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- Corazón de Guatemala -

Ice Guardian and Elite Dragon were dragged into the depths of Xibalba once more. There were some webs on the floor, but they were not stepping on them. Since his last visit to that haunted place, Anael became more careful and instructed Kimi to act the same.

“I don’t like the looks of this…” Hissed Elite Dragon “Guardian, where do you think your brother and Melchior can be?”

“I have no idea” Answered Ice Guardian “However, I agree with you: I don’t like the looks of this either…”

Then, the Finn spotted a strange glow beyond the fog, which was in front of them, and pointed at it so that Anael could see. Elite Dragon made a sign for the blonde to follow him through the strange fog, hoping that they could find the other three Knights.

Beyond the fog they could see some craters covered by those lilac webs. Anael already conjured his sword, and Kimi took the opportunity to conjure his halberd. Step by step, they proceeded to the craters.

“Something is very, very wrong here…” Kimi said “These webs… What are they made out of?”

“I don’t know” Answered Anael “But they are similar to those which trapped my sister and me… Do you think that Melchior and Kaiser are aware of it?”

Then, they heard the sound of an explosion coming northwest of them, up a hilltop.

“Help!” Someone shouted “Auta minua!”

“It’s finnish!” Cried Kimi with a surprised and worried countenance. “Considering the voice, it is not my brother…It’s Melchior who screams! We must aid him!”

Anael nodded affirmatively and soared to the area in which they heard the explosion. It was another hostile landscape; a wasteland covered by lilac webs, dead trees and haunted spirits, which were spinning and dancing on the grayish sky. They also could see Melchior downstairs, laying on the ground. His arms were bleeding and he had some bad injuries on his legs. He seemed to be suffering, for he could stand up.

“Melchior!” The two Knights shouted “We are coming to help!”

Then, an energy arrow struck near their feet, forcing Ice Guardian and Elite Dragon to jump and rush to aid Melchior. The Alchemist was breathing painfully, and Kimi decided to cure the red-haired, sacrificing, however, his ability of casting shields, leaving their defense on Anael’s shoulders.

More arrows came, and Anael used his sword, charged with his electricity, to vanquish them. Elite Dragon started to become angrier at that game.

“Who are you?!” He shouted.

“T…Tha…las…” Melchior answered and Anael looked at him without believing “He…he did this… to me…”

“That cannot be!” Anael objected “He is our friend! My best friend! He cannot…”

Then, Anael looked to the north, where he spotted a shadow carrying what seemed to be a bow. Then, the fog disappeared, and Elite Dragon recognized Thalas’ face. His eyes widened, for he couldn’t believe on such betrayal.

Electro Archer’s outfit was changed. Instead of his regular heroic outfit, he was wearing a grayish feathered headdress, plumed anklets, black tribal tattoo on his left shoulder, Arabic beige pants and a Nightmare Necklace. His eyes were purple and his countenance seemed wicked.

Bonsoir, Elite Dragon.” Electro Archer said in a wicked tone of voice “I am surprised you have arrived here. I thought I was going to get rid of Melchior before you could witness the damage I’ve made…” He started to laugh madly.

“Why?!” Anael hissed with anger “Why did you do that, Thalas? For what reason?!”

“Hatred…” The French Guatemalan answered preparing to shoot “Pure and simple hate. That’s all. Now, you… You will die in behalf of my new masters!”

Thalas started to shoot multiple arrows at Anael, who did his best to keep them away from Melchior and Kimi.  The fallen Knight smiled in a sinister way and decided to approach a few steps while shooting.  The Dragon was avoiding his own lightning powers, for he didn’t want to harm Thalas. Though he was wicked and brainwashed, still he was Anael’s best friend; a person Elite Dragon wouldn’t sacrifice.

“Stop it, Thalas!” Anael shouted while using his sword “You are no evil being! You are not this way! Please, realize that you’ve been brainwashed! Come back to us!”

The leader of the Knights decided to approach as well, either cutting the arrows or draining its energy and converting in his own source of power. He did not notice, however, the overcharge in his Shaman-Stone. That lack of care would cost more than Anael would imagine.

“Hah, reckless as always!” Thalas said with disdain while shooting arrows “If you were as cautious as you and Kimi were before arriving, you would have notice I have company!”

“What?!”  Anael asked confused.

He heard a loud noise behind him; when he turned his head, it was the sound of something being thrown against a wall. Thalas was accompanied by two of the Templars: Illumina and Starfire, which were attacking Kimi and injured Melchior. Kimi made his specialty: a defensive spell, a frozen wall, which was keeping them safe. However, Kimi’s Stone was also overcharging and draining the Finnish’s life, weakening him and his wall. Anael was not certain of how much time he had to save them before Kimi’s life was lost. Moreover, if Kimi perished, so would Melchior.

Anael cut Thalas’ arrows and decided to aid Kimi; he fled from his fight to get into another.

“Coward!” Screamed the French Guatemalan “Illumina, he’s coming after you!”

Illumina Dragon spotted Anael and ceased his attacks to make a new target of Elite Dragon.

“He is mine!” He said “Starfire, take care of these two…”

“As you wish…” The white-haired Templar answered throwing fire beams against Kimi’s wall.

“Melchior…Melchior, wake up!” Kimi screamed while maintaining the wall “I… I am not sure if I am going to take this any longer…”

The Salvadorian mage stood on his knees; most of his injuries were already scarred, but the amount of blood lost made him weaker, unable to cast any spells.

“You don’t have to save my life…” Melchior said with weak, low voice “It is me that Thalas wants; me and Anael.  You…you can leave…”

“Are you insane?!” Kimi replied with anger “I will never leave you guys! My brother has been taken, and I promised myself I’d be back to Guatemala with you, Anael, my brother and Thalas as well!” the blonde felt weaker and knelt; when he did that, Starfire was able to break part of the wall.

“Damn…” Melchior said almost fainting “There must be something I can do…”

***

Anael was being beaten by Illumina, for his overcharged Shaman-Stone seemed not to be answering to any of Anael’s command. The only thing that was keeping Anael’s form as Elite Dragon was Iracema’s Sanctified Knight Necklace. Still, it wouldn’t be enough for the Dragon to face Illumina.

“Give up, weakling!” Illumina Dragon hit Anael’s belly with his scythe’s grip, and Anael responded cutting his armor with his sword.

“You won’t stop me!” The Guatemalan started to attack, but he lowered his guard.

“You fool!” Illumina said “Now I’ve got the opportunity to shatter your power source!”

Illumina shot against Anael’s Shaman-Stone, causing it to completely overcharge and break before Anael, who was thrown against the rocky ground, creating a massive crater and generation a dense dust cloud.

“Anael!” Kimi and Melchior shouted worried.

Anael returned to his civilian outfit, and his Stone was shattered in multiple pieces. His sword was losing its glow and his face looked paler than ever; he was knocked unconscious, and Illumina Dragon was laughing madly at his achievement.

Thalas went to the crater slowly and triumphantly. When he arrived near Anael’s body, he aimed the arrow to strike Anael’s heart.

“Game over, ‘friend’” The French Guatemalan smiled devilishly.

Melchior, who was witnessing it all, held his Shaman-Stone with strength, closed his eyes and a tear came out.

“Don’t do this, Thalas…” He whispered “Wake up, Elite Dragon! TAKE MY POWERS IF YOU NEED!” Melchior shouted with all strength he had left, and his Starfire Shaman-Stone heard his prays, and so did Icicle Stone, who made Kimi’s wall thicker and stronger.

“What the hell?!” Asked Starfire Dragon “Illumina! Check this out!”

Melchior and Kimi’s Stones started to glow intensively and flew away from its owners, becoming rays of light which were about to hit Anael.

***

Far from that place, inside one of the craters Kimi and Anael found before, lied Kaiser. The Finn was held in the webs unable to move his legs and feet, and his head was about to be completely covered. However, his Voidstar Stone started to glow and its own power released its owner and teleported him to the fighting scenario; then, the Shaman-Stone joined the others in order to aid Elite Dragon.

“Kaiser!” Kimi screamed when he saw his brother “Thanks Heaven you are alright!”

***

“What the…” Thalas’ Stone started to glow and fight the power of the Nightmare Necklace; the turquoise light threw Thalas away and the French Guatemalan hit Illumina Dragon, knocking him down; Starfire Dragon was the only Templar remaining there, and he attracted the Nightmare Necklace to his hands, waiting for the strange event to end.

The Shaman-Stones got united, and the pieces of Anael’s original Stone merged with the other Stones and the Sanctified Knight Necklace. Anael’s new Shaman-Stone was liquid, trapped in a crystalline, oval-shaped glass with a thick, silver-ish half-moon contour in it. The light gained a Quetzal shape, involving Anael and giving him his Elite Dragon form back.

Thalas was still in his wicked version when Anael’s power upgrade was complete. His friend was holding the Sapphire Sword with a smile on his face. He looked to the place where Melchior and Kimi were standing and saw Kaiser handling the whole situation. Anael jumped out of the hole and landed strongly on the ground, cracking it; his intention was to intimidate his enemies: Thalas and Illumina Dragon.

“A power up…” Anael said with a provocateur smile “Just what I needed. Electro Archer! Illumina Dragon! Are you still up to a fight?!”

Thalas growled at Anael, and so did Illumina Dragon. Electro Archer started to throw arrows against Anael, who simply shattered them with his bare hands; Illumina Dragon decided to come close to Anael and fight him hand-to-hand, but Elite Dragon hit the ground with his left fist and created a strong shock wave, which hit the Templar and Thalas, who knelt and seemed to have fainted.

Illumina Dragon was on his knees with anger in his eyes, for his body started to tremble and not to respond to his command. He kept screaming horrifyingly.

“You can hurt me” Anael hissed “You can shatter my source of power… You can kidnap and brainwash a friend of mine… You can also drag me to this unholy place which resembles Hell, but you’ll never be able to defeat me!” He lifted his new Shaman-Stone with his left hand “Not if I am with Kukulkan’s blessings!”

He used his Shaman-Stone’s power to drag Illumina Dragon elsewhere, far in Xibalba, in the depths of it. Somewhere he would take too long to find the Knights. Then, he looked at Thalas. His wicked countenance showed signs of fright, for he seemed paralyzed.

Thalas was starting to fight his wicked side, screaming as if someone was burning him from inside; he put his hands on his head as if he were having intense headaches. He was still on his knees.

“I won’t harm you, my friend” Anael was looking at Thalas with a sweet countenance, smiling as he normally did “The Quetzal spirit…Lives in this Shaman-Stone… Guatemala’s heart…Is my heart. And I am going to use it to save your life…Corazon de Guatemala!

Elite Dragon’s revamped Stone evoked a Quetzal spirit which evolved and healed Thalas, taking the evil out of him; Electro Archer returned to his standard outfit and fainted. Then, Anael’s Stone reabsorbed the spirit and returned to Anael’s hand. On the following, Anael put Thalas’ left arm around his shoulder and held his friend by his waist and walked towards Kaiser, who was holding his brother and Melchior.

“Let’s head back home, DarkStalker” Anael said “Could you please cast us a vortex?”

To Be Continued…

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