[SS] A Minor Inconvenience
The moon illuminated the western coast of the island as it began its ascension towards the peak of the night sky. Specters of all sizes wandered the ghastly countryside, phasing in and out of clarity as they passed beneath the trees. A faint wind crept over the strangely calm silence that permeated this expanse of the Shadow Isles. In the distance, a lone maiden walked aimlessly in circles, a birdcage in her outstretched hand. The Widow of Forgotten Songs, they called her. Another entity of the Blessed Isles, felled by the Ruination. Eventually, he'd come for her too, but she was no threat for now. These spirits on the outskirts of the island were different entities from the ones he habitually rained hell upon.
He'd rested long enough. Lucian stood and performed a final stretch before emerging from his shelter. Tonight was the night.
He couldn't remember how long he'd been here. Consumed with rage after Senna was taken, Lucian had gone on a rampage, culling horde after horde of ghouls, determined to eliminate every last godforsaken creature the Shadow Isles was ready to throw at him. Days passed, weeks went by, and still he felt he'd barely scratched the surface. He crossed the fallen remnants of a bridge, its geometric design now engulfed by undying incorporeal flames.
On any other day, this area of the city would be clamoring with ghouls—foreign and native beings of the island, but tonight it was as empty as the hole left in his heart. Each year, the Harrowing brought forth hosts of tortured souls to the shores of the Isles. Lucian had purified the streets and waterways so many times he'd lost count; there was simply no end to the masses of fiends the Shadow Isles spawned.
As he expected, his trek to the hall was entirely uneventful; the city was a literal ghost town. Nothing crossed his path as he made a beeline towards his destination. As if on cue, a disembodied raven flew in front of him and perched on a nearby post, squawking in an unearthly tone. Instinctively, Lucian pulled out his dual Lightcasters and aimed them squarely at the raven's head. The bird continued its caws, but Lucian holstered his weapons, returning his heart rate to normal. A shot from his relic weapons so close to his destination could spell early trouble, and he was in for a long night.
Animals tended to escape Lucian's wrath, barring the larger aggressive beasts, but they were—by far—less common than the tortured souls he regularly cleansed. In the past, his relentless pursuit had brought him face to face with specters as small as a child and titans the size of a small building. He anticipated much more of the latter this time around.
There was little to no information about the inner workings of the civilization that lived here before the Ruination, at least to Valoran inhabitants. It took Lucian ages to discover the intricacies behind the design of the buildings' architecture. Roughly once a month, his hunt would wane in success. For some unknown reason, the Isles were barren, and his pursuit would yield nothing. No matter where he turned, which cave he investigated, or which peak he sought vision from, the Isles were silent. It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when the phenomenon repeated itself for the umpteenth time, that Lucian discovered the reason behind it.
While searching for the Isles' denizens, he'd happened upon an old hall, the Hall of Conjunction according to a large placard near a doorway. Inside, Lucian caught a glimpse of him.
Thresh. The Chain Warden himself was disappearing beneath a complex network of rotating floor panels. Beside him were dozens—no, hundreds—of spirits, all writhing together in a giant mass. It was like nothing he'd ever seen before. What was it, a ritual gathering? The event occurred like clockwork; each night before a full moon, the spirits would come together in this place.
Lucian now looked to the night sky, the stars barely visible beyond the Black Mist. A tint of red permeated throughout, an indicator of the coming Blood Moon. He strengthened his resolve. For Thresh and his comrades, the red hue was a special harbinger of the night to come. For Lucian, it symbolized the coming bloodshed.
As he neared the hall from a nearby cliff, he could hear the noises emanating from below. The familiar sounds of swords against spears and armor against armor resonated and echoed throughout the venue. A guttural voice rose above them. Lucian didn't even need to see him to know who it was. He'd recognize the voice of Senna's captor anywhere.
"Rejoice! The Blood Moon will soon be upon us! The heavens call for a brutal sacrifice, and it is we that shall deliver in earnest. Flesh is a prison, and it is we that shall wrest the souls from the Ionian mortals. The Blood Moon rises, and it is we that shall ascend and reap the rewards!" Thresh looked to the sky and raised his scythe above his head. The moon had reached its zenith. A pale red beam shot down from the sky and irradiated the pedestal upon which he stood, filling the hall with a nightmarish crimson light. When it dissipated, Thresh and the other larger wraiths had transformed. The haggard jade color of their spirits had been replaced by a deep red, and the aura surrounding them was somehow even more sinister than before. A low chuckle escaped the jailor. "What delightful agony we shall inflict."
Lucian had seen enough. He leapt from his vantage point and dashed into the hall, drawing his light pistols. With one burst, he flooded the room with light. "Thresh! I've come to put an end to you."
"Lucian," he responded, a grin creeping across his face, his scythe dragging across the marble floor. "Here to reclaim your precious Senna?"
"Give her back, and I'll make this quick." Lucian primed his pistols, their tips glowing with ethereal light. Even here, he could feel Senna's presence reaching out to him from Thresh's lantern. It gave him strength.
Thresh laughed "Nobody escapes the depths of my lantern! I own her. There is life, there is death, and then there is me. You are just a minor inconvenience."
Lucian snarled. "You took the better half of me. You won't like what's left." With a blinding flash, he kicked into gear and faced the horde of wraiths. Every step was calculated; with every shot, death followed. He danced around the hall, dashing to precipices and repositioning for easier culling. He'd never been more focused. Each movement was effortless; his grace came naturally. The spirits fell like slaughtered birds as his pistols unleashed a deluge of magical gunfire.
Suddenly, a large blunt force swung into his torso, sending him careening backwards into a pillar. He looked up, dazed, to see a Strong-Willed, one of the largest spectral entities. Lucian had been caught off-guard, but this wraith was just the latest in a long line of bastards that would feel his wrath. He leapt to his feet and began his assault, speeding around the behemoth's bulky frame and evading all swings of the hammer. Fed up with Lucian's evasiveness, the titan roared and smashed the hammer into the ground, sending out a rippling shockwave.
As the shockwave threatened the ground's integrity, Lucian jumped, holstering his left pistol. He landed on top of the Strong-Willed and grabbed a shoulder pauldron to steady himself. Jamming his right pistol into the back of the wraith's neck, Lucian unleashed a barrage of magical bullets, severing its head from its body. He dismounted, and the giant fell behind him.
Lucian turned his attention to his primary objective. The Chain Warden whipped his scythe at his side, flaying the ground. As he did, five spectral walls rose from the ground, surrounding them both. Thresh sneered. "Nowhere to run." He wound up a swing from his scythe and threw his hook, a death sentence to anyone caught by it. Lucian dashed laterally, careful not to make contact with the edge of the box. With a blinding flash he unloaded a devastating combination of piercing light and ardent blaze at Thresh, determined to eradicate him from existence. After what seemed like eternity, Lucian let up, his pistols smoking from the onslaught.
As the light fell away, Lucian heard a light chuckle. Suddenly, the white remnants from his guns were replaced by an unholy red emanating from Thresh's side. The barrier retreated into the lantern; it had shielded him, nullifying Lucian's efforts. The chuckle twisted into a hollow laugh as Thresh reveled in his moon-infused abilities. He inched closer to Lucian. Instinctively, Lucian took a step backwards.
He grazed the edge of the box, and all of his strength left him like air in a vacuum. His muscles felt like they'd be unused in weeks, and he barely had the strength to grip his pistols, let alone wield them. His shoulders were heavy, and his breaths were short. He'd never felt so powerless and weak in his life. Thresh's heavy steps echoed around the chamber as he approached, his spectral weapon dragging ominously across the ground. Lucian looked up at his nemesis' silhouette, backlit by the Blood Moon. At his waist, the lantern began to glow, eager for its next victim. As the sickle began its downswing, only one thought ran through Lucian's mind.
The reunion he'd longed for had finally arrived.