Story by Jeremy Sung and Brian Stevenson
Written by Jeremy Sung
Art by Nate Baertsch

Chapter One: Blood of My Blood

It was white. Bright white. Painfully so, and it was in this blinding white light that Lady Noiria, The Mistress of Shadow withered.  

Suspended in a chamber of unrelenting light she suffered, alone and lost.  Merely clinging to life by using a small rift in the light through which she could channel her last remaining stores of energy, drawing on the great power of Shadow. However, the rift was a terrible double-edged sword. Though it let her live it also granted its creator the ability to siphon off the majority of the great power of Shadow, leaving her only the barest dregs, just enough to keep her alive. Her jailor and creator of this cruel trap was none other than her first-born son, Umbreus, Overlord of The Vilhain.

"Hello Mother." Umbreus appeared as always, with no warning.

One moment it was endless whiteness, then a blot of dark oozing purple and green. Within was Umbreus' leering death's head.
"They're all dead you know. Father, that stunted whelp Empyreus, The Kingdom of Light. All dead. All is mine, as it should be. I win. I will always win," hissed Umbreus.

"You lie, son. Delusional as ever," sighed the Mistress of Shadow.

"Oh I do, mother dear. I do, but my lies have flecks of truth buried in them, and I leave it to you to try and find them," taunted Umbreus. "Though I've beaten those sniveling Gearo again and again they manage to survive! I need an edge. I need something to end their foolish resistance once and for all. I need more mother, give me more of your power!"

"You’ve taken all you can my son, I've nothing else to give. You fail to realize that you can never truly stand triumphant, neither Light nor Shadow can ever best the other. The balance will always endure..." answered The Mistress wearily.

The darkness around Umbreus grew even deeper. Suddenly and with terrifying speed he lashed out, striking The Mistress of Shadow a series of savage blows. Blood sprayed from her wounds, covering Umbreus. "Silence! No one doubts the might of Umbreus! No one! You'll soon regret every..."

Then Umbreus paused.  The armor on his body where his mother's blood had fallen blackened and fused, burning painfully. "What trick is this witch?” Umbreus howled in pain, “Hsssss...! You'll suffer for this!" and with that Umbreus withdrew leaving The Mistress of Shadow alone and wounded in her prison of light.


It had been weeks since Umbreus' confrontation with The Mistress of Shadow. Her clotted blood had stained his armor. Nothing, not fire, nor ice, nor crackling mystic energy would cleanse him. The clots grew and infected his body, making it difficult for him to move. Soon he was fused to his throne. Imprisoned, he raged and cursed in madness and agony. The glow of light from his eyes was the only hint that The Lord of the Vilhain yet lived.  Even that eventually dimmed.

Without Umbreus to rule them, Brutok took over the day-to-day matters of ruling The Vilhain. He still raided Gearo lands and fought border skirmishes, but the green giant’s real priority was sending team after team of Vilhain into the wilds of Monkaa in search of a goal known only to him and his highest ranking lieutenants. As he had many times in the past weeks, Brutok debriefed a recently returned scouting party of Venom Gohlem.

"General Brutok..." said the green armored Venom Captain.

Brutok interrupted his minion, "Search success?"

"Unfortunately not my General. We went as far as the edge of the Howling Chasms and still no sign of"

Brutok paused, and if it was in rage or sadness only Brutok knew. "Return to barracks. Try again tomorrow. I go myself.  Find...her..."

The Captain bowed and his men filed out of the throne room. Brutok stayed for a moment, glaring at Umbreus' frozen form and then he too left.  Silence fell over the empty chamber.  There was no one left to see a single crack appear in the crusted cocoon that was once Umbreus. A crack that widened and began to ooze bright crimson blood...


"Steady on, son." Palidar strode over to the area that the two Steel Gohlem were sparring. One had been a tad overzealous and knocked himself and his opponent into a rack of weapons. Palidar leaned in and gave them a hand up.
"Don’t lose control. That's the key to victory," scolded the Gearo Commander.   "You may one day be up to your eyes in Vilhain with your back to the wall, but never lose control. Trust your skills and the brothers around you and you'll win the day." The Steel Gohlem returned to their sparring as Palidar righted the weapons rack and began returning the fallen gear to the proper places.

"What a mess!" cried a familiar voice. Palidar turned to see Ambro, the Chamberlain of the Gearo Citadel. "Oh rivets, what a mess.  Who did this, Palidar?"
"Not to worry old friend, I've got it under control," said the Gearo Commander, smiling.

"Someone needs to be reported for this. We simply cannot have this sort of...chaos in our midst,” fretted Ambro.

"It's fine, you old fusspot," laughed Palidar, "they are new to life and still learning."

"Well, see that it doesn't happen again," muttered Ambro as he walked off.

Palidar turned back to his task but was again interrupted. "Commander Palidar! Our lookouts report Vilhain activity near the Shard Caves!" announced the approaching Crystal Gohlem Scout.

"Probably another raiding party. One company of Gearo Home Guard should be able to take care of it,” replied the grizzled warrior.

"But Commander, they're being lead by Brutok..." said the scout.  

Palidar paused and his thoughts drifted back to a time long past...

It was a bright clear day. On a raised platform the Lord of Light and Mistress of Shadow stood, hands clasped.
"On this day, peace comes to Monkaa! To symbolize the union of The Kingdom of Light and The Empire of Shadow, our two finest warriors will pledge themselves to be brothers!” the announcement evoked a joyous cheer from the gathered throng.
"Rise, Palidar, noblest and truest of the Defenders of Light!" declared The Lord of Light. A much younger Palidar climbed the steps to the platform, bowing humbly before his liege.
"Come forward, my loyal Brutok,” sang out the Mistress of Shadow,  “mightiest and most favored of my Warriors of Shadow!" A youthful Brutok joined them on the platform and gazed up at his beloved mistress in adoration.
The two warriors then turned and locked forearms.
"Well met, Brother," said Palidar.
"Aye, may we fight side by side from this day forth," answered Brutok...

Palidar's focus shifted back to the present. He pondered a moment longer and answered  "...I think I will take care of this myself, soldier."

Chapter Two: Blood Tide

 Brutok trudged doggedly through a winding ravine in the great Shard Caves.  

The reflective crystal walls and pillars created a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors. Shadows and light created a chaotic mix of constantly shifting patterns. It seemed a perfect place to hide something, or someone, of great value.

“Still searching, eh?" Brutok looked up and saw Palidar, flanked by a team of Steel and Crystal Gohlem standing on the edge of the ravine.

Now more than ever Brutok was sure that he was so close to his goal!  

"Palidar. Out of way. Be gone,” Brutok called out. “Today I let you live."

"I am afraid not, old foe. I cannot let you go any further, you are too close to Gearo lands and I will not have you and your thugs harm any of our people."

A moment of silence passed and then the giant green Vilhain burst into action, hurling himself at the steel clad Gearo Commander. Their combat was perfect. Each blow served and countered effortlessly, as if each fighter knew the other's next move before it was made. So long had these two titans fought that it was nigh impossible for either to get an advantage.

Not so for their soldiers and henchmen however.  The disciplined Gearo warriors clashed with a berserk mob of Vilhain raiders. Steel Gohlem formed a defensive ring as Crystal Gohlem struck with precision from within.
The Magma Gohlem seethed and boiled, launching waves of molten projectiles and burning lava, while Venom Gohlem struck and retreated in a impossible to predict pattern of poison strikes.  Slowly The Gearo discipline began to turn the tide. The Vilhain forces fell, wounded and dazed as The Gearo stolidly advanced.  All the while Palidar and Brutok fought, neither able to get the upper hand.
Finally, Brutok stood alone among his fallen soldiers.

"Give up Brutok. It's over. Take your surviving troops and go," commanded Palidar.

"No!! Must find...her!" shouted the Vilhain General.

A look of sadness came over the face of the Gearo Commander.  "Old...friend.   She's gone. Let go of your rage..." said Palidar quietly.

"Never! Gearo lie! You lie! Give her to me!" roared Brutok.

Suddenly the cave darkened as a shadow rift opened and a familiar voice hissed out of the darkness. "Yes Palidar. Give her back to Brutok. You scheming Gearo are hiding her aren't you? Empyreus' dear mother, The Mistress of Shadow, is all we want, to have our queen back. That is why Brutok and the noble Vilhain fight. We simply want Shadow to have its freedom from the tyranny of Light..."

 "Take your lackeys and go Umbreus, I have no time for your games today!" shouted Palidar.
"I think not, you steel plated old fool!" screamed Umbreus.

Then two bolts of darkness, seething with a bloody red light, burst from the rift, piercing Palidar's armor and knocking him from his feet.

"Rally my brothers! Stay true!" ordered Palidar through bloodied lips.

Then the rift opened fully and Umbreus, Overlord of The Vilhain strode through. Though he was not the familiar purple and green armored figure Palidar expected. Umbreus' armor was a deep black and the seams and joints flowed with fresh crimson blood. Umbreus' terrible face was a ghastly bone white, grinning out of the bloodshot black armor.

"You're outnumbered Umbreus! Take your men and go," barked a still defiant Palidar.

Umbreus looked around the cave, noting his dead and wounded minions as well as the Gearo forces. "Hssssss… Pathetic..." whispered the Lord of the Vilhain.

"Take him!" shouted Palidar and a pair of Steel Gohlem rushed the demon.   Their form was flawless as one struck from above and one from below, but Umbreus moved with unnerving speed. He caught one Gohlem with an upraised claw, spearing him through the chest plate, while pinning the other to the cave floor with his sickle. An oozing black corruption spread from the wounds of both Steel Gohlem dimming their shining steel armor and immobilizing them.

" My turn..." hissed Umbreus, and he tore through the Gearo forces like a scythe through so many blades of grass, striking down each brave warrior, leaving blackened bodies in his wake. Finally only Palidar remained, backed against a wall, alone and wounded.

"Finish it then," grunted the Gearo Commander.

"Finish it? You poor fool, I've barely begun…" replied Umbreus as a foul darkness seeped out from his shadow to engulf all of the fallen warriors, Gearo and Vilhain alike. The frozen black forms stirred and cracked, bloody seams opening up as the blackened armor cracked and shifted. "Rise my Bloodlust Warriors!" howled the Overlord of the Vilhain.

For the first time in centuries, Palidar felt fear as the horror of a dozen bloodlust corrupted Gohlem closed in around him...


It only took a few short weeks for the Vilhain to all but win the war.  

With each battle the ranks of the Vilhain grew, fallen soldiers on each side rising up as Bloodlust Warriors. One by one, the Gearo outposts and encampments fell.

The path of destruction left in Umbreus’ Bloodlust ravaged wake was leading to a last stand at the Gearo Citadel. Empyreus, Fandar Sun, and Ambro gathered their remaining forces but they were hard pressed on all sides and they knew their defenses would inevitably fail. The Gearo soldiers tried to rally but the loss of Palidar was a terrible blow. Without their stolid old Commander, many of the younger Gearo were lost and afraid...


"Move it runt!" shouted the Venom Gohlem Captain with a vicious kick.

The intended target grunted and tried to roll with the blow, but even so his armor cracked as he bit back the pain. "My apologies, Captain," said the Obsidian Gohlem.
"Out of the way and let your superiors pass," replied the Captain.
The Obsidian Gohlem looked on as a platoon of Venom Gohlem herded a large company of Bloodlust Warriors through a tunnel deep in the bowels of Castle Umbreus. The Venom Gohlem swaggered and laughed as they marched, their morale buoyed by their imminent victory over the Gearo. But the Bloodlust Warriors marched just as they fought, with a silence that was both grim and terrifying. As the crowd moved by, the Captain shouted back, "Get back to work, you flawed runt!  See to the prisoner."

The Obsidian Gohlem picked himself up and gathered the bucket of slop he had been carrying. "Yes Captain," he said, and limped off. He slowly followed the winding path around the great chasm at the center of Castle Umbreus to the lowest levels where he and his fellow Obsidian Gohlem toiled.  

This particular Gohlem was called Flaw, and he was lowly even for an Obsidian Gohlem. The bulk of the Vilhain forces were made up of bright green Venom Gohlem and seething Magma Gohlem.  Obsidian Gohlem were related to Magma Gohlem, but unlike their molten cousins, they were neither born fighters nor shape shifters. Their bodies were formed of hardened volcanic glass. They were extremely strong and excelled at digging and excavation so most were set to work below Castle Umbreus. Their job was to mine for precious raw material and expand the network of caves below the castle. The warrior castes of the Vilhain looked down on the Obsidians and saw them as mere laborers, useful only for their strength. Flaw however had a crack in his heartstone. Despite his great natural strength the crack made him tire quickly and so he was unable to tolerate the long hours of digging that mining or excavating required.  So he was relegated to menial tasks like clearing rubble and moving supplies and wastes.   Recently though he'd been given a new task, guarding a prisoner.

Flaw stopped at the door of the prisoner's cell, opening the small grate pushing the slop bucket through. "Hhhn, hhhnnn. Time to eat," he wheezed, for the long march and the kick from the Venom Captain had taken its toll on him. Flaw coughed and sagged against the cell door.

"Are you alright son?" replied the prisoner.

"Never you mind Gearo!" growled Flaw, "I am Vilhain, I am strong and we will crush you and your kind!"

A pause. "You're not a fighter son, so it wasn't a Gearo that did that to you."

Another pause. A fit of coughing prevented Flaw from responding.

"That's no way to treat your own,” the prisoner continued. “That's not the Gearo way."

Unsure of how to respond to this unexpected compassion, Flaw gathered himself up and limped away down the tunnel.

Back in the cell, Palidar picked through the slop bucket to try and find something edible.

Chapter Three: Betrayal

Castle Umbreus was silent.

Gone was the swaggering banter of the Venom Gohlem and the bubbling grunts and gurgles of the Magma Gohlem. It was silent as a tomb and it was just how Umbreus liked it.  He sat on his blackened throne and surveyed his armies. Rank upon rank of Bloodlust Warriors stood at attention awaiting his command.   Victory was at hand, and he had tired of the unruliness and lack of discipline in his Venom and Magma Gohlem. So he had struck them down one by one, transforming them into Bloodlust Warriors. Silent. Obedient.  Deadly.

"Soon I will have it all, Brutok. It will all be mine. Monkaa. Finally. Forever. As it should be," sighed Umbreus with a perverse pleasure to his tone.

Brutok stood silent before his lord and master. Gone were the Vilhain soldiers, his loyal troops, replaced by mindless Bloodlust Warriors. A terrible sacrifice, but worth it if it meant he could save her, the Mistress of Shadows.
"When Gearo gone, we find Mistress." It wasn't a question.

"Yes, yes, you sentimental brute," said Umbreus. "A little more patience and you'll get what you deserve."

"Good," said the Vilhain General as he turned to leave.  

"Yes... just what you deserve..." whispered Umbreus as he silently strode up behind Brutok, and without warning stabbed him in the back with his scythe, tearing a deep gash in Brutok’s armor. "You fool, your mewling and whining for my Mother is at an end. Your love for her has always been your greatest weakness..." hissed Umbreus as Brutok fell to his knees.  "Now die and be reborn as my obedient Bloodlust General!"

But then, a most curious thing happened, the black corruption in Umbreus' touch changed when it came in contact with Brutok's flesh, becoming fresh blood, clean and pure. "No! N-n-n-n-noooooo!" stammered Umbreus.

Brutok reached back to try to staunch the flow of blood from his wound. Then recognition lit his eyes as he touched the blood. "This. Her blood. Gearo not take her. YOU take her!" roared Brutok as he slammed into Umbreus. The enraged green giant rained blow after blow on Umbreus and the bloody dictator was hard pressed to defend himself.  But the wound he'd given Brutok had taken its toll. Brutok paused as a fresh gout of blood burst from the wound in his back, and Umbreus blasted him with black energy, knocking the green giant across the throne room.

"Traitorous scum!" shrieked Umbreus. "Crush him my Bloodlust Warriors!"
Brutok was set upon by wave after wave of Umbreus' silent minions.   For a moment it seemed like Brutok's rage could stem the tide but wounded as he was he could not stop them all. Gradually he was pushed back until he found himself at the edge of the great central chasm of Castle Umbreus. "You hurt Noiria! You destroy Vilhain!  Brutok END YOU!" shouted the raging green titan.

"Lovesick Fool. You are of no further use to me. Umbreus.  Does.  Not.  Share."   And with that Umbreus called forth a cataclysmic storm of black energy and blasted the General of the Vilhain into the seemingly bottomless chasm.
After a few moments, silence fell once again in Castle Umbreus.


"You must know something of what's going on, son..." said Palidar.

"I'm not your son! I told you my name is Flaw, you old Gearo fool!" growled the frustrated Obsidian Gohlem.

Palidar replied from inside his cell, "It's been days, son. You bring me food, you stand guard, but the overseer hasn't been by to question me and even the sounds of mining have stopped. The castle is silent. What's going on?"

Flaw didn't reply.  In truth he was afraid.  Had the Gearo won?   Had Umbreus abandoned the castle?  What was going on?

"Have you been doing the meditation exercises I taught you?" asked Palidar changing the subject.

"Yes...  Thank you," replied Flaw, "It has helped a lot, I'm not as uselessly weak as before."

"No one is useless, son." Flaw was about remind Palidar once more not to call him son when the entire prison area was shaken by a tremendous crash.  "What was that?" asked Palidar.

"I don't know..." replied Flaw.   A horribly desperate cry echoed through the tunnel.

"I think you better let me out of this cell, son," said Palidar.

"I think you're right," replied Flaw reaching for the keys...

It took Palidar and Flaw some time to get out of the prison area. Many of the tunnels had collapsed and Palidar was weak from his imprisonment, and though stronger than before, Flaw still had a weak heartstone.  Eventually, they dug through the last collapsed area and entered the base of the great chasm of Castle Umbreus. What they saw was a fortress abandoned. The husks and cocoons left behind by the birthing of Bloodlust Warriors littered the silent chamber. "Did he do this to his own soldiers?" asked Palidar sadly.

Yes," replied Flaw, " the end he even drafted the Obsidian Gohlem miners and made them into more Bloodlust Warriors. I don't know if he skipped me because I'm weak or if he forgot about me altogether..."

"You and me both," replied Palidar, "I'm surprised I didn't end up one of those mindless things...."

"I.... I told him you had died of your wounds," confessed Flaw. Palidar smiled.

"Well, it seems we have a choice," said Palidar. "You can either keep me prisoner here as the last Vilhain, or you can come with me to the Gearo Citadel."

"As your prisoner?" asked Flaw.   "As a friend, son," replied Palidar, "So what will it be?"
Before Flaw could reply another terrible howl rang out and the chamber shook.  A large heap of rubble in the center of the chamber burst apart as a bloody and ragged figure rose out of the ruin. It was Brutok. Palidar and Flaw could feel the rage coming off him in searing waves. Brutok howled again and threw himself at the duo, blind in his thirst for revenge. Palidar was knocked off his feet and thrown into a wall with a crash. Flaw ducked the blow and scrambled out of the way as Brutok slowly came to his senses.

"Who?" roared the enraged green giant.

"I'm nobody..." mumbled Flaw, "j-j-j-just an Obsidian Gohlem, General Brutok."

"Leave him be, Brutok," said a dusty and bedraggled Palidar as he climbed from the wreckage wrought by the attack, "It's me you want."

Brutok stopped. "No. No more fight. Only fight one. Only fight Umbreus," stated Brutok flatly.

Palidar was taken aback. "Finally came to your senses eh, old...friend?" he asked.

"Not friend.  Maybe... Maybe ally.” said Brutok.

Palidar smiled again, "Come on son, I think we three have a lot of work to do."

"Don't call me son..." said Flaw as they helped Brutok up and began the long climb out of the chasm.

Chapter Four: Bloodlust Apocalypse

They never stood a chance.

The final attack had come and the last of the Gearo defenders had retreated into the Citadel. A thin gleaming red line of Elite Guard led by Empyreus. Each one was a veteran of countless campaigns across a thousand worlds, but even they felt the stirrings of fear as the massive army of Bloodlust Warriors came into view. They moved almost soundlessly, mindless, bent on one thing, destruction.  

Empyreus and his men threw them back with Gearo discipline and fortitude. The leader of the Gearo threw up rift after rift, redirecting enemy fire back at them, moving his men out of harms way or into flanking positions. Empyreus was a blur of motion, attacking, supporting and striking where he was needed most. One pair of Elite Guard found themselves surrounded by Bloodlust Warriors. Empyreus blasted free of the two foes he was engaged with and leapt to their aid. His soldiers saw him coming and moved into position as he landed.  The three warriors fought back to back in a rotating triangle formation until they made it back to the Gearo line.

They were fast met by Toro, the horned veteran captain of the Gearo Elite Guard. Empyreus looked around. The line had been terribly diminished. No more than fifty Gearo made this last stand at the gate of the great Gearo Citadel. "Are we all that’s left, Toro?" asked Empyreus.

"Aye my Lord. I saw Crimson and his men fall defending the eastern parapet. Rojo and his troops were taken driving the hordes from the gate," answered Toro.

"What should we do sir," asked one of the younger soldiers. Before either Toro or Empyreus could answer, a rift of shadow and blood tore open above the battle arena.

Umbreus had arrived. They saw his ghastly white face materialize out of the mass of black and red warriors surrounding them, his gruesome death's head visage leering mercilessly at the sea of fallen Gearo. In his wake fallen warriors from both sides rose and joined his ranks. The end had come and it tasted of blood and dust and death. "It is over little brother," proclaimed the Lord of the Vilhain.

"You expect us to surrender?" Empyreus asked defiantly.

"I expect you to be exterminated,” Umbreus stated flatly. “Your deaths will swell my ranks. I will have your precious Citadel and within it the Gearo Lifespring. My victory will be complete."

The Gearo around Empyreus turned to their leader. "It is the end, my Lord," said Toro, "We will buy you what time we can."

A look of deep sadness came over Empyreus, "I should be with you at the end, my brothers..."

"No my Lord," replied Toro with conviction, "You must protect the Lifespring."
And with that the last of the Gearo Elite Guard launched a final charge against the legion of Bloodlust Warriors. They were magnificent. They fought with a fury unmatched by the mindless drones they faced. They met their doom with honor like true Gearo. Empyreus said a silent prayer to the Great Gear for his noble brethren and turned to face the gates of the Gearo Citadel. He ran forward and opened a long rift across the face of the Citadel, warping away part of the walls and the foundation.  As the mighty edifice began to crumble and fall the Lord of the Gearo threw himself into the maelstrom of broken stone...


"We will stop now and start again at dawn.  We are only a short march from the Gearo Citadel," said Palidar.

"How can you tell time down here in these tunnels?" asked the stout Obsidian Gohlem. The trio of Palidar, Brutok and Flaw had made their way out of Vilhain territory and at the border of the Gearo lands Palidar had showed them the entrance to a secret network of tunnels that ran directly into the Gearo Citadel.

"Call it instinct," answered Palidar, "I've fought on worlds where day was night and night was day, always knew in my gut the where and when of it."

"Hrmph," grunted Brutok, as they prepared to make camp.

"What do you think we'll find when we get there? Everywhere we've been the land is deserted. Gearo and Vilhain gone. Has anyone survived?" asked Flaw.

Before Palidar could answer, Brutok interrupted, "Umbreus there. Brutok find. Brutok kill."

Palidar looked sadly at the warrior he had once called brother, then enemy and now ally. "There will be a reckoning son," he said quietly, "I just hope we're not too late. Right now I think you could use a bit more practice before we settle in for the night..."


"Again!" ordered Palidar, "Keep your guard up and keep striking!"

Flaw was exhausted. The sparring practice had been brief but intense. After one more punch and parry he slumped to the ground. "I can't...too...weak..." he said breathlessly.

"You've improved a lot, son. You can fight much longer than before and your instincts are as sharp as any Gearo soldier," urged Palidar.

"Hrmph, not right," called Brutok from across the cave. "Technique good. Getting better. But not right," said the big Vilhain as he walked up to the pair. Suddenly he threw a series of punches at Palidar who instinctively blocked the flurry of blows. "Technique good. Good for Palidar. Good for Brutok. Not good for him," Brutok said pointing to Flaw. "Him strong, but no stamina. Need something different," stated Brutok. "Palidar attack Brutok," the green titan commanded.

Palidar nodded and moved in to attack. Brutok stood still as Palidar feinted and weaved in series of moves until the first of Palidar's punches was about to connect. Without warning Brutok launched a mighty uppercut that blew past Palidar's punch and his guard and knocked the old Gearo Commander to the floor. "That how him need attack. Use strength. Wait for opening and overwhelm."

Palidar laughed as he got up, "You're right Brutok. Umbreus always underestimated that strategic cunning of yours."

"Umbreus a fool. Umbreus will pay." said Brutok solemnly as he stalked back to his side of the cave.

Flaw stared in awe at the Vilhain General and then nodded and took his battle stance once more...

Chapter Five: Last Stand of the Gearo

Empyreus was alive.

He had been able to bring down the entire front gate and wall of the Gearo Citadel, putting tons of rock and metal between himself and the Bloodlust army.   His energy was spent. The Lord of the Gearo lay half buried in the main hall, for how long he wasn't sure. He willed himself to move but his battered body did not have the energy. His eyes were caked with dust and his armor was battered and crumpled. He thought he heard movement.  Had the Bloodlust Warriors made it through already?

"Over here!  Oh bolts, oh rivets!" exclaimed a familiar voice. Empyreus smiled as a friendly face came into view. “My Lord! Don't move! Let me see the extent of your injuries!" fussed Ambro, Chamberlain of the Gearo.

"He's fine," a serene voice answered, "He just needs a moment to collect himself." The pair were joined by Fandar Sun, High Cleric of the Gearo.

Empyreus painfully rose from the wreckage with help from Ambro. "My Lord, our troops...?" asked Ambro.

"Gone, Ambro. They fought to the last Gohlem. I wanted to stay and fight, but Toro reminded me of my duty," sighed Empyreus.

"As well he should," answered Fandar Sun, "There may yet be hope, but it requires that we risk all we have left." Fandar Sun continued as Ambro did his best to tend to Empyreus' wounds. "We cannot allow Umbreus to access the Lifespring. If he were to join its energy with his Bloodlust powers he would be a force unstoppable," stated the elder Gearo.

"So what do we do?" asked Empyreus, "Destroy the Lifespring?"

"It cannot be destroyed, my Lord, for it is life," explained Fandar. "Just as Umbreus has discovered the power of Bloodlust, so too must you find another power to answer his. You must enter the Lifespring."

"Oh bolts! That is madness!" interrupted Ambro, "Only dying Gohlem can enter the spring, Fandar! And not just that, Empyreus wears the Crown of Light!  We dare not risk that much power concentrated in one place! It could destroy all of Monkaa!”

Empyreus thought for a moment. "No Ambro, I will take any chance we have if it means stopping Umbreus. He will not be satisfied with defeating us or stop at ruling Monkaa. The entire cosmos is at risk as long as he is free to wreak havoc.”

Fandar Sun nodded, "Then we must hurry..."

Before Fandar could complete his thought one of the side walls of the main hall blew apart and a familiar figure stepped through.

"Brutok!" cried Ambro, drawing a blaster preparing to attack.

"Wait!" said Fandar Sun, "He's not alone..."

Palidar and Flaw emerged from the dust filled gloomy cavern.

"What madness is this? Palidar alive! And in the company of Brutok!  Oh bolts, oh rivets," confounded Ambro.

"Not to worry old friends," said Palidar, "He's on our side, at least for the moment. Allow me to introduce my new friend, Flaw.  He kept me alive and helped me escape the Vilhain dungeon."

"Welcome to the Gearo Citadel friends, my apologies for the mess..." laughed Empyreus. Flaw nodded, a little confused by the Gearo Lord's lighthearted tone amongst the ruin surrounding them.

"How goes the defense?" asked Palidar.

"We three are all that remain Commander, and the Bloodlust army is digging its way in as we speak," answered Fandar Sun.

"Yes, and I was about to go take a dip in the Lifespring," added Empyreus.

Palidar raised an eyebrow. "...I...see. Well, what can we do?" he asked.

"I'll go with Fandar to the Lifespring, the rest of you stay here and do what you can to keep the enemy out as long as you can," answered Empyreus.

They all nodded and the battered leader of the Gearo and the High Cleric disappeared from the great hall.


The attack came suddenly, swift and vicious. The rubble blocking what was once the main gate to the Gearo Citadel collapsed and out boiled thousands of Bloodlust Warriors. The four remaining defenders fought admirably. Brutok and Palidar stood side by side as they took down hundreds of the drones. Fighting in tandem, they were a dynamo of battlefield prowess and perfection.

However, had there been any to observe the battle they would have been more surprised by the other pair of unlikely combatants. Ambro, bureaucrat and administrator though he was, fought like a true Gearo. Being slighter of frame than most Gearo, he attacked, spun, parried, and dodged in a blinding series of quick strikes. Flaw, on the other hand, had mastered the fighting style suggested by Brutok and stood like a solitary stone in a rushing river. Wasting no energy the former Vilhain prison guard waited as enemy after enemy approached, dropping each of them with a single mighty blow. Soon, Ambro and Flaw instinctively sensed each others fighting styles and began to work in tandem. Ambro harassed the enemy feinting and evading until they were drawn into Flaw's strike zone, where they were dropped one after another. Unfortunately, for all of this quartet’s valiant effort this was too similar to the tale told at the gates of the Citadel and the same ending was inevitable.  Once again a dark foreboding overcame the defenders as Umbreus joined the battle.

"Well, well, Palidar. So you live. I also see we have a little traitor, that flawed runt of an Obsidian Gohlem. Ah, and Brutok. It seems I've been sloppy in tying up loose ends..." cursed Umbreus.
The look of rage in Brutok's eyes was immeasurable. Without a word he launched himself at Umbreus in a storm of punches.

"Well? Back him up!" shouted Palidar, as he and Ambro also attacked Umbreus. The trio made headway, actually pushing Umbreus back a step or two, but it didn't last. With a mighty heave Umbreus threw all three back with appalling force. Brutok was thrown headlong into a series of columns and buried. Ambro was launched across the chamber and hit a wall, landing in a tangled heap at its base. Palidar was thrown back with a dark blast and landed unmoving next to Ambro. Only Flaw stood between Umbreus and hallway leading to the Lifespring.

"So, the last soldier of the Gearo is a pathetic, traitorous, crippled weakling not even fit to toil in my mines like a grub..." chided the Lord of the Vilhain as he approached Flaw, "Stop this foolishness and I might grant you the honor of becoming a Bloodlust Warrior..."

Flaw did not answer, he stood perfectly still while the threat of certain death approached. As Umbreus raised a blood drenched clawed finger up to Flaw’s forehead digging into the black stone that was his skin, the stunted Gohlem pivoted ever so slightly. With the force of a Monkaarian granite bull, Flaw raised his fist square into the demon’s face. Sending Umbreus’ helmet flying.

Umbreus staggered, taken by surprise, and spat out a gob of blood, his own blood. "So the worm has teeth...,” he growled as he grabbed Flaw in a vice like choke, "You don't deserve the honor of being reborn a Bloodlust Warrior. I think I will leave your broken corpse for the cragghoppers."   Flaw struggled and began to go limp as Umbreus tightened his grip. "It ends now!"

As his consciousness dimmed, Flaw thought he felt the air burning. Though it was not his imagination. The room was indeed brightening. Pure energy flooded the main hall as passage to the Lifespring poured out light as bright and as hot as a thousand suns.

"NO!" cried Umbreus, dropping Flaw to the floor, "NO!!!"

A figure wreathed in glowing light stepped out of the hallway. In panicked response Umbreus cloaked himself in deepest darkness, attempting to snuff out the blinding light.   For a moment, Light and Dark balanced on a razor's edge neither side gaining the upper hand.

Just before he passed out Flaw noticed hardened shells of this strange light encapsulate Brutok, Palidar, Ambro and himself. Then the entire chamber trembled and was torn asunder by a cataclysmic maelstrom of energy.

Can Umbreus be stopped?
Will this Glowing Knight turn the tide?
Do our heroes survive or is the Bloodlust too strong?
Learn all of this and more in "Power of The Lifespring”,
the next exciting tale of Weaponeers of Monkaa!

Story by Jeremy Sung and Brian Stevenson
Written by Jeremy Sung
Art by Nate Baertsch

Story Main