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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 was issued an ultimatum by A'nake: come to his laboratory alone, or the Du'imite emperor would suffer the consequences.

Chapter 57: Redemption

Outside A'nake's lair, the two A'nakites that had accompanied Hogan were growing increasingly impatient. They had been instructed to wait outside for a couple of hours until they felt like they needed to follow Hogan into the laboratory, but without any means to keep time besides the two moons making their way across the night sky, I'kali and I'theki were ready to go in no matter what.

"I say we go in there right now," I'kali proposed. "I have a feeling that Hogan's going to need our help if he wants to defeat A'nake."

"Not yet," I'theki replied. "You know what A'nake said in the video. He catches either of us coming to Hogan's aid, and he's likely to kill both him and Emperor O'bire."

"What do you expect he's going to do anyway?" I'kali argued. "I'm his life companion, I'theki. I swore my life to protect his. If anything happens to Hogan, I'd never be able to forgive myself." I'kali paced for another half-minute, then finally gave in to his impatience. "Screw it. I'm going in." He climbed into the clear plastic tube that led down to the underground lab.

"I'kali, wait!" I'theki pleaded. I'kali paused and looked back at the A'nakite ambassador. "I'm coming too."

I'kali smiled for a second, then resumed his crawling through the tube. I'theki followed closely behind him.

Hogan was still trying to pull himself free from the chains that bound him to the wall in A'nake's workshop, but despite all of his efforts, he had absolutely no luck. A'nake could only look at the Ki'rath's futile attempts and laugh.

"Are you still trying to break free, Ki'rath?" A'nake asked, amused. "Think about it. What good will that do? Even if you were to somehow get out of those chains, you still couldn't lay a finger on me."

"You're not going to get away with this," Hogan growled. "The A'nakites will rise up and overthrow you again, just like they did 100 years ago. The only person who's going to end up losing is you."

A'nake smirked. "Is that so? The only reason I was overthrown in the first place was because I was fooled into thinking that my pets' offspring would be under my control as much as those I had actually cast the ceremony on. That's an advantage they no longer possess."

Just then, Hogan heard a soft, dull groan emanate from beside him. He looked to his left to see Emperor O'bire begin to regain consciousness. He was still groggy from what was at least a week of being subverted by A'nake's possession, but quickly became alert when he noticed that his hands were shackled and that he was somewhere other than his throne room. "Wha…? What happened? Where am I? What is the meaning of this?"

A'nake turned his attention to the imprisoned emperor. "Well, now. I see that my other guest has finally woken up from his little nap."

When the emperor recognized the face of his captor, he nearly fainted again in shock. "A'nake! What have you done to me?"

"I did exactly what you asked me, your eminence," A'nake replied, putting a sarcastic tone on the emperor's title. "You wanted me to end this war, and I have. And to ensure that such a war never breaks out again, I have decided to consolidate both races under my rule once more."

"Preposterous!" O'bire boomed. "I won't stand for it!"

"You won't have a choice," A'nake calmly remarked. "In a few moments, I will enact the full moon ceremony on both of you. You and the Ki'rath will serve as my bodyguards, to make sure that I will be forever protected from any harm."

"The Ki'rath?" Emperor O'bire asked, then turned to his right to see Hogan chained up next to him. "You mean, this is the Ki'rath?"

"I'm sorry, your eminence," Hogan sighed, "I guess I wasn't able to help your people then or now."

"That's right," A'nake interjected. "You are merely one big failure, Ki'rath. All of your efforts, all the energy you expended to defeat me - it's all going to go to waste." He once again brandished the talisman, holding it out in front of both his hostages. "Nagasu hi'eria, vorasilifae axina k-"

Before he could finish his chant, A'nake was tackled from behind. Captain I'kali had knocked him onto the floor, the force of the blow causing A'nake to lose his grip on the talisman. It rolled off to the side several feet away.

"I'kali!" Hogan shouted in complete relief. The emperor couldn't speak; he was merely marveling at how an A'nakite had come to his aid.

I'theki, who had been behind the action as well, reached over to pick up the talisman off the ground. Before he could grab it, though, A'nake recovered enough to telekinetically send both of his assailants against the same wall that Hogan and O'bire were chained to.

"What's this??" A'nake hissed, obviously enraged. "Did we not have a deal, Ki'rath? Did I not say what was going to happen if you brought anyone with you?" He came right up in front of Hogan, their faces just inches apart. "Perhaps allowing you to keep your life was too much of a credit to you, Ki'rath. I guess I'm just going to have to kill you. A shame I have to get rid of one of my guards, but I'm left with no choice."

"Like I said before," Hogan retorted, "you've got that wrong, buster." He lunged with both his arms, swinging the chains widely enough to get them to make contact with A'nake's head. Instantly, they reacted to A'nake's own frequency of power, and the braces that held the chains onto the wall snapped off with incredible force. One of the braces actually caught A'nake in the eye.

"Augh!!" A'nake screamed, recoiling in pain, holding his face in his hands. This disruption of concentration was enough to release the telekinetic hold he had on the two A'nakites, and I'theki again scrambled to the area where the talisman was found, snatched it up, and threw it to Hogan.

"Your eminence!" I'theki commanded. "Cover your ears!"

Emperor O'bire quickly complied, clamping his hands over his pointed ears as best as the chains would allow. Seeing that the necessary precautions had been taken, Hogan swiftly began the ceremonial chant.

"Nagasu hi'eria, vorasilifae axina um, shiri akaraa!!"

The fifth talisman was activated. Despite being so far underground, the energy unleashed from within the talisman engulfed Hogan in a ball of lightning. Seconds later, the energy began to fade down, and a newly transformed Hogan emerged, his fur coat now a radiant gold color.

Hogan looked down at the floor. A'nake was undergoing a series of violent convulsions. He wasn't able to prevent himself from hearing the ceremony, and now he was undergoing the involuntary transformation into a werewolf. "No… this can't be happening!! Please, reverse the ceremony!" The Du'imite's body was now starting to contort and reshape itself into the same form that he had abused in the past. "Please, Ki'rath! I… I be-…" That was the last intelligible sound A'nake could make, before the change took over his vocal cords and rendered speech impossible.

Hogan, O'bire, I'kali and I'theki looked on in horror as A'nake's transformation progressed. Within minutes, the final stages of the change were complete, and A'nake's body was now similar in form to Hogan's. The only difference was that A'nake's body was not under its own control.

Hogan looked at his familiar. "Touch the emperor's chains."

Although Hogan could sense that A'nake was fighting his own body, he watched as the werewolf reached up and touched the chains that held the Du'imite empreror in place. Like Hogan's, they also released the emperor from their grasp.

"On behalf of the planet of Du'im," Hogan declared, "I place you under arrest."

Hogan raised his hand up, causing A'nake to lift up off of the ground. Just as A'nake had done with him in the past, Hogan maneuvered A'nake to the same chains that had bound him just minutes ago. With another flick of the palm, a bolt of spirit energy wrapped around both of A'nake's wrists, working as handcuffs to keep A'nake's hands behind his back.

Hogan looked around to the others in the laboratory. "Let's get out of here."

I'kali and I'theki nodded, and began making their way out of the lab, carrying A'nake by the arms. Hogan began to follow them, but looked back to see Emperor O'bire still standing in awe of the whole scene.

"Are you coming with us, your eminence?" Hogan asked.

"I… I don't know what to say…" O'bire said breathlessly. "For decades, you were a pariah among our kind, for failing to save us from A'nake's evil rule so many years ago. But now… thanks to you, this planet may actually be in peace again."

Hogan nodded. "I'm the Ki'rath, your eminence. I swore to protect the universe from A'nake. I'm sorry it took me so long to fulfill my duty here."

O'bire looked back at Hogan and smiled. "There is no need for apologies."

Hogan and O'bire exited the laboratory.

Next chapter: Hogan returns the Du'imite emperor to safety, and says farewell to the people of Du'im.

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