Longshot nimbly ducked a savagely thrown spear; unfortunately the zealot behind him was not so lucky. A moment before he ran the Exile through he found a spear embedded in his chest.
The spear thrower, now unarmed, took one look at Longshot and his artfully wielded staff, and fled in fear. The blonde man didn’t bother to give chase, instead dashing across the courtyard to aid Zarda, who had five soldiers around her.
“I don’t need your help Longshot,” yelled Power Princess through gritted teeth, as she backhanded three Grecian soldiers through the air in one go.
Her words were water off a duck’s back as the agile man spun through the air, simultaneously kicking one soldier in the stomach and slamming his staff against the other’s skull. As his feet hit the ground the staff swung upwards, hitting the first soldier in the face and knocking him out cold. He slumped down upon the cobblestones next to his companion.
With a grin he said, “But I want to help you,” before dashing off to aid Sabretooth.
Jade Nova flew by, her fiery form bathing the area in emerald light. “Looks like you need all the help you can get,” she mocked.
Soon the last of the warriors were defeated or had fled in terror and the Exiles could set about the task at hand. The sextet converged in the centre of the courtyard and eyed the giant statue of Pluto warily.
“So we just smash it?” asked Sabretooth eagerly, while making a few practise swings with his club.
Their leader nodded, “I’m starting to understand what Access wants of us. The villagers are watching us right now. We’re weakening the hold the gods have over these people.”
“Do not underestimate the fear a god can strike into these lowly people,” replied Zarda grimly.
Frankie gazed up at the statue and scoffed, “Doesn’t look so scary to me,” before rasing her golden blow and blasting its marble head off with an arrow of light.
“Leave some fer me,” grinned Victor, as charged forward and smashed one of Pluto’s legs off in one swing.
Blink couldn’t help but smile, she hadn’t seen her father figure enjoying himself like this in a very long time. In fact, she struggled to remember him laughing this way. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, she hurled one of her crystal javelards at the statue, teleporting its upper half to the ground before it could collapse upon them.
Power Princess reluctantly slammed her fists down upon the marble chest, splitting it down the middle. Meanwhile, Morph closed his eyes and shook his hat like a magic eight ball.
“Come on jackhammer! Come on jackhammer!” he chanted as he reached deep inside the hat. His face drooped to comical proportions as he produced not a jackhammer but a palm tree. He half heartedly swatted the remains of the statue with the tropical tree before a massive green jackhammer descended from the heavens and shattered it to rubble.
Jade Nova dropped down beside Morph with a smirk and dismissed her energy construct. “That’s how you do that Gumby,” she laughed.
The malleable mutant tossed his useless hat to the ground in a huff and cried, “If Creed hadn’t snatched that club away from me I wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“Aww poor baby want a…” Frankie’s jest faded away when she noticed the crowd that was quickly building around them.
Ragged and put-upon villagers were quickly gathering, though they hung back from the unusual sextet. Longshot wondered how they must look to these simple people; the fact they didn’t flee in terror expressed either extreme courage or extreme hope.
The villagers whispered amongst themselves, until eventually one man cautiously split from the crowd. He was well muscled, shirtless and covered in soot; the hammer he wielded confidently suggested he was likely a blacksmith.
Rather than approach the Exiles, the blacksmith stepped up the nearest chunk of statue, one of Pluto’s arms, and began slamming his hammer down upon it. As if a dam had burst, the majority of the remaining villagers charged forward and joined him.
The Exiles could only watch on in surprised awe as the harried villagers reduced what was once a statue of a god into gravel.
“Ingrates!” howled Pluto, as he leaned menacingly over a pool of quicksilver, magically enchanted to show whatever he desired. Right now it displayed the very scene the Exiles were currently witnessing.
Loki, who was curiously examining a sculpture made of skull across the chamber, said mockingly, “It would seem your worshippers are less than enamoured with you.”
“A plague upon them!” the death god began to rant, “No, I’ll send Cerberus to devour their children!”
The god of mischief place a hand upon Pluto’s shoulder and guided him away from the scrying pool.
“The peons will suffer, of course, but it is with these usurpers where our wrath should lay,” he flicked the quicksilver dismissively, dispersing the image into nothingness, “We must make an example of these would be god-slayers,” he picked up a skull from the sculpture and casually examined it, “these rebels, their behaviour, no their disrespect, warrants a unified response from all of us,” the skull was reduced to powder between his powerful fingers.
“Very well, mischief maker, but I still get to set Cerberus loose,” conceded Pluto.
“I would have it no other way,” he stepped over to the scrying pool with a grin, reached into a pouch on his belt and drew forth a small dead vole.
He dropped the desiccated rodent into the mercury and chanted in the ancient language of the Jotun Trolls. He looked to Pluto and said, “Gather the others; its time.”
Pluto’s statue had long been reduced to powder, and the villagers now cheered and revelled. The Exiles found themselves gifted with red wines, fruits, breds, died meats and dozens of other types of food.
“What’s the plan now?” asked Sabretooth of Blink.
The pink mutant eyed her Tallus with confusion, “There’s nothing but silence,”
“Is the mission over?” asked Frankie.
“Pretty uneventful ending if it is,” replied Blink.
As if on cue, a massive lightning bolt split the sky above them, and thunder boomed. Black clouds grew out of nothing and turned the day to night.
“You had to say that didn’t you?!” demanded Morph, turning himself into an umbrella as the rain started pelting down.
A huge swirling vortex of wind and rain quickly grew around the entire village, blocking off all escape. Blink tried hurling her javerlards at fleeing villagers in order to send them to safety but the wind were too strong, blowing them off course.
Soon the swirling wind and rain made it difficult to see and Longshot grabbed ahold of the nearest person and held on tight. Trying to combine their weight and prevent being blown away. A few instants later and the wind died down to nothing, as if it had all been a dream.
“You can let go of me now Longshot,” said Zarda, with a hint of a smile in her voice.
He stepped back and was about to offer his thanks for helping to save him when he realised they were no longer in the Grecian village. Where there were once sandstone tiles beneath their feet there was now thick, dew covered grass.
They stood upon a wide green hill, the type Julie Andrews would dance upon, with a background of forbidding mountains.
Cries of shock and terror quickly filled his ears; the villagers had also been carried along for this mysterious voyage, and unlike the Exiles, they were unaccustomed with instantaneous travel.
Lightning stuck at the base of the hill, a tremendous bolt that nearly blew the team off their feet and felt as if it could shatter the hillside. This was only surpassed by the second bolt that followed, and the next after that, until six thunderstrikes had stuck in succession around the hill.
From each thunderbolt emerged a god and a battalion of warriors. Anpao with his barbarian horde, Pluto and his undead legion, Baba Yaga with her spectral hags, Sobek and his Egyptian spear bearers, Mikaboshi and his tengu and lastly, Loki with an army of trolls.
Every one of the villagers cried out in despair, and many dropped to their knees in prayer.
“Do not waste your prayers curs!” spat Pluto, “there is no mercy for you this day!”
“Get us out of her Blink,” demanded Sabertooth, who was tensed and ready for a fight.
“I’m trying, something’s blocking me!”
Loki smiled his vulpine smile and waved his finger scoldingly, “There is no fleeing, my would be usurpers. It all ends this day.”
“If I die I’m going to kill Asher for dragging me into this,” muttered Frankie dryly.
“If we die, then at least we die well,” replied Longshot grimly, as he hefted his staff.
“Protect the villagers,” ordered Blink.
So it would be six people against an army. The Exiles were concerned but determined to defend the villagers that they had unwittingly dragged into this mess. Each hero took a point around the hill, facing off against each god and their armies. Each god found themselves gazing up the hill with a figure that seemed more myth than man.
The barbarian with his club, as mighty as a bear. The rogue, as elusive as ether and as deadly as a serpent. The ranger, able to rain down quick and anonymous death from afar. The mage, wielding arcane magicks to rival the gods. The crusader, standing stalwart against adversity with her shield of will. The acrobat, untouchable by even the gods.
Longshot thought he saw fear in the eyes of Pluto, as the gods stared uphill at him. He quickly realised it was not in fact him that was so terrifying but the sky above. A beautiful light, like a twinkling jewel, shone down from above and increased in intensity until the entire hillside was engulfed in rainbow light.
“The Rainbow Bridge!” snarled Pluto, “What have you done Trickster?!”
Loki grinned and shrugged, before fading away, leaving his bewildered troll army behind.
The Rainbow Bridge, which connected earth to Asgard, had materialised above them. At the far end of the bridge, the skeletal remains of Asgard could just be seen.
“I hear thunder,” stated Zarda, whose hearing was only matched by Sabertooth’s
“Gettin louder,” agreed Victor.
“The gods are booking,” said Jade Nova, pointing down the hill, to where each god and their armies were fleeing in terror.
The thunderous sound had grown so loud everyone could hear it now; it was coming down the bridge like a wave. There was a darkness engulfing the Norse city now, so much so that it was no longer visible. Like a cloud with a mind of its own, the darkness came swarming down the bridge straight towards them.
“Get down!” shouted Blink, and the group complied.
The villagers quickly followed, and just in time, for the darkness rushed over them. Longshot realised that the darkness was not indeed smoke, but phenomenal swarm of insects. Locusts, wasps, spiders, centipedes, every creepy crawly imaginable compromised what Longshot surmised was The Hunger. For whatever reason the swarm took no interest in any of them, and instead rushed down the hill towards the various deities.
“Susssssstenancccce!” cried a hissing voice from everywhere within the swarm.
The Hunger enveloped each god and their army and even the thunderous buzz of the swarm failed to drown out their screams. All the Exiles could do was lay there and watch as the alien deity devoured each god and their minions.
Within moments it was all over; the swarm retreated back up the Rainbow Bridge, leaving naught but a few specs of blood. Loki’s trolls and the other divine soldiers were also gone, while the human minions, such as Sobek’s warriors, were left untouched. They were currently scattering across the Norse hills in terror.
“Was…was that meant to happen?” asked Morph, as he and the others hesitantly rose to their feet.
“This was Asher’s plan, to draw the gods to this place, where The Hunger could sense them,” surmised Blink.
Longshot watched as the Rainbow Bridge faded away and wondered if this made them killers? Essentially they were Axel Asher’s pawns, would they have knowingly followed his directions if they knew it would lead to this slaughter?
Victor and Zarda would have. Killing for the greater good was within their moral code. He on the other hand, felt violated. Doing good was ingrained in who he was, literally. When he was created in the Mojoverse, Arise created him to be a force for good. Asher had corrupted his purpose in life, and he swore to himself he would find a way to rectify the situation.
“So are we done here?” asked Frankie, as her emerald flames dissipated.
“Yes, we’re done,” Longshot eyed the bloodstained fields and tossed his staff onto the ground, the others followed suit with their own weapons. Sabertooth almost pouted as he tossed his mighty club to the ground, which almost brought a smile to Longshot’s lips.
He felt a strong hand on his shoulder and looked back to see Zarda standing there. It was clear she understood the anguish he was going through, if not the source of it. He placed his hand over hers and gave her a smile of thanks.
The six virtuous warriors vanished in a flash of divine light, leaving the awed villagers behind. Cautiously the group moved to the spot from where their saviours had departed the mortal plane.
Slowly, reverently, six of their best picked up the bow, the shield, the hat, the cloak, the club, and lastly, the staff.
“Your visit has been most fortuitous,” stated Loki smugly, as he eased back into his throne, a glass of fine mead in his hand.
“I am only pleased to be of service,” replied the diminutive man in the butler suit.
“I am want to shower you with gold and jewels that would make kings weep, but these things do not call to you, do they Timebroker?”
“The course of this universe has been set right, that is all the reward I require,” replied the small man politely, “Good bye Loki, we shall not meet again.
As the strange apparition faded away he found himself gazing out the balcony windows of his grand throne room. As the only deity left the world was now his.
Axel Asher meanwhile, watched the god through the Crystal Palace, satisfied in the knowledge that five months from now the god would be dead, slain by six legendary warriors.