“Five flames around a blizzard blaze
One burning dark, a deadly haze,
One burning bright, of kindness weighs,
One burning strong, in hopeful days,
One burning black, given Death away,
and One burning still, frozen aflame.”
The riddle repeated itself over and over in his mind. The mists called to him, and he felt the touch of Koda. He had never received a message so long before, and it echoed within his mind. He looked into the white haze and saw five flames surrounding a cold dark void. He heard the roar of dragons, the cries of the living, and the screams of the dead.
The world collapsed back on him. Priory medics were scrambling with his wound. He felt so cold.
“He is coming back. Keep going!” Gixx’s voice was edged with fear.
The medics redoubled their efforts, and he felt the muscles and bones reknit inside him. The pain was unbearable. He tried to scream, but they had bound his jaw to a plank of wood.
“Almost there kodan. Just a few more seconds.” a sylvari voice spoke in his ear.
There was a sudden release of pressure as they finished their work. He felt reinvigorated, and strong. The medics around him swayed, and sat down heavily on the floor around him. He stood, and lifted his hammer.
“Koda’s Breath, I have bad news.” Gixx had gone pale.
“Is the elemental defeated?” he asked.
“Yes. But the situation is worse. Your Claw seems to have lost his senses.”
“And my teammates?”
“Likely dead.” Gixx spoke softly.
Koda’s Breath shook his head. “Ulfridda wouldn’t go down so easily, and Serene Wrath can do nothing to Korr with magic. Open those doors.” He pointed at the barricaded doors with Icebreaker.
“If you go in there, I take no responsibility for your death.” Gixx regained his haughty manner.
“Koda’s blessings I don’t die then.” He walked past Gixx, who waved at the gatekeepers to open the door.
“Good luck kodan” He offered. Koda’s Breath walked through the doors without saying a word, but nodded his thanks.
The room was dark. He made out some shapes moving in the distance. Suddenly, fire burst to life, and a quarter of the room was engulfed by flame.
“Ulfridda!” He yelled, and ran towards her. She turned, and started to attack him, eyes ablaze. He threw up a wall of reflection, and her fireballs bounced off, harmlessly hitting the ground.
“Koda’s Breath! It’s not me!” He looked to his left, and saw Ulfridda, crouched over Alepe’s body. He was stunned, his spiky hair slick with blood from a large cut on his forehead. The Ulfridda clone turned itself to lightning, and flew through his wall.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
“Serene Wrath has gone mad!” Ulfridda yelled. She smacked Alepe’s face and he woke up.
“ELEMENTAL OUTPUT RECHARGE ACTIVATOR” he yelped. He turned to Ulfridda and spoke quickly. “I need to recalibrate the actuator, causing an emergency elixir backflow shutdown.”
“I understood none of that, but get your pistols, asura, and stay behind me.” She said. She stood, and attuned to flame.
“It will cause the golem to go into a five minute reset sequence.” He explained as they ran over to Koda’s Breath. Ulfridda pulled her braid loose, her long grey hair flying out behind her, distinguishing her from her clone. She ran at her clone, knocking it away from Koda’s Breath.
“Get Alepe to the golem.” She ordered, and dodged another attack. Alepe threw an elixir at her, which she caught and drank in one swift movement.
They ran deeper into the room, jumping over broken boxes and spilled treasures. Korr was fighting Serene Wrath with his bare fists, throwing punches at his clones and breaking them with every hit. He swept his arms around, knocking them back. Ounce fought by his side, biting and scratching the clones that came too close. Every once in a while she would vanish into stealth, only to reappear with her jaws around a kodan clone moments later.
The golem was being guarded by the clones, their appearance acting like a wall, pushing Korr back. Koda’s Breath caught up to Korr and swung his hammer.
“I’ll hit high, you hit low!” Korr said.
“This will help!” Alepe threw an elixir at Koda’s Breath, making his fur shine like diamonds. Whenever a clone shattered, he did not feel the pain in his mind, or confusion. He swung his hammer low, and Korr swung high. The golem retreated further into the corner.
“Icebrood, I will defeat you!” the mad image of Serene Wrath spoke with venom.
“Wrath, it’s me!” Koda’s Breath yelled over the sound of shattering clones. “Please come back to us!”
“Serene Wrath is gone. I am in control.” The clones all spoke in unison.
From far behind them, Ulfridda screamed and spun on her heel. Her body evaporated into air and she became a swirling tornado. Her clone was lifted off the ground and impaled onto a chandelier, the great gold-and-glass structure falling thunderously to the floor. She turned and raced across the floor, flinging the clones high, and carving a swathe through them. The golem was knocked to the floor, and the clones all shattered.
“Now Alepe!” Koda’s Breath yelled. The little Asura raced across the floor.
“Flip it over!” Alepe said as he neared Serene Wrath’s golem. Korr reached over and in one movement flipped the golem over.
“Ulfridda, could you blast away this cover panel?” He knelt, drawing a screwdriver from his pouch. Ulfridda attuned to air and blew the rivets out from their sockets.
“Ok, I need to recalibrate…there!… and now to reset the matrices…wait… it’s powering back up! Ouch!” He pulled his hand out of the compartment, lightning arcing across from the golem onto his fingertips.
“I am the darkness. You are not mightier than I” The golem arm twisted and knocked Alepe back.
Korr reached over Ulfridda and grabbed the golem. He began to squeeze its body, and the stone groaned under the pressure.
“Be careful!” Koda’s Breath yelled. “Don’t damage the Shard!”
“How do we stop it then?” Korr asked.
“Take the shard out!” Alepe stood up and dusted himself off. Clones started to form again, and Korr offered the golem to Ulfridda. She reached in, and yanked the Shard out of the golem. The forming clones dissolved into the air.
The Shard blazed in purple fire. The flames licked at Ulfridda’s hand, and began travelling up her arm.
“I can’t let go” Ulfridda clutched at her hand, as the flames travelled up her arm and shoulder.
“I am in control”
“I can’t control my arm!” Ulfridda attuned to water and tried to douse the flames. They licked at her face, and tried to enter her eyes. Koda’s Breath grabbed her hand, and spoke within his mind.
‘Come back to me, Wrath’
‘The darkness is so strong!’ Serene Wrath’s voice was so small.
‘Fight it. Remember us. Remember the moments on the Spear. Remember me.’
‘Bor? I’m so sorry! It was all my fault. I will save you!’ Ulfridda’s mind pressed against Koda’s Breath’s and Serene Wrath’s.
‘NO!’ The darkness retaliated, and Ulfridda and Koda’s Breath were thrown apart. The explosion knocked Korr and Alepe across the room.
Boxes tumbled down, falling on Ulfridda. She became buried below them. Koda’s Breath was held by an invisible force against the wall. The Shard hit the floor and bounced over next to the golem. It picked up the Shard, and placed it back inside itself. The image of mad Serene Wrath appeared, claws and teeth bared.
“What do you want?” Koda’s Breath asked him.
“I am a purpose. I am a desire made flesh. I am Darkness.”
“What purpose?” Koda’s Breath struggled against his bonds.
“There are things greater than dragons. There are purposes beyond their consumption. I am one part of a whole. We shall be the parts to break the Cold. It is foretold in the stars.”
“Let Serene Wrath go.” Koda’s Breath pleaded.
“No” Serene Wrath lunged at him, teeth bared. He closed his jaw around Koda’s Breath’s neck, and bit down. He screamed.
“Done!” Alepe yelled, and Korr raised the broken chandelier.
“Not my friends” he said, and took aim.
Ulfridda climbed out of the boxes to see Korr holding a longbow made from the broken chandelier. He knocked back a broken banner and let loose. The banner soared past Koda’s Breath and Serene Wrath and lodged firmly into the golem. Koda’s Breath fell from the wall, and the image of Serene Wrath shattered into crystal butterflies. Alepe ran over and disconnected the power source for the golem.
“We did it!” Korr cheered. Ulfridda walked over to where Koda’s Breath was rubbing his neck. She knelt. Alepe touched her shoulder.
“Let me” Alepe gave Koda’s Breath an elixir and he downed it. It tasted like peppermint. Ulfridda collapsed against the wall next to Koda’s Breath. Korr walked over and sat down, scooping Ounce up. Ulfridda started laughing. It was infectious, and soon the whole group was laughing with her. They were all stained with sawdust and tar and blood, and it wasn’t long until their tears carved rivulets down their faces.
“Why are we laughing?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“The things we do for love, kodan. I guess we had better tell Gixx it’s safe now.” She stood, and offered her hand to Koda’s Breath.
“Come, let’s see if we can’t fix your beloved.” She said with a grin. She helped him up and walked towards the door.
“Ulfridda?” Koda’s Breath asked after her. “Who is Bor?”
Ulfridda smiled. “Another time, apprentice.”