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loogslair.com As I've said before, Grrr.


Guardian of the Ceremony

A Serial by Tim Connolly

In the previous chapter, Hogan watched as the body A'nake possessed - that of a rock group's lead singer - enacted the full moon ceremony on the audience. The security guards apprehended him before he had a chance tog et the talisman away from her.

Chapter 10: Body and Soul

"Let me go!!" Hogan ordered the guards.

"Fat chance, kid," replied one of the guards carrying him away. "You've done enough damage."

Hogan sneered. "Fine. I gave you a chance." With that, he shifted his weight forward, throwing his assailants forward and freeing himself from their grasps. He dashed back to the stage, where he could see some of the audience members in the midst of the transformation. Their eyes were already glowing red with their evil power.

Hogan read in one of the books that it took about five minutes for the change to take place. If he could somehow wrestle the talisman away from A'nake before the process was complete, the ceremony would be disrupted.

Heather was still at center stage, laughing to herself.

"Fools," she said. "In just a few moments, I will have you all under my power. This weak little planet will be the first to come under my rule."

"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Hogan charged at her again, leading with his shoulder that was again glowing violet. He connected, sending her into the drum set. "Hand over the talisman. Now."

Heather picked herself up. "So, you must be the Ki'rath. I am so pleased to make your acquaintance." She chuckled. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid all of your training is about to go to waste."

"The hell it is!" Hogan retorted. He uncorked an uppercut that nailed Heather in the chin.

Heather was sprawled out on the floor, laughing. "You idiot. You think I'd have the talisman in a place where you could get it?"

"Where is it, then?" Hogan demanded.

"I'll let you know in a few minutes," Heather answered. "In the meantime, I suggest you check on your girlfriend."

Nadine reentered Hogan's mind. He quickly scanned the front of the audience for here, and caught her cowering in the same place she was before. She wasn't changing - it seemed as if she turned away in time to miss part of the chant - but now she was surrounded by thousands of werewolves. They were starting to get aggressive; Nadine was dodging their clumsy attacks as best she could.

"Nadine!!" Hogan screamed. Suddenly, he felt something strike him in the head. Heather had gotten back up and jump-kicked him. Hogan crashed forward, nearly falling off the stage.

Heather cackled again. "Humans... always worried about others."

Hogan climbed back on his feet. He found Nadine again, and leapt towards her. "I'm coming, Nadine! Don't worry!"

"Hogan! Help!" Nadine screamed.

Hogan flew towards Nadine, grabbing her arm as one of the monsters was slashing at her, then went up in the air, above all the commotion.

"Hogan... I'm scared..."

"It's OK, Nadine," Hogan responded. "I'm gonna find a way to get you out of here."

"You think it's gonna be that easy?" Heather shouted. "I haven't finished my concert yet!" She grabbed the microphone, letting out a ear-piercing shriek.

The sound of Heather's voice caused Hogan and Nadine's eardrums to pound in agony. Nadine covered her ears as best she could; Hogan couldn't for fear of dropping his friend. The pain he was experiencing rivaled Ilgaira's toughest mind shocks. Undaunted, he moved over to the rafters on the left edge of the arena. "Nadine, I need you to stay up in the rafters while I fight her. Do you understand?" Nadine nodded. "I'll come back as soon as I can." He then flew back towards Heather.

"Good luck, Hogan!" Nadine called back.

"Now, to finish this," Hogan said to himself. He charged himself up again, speeding towards Heather, hitting her with both fists and sending them into the singer's chest. The momentum threw her against the backdrop, which came crashing down onto the stage with her.

Heather got up again, growling. "You're really starting to piss me off, Ki'rath."

"Hogan," he replied. "The name's Hogan!" He punctuated his name with a right cross. He began a flurry of punches, but Heather managed to evade some of them. After a while, she seized the upper hand in the fight, and a kick to Hogan's stomach sent him on his back. He tried to get up, but while doing so Heather unleashed another kick to his torso. His body was trying desperately not to shut down from all the pain he had been receiving.

"What should I do?" Heather asked. "Should I finish you off now, or should I wait another minute and let my pets have the honor?"

"How... about... neither!" Hogan grabbed Heather's wrist, throwing her across the stage again. The force of the impact made an indentation on the wall.

As Heather was recovering, Hogan took the opportunity to scan the audience again. The crowd was nearing the end of their transformation; they already had acquired much of the physical stature of bipedal wolves, and the final stages of the change were starting to take place. He knew that the talisman had to be taken away within the next minute or the effects would be permanent.

He shut his eyes for a moment. Where could it be? He tried to concentrate on the talisman's location. He felt as if his mind were a radar, honing in on the relic's exact spot. Just as he was beginning to lock onto it, he felt a boot make contact with his chin. He was thrown upwards from the force of the kick, and he dropped limply onto the stage floor, the impact accompanied by a giant thud.

Heather laughed wryly. "I thought the Ki'rath was going to be a tougher fight than this. And in just a few seconds, all of your powers will mean absolutely nothing." She started laughing again, satisfied with the position her opponent was in.

Hogan groaned, both in pain and despair of the failure he was responsible for. "I've got... to stop her..." he tried to get up, but his body was betraying him. He had taken too much punishment for his muscles to bear.

"Hogan!!" He could hear Nadine screaming from above. "Don't give up!"

He wished he could call out to her as well, but even his vocal cords were too weak. He could barely move his head to see the audience's ears develop conical points, the last part of the transformation. His head moved back to look at Heather, who was now standing over him.

"And now, the legend of the Ki'rath will meet its end," she proclaimed.

Hogan moaned again. He looked over Heather's body, the body that A'nake chose to control. As he reached the bottom of her form, he caught something twinkling from under her skirt. His eyes focused on the twinkle: it was the talisman, attached somehow to the hem of her skirt.

A rush of energy overtook Hogan. In a moment, he lifted up his legs, and tripped Heather. As she fell, Hogan flipped back onto his feet, and kicked her in the right hip. She flew back into the side wall.

He could see something made of metal fly away from Heather. It whizzed away from both of them, falling in the middle of the audience. The audience members growled and snarled, but Hogan could see that their ears - the last vestige of their humanity - had stopped short of becoming completely lupine.

Hogan caught his breath for a moment. "That's one problem out of the way."

Heather was slumped against the wings of the stage. "Well done, Ki'rath," she said, her face still in a smirk. "You managed to disrupt the ceremony before it could be completed. But it is not over yet - the beasts are still under my control."

"You're lying!" Hogan shouted.

"Don't you wish. You may have stopped the change, but you can't reverse it unless you retrieve the talisman yourself." She laughed again.

"Big deal," Hogan retorted. "I can take those furballs on. I just have to find it."

"There's one problem, though."

"And what's that?"

"You still have to deal with me."

Heather chuckled, which grew into a laugh, and then an outright cackle. Hogan's eyes widened, fearing what was about to happen, even if he didn't know exactly what it would be. Heather's body was becoming surrounded by a bright yellow aura, growing more and more intense by the second. In a flash that nearly blinded everyone that saw it, the aura separated itself from Heather. It had somewhat of a human shape, but without facial expression or opacity. The singer slumped on the stage floor.

"What the...?"

The ethereal manifestation's voice boomed and echoed throughout the entire hall. "Are you impressed? I hope so. I didn't think you'd manage to get the talisman away from me. But rest assured, I will not let you find it either."

"Oh yeah?"

"Just watch."

Within a second, Hogan was lifted off the stage floor, unable to control his movements. Then, with alarming speed, he was sent into the back wall of the arena. He was slammed against the wall, the force knocking the air out of him. He grunted as he fell onto the floor.

When he looked up, he was greeted by the faces of about three dozen werewolves, all of them growling in anger.

"I'll let you handle my pets while I recharge my energy," A'nake said. "Oh, and Hogan, that body I fought you in had a mere fraction of my power. Now that I don't have to devote so much of my energy into possessing a body, you don't stand a chance against me!"

The sound of A'nake's evil laugh rang in Hogan's ears.

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