Story by: Scott Newman
The Ranger Graduation song written by: April Gardner
In the courtyard of the Ranger Academy, Ken, Argo, Vanessa and the other seven recruits from their training cycle stood in a line before an audience. Behind them, on a stage, there stood Overseer Corvin Risho at a podium.
"Families, friends, and loved ones." Risho said. "Seven years ago, there stood in this very spot thirty five recruits. Now, there stands only ten recruits left. The Ranger Guild is not measured by how many Recruits cannot graduate from the academy; it is measured by the select few whom do graduate. These ten graduates today, have become the most elite class of warrior in all of Shogun. Unlike the soldiers of its armies or the constables who enforce law and order, these warriors fight a far more dangerous battle." He paused for a moment then scanned single rank of Recruits. "Recruits... Recite the Ranger Creed."
In almost perfect sync the ten Recruits said, "The Ranger Creed. As a Ranger I will protect the people of Shogun from the beasts which walk its lands, fly in its skies, and swim in its waters. For the people of Shogun I will hunt these beasts to provide them with the resources needed to maintain our way of life. Should fellow Ranger need my aid I shall give it. As a Ranger I will never hunt the monsters of Shogun for sport or personal pleasure of any kind. Never will a hunt go to waste. Never will I indulge in any sadistic practices that include the torture, condemning to torture, or the over hunting of any creature in my travels. The Monsters of Shogun are not our enemies, they are a part of nature, as are we. As a Ranger I will never partake in any wars nor will I hold allegiance to any one Kingdom. Rangers are warriors of the people and therefore hold allegiance to our cause and our cause alone. Before the Gods, I swear this creed; for I am a Ranger."
Risho took in a refreshing sigh before smiling slightly and continuing with his speech, "The Ranger Creed is an oath; established when the first Rangers came to be over seven centuries ago. It is the first part of the graduation process as a reminder to the Recruits of their duty as Rangers and as a reminder of the centuries of lineage that they are now a part of. Now comes the ceremonial elixir."
A group of Elvan women stepped forward and presented each recruit with a ceramic cup of light blue liquid that seemed to glow slightly.
"At the end of their first year of survival training, each recruit was presented with a feather by the sacred Blue Crows. That feather was crucial in the creation of Elixir of Longevity. Upon drinking the Elixir, the Recruits will be granted prolonged life, prolonged youth, and a healing ability that exceeds that of a normal human. This does not make them immortal, but it does make them better suited for the life that lies ahead. Recruits, you may drink the Elixir."
The ten Recruits drank from the cups until not a drop of the fluid was left. It was unlike anything they had ever tasted; more refreshing than a cup of water in the desert. Once it was all gone they felt a chill come over their bodies followed by a benevolent feeling of rejuvenation. As if they had every weight or burden lifted from their shoulders they felt strong and ready to take on the world.
"Recruits..." Risho said. "You are no longer. You are now, Rangers."
There was an applause from the audience. Argo and Vanessa felt a great amount of joy in their souls for they knew that part of that applause was from their families. For Vanessa it was the parents that first did not support her that now did. For Argo it was the brother he wish he could be like. The only one who did not feel such joy in that moment was Ken. Though he believed his parents were watching over him in that moment he still could not help but feel alone in the crowd.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude the graduation ceremony, Kima Shinno, one of our newest heralds to the Supreme Master of the Ranger Guild, shall sing the traditional farewell song for the new Rangers."
The name that the Overseer said sparked an interest in Ken so much that he nearly broke from his statue-like state. He knew that he had heard the name before but couldn't place where. The young female elf stepped onto the stage. She was both beautiful and confident; never once showing any sign of discomfort being in front of the crowd of people. After a brief applause the area went silent. The young Elf proceeded to sing with a voice as enchanting as her appearance...
|When the wind sirens a call to your soul beckoning you to a heroes path you realize its your destiny at last... When darkness falls and the lights go dim there's no hesitation felt from within just a burst of adrenaline surging for the slay... A ranger will concur laying all enemies to waste... Onward to the next adventure through the next stage the fight is rewarding for all others will be saved... When destiny calls and a burning desire to rage through the night and conquer the day becomes your one true goal because your heart is that of a hero and there's no time for delay you can call yourself A Ranger... One who will fight through each battle with the might of ten men to seek a betterfor that is a heroes win. darkness will fall and the shade will go black but hope and triumph will light their way and make make them never turn back...|
Later on at a dining hall down by the docks in Windshire the ten new Rangers were able to celebrate with their families. For Ken it was a rather awkward feeling as much of his time there looked to be spent alone staring out across the water from the hall's balcony.
With so much celebration, there should be no room for such a gloomy state." A voice suddenly said.
Ken turned around. Much to his excitement it was Liam along with Corvin Risho.
"Master Hanzo... Overseer Risho" He said in a surprised greeting.
"Surely you did not think I would not show up to my prodigy's graduation now did you?" Liam said.
"Everyone else is rejoicing," Risho said. "Why stay out here in solitude?"
"Well this celebration is for those with family." Ken said.
"This celebration is for all who succeeded Ken." Liam said. "And you do still have family. Your friends may not be blood, they are now your brothers and sisters."
"I suppose you're right, Master Hanzo." Ken said. "I'm surprised the Supreme Master is not here though."
"Supreme Master Cruz has not yet returned with the Emperor and the Councilmen from their journey to Scata." Risho said. "He did however wanted me to convey you his congratulations and said that it is always great news when the receiver of his special enrollment graduates."
"You have done us all a great honor Ken." Liam added. "When we took you in we had hoped you would make it to this day, and you've done so gloriously."
Ken felt a great swell of gratitude come over him. It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to know that there were people who were proud of him for becoming a Ranger.
"Ken!" Argo's voice suddenly said from behind Risho and Liam. "Ken where'd you go?"
"Excuse me sirs." Ken said respectfully with a bow.
Ken returned inside and met up with Argo and his family.
"Ah there he is." Argo said. "Everyone this is Ken Khan."
"It's a pleasure to meet you all." Ken respectfully said to Argo's parents and four siblings.
One of Argo's siblings was an older gentleman with a goatee and long hair.
"Greetings, Ken." The brother said, "I am Diego."
"You are Argo's brother we've heard so much about then." Ken said with admiration.
"The brother I am." Diego said. "As I understand you assisted my brother on several occasions."
"As did he." Ken replied. "Between the two of us and our friend Vanessa it was a good group effort."
"Well nonetheless, I and the rest of our family express our gratitude." Diego said.
"Thank you sir." Ken said respectfully. "Between the three of us though, I say Argo is the one who truly excelled in the seven years. When I think back to how he was when we first met to how he is now, you'd think I was talking about two different people."
"Well brother," Diego said to Argo, "You certainly have done our family proud."
"I appreciate that Diego." Argo said.
"Well if you will excuse me gentlemen, as I'm sure you'll find out, the life of a Ranger is very demanding." Diego said.
"Where are you off to?" Argo asked.
"I have to ride north," Diego said, "I hear there's a legendary hunt taking place that could use my assistance."
As Diego made his exit Ken was asked to take his seat at the table for the feast that was about to begin. The day went on with much rejoicing and laughs. For the first time in a while Ken felt as though he had a family again. It was this positive atmosphere that actually made some of the wounds of his past heal slightly. The lively feeling of the celebration was then suddenly brought to a halt. First there was a loud crash which was then followed by a rumbling noise. People outside screamed and soon there was the sound of a number of them running.
Not wasting time Ken, Vanessa and Argo ran to the exit to see what was going on, as did the other people in the hall. Outside they saw a number of people rushing towards the docks and a number of others peering out their doors and windows in confusion.
Amidst the commotion Ken and the others could hear people saying various things ..
A ship has crashed into the port!
Did anyone see what caused it!?
It didn’t even try to slow its approach!
Is anyone hurt!?
Is anyone Dead!?
Everyone from the hall joined those who were rushing to the scene. Ken, Argo, Vanessa, Liam and the other graduates led the group to the dock where the ship had crashed.
As it turns out the ship grazed one dock and crashed through most of a second. At the front the bow was crushed slightly inward from the force of its wreck. Aside from the people who were rushing on board, there were no signs of life.
"Hello!" One of the rescuers called out.
"Is anyone here!?" A second called out.
The graduates arrived on the scene with eyes wide. They all were thinking the same thing; a sea monster.
"I found the crew!" A rescuer said. "They're all dead!"
The news sent a shiver through all the onlookers. None were more on edge than the newly graduated Rangers.
"What creature could have caused that?" Argo asked.
"Sea Ghouls maybe?" Vanessa speculated.
"No." Liam said noticing a few scorch marks on the hull. "Sea Ghouls wouldn't have caused those burns."
"Sea dragon?" Ken asked.
"I'm not sure." Liam said before looking out over the ocean. "Something tells me that this isn't over though. All of you have your weapons yes?"
The graduates all acknowledged that they had their weapons.
Just before they could go to assist with the rescue, from the outermost dock someone shouted, "By the Gods, something is coming this way!"
There was barely a soul at the port who didn't stop and look across the horizon. Much to the horror of most, there was a lone wave that was traveling independently from the others. Worse, was that the wave seemed to get larger as it drew closer.
There then emerged a large serpentine dorsal fin with the tips. The men at the outer dock froze in terror and it wasn't until the wave slowed down and the monstrous blue head of the creature surfaced. Liam and the other Rangers couldn't believe their eyes at the size of this massive sea monster. It was serpentine with the face of a dragon, a crown of spikes, and a large single horn protruding from its forehead. After a low hissing growl, the beast let out a loud roar that sounded like the screech of an eagle ending with the bellow of crocodile.
Argo furious and confused shouted, "What in the name of the Gods is that!?"
None of the Rangers or any of the onlookers could identify the enormous monster.
With a swing of its head, the sea monster smashed the outer dock to pieces. People Began to flee in every direction while a number of Rangers and several graduates began getting into position with their bows and arrows. A number of archers from the army began joining alongside them as well.
"Everyone here who does not have a ranged weapon, help the people get to safety!" Liam said rallying the others.
The Rangers began doing what they could to take control of the situation as the monster began slithering through the water towards the city. Those Rangers who did not have arrows started helping the people evacuate the area while those who did, started shooting at the beast. Arrow after arrow zipped through the air, every single one of them striking the massive creature but not one of them getting through its thick hide.
Undaunted it continued towards the boardwalk then unexpectedly it submerged into the water. After a brief moment of confusion amidst the Rangers and Archers, the monster's tail suddenly whipped through the water causing a small tidal wave. The wall of water crashed into the boardwalk and its buildings, flooding the area and washing away a large number of the archers and Rangers.
Letting out another ear shattering roar, the monster came ashore causing chaos and pandemonium as begun a rampage. The would, stone, and clay buildings were like cardboard to the beast's strength. People fled for their lives, with some of the rangers still trying to guild them to safe places. Many unfortunate refugees were unable to escape in time and were crushed to death; either from falling debris or under the monster itself. Temples throughout the city began ringing their bells in alarm. Every able-bodied Ranger at the Guild and the Academy began assisting with the evacuations or doing what they could to combat the hundred foot creature.
From a rooftop in the distance, watching with a devilish glee, was the mastermind of the hole event; Hades.
"The first lord of the great sea." He said reciting a ballad he had memorized, "Causing storms, tsunamis, and hurricanes. From dark depths to land it slithers. The Titan Leviathan has come."
Hades could not help but laugh a little. After waiting for so long he was finally seeing his plan of revenge against the Ranger Guild coming to fruition.
"I wish I could see the look on their faces when this is all over." He said to himself. "They did not think the Titans were real. They did not think it was possible that such a creature could exist. Go forth Leviathan, make them suffer. Make them all suffer!"
Leviathan let out another soul chilling roar as it suddenly found itself surrounded by more archers and Rangers. At first the creature seemed somewhat curious by the sight of the diminutive warriors. It’s beautiful but soulless green eyes shined like opals as it scanned the area.
This time the attack was led by Liam who shouted, "Aim for the head!"
Another barrage of arrows was launched in the direction of the beast's head. This time around the attack seemed to garner a reaction from the monster for it began twitching and flicking its head. It was a false hope though for the arrows were not only still unable to pierce its hide but were also causing an annoying tickling sensation to its face.
Suddenly the monster's horn began to glow.
Sensing that it was about to unleash something devastating Liam shouted, "Take cover now!"
The Rangers on the scene and several soldiers were able to duck to safety. A fraction of a second later the monster's horn began releasing bolts of electricity down over the area like a giant tesla coil. The archers who did not heed Liam’s warning were electrocuted by the attack. Even those who got to cover felt a mild shocking sensation but nothing nearly as serious. Matters worsened when the electrical attack caused one of the wooden buildings to catch fire.
With a blaze starting and many smoldering corpses now littered across the area, Leviathan slithered on.
Liam emerged from his shelter and angrily said, "Damn, that thing's hide is way too thick!"
The seasoned Ranger directed his comrades to assist with putting out the fire then gave chase. After coming around a street corner he almost ran smack into Ken, Argo, and Vanessa.
"Master Hanzo." Ken said, "We managed to get a full evacuation underway of the Academy and of the Guild Headquarters."
"The Emperor's palace has been evacuated as well," Vanessa added, "the Overseer & Instructor Senso are handling that."
"Good," Liam said. "Who of the three of you is the best shot?"
"That would be Vanessa, Master." Argo said.
"Alright, that monster's skin is too tough for arrows and it doesn't appear to be weak anywhere." Liam explained. "The only thing that could get through would be one of the large crossbows on the city wall."
"That'll take it close to the Guild though." Argo said.
"It's already heading in that direction." Liam said. "Vanessa you'll come with me to the towers. You two will get its attention and lure it closer to the towers so we can get a better shot."
"Yes, Master." Ken said. "Argo let's go!"
The two groups separated and made a dash for their respected positions.
While running Argo took a quick moment to ask a question that was burning on his mind, "Ken, just who was that?"
Ken replied, "That was Master Liam Hanzo. He was the Ranger that rescued me and brought me to the academy."
"Oh," Argo said. "So just how are we supposed to get that thing's attention?"
"I have an idea but you probably won't like it." Ken said.
"This is getting better by the minute then." Argo replied.
The two young men raced down a street alley while Ken explained the plan and managed to get ahead of Leviathan. At this point it had carved a long path through the city leaving a lot of death and destruction in its wake. Once ahead of the beast they quickly raced to the second story of a building where Ken kicked the shutters of a window open and Argo began breaking the frame away with his mace.
"You sure you want to go through with this?" Ken asked.
"We're Rangers now, this is what we do." Argo said.
Once the two had broken out a second window they then braced themselves, waiting for the monster to slither by.
The floor began to shake. The boards of the ceiling began vibrating so much that debris from the attic began to trickle down onto Ken and Argo. Their hearts started to race as the monster drew closer. Just as the monster's horn came into view they suddenly ran forth and jumped out of the window. Time seemed to freeze in midair for a moment as Ken and Argo reached out. Alas they came to a hard landing just behind the monsters head and began sliding down hits thick scaly hide. Leviathan's skin was still wet which made trying to grab a hold of it all but impossible.
Argo slid off and found himself back on the street. Ken was able to latch onto one of the spines. The thickness of its hide prevented the monster from feeling his presence. After ducking out of the way from the monster as it slithered by, Argo watched as Ken began climbing into a good position on the monster's head.
Ken nearly fell off as well but manage to brace himself against the front of the monster's dorsal fin. Once he was steady and was able to follow Leviathan's movements, he unsheathed his sword and began to stand up.
"We may be just insects to you." Ken said. "But this one has a stinger!"
Ken jumped forward, using the fin to help spring himself off the monster's head. In a quick motion he spun around and slashed at the Leviathan's left eye; slicing it open. For the first time since it came ashore, the monster felt pain; excruciating pain. Ken fell to the ground and tumbled out of the monster's path as it rolled over and began violently flopping about. Several more buildings were destroyed in its thrashings before the great serpent started to come to regain its bearing. With one eye open it began scanning the area and sniffing around for the small assailant.
Realizing that his plan was working Ken stepped out in the open and began shouting at the monster to get its attention. Leviathan's head whipped around and locked onto Ken. Letting out an angry roar it began chasing after him.
Argo eventually regrouped with Ken and helped in luring the monster in the direction of the crossbow towers where Vanessa and Liam were getting into position. After having to duck down several allies and their pursuit taking them past the Ranger Guild headquarters Ken and Argo suddenly split up in opposite directions, causing Leviathan to stop briefly to figure out which one to go after.
"Under the head!" Liam shouted to Vanessa. "Shoot!"
Liam and Vanessa fired two spear sized arrows from the giant crossbows at Leviathan just as it arched its head up. Both arrows hit their target, several feet below its head. The monster once again felt a painful sensation as the projectiles became lodged into its skin. To everyone's misfortune the crossbows didn't penetrate deep enough into the monster's skin to cause it any real damage.
In a violent thrashing it began swatting the nearby buildings with its tail. Debris was thrown in every direction, some of which struck the crossbow towers causing the one Liam was on to start toppling towards Vanessa's. Sensing the danger both of them leaped onto the roofs of the nearby buildings. Vanessa's fall was rougher than Liam's causing her to dislocate her shoulder on the initial landing and then a tumble off the roof left her with a broken ankle.
Down by the Guild Headquarters, Leviathan thrashed several more times before finally dislodging the arrows from its throat. Its horn once again began to glow signaling Ken and Argo to take cover. In another incredible display of power Leviathan let loose another burst of electricity. The bolts struck several more buildings, starting more fires; one of which was the archive section of the Guild Building.
Things now seemed grim for the city of Windshire as it looked like nothing could stop Leviathan from destroying the capital.
"Damn this beast!" Argo cursed while standing in the door way of a forge which he took refuge in.
He looked down at his mace and felt it was too small to do any damage. Scouring the rest of the shop for something else, Argo then spotted a spear which was still red hot. The smithy had evacuated while in the process of working on the weapon. He looked back up at the beast which had paused for a moment to catch its breath. It was then that he spotted the monster's gills along the side of its neck which seemed to flutter a bit as it huffed and puffed.
Furious, Argo snatched up the spear and ran forth towards the monster. With a desperate yet powerful throw, he launched the spear at Leviathan. At first it looked as though the weapon would miss its mark. At the last instant the serpent's gills fluttered open and the red pointed tip of the spear pierced the soft purple flesh. The initial puncture and the heated state of the weapon was the equivalent of a human being stung by a hornet. Of the few injuries it suffered that day, that was the worst one.
Leviathan let out a pain stricken screech and toppled over trying to dislodge the spear. Due the red hot state it was in, wound instant cauterized; keeping it lodged in place. Once it realized the spear would not come out, it began furiously searching around for Argo.
Catching sight of the Ranger it let out an angry roar and chased after him. Argo ran for his life in the direction of the docks. At this point he knew well that there was a chance he might not escape but he could at least lure it back to the ocean where maybe it could be driven back out to sea.
Leviathan's chase had grown more ferocious as it began lunging and snapping at Argo. Luckily Argo could tell when the monster would try to do so and began ducking around different corners to try and throw it off his trail. The tactic was giving him more distance between him and Leviathan but it would not give up the chase.
Argo was about to get some help for Ken was hot on both of their tails as well. Thanks to the Elixir of Longevity the young Ranger's stamina was holding strong. He ran as fast as he could following the path that the monster was carving out as it chased Argo through Windshire's streets. After a short while he had gotten close enough to see the monster's tail as it whipped back and forth around the different street corners. After a short while Ken realized where Argo was going and took a short cut to intercept them.
After running some time Argo found himself back at the docks where the monster first came ashore. Employing his usual tactic, he quickly ducked to his right out of the monsters path just as it was about snap at him. This time he just narrowly escaped its jaws. Being unable to stop itself the monster tumbled forward and back into the water.
Argo quickly ran to cover in the ruins of one of the buildings to catch his breath before Leviathan resurfaced.
"Argo!" Ken called out as he arrived on the scene.
Argo flagged Ken down just before the monster was about to surface.
Once again flustered, Leviathan searched the area with a malevolent demeanor. While charging up another dose of its electric shocks, Ken and Argo vacated the immediate area where it couldn't reach them. In another destructive burst, the monster let out its devastating attack, setting fire to every building and ruin along the boardwalk.
Ken and Argo, out of sight and further out were completely unharmed from the strike.
"That was good luring it out here Argo." Ken said as he took a moment to catch his breath.
Argo too took a moment to catch his breath before thanking Ken. He fell back hard against the wooden wall of the building they took refuge in.
"We have to find a way to destroy that beast." Argo said.
"Its gills seem to be a good weak point." Ken said. "Perhaps we could find a way to kill it that way?"
"What do you suggest?" Argo asked. "We find a way to destroy the gills and drown it?"
"That's the best I can think of right now." Ken answered before peering back out the door to find that the monster had disappeared. "Great wear could it have gone now?"
"That hot spear did hurt it though." Argo said as he sat himself up from the wall. "Maybe we could try-"
In an instant that seemed to last minutes, something suddenly erupted through the wall behind Argo; the tip of Leviathan's horn. Ken watched helplessly as the beast's horn not only broke through the wall but impaled his friend as well; throwing him forward slightly. Piercing his back Argo was paralyzed as he looked down at the tip of its horn sticking out of his midsection. Blood began to run down his mouth and even more so from the fatal wound.
Ken after overcoming a brief moment of fear tried to run to Argo's aid, which turned and helplessly reached out to his friend. Ken's fingertips barely touched Argo's. Leviathan pulled him through the wall and arched its head up into the air. Still impaled on the monster's horn and barely alive Argo was treated to one last image of the Ocean.
"And so it ends, at the beginning." Argo said with his last few breaths.
From the gash in the building Ken watched in horror as the monster suddenly whipped its head upward and flung Argo into the air.
The son of a nobleman fell back down right into the jaws of Leviathan.
Time froze at that moment for Ken. In a flash he recalled the past seven years with the friend who nearly became his enemy; the moments of growth, the moments they helped one another, the challenges they faced, the laughs they shared. In one instant it was over. Ken remembered how Liam said that his friends were now family and Argo had truly grown to become like a brother to the orphaned warrior.
His moment of reflection and grief was cut short when Leviathan suddenly looked down and saw Ken standing in the building's gash. The shock of his friend's death had rendered Ken petrified before the Titan. It reeled its jowls back in a sinister manner, recognizing the one who slashed its eye a short while prior.
Leviathan suddenly lunged down and attempted to devour Ken as well when suddenly a figure dropped down in front of him. The new combatant ignited a white force field which the monster mistakenly bit down on; shattering its sharp fangs. Ken threw up his hands to shield his eyes from the bright light. When the force field faded, he saw that the one who intervened was Overseer Corvin Risho.
Leviathan reeled back in pain with its teeth shattered and bloodied. Ken fell back on his rear in stunned silence at the spectacle he had just witnessed.
"I'm sorry I did not arrive sooner, Khan." Risho said. "Stay well back now."
"Overseer..." Ken said still in shock. "Your power..."
"Yes I know." Risho said. "I have broken my race's most coveted law by unleashing it. But Ken, stay focused, get back!"
Ken came to his senses and ducked back into the building just as the monster attempted to unleash its electric burst. Risho once again ignited his force field just as the bolts truck across the area. Once again the white shield protected the Overseer.
Once the bolts of electricity subsided, so did Risho's force field. He stood with his hands in a prayer like state just as multiple balls of fire seemed to form out of thin air around him.
They then converged into one and suddenly began spewing out flame at Leviathan. The monster's skin seemed to ignite instantly. It began writhing in agony as Risho continued to pour flames over it with his magic.
They then converged into one and suddenly began spewing out flame at Leviathan. The monster's skin seemed to ignite instantly. It began writhing in agony as Risho continued to pour flames over it with his magic.
Once the front half of Leviathan's body was a raging inferno, Risho ceased his attack. Unable to bear the flames, Leviathan suddenly made a desperate charge back through the ruins into the sea. Ken and the Overseer watched as its long and mangled dorsal fin slithered away and eventually vanished into the depths.
Ken was left in complete awe at what had just transpired. He wanted to ask so many questions, namely why he did not intervene sooner, but he couldn't mutter a single word.
"It's not over Ken." Risho said as he peered up towards the rooftop across the way. "We have a greater enemy in our midst."
Ken stood up and looked across the way to see a dark figure standing on the roof; Hades. Ken instantly recognized the warlock for it was a face that was forever burned in his memories and his nightmares. In a furious manner he charged forth to challenge the evil sorcerer but was thrown back by invisible force of some kind from Risho.
"No." Risho said. "I know that you seek justice for your family, Ken but this enemy is beyond you. I must be the one to face him."
Risho stepped out into the clearing of the ruins which Leviathan had in its wake. Hades looked on both angered and then suddenly amused. He did not have to hear the words to know that the Elvan Overseer was challenging him to a duel. The warlock leaped down from the building's roof and landed with grace and menace of a vampire bat.
"Most impressive, Elf." Hades said. "I had heard the stories of the magical abilities that your race possessed but to drive off the titan, Leviathan is a most impressive feat."
"So you did do it." Risho said. "You found a way to revive the titans of darkness."
"Indeed so." Hades replied. "Took many years, required the life force of no less than ten virgins, and of course the sorcerer's eye but I figured out how to do what so many others could not."
"You should not have done so." Risho said. "Even with all that you possess, the Titans of Darkness collectively are too strong even for a warlock or any being to control."
"If you wish to talk about things we should not do, Elf, then let's discuss what you just did." Hades countered. "As I understand it your race has vowed to never enact violence or engage in combat on the human's behalf. Yet here you stand about to break that law for a second time."
"I'm already condemned to be tried by my elders." Risho said. "So should my judgement not end well then at least I'll have stopped you, Warlock."
"Stopped?" Hades mocked. "I don't think so elf, but you are welcome to try."
Suddenly Hades furiously threw his hands forward and unleashed a burst of electricity similar to Leviathans at Risho. Once again Risho defended with a force field. Realizing his attack had no effect, Hades resorted to conjuring several balls of fire and hurtling them at Risho. Instead of blocking them, the Overseer deflected them with his bare hands. One of the fireballs he deflected back at Hades who stopped it in mid-air. With a few motions of his hands the Warlock caused the fireball to split into three but then they suddenly transformed into green spectral heads. The evil spirits began zipping every which way at Risho who was forced to dodge them.
Seemingly having his opponent on the ropes, Hades cracked a devilish grin and laughed. In a shocking yet dazzling display the Overseer suddenly threw out his hands and became surrounded by a bright light that took on the form of one of the Blue Crows. Hades was furious to see that the evil spirits dissolved against this magical form.
Bringing his hands from his sides to his front, Risho caused this spectral form to fly in Hades direction. The Warlock tried to block the attack with a wall of black flames which he conjured up from the ground before him but Risho's attack was too powerful and made short work of this defense. With wall shattered the body of light struck Hades with tremendous force and propelled him into the ruined building at his rear. The building collapsed onto the mad sorcerer; quickly burying him under a pile of wood and stone.
Risho stood his ground for moment. To Ken the fight seemed to be over but that hope was quickly dashed when the pile of rubble erupted from the enraged Hades. The debris astonishingly then hovered in mid-air. Using his magic the Warlock began making the chunks of stone and wood circle around him. With a flick of the wrist, the debris rose into the air and then rained down on the Overseer who quickly ignited his white shield. Every piece of debris shattered into pieces as it struck Risho's force field.
Wasting no time Risho quickly whipped up a response while his shield was still up; the fiery attack which he used to drive off Leviathan. The second Hades barrage was finished Risho dropped his defense and began spewing the inferno at the Warlock. At the last second Hades surrounded himself with the wall of black flames. This time his defense was holding but the heat was rising.
"Surrender Warlock!" Risho said. "You cannot win!"
Sweat began to run down Hades face but he stubbornly shouted back, "Never! I will make the Ranger Guild pay!"
"You will die trying!" Risho declared.
"If I die it will not be this day!"
Hades suddenly throughout his arms in a desperate manner; increasing the width of his shield slightly. After a few moments he then spun around and disappeared. The warlock had escaped just as his defenses broke.
With the duel over Risho ceased his fiery onslaught. The Overseer took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow and catch his breath.
"Overseer Risho..." Ken said while emerging from the ruined building. "Is it over?"
"For now..." Risho replied. "The conflict is over for now."
"I can't believe that both of them managed to get away." Ken said.
"Yes." Risho said. "Leviathan still lives and if that madman continues with his plan, then the other Titans will rise as well."
Later on in the day as the city began salvaging what it could from the destruction of Leviathan's attack, Supreme Master Talon Cruz returned with the council and the Emperor.
In the council's chamber Liam, Ares, and Risho stood before the leaders of the Ranger Guild. After hearing every detail of the day's events the council and the Supreme Master were left speechless.
One of the council members asked, "Overseer Risho, before the Warlock escaped were you able to gather any information on the possibility that he managed to awaken the other Titans?"
"No, councilmen I was not." Risho replied. "Though from what I've seen I do not doubt this Warlock's ability nor his insanity in accomplishing the task. Because of the corrupted nature in which Warlocks are created, their magical ability is not capable of coming close to the potential of an elf. This one however, is nearly on par with such a level."
"This is a crisis unlike anything the Guild has faced since its formation." Another Councilman said. "We must decide on a response and we must decide now." A third said. "As I understand it the Monster Archives have been destroyed. Without those records we cannot properly train new recruits. Worse still is that the report from the constables’ estimate that two hundred people have lost their lives; that includes no few than twenty-nine rangers."
"Overseer Risho," Supreme Master Cruz asked, "There's no way that Elvan Elders will not let you be pardoned?"
"Unfortunately so." Risho regretfully said. "Our Law of Non-Violence was put in place by our race to keep from directly interfering with human affairs. We may guide and offer assistance but never in direct combat. My race is benevolent but strictly upholds its laws. I will have to return to Eruf to be judged."
"Supreme Master," The first councilman said, "Our only chance is to increase our numbers and our knowledge on the Titans."
"Yes." The Supreme Master replied. "We will have to train the recruits based on what knowledge we have in our senior most Rangers. In the meantime the Archives will have to be rebuilt and records on every creature in Shogun regathered. Master Liam Hanzo, I want you to stay with the academy to help with the recruits training."
"Understood Supreme Master." Liam replied.
"Ares Senso, you will take over the role of Overseer for the Academy." Cruz declared. "As your first act I would like you to call out the best Scholars you have at the academy and in the guild. We will have to send them out into the field with Ranger escorts to reacquire knowledge on every monster in Shogun."
"Understood," Ares said. "I already have a number of Ranger escorts in mind to help with most of the scholars. It shouldn't take too long to find escorts for the rest."
"If I may Supreme Master," Liam spoke up, "I know of one Ranger who'd be more than willing to help in those efforts."
"You are referring to one who received my special enrollment, Ken Khan?" Cruz asked.
"Yes Supreme Master," Liam answered. "I feel that having him appointed to such a task will be good for him. If his companion Vanessa were in better shape I would recommend her as well, but she will need a week before her broken ankle recovers."
"You said that this will be good for him," A councilman asked, "Would you care to explain why?"
"Ken Khan lost one of his companions today." Liam explained. "Having already lost his family to this Warlock, I fear that unless we give him a task that assists us as well as a companion to travel with; he will seek revenge and therefore go down a darker path."
"I agree with Master Hanzo." Risho said. "From what I understand he's spent the past hour at the site where his friend Argo perished."
Cruz understood where Risho and Liam were coming from, as did the rest of the council.
"So be it." Cruz said. "These proceedings are finished... May the Gods be with us... May they be with us more than ever..."
Back at the docks Ken stood alone looking over the water. For nearly two hours he had been standing motionless. His gaze across the sea at the setting son was gripped by too many emotions for him to settle on just one; leaving his expression empty and pale. The orphaned ranger's stone cold state was a representation of what many felt on the inside in Windshire.
In his mind, Ken could not stop running through the memories of the past seven years in the academy with Argo and Vanessa. He could still see every endeavor as clear is day. More hauntingly, he could still see Argo in those final moments. In his mind he went through everything he could have done; everything he felt he should have done.
During this trance, Ken had a visitor appear on the scene by way of a carriage; Vanessa. With her injured Ankle wrapped up, she hobbled up next to her friend on a crutch. News of Argo's death had reached her in the infirmary back at the Guild Headquarters to which she too felt the same grief as Ken but not having been there she could not comprehend how much worse it was for him. Vanessa looked at Ken with worried and sorrow stricken eyes.
Making his first movement in over two hours, Ken looked at Vanessa. No words were spoken between them; it was as if they could read each other’s exact thoughts. They were heartbroken over the loss of their comrade but still grateful that they did not lose each other as well. Vanessa reached out and held Ken's hand for a moment a comforting manner before joining him in watching the sunset.