[2740 AD; President’s Palace – Outer Courtyard South]
A single, thin beam of light appeared before Henry. He tapped Kirk on he arm and pointed at the light.
“Looks like we finally have a way out,” Kirk said. “I was wondering when we were ever going to get out of this sewer.”
“Where do you think it leads?” Henry asked.
“There’s only one way to find out.”
Henry placed his hand above him, feeling the manhole cover above him. He started to move it, lifting it up off of its position and placing it aside. Placing a hand at either side, Henry started to climb out of the sewer.
“One thing,” Kirk said.
Kirk sighed. “We don’t know what we’re heading into,” he replied. “Keep your head up.”
“Thank you,” Henry said.
“Don’t think of it as me forgiving you or anything like that.”
Henry climbed out of the sewer and saw where he was. Kirk jumped up as well, looking around to see all of the trees and flora in the courtyard. It would have been even more beautiful, but the rain was still coming down with no end in sight. In front of them stood a wrecked metal gate.
“They beat us to the palace,” Kirk said. “I’m worried about what’s going to happen next.”
“If Lokke is here, then we have no choice,” Henry said, “We have to keep moving, no matter what the cost.”
“Seems like that’s the plan, then,” Kirk said. “I’m certain that they’ll be heading in soon, anyway.”
Henry and Kirk walked past the mangled gate and into the inner courtyard of the palace. Before them lay several guards, all dead. Henry stepped back as Kirk walked forward to check the bodies.
“These wounds,” Kirk said as he turned over one of the bodies, “They’re not gunshots.”
Henry looked and saw that it was indeed true. A large gash ran across the man’s chest, with blood still pouring out of him. Another man met a similar fate, with a stab wound on both his front and his back. With each consecutive body, it was clear that these guards were stabbed and slashed to death.
“This is the True Thekohnians’s work?” Henry asked.
“I don’t know,” Kirk answered. “I wish could say, but these are all wounds that were created with a blade.”
“I think we have a different problem now, though,” Henry said.
From the front and the back, several True Thekohnians were surrounding them. Lokke was with them, too, as he stepped forward. Kirk took out his sword while Henry took out his knives as they prepared themselves for what would happen next.
“Please,” Lokke said, “You really think you can fight your way out of this? How exactly do you expect to survive?”
“Did you kill those guards?” Henry asked.
“It wasn’t us,” Lokke replied. “Seems like there is another out there…”
“You lie!” Kirk said. “You got here first!”
Lokke shook his head. “That may be the case, but I was not the one who ordered those men dead,” he said. “It might have been that snake Wihll, though.”
He laughed and wiped the water from his forehead. Kirk took one step forward as Henry followed up.
“It doesn’t matter what he’s done, though,” Lokke continued, “I’ll be sure to reprimand him harshly once we’re done here. Right now, however, I think your time is up.”
“You’re not getting away with this!” Kirk exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, but it appears that I am,” Lokke said.
Kirk growled and ran forward as several henchmen came in to defend Lokke. They were all armed with swords as Kirk swung his in defense. Henry ran up, ducking and dodging the swords as he came in close to deliver a few swipes at the henchmen before him. Some of them backed off to collect themselves while others continued to fight the duo.
“Take this!” Henry said.
He threw a left hook at one of the men, knocking him to the ground while with his right he stabbed another in the arm. Henry threw the man to the ground, taking out his knife in the process.
Meanwhile, Kirk knocked away another man’s sword to the side and shoved him to the ground. One of the last few men charged at Kirk, hoping to score a hit on the long haired man. It proved to be effortless as Kirk moved out of the way just in time.
“You just missed me!” Kirk said.
However, it was an unfortunate misstep for Kirk as his foot landed on its side. A sharp pain went through Kirk’s foot as he stumbled to the ground, making him drop his sword. He let out a scream, clutching onto his aching foot.
Henry turned around. “Kirk!”
“Damn it,” Kirk said. “I didn’t expect my leg to fail me now!”
“Too bad for you,” Lokke said. “You put up a good fight, but now is the time for a new era to begin. A new empire, with me as the emperor!”
Henry looked to Kirk, who was still on the ground holding onto his foot. They were cornered, with no possible way to get out. As Lokke laughed once more, a loud howl filled the air, followed by a scream. Some of the True Thekohnians looked around, trying the find the source as a relentless slice cut through a couple of the henchmen.
“What the hell!?” Lokke asked. “Who are you?”
He took a look at the man standing above the two bloodied True Thekohnian henchmen. The messy beard and long hair was enough of a signal for Lokke to realize who he was talking to.
Lokke trembled. “Rysol Wilk,” he said, “But I thought that you were…”
“Funny thing,” Rysol said, “You stab a man in the back, don’t be surprised he stabs back even harder.”
He brandished his blood covered sword, the rain washing off some of it as he moved in on Lokke. With Rysol coming towards him, Lokke attempted to have some of his henchmen guard him, but they proved to be no match as Rysol charged at all of them, slicing and slashing through them. Henry sat Kirk up as the both of them watched as Rysol tore through every last one of the True Thekohnians standing there.
“How!?” Lokke said. “How do you keep going and going!? It’s impossible!”
“It is a redress to the suffering you have caused all these years, Walton Lokke,” Rysol replied. “You are a disease.”
“After all I’ve done for you, you want me dead?” Lokke asked.
“I’m only doing what you claimed to be about,” Rysol said, “This will make everything right, isn’t that so?”
Rysol’s sword pointed at Lokke. “Listen,” Lokke said, “I think you’re making a big mistake…”
His words were interrupted as Rysol ran his blade through Lokke’s neck. Lokke coughed up blood as Rysol removed his sword at an agonizing and slow pace, making sure that Lokke would suffer every second of it. Blood spurted out of Lokke as he fell to the ground on top of one of his henchmen, his body not moving at all.
“The only mistake I’ve made was not killing you sooner,” Rysol said. “Before they decided to lock you up.”
Kirk attempted to stand up, but due to his foot he could not. Henry helped him back up, with Kirk reluctant but doing so anyway.
“Son, you saved us,” Kirk said. “I’ve been looking for you for years…”
Rysol clutched his forehead. “Father… I… I did it, didn’t I?”
“You do recognize me,” Kirk said. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“Why do you follow me?” Rysol asked. “After what I’ve done…”
“Because, Rysol, it has been a long time,” Kirk answered, “A long time since we were a family. That’s why I’m here.”
“Sorin… he’s here,” Rysol said. “He’s here… isn’t he?”
“I don’t know,” Kirk said, “But I would guess he’s figured some of this out by now.”
“What do you have to do with Lokke?” Henry asked.
Rysol coughed, kneeling down as he covered his mouth. “Gah… this rain, it truly won’t let up will it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Kirk said. “You stopped Lokke.”
“This… this isn’t over,” Rysol said. “There’s a reason why the True Thekohnians wanted to come to the palace, and I intend to find out!”
“Wait!” Kirk said.
He tried to move forward, but his leg hindered him once more. Rysol ran off in the direction of the palace, his sword in hand while Kirk and Henry struggled after him. Rysol sprinted at the doors to the palace and busted them open.
“President Rhodes is in there,” Kirk said. “Past those doors… We need to stop Rysol before he does the unthinkable!”
“Okay,” Henry said. “Let’s keep going.”
“Henry, thank you,” Kirk said. “If you hadn’t tagged along, then I would have met my end back there.”
“Please don’t thank me,” Henry said. “It’s your son you should thank.”
“I still have a lot I want to say to him, you know.”
“Personal stuff,” Kirk replied. “You should understand.”
Henry nodded. “I won’t ask again.”
They walked up to the steps, looking up at the open doors leading into the palace. Inside they could see the golden walls of the main hall. On the ground lay even more wounded guards, blood splattered on the walls and floor around.
“This was all him,” Kirk said. “I can’t believe it…”
“Are you okay?” Henry asked.
“I’m not,” Kirk replied. “I wasn’t back there, and I certainly am not feeling well now…”
“I don’t know what I can say.”
“Henry, please, he’s not yours to worry about.”
“Damn it, Kirk, let me worry!” Henry said. “I worried about you all those years ago when we were allies for the same reason I am now! Rysol is… He has gone mad.”
“Whatever happens, he’s still my son,” Kirk said. “Even if he has killed a thousand men, women, and children, Rysol is still my son.”
As Henry and Kirk stepped forward, they heard the scream of an older man coming from down the hall. With one look around, Kirk saw Rysol standing in front of another figure.
“Hurry!” Kirk said. “I can still talk sense into him!”
Henry helped Kirk through the hall, moving around the dying men before them. There was no time to check on them, as Kirk had only one goal in mind: stopping Rysol. With each step, the voices grew louder as Kirk recognized the voice of the older man.
“The president,” Kirk said. “Rysol, abstain yourself!”
Rysol turned his head away from President Llywelyn Rhodes. Rhodes placed a hand on his chest and sighed in relief as Henry and Kirk stumbled into the president’s room.
“You don’t understand,” Rysol said. “Rhodes is a ruthless man. He is the real leader of them.”
“The real leader?” Henry asked. “Maeitakohn, yes, but what do you mean?”
“The True Thekohnians… Rhodes is the real leader,” Rysol answered.
Kirk looked over at Rhodes. The man with full, gray hair had his eyes wide open the entire time. His breathing increased as he had his hands out and open in front of Rysol.
“It’s a mistake!” Rhodes exclaimed. “I’ve… It’s a set-up! They’ve set me up to take the fall!”
“You’ve been responsible for the mistreatment of your citizens,” Kirk said. “What makes you think that I would believe that?”
“Do you want the real answer?” Rhodes asked. “It’s complicated.”
“Speak,” Rysol said. “I’ll decide whether or not you’ll get to live after.”
“Thank you,” Rhodes said as he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry… It’s been an agonizing past few months for me. The cancer has been getting much worse.”
Rysol swung his sword at Rhodes. “Don’t you dare try and sell me that sorry excuse of a story!”
“It’s the truth,” Rhodes said, “Just ask my doctors. It’s all been kept a secret for a very good reason.”
“We believe you,” Kirk said. “What I want to know is why you’ve been putting the citizens of Maeitakohn through so much. There are few safe places within Bel, and much of the land is barren.”
“I have no explanation,” Rhodes replied. “I could not care any less about what happens to these people. All I care about is finding a way out of this.”
“What are you talking about?” Henry asked.
“I never wanted any of this,” Rhodes said. “I was only put here by Foundation after the War of the Lands ended. They needed someone to do their bidding, and I was desperate to make some money.”
“Foundation, is it,” Kirk said, “I’ve heard of them before. Seems like you owe us a big explanation.”
Rhodes coughed. “Is that so,” he said. “It’s looking like the end is near, so I might as well before the big guns come running in.”
He walked up to his desk and took a seat. With a weak cough, Rhodes sat up and took a deep breath.
To be continued…