Medievia Mudslinger
March 7, 1999

The Era of the Hoss --by Curie

For years, Tiliev and the Master Hoss battled over supremacy of the world. Ever since the evil spirits rose from the dead, Tiliev had struggled with all his might to keep the forces of nature in balance between good and evil. He swore as long as he lived that he would. But long ago, he never thought that something like this would happen.

Several years ago, a new evil force rose from the depths this good world. The Hoss, as the commoners called them, were shapeless beings that infested themselves in the souls of others. In the next few years, the Hoss evil seemed all but eliminated. That is until a master being arose and took form as the meanest, nastiest troll this side of the Carthein river. This Master Hoss conjured the roaming spirits and sent them into friends and enemies alike.

Now, the detection of a Hoss is nearly impossible. They look and act just like humans, beasts, lamias, golems, or whatever the possess. But the general rule is that when a creature has that certain look in its eyes. Over time, the commoners learned what to look for --a not-so-vague look with a demonic stare. The Hoss are not alive, but not dead; they are undead spirits, but not like ghosts. They are -- strange.

"Ack!" Tiliev cried as his knees made a loud thud on the ground.

The ugly green being stood triumphantly over him as it said, "Humph, for a God you are getting weak. Maybe you should retire..."

"Never!" he struggled. "I will never retire as long as the people of this world need me.

"Har de har har," the Hoss scoffed. "How faithful you are, but not this time. You are too old." With a forceful jerk of its wrist, strange blue bands of energy emitted from his palm and embraced themselves around Tiliev. "If you don't leave this foolish effort and let those pathetic commoners be, the bands will be so tight that you won't be able to breathe."

"You sadistic, malicious bastard!"

"Why thank you"

As Tiliev struggled to free himself from the tight bands of energy, he could feel the free space around him dwindle. It must have been this battle that made him weak. He could not be a God anymore, but he did not want to admit it; he was getting too old.

With every ounce of his remaining strength, Tiliev telepathed a message to his wife. Tar, also a God, has helped her husband out of these situations before. Since she is considerably younger than he is, she is better equipped to handle this evil. An expert at magic, Tar can make Tiliev defy his age, making him very strong. Tar and Tiliev are indeed the ultimate couple.

A shimmering rift suddenly materialized in thin air and Tar stepped out. "You better leave my husband alone," she exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at the Master Hoss.

The Hoss snickered, "But you are just a girl."

"Correction, not a girl but an angry bitch. There's a difference."

"He, he, he, what's that? he, he, he!"

"This!" Her hands started glowing as purple magic danced from her fingertips. She chanted a magical phrase under her breath and let out this gigantic scream. The Hoss lost his balance as the land started bouncing violently. Boulders from a nearby mountain top rocked loose and rolled themselves on top of the Hoss, injuring him.

With all this shaking, the Hoss never saw Tar stretch her hands out and cast a spell on Tiliev. Tiliev was therefore able to stand and force himself free of the constricting prison. The next thing the Master Hoss knew, Tiliev and Tar were flying off into the clouds.

Miles above the confused Master Hoss, Tiliev and Tar rested on the clouds, catching their breath. "That was close," Tiliev exclaimed breathlessly.

"Honestly, darling, why do you have to pursue this evil indefinitely?" asked Tar tenaciously.

"Because the commoners wish it."

Pulling Tiliev close, Tar replied, "you are so humble sometimes. But listen, if you wish to pursue this, we must make a stop to Mankor."

Of course, something Tiliev didn't think about! Mankor is a legendary city on top of a rainbow. It is rumored to have a magical altar that when prayed at, the Gods of that realm reduce age. But could something like that really exist?

Even if Mankor really did exist, it is also rumored that the deadliest of creatures lie in between, and now since the Hoss threat is unleashed, it could make it all that much deadlier. Legend says that everyone who has attempted the trip has never come back. Then again, only the strongest of the strong need attempt.

"Well, we could do that, but we need to put a formation together," informed Tiliev.

Tar looked dazed and confused as she uttered, "But we are Gods. Surely we can withstand the trip."

"I wish it was that easy," he sadly stated, "but the spirits were not created by the Gods. The deadliest of creatures await us on the trip to Mankor, and their spirits are too strong even for the Gods. Legend also says that long ago there was a battle between the Catacombs and Mankor, and Mankor won after only two days. We need a big formation!"

"I guess so."

"And besides, we have to look out for the roaming Hoss spirits. If your soul is not strong enough, they'll possess you. I don't doubt that we'll love a few people in this group."

"Curie is strong. She'll go." With that, Tar drew an imaginary circle in the air with her finger. She and Tiliev stood up and stepped off the cloud and disappeared.

In a puff of smoke they appeared in the town square populated with crowds of people. Right in front of them was the sparkling blue water fountain that became infamous as the starting point of various adventures. It is an awe inspiring sight even for a God, as never will you see water as pure or clear as the water dripping from this three story marble fountain. The greenery that surrounded the base never needs to be taken care of. The fountain was magical in the sense that, it cured your hunger as well as thirst. The water must have some strange nutrient in it.

The square had people and creatures from all walks of life, shopping and enjoying life on this beautiful spring day. Hardly anyone noticed the two Gods appear, mostly because no God ever appeared there before. Though a few careful people did notice the two appear. One of the commoners who saw the Gods was Alia.

Alia was the great granddaughter of Tar and Tiliev. Although not a God, she mastered the art of magic as well. Ever since Alia was a little girl, she dreamed of one day following her grandparents. She followed her dream all her life, a little to vigorously perhaps because she became disjointed from her family.

Alia walked over to her grandmother and said, "Hi! What are you doing here?"

"We need a form," Tiliev replied.


"We are fixing to go on a trip," clarified Tar.

"Where is that?"

"Mankor" mumbled Tar.

"Are you sure that place exists?" Alia asked.

"We are embarking on a journey to the Altar of Eternity." Tar explained.

Alia stuttered, "Um, but, do you know of the legend? No one ever survived.

"We think. But if you were to come, it would show the other Gods that you hove what it takes to be one"

"So why don't you just get some of the other Gods to join you?"

Tar just ignored that comment as she asked, "So, do you want to join Tiliev and me for the journey of a lifetime?"

"Am I going to get killed?" Alia asked tenaciously.

"We need a big form anyway and there are going to be a lot of tanks in the group. I don't think you will have anything to worry about," Tiliev stated.

"Well, I don't know..."

Just then the Master Hoss and a few Common Hoss jumped out of a cloud in the sky. "Ah, there they are! Attack!" sneered the Master Hoss at the three.

"Not today," she said angrily as a energy shield spread from her body engulfing most of the unarmed people in the square.

"Another puny attempt made by puny Gods," the Master Hoss screamed as it crashed through the shield.. An overwhelming feeling of vertigo then swept the room knocking everyone to their knees.

Thinking quickly, Alia shouted, "I need a dragon!"

"You are a never ending source of entertainment," the Master Hoss said gleefully. You think a dragon is going to hear you? Hoss, destroy them."

What the Hoss didn't know was that Alia knew how to call a dragon. A dragon did respond to her plea, and flew there right away. In fact, as soon as the Common Hoss attacked, the dragon crashed on top of them. Growling and snarling, the brilliant copper dragon whipped a fleeing Hoss with its tail. Another Hoss was no match for it as the dragon pounced on the Hoss, tearing into the Hoss with his claws.

The Master Hoss, realizing that his army was destroyed, made a strategic escape just as fire from the dragon's mouth was almost upon it. The Master Hoss disappeared in a puff of smoke, and the spirits of the Common Hoss seemed to sink into the ground.

The dragon helped Tiliev, Alia and Tar to their feet as a faceless voice said, "I'll be back, and not even a dragon can save you."

The dragon muttered, "Bull. It' full of it. Well, call me when you need me. I'll be here," before he flew off.

"Well, that was great. Thanks Alia." exclaimed a surprised Tiliev.

Alia brushed off the comment with, "No prob. Listen, I know of a clan that can join you in your quest. Maybe you've heard of them The AntiHoss Group. It just so happens that I am the leader."

"Ok," agreed the Gods. "Every little bit helps."

Alia bowed deeply before them. "Ok, follow me"

The three wandered underground and passed the challenge room, the room where the toughest commoners come to meet. They practice whichever skill they want, and spar against opponents.

"Wait," stopped Tiliev, "why don't we get a form here?"

"I would stay away from this place. Especially if no one knows that you're a God," warned Alia.

No sooner than she said that than a commoner specializing in thief skills tip-toed up behind Tiliev and backstabbed him with a fencing sword.

"Ow," Tiliev winced in pain. "What did you do that for," he asked as he turned around.

"Come on, let's go," the thief said.

"Go where?"

Alia recognized the thief as Jon, one of her high school buddies. "Um, Jon, I don't think you'll want to spar with him."

"Why not? Besides you can't tell me who to spar against and who not to," Jon cockily said.

"Frankly," said Tiliev, "I think I can kick your ass."

"Oh really?" Jon was sarcastic.

"Did I tell you that I am a God and I encourage you not to mess with me."

"Sure I believe you," Jon snickered. "Gods never come down here."

Tar and Alia couldn't hold Tiliev any longer. He couldn't understand why they weren't outraged like this. Jon was making him angry.

"Kay dude, show me what you can do."

"All right," sighed Tiliev, bringing his leg back. His leg came forward forcefully, hitting Jon's chin. The momentum of Tiliev's kick sent Jon flying over to the other side of the room. "Did that convince you."

Jon rolled on the floor a few feet before he came to a stop. After a few tense moments he staggered up, lunging at Tiliev.

"Oh geez, I get so tired sometimes." Tiliev glared at the oncoming Jon and shouted, "Freeze." An icy cold breath came out of Tiliev and embraced Jon, encasing him in a giant crystal of ice. "There that should stop him." Without another glance, Tiliev spun around and rejoined his group. Before anybody could do anything else, the three opened the door and were gone.

On the other side of the door and around the corner there stood a small room. That is where Alia reached in her backpack and got a key. She fiddled with it for awhile, turning and twisting it until she heard a soft click. When Alia opened up the door, the Gods hurried inside. She closed and locked the door closely behind her.

Tiliev and Tar looked around. What a quaint room. It didn't seem small at all, with a shrine dedicating the Gods on the back wall. A meeting table had all the clan members at it, with the head chair empty, waiting for Alia.

Everyone's eyes were fixed on the two strangers. They didn't even notice that Alia crossed the table and sat down. Tar and Tiliev suddenly became very uncomfortable as the room quieted to a hush.

Alia broke the hush by saying, "Let this meeting come to order. First let me welcome you all by saying, 'Kick the Hoss!'"

The room slowly became filled with chantings of, "Kick the Hoss!"

"Ok. Well first, these are Gods, Tar and Tiliev. They are here to enlist our help to rid our world of the Hoss."

Well, not exactly..." before Tiliev said much, the door stretched and buckled. With a mighty bash another Hoss army came through the door.

Within a second, Tar spun around and blew a wind that knocked all the Hoss off their feet and then proceeded to conjure a force field in the doorway.

The Master Hoss charged to the front of the group and collapsed the force field with a magical burst of its own. "Haven't we been through this before?" it asked. "What Gods you are!"

"That's what you think," Tar shouted back before she cast a spell on Tiliev.

A shimmering field of white surrounded Tiliev as he seemed to be rejuvenated. "Yes!" a deep voice came from inside him.

He raised is hand into the air, and an orb made of energy appeared in his glowing hand. He tossed the orb in the air when bolts of lightning struck forth, hitting all of the oncoming Hoss. Several Hoss screamed in the fit of agony upon the thunderous impact before a hole opened up in the floor and sucked them through.

One Common Hoss managed to escape the fury of Tiliev and seemed to sink in the ground as if it was made of water. Seconds later when it appeared that all the Hoss were gone, the Common Hoss rematerialized and crashed on Tiliev from above.

Before Tar could react, the Common Hoss conjured a magical flame and sent it engulfing her. The heat from the fireball was so hot that everyone except the Common Hoss itself was momentarily immobilized.

Just then Tiliev shouted, "GET OFF OF ME!" A strange force sent the Hoss flying off of Tiliev up into the air, crashing into the ceiling. Its head seemed to flatten out upon impact with the roof and rounded back as it fell to the ground.

Tiliev conjured some holy water and sprinkled it around Tar. The flame subsided immediately and rebounded to the Hoss. Sounds of agony came from the Hoss as searing flames swallowed him whole.

Alia reached into her backpack and pulled out a gleaming white dagger. Tar whipped around in time to see it. "No don't..."

Before Tar had time to utter another word, Alia had already thrown the dagger in the Hoss' direction. As the dagger pierced the flaming Hoss, there was a gigantic pop sound, like an exploding balloon. Where it stood sent a strange, swirling mist-like substance about the room. Soft demonic laughter soon accompanied the wandering mist as it attacked one of Alia's clan members.

The clan member, Karlok jerked and twisted violently as the spirit of the Hoss enveloped his soul. "Ha, ha, ha, you can't kill me," he said as he sent his sword plunging into the back of Alia.

Alia fell to the ground, screaming in pain when Jon scrambled in the room. With sword in hand, he charged into Karlok, sending him soaring into the shrine on the other side of the room. Karlok landed on a burning candle and slammed to the ground. Then suddenly an aura of mist jarred itself free from Karlok's body and disappeared.

Tar knelt beside Alia's lifeless body and grabbed her forehead. She closed her eyes, chanting a magical phrase. Both she and Alia started glowing faint white when Tar's entire arm seemed like it was rippling and pulsating itself into Alia. Only a few seconds passed before Tar pulled her hand away, and like the wind, Alia sat up.

Pulling the sword from her shoulder, Alia gasped, "Thank you."

"I must rest now," Tar replied. After a brief silence she added, "By the way, your welcome."

Tiliev sauntered over to Karlok and Jon. "That was a hell of a thing you did, Jon," he said.

"Yeah, well," Jon uttered meekly.

"Are they gone?" asked a shadowy figure in the doorway.

Alia focused her attention to the doorway, squinting to see in the darkness. "Curie, is that you?"

"I came as soon as I got your telepath," Curie said, stepping out of the shadows. "You had some trouble here?"

Curie strolled over to Alia to comfort her. "Are you all right, sis," she wondered.

In a fit of anger, Alia pushed Curie aside and confronted Tiliev. "I thought you said that I wouldn't get killed," she scolded.

"The Hoss are tricky," Curie interrupted. "I know that, they know that. Just be lucky that you're alive."

"It's good to see you Curie," Tar said. "It's been a long time."

"Yeah." Glancing at Tar up and down, Curie asked, "Still a God, huh.?"

"Excuse me. I must go," Tar said hastily as purple smoke billowed up, surrounding her.

Tiliev said, "Listen, it's not her fault that she became a God."

"I never wanted her to be one," confessed Curie.

"Some just become Gods if their attitude is good enough," Tiliev protested. "Anyway, we are going to the Altar of Eternity. Want to come?"

"You mean in the city of Mankor? I heard it's tough, if it even exists. Who is going?' Curie said.

Tiliev replied, "Well its Alia, Tar, and me...

"...and half of the people you see here," Alia quickly interrupted. She turned toward the recovering clan and asked, "Who's with me?"

Jon looked up and said, "Count me an' Karlok in!"

Curie saw a few more hands rise as she said, That's all?"

Alia faced the clan and scolded, "What's the matter with you all. I thought you were ready for the day when we could band together and eradicate the Hoss. I am disappointed in you."

Zyx, another clan member stood up and said, "The Hoss are more intimidating in reality then in this hall. We are not sure if we are ready for real Hoss' yet."

"There is only one way to find out," reasoned Alia.

"Come on Zyx, be a sport," Curie said.

"Fine," replied Zyx

Tiliev asked the rest of the clan, "Ok, who else is with us?"

Alia turned and tried to walk out of the room, but she couldn't; a strange force blocked her way through the doorway. Straining her eyes through the dimly lit passageway, she could make out the figure of a Hoss with his eyes dimmed red. As Alia searched for a way out, the passage flooded with laughter.

Tar held her hand out and a circular orb of light materialized in it. As she brought the orb higher in the air, it glowed brighter and brighter. The entire room and passage flooded with brilliant white light. Tar and everyone glanced around nervously before they saw at least ten Hoss waiting outside in the passage for them.

"Great, I don't want to do this again," Tar quickly mumbled under her breath as she turned around.

"Looks like you may have to." The Master Hoss appeared in front of her, laughing.

"Man, haven't you had enough?"

"I can never have enough of you, sweetie," the Master Hoss snorted sarcastically.

Tiliev jumped between Tar and the Master Hoss. "I, for one, am not ready for this." He chanted a magical phrase and everyone in the room except the Master Hoss disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Damnit, Gods are tricky!"

An instant later, Tiliev, Tar and the clan flashed in front of the magnificent fountain in the middle of the central square before fading from view.

"What do we do now?" whispered Karlok.

"Hope that the Hoss can't detect us now that we are invisible," Tiliev replied.

Alia volunteered, "I got a can of blinding spray we can use if they can."

"Let us hurry then," Jon said.

Just as they started on their way, a loud thud echoed from behind them. Alia spun around to see Zyx lie motionless on the ground. "No, way! This cannot be happening again," she sputtered.

A few tense moments passed in sorrowing silence before Zyx's body began to faintly glow a blue tinge. The body turned and twisted as a blue mist slowly consumed it. Suddenly, a ghostly image of Zyx rose out of himself and vaporized. An intense blackness surrounded him for an instant before he snapped to his feet.

Saying nothing, Zyx glanced about the room and then at Tar and Alia. With a glazed look in his eyes, Zyx uttered, "They're here."

"Who are here," Jon asked nervously.

"Remember me," he snorted as he rose his arms in the sky. "Gods of thunder, hear me now. Make me a storm, and deliver it now," yelled Zyx over the blackening sky and cracks of thunder. Bright flashes of lightning lit up the sky like day.

The storm intensified quickly as it started to pour. The flashes of bright lightning almost became unbearable as the lightning seemed to concentrate around him. Striking him again and again, it appeared to generate a crackling shield around him. "I like this body," he shouted, "because I can do this!" With one massive burst, several bolts of lightning emitted from Zyx's fingertips, striking every member in the group.

Tar tried to lift herself off the ground, but she couldn't; it was as if there was an incredible weight holding her down. "You can't beat me," she shouted before she chanted a magical phrase and struggled up.

"Wait..." Tiliev tried to interrupt.

Undaunted, she grabbed a bowed knife from the ground and skillfully threw it, hitting Zyx square in the heart.

"...that is still our friend," Tiliev shouted.

"Oops, my fault."

"You cannot kill me," Zyx sneered, "On the contrary, I will kill you, God." With a jerk of his hand, Zyx sent a powerful gust of wind forward, slamming into Tar and sending her flying uncontrollably in the air.

"You son of a..." Tiliev sputtered as he spun around and pulverized Zyx with his heel.

Still standing, Zyx just brushed of the kick like it didn't even exist. Laughing he said, "You bunch are pathetic! Oh by the way, thanks for the gift. Let me return the favor." With that he crouched down and pounced on top of Tiliev.

As Zyx and Tiliev rolled around on the ground shouting and grunting at each other, the storm had gotten so bad that eyes were useless. Dense fog enshrouded the area as the sky turned bluish purple. It was hard to hear anything because of the howling wind.

Recovering from the lightning blast from earlier, Alia screamed, "Get off him NOW!" Her voice seemed to echo around the empty streets. At first the strange echo of her voice was barely audible in the background of the raging storm, but more and louder echoes soon followed. Within a few moments, the word 'now' echoed on seemingly from all over simultaneously.

Confused, Zyx jumped off Tiliev as if an invisible force threw him off. Zyx rose up in the air slowly before he crashed face first into the ground.

Alia triumphantly strolled up to the motionless corpse, pointed to it and said, "I make you weak." A stream of pink energy outlined itself around Zyx.

Tiliev clambered to his feet and uttered, "Wow, thanks."

The storm suddenly simmered down greatly as Alia, "It's all yours. I'll tend to my grandmother."

Tiliev picked Zyx up by the collar and snorted, "So what was that you say, I'll kill you, God? Sounds about right, except the God part!"

Still weak and groggy, Zyx whispered, "I will still get you."

"I doubt it." Tiliev jammed his knee into Zyx's groin and left him ailing on the ground.

When Tiliev turned around to check on the others, he heard a familiar voice say, "Don't turn around. It'll ruin your day."

Tiliev stopped and without turning around he replied, "I think you already did that."

"Oh no," the voice said, cackling, "oh no, my dear Tiliev. Believe me when I tell you that I haven't begun to ruin your day yet. Watch the skies, I may be dropping in anytime."

"Really?" Tiliev spun around to face the voice, but no one was there. Just a puff of smoke remained where Zyx lay. Faceless demonic laughter soon deafened the damp city streets. "Watch the skies!"

As days trudged on, so did Tiliev and Alia and her clan. To Mankor or bust, they decided. After all, encounters with the Hoss were getting a bit tiresome. Nearly once a day, a new Hoss army would force them to their knees. At each encounter, the Hoss seemed to get stronger, or perhaps it was the clan getting weaker. The group quickly became exhausted as their endurance waned at each attack.

The weakness of the clan was not all afflicting the group. An overwhelming sense of negativity washed over the crowd. The loss or Tar was almost too much to handle. As the days wore on, the clan became smaller and smaller as their souls were slowly taken over by evil spirits. Verbal fights often broke out among the group about heading back. The morale was terrible.

"Wait," shouted Curie. "My feet hurt."

Alia stopped in her tracks and replied sternly, "Well then, take your boots off or fly."

"Good idea."

"Then why didn't you think of it in the first place?" shouted Alia.

"I guess I'm not as smart as you..."

"Wait a second..."

Tiliev patience quit as he interrupted, "Ladies, ladies, ladies, quit bickering. We are all tired, I know. This trip isn't what we bargained for, and I understand that, but don't about little shit!"

The next thing Tiliev saw was Curie sinking to the floor, yanking on her boot.

"Get up, please, we're wasting time." volunteered Karlok.

"That's easy for you to say," Curie retorted, "Your feet aren't killing you." With a mighty yank her boot came off, and soon did the other one. "Ahh, circulation!" she exclaimed, wiggling her free toes.

"Aww geez, put somethin' on those stinkos," Karlok whined.

"I'll show you who's a stinko..."

"Curie, shut up!" commanded Tiliev. "Karlok, let it go!"

"But..." Karlok protested.

Tiliev threatened, "Look, I'm going to vaporize the next person who fights. I'm tired of this."

"I am too. Let us end this," screeched a familiar voice from above.

"Show yourself," growled Tiliev.

The faceless voice taunted, "Maybe I will, and maybe I won't. You'll have to find me first."

Karlok and Alia let out a loud groan. "Do we have to?"

"Here, I'll give you a little hint!"

Curie's legs started rising off the ground. "Wait, this isn't fair," she screamed as a mysterious force started dragging her along the ground.

"Let her go, dammit1" Alia shouted.

"Tsk, tsk, my name is not Dammit," the voice said as Curie's feet pulled her off the ground into thin air and moved her away from the group.

"Follow those feet," Tiliev commanded.

Curie screamed as blood began rushing to her head. "I never did anything. Put me down. Let go of me or you'll pay, whatever you are. Help me!"

"I'm getting too old for this," Tiliev muttered to himself as Curie sped away from view.

Tiliev, Alia, Karlok, and a few others stood dumbfounded at what they just saw. That was a sight if they ever saw one. Several moments passed in silence before Tiliev glanced around.

"Any ideas on how to get her back? My magic is too weak.," informed Tiliev.

"I got an idea," Alia suggested as she crouched on the ground and folded her arms to her chest."

"This is a bright idea," Karlok scoffed.

Tiliev flashed a dirty look in Karlok's direction.

Suddenly, Alia stood up and shouted, "Af Mazu." Before anyone had a chance to speak, the world around them became black as coal. Only for a moment, though, as in a bright flash of light, their surroundings reappeared

. Looking around, they saw Curie suspended, still upside-down, high up in the air. Any fall would certainly result in death. Above her hovered the ghostly figure of Zyx's head.

"You found me out. How could that be?" Zyx responded sarcastically.

"You better not hurt her," Alia shouted.

"Me, hurt? No honey, I wouldn't do that.

With a violent rumble, a deep chasm as far as the eye can see ripped open in front of them.

"Now, my fellow weaklings," Zyx began, "witness this sacrifice as this beautiful young girl plunges into the depths."

"Wait..." Alia protested.

A moment later, Curie slowly descended toward the rift. Yelling and screaming, she sobbed, can't we talk about this?"

Tiliev and gang could only watch in horror as Curie dropped into the chasm; an invisible force had blocked any and all magic attempts and rendered them immobile.

As soon as he could, Karlok dashed for the chasm. He was crazy thinking that he could save her.

"Wait a minute." Tiliev took off after him.

"Gotta go after her!"

"Come back here!" yelled Tiliev, but it was too late. Karlok jumped for the hole just as Tiliev reached for his ankle Pulling with all his might, Tiliev tried to yank Karlok out of the chasm.

"Let go of me," Karlok screamed, kicking at Tiliev to let him go.

Tiliev couldn't hold on much longer. "You're not sacrificing yourself too. Dammit man, listen to me!"

"No!" Karlok responded defiantly. "I love her and I'll go to the ends of the world with her. Let go of me."

"I can't do that," retorted Tiliev, but he knew that he had to. He was loosing his grip on Karlok and slipping into the chasm himself.

"Well then," Karlok climbed and braced his feet on the chasm wall. With a mighty yank, he pulled Tiliev into the rift where they both plummeted into the bowels of darkness.

"Come back!" Alia screamed. Rushing to the crack sobbing, she was alone. The others left in her clan left her for fear that they would die. 'Why did they talk me into doing this in the first place,' she thought. She was ready to turn back herself. After all, what business did she have pursuing a relentless, seemingly invulnerable enemy? Everyone was gone, and she couldn't stand a chance.

As she turned away, Alia heard a strange whooshing sound come from the chasm. She closed her eyes thinking, 'I'm not ready for this.'

Behind her, a glowing figure slowly rose above the ground. "Sure you are."

Alia turned around to face Curie, shimmering within a shield of fire, hovering over the ground. Curie looked kind of strange; her face and clothes were all pale. Her translucence suggested that this was a spirit demon of the Hoss. But why take the form of Curie?

Upon closer look, Alia realized that the being didn't look like Curie at all. It's eyes were black as night, and it's lips as red as blood. With its flesh tightly hanging to its body, it looked nearly seven feet tall.

"You should know me very well," it said with an evil grin.

"No, who are you?" Alia lied.

"Let me give you a hint," the being replied. It stretched out a long, bony finger and a blue mist slowly swirled up beside it.

Alia could barely make out the shifting figures of all her friends. "You let them go," she bravely stated.

"Ha, ha, ha, you are so brave its pathetic," it laughed. "I have within me the power of all your unfortunate friends. Tell you what, let's play a little game. It's called 'run and I'll come after you.' In fact I'll give you a head start."

"No!" she boldly stated. A crackling blue shield formed around her before she chanted another magical phrase, and her skin seemed to take on a stone-like hue. "Let's rock and roll."

The being just chuckled. "You are braver then I had imagined. You would be a good addition to my collection of souls."

"If you can catch me," she quickly stated before a barrage of lightning bolts left Alia's fingers, striking the being square in the chest.

It chuckled, "Is that all. I can do better than that. I am Hoss, hear me roar," and that's what it did. It let out such a tremendous roar, that the king of the jungle would cringe. The force of the being's roar sent Alia flying in a gale of wind until slamming her head on a jagged rock. "Aww, poor baby fall down."

The Hoss Creature hovered over Alia's body chanting a spell, and before she knew it, Alia was inching toward the creature.

"This is just the turn of luck I've been waiting for. Come to me my pretty."

When Alia floated close enough to the being she stared at it saying, "I agree." With speed of lightning, she unhid a sword from her cloak and jammed the sword in between the Hoss eyes.

Yelping in pain, the Hoss creature dropped Alia. "Lucky shot."

"That's what you think," replied Alia as she disappeared into the ground. To the being's surprise, Alia reappeared behind him. "I'm going to control the weather this time." As she said that, dense fog rolled into the area, where she faded from view.

"You cannot hide from me," the creature replied. A gesture of its hand brought in a gale of wind, so powerful that no one could resist.

Alia slid back on her heels before flying uncontrollably. As she rose up into the air, she started spinning as if caught in a vortex. However, as soon as it started, the windstorm stopped, and Alia dropped.

She got so dizzy in the storm that she didn't even realize that she was falling. Luckily for her, a nylon awning from a nearby shop broke her fall. Luck must have really been on her side because as after she bounced off, she sprung off another awning before rolling into a nearby pool.

The creature floated over to the lake and examined it. There was no sign of Alia anywhere, not even in a shadow. After several minutes of examining, the creature exclaimed, "I win!"

Just then, the surface of the water started to spin into a whirlpool until a funnel formed and rose out of the pool. The vortex of water spun faster and faster before it struck the creature square in the chest. Water drained from the pool through the funnel, forcing the creature to retreat.

Alia stood up in the empty pool and retorted, "No, you cannot win! I will be victorious." She jumped out of the pool just in time as the creature magically turned the concrete under her into quicksand.

The creature screamed in frustration. "Why can't I kill you?" it yelled before it conjured a fireball and hurled it toward her.

The fireball moved too fast. Before Alia knew it, the fireball hit her with full impact. She closed her eyes preparing for the worst, but then -- pfsssst. She opened her eyes and looked down. Her chest was smoking, but her armor was unfazed. 'What is going on here?' she thought.

"Lucky break," the creature muttered.

Alia lifted arms into the sky and chanted, "Spirit of water, darkness of sky, swallow this being and return my allies." Powerful jets of water emitted from the palms of her hands and drove the creature screaming into the sky where it disappeared into the clouds. The ground next to her opened up and her friends seemed to materialize from solid rock!

"What happened," asked a dazed Tar.

Alia stood confident and said, "The Hoss won't be bothering us for a long while."