The airship immediately turns twenty degree to the left in top speed, and BLAAAMMM!! The three crystal beam cannons blast! Three streaks of red, gold and green shoot straight at the target – Aurora.
CRACK! CRAACKLECRACKK!! The leftmost red blast grazes the portside hull. A few unfortunate souls got shot or thrown overboard. The blast hits the tip of the left wing. The airship tilts a bit, yet it still flies and maintains balance.
The gold and green beams miss the target completely, and the green one blasts into a dracolich instead, breaking it into pieces!
Eidos is thrown and bumps into the wall. He egts up with his hand on his hurting back. Suddenly, he hears a very loud, mechanical, yet familiar voice,
‘WELL, let’s see who’s coming to the party! Seems the welcome drink didn’t give you much of a kick, eh? Anyway, shall we proceed to the main course?’
Eidos’ face turns pale. That voice, I recognize it! And that’s a talk of a man who’s fond of parties... The once dignified and powerful benefactor of Project Aurora...
‘Nikanomikos Paliades,’ says the curly-bearded centaur, clenching his fist and baring his teeth. His hind horselegs step excitedly. ‘Either he survived the explosion in Enia’s Sanctum, or he has been reanimated with necromancy and implanted in that thing.’
‘Either way, that former master of ours wants to destroy us once and for all. The question is, how can we destroy him?’
Quazar and Eidos are thinking hard to find a sure-fire method to destroy a gigantic scorpion two times larger than a behemoth when Paliades’ voice reverberates again.
‘Feeling nostalgic, eh, Eidos, Quazar? After you betrayed me, you still care about me so you didn’t return fire?’
Eidos casts the spell that makes his voice ten times louder, walks out from the bridge and talks back to the enemy, staring straight at the golem’s eye.
‘Actually, it was YOU who betrayed us with your demonic ambition to become the Heir of Vordac, Paliades. So, we stopped you then and we’ll stop you again!’
There’s a sudden red flash on the golemium crystal eye as it responds, ‘Ohoho, the cowardly old fox is playing as a lion now, eh? By the way, I don’t go by that name again. I am the JUGGERNAUT, and you might want to shout it out loud with your dying breath.’
To this, Eidos puts a mock smile, saying, ‘Great. Now we’re all sure that our former master and benefactor is dead, and in front of us stands a monster.’
The Juggernaut’s eye turns yellow. ‘Monster, you say? Well, maybe I amn, and I must thank you for that because it was your technology that made it possible.
You must know, while building the Aurora, I stole your method of utilizing both golemium and eternium crystals to build this new, top secret project Juggernaut. I hired your rival scientists and top smithies of the land and work on this for almost nine years.
And then, when the Chimera exploded and I was dead, the necromancers infiltrated the ruins, took me back to Parthenia and revived me. As I am part man, part demon and part machine and I’ve lost my limbs, the necromancers ‘plugged’ me on this machine, blending my body with Juggernaut, making it my new body.’
The chronomage walks up to the bow and points his chakram at the mechanical scorpion, challenging, ‘I don’t know what you’ve trying to pull by telling me all this, but now I’m convinced that you were once a monster in human skin, and now you come in your true form. So come on! Let’s have a battle here, the Aurora versus the Juggernaut! Let’s see which one is better, mine or the one built using a stolen technology!’
The Juggernaut’s eye goes green, saying, ‘Yeah, let’s!’
The long scorpion tail on the back serves as the fourth crystal cannon, smaller yet more agile and versatile than the three others. It shots blue raybolts on the Aurora four, five times in rapid succession.
ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!
And there’s no avoiding it. Five shots, five hits and none too fatal, despite casualties from the crew. Yet, Aurora is still a tough ship. Its engine room is still intact, and it can still fly normally despite of the many damages on the hull.
Eidos immediately runs back to the bridge and sees the centaur shouting instructions. ‘Let’s show that traitor what we are made of. Fire the port and starboard cannons!’
‘Aye-aye, Captain! Lock on target... FIRE!’
This time, twelve lines of ray smaller than the bolts from the Juggernaut tail blast from the twelve intact cannons out of twenty four installed.
CRACK! CRAACK! The rays fall like rain on the walking iron. It covers its head with its two pincers and gets holes on seven different places. Yet, the ironclad scorpion won’t fall from that ‘minor damage’.
‘GGGHAARRGH!!!’ Furious, Paliades-Juggernaut fires the cannons all over its body like a porcupine sticking out its spikes. The Aurora responds by doing quick maneuvers and return fire. Soon, both behemoths suffer more damage, and the Dark Forces on the ground also become victims of his air-to-surface and vice versa combat.
After a few turns, the Aurora is now aligned head-to-head with the Juggernaut and quickly shots the grand cannon! BHLAAARRR!!! The opponent can’t move fast on the ground with its six legs, so it only covers its head with its pincers again.
The blast was diverted by the mythril-coated pincers and goes through the left and right side, grazing the body and breaking the ‘porcupine cannons’.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Small explosions cluster, and the Juggernaut roars as though it’s in pain.
Seeing this, Quazar clenches his fist and talks, ‘DAMN! The Grand Rayblast couldn’t destroy its head because its pincers are MYTHRIL! Now it must be furious and will utilize the tail and main cannons to finish us off, and our ship can’t take much more battering. Eidos,’ he turns to the chronomage. ‘Now it’s time for you and the Paladins to bail out from this vessel. The riders will take you to the entrance of Kraal’Thragon.’
Eidos, the inventor and builder of this airship reacts by coming close to the centaur. His lips tremble and his body shivers all over. ‘Quazar, are you thinking about...’
Quazar snaps, ‘Leave the Juggernaut to us! Your job is to secure a safe passage for the Paladins into Kraal’Thragon!’
‘But, there must be a way...’
‘There’s no other way, Eidos and you know it! Go now! Please! We’ve come this far. If you all stay here, you’ll be perished for sure!’
‘I knew it! I knew it! This is a suicide mission to get us into the Black Citadel. That’s it. I’ll organize bailout for the Paladin, and then I’ll rejoin you here. I can’t stand to part with Aurora, my little baby girl...’
THOOKK! The centaur slaps his ‘partner’, saying, ‘Beg your pardon, Eidos, but please, snap out of it! I now you missed your daughter so much, but she and her mother have died many years ago from the plague, and you must survive now, because you still have one more task to do, which is to pass on the airship building technology to future generations, leaving a legacy that the world will remember for ages to come. Please, Eidos, go, for the sake of mankind!’
Eidos falls silent, bows and stays like that for a moment – in the crossroads of his thoughts. No one except Quazar notices the tears dropping from his eyes on the floor. And then, he lifts his head up, takes a good look around the bridge of his greatest masterpiece. After a last glance on Quazar the centaur, the airship inventor abruptly turns and runs away, shouting, ‘Good bye, and take care!’
At last, Eidos has decided, and this puts a smile of fulfillment on the Captain’s face.
Soon, a flare soars up above the airship in such fashion so all Paladins on board can see it. Chris and the air units see it too, and thirteen griffin and pegasus riders break off from their fight to pick up the passengers.
A griffin rider lands on the Aurora deck and Eidos immediately climbs on the beast’s back without saying a word. He just watches other Paladins fillow suit, and as his ride takes off he takes a good last look at his ‘darling child’ without a single inch missing. He clenches his left fist with the Ring of Courage on, gathering courage to just let go and get going.
The griffin rider swings swiftly in smart maneuvers to avoid bolts of fire, arrows and enemy attacks, yet it bothers the distracted passenger not.
On board the Aurora, the helmsman struggles to steer the flying iron. The countless breaches and damages imbalance the airship, and when all the Paladins are off board, they prepare for the final attack.
‘Grand cannon, all cannons, ready! When the Juggernaut fires, we return fire and go straight to ram it with full speed!’ says Quazar reassuringly.
A sudden silence erupts in the bridge. The crew stops working at once, all staring at the centaur.
‘Hey, what are you waiting for? Let’s get ready!’ says Quazar, breaking the silence.
The helmsman responds, ‘Oh, I’m just remembering how beautiful our homeland is, how beautiful my wife is and how angelic my son is. I’ll miss them.’
The centaur smiles, ‘Rest assured, the Elysion Fields is a far beautiful scenery than our homeland, and we’ll going there today, our true home, reserve some space for your wives and children and wait for them to come, perhaps not too soon. Elysion Fields, here we come!’
BLAAM! BLAAM! BLAAM! BLAAM!
The Juggernaut fires the three big cannons plus the tail cannon simultaneously just when it recovers, shouting, ‘Feast on the Champions!’
Quazar shouts, ‘Grand Cannon, RETURN FIRE!’
The impact betwen the gold ray and the rayblast from the Aurora pushes the Juggernaut down, and when it gets up to take another shot, it sees something dives in a collision course with it: the airhsip!
The Aurora’s port and starboard hull is damaged beyond repair, so are the wings. It goes out of control and free-falls in ramming speed straight to the Juggernaut’s head!
There’s no avoiding it! Paliades’ voice howls most loudly.
‘WHAAT!? You crazy... NOOOO!!!’
CRAACKLE-CCRASSH!!! BLAAM!! BLAARH!!
The monster, Nikanomikos Paliades must suffer an ironic end: to die a second time by the very vessel he has financed to build. By Quazar and the crew who have been loyal to him until his first death.
He has lived like a monster just to see his ambitions crumble, and he lost all his friends, riches, family and the pride and preservation of the Nikanomikos bloodline.
On the other hand, Quazar Gykkos-Assis dies with a smile on his face. He and his entire crew die as heroes, fulfilling their destiny and are home at last, in the paradise they call Elysion Fields.
The collision between the Aurora and Juggernaut destroys not only the body, but also the crystal cores inside them. It triggers a chain explosion that shatters their whole bodies into pieces. The explosions also destory all beings on the ground and the air too close to them, friend or foe alike.
The Paladins, who apparently survive that chain explosion look back at the burning rubbles of the big bang and pray in their hearts to honor the Aurora crew’s bravery and sacrifice. Eidos’ face is soaked in tears, and he tries so hard not to faint because of his great loss.
Good bye, Quazar, my old friend. Just tell my daughter Aurora in Elysion Fields to wait for me there. I’ll be joining you two soon.
Note: Next Part: Script Pg 300/487 after break
Image Source: Giant Scorpion Machine