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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 returned to Ki'rathia, and met the new shaman. He spoke with the now dead spirit of Ilgaira after learning of his next destination: The planet Dracon.

Chapter 14: A Voice in the Darkness

For once, Hogan had a passenger to ride with him on the lightning bolt.

The site which the two of them had been teleported to appeared to be a road of some sort, leading down a barren stretch of terrain. There were no trees, no signs, no other indications of life anywhere in the vicinity.

Hogan took a few tentative steps down the road. "Well, this thing's gotta lead somewhere, right?"

Gauno nodded, following Hogan along the side of the road. "It appears as if we have arrived in a sparse region of the planet. We need to be careful, however; the inhabitants of Dracon are somewhat skittish about the prospect of visitors."

"I think a lot of planets would be like that, though."

"True, but the Draconians are especially apprehensive. This planet is right in the middle of a number of warring solar systems. They are under constant fear of being conquered."

Hogan shrugged. "I guess that would make you a little timid after a while." They walked in silence for a long moment. "So what exactly is our first task here on Dracon?"

"First, we must have an audience with the royal family. The hard part will be convincing them that we are not spies from one of the other systems."

"If they already know about the Ki'rath, then that shouldn't be too h-"

"HALT!!" a voice, seemingly from out of nowhere, commanded.

Hogan and Gauno stopped in their tracks. Hogan took a combative stance, energizing his hands in case it was needed. "Who said that?" He looked around, trying to find the source of the order. It was only when he turned fully around that he saw a small platoon of soldiers some thirty feet away, each aiming some sort of rifle at them. They were humanoid in form, but blue-skinned and with long, pointed faces, all of them dressed in dark green uniforms.

"You are both under arrest!" the platoon leader declared.

"What? What did we do?" Hogan asked.

"You are trespassing on Draconian grounds. Men, seize them!"

The six platoon members closed in on the two travelers. Hogan's hands were aflame and ready for action, but Gauno caught his attention before he could start swinging. "Hogan, do not attack them."


"Do not attack them. That will only complicate things further."

Hogan sighed, letting the energy in his fists wane. His hands were grabbed by the soldiers, placed behind his back, and locked into some handcuff-like contraption. The same was done to Gauno. Each soldier took an arm from one of the detainees.

"Let's return to the fortress, men," the leader commanded. As he turned around, Hogan could see a set of insect-like wings gracing his back. Suddenly, he felt an upward jolt as the soldiers lifted off the ground, then began flying in the opposite direction.

Well, I guess that explains why I didn't see them before, Hogan thought.

They glided for several minutes, when a large edifice appeared on the horizon. As they approached it, Hogan noticed that it looked almost like a castle, only without the turrets and staggered walls. They began to descend into what was obviously the fortress the platoon leader had alluded to. The outside bustled with activity; it reminded him of the marketplaces and towns that he had read about in the middle ages. He noticed that the tower they were landing on had no doors or windows; just a trapdoor-like portal in the center of the main structure, guarded by several more officers. Hogan swallowed hard at the thought of what he would find on the other side of it.

The hatch was unlocked through some computer security system, and after the cuffs were removed, both prisoners were shoved inside. It turned out to be quite a drop; they both slammed into the floor like bags of flour. The shaft of light from the open door was the last light Hogan saw before the cell was closed and locked.

Hogan blinked twice. The room was completely black; he couldn't even see his own hands.

"Remind me again why we shouldn't have fought back, Gauno?" Hogan scolded.

"My apologies, Hogan. I did not anticipate us being in this situation."

"Hogan?" a voice from the ether asked. "Hogan, the legendary one?"

Hogan turned around, again searching for the origin of those words. Begin that it was totally dark, he saw no need to speak anywhere but to whatever was in front of him. "If you're talking about the Ki'rath, then yeah, that's me."

The voice sighed. "Then we are truly in a predicament." A shuffling of feet on the floor gave Hogan enough of a hint as to the general direction of the voice. "Please, come towards me."

"Who are you?" Hogan asked. "Why were we arrested?"

"I'll tell you everything I can. But first, you need to get away from the center of the cell. If anyone else gets thrown in here, they'll land on top of you."

"OK." Hogan slowly inched his way towards the voice, holding his hands out in front of him in case he met a wall. He moved about ten feet away, then sat down. "So what's going on here?"

"It's Prince Drax," the voice explained. "Ever since King Draig was murdered almost a week and a half ago, he's ascended to the throne, and now he's put the entire planet under martial law."

Gauno, who was seated next to Hogan, shook his head. "This sounds completely unlike the Prince. He was a peaceful person when last I saw him."

"Yeah, well, that's all changed now," the voice continued. "Anyone who speaks out against him is thrown in jail. He's become a tyrant."

A few random grumblings around the room caused Hogan to realize that there were more than three people in the room.

"How many people are in here?" Hogan asked.

"I don't know. I was the first one in here, and I lost count after about 30." The voice sighed again. "Listen. If you're the legendary one, then you're the only person who can get us out of here. You've got to help us. Please."

"It doesn't look like I have much of a choice," Hogan replied.

"Good. What we need you to do is wait until the door opens again. When that happens, you can take out the soldiers guarding this cell."

"Sounds like a plan," Hogan said. "Then when the coast is clear, we'll all make our way out."

"I'm afraid we can't. Our wings were clipped before they put us in here so that we couldn't fly. We'll have to be carried out of here."

"You guys don't understand, though. I'm here for a reason. I need to find the talisman for the full moon ceremony before someone else does."

"I am aware of that, Ki'rath. I've studied your legends; I know you need to find the talisman. But it's locked up in the fortress and only the royal family can retrieve it."

Gauno mulled over the situation for a moment. "How long will it be before the next full moon?"

"Tonight," the voice answered back.

"Tonight?!" Hogan asked incredulously. "Are you serious?"

"It seems as if A'nake has already found its body in Prince Drax," Gauno pondered aloud. "That's the only reason I can imagine for his sudden change in personality. If we are in this cell during the full moon, then A'nake would have no resistance against obtaining the talisman and using it on the Draconians."

"Then we've gotta get out of here," Hogan concluded. "And fast."

"What about us?" The voice asked.

Hogan wracked his brain for a solution. "Gauno, can you fly too?"

"Not too quickly, but yes."

"Great. When we get this thing opened up, I'll go look for Prince Drax while you help these guys out. Deal?"

"That sounds reasonable," Gauno responded.

Moments later, a creak could be heard. The door overhead was opening. As light came into the center of the prison cell once more, Hogan charged up his body for another attack, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

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