. Within about six hours, there was an army of knights, spies, and cavemen, with a handful of policemen and ADC troopers thrown in there. They had everyone who came gather on the outskirts of the City. When all the fighters had gotten in one place, Hunter stood before them and faced them all. “Okay, everyone,” he said. “Here’s the plan. We’ll have the knights, their soldiers, and the Voyo villagers attack up front at the city’s front gates. Merek, Barda, Fendrel, you’ll lead that. Kylie, you and your agents, and the squads you called, you guys take the southern defending wall of Voyo. Commander Max, Officer Janson, Glug, you guys lead your troops, cavemen, and policemen up north to attack Voyo from there. Tyler, Sam, you two will come with my dad and I to sneak in behind and get the keystones to the portal. Everyone know their positions?”

“I don’t,” said a new voice. Hunter looked to see Sensei Chen walking down a nearby hill. Behind him, a group of about thirty ninjas was coming over the hill, armed with all manner of katana, bows, and staffs.

“Sensei Chen?” Hunter asked. “I thought you decided not to help us?”

“I initially did not,” said Sensei Chen. “But then, as I was meditating, I had a vision that this upcoming battle would result in the balance being restored. I did not know how, but I trust my visions.”

Hunter smiled. “Well, we’re glad to have you help us,” he said. “Sensei Chen, how about your ninjas go up front with the knights? You can come with me, so I can explain everything to you.”

“Sounds fair,” said Sensei Chen. “When do we leave?”

“As soon as everyone’s ready,” said Hunter. “Is everyone ready?”

There was a murmur of assent from the crowd.

“Then let’s go kick some butt,” said Hunter.

Before the battle actually started, there was still some organization that needed to be done. The plan was for each group to attack at more or less the same time, so the knights and ninjas had to wait while the ADC troopers, the policemen, the cavemen, and the spies got in their position. Meanwhile, Tyler, Hunter, Cornelius, Sam, and Sensei Chen all piled into Tyler’s jeep with the six keystones and drove off toward the back of the city. As they drove, Hunter and Cornelius explained their plan to create a new primordial being to Sensei Chen.

“So you took my advice,” said Sensei Chen.

“Well, yes,” said Hunter. “What you told me was really nagging at the back of my mind, and then I realized that I had the resources I needed to do something like that, so…”

“You are a very clever young man, Hunter,” said Sensei Chen.

“I try to be,” said Hunter.

“That’s my boy,” Cornelius said with a proud smirk.

Usually, Hunter would’ve been slightly embarrassed by this. But not this time. “Thanks, Dad,” he said. “And, uh, also, I wanted to say sorry for yelling at you when I found you in the pyramid.”

“It’s fine,” said Cornelius. “I have to admit, I would’ve done the same thing if it were you.”

“I guess so,” said Hunter. “It’s just what family does-look out for each other.”

“Yes, it is,” said Cornelius. “Just like what you did with Isaac and Ellie.”

“Yeah,” said Hunter. “Is that why you wanted to come in here with me-so you could help me?”

“Well, at first I was curious to see what my machine had created,” said Cornelius. “But then, when I found out that you were going up against a bunch of bad guys, I was worried for you. I’ve seen you do a lot of great things, but deep down, I’m still concerned about you. That’s why I’ve stuck with you all this time-to help you.”

Hunter smiled. “Well, I’m glad you helped me through all this,” he said. “Especially since I haven’t had the Elemental Masters guiding me this time.”

“You’ll see them again soon,” Cornelius reminded him. “And I’m sure they’ll be grateful that you brought about their victory.”

Tyler’s jeep drove all the way toward the back of the city where they had snuck in before. “Isn’t this where you came in to steal the keystones?” Tyler asked.

“Yes,” said Hunter. “Except this time, we’re bringing the keystones back.”

Hunter, Cornelius, Tyler, Sam, and Sensei Chen got out of the jeep and faced the secret door. Somehow, it had been closed again since their last visit, but Hunter knew how to open it. “Okay,” Hunter said. “Now we just wait until we hear the battle cries.”

End of Chapter 14…

Chapter 15

“Inconceivable!” Shadow said when he saw the army of knights marching toward his front gate. He was currently standing near the eastward side of the city, having gone to see the newly repurposed factory where new Vihkal robots would be churned out. Clockas and Sonas were with him.

“What is it?” Clockas asked.

“There’s a mob gathered at our doorstep,” said Shadow. “No doubt agents of the Outsider, come to attack us again.”

Clockas’ eyes flared. “I knew he’d be back!” she said. “We’d better prepare our defenses!”

“You go,” said Shadow. Clockas and Sonas started to run off to gather soldiers, but Shadow spoke again. “Except you, Sonas.”

“What do you need?” Sonas asked.

“I need you to go back to the city square,” said Shadow. “Guard that portal with your life. We can’t let the Outsider reactivate it!”

Sonas hefted his combat sledgehammer. “Will do,” he said. He ran off in the direction of the city square.

Meanwhile, Clockas drew her sword as she ran through the streets. “We’re under attack!” she shouted. “Everyone, man your defenses!”

Pirikdi, Vihkal, and Kakkarak heard Clockas’ orders and heeded the call. They dropped everything and ran for the outer defending walls, ready to help defend their newfound city against the invaders. By the time Clockas reached the front gate, two hundred warriors had gathered.

Clockas climbed the defending wall and looked out at the oncoming invaders. It was an uncountable number of Anthrall soldiers, ninjas, and armed Voyo villagers. Among their ranks were several catapults and siege towers. They were being led by three knights on horseback, each of which was carrying a flag that bore Anthrall’s coat of arms. “Who dares attack the city of Voyo?” Clockas asked.

“We do!” the lead knight, Merek, shouted. “We are here to take back what was usurped from these villagers!” He gestured at the villagers that stood among the army’s ranks.

Clockas scowled. “We are the new ruling empire in this world,” she said. “Any who oppose us will die.”

“We’ll just see about that,” said Merek. “ATTACK!” he shouted. He, the other two knights, and their army charged forward. Some of the soldiers got to operating the catapults, launching enormous boulders at the city’s defending wall. The boulders smashed into the wall, breaking off big chunks of it and killing several Pirikdi.

“Oh, two can play at that,” Clockas sneered. She looked behind her to see a group of Vihkal pushing a larger catapult on wheels. The Vihkal immediately started placing round, rough-edged boulders into it and launching the boulders over the defending wall. One Vihkal got a little carried away and launched one of his comrades off the catapult.

The army broke ranks in an effort to avoid the returned catapult fire, but that made them all the more vulnerable. The Vihkal and the Pirikdi continued to launch boulders at them, smashing many helpless soldiers, ninjas, and villagers.

“Stand strong!” Barda commanded as he spurred his horse forward. He rode directly up to the gate and dismounted. “Bring forth our battering ram!” Six soldiers came forward, carrying a large wedge-shaped battering ram. Barda got behind the battering ram and helped them bring it forward. The battering ram slammed into the gate, leaving a large dent.

Clockas saw all this from above. She waved her hand, and a dome of energy appeared over Barda and the soldiers with the battering ram. Time slowed down to the extreme inside the dome of energy, making the warriors’ movements slower than a drifting glacier. Clockas turned to a nearby group of six Pirikdi who were gathered on the defending wall next to her. “See those knights with the battering ram?” she asked. “They’re trying to break through the gate. “I need you to get down there and stop them.”

The Pirikdi nodded and jumped over the edge. Once they had surrounded Clockas’ time energy dome, she waved her hand and relinquished her powers. The Pirikdi immediately swarmed Barda and the soldiers, taking them completely by surprise. Barda tried to put up a fight, but he was overwhelmed by two Pirikdi at once. One Pirikdi knocked Barda’s shield out of his hand, while the other one swung his sword and clashed with Barda’s. As man and Pirikdi pushed against each other, the other Pirikdi stabbed Barda in the chest. The Pirikdi’s sword went right through Barda’s armor, going right into his heart and killing him.

Clockas looked back at the rest of the army and smiled. All of the catapults and one of the siege towers had been destroyed, and the warriors were no longer fighting in ranks. They were scattered about the battlefield, trying to avoid the flying boulders and enemies that were climbing over the wall to face them. The remaining two knights, Merek and Fendrel, were trying to get them to regroup, but it was no use.

“You thought you could win,” said Clockas. “But you were wrong.”

Suddenly, a red Pirikdi came running up to Clockas. “Lieutenant, we’ve got some bad news,” the Pirikdi panted. “We-we’ve got two more attacks on the north and south sides of the city!”

“What?” Clockas asked.

“Two more attacks,” the Pirikdi repeated. “There’s a big blue vehicle coming from the north, and a bunch of spy helicopters and jet planes from the south-”

“Curse the Outsider,” Clockas growled. “He’s managed to divert us so he could get into the city!”

“Well? What do we do?”

Clockas cleared her throat, then raised her voice. “All Vihkal, follow me!” she commanded. “We’re going to meet the northern attack!”

“What about the south?” the Pirikdi asked.

“Go tell Shadow about it,” she said. “I think he can handle it.”

Meanwhile, on the northern end of the city, Max, Glug, and Officer Janson were leading their troops toward the city. The ADC mobile command base was rumbling toward Voyo’s defending walls, with Freddie at the wheel and Dennis manning the missile turret. Commander Max was marching at the lead, with Mikey, Eddie, Glug, Officer Janson, and the rest of the cavemen and policemen following behind them as foot soldiers.

As they marched forward, Dennis fired a volley of missiles at the defending wall. The wall was destroyed by the missiles, revealing the street behind it. Vihkal, led by Clockas, had been running toward the wall to defend it, but they faltered when they saw it destroyed. “Stand strong!” Clockas ordered, though the confidence in her voice wavered. But the Vihkal, heartless machines that they were, felt no fear. They charged forward, ready to meet the attackers.

“Fire!” Max commanded. He, Mikey, Eddie, and the policemen started shooting at the Vihkal. The first few lines of Vihkal fell under the gunfire, but more kept coming. Freddie floored the gas pedal of the mobile command base, bringing it forward and running over a big chunk of the Vihkal. The rest were attacked by the armed cavemen. “Okay, keep going forward,” Max reminded Eddie and Mikey. “We must buy Hunter as much time as possible!”

Clockas’ eyes narrowed. “What did you say?” she asked.

“Nothing that concerns you,” said Max. He turned his gun on Clockas and fired six shots.

Clockas thrust her hand out and froze time around the six bullets. “This is my city now,” she said. “Of course it concerns me.”

“This not yours!” Glug shouted as he ran at Clockas with his spear raised. He brought it forward to impale her, but Clockas was ready. She swung her sword and knocked Glug’s spear out of his hands. Glug’s eyes widened as he stepped backward. Clockas stabbed Glug directly in the chest, tearing through his skin and darkening his clothes with blood. She wrenched her sword out, and Glug fell dead onto the ground.

Clockas turned and saw even more Vihkal coming to assist her. “Take down that big machine!” Clockas commanded, pointing at the mobile command base. “Do not let them into the city!” She looked down the street, wondering where the Outsider was. He wasn’t leading this attack or the one on the front gate, so chances were he was sneaking into the city like he did before. Clockas hoped Sonas would be enough to protect the portal.

Animas had regained all of his strength. Ever since his fellow Elemental Masters had returned him to the Great Creators’ control sphere, he had spent all his time in one of the Great Creators’ healing pods. As he had lay in the healing pod, his powers being recharged, Animas had subconsciously felt pride. He, as the Spear of Life, had wanted to play a bigger role than just being a tool in someone else’s hands, and had created a body for himself so he could be a real hero. Well, now he was a real hero. If it wasn’t for him, then the universe would’ve began unraveling by now. He wasn’t even ashamed that he had greatly exerted himself. He knew that every hero had their weak points every now and then.

Now, Animas had gotten out of his healing pod and was going to rejoin his fellow Elemental Masters. He went down the hallway of the control sphere, heading for the training room. He entered it to see Pyras and Terras in deep conversation with Hydras and Attractas.

“That is a genius idea,” Pyras was saying. “I did not think Hunter would try to-”

“What’s a genius idea?” Animas asked.

Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas turned to see Animas. “Hey, he’s up!” said Terras.

“Good, because we’re gonna need you again,” said Hydras.

“Need me? Need me for what?” Animas asked.

“Hunter has a plan to properly restore the balance,” said Pyras. He explained the message Hydras had relayed to him about Hunter’s plan to kill Light and Shadow and merge them into one being.

“So let me get this straight,” Animas said when Pyras was done. “I’m gonna have to gather the bodies of Light and Shadow and create a new primordial being out of them?”

“Yes,” said Pyras.

“And…it will take a lot of my energy,” said Animas. “Maybe even…”

Pyras’ face fell when he realized what Animas was saying. “You think you might die from the effort,” he said.

“Yes,” said Animas. “I just brought a primordial being back to life, and it nearly drained me. Imagine what merging two dead primordial beings and creating a new one would do to me.”

“Ah,” said Terras. “We have a problem.”

“It would mean the end of my existence as an Elemental Master,” said Animas. “I’d just be a spear again.”

“But it’ll be worth it,” said Pyras. “Think of Glacias, who used you to awaken Light before. He knew it was the right thing to do, so he did it.”

“I did sense some fear in him,” Animas said, thinking back to when Glacias had used him to perform the ritual to awaken Light. “But he pushed that fear away to do the right thing.”

“Exactly,” said Hydras. “You’ll be a real hero if you do this. We’ll pass down the stories of what you did. And I’m sure Hunter will tell his kids about it.”

“Hunter has kids?”

“No,” said Hydras. “I meant, when he grows up and has kids of his own, he’ll relay the stories of your heroism to them.”

Animas cast a slight smile. “Another measure of a true hero,” he said. “Committing good deeds that are remembered through the course of time.”

“Right,” said Pyras. “And if you do this, you’ll be hailed as a greater hero than any of the other Elemental Masters.”

“You’re right,” said Animas. “This is what I must do.”

“Good,” said Pyras. “Because I’m sure Hunter is attacking Voyo as we speak. It won’t be long before Light and Shadow start fighting again, and we’ll be needed right when one of them kills the other.”

“Right then,” said Animas. “Let’s go.”

End of Chapter 15…

Chapter 16

Hunter, Cornelius, Sam, Tyler, and Sensei Chen ran through the streets, heading right for the city square. They could hear the distant sounds of battle all around them-shouting, explosions, and loud thumping noises. They ran into no Pirikdi, Vihkal, or Kakkarak, much to their relief. The whole reason they had their armies attacking the defending walls was to distract the city’s occupants and leave no one guarding the portal.

Save one.

Hunter turned the corner to where he knew the city square was. But to his surprise, he saw Sonas, Elemental Master of sound, standing guard at the portal. He was leaning against his battle sledgehammer in a chill pose. He could’ve been a rock star waiting to sign autographs.

“So Clockas was right,” Sonas said when he saw Hunter coming. “You actually came back to put the keystones back in the portal.”

“Yes, I did,” said Hunter. “I take it you’re here to stop me?”

“Why, yes, I am,” said Sonas. “I’ll bet you weren’t expecting me.”

“Not you specifically,” said Hunter. “But I figured we’d run into at least one bad guy on our way.”

Sonas lifted his hammer and held it in a defensive manner. “Well, this is certainly good for me,” he said. “I will have the honor of killing the Outsider myself!” He swung his hammer at Hunter, who jumped backward and dodged.

“Nice try,” Hunter said as Cornelius, Sam, Tyler, and Sensei Chen came up behind him. “But I don’t travel alone.”

Tyler loaded his gun and shot at Sonas. Sonas doubled over as the bullet hit him in the shoulder, but the blow was not fatal. Sonas brought his hammer forward and bashed Tyler in the chest. Tyler fell on his butt and hit his head against the ground. Tyler did not get up.

“Tyler!” Hunter cried.

“Worry about him later,” Cornelius reminded him. He ducked to the side to avoid Sonas bringing his hammer down like a game of whack-a-mole. He grabbed Sonas’ sledgehammer and tried to wrench it out of his hands, but Sonas was stronger. He twisted his sledgehammer, wrenched it out of Cornelius’ grasp, and willed an intense sonic blast to fire at Cornelius. The sound hit Cornelius like a giant rubber fist, creating a ringing noise in his ears and causing him to sway on the spot.

“Hey! No one does that to my dad!” Hunter cried. He lunged at Sonas and tackled him. Hunter and Sonas wrestled across the ground. Hunter came out on top and tried his best to pin Sonas down. “Sam! Put the keystones in the portal!” Hunter called.

Sam nodded and ran for Tyler, who had been carrying the six keystones in his satchel. He took the satchel and ran for the portal. Sonas, seeing this, threw Hunter off of him and pounded his fist on the ground. A powerful soundwave reverberated in Sam’s direction, knocking him off his feet and causing the keystones to scatter everywhere. Sam grabbed the keystone closest to him and scrambled to his feet. As Sam was going for another keystones, Sonas got to his feet and scooped up his sledgehammer. He ran at Sam, but Sensei Chen got in his way. The ninja master dueled Sonas with his staff, attacking him with a frenetic mix of judo, karate, and many other martial arts Hunter didn’t recognize. He eventually knocked Sonas’ sledgehammer out of his hand and karate-kicked him in the face. Sonas stumbled backward and fell over.

Meanwhile, Hunter and Sam had gathered up all the keystones. They ran for the portal with the keystones, ready to put them in their slots. “No!” Sonas cried. “You can’t!”

“Yes, we can,” said Hunter.

“I…I will not…” Sonas trailed off when he heard footsteps behind him. He rolled over to see Sensei Chen standing over him, with Sonas’ sledgehammer raised over his head. “No-noooo!” Sonas cried. The last thing he saw was Sensei Chen bringing the hammer down towards his face.

Hunter and Sam stepped back from the portal. They had just placed the last of the six keystones back in their slots in the base of the portal and were watching as a sphere of blue light appeared in the middle. The sphere grew and grew until it filled the entire portal rim.

“Okay,” Hunter said. “Now we just gotta-”

“What have you done?” Shadow boomed from afar. Hunter and Sam turned to see Shadow turning in their direction. He was being bombasted by a fleet of spy jets and helicopters, but he had noticed the portal reactivate and was now turning toward it. “Outsider, is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” said Hunter. “And it’s time for your defeat.”

As if on cue, the light from the portal grew even brighter. “Uh, Hunter, I think we’d better get out of the way,” said Sam.

“Yeah, you’re right,” said Hunter. He and Sam ran away from the portal, with Cornelius and Sensei Chen dragging an unconscious Tyler in the opposite direction. A giant blob of light came out of the portal like a lava flow emerging from a volcano. The light touched the ground and increased in size, growing high above the buildings and taking on a humanoid shape. Hunter watched in amazement as Light formed right before his eyes, looking at Shadow with an unbridled hatred.

“Shadow,” Light growled. “Look at what you’ve done to this world!” He reached his hands up to the sky and shot out two beams of blinding light. The light went into the sky and mixed itself with the shadow that blotted out the sky. The shadow melted away from the pure light energy, exposing the blue sky behind it. “This is wrong,” said Light. “It is my power-light-that should spread through the world.”

“No!” Shadow growled. “How are you still alive? I killed you with my bare hands!”

“I got better,” said Light. “Thanks to the Elemental Masters.”

Even though Shadow didn’t have a mouth, his face twisted in an unmistakable scowl. “Curse those Elemental Masters!” he said. “I should’ve killed them when I had the chance!”

“It’s just you and me now,” said Light. “Just like before.”

Hunter watched as the two titans approached each other. “Get him, Light,” said Hunter.

“What in the name of the Great Creators?” a new voice asked. Hunter and Sam looked to see Clockas running into the city square. She must have retreated from the northern attack and came to investigate the commotion in the city square.

“Light’s back,” said Hunter. “And he’s gonna kill Shadow.”

“But-this can’t be!” Clockas exclaimed. She looked around the city square and saw Sonas’ dead body. “What happened to Sonas?”

“Sensei Chen killed him with his own sledgehammer,” said Hunter.

Clockas turned and looked at Hunter, this time with hate. “Boy, you have been nothing but a nuisance ever since you stepped foot in this world!” she said. “Everywhere you go, you bring trouble upon me and my allies.”

“Only because you brought trouble first,” said Hunter.

Without warning, Clockas drew her sword and slashed it at Hunter. Hunter was just barely able to dodge it. Clockas slammed the butt of her sword into Hunter’s forehead, briefly disorienting him. She kicked him in the chest and sent him flying into the side of a nearby building. She snapped her fingers and froze time around Hunter, preventing him from moving out of her way.

“I’m going to kill you slowly,” Clockas said as she advanced on Hunter. “When I stab you, I’m going to slow down time around you, so you can feel a slow and painful death.”

Hunter was still frozen, but he was still conscious. He had to get out of this quick! But he was frozen in place, unable to move a muscle. He could only watch helplessly as Clockas drew her sword back.

All of a sudden, someone kicked Clockas from behind. Clockas stumbled over and turned to see who her attacker was. It was none other than Pyras, Elemental Master of fire. “You!” Clockas cursed.

“Yes,” said Pyras. “Me.” He lit his sword with red-hot fire and slashed at Clockas. Clockas parried the strike, causing sparks to fly in her face. She blinked furiously to get the sparks out, then struck at Pyras again. The two Elemental Masters dueled furiously, backing away from Hunter and toward the portal. Pyras launched a torrent of red flame at Clockas, hoping to incinerate her. But Clockas dodged the flame and brought her sword in a roundhouse move. The move knocked Pyras’ sword out of his hand, sending it sliding away on the ground. Pyras ducked to avoid Clockas’ next sword strike and punched her chest with his red-hot fist.

As Clockas stumbled backward, Pyras took his chance to go after his sword. As his fingers were closing around its handle, Clockas came up behind him. She stabbed him in the back, and this time, Pyras wasn’t quick enough to dodge. The blade went into his upper left back, in the shoulder blade area. It didn’t kill him, but it still really hurt.

“You always were a poor leader,” said Clockas. “It should’ve been me who was in charge.”

“No,” Pyras said, grimacing hard. “You were too rebellious, too headstrong. You would only have led us to our deaths.” He sliced at Clockas and clashed with her sword. Pyras struggled to his feet and dueled with Clockas once more. Before long, their swords were parrying each other once again. Pyras and Clockas pushed against each other, each hoping to slice the other’s face off.

Before Clockas could get the upper hand, Pyras summoned all the elemental energy he had left. He engulfed his whole body in fire and then, with his last shred of strength, pushed against Clockas and sent her falling onto the ground. Pyras blowtorched Clockas as she lay on the ground, engulfing her in fire and burning her to a crisp. The flames consumed Clockas, charring her orange armor and burning at her organic parts underneath the metal armour. Clockas screamed in pain as she was incinerated. When the flames died down, Clockas’ head fell limply to the ground as smoke emerged from the cracks in her armor. She was dead.

Pyras’ knees buckled as he felt the pain in his back return with more fury. He looked up to see Hunter coming his way. He had been freed of Clockas’ time control when she had been killed. “Pyras! You’re back!” he said.

“Yes, I am,” said Pyras. “And so are the other Elemental Masters.” He gestured to where Hydras, Terras, Attractas, and Animas were standing in front of the portal.

“Hey guys,” said Hunter. “Long time no see.”

“It’s good to see you again, Hunter,” said Hydras.

Animas looked Hunter up and down. “Hello, Hunter,” he said. “I believe this is the first time we’ve met in person.”

“It is,” said Hunter. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Animas,” Pyras said as he fell to his knees. “Would you mind healing me?”

“Yes,” Animas replied. He placed a hand on Pyras’ shoulder where Clockas had stabbed him and took away the pain just like that.

“Thank you,” Pyras said, standing up.”

“So…now we just watch the battle?” Terras asked.

“Yes,” Hunter answered, looking to where Light and Shadow were fighting each other. “We watch the battle.”

Light and Shadow were currently engaging in an intense fistfight, punching and circling each other like boxers in a ring. Light was blasting rays of light in Shadow’s face, causing Shadow to yell in pain. Shadow retaliated by grabbing Light by the wrist and slammed him against a nearby building. Light punched Shadow in the chest with the force of a speeding train. A cloud of shadow billowed from Shadow’s chest as he stumbled backward.

“You thought you could come back and defeat me,” Shadow growled. “Well, you were wrong!” He clenched his fists and grew in size to seven, eight hundred…almost a thousand feet tall.

“We’ll just see about that!” Light yelled back as he grew to a thousand feet himself. He concentrated and summoned all of his light power. His whole body lit up until it was like a miniature star. He brought his hands up to his chest and did an odd hand-waving movement. As he did so, an orb of white light appeared in front of his heart. Light thrust his hand forward, and the orb flew at Shadow. As it hit Shadow, the orb exploded with light. Bright white light filled the eyes of everyone within a three-mile radius and prevented them from seeing anything.

When the light cleared, Shadow was doubled over and clutching his torso like he was the victim of a gunshot. He looked at Light again with hate in his red eyes. “No…” he moaned. “You can’t have…”

“Yes, I can,” said Light. He stomped toward Shadow, crushing several small buildings under his feet as he went. “Now you know how it feels to be beaten.” He grabbed Shadow by the shoulder and pinioned him against a tall building. Without hesitation, he grabbed Shadow by the head and snapped his neck. Light slammed Shadow into the ground and pounded his fist into his chest. As he did so, Light focused all of his light powers into his arm and roasted Shadow with them. By the time he was done, Shadow was dead, having died an even more violent death than Clockas had.

Light rose to his full height and looked out over the city. The battles at the defending walls were dying down. Seeing the Light had came and killed Shadow, all the warriors had stopped fighting and were staring at Light. Light smiled when he saw all the eyes pointed in his direction.

“People of the world!” Light declared. “I have came to take what is rightfully mine. From this day forward, you will no longer worship Shadow. You will now bow before me!”

End of Chapter 16… (almost done!)

Chapter 17

“Well, Light actually killed Shadow,” said Pyras.

“Good,” said Hunter. “I was kinda hoping he’d win this fight.”

As Hunter, Cornelius, Sensei Chen, Sam, and the Elemental Masters watched, Light spread his hands out toward the sky and shone his light into it. As he did so, the dark shadow in the sky started to fade away. As Hunter watched, the sky turned a natural blue like it was before Shadow had taken over.

“Agh,” Cornelius said, rubbing his eyes. “It’s so bright.”

“Yeah, it is,” Hunter said as he blinked his own eyes. He had gotten so accustomed to the sky being so dark, it was taking some time for his eyes to adjust to its natural form.

Pyras nudged Hunter. “So, Hunter, are we going to go into the next phase of our plan, or what?”

“Uh, yes, we are,” said Hunter. He pulled out the Book of Erasing a God and unrolled it. But, to his dismay, he saw that it was written in ancient Egyptian writing. “Darn it,” he said. “I didn’t realize it would be written in-”

“What?” Cornelius asked as he looked over Hunter’s shoulder. “We stole it from an ancient Egyptian tomb. Of course it’s gonna be written that way!”

“But I don’t know how to read this,” said Hunter.

“I…do not either,” Cornelius admitted.

“Sorry to sound like Glacias, but…are you kidding me?” Terras asked. “You had this plan to kill Light or Shadow with that scroll, and you don’t even know how to read said scroll?”

“Well…we just figured someone else would know how to read it,” said Cornelius. “Anyone here know Egyptian hieroglyphs?”

“Nope,” said Sam. “Tyler might, if he wasn’t unconscious.”

Animas looked over to where Tyler lay, still knocked out from Sonas’ attack. “I think I can fix that,” he said. He walked over to Tyler and placed a hand on him. As Animas focused his power, Tyler’s eyes fluttered open.

“Ow…what happened?” Tyler asked as he stood up.

“We won,” said Animas. “And now we need to use the scroll to kill Light.”

“The…scroll?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, the scroll,” Hunter said, holding out the Book of Erasing a God for Tyler to see. “The one you, Merek, Mikey, and my dad went to find.”

“Ah, yes, that one,” Tyler said, rising to his feet. He took the scroll from Hunter and read it over. “Ooh,” he said. “Egyptian hieroglyphs.”

“You can read them, right?”

“I mean, I know a good deal of them,” said Tyler. “My father taught me some, but even his knowledge was limited.”

Sensei Chen cleared his throat. “I believe I can help you with that,” he said.

“Help me learn hieroglyphs?” Tyler asked.

“Well, if you want me to, I can teach you hieroglyphs,” said Sensei Chen. “But what I meant was, I can help you read the scroll and cast the incantation.”

“You know hieroglyphs?” Hunter asked.

“Most of them, yes,” said Sensei Chen. He took the scroll and scanned through it. “While there are certain hieroglyphs I do not know, I will be able to read this scroll without any problems.”

“Okay, then that takes care of that problem,” said Hunter. “But we need to figure out how to-”

“Hello, my subjects,” Light boomed as he walked toward the city square. He looked down on Hunter, Cornelius, Pyras, Hydras, Sensei Chen, Animas, Sam, Tyler, Terras, and Attractas. “I must say, I appreciate you coming here and cleansing this city of Shadow’s minions.”

“Uh, we didn’t get rid of all of them, did we?” Sam asked.

“Most all of them,” said Light. “Your troops killed almost all of the Pirikdi, Vihkal, and Kakkarak. Those that survived fled the city.”

“Good,” said Hydras. “Because we don’t want them in this city.”

“And, now that that problem is taken care of, you will now be my subjects as I rule over this world!” Light said, nodding triumphantly.

“Yeah…” Hunter trailed off sarcastically. “Guys, how about we go and-and gather everyone up, so they can hail their new ruler?”


“Excellent idea,” said Light. “I will wait here, for everyone to arrive.”

Hunter, Cornelius, the Elemental Masters, Sam, Tyler, and Sensei Chen left the city square and went down a couple blocks. “What are you doing, Hunter?” Cornelius asked.

“Giving us some time to formulate a plan,” Hunter answered. “We’ve gotta find a way to sneak up behind Light and cast the incantation on him.”

“I think you just said it yourself,” said Pyras. “We’ll have everyone come up and hail Light as their ruler and use that as a distraction.”

Hunter blinked. “Yeah,” he said. “That was pretty much the wavelength I was thinking on.”

“Then let’s gather everyone up,” said Pyras.

Within the hour, they had managed to rally Max, Kylie, Merek, Fendrel, Officer Janson, and everyone who had came to help them. Everyone went toward the city square while Tyler and Sensei Chen took an alternate route that went around to the back of the city square. Hunter, Cornelius, Pyras, and Animas headed up the gathering of “worshippers” there to hail Light.

“Ah, I see I have many followers here to join my empire,” said Light.

“Yes, we’re here to pay our respects to you,” Hunter said. His voice lacked any emotion or care, as if he was reading from a teleprompter. He wondered if this was how news anchors felt when they were sharing “their” thoughts on a controversial incident.

“We have fought long and hard for your cause,” Pyras added. “We are most pleased to see you stand as our leader.”

Kylie wasn’t able to resist cringing. “I hope Hunter’s right about this,” she muttered to herself.

Elsewhere, Tyler and Sensei Chen were coming up the road behind the city square. They could see Light standing just as tall as Shadow had, towering over the surrounding buildings and looking down on the people below him the way a human would look at a colony of ants.

“Okay,” Tyler said as he unrolled the scroll. “Let’s get this started.” He parsed the first sentence of the scroll’s incantation, which was comprised solely of hieroglyphs he knew. The first couple hieroglyphs translated to “Insert god’s name here,” so Tyler read it as, “Light, primordial being of light,” before continuing with “I hereby erase you from the minds of every person and animal in this world.”

Tyler continued, reading the next line that he understood. “You are nothing but a pestilence upon this world, serving no purpose to…” He trailed off, as the incantation faded into a series of hieroglyphs he didn’t understand.

Sensei Chen picked up for him. “…the circle of life,” he continued. “You deserve to be erased from the world, from the memories of its inhabitants, and from existence itself. We now exile you beyond the void. You are no more.”

As Sensei Chen finished the spell, the Book of Erasing a God glowed brightly. A beam of golden light shot out of it and hit Light right in the back. Light’s eyes immediately filled with shock. “What-what’s going on?” he asked. He doubled over as the light emulating from his body started to dim. He felt the pain coming from behind him and turned around to see Tyler and Sensei Chen standing in the street behind him with the Book of Erasing a God blowing brightly. “You!” Light growled. “You dare try to attack me?”

But before Light could try to attack Tyler of Sensei Chen, he was hit with another wave of pain. He fell to his knees, crushing a nearby building under his weight. He clutched his chest like a heart attack victim, his eyes filled with pain. He let out a series of strained, painful groans before he exhaled one final breath and toppled over like a falling tree.

“Did we kill him?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, you did,” said Pyras.

“Great going,” said Hunter. “Animas, you’re up.”

Animas took a deep breath. “Yes, I am,” he said, gripping the Spear of Life in his hand. He looked at where Light lay dead, and then looked in the direction of Shadow’s dead body. “Let’s do this.”

Animas put down his shield and hopped on it as it started to hover off the ground. Animas rode his flying board into the air, allowing himself a better view of both Light and Shadow’s corpses. He could feel apprehension gnawing at his heart, knowing that if he were to do this, he would lose his newfound body. But he thought back to the conversation he’d had with his fellow Elemental Masters back in the Great Creators’ control sphere. He knew that this would be for the good of the universe, and to restore full balance.

Animas stood on his flying board and held his arms straight out, much like Jesus on the cross. He channeled all of the elemental power in himself and in the Spear of Life, sending it out in two golden streams at the bodies of Light and Shadow. Animas pictured the both of them being reincarnated and joined together into one being-one that embodied both of their elements. With all the energy he had, Animas meshed together the very existence of both Light and Shadow.

Pain filled every molecule of Animas’ body-organic and mechanical. But in the midst of all the pain, he held on to his last shred of concentration. He watched as Light and Shadow began to glow with golden energy and rise off the ground. The two of them floated above the city, coming closer together. The golden light around them glowed even brighter as their bodies joined together, forming pure energy. The light increased until it was blinding to look at. Animas allowed the consciousnesses of Light and Shadow to be reborn, but this time as one, with no memories of their previous existence. The energy solidified until a new primordial being, five hundred feet tall, was floating above the city and descending to the ground.

“It…it is done,” Animas said. He could feel himself fading…

End of Chapter 17. One more to go…

Chapter 18

Hunter watched as the new primordial being floated down from where it had formed in the sky and gently landed on the ground. He immediately fell to his knees, as he was a fresh new entity. This primordial being was a cool gray, halfway between white and black. He opened his eyes, and they were a bright emerald green. “Hello everyone,” said the primordial being. His voice was loud, like Light’s and Shadow’s, but it wasn’t as harsh or arrogant. It was more of a baritone. “I am Twilight, the embodiment of both light and shadow.”

Hunter’s face brightened. “It worked! It really worked!”

Pyras grinned as well. “I knew Animas had it in him.”

Twilight looked down at the people gathered before him. “Elemental Masters, I see,” he said. “And a multitude of humans.”

“Yes,” said Hunter.

Hydras looked up at the sky. “Where’d Animas go?”

“I don’t see him,” said Terras.

“He’s probably dead,” said Attractas.

“Did-did anyone see what happened to him?” Terras asked.

“I saw him flying up there,” said Kylie. “But then he started to shrivel up and fade away.”

“I thought I saw the Spear of Life falling from the sky,” said Merek. “Maybe-”

“Spear of Life?” Twilight asked.

“It’s the tool that Animas used,” said Pyras. “He was the one who created you.”

“Animas created me?” Twilight asked.

“Yes, he did,” said Pyras.

“Where is this Animas?” Twilight asked, looking around.

Hunter, Cornelius, and Pyras exchanged glances. “He…died doing it,” said Pyras.

Twilight had no nose or mouth, but what passed for a face on his head fell. “That is unfortunate,” he said. “I would have held him in high honor for creating me.”

“We all would,” said Hunter. “But we can still hold a funeral for him.”

Twilight nodded slowly. “Is there a body left?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Attractas. “But maybe-”

“I found the Spear of Life,” Tyler said from across the city square. He and Sensei Chen had caught the Spear of Life when it had fallen after Animas’ death. Now, Tyler was holding the Spear of Life up for all to see.

“Well, that’s something, at least,” said Cornelius.

“What will you do with the Spear of Life?” Twilight asked.

“It would probably be best if we returned it to the Great Creators,” said Pyras. “But not before we pay a proper respect to Animas.”

“And maybe clean up this city a bit, too,” said Terras.

Pyras thought for a moment. “Yes, I think we’d better do that,” he said.

Everyone spent the rest of the day cleaning up the city of Voyo-clearing out the bodies of the dead, cleaning up the streets, and repairing the damaged buildings as best as they could. A few people also went back to the other City and brought Turan and the other Voyo villagers back to help.

During the cleanup, Hunter heard from Max that Glug the caveman had been killed by Clockas during the battle. He was devastated to hear the news. Ever since he met Glug in Dino Valley, he had liked the guy. Sure, Glug was kinda dumb, but he was always willing to help-and he had a big heart. Hunter would miss Glug deeply.

While everyone else was cleaning up the city, Turan went to Twilight and talked with him. Twilight still harbored a desire to rule the world, but Turan told him that, if he did, then some people might rise up and try to revolt against him. Twilight reluctantly agreed to retreat into the realm of the Great Creators, where primordial beings belonged.

However, Twilight still opted to stay and pay respect to Animas. Since Twilight had essentially been created by Animas, he absolutely had to be there. He stood in the city square behind the portal, with Turan, Hunter, and Cornelius standing on the pedestal. Pyras, Hydras, Terras, and Attractas were standing guard beside the pedestal. A plethora of guests were gathered before the city square-Tyler, Max, Kylie, Sensei Chen, Merek, and Sam were at the lead, with Fendrel, Officer Janson, Mikey, Eddie, Dennis, and Freddie behind them. There were other guests, too-the King from Anthrall, Princess Ariana and her husband Prince Handsome, and even a couple of islanders from the island Mahra. All of them were there to recognize that the final battle had been won, and their world was safe once more.

Turan stepped forward and addressed the crowd. “Today we honor Animas, Elemental Master of life,” he said. “Who was inspired by our acts of heroism, and rose to become a hero himself. He gave his life to permanently restore balance. We will always remember him.”

Turan then looked at Hunter. “But we are also here to honor the Outsider, Hunter Brooks, who concocted the plan for Animas to do what he did. He, as the Outsider, is our true hero.”

Everyone in the crowd cast a respectful gaze at Hunter. “He killed both Tenebris and Prohahka for good,” sad Pyras. “And, if it wasn’t for him, my brethren and I would still be trapped in the realm of the Great Creators.”

“We will remember you as well,” said Turan.

“Hey, I’m still gonna come visit every now and then,” said Hunter. “Er, if that’s okay with you, Dad.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” said Cornelius.

“You mean…you’re not gonna sell the machine or anything?”

“I think not,” said Cornelius. “I will instead create a duplicate of it, or share the blueprints, but we will keep our machine.”

“Good,” said Hunter. “Because honestly…” He looked between the Elemental Masters, the knights, the ADC troops, and everyone else he had shared his adventures with. They had all saved one another’s lives many times, and had shared wonderful experiences. “I’m gonna miss everybody.”

“We’ll miss you, too,” said Sam.

“I’ll look forward to when you come back,” said Tyler. “I’ll have to take you to the Rattling Rapids.”

“Rattling Rapids?”

“You’ll see,” said Tyler.

“And let us know if there’s any problems in your world,” said Hydras. “We could probably help out.”

“I will,” said Hunter.

Turan beckoned toward the portal. “Farewell, my friend,” he said. “You’re a good man.”

Hunter and Cornelius waved good-bye to the people of Voyo and the surrounding areas and stepped into the portal. They felt the familiar sensation of being dissolved into tiny pieces, then being transported between dimensions. Then they passed out.

Hunter and Cornelius woke up on the floor of Cornelius’ lab. It was still nighttime in their world, though several hours had passed since Hunter and Cornelius had entered the portal.

“Well, that was something,” said Cornelius.

“I know,” said Hunter. “So…are you satisfied with the way your machine works?”

Cornelius smiled. “On the whole, I think I am,” he said. “I’m glad we could go on that adventure.”

“Me too,” said Hunter. “Me too.”

And there ends my Playtime trilogy. It took months for me to upload it on the boards, but…it’s done. If you made it this far, well…congratulations. You’ve read the whole thing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this novel, if you’d be willing to tell me what you thought.