• Published 9th Jul 2019
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The Dusk Guard Saga: Hunter/Hunted - Viking ZX



An ancient, lost empire is on the verge of returning from its imprisonment, and the Dusk Guard have been dispatched. Their mission? Retake the city, secure it, and above all, keep its ancient ruler from seizing control once more.

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Prologue - Fray

Who am I!?

The call echoed through the void around him, bounding and rebounding in strange ways, echoing back in a twisted mockery of his own words.

Who are you? Who were you? What were you? And beneath them, unbidden, came the voices.

Nothing. A failure. A mockery. A shadow.

No!

He lashed out against the voices, against his own mind. Because they were his own mind. His own thoughts, echoing back at him from the strange edges of his prison. Clawing at his thoughts, screeching at him from the dark corners of his existence.

Failure. Nothing. Weak.

No! His “voice” echoed out once more, a pulse shrieking free of his form and cascading back against him as the shell of his prison reflected it back. The keening sound of his own rage cut across his mind like the fine edge of a razor, pain cascading through his being. But he wouldn’t stop. Couldn’t stop. No!

I am not weak! I am not nothing! The words tore out of him, cascading in all directions, twisting, spinning, and corkscrewing as they broke against the walls of his cell like waves against a fortress.

Ice waves … some small part of him suggested as the shouts tore into him once more, his own anger slamming back into his form with blows that were almost physical. Ice waves?

It was a memory, broken and fragmented. A single image of … a place? A dream? He could no longer tell. So much of his mind was in tatters, broken over the ages by his imprisonment.

You don’t even know who you are … The thought oozed out of the darkness like poison, seeping into his soul and digging in deep. You remember nothing!

Lies! He pulled inward, away from the walls of his prison, away from the endless echoes of his own voice. I remember … I remember …

Pieces. Fragments. Split by tiny fractures that ran through his mind. He’d been important. Powerful. He knew that much. Grand. On his way to becoming … He let out a cry as he tried to reach through the splintered void that was his mind. Something. He could no longer say what. He’d know at some point, back when he’d first been imprisoned. But that memory was lost to time, lost to the countless years he’d been locked away. He wasn’t even sure how long it had been. But the memory was gone. Whatever he’d been destined for … was out of reach. He couldn’t even bring it to mind.

He could remember the rage, though. The ceaseless anger. Burning inside of him like black cloud, sweeping away everything in its path. Even with his memories gone, he could still feel the seething rage, burning, always burning.

He could remember other things too. There had been a battle. A monumental one. With who, he couldn’t quite recall. He had visions, sometimes, flashes of imagery when the broken pieces of his mind drifted into place. A duo, clad in resplendent, terrible armor. Powerful as the … as the …

He no longer knew. But they had been powerful, he knew that. And there had been two of them. An elder, and a younger. Sisters both.

Their names were as lost to time as his own.

Still, he remembered … a battle. Combat. In bits and flashes, brief moments of triumph and rage.

He remembered that he had lost.

Weak.

Somehow, they had won. They had stood against him, that pair. They had meant to take everything from him. They had succeeded.

Almost … The word trickled out of his consciousness like a faint stream of water from a sheering iceberg. He remembered … remembered …

His body. He’d lost it somehow, hadn’t he? In escaping their clutches? Except that he hadn’t escaped. He remembered … a sealing of some kind. That was how he’d come to be in his prison, trapped by the walls with too many sides and too many directions … wasn’t it?

Another memory surfaced, a faint glimpse of a muzzle, a long horn, burning with magic. A forgotten spell.

No, he thought, the cackling of his own mind echoing back at him. Not just my spell.

There had been several spells. One was his own, a burning, all-encompassing thing that had swept away his very form, making him …

What am I? Who am I? If he’d had a head to shake, he would have done so. Why did I do it!? But the memory was gone, along with so much else. But he could remember … satisfaction. Yes, that was it. Deep satisfaction, welling up within him. He’d lost, yes … he could recall the anger, the burning fury as his destiny was snatched away.

Then why? Why the satisfaction?

His thoughts seemed … clearer than normal. Not by much. Then again, he didn’t know how long it had been since he’d slipped back into sanity, into contemplation. Time in his cell was … immaterial. Wrong. Eons could have passed in the real world … or seconds. He could not tell. He didn’t even know how many times he’d broken, gone mad and lashed out at the walls around him, the reflections of his anger and rage rebounding back on him and shattering what little sense of self he had left. Five? Ten? A dozen? More?

It didn’t matter. He was trapped. He’d been trapped. His mind flickered once more, the amorphous mass that made up his essence shifting and coiling as another piece of memory surfaced. A powerful spell, strands of magic wrapping around his very essence. Fear and anger surging through him … along with … triumph?

The younger one. I did something to her.

No, not just to her. There had been a city. A civilization. An empire. Frozen and cold. His consciousness clawed at the image, a silent scream echoing across the void as he attempted to force its secrets out of it.

Crystal. The word came to mind and was gone again, the memory shattering as his own howls rebounded back once more. His essence shifted, rolling and roiling as the echoes of his cries tore into him. They had been smart with his cell, his prison, those two. Binding him outside of time. And he … And he …

He had done something to make them regret it. More than he’d done to the younger of the pair. He’d interfered with the spell, hadn’t he? Bound it through him to something else. It had been rushed … incomplete. But it had been enough, he remembered, to steal away their victory, to deprive them of that which was—

Rightfully MINE!

For a moment he froze, stunned as the words rolled away from him, bouncing off of the void at impossible angles. Soon they’d be back, and he’d be forced to endure another onslaught as the sisters’ prison reflected his own rage back at him.

But there was something … wrong about that, wasn’t it?

No … some part of him hinted. Wrong about you.

His cry slammed into him, sliding across his soul like hot blades across bare flesh, the anger searing him. The feeble concentration he’d pieced together shattered, the few bits of himself he’d managed to collect scattering once more. Existence once again became madness as new cries echoed forth from his being, snapping back to torment him once more.

And then he stopped, shocked. Something … had changed. Something was wrong.

Who am I? He ignored the question, as he did the faint stirrings of thought that he’d just been thinking about something important, something vital. Something … else … was wrong. He couldn’t put a hoof on it—not that he had any, not anymore. He couldn’t even remember what it felt like to have physical form. Just as he couldn’t remember his name.

Who am I!?

The cry was plaintive. Lost.

Weak.

But the reflection that came back to him now, that clawed into his soul and threatened to make what little sanity he’d acquired break once more … was off.

Weak.

Something had changed. Something was … different.

Weak.

For the first time he could remember, he moved, willing the shadowy clumps of magic and spirit he’d become to move, to slide through the void toward the vivid edges of his cell. He couldn’t “see” them in the traditional sense. His eyes were as long-since-gone as his hooves, burned away when he’d completed the spell to make himself a being of pure energy, able to use the full might of—

Pain lanced through him as the walls of his mind slammed shut. But something about the way they did so felt …

Familiar. The word oozed through him like a shiver. Yes, familiar.

The world around him spun as he neared the multi-sided walls, time and space bent by the powerful magics that had locked him away. He could sense the threads faintly through the walls, the spellwork that had warped the very fabric of reality, tearing and folding it like … like … There was a word for it, he knew. He just couldn’t remember it.

But the magic had done it. Thick threads of golden-yellow and cobalt-blue winding in complicated patterns that could have possibly driven him mad if he hadn’t been already. And mixed with those, faint threads of red, black, and purple, like parasites feeding off of what had already been woven, using their strength to add a layer of their own. To seal … something important, he was sure of it. The sight of the strands brought back that same feeling of triumph, even if he couldn’t recall why.

Who are you?

Weak.

Nothing.

Failure.

Shadow.

The voices tumbled around him, but he ignored them, even as their echoes bit into his being. There was something about them, something about the way they were burning into him, that—

THERE!

He felt it, now. The echoes around him were not all equal. The reflections from the void were disproportionate to one another.

Echoes rolled back into him, digging into his form, but he didn’t care now. He needed them. The pain would show him the way. He turned, following the path of each echo, sliding along the wall toward one infinite point.

Then he saw it. The thread had weakened. Here much of the spellwork had been blue, been from … the younger of the pair. He’d done … something … to her? To the spell? Again there was that strange sense of triumph.

Who are you?

The thread had weakened. Something had eaten away at it. It was thinner than it should have been. Had been? Would be? No, that wasn’t right. But it was thinner.

He pressed himself up against the edge of his prison, ignoring the faint sense of discomfort that came from being so close to the spell. Long, long ago, before he’d gone mad, he’d pushed against the barriers. That, and the endless damage of his own anger, had forced himself to feed on his own essence to survive. That was why he was weak. That was why his own memories were so fragmented. He’d turned on himself to—

He paused. I remember. Faint slivers on the edge of his mind were sliding together now, and with a trembling sense of completeness, he felt it.

Magic. Leaking through the void. Ever so faint.

When he should have been sealed.

His prison was weakening.

But not enough. The faint trickle he was now feeling was far too little to sustain him. But if it could be widened …

Who are you!?

He ignored the mad mutterings of his own mind ranting at the pieces of his past. The seal was weakening. He could see it now. He pressed up against the side of his prison, spirit burning at the touch of the spell that kept him imprisoned … but not as painfully as it once had.

With a snarl he surged into it, ignoring the sudden pain as whole clumps of his being burned away. His snarl became a maddened howl of rage as he slammed his form against the wall again, only to stop as, even as more of him burned away, he felt the walls of his prison give.

Eons or decades, he couldn’t say. But the walls had never flexed. They were supposed to be immovable. Unyielding until the spell was either released from the outside … or the magic holding his walls in place failed.

Or he ceased to exist, torn apart by his own rage, and it no longer mattered.

He pressed again, shoving his being against the walls and watching as the spellwork binding them bent again. His spirit was howling in agony, more of him burning away with every second.

Who are you?

He would die before he found out. Or before he gave up. He could see the strands stretching, the parasitic growths that were his own infesting them, stretching alongside the weakened blue. He could feel himself fading too, breaking apart as more of more of what little was left of him burned away.

No! He pushed harder, his words changing to scream as his body bled away.

And then, with a sudden snap he felt rather than heard, the weakened strand broke, the thread of overstressed spellwork coming apart and unwinding. He shot back, away from the accursed walls as the prison shuddered. He could see the reverberations of that single strand moving through the entire spell, each piece and part vibrating as the entire collection of spellwork struggled to absorb the sudden change. Glee suffused him as it shook, shifted … and held.

NO! He surged forward, the last of his essence determined to crash against the wall—

And froze as he felt something he’d not felt in so long he didn’t recall. Magic.

Real magic. The energy that had infused his home, the energy he’d wielded as a king. A thin, steady stream … but widening.

He could see it now, seeping through the gap his assault had made on the weakened wall. Where the spell had cracked, so too had the walls of the void, time and space sliding back into contact with reality for a brief moment.

And that magic flowed into him. He drank eagerly, like a starving, dying pony in a desert who’d found a hidden stream. It was faint—barely enough, some part of him suggested, to even make a faint glow. But it was all he had, and he consumed it with relish, letting out a whimper of pleasure as it sank into his being. His form, starved for magic after so long, drank it greedily.

And with it, he felt the edges of his mind stir. Memories, locked away by starvation and madness, crept back into the fringes of perception. Indistinct, but enough. He remembered the rage as he’d been sealed … as he did the triumph when he’d corrupted the spell through his own link to … to … something powerful. He’d forced them to seal them both. He in his own cell, the … thing … out of time.

He sucked in the faint magic, small bits and pieces coming back to him with each passing moment. The voices in his head fell silent, greedily pulling their own scraps from what little he could gain. He took it all in, clarity falling across his mind as more and more of his form began to regrow.

He turned his gaze to the walls. They were still in place. Still held together. Save for the one small location where they did not, where the snapping of that single thread was allowing a faint piece of reality to break through.

With each passing moment, that trickle of reality widened, the natural order of time and the universe fighting back. He could already see the faint signs of the spellwork around the breach weakening. Quivering like metal cords stretched taut.

Before long, another would snap. He didn’t know how long it would take, but that no longer mattered. And with each breaking piece of the spell, the rest of the whole would be weakened. More magic would rush in.

And he would be reborn.

After so long, he began to laugh, not even caring about the few echoes of his own demented cries that echoed back into him. Where once they had clawed at him mercilessly, now their wounds were shallow. Magic healed over each one even as it formed, his form growing stronger with each passing moment.

Soon, the spell would fail. He would be free. Free to at last emerge victorious. Regain his power. Rebuild his mind.

He waited, watching as the walls around him continued to shake, laughing as his battered, wounded form began to grow once more, memories coming together in his mind and taking shape.

Who am I? The thought darted across his consciousness as yet another memory slipped together, feeding his own laughter. If he had possessed lips, he would have smiled.

He couldn’t remember the names of those that had imprisoned him yet … but after so long, he now knew his own.

I … am Sombra … and I am a king …

Author's Note:

Hello readers! And welcome to Book III of The Dusk Guard Saga! We're just getting started, so strap yourselves in for a ride! A new chapter will release each Tuesday and Friday mornings!

In the meantime, if you're enjoying TDGS and my fanfic offerings, I've got a lot of published works you can enjoy as well! You can follow me at my site or check my books out on Amazon and give them a read!

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