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


Guardian of the Ceremony

A Serial by Tim Connolly

The Story Thus Far...

In a quiet, non-descript town, in a non-descript high school, a non-descript math teacher was giving a lecture to which a non-descript student was paying very little attention. Or at least, he figured he was non-descript at the time.

His name was Hogan Atwater, a 17-year-old student who lived with his widowed mother on the outskirts of town. One day during class, he cured his boredom by making some doodles in his notebook. Only they weren't just doodles; they were letters of an alien alphabet. He wouldn't realize this until later on in the day, though, when he came across a book in the library that was written in the very same language. This book kept mentioning the arrival of a chosen hero with extraordinary powers, known as the Ki'rath, who would be given the awesome duty of traveling across the universe and retrieving six sacred talismans.

On his way home from school, Hogan found himself in the middle of a thunderstorm, and it became apparent that this storm was centered on him. Before he could find shelter, a bolt of lightning came down from the sky and struck Hogan, spiriting him away from Earth. He found himself on a distant planet, where a mysterious alien explained that he indeed was the Ki'rath, and that his services were now in dire need.

A disembodied spirit, known as A'nake, was now seeking out the talismans. By possessing a person's body, A'nake could acquire a talisman and unleash its power on an unsuspecting public by reciting a ceremonial chant on the night of a full moon. If successful, all those who heard it would be transformed into werewolves, nearly invincible and under the control of whoever enslaved them. One of the talismans was on Earth, but before Hogan could search for it, he would first have to cultivate his powers on this new planet - The planet Ki'rathia. Since Ki'rathia operated at a speed that was millions of times faster than Earth, he would return home in time to find the talisman before the next full moon.

The training was a series of tests that Hogan had to endure in order to unlock his amazing powers. First, to build his strength, he had to carry a granite column around a large room, then place it back on its end. When he passed that test, he was sent to a long catwalk where a blustery journey helped him develop blinding speed and almost limitless stamina - not to mention the ability to fly. The third test involved a maze of pathways, where Hogan had to rely on his own conscience to negotiate the pathways and avoid falling to his doom.

When all three tests were complete, the Ki'rathian shaman showed Hogan how to fight A'nake using not just his physical powers, but his ethereal strength as well. After a month of training, it was time to return to Earth and begin his quest to retrieve the talisman - while still pretending to be a regular high-school junior. He bid farewell to his comrade the shaman, as by the time the next full moon would arrive on Earth, hundreds of years will have passed on Ki'rathia.

When he found himself back on Earth, he soon discovered that the talisman was in the possession of a rock group's lead singer. Luckily, the group was playing in a nearby city the night of the full moon, and a friend had tickets to see the concert. While there, Hogan tried to get the talisman away from the singer, but was stopped by the security guards. Sure enough, A'nake was possessing the singer's body, and as soon as the opening number was finished, the singer began to cast the ceremony on the thousands of fans in the audience.

Hogan now had to act fast - if the transformation that the audience was undergoing finished before he could wrestle the talisman away from A'nake, there would be no way to reverse it. Fighting A'nake turned out to be a tougher proposition than he had anticipated, though - he had to rescue his girlfriend from the audience when the others around her began to attack her as they changed. Just seconds before the transformation completed itself, however, he found the talisman stuck onto the singer's skirt. With a swift kick, the talisman flew into the audience, leaving the crowd hostile but still capable of returning to human form.

The fight only got tougher, then, as A'nake divested itself of the singer's body. Now at full power, A'nake had its way with Hogan. He even lost consciousness and was in danger of being possessed himself by A'nake, but his will would not let him give in and with his girlfriend helping him find the talisman, he was able to enact the ceremony on himself. In a flash, the power of the talisman had turned Hogan into werewolf form, amplifying his powers even further.

But even then, A'nake was no pushover. It resorted to another one of its tricks by splitting into six smaller spirits and surrounding Hogan. He had to use one last burst of energy before he finally got the upper hand. The force of their fighting was damaging the concert hall, though, and just as Hogan was about to finish A'nake off, the building began to collapse. Seeing his girlfriend get knocked out by falling debris, he decided that now was the time to escape. He took his friend to a nearby alleyway and recited the chant to reverse the ceremony, returning him to normal as well. As the rain began to fall once more, Hogan now had to tell his friend about the destiny that was laid out for him. With a promise to return, a bolt of lightning struck Hogan and he left Earth once again.

When he returned on Ki'rathia, he met up with his new mentor, another shaman by the name of Gauno. Gauno explained that the talismans, once used, would be absorbed into Hogan to boost his powers while in human form, as well as provide new powers when transformed. But there was little time to rest - a second talisman was now in peril on the planet Dracon. Since this new world ran at the same speed as Ki'rathia, Gauno was able to join Hogan in the search for this next talisman.

When they arrived, they were immediately arrested by the Draconians - which Hogan noticed were capable of flight themselves through their insect-like wings - and thrown into a large dungeon with no source of light anywhere. They weren't the only ones being held there, either; another prisoner quickly filled them in on the details. The King of Dracon had been murdered, and his son, Prince Drax, had imposed martial law on the planet, arresting anyone who looked suspicious. Hogan and Gauno concluded that A'nake was behind the King's slaying, and that now it had possessed Drax to eliminate the resistance to the talisman. Even worse, the next full moon on Dracon was only hours away.

After orchestrating an attack on the prison guards, Hogan set out for the royal palace while Gauno stayed behind to help the other prisoners escape. When Hogan arrived, he found Prince Drax to be quite accomodating, actually handing the talisman to him from the palace storeroom. Hogan even confronted Drax about being possessed by A'nake, but Drax flatly denied. After Drax explained his side of the story, they quickly realized that the killer - and A'nake's host body - must have been among the prisoners that Gauno was helping to escape! They quickly headed back to the fortress where Hogan was previously held.

Meanwhile, Gauno was busy getting the other prisoners out of the large cell, completely oblivious to the danger he was in. Soon, only one prisoner was left - the one who had suspected Drax of being possessed. Of course, A'nake was actually controlling the prisoner's body, but Gauno didn't know until the prisoner turned the tables on him and knocked him unconscious. As Gauno began to black out, A'nake mentioned how it had its own plans for the Ki'rathian shaman.

Hogan and Drax returned to the fortress shortly after to find Gauno - or at least, Gauno's usurped body - waiting for them. A'nake managed to convince the others that the prisoner they were looking for was headed for a town to the south. While there, Hogan decided to enact the ceremony, but was interrupted before the chant could be completed by a kick to the stomach. He dropped the talisman into the forest below, and they realized that Gauno was being possessed. After paralyzing Hogan with a psychic mindshock, A'nake went down to the surface to search for the talisman. Drax gave some resistance, but it wasn't enough to stop A'nake from finding the second talisman and heading off to the south for a group of people to victimize.

Hogan slowly regained his senses and after retrieving Drax, gave chase to A'nake. Meanwhile, the evil spirit managed to reach the town, and was ready to unleash the talisman's power on its people. Before the ceremony was finished, though, Gauno's own mind began to fight back, trying to repress the spirit invading him. He began to give his own body mindshocks, and was even willing to kill himself with them in order to contain A'nake. But when Hogan arrived on the scene and intervened, Gauno's grip on his body was lost, and A'nake resurfaced. It revealed to Hogan that Gauno had actually grown paternally attached to Hogan, going so far as to say the shaman loved him. This angered A'nake beyond measure, and it purged itself of the shaman's body to destroy Hogan.

Despite being stronger on account of the first talisman, Hogan's human form was still no match for the ageless spirit. It was only when Drax supplied his own diversion - at the cost of his wings - that Hogan managed to reach Gauno, retrieve the talisman, and cast the ceremony on himself. A'nake knew that Hogan now had enough power to destroy it, so it tricked Hogan into moving away from Gauno's body to fight. There, it gave Hogan quite the sadistic choice to make.

Both Gauno and Drax were unconscious, and some distance away from Hogan. By splitting into two spirits, A'nake could attack them both; Hogan could only protect one. If he left Drax vulnerable, A'nake would wipe out the last member of Draconian royalty, plunging the planet into chaos. But if Gauno died, Hogan would never be able to return to Ki'rathia, cutting him off from the other talismans. He chose to protect Gauno, and even then he was nearly defeated as he was distracted by a tree that was falling towards the shaman.

That was when the power unlocked by the second talisman began to show itself - Hogan found himself actually able to drain the energy that A'nake was charging up and give it to Gauno. Gauno quickly regained consciousness, and helped Hogan fight off the evil spirit. A'nake retreated, but not before unleashing a massive bolt of energy on Drax. When Hogan and Gauno got to him, he had no signs of life.

Gauno was ready to mourn for the fallen prince, but Hogan would not let him die. He sacrificed the second talisman - and with it, the ability to drain A'nake's power - and used it on Drax. Slowly, Drax returned to life. After an exchange of gratitude which led them all to realize that Drax was now the King of Dracon, the rains had returned and lightning struck them both, sending them back to Ki'rathia.

Hogan now had to bid farewell to Gauno, but not after Gauno confirmed that he indeed loved Hogan as a father loves a son. Hogan asked about his own father - who had died of cancer when Hogan was a child - and Gauno cited him as his aspiration. With a final goodbye, Hogan was quickly sent to the next planet on his itinerary.

Hogan arrived on the new planet, and found himself in a completely barren wasteland. Having gone without food or sleep for close to a full day, Hogan slowly made his way across the desert, but found no signs of civilization. After hours of walking, he finally decided to sleep under the stars. When he awoke, he was on the bed of a small truck, driven by two adolescent children who didn't seem all that friendly.

They took him to a cavernous hideout, where he met the matriarch of the children, a mysterious woman named Liarna. Accusing Hogan of being a spy, they demanded he explain his presence. When Hogan told about his search for the talismans, he was informed that he was too late; that a man named Varzen had already found the talisman for this planet and used it a number of times. In fact, the children living in the hideout were all orphans per se, their parents having been imprisoned and transformed to aid in Varzen's conquest of the planet.

Although Hogan allayed their worries by helping them hunt for food, but when he asked for their help in getting back the talisman, Liarna wasn't sure where Varzen could have hidden it. They would quickly have to put off their search, however - Varzen was now sending troops of werewolves to find their hideout. Hogan and Liarna quickly agreed to face the soldiers before they got too close.

Despite his efforts, Hogan couldn't seem to harm the wolves with his spirit attacks, but Liarna managed to hold down the fort with her trusty rapier. The waves of monsters started to overwhelm them, however, and they decided to retreat to the hideout. As Hogan made his way down to pick up Liarna, a collar was launched into the air and wrapped itself around Hogan's neck. It cancelled out Hogan's powers, sending him crashing into the ground below. Liarna was dispatched soon after.

When Hogan woke up - following a nightmare involving both his parents and Prince Drax - he was in a dank prison cell. He learned that Liarna was held in another cell, and that they were to fight each other in a gladiator-style battle to the death, the winner being allowed to go free. At first, Hogan turned down the fight, but later agreed when he realized that this was his only way out.

The duel against Liarna was nothing short of a mismatch for Hogan; Liarna was allowed to wield her sword, but Hogan still had the collar affixed to his throat. He pleaded to Liarna to not fight, but Liarna's concern over the children in the hideout overrid her concern over Hogan's talismans. During the fight, Hogan seized the upper hand, but rather than defeat Liarna, he convinced her to use her sword on his collar in an attempt to cut it off. The plan failed, though, and Varzen sent them both back to their dungeons for their treachery.

Hogan woke up later that night, alive but badly wounded. Things would only get worse, though, as Varzen soon came to his cell to inform him of two things. First, that he had executed Liarna. And second, that the full moon was out that night, and the talisman was on his person all along. Varzen recited the chant, and Hogan began the involuntary transformation into a werewolf.

But Varzen didn't have long to gloat over his victory; moments after the ceremony ended, he was killed by an arrow to the throat. Rena, a young girl from the hideout - and the one of the kids who first found Hogan - had managed to inflitrate the prison and free Hogan. But the ceremony had to be reversed, and Hogan was so far into his metamorphosis that he couldn't tell Rena the Ki'rathian words. He ended up having to relay it to her through charades, one syllable at a time.

As they tried to make their escape, they were stopped by a strange man. He was a scientist named Dr. Sconder, and he was the one responsible for inventing the collar which Hogan was still wearing. Although he was grateful to Hogan and Rena for knocking Varzen off, he had is own plans of conquest. Hogan was quick to brush him off, until Dr. Sconder revealed the collar around his neck that had been storing the energy Hogan had tried to use before. Even worse, Hogan had just tried to enact the full moon ceremony only to have that power be siphoned into Dr. Sconder's collar. Dr. Sconder activated his collar, and Hogan and Rena now had another powerful force to contend with.

Dr. Sconder was thoroughly enjoying the powers his collar had stolen from Hogan, including the power unlocked by the third talisman - an energy beam that would forever freeze its target in the fabric of time. Luckily, Hogan managed to outsmart Dr. Sconder by chanting the ceremonial phrase repeatedly, causing Dr. Sconder to grow so large his collar snapped off. Drained of his new powers, Dr. Sconder was defiant when Hogan demanded that his collar be removed, but was left alive when Hogan didn't want to kill him in cold blood.

That would prove to be a mistake, as later Dr. Sconder was visited in his laboratory by a new guest - the spirit A'nake. While troubled that Hogan had already collected the third of six talismans, Dr. Sconder revealed the ace up his sleeve - a newly cloned twin of Hogan, which would have the same powers as the real person, thanks to the inhuman DNA in Hogan's cells provided by his father. A'nake agreed to use this clone as a vessel for its work, but not before taking care of some other business.

Meanwhile, Rena and Hogan had returned to the hideout. Using a couple of tools, the two of them finally managed to remove Hogan's collar, and his powers immediately returned. The next full moon was more than six weeks away, so Hogan offered to teach Rena how to use her own spirit energy to fight as they waited for the full moon, when Hogan could finally enact the ceremony and return to his quest. As they hunted that day, though, A'nake arrived on the scene.

Hogan quickly informed A'nake that he already had the talisman well in hand, but didn't count on the deal A'nake was about to make. In exchange for half the talisman, A'nake would fill Hogan in on his father's past. Although Hogan was eager to learn what had truly happened to his dad, he wasn't ready to give up even a fraction of the talisman, and flipped A'nake the bird. In reply, A'nake warned Hogan about the coming battle he would have against his clone.

When Hogan returned to the hideout, he was fatalistic about his prospects. A'nake was powerful enough to begin with, and magnifying its powers through Hogan's clone would make things impossible for him. Rena suggested that the other kids help out, but Hogan would not let them become cannon fodder for A'nake. Distraught, Hogan went to his room. Rena followed after him, and explained her own worries: She had fallen in love with Hogan, and didn't want to lose him after losing everyone else close to her. This confession served to give Hogan a little more confidence, and they began to devise a plan to somehow get the better of A'nake.

Five weeks later, it was D-Day. Returning to where they had encountered each other before, Hogan and his clone did battle. Predictably, A'nake used the clone to its fullest extent, beating Hogan to a pulp while nearly invincible itself. Quickly realizing that an all-out brawl was hopeless, Hogan got A'nake to get close to a rock formation where Rena was hiding. Hogan gave the signal, and Rena launched the anti-spirit collar - the very same collar used on Hogan. It was a direct hit on the clone, and it served to drive A'nake out of its host body.

The fight was far from over, though. Hogan still had his difficulties with A'nake, as the spirit split into three and mixed up its patterns to confuse him. As the battle wore on, Rena was surprised to find Hogan's clone had regained consciousness, imploring her to remove the collar from him. Unsure of the clone's motives but seeing no other alternative, she did so, and the clone quickly jumped into the melee.

It's a good thing, too - A'nake now had Hogan on the ropes, and was ready to move in for the kill. The clone managed to break up A'nake's lethal spirit attack, though, and angrily announced vengeance on Dr. Sconder, the man he believed to be his father, who A'nake killed in the laboratory in front of the clone's eyes. Flabbergasted, A'nake was completely unprepared for this turnabout, and after taking a small pounding, decided it was best to escape.

With A'nake fleeing the planet, Hogan, Rena, and the newly-befriended clone returned to the hideout, much to the delight of the children there. Nine days later, the full moon returned, and it was time for Hogan to enact the ceremony and leave the planet. The clone promised to help take care of the children, while Rena explained that the rain which prefaced Hogan's departure was a sign of prosperity for the future. Once again, Hogan found himself waving goodbye to another group of allies as lightning took him back to Ki'rathia.

Where will Hogan find the last three talismans? What challenges will he have to overcome in order to obtain them? What will he discover about his father? And what will it take to get rid of A'nake?

The answers to these questions will come as the legacy of the Ki'rath continues...

Next chapter

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