FIC: Chosen Champions (1/?)
Title: Chosen Champions
Feedback: In lieu of a Faithbot yeah.
Disclaimer: Whedonverse characters owned by Mutant Enemy. Further xovers to come later.
A\N: People who have been reading me for a while might recognise this story as being similar to a story called ‘Chosen Twelve’. However, while being influenced by the same stories (Conan, Lord Of The Rings, Dragonlance etc) and starting off similarly, I should note this story has a) a different cast (including multiple xovers – Marvel, Dresden Files, Highlander amongst others), b) a different world (one that I’ve been using to unsuccessfully write original stories in) and c) eventually a different plot.
“By the abyss,” Simaino Moran groaned out a curse as he shuffled into his quarters, knees and fingers swollen and aching with arthritis. Once he had lived far more luxuriously than his current impoverished surroundings. Some would say it was enough to merely live, but he knew now that such words were a foolishness, that life without freedom and hope was merely pointless existence. He closed and locked the door, eyes briefly shutting as he forced his racing heart to slow and licked his drying lips. Yes, hope was gone from this pitiless hell not only for himself, but for anyone who believed in justice and honour, but perhaps he could ignite its flame once again.
And the only price would be his own life. Small price indeed for the freedom of all.
Simaino Moran wiped away the sweat from his forehead before lighting the lamp stood upon his desk, pulling out a lump of yellow chalk and ever so slowly clambering down onto all fours then painstakingly drawing a pentagram around the floor with him at its centre. Rising with a groan, he stared down at the arcane symbol surrounding him, his throat dry and sweat springing anew on his forehead. He’d drawn this symbol many times in the past seventeen years since the Fall, but had never dared use the symbol’s power to its ultimate conclusion, knowing that there was only one who could do such a spell and survive. But now, now that didn’t matter, all that mattered was this horrible regime was brought to an end by whatever means necessary and possible. After a last lick of the lips he stepped out of the chalk outline.
His ears roared with the sounds of a thousand dimensions, unfamiliar smells filling his nostrils, and images of strange worlds, inexplicable technologies. Forcing the images away, he searched through them to a dimension he’d watched on many occasions, one with a vast variety of champions who risked their lives on an almost daily basis to protect the largely unsuspecting population. But with such riches to choose from, which champions to select?
His hands shook as he sat down, took a notebook filled with his notes on this world’s champions and placed it on his desk where it would be easily discovered after his demise. After taking a rattling breath, he began muttering the arcane words and phrases that would fuel his last ever spell. Within seconds the magic was lashing at him, devouring his life-essence.
Simaino Moran bit back a curse as weariness crashed over him. First weariness, then aching, then pain, and finally death. His hand shook slightly as he picked up his pencil and began etching a face. It was the drawing of a handsome man, the sort any woman would find herself drawn to. Its owner was a noble man who fought against the demon within, using the strength it gave him to defend innocents. Once his drawing was complete, he wrote the man’s beneath then wiped away the sweat falling into his eyes.
Placing the finished drawing aside, he picked up the next blank piece of paper and started his next drawing, this time of a sharp-featured, white-haired man with piercing eyes. He too had a demon within, and used its powers to fight evil. “Oooooh,” his pencil dropped from his hand as cramp afflicted his fingers. He moaned as he pulled each finger ever so painfully straight before finishing by writing the man’s name on the bottom of the portrait.
The next drawing was of a tiny, blue-haired woman whose diminutive size masked her seething power. Sweat streamed off his body as he wrote the woman’s name, his arms shaking with the effort.
“Ohhhhh.” He almost fell off the chair as a painful wave crashed over him, red hot pokers jabbing at him. Teeth gritted, he continued to draw, this time of a slight, pinch-faced youth, the son of the first man, an impossible birth that had given his home dimension another champion.
Once he’d finished that, he moved on the next, a lantern-jawed muscle-man with guileless eyes. This redoubtable warrior had travelled between dimensions before, but perhaps this plane would remind him more of home.
His heart thundered furiously in his chest, drool spilling out of the corners of his mouth as he moved onto his next drawing, an attached yet separate group from the first batch of heroes. The first picture was of a greying man, a scholar but a scholar with more than a hint of steel in his eyes. A thinking warrior.
“Ohhh.” Simaino Moran shuddered as bile rose in his throat, his throat feeling like acid. Forcing away the hurt he drew a breathtakingly beautiful brunette with eyes that were at once wild and vibrant, yet also warm and compassionate. In his land she would have been the beauty of a thousand bards’ songs, but in hers she was a redeemed hero that few could stand against.
His next drawing was of a couple, a pretty pixie-faced redhead and a striking brunette. Such couples were considered unusual, deviant even, but their relationship didn’t concern him, their power and how it might help his world did. His next drawing was of two more women, a black girl and another red-head. Unlike the last two he’d drawn, they were merely friends, but both renowned warriors with many feats to their names.
“Ohhh.” Chagrin filled him as his bladder loosened, urine flooding out to soak him. His face flushed in humiliation he continued with his drawing, this time drawing a floppy-haired, one-eyed man with the face of a jester, but his good-natured looks hid a hero’s soul.
His body shook, aching as if every joint was swollen and aching with arthritis but he forced himself to focus, and began drawing again, this time of two intrepid brothers, together with their wiser than he looked father figure.
“Ohhh,” he groaned as boils bubbled up all over his body. Teeth gritted against the pain, he continued his drawings, this time completing one of a black man, part demon, part man, a fierce hunter of monsters.
Next to be drawn was a tall, pony-tailed Immortal with a sword in, a fierce warrior but a man of immense honour and loyalty. Beside him, he drew a picture of a woman, a thief the man had influenced away from a life of crime.
And still he worked, every muscle aching, the pencil feeling like an anvil in his hand. Next was a striking brunette clad in a skimpy red outfit, a fierce warrior with few equals. He followed that with a beautiful brunette, a woman with a supernatural power to entice men or women and a more than capable fighter. Next was a handsome, middle-aged man with laughter in his eyes and the ability to take on any skill. After him he drew a yellow-skinned warrior of incredible skill whose nobility ensured he fought his own father’s evil. And next was a towering blonde with an amazing capacity with weapons.
Who next? The powerful black, alien to the planet Simaino Moran looked upon yet one of its greatest defenders? The foul-mouthed hunter of vampires? The undead hunter of criminals with the face of a mime? The short, brusque man with impossible healing and claws that erupted from his knuckles? The woman who wielded a mystic blade?
The decision was taken from him when his pencil clattered to the ground, a choked gasp dying in his lips as pain shot through his left arm. Bile filled his throat, burning the coating, making it close to impossible to breathe, tears forming in his eyes. Realising his strength was at an end, he reached onto the shelf fastened on the wall above his desk and pulled a glass jar off it, bringing it down on the completed illustrations. The container imploded with the collision’s force, spilling out a grey liquid over the jar’s fragments and the papers, the room filling with an arid stench. Simaino Moran looked down at the illustrations, tears blurring his vision. “Please,” he almost vomited, the pain of just speaking was so intense, “please, save our world as you have done for your own so many times before.” Pain exploded from his head, blood erupting from his nose and ears as he toppled from his seat.
* * *
Basil Tiamo glared as he clambered out of the inn his group had commandeered and looked up through the tree-tops, the stormy sky above matching his mood. With a shake of his head he started through the forest town, its inhabitants scattering in an attempt to give him a wide berth, his ill-temper gaining momentum like an avalanche tumbling downhill. “By the abyss!” he grunted. “Where in the Ascendants’ Names are you?” It hadn’t always been like this, once Simaino Moran had been the very prim soul of punctuality, but then as the King’s First Advisor, a man respected throughout the realm he’d had to be.
And once, Basil grimaced as a foul taste filled his mouth, he’d been Captain of the king’s bodyguard, a role he’d utterly failed in. And now he lived on, fighting an impossible war against the tyrant who’d slaughtered his own family, murdered tens of thousands, and cast aside all they believed in. “The wheel turns and we can but turn with it.” The time-worn mantra sounded unconvincing even as he said it. Fate be damned, he hated the world he found himself in, a world he was helpless to influence.
Stopping outside the thatch-roofed, single-storey cottage that was his colleague’s home and slammed his fist into the rough-timbered door. “Simaino! Answer your abyss-cursed door!”
Worry replaced irritation when after a dozen knocks he heard no sound of movement from within the building. Eyes narrowing, he turned sideways on to the door and slammed his shoulder into the uneven wood. The door creaked and shuddered but stayed resolutely shut. “Simaino!” He let out a forlorn bellow before shouldering the door again and again until it splintered open on the fourth attempt.
Heart thundering in part from the exertion and part from anxiety, he raced into the room only to stop dead, eyes widening in horror at the body sprawled across the study floor. Hurrying over to the waxy-skinned body, he crouched down and tried vainly to find a pulse. His breath caught as he looked up to see the drawings spread across his desk and realised just what his friend and mentor had done. “You obstinate fool.”
Andronicus shot upright in his four-postered bed. The satin sheets fell off his wiry body as he grabbed the red-haired doxy lying naked beside him and shoved her off the bed. “Get out!” he roared as the beauty’s naked body slapped onto the elaborately-woven rug draped across the floor. A mutter later and the bronze brazier hanging from its mosaic-covered ceiling burst into flames.
The girl looked up from her position on the floor, a protest dying on her curved lips as she saw the expression on his face. The girl leapt up and fled his room, leaving him alone to ponder just what had awoken him. He looked around the imperial bedroom, the luxurious furnishings and prized paintings and tapestries hanging from the wall, and for once, the room’s ridiculous wealth gave him little comfort.
Anger flared inside him. For almost twenty years, he’d ruled and expanded his empire, and now, he was not going to be threatened. Nobody was going to take his throne away. Thoughts racing, he rose. “Solon Dike!” he bellowed telepathically. “I have need of you!”
In minutes, his chamber’s elaborately-carved oaken doors swung open, his adjunct raced in. Dike was a short, thin man with diffident, meek eyes and a double-chin, his inoffensive appearance masking his true nature as a razor-sharp ruthless political operator and manipulator. “Sire,” Solon Dike dropped to one knee, his hands spread in supplication, “how may I be of service?”
“Simaino Moran is dead.”
Dike raised an eyebrow, before speaking, his tone non-committal. “He has been a thorn in your side for too many years.”
“And tries to do so after death,” Andronicus continued with a shake of the head, “he used his life-force to power a spell dragging more than a score of champions through the planes to our dimension.” He glanced towards the finely-varnished desk to the left of the chamber’s double-doors. “I’ve placed their images on the papers on the desk. Have them copied and handed out. There’s ten thousand gold sovereigns on each of their heads. I want them dead, each and every one of them, and their severed heads delivered here as proof.” He paused and forced back a shudder. There was power in these people, and more than that, they were the sorts that never backed down, that never stopped fighting.
“I’ll get right on it.” Solon Dike rose.
“Dead,” the fear the pictures inspired bubbled up inside him turning to white-hot rage, “I want them all dead!”