Clouds of war hung in the sky. Peace now seemed like a long-forgotten dream for the creatures of Bello Realm. The earth and the air pervaded with tension. Rest was impossible as everyone was on their guard.
The noble Solar wore the scars of her many battles. She had become the Augmentors’ greatest warrior and posed a great threat to the Shadowmentors. Her bravery and skill could only be matched by Dark Rhule – the rest of his followers did not dare challenge her alone.
Solar summoned her generals to a meeting. Whispers had reached her that Dark Rhule was planning to harness a great power and she needed to discover what it was. Deep in the Amber Woods Solar gathered with Markik and Tundris. Solar spoke first:
‘My wise generals, word has reached me of a great danger. Rhule… Dark Rhule is planning to gather a power to use against us. I do not know what it is but we must find out at all costs.’
Solar’s warning shocked her company, who already feared that Dark Rhule’s growing strength was too great to overcome. Markik responded with trepidation.
‘A new power? Then surely all hope is lost, we are barely containing his evil as it stands. Where is this power going to come from? The Gods?’
‘I do not know,’ responded Solar, ‘but we must enter Castle Rhune and discover his plan.’
Tundris, who had managed to keep Rhule’s forces at bay in Frost Fang, spoke next.
‘Solar, you have lead to us with all the courage bestowed upon you, but to try and storm Castle Rhune is a fool’s errand. We would never make it past the walls, we would be defeated. The Shadowmentors are too many, we would need twice the number of warriors we already have.’
In her heart, Solar knew Tundris’ council to be true. The castle was well fortified and they would never stand a chance.
‘Tundris, you are a loyal and wise friend and I know I should listen to your counsel, but I must find out what Dark Rhule is preparing. If, like I have heard, he gains control of this power, he will be unstoppable. We cannot enter the castle by force, but perhaps I can by guile. If I go alone, there will be less chance of being caught. I can do what an army cannot.’
Markik could sense that Solar’s mind was made up, but he attempted to dissuade her nonetheless:
‘Solar, the risk is too great. If Dark Rhule captures you, he would have no one to oppose him. We are not strong enough to resist him without you!’
Solar knew what would happen if she failed, but she also knew what would happen if she did nothing. She resolved to enter the castle that night, alone.
Castle Rhune had become a lawless place. What was once the proud and stately center of Bello Realm, now stood as the nucleus of the Shadowmentors’ anarchy. It was wild, full of howls and screams, where Dark Rhule’s followers revelled in their corruption.
The savage crowd gathered in the great hall. Dark Rhule was ready to reveal to them his plan to capture a great and secret power. Unbeknown to the delinquents, however, was that Solar, disguised in shadow, stood among them. She had slipped through the castle’s guard unnoticed and could now listen intently to Dark Rhule’s announcement. She avoided eye contact with anyone and joined in with the beastly chants as to not draw any attention to herself. As Dark Rhule emerged at the head of the hall, the throng fell silent.
‘My faithful and brave kin, I stand here now ready to taste an ultimate power. A power which will let us reign over all of Bello Realm. I am going to open a portal between our world and the grid to a place called Earth. The power of the grid will be mine. There, I remind you, we would have been subsumed, imprisoned forever. There, data is only a tool for the human race, something to control. Well, I say we are not to be controlled. We are to control them!’
The crowd responded with violent cheers as Dark Rhule cast open a portal. It appeared to take an incredible amount of strength from him, but he kept on.
‘I will first reveal myself to the humans and bring them under my rule. I will make them bow down before me, the one true hero of the Augmentors. They will have a choice: become our allies or be defeated as our enemies.’
The shouts from the fierce Shadowmentors became louder and Dark Rhule stood with arms outstretched, adopting a position of godly veneration. The hall shook with the movements of the crowd, which now resembled a feral animal pack in barbarous ecstasy.
With one dominant step, Dark Rhule entered the portal and vanished from sight.
Solar, who had remained hidden within the mob, began to edge closer to the gateway. She readied herself to make a break for the portal and follow Dark Rhule to the Earth realm. She was acting on instinct and full of nervous energy, almost overcome by the noise and brutality inside the hall.
The portal was now in view. It was quite large and emitted a sinister light. As Solar muscled her way to the front of the crowd, she steadied herself. She would need to be quick, if she was seen, she would undoubtedly be destroyed. When a gap opened, Solar burst forward. As she did, she was spotted by some of the crowd, who let out cries of astonishment. They fired bolts of energy at Solar, but she was able to dodge them. They whizzed past as she approached the portal. In one great jump, Solar flung herself over the threshold.