Shadows of a Flame
by Myths n' Wraiths
Chapter Five

The rumor of the two menís battle was like rolling thunder across a wind swept sea. The air made the noise of a raging freight train as it was sucked through the sewer pipes and into the conjunction room where it was consumed by Victor's flames. The precaution of their blows could have been mistaken for a wrecking ball colliding with marble, if such things happened underground.

Holding a slight advantage in strength, Victor pushed his opponent hard early on in the fight but it soon became painfully obvious that Bloodlust was far more experienced in combat. After only a few moments he seemed to be inside Victor's head, anticipating his moves and countering them as quick as they could be made.

Bloodlust waded through Victor's flames as if they were nothing but a summerís breeze and dealt a series of quick blows with the edge of his short black sword. Victor took most of the blows but managed to block the last one and retaliated with a quick jab to Bloodlust's face. When he tried to follow up with another punch bloodlust had already recovered and, dodging the attack, dealt a powerful blow to Victor's mid section. Victor threw another punch and again Bloodlust dodged it and dealt a powerful counter attack.

Victor let out a primal roar after the second blow, as rage coursed through his veins. Bloodlust mistook this for a sign of frustration and stepped to the side to deliver yet another blow. Victor was neither frustrated nor distracted however; and seeing his opponents move swung his massive arm in a wide arch with all of his brute force behind it.

The blow landed on Bloodlust's side and knocked him off balance for a brief moment. It was all the time Victor needed to plant a powerful haymaker on Bloodlust's skull and send him flying across the room and crashing into the wall with enough force to put a small crater in the aged stone.

Bloodlust fell from the wall and landed on his feet, taking only half a second to shake off the daze of the attack. His eyes flashed a crimson red as he looked up at Victor and with incredible speed he came up off his feet and hurled himself at his victim.

The attack came with such surreal speed that Victor's eyes could not even focus on the blade as it came down across his chest. A stinging pain shocked his senses as he was in turn sent crashing into the sewer wall. He fell to his knees, and seeing that Bloodlust was content to keep his distance for a moment, took his time as he slowly stood up clasping his chest in one hand. To Victor's surprise, when he removed his hand from his chest it was covered in blood. His protective energy was potent enough to ward off small arms fire and even small explosions yet this man, if he was truly a man, had managed to pierce it with a sword.

Bloodlust took a moment to wipe his aching jaw, where Victor's punch had landed, and was equally surprised to see his own blood. A crimson trail was coming from a mouth full of loosened teeth and leaking down his jaw. The impassive persona that he constantly emanated now began to crack under the weight of the rage he felt at seeing his own blood.

Both men stared at their own blood in disbelief for a moment then, in unison, fixed each on each other with feral eyes. Letting out primal battle cries, they charged with wild abandonment. Victor dove head first toward his opponent and was about to spear him to the ground when the desperate scream of a woman ripped the air around him and stole his focus.

Bloodlust took full advantage of the momentary distraction and drove the hilt of his sword down into Victor's head, knocking the heavy mutant to his knees. Then he brought his knee up into Victor's unguarded face with enough force to send him crashing back into the crumbling sewer wall.

Dazed from the brutal assault, it was all Victor could do to even role over onto his back. He clasped the back of his head with both hands as he tried to shrug off the mind numbing pain that had taken over his senses, but it was no use. Victor could only lay there, at the mercy of his attacker, as he struggled weekly to regain himself.

We need you. A voice spoke to him, cutting through the fog of pain and confusion and suddenly all of the pain, confusion and fatigue disappeared. Victor's eyes snapped into focus just in time to see a blade being thrust toward his throat and with a renewed strength and speed he clapped his hands down on the sides of the blade with enough force to stop it cold, only millimeters from his neck.

A confused look flashed across Bloodlust's face as he stared down in shock at his victim. Before Bloodlust could reason out why this mutant had recovered from such an assault so quickly however; Victor twisted his hands so suddenly and with such force that the blade he held in his grasp snapped at the hilt and shattered into crystalline shards in his hands.

Bloodlustís eyes widened in disbelief and he stared down at the broken hilt of his sword as if his very soul had been shattered before his eyes. His gaping eyes followed the shards as they fell to the ground, each one of the slender splinters clattering on the filth ridden stone as if it weighed half a dozen pounds. He never even saw the upper-cut coming.

The blow connected with such force that it echoed through the chamber like a cannon shot and Bloodlust was sent crashing into the ceiling so hard he collapsed the support system and loosened over a ton of cement and stone. Victor leapt clear just as Bloodlust, along with almost half of the conjunction rooms ceiling, came crashing down to the floor, giving birth to a cloud of dust that quickly enveloped the massive room.

A long, blind, silent moment followed the collapse of the ceiling and Bloodlust's impromptu burial. Then, on one side of the conjunction room, a brilliant flame erupted and began to consume all of the air in the area. A heavy breeze was sucked through the sewer system and entered the conjunction room like a light gale, blowing away the dust that had been tossed up by the cave-in.

When the air was clear enough to see across the room, Victor extinguished his flame and looked about franticly for his wife. He had heard her call for help and felt her revive him from his injuries, just in time to beat Bloodlust but her last words to him brought a sense of both hope and dread to his heart. "We need you." That could only mean that she had found their sons. But what final danger had they encountered?

Victor scanned the room, trying to get his bearings as he searched for the tunnel that Sage had gone down. He noticed it off to the side of the large room and leapt toward it. When he landed in the entrance to the large pipeline her nearly stumbled over what, in the dim light of the sewers, looked to be a large obstruction on the ground. He stepped over it without a second thought and began to move deeper into the tunnel.

The area looked like it had recently been set up as a field hospital and even more recently destroyed; there were mangled hospital tables scattered around with operating equipment and dozens of broken vials and medicine bottles. White curtains hung loosely from bars on the ceiling, partitioning off sections of the area. Victor quickly began casting the curtains aside, searching for his wife and children. When he came to the last quartered off section without finding any trace of his family Victor was getting frantic. He cast the last curtain open and nearly yelled in startled surprise as a massive gnarled arm came swinging down toward his head, missing by only inches.

Jumping clear of any follow up attack, Victor ignited his protective, flaming aura and readied himself for yet another fight. But the huge arm made no further attempt to attack the blazing mutant and the monster it belonged to made no attempt to move toward him, or away for that matter. In the new light that his flames cast across the massive deformed creature Victor could make out the reason that the beast was not, or rather could not move. Its chest was peppered with over a dozen syringes that had been emptied into its system and while that would probably have been enough to knock almost anything out, the real impediment to this creatureís health was the two inch metal piping that was protruding from its upper chest.

Deciding to squelch whatever life was left in this abomination Victor began to focus his energies for a powerful blow. Before he could strike however, a faint moan came from back towards the entrance of the tunnel and stole Victor's attention away. He quickly made his way back toward the entrance and with his flames casting the pipeline in a new light he noticed with both dread and relief that the obstruction on the floor that he had mistaken for rubble was actually a body.

"No." Victor muttered as he recognized his wifeís form on the sewer floor. He ran up to her, letting his flames die just before taking her unmoving body up in his arms. As he did so he saw that she had been cradling two smaller forms under her body. Victor gasped as he looked down at his two sons. They, like their mother, were unconscious and despite the fact that Victor could see no serious injuries on them, they were covered in a dark black blood.

"NO!" Victor screamed as he looked back at his wifeís form hesitatingly. The gashes in her abdomen were horrific. "Sage!" He called to her desperately and to his immense relief her eyes fluttered open weakly. "Sage, hang on. You hear me? I'm going to get you out of here. You just have to show me the way. Show me how to get you out of here."

Slowly, in response to his plea, Sage looked at him and gasped weekly for air. "We found them." Her voice was a faint whisper. She coughed and a slight trail of blood formed at her lips and ran down her chin. "They are going to be alright."

"You have to show me how to get out of here Sage." Victor pleaded with her as he grabbed a patch of white linen that had been on one of the hospital beds and began to use it as a pressure dressing on her wounded stomach. "Youíre going to be just fine but you have to get us out of here so I can get you to a hospital." Sage nodded lightly in response, as if she were only partially aware of what Victor was trying to say to her. She reached up and touched her husbands head with a trembling hand and began to lead his mind down unfamiliar tunnels and pipes. The way she was showing him was not the way they had come in but it seemed shorter. Victor guessed that she had taken the rout form one of the many minds she had torn apart in the past couple of hours.

Regardless of the informationís origin Victor knew that if he did not get his wife out of these sewers soon she would die. The mutant caught up the small frames of his twin eight-year-old sons in one massive arm and then gently collected his wounded wife in the other and with all the speed and strength he could muster he readied himself for the long run out of the sewers. Just before he made it out of the conjunction room however; the sound of rocks shifting caught his attention and he turned to look back into the ruined room. To his surprise, there in the center of the room, where Bloodlust had been buried in a pile of cement and stone, the debris began to shift. Victor paused just long enough to see one of the larger cement blocks get pushed off the pile from underneath, and then he tore off down the tunnel system.

The desperate father and husband found himself running blindly, at break neck speed down the tunnel system as he carefully glanced left and right every so often to make sure he had not missed a turn. Time seemed to be dragging by interminably and Victorís desperation grew as he felt his wifeís vitality slipping out of her as she hung limply in his arm.

"Keep calm, Victor." He muttered to himself as he tried to stave off panics icy grip. "Focus on getting out of here." But it was no use. His frustration grew as the tunnel system stretched out like a seemingly endless obstacle before him.

"Stay with me Sage." Victor yelled to his wife in an attempt to draw some sign of life out of her, to give himself some sense of hope that he was not running in vain. No response came however and Victors panic grew.

After what seemed an hour to the wearied mutant, when his desperation and fatigue were shouting at him to release his last semblance of hope, he caught site of a small glimmer of light in the tunnel ahead. Redoubling his pace Victor sprinted forward until he could see quite clearly a metal grate blocking an exit to a small lake. Victor's pace never slowed; he collided with the massive steel grate and sent it sailing forty feet into the distance as he leapt out of the insufferable darkness and stench of the sewers and into sunlight once again.

Victor landed waist deep in clear, cool, flowing water causing quite a splash. The sudden combination of light and cold water on their bodies startled all of Victor's family out of their stupor at once. Sage gave a sudden gasp as the cold refreshing liquid snatched her senses form the verge of death and brought her back to consciousness, while their two young sons groggily opened their identical dark brown eyes and blinked at the blinding sunlight that they were suddenly immersed in.

Relief swept over Victor as he stared down at his suddenly revitalized wife and children. He could barely contain himself as he waded over to the shore of the wide but shallow stream that he had landed in. Once there he gently laid his boys down on the green grass of the water's bank. When he went to lay Sage down however, a gush of dark black blood erupted from her abdominal wound and she let out a cry of pain.

Victor cursed as he tried to press the bloodied rag back over her gaping wound and stop the bleeding once again but this time it was no use. "Hang in there Sage. Were out now, I'm going to get you to a doctor." He cried as he went to pick her up again. He was stopped short though when Sage weakly placed a hand against his chest to hold him off.

"N-no." She sighed faintly. "It's too late."

"No its not." Victor's voice roared and quaked at the same time.

Sage nodded weakly. "We saved them." She said as a smile etched its way across her bloodied lips and she looked over at her two sons, who were slowly regaining their vision and were staring in horror at their bleeding mother. Sage's eyes turned slowly from her boys to look at her husband. "We... saved... them." The smile never faded from her face as her eyes slid shut and her body fell limp.

Victor stared down at her, waiting for her to open her eyes once again; waiting for her to say something more. He barely noticed that his body had begun to tremble or that his boys had begun to call his name. He simply stared at his wifeís battered face in utter denial.

"No." he finally whispered. As a horrific ache began to well up inside his chest and he found himself having to gasp just to breath. "No." he said again as he shook his head and pulled his wifeís lifeless body close to him, gently rocking her in his huge arms. "NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" He screamed so loud that the two young twins covered their ears and shrunk away from their father. He looked at them and his face was a twisted mask of unbearable pain and unimaginable rage.

The two young boys stared back at their father, blinking away the tears that were now streaming down their cheeks. Victor however, was beyond comforting them. He slowly stood up over his wifeís lifeless form, his rage welling up over his sorrow and filling his mind till it burst out in an intelligible scream. He shot one last glance at his wifeís body then turned and launched himself back into the sewer tunnel, screaming as he went. "I'LL KILL HIM. THAT SONOF BITCH I'LL KILL HIM."

The two young boys watched in disbelief as their father disappeared into the dark of the tunnel, leaving them alone with their motherís dead body in the middle of unfamiliar surroundings. They stared back at the sewer tunnel entrance, listening to their father's yells as they came echoing out of the massive pipes. Slowly the sounds faded as the crazed mutant moved deeper into the sewer system but still the boys looked back at the gaping entrance, waiting, hoping that their father would return. He never did. The sun left its position, high above them, and sunk behind the tree covered horizon and still their father did not return.

Alone with their fears and bewilderment the two boys did the only thing they could do; they cried.
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