CHAPTER ONE: The Early Ascension of the 23rd King of Shambhala
In a Standard Twelve 4-Door Saloon on a gravelly road from Scotland to England. Midgard, the land of the humans. August, 1941.
Raymond fidgeted nervously with the radio dial in the dark, keeping his eyes on the road.
“Where’s the pickup point?” yawned Cyan in the passenger seat, scratching the stubble on his chin, before brushing a hand casually through his curly blond hair.
Raymond flicked a glance to the rear vision mirror, then back to the road. Then back to the mirror.
“See that car behind us?” whispered Raymond, readjusting his mirror.
Cyan swivelled in his seat.
Two hundred metres back, just coming down the hill behind them, was a set of headlights.
“We’re being followed,” Raymond muttered, grabbing Cyan's shoulder and jerking him around to face forwards.
Cyan opened the glove box and pulled out a brown paper bag. From the bag, he pulled a shiny silver pistol. He wiped it down with a cloth.
“Are you sure?” asked Cyan. “I thought it only turned on to this road half a mile back.”
“That’s the thing,” started Raymond as he turned the headlights off and pulled up beside a farm fence.
“What’s the thing?” Cyan persisted.
“We’ve had a car following us since we left Duncansby Head. And every ten miles or so, they turn off and another turns on to the road where they left off. And the cars keep getting closer and closer...”
Quietly, Cyan and Raymond slid out of their car, and hid behind it.
“What are you doing?” Raymond asked, his sharp features now accentuated in the eerie moonlight.
Cyan was screwing a silencer piece to the end of his gun.
“Taking precautions,” said Cyan, with a crooked smile.
Before Raymond could ask more questions, there was a ‘ping’ and he dropped neatly onto the gravelly road.
“I’m sorry, Raymond,” Cyan whispered to Raymond’s body. “May God take care of you now, good friend.”
Suddenly, Cyan clasped at his own chest, and gasped for air. He quickly unbuttoned his shirt, muttering swear words and suppressing a string of coughs.
Underneath his shirt was a rusty brass key on the end of a golden rope necklace. On one end of the key there was a carved crow’s head. And where the crow’s eye should be, was a sparkling blue Iolite stone. On the other end were jagged teeth.
Curiously, there was a recent burn mark where the key had rested on his chest.
Cyan held the key up to the moonlight, and as he did, swirls of purple began to envelope the stone. He then hid it once more, quickly buttoning his shirt.
The tyres of the car behind came to a stop on the road beside Raymond’s car. The doors edged opened and gently closed.
Four men stood on the other side of the car Cyan hid behind. Three with rifles. All wearing trench coats and whispering in German.
Cyan bit his lip and scanned the underneath of the car. Droplets of petrol formed a pool on the road.
He then searched Raymond’s body and found a packet of cigarettes and matches.
Cyan flicked a match against the side of the matchbox and into the petrol puddle.
Nothing. The Germans were now pressing their faces against the window with cupped hands, peering into the car.
Cyan calmly flicked another match at the puddle.
This time there was a spark and the puddle caught alight. The flame leapt up onto the underside of the car.
Cyan rolled away as the car began to be eaten by the flames.
Keeping low, he ducked under the fence and raced across the field to a barn on the far side of the farm. Behind him, a fireball leapt into the sky with a thunderous noise.
Suddenly one of the Germans yelled something. A gunshot resounded across the field, and flashlights circled like frenzied sharks looking for prey.
Cyan’s heart beat fast, but at a steady and controlled pace. He drew in deep measured breaths, regulating his intake and filling his lungs with a good supply of oxygen.
As he skulked into the barn he tossed a small, black, leather-bound book into the long grass.
The dull purple glow under his shirt turned into a radiant red light.
Cyan’s head swung smoothly, looking around in the barn, while his rough hands enfolded the beaming light projecting from the crow’s eye. Suddenly, he heard a rustle above him and rolled behind a bale of hay.
A mouse scurried about on the level above.
His eyes drifted across the barn, stopping on a set of winding steps leading down to a bomb shelter. The hatch to the shelter was open. He scampered down the steps, as softly as he could, closing the lid behind him.
The shelter was small and dark with a musty, abandoned smell. There wasn’t much in there except rusty farm equipment parts and a large upright boulder in the centre of the room.
“The next rune stone,” Cyan whispered. He looked at the red light burning against his panting chest.
Approaching the boulder, the key beneath his shirt began to hum quietly. Simultaneously, strange rune markings on the boulder began to glow.
Cyan’s body flung around as a bullet went straight through his left shoulder. He fell to the sawdust floor. As he did, the rune markings disappeared and the hum of the key stopped.
Cyan rolled over and scowled at the person who’d shot him. The bullet wound rapidly began to heal.
There stood a blonde woman, with a pistol in one gloved hand and a lantern in the other. The light from the lantern danced on her soft golden face.
“Give me key,” she said in a Russian accent, pointing her gun at Cyan.
He pointed to his shoulder. It was already almost completely mended, and he swung his arm vigorously to demonstrate that fact. “Looks like you’ll have to use your imagination, then… you won’t have much luck killing me with that pistol,” he mocked.
Cyan squinted in the dim light at her.
“You again? You just won’t leave me alone, will you? You follow me around so much I’m starting to think you like me.”
He baited her further. “Do I excite you? Make you feel dangerous? Like a schoolgirl chasing the neighbourhood bad boy? Do you write my name all over your pencil case and ruler? Shall we sit next to each other at lunch?”
The Russian woman raised her eyebrows and cocked her head to the side. “Give me key and live. Do not give me, and I kill you. Or worse, Nazis take it.”
“You know, I can’t just give it to the first pretty girl who asks me for it. I’m a gentleman, after all.”
“My orders say shoot to kill. Retrieve key at all costs.” She straightened her back. “How do you say? I am not hesitate in killing you this time, Cyan.”
Cyan responded with a leer. “Do we have to talk business straight away, comrade? You know, I was really starting to miss your china doll face … those exotic eyes and luscious round lips. And don’t get me started on your ear lobes.”
The woman glared at Cyan. “The key,” she said after a moment’s pause. “No games, Mr. Cyan.”
“That’s King Cyan to you.” He smirked and tapped his index finger on the side of his nose. “What makes you think that your government is more deserving of such power, anyway, Aleksandra?” He began scanning the room once more. “You humans already do such a good job killing each other without the key, do you really, seriously need more wood to burn this world to hell?”
Cyan grinned as he moved closer to her. “Admit that you have feelings for me so we can stop playing this cat and mouse game.”
“I only love for Mother Russia and my people,” said Aleksandra, as she steadily edged towards Cyan, keeping her gun on him. “The key only safe with powerful Allies, Cyan. Gone are days when could be hidden safely away in Shambhala, protected by might of Kalki King of Shambhala.
“I see you not agree, and so I kill you, if must. The plight of whole greater than individual. Greater than you.” She leant in to whisper in his ear. “I admit I enjoyed banter, but things come to end, Cyan. This will be last lesson you to learn.”
“Very well, Aleksandra. I’ll take a raincheck on the revealing our deep and eternal feelings bit,” he replied.
“When goat eat wolf,” Aleksandra said, her finger twitching on the trigger. “Perhaps then we reveal, mudak.”
Cyan suddenly flung himself on top of her. Her gun fired a shot into the ceiling of the bunker, and both the lantern and the gun flew out of her hands. The lantern smashed against one of the stone walls and extinguished, leaving them engulfed in total darkness.
Bits of the ceiling and shards of lantern glass rained down on top of the two as they wrestled on the floor. Cyan grabbed Aleksandra’s wrists and pinned them against the floor, but she broke one arm free and smacked him in the face with a tight fist.
“You…” Cyan growled before being clobbered once more with the back of her fist, “…really are not very lady-like, are you?”
She clobbered him again and tried to spit in his eye.
Suddenly they stopped, panting hard, but otherwise silent and still. Soft footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs.
“There four of them,” she whispered. “You hide. I deal.”
Cyan rolled off the woman, and as he did she gave him one last crack over the head. He swore at her under his breath, and hid behind some old farm equipment.
Casually, the Russian straightened her outfit and picked up her gun.
As she did so, three young Nazi soldiers holding rifles and a bald Nazi officer with a hooked nose stooped their heads under the entrance and entered the chamber.
“Hello lovely, nice to see you again, hope your day is going well,” beamed the Nazi officer as he sniffed at the room’s musty air. He towered over the woman. “It seems we are both here for the same thing. But one of us is outnumbered.”
“Major Jurgen Adler,” said Aleksandra with a smile, recognising the officer. “If you come for key, you missed the Cyan. I shot him, but he got away through portal.”
Jurgen walked about the bomb shelter with a half-smile and a puffed-up chest. He got down on his haunches and inspected the blood and glass on the ground with his torch. “I do not believe you. Ask me why.”
“Why? Why should I humour a Nazi pig before he orders me dead?”
“Because the more we talk, my darling Soviet,” grinned the old soldier, pulling a pistol from his trench coat and flashing a mixture of gold and cigar-stained teeth, “the longer you live. I know Russians don’t value life above Stalin’s Soviet, ‘workers of the world, unite’ and all that communist propaganda, but…” he paused to smirk, “I am very good at getting to the bottom of things, even with stubborn Soviet witches. This is why the Führer always gives me very important jobs to finish.”
Jurgen chuckled to himself as he slowly circled the room again. “So go on, humour me. Make the flash in a pan that is your pretty little life a little longer. Ask me why I don't believe you. It shall be fun to play this game before I paint the wall behind you with your brain matter. Do you not like to play fun games?”
“Go to hell, Jurgen!” she rasped, before pointing her pistol at the Nazi's head. “I’d rather put bullet in your head for mother Russia, than play your silly games.”
“I’ll tell you why I don’t believe you, you disrespectful cow,” said Jurgen. “I don’t believe in all this hocus pocus. It’s all nonsense: portals, pixies and potions. The wild imagination of fools and children. Foolishness is a weakness I despise and do not tolerate. Children I do not care much for either.”
“Then there is no need for you to be here,” Aleksandra said pointedly, as a smile crept over her face. “What is any of this worth to someone as sensible as you?”
“Oh, but I do need to be here, you filthy rat. I have had orders from the top, the absolute top, to get this key and this rune stone I have fortuitously been led to. It appears my good wine buddy Himmler does believe in such hocus pocus. And he has some interest in this article.”
The back and forth stopped. Jurgen paused as if straining to hear something.
He nodded quietly at two of the young soldiers and they looked over to where Cyan was hiding. Each raised their guns at the mechanical farm parts and edged towards him.
Before either could react, Cyan pounced, pulling one of the soldiers to the ground. Pressing a knife against his windpipe, Cyan had a human shield.
“Such clinical precision, young man,” applauded Jurgen with an amused clap. “You would make a very good soldier of the Third Reich.”
Cyan squinted at Jurgen. “Major Jurgen Adler?” he said with a growing smile. “How nice to get a personal visit from one of the twelve knights.” His smile quickly turned to a grimace. “Move and your man dies.”
“Okay. He dies,” Jurgen replied.
The Nazi shot the young soldier dead without hesitation – right through the forehead. The bloody remains of the soldier’s head rested on Cyan’s shoulder.
“Well, there goes that bargaining chip,” said Cyan wryly.
“There’s no bargaining,” said Jurgen. “Bargaining is for the weak. For those who cannot dominate their enemy. The python does not bargain with the mouse.”
Cyan pushed the body off him and flung himself on to his feet. He immediately kicked Jurgen’s gun out of his hand and into the air. And, with the same leg, round-house kicked Jurgen in the head.
The Nazi Major staggered – spun – collapsed – into a bale of hay with fluttering eyelids and a mouthful of blood.
Cyan spun around and latched on to the rifle of one of the remaining two soldiers. He violently wrenched away the rifle, and thrust the butt of it into the surprised face of the first soldier. Blood gushed down the soldier’s shaven head and prominent ears.
In wild retaliation, the soldier threw a hook punch, which Cyan easily avoided. He countered with a reverse sweeping kick, and the soldier crashed to the floor with a smack, a groan and a crunch.
The remaining soldier, jaw clenched and edging backwards, aimed his rifle at Cyan.
Cyan charged at him, but at the last second, diverted his run. As the trembling soldier pulled the trigger, Cyan launched himself at the wall and flipped onto his enemy’s shoulders. The soldier’s bullet imbedded itself into the crusty wall opposite them – part of the wall crumbled to the ground.
With the soldier’s head now firmly between his legs, Cyan twisted his body and killed the man with an audible snap.
The two fell to the floor.
Cyan raised his eyebrows.
“No chest pain?” he thought aloud, and instinctively felt about his chest area. “Damn it! The key.” His eyes darted about the room, adding, “and she’s gone. That little thief… Something tells me she didn’t just take it so she could see me again.”
Cyan scrambled to his feet and briskly walked towards the stairs, momentarily stopping to check his pocket watch.
Just as Cyan got to the bottom of the stairs a bullet flew through his back and out his chest. The soldier with the face bloodied by the rifle butt stood behind Cyan, poised for another shot. He watched Cyan arch his back with impact, and then slip to the floor in his own blood.
A half-smile crept over the soldier’s battered face. He wiped away blood trickling down from the corner of his grin with a sleeve.
Jurgen gingerly got to his feet and walked over to Cyan. He flipped Cyan over, peering down at the eyes staring blankly back at him.
Jurgen felt for Cyan’s pulse.
“Is he dead?” the young soldier asked, almost nervously.
“Dead, unless this thing can stop its pulse too,” responded the older Nazi in a deadpan manner. “But the V-Agent,” said Jurgen, pausing to inspect Cyan's body more closely, “the Valkyrie Agent got the key.”
“Was he the...?” the younger Nazi pressed.
Jurgen rolled up Cyan’s sleeves and looked at his pale wrists. On Cyan’s left wrist was a tattoo of a skull with a key in its mouth. As Jurgen inspected the tattoo, it faded away.
“He was... but now he is one of us.” Jurgen put a hand on Cyan's forehead, closed Cyan's eyes, and began muttering a strange chant.
“He’s what? ... What are you doing?” asked the young soldier behind him. But Jurgen did not answer. He just kept chanting.
And before the soldier could ask again, Cyan’s dead body began coughing up green puffs of smoke and making screeching, moaning and snarling noises. The young soldier backed away from the body and his commander.
A smirk flashed upon Jurgen’s broad face as Cyan’s eyes flickered open once more.