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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 staved off an invasion of his body from A'nake, and reclaimed the talisman with the help of his friend, Nadine. Transformed into a werewolf, he now sets his sights on defeating A'nake.

Chapter 12: The Ki'rath's Destiny

"Your entire plan has failed," Hogan declared. "You tried to use the talisman to form your own army of slaves, and it didn't work. Not only that, now I possess the talisman - and all of its power. You might as well give up right now."

Even though A'nake knew that Hogan now possessed the power needed to destroy it, it remained defiant. "I would not get so cocky if I were you." He floated in towards Hogan, attempting to psych him out. "Why should I be afraid of you? You've been talking tough this whole time, and I've had more than enough strength to handle you. Your new form may be more powerful, but it is still nowhere near my level of power."

Hogan smirked. "I guess we'll see about that." Quickly, his arms drew back for a split second, then were thrust forward, a dazzling beam of energy shooting forth from them. It blasted A'nake in the torso, sending it into the back wall so hard it left indentations. He raced to the spot where A'nake landed, and began a frenzy of punches and kicks, each one causing the spirit to recoil violently.

"You don't seem so arrogant now," he huffed as he went on in his flurry. "Come on. Say something."

Even though A'nake had no physical form, it seemed out of breath when it spoke. "This is... just a ploy.... I have yet to... fight back."

"Oh, really?" Hogan asked sarcastically. "It seems to me like you're the one that's wearing out now."

"Enough!" A'nake shouted, sending out a shockwave that blew Hogan back several feet. "You want to see what other tricks I've got up my sleeve? I'm happy to oblige."

A'nake's aura grew bright again, and as it did, its form was getting larger and larger. Eventually, it started... splitting? Hogan watched in shock as A'nake divided itself into six smaller spirits, which then encircled Hogan. A'nake's laughter shook his mind again.

"You forget the advantages of not having a body - I can split myself into many smaller spirits with ease. And while they can all harm you, only one of my segments will be harmed by you!"

Hogan grunted in contempt. "This is just like a video game. And the solution is just as obvious." He whipped around to the spirit directly behind it, charging at it. Despite his newly enhanced power, he flew right through it, much as he did earlier. A'nake laughed in arrogance again.

"Fool. Do you think I'd make it that obvious?" All six beings then charged at Hogan, aiming for each of his extremities. While he was able to dodge four of them, the last two managed to grab an arm and a leg. That gave three of the other A'nakes the opportunity to grab his other leg and arm as well as his head. He struggled, but could not break their grasp. They pulled in opposite directions, yanking his limbs out of their joints. Hogan screamed in pain.

"You may be stronger than before, but you are by no means invincible," said the lone spirit overseeing everything. "And now, as I promised, you will meet your doom, in a manner that will make an example of all who try to get in my way."

The spirits pulled outwards again, trying to draw and quarter Hogan. The pain was reaching another boiling point, even higher than those previously reached. In a lull of the tugging, Hogan snarled. "And you forget what happens when my back is against the wall." He closed his eyes, trying to tune out the pain as much as he could. His breaths became slow and deliberate. A growl, barely audible, emanated from his throat. His mind was cleared of outside interference.

A'nake chuckled. "It seems our hero is resorting to meditation. Fine. Make your peace with your god. You will soon join him."

The spirits jerked at his joints again, but Hogan managed to ignore most of the pain. His growl was growing louder, a thermometer for the levels of his power. His eyes were clenched shut in an obvious exercise of building strength. Another pull from the spirits went undetected. A normal human would have had their head ripped off their body by now, but Hogan continued meditating. It felt as if the power of the earth itself was making its way into Hogan's body for one last onslaught. His growls grew louder still, developing into an all-out roar. His lupine face was wraught with determination. His golden eyes snapped open.

Then, in one sudden blast, he became the epicenter of a giant spiritual explosion. His energy had gone supernova. The blast nearly blew the roof of of the arena. The spirits that were holding his limbs were flushed away by the power of the explosion. When he returned to standing position - while still floating in midair - his face had the look of an enraged wolf ready to deal back all the pain he had just experienced.

"I am the Ki'rath," he declared. "It is my destiny to protect the universe from evil. I am the guardian of the talismans and their ceremony. And you -" Hogan pointed decisively at A'nake - "are about to meet your end."

It was almost as if time had stood still for Hogan. In mere seconds, he was pummeling A'nake with punches and kicks of such massive intensity they were putting holes in the walls where its form collided violently. Another kick, another punch, another body slam; each impact shook the building. It seemed to go on forever, an endless flurry of movements that sent A'nake bouncing off the floor, ceiling and walls like a rubber ball.

As the one-sided fight continued, Nadine watched as the arena began to sustain massive damage. Several holes had been made in the roof; causing debris to rain down on the audience below. She could feel the structural integrity of the hall weakening. "Hogan, stop!" she screamed, hoping he could hear her. "You're destroying the place!"

But Hogan was not paying attention to her. He was busy beating A'nake to a bloody pulp, if indeed spirits could bleed. While he was not angry, there was a definite rage to Hogan's actions; he seemed to be acting on pure id than any calculated reasons. The roof continued to crumble. Ceiling beams began to come unhinged.

A'nake, for the first time, was powerless. He was at the mercy of Hogan's onslaught, a mercy that Hogan would not afford it. It was weary and weak, unable to defend itself from being a tackling dummy. One more back-breaking punch sent A'nake into the floor, tired and beaten.

Hogan hovered overhead. His fists crackled with power. "Any last words?"

A'nake's voice quivered. "Please... spare me..."

"Would you have given me the same luxury?" Hogan retorted. "Why should I let you live?"

"Please!... Ki'rath... I beg you..."

Hogan's eyes were glowing. "I will not allow you to escape here and terrorize another planet. This ends here."

Suddenly, a loud rumble surrounded both of them. The realization sank in that the building was in danger of collapsing. Hogan's attention immediately turned to the people in the audience. "Everyone, listen to me! You need to get out of here, now!"

The werewolves in the audience quickly scattered for the exits. As they made their way out, Hogan spotted his girlfriend dodging the falling ceiling tiles. One of them landed on her head, knocking her out and sending her sprawling on the floor.

"Nadine!!" He shouted. He flew down to her and scooped her up. Satisfied that the rest of the people were getting out safely, he glided his way up through a hole in the roof. From there, he watched at a safe distance as the concert hall imploded.

He searched for a desolate location, and settled on an alleyway a mile from the arena. As he touched the ground, he felt a few drops of rain hit his face.

He set Nadine down on the ground. Standing up, he reached back into the pocket of his leather jacket, and pulled out the talisman. Sighing, he recited the words that would reverse the transformation of the audience members.

"Glaxifae Arivo..."

When the spell was completed, he felt as if the spirit energy that was burgeoning from him earlier was rising away from his body in vapor. His sight turned white for a moment; when it returned, he found himself in human form again. The talisman had disappeared from his palm.

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